With backing from Peter Thiel, the Salt Lake City-based proptech startup is focusing on 20 markets in 10 states, including Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas and California.

Pacaso, the co-ownership platform founded by Zillow veterans Austin Allison and Spencer Rascoff, could soon face stiffer competition from proptech rival Ember, which announced $17.4 million in financing Thursday from backers including PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.

Salt Lake City, Utah-based Ember currently has only a handful of listings in five states — Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas and California. But Ember says it’s expanding rapidly, with an initial focus on 20 markets in 10 states.

Ember is actively recruiting in-market sales agents and property concierges, and the company lists more than a dozen openings at its Utah headquarters in management, engineering, sales and marketing.

Kurt Avarell

“This idea was born out of my personal experience co-owning a houseboat on Utah’s Lake Powell with friends and family for the past decade,” said Ember Co-Founder and CEO Kurt Avarell, in a statement. “We recognize that so many families want vacation homes, but their dream home is just out of reach. Ember intends to make second home ownership attainable, affordable, and enjoyable for millions of want-to-be second homeowners.”

In addition to Thiel, the latest funding round includes participation from Pando Ventures, plus previous investors including Todd Pedersen (founder and former CEO of Vivint Smart Homes), Ryan Woodley (former CEO of Progressive Leasing) and Curt Doman (founder of Progressive Leasing).

Like Pacaso, Ember is careful to differentiate the co-ownership deals it puts together from a timeshare or tenancy in common arrangement.

Homes are owned by a property-specific, limited liability company (LLC) with its own bank account and tax identification number. Ember sells eight to 12 shares in each LLC to owners, and manages properties on their behalf, to provide “an elevated, worry-free second homeownership experience without the hassle of cleaning, maintenance, and repairs.”

With home prices ranging between $1.5 million and $5 million, individual shares go for $100,000 to $500,000. For those who don’t have that kind of cash socked away, financing will be available later this year through the Ember platform, the company said.

In addition to Avarell, Ember’s co-founders are James Sukhan, a veteran of Qualtrics and Podium who is the company’s chief revenue officer, and Jeff Lyman, formerly of Nike and Vivint, who is Ember’s chief experience officer.

Pacaso, which recently expanded into Bend, Oregon, currently features more than 80 listings in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming.

In another indication that the business model is taking root, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) last year announced it would define “co-ownership” as a property subtype in the organization’s 2022 Data Dictionary of industry standards.

Email Matt Carter

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