One in three US vacationers are choosing vacation rentals over hotels for their leisure travel, up from one in ten just five years ago, according to a recent study released by travel research authority Phocuswright. However, while increasing numbers of travelers are choosing vacation homes, shopping for a vacation rental isn’t easy. Unlike hotels, each vacation home is different. As a result, vacationers can spend an enormous amount of time and energy sifting through all the different options for the perfect rental.
Airbnb and Expedia-owned VRBO.com advertise extensively to vacation rental shoppers, but savvy long-term vacation rental consumers know that, while it is great to look for rentals on these sites, it is not always the best idea to book using them.
Here are 3 reasons not to use Airbnb and VRBO.com to book a vacation rental:
1. Consumers pay additional fees to book on Airbnb and VRBO.com
Airbnb and VRBO.com both earn a large portion of their revenue from service fees or traveler fees that are paid by you, the consumer.
Airbnb, for example, charges an additional 6–12 percent of the cost of the rental. On VRBO.com, that same fee can be even higher. According to VRBO.com, “The service fee is between 5–12 percent for most bookings but can be above or below, based on the reservation.”
2. The best vacation homes aren’t on Airbnb and VRBO
In a world where marketplaces such as Expedia, Priceline, and Airbnb reign supreme in the eyes of travelers, it is easy to assume that all the vacation rentals available can be found on these major marketplace websites. However, this assumption is not true. In fact, at most traditional vacation destinations such as North Carolina’s beaches, Cape Cod, Destin, Myrtle Beach, Key West, the Gulf Coast, and in major ski destinations, less than half of the available vacation rentals are listed on these major websites.
Vacation rentals do not have to be listed on major marketplace websites. The most desirable homes, cabins, chalets, and condos book easily, so the property managers and homeowners do not need to incur the high expense of listing these vacation rentals on channels such as Airbnb and VRBO.com.
3. Booking directly with the property manager or homeowner has additional benefits
Consumers who book directly with the property manager or homeowner are likely to receive additional benefits including special rates, onsite services, and increased customer support. When you contact the property management company or owner directly, they have intimate knowledge about the destination and can show you the best rental for your needs. Plus, they can direct you to activities, restaurants, and area service providers. During non-peak travel times, they often have special offers available.
In addition, professional vacation rental management companies have other benefits you can take advantage of, such as grocery delivery, beach or ski equipment rentals, and event passes.
When shopping for a vacation rental online, here are some tips to locating the home’s original property manager or homeowner:
- Look at the photos and description for clues that mention the name of the property management company or the homeowner.
- Copy and paste the description of the property into your search engine to see other sites where the home is listed. Often the property you are interested in is also publicized by its property management company or homeowner directly.
- Conduct a Google image search with the photos of the home as another method of locating the primary source of the rental.
Although large travel websites can provide lots of information, you can save hundreds of dollars and ensure a better vacation experience with just a little extra investigative work.
This article is consistent with our experience. We used to use Travelocity and sometimes booked with them so repay them for their assembling of options, and the fee was minimal. After Expedia bought them, it has become laughable trying to get a hotel and takes the fun out of it too. Contrary to speculations by a couple of people above, VRBO doesn’t do jack for its money. As if innkeepers couldn’t do it without them and have for centuries. Arrant nonsense. Expedia has introduced a heavy wall between you and your host which is the antithesis of traveling. In some places there are no hotels so if the condo or house owner goes that way, we have to use them. In any real town you can find the number or website of any number of hotels. Oh, for the yellow pages! As one person said, it certainly begins to smell like monopoly. We shall try the options listed above. Thanks.
As a property owner, I do use VRBO, AirBnB and Trip Advisor for advertising my properties. However, the guest will pay well over 12- 20% more by using these sites. The sad part is, there is really no value added by using these sites except knowledge of what may be available. Look at the photos and description for clues that mention the name of the property management company or the homeowner. Then do a Google or other search engine to find the website directly. Example: If you see the company logo contains xyzrentals, then do a search on xyzrentals.com. You will save lots of money and also be able to talk to a person before booking and committing yourself.
I am the owner of a large family reunion vacation rental in a beach town in Michigan. We have run the property for eight years and we still use VRBO for exposure but ask people to visit our web site for more information. Once at the site we offer them the chance to book without all the fees. The renter will save $1,200.00 on a weekly rental if they book direct with us and we are able to talk directly with the resident. Most of our summer rentals are booked a year in advance and we receive half of the rental fee at booking.
This article is exactly right. I have rented many properties over the last 10 years through VRBO and the extra fees are out of control. First, it was home away, now Airbnb, trip advisor, etc. I recently had to cancel a monthly rental. I had the reservation 17 days and cancelled almost 4 months in advance. The property owners were wonderful and refunded my deposit, however trip advisor kept $390.00 for their fee. A TOTAL RIP OFF!! These fees are ridiculous and I will never rent another property that uses these sites. It should be illegal for these bogus fees. The check in time gets LATER, the checkout time gets EARLIER, the to do list before checking out gets LONGER, there’s a set amount of nights you must stay and now you must check in on a certain day! Lord help you if you’re traveling with a pet. This amount of Greed is sickening. Please people stick your greedy hands back in your own pockets and stop taking advantage of people.
Homeaway used to be a good site, but since they have started online booking, they are a total ripoff. I am an owner with a built-up steady clientele from 15 years of renting-they want to charge my ‘regulars’ all kinds of fees, are condescending to owners with their”rankings” and have taken a good website and destroyed it as far as owners are concerned. I’m out.
I have used VRBO as an OWNER to list my property for 13 years. They have ruined their company in my estimation and I’m currently working on ways to completely leave VRBO. They have destroyed renting for owners and renters. Too bad.
I disagree with this article. As a private owner of a vrbo listed property, vrbo makes it possible for me to manage my property from afar with ease. I don’t want to pay a property management company, don’t want to spend all my time on facebook or other social media. You will totally miss out on my amazing property if you don’t use vrbo/homeaway. I don’t have time to make a career out of this – it’s our vacation home we rent out on the side, and very reasonably priced. I regret the fee they charge, but I’m sure they have overhead like all the rest of us (website, credit card company fees, advertising).
Nothing is free…
You will miss out on LOTS of properties if you take vrbo out of your vacation shopping.
Hi Laurel – I also manage my properties remotely. However I have used Quickbooks and PayPal, simple apps to use that you can take payment anywhere and anytime. I also have an e-fax so I can get my rental agreements immediately on my phone. I have managed to save myself 10-15 percent by doing this myself. I think it is worth it if you have two or more properties. And in principal I hate monopolies like EXPEDIA.COM. And I think others are starting to feel the same way in the Industry. Happy renting.
Have you come across StaySavr? It uses a database of owner contact details to show owner phone numbers and email addresses right on the homeaway page if you install their app. There’s also a manual look-up page that doesn’t need the app.
vrbo use to be a great website to market our properties but when they sold out to the big corporations
everything changed they wanted 10% or more service charges Fortunately for our renters they come back year
after year so we don’t have to deal with vrbo book direct whenever you can and save the service charge for
a nice dinner
you might save 15%, but you have to do a LOT of legwork to get it. they don’t really they you how to avoid that work
Awesome advice. Never book thru Expedia/Homeaway as you will pay the highest rate possible. Too bad, as they were a great venue years ago. Find the condo or home you like, then Google it directly to find the owner or property manager and book direct. You deal with the people you will rent from, get a much better price and have a happier vacation. Homeaway offers absolutely -0- benefit, though they act like they help 24/7 with issues…only the property manager can help.
Thank God someone has figured out how to get around these sites. I hope more will follow in the future.
Yes, we manage several vacation rental properties at a gated resort community in the “Valley of the Sun” (Phoenix metro area). We are listed on VacationRentals.com, VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, TripAdvisor, VacationHomeRentals, HolidayLettingsUK, AirBnB, HomeEscape, OwnerDirect, PhoenixVacationRentalHomes and others. However, if you book with us directly thru our Facebook Page or Facebook Marketplace or Google Business (basically calling or e-mailing us directly) you will save a lot! We pass that savings onto the traveler.
COOL TIP: Add the StaySavr plug-in extension to your browser such as Google Chrome. After that, voila! Many of the hidden DIRECT phone number and e-mail addresses will magically appear back on all the HomeAway, VRBO and other sites’ listings!
Expedia/VRBO/HomeAway now has instituted policy that hides the owner’s contact information from the traveler. This info is only released once the traveler has booked THRU THEIR SYSTEM. The reverse is true as well, the owner cannot contact the traveler/inquired.
I am an owner and have used VRBO for the past 13 years. Since Expedia purchased VRBO, and the corporate greed and policies that do not favor the owner were set in place, the marketplace has changed.
Follow this article’s advice and book direct with homeowners.
Monopoly websites have commandeered private rentals. Follow the tips here – search the property name and location and locate the property website. Then book direct and spend that 5-15% on yourself. Traveling to Bali? You can start with me – Google Villa Palm, Villa Safari and The Zoo in Seminyak Bali
I tend to disagree with the author’s assessment. I just returned from using airbnb.com for the first time as a test and I paid half as much as I would have at a hotel. I checked a few hotel sites and nothing beat the airbnb price. Not only that, the service fee I paid for the airbnb was the same as what I would have had to pay if I had booked at a hotel. I saved money, had a great and personalized stay and plan on using airbnb every time I travel.
AirBnB charges you 5-15% as a service fee. What the author is saying is by going direct to the owner of the home/unit, you can avoid those fees altogether. You are cutting out the middle man.
Private vacation homes will always be more economical than hotels and they are becoming the preferred method of travel for families that want to spend time together BUT there is no need to spend more than you have to.
Most vacation home owners have their own website and are active in social media. Find them on the big listing sites and then do a google search to find them directly and save a lot of money!
The weakest link in any system is the lazy human. This is an excellent article unlocking huge savings for mistreated travellers ala bed taxes and travel commissions.
Bed taxes are still collected and paid by private owner whether they go through a third-party like Airbnb, Homeaway etc. They are required by the city or county the property is located in. It is illegal for owners to not collect and pay the bed or stay taxes. No one can say I won’t charge you a tax. Not legal at all.
Guests that book homes at Scurlock Farms directly with me have saved hundreds of dollars over those that book through Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO.