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As a Vacation Rental Owner and someone who occasionally gets a chance to travel, I have observed a few things through the years about the big companies that are out there offering services to Hosts and Guests. I will compare two of the largest companies VRBO and Airbnb, and share my thoughts on them from a Host and Guest standpoint.
Owner/Host Fees – $399 per year OR 8% per booking (if you do not choose the annual subscription)
Guest Fees – between 5% – 12%
Ease of Use – VRBO has a nice interface that makes creating a listing a step-by-step process. Overall, I think it is slightly dated and could be made a little more visually appealing, but it works fine for creating a listing. There are lots of options and questions that allow the user to customize their listing to their specific area. It is also very easy to check the analytics of the listing to see how many views it is receiving compared to bookings and how that compares to the market in your area.
Customer Service – When setting up my account with VRBO, I had a lot of questions that I needed help understanding. I called into their Customer Service department and they helped me answer everything and understand how the billing and payments worked. We talked through lots of scenarios so that I could make the best decision for my business. When I needed to update banking information I did have to jump through a few hoops to do that, but ultimately, I felt this was wise on VRBO‘s part to ensure that I truly did have the authority to change the bank account that deposits were made.
Guest Perspective – When I am searching for a rental for my own trips, I have always defaulted to VRBO. I feel like as a traveler it’s easy to see what you are getting and I have not had any negative experiences booking my personal trips through VRBO. I appreciate that as a traveler, I do not have to pay all up front when booking with VRBO. This is a big deal when you are booking months in advance and your rental is a large amount. VRBO requires 50% down and the balance within 30 days of your booking typically.
Extras – VRBO makes it easy to add fees for pets, Airbnb does not have a pet fee option and makes it quite a bit more difficult for someone to add that option.
Owner/Host Fees – 3%
Guest Fees – between 5% – 15%
Ease of Use – I love the Airbnb site…it is much more modern and easy to update and edit. I enjoy seeing all the new features that they are adding for hosts and guests and really like how they continue to improve their site. I wish that there were more Stats available for Hosts to view how many people are looking at the listing.
Customer Service – It is virtually impossible to get a Customer Service person on the phone. There is a system that Airbnb uses that allows “SuperHosts” to answer questions as needed. While this is effective for some things, at other times I have just really wanted to talk to a human. From what I understand, it is much easier for guests to communicate with Airbnb than it is for hosts.
Guest Perspective – I have not booked a trip through Airbnb, but I definitely am open to comparison shopping. Now that I am an owner, I would definitely look on each site for homes to rent and compare fees just in case. Airbnb requires a 100% deposit of the money for the rental up front. If the booking is 6 months away, then they get to hold onto your money for 6 months while the Host does not see it until the day after you check in. This is a big deterrent for me to use them as a guest! I definitely would want to use VRBO when booking as a guest!
Always contact the Host before booking. Many times they are willing to book outside of the Rental Service which saves both of you money! Be sure that they provide you with a rental agreement that specifies the terms for cancellation and return of a security deposit if you are booking directly. Note…by booking outside of VRBO or Airbnb you are assuming more risk that could potentially lead you or the host to lose money, but it is a risk many people take to save 15% or more.
You can ask the Host to waive additional fees or for additional discounts when booking far in advance or at the last minute. Most Hosts know that if they get a booking for the current week they are in, they better jump on it, so feel free to ask for a discount!
Many Hosts want to be extra accommodating for their guests. If you need a few grocery items stocked, they may be happy to help. Need a package delivered, they typically do not mind having that waiting for you. Arriving late and would love the lamps left on, definitely something worth asking for! I have done all of these things for my guests and will continue to do so!