As you might know, I have a listing that advertises our apartment for short term rental on Airbnb.com. So far the experience has been positive, and we have renters for most of the summer. I am thinking ahead to winter though, our off season and so am looking for ways to increase our exposure in the marketplace. That thought process led to me looking into VRBO.com.
Vacation Rentals By Owner is very well known to the online market, and so I figured it would be a good place to advertise. It’s way different than Airbnb in terms of commissions and listing priority. Airbnb has only 1 option for payment, and that is a commission-based system that you manage yourself. VRBO has a pay-per-booking option or yearly subscription. Within these categories are options to have an agent or property manager handle your entire rental process or to do it yourself (a la Airbnb). I began building my listing on VRBO after deciding on the pay-per-booking option. I don’t know what sort of increase in bookings I can expect, so I want to try it out before committing for a full year subscription of $350. VRBO is trying really hard to get everyone onto the yearly subscription program, and they do this by making the commission option really unattractive. The per booking option pays them 10% commission on each booking, plus you get paid your rental income 1 week after the party has checked out. That’s a big difference from Airbnb, which takes a 3% fee from hosts for each booking and hosts are paid 24 hours after the guest checks in.
Furthermore, if you buy a yearly subscription for VRBO, your listing takes priority in the search results. Airbnb is much more egalitarian and tumbles the results for search results so that listings take turns being displayed at the top.
And what about the people who are renting from us? How do we know we can trust perfect strangers in our home? Especially for those hosts who are offering rooms in their homes and not self-contained apartments or entire houses. Airbnb makes renters and hosts alike create a profile. In this profile you put your picture, likes and dislikes, and general info about yourself. Then you can link your Airbnb profile to your Facebook profile and your LinkedIn profile. As a host I feel more confident renting out when I can see a photo and get a sense of a renter’s personality. Likewise, renters like to read my profile to see what I’m about.
Another feature on Airbnb that makes it an attractive option for me is that hosts and renters review each other regularly. This info increases knowledge about each other and therefore the comfort factor for all parties involved.
Guess what? VRBO doesn’t have profiles nor reviews.
Yesterday, as I was building my VRBO listing I had to pause at the photo step because my photos are not located on my laptop. So, I walked away from that with the intention of picking it up later. Meanwhile, I received a phone call from a VRBO sales rep located in Texas. HFS! I hadn’t even finished my listing and VRBO was stalking me. Even with all I know about online monitoring, and how all activity is accessible, etc etc etc, I was creeped out. Nonetheless I talked to this rep to find out a little more about VRBO policies. That’s how I learned about the priority listing, 10% commission, lack of profiles for hosts and renters, and lack of reviews of each. The rep suggested that when I received a rental inquiry (assuming I listed with them) that I should phone up the prospective renter to chat and find out about them. I can’t think of anything more futile and ridiculous. Srsly?! I replied to him that it’s rare for me to answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number, and I certainly wasn’t going to call others who likely wouldn’t pick up and what can I find out about them via a quick phone call anyway? I wouldn’t be able to tell anything about their renting habits that way either. So then the rep suggested I ask them to forward me a link to their Facebook or LinkedIn profile. So very lame. Why can’t VRBO improve their web site to allow for this information to be automatically displayed? They do, after all, bill themselves as the premier site for advertising vacation properties for rent.
I especially loved the rep’s comment about how VRBO renters are generally ‘a little farther off the ground’ than Airbnb. Ha ha! I’ll take the proletariats any day, as long as I’m being offered more control and increased confidence in my Hosting experience.