Why do you choose one vacation rental site over another?

20 Replies

With so many sites and the service fees and % increasing. How do you choose which site to list on? Wouldn't it be better to list on a site with no booking or service fees?

I have a lake house vacation rental, and for me personally I have to rely on VRBO/HomeAway at this time.  There are some other sites with no fees, but VRBO has such a monopoly that these other services simply are not viable.  Basically, even though VRBO is getting super greedy with the additional fees and it sucks, I have to play by their rules because they are unfortunately the only game in town right now. 

I also have a Lake house faction rental and Honeaway/VRBO dominates all other listing platforms. I get 95% of all my bookings with them and they keep my calendar full. I also use Airbnb but it just doesn't do much for me.

The fees that Homeaway has does not deter my customer base. In fact not one person has complained to me about extra fees.

Homeaway now has awesome analytic tools, graphs and charts that are superior to anything you have to pay for on airdna.

Why would you choose. All the good sites only charge per booking, and can sync each other's calendars. List on all of them and you pay for what they bring you. 

I have vacation rentals in Austin and my experience is completely opposite that of John's. 95% of my bookings come from Airbnb, and the occasional one from HomeAway. And every time I use the HomeAway site I cuss at it and wonder why they don't just copy Airbnb's because it's so much better and easier to use.  

I keep seeing ads for Tokeet which says they list your property on all the sites and help market. I'm curious if that'd be a worthwhile service.

Interesting! Thanks for the feedback. What about a newer site that doesn't charge any booking fee's to the renters. That would always make your property on that site the cheapest. Which would result in more bookings. Also they don't charge any service fee's, just a one time annual fee.

Originally posted by @Dustin Glossop :

Interesting! Thanks for the feedback. What about a newer site that doesn't charge any booking fee's to the renters. That would always make your property on that site the cheapest. Which would result in more bookings. Also they don't charge any service fee's, just a one time annual fee.

 That would always make my property the cheapest?  No thanks (besides, how would that even work?).  That is not my business model.  I want my prices to reflect average to higher-than-average, because that's what my properties are.  (and I as a consumer don't always want the cheapest, either - I want a fair price for the quality I'm looking for)

I'm in two different markets that, according to most other owners in both areas, are dominated by VRBO/Homeaway bookings.  However, my bookings predominantly come from AirBNB.  And while I'm aware of AirBNB's flaws, I personally have never had a problem with them and I find their fees to be very reasonable.

I have more of an issue with VRBO/Homeaway's fees, but only because I don't get a ton of business from them; if they booked up my calendar the way AirBNB does, I'd have no problem paying $400-500 annually to list with them.  I may go to the pay-by-booking model once my subscription expires.

So, I list on both.  Would I consider a new site?  Answer: maybe.  It'd need to convince me it was generating a lot of leads before I'd be willing to pony up an annual fee; I'd be far more willing to start off by paying per booking, a la AirBNB.  Then it only costs me anything if I'm making something.  It would also need to be easy/intuitive to navigate - VRBO sucks that way and Booking.com is 10x worse.  It DEFINITELY needs to support calendar syncing with the big boys.  And probably a ton of other things that I'm not bothered to list here.  But basically, I'm over creating new listings - it's a hassle, and unless I'm confident I'm going to get some traction off of it, I'm not going to bother.  

The fees charged to guests don't cause me problems in the least.  I think it'd be interesting to see what I could do with my nightly prices if the fees aren't a consideration for my guests, but currently I barely even think about them, and almost never get guest comments about them.  

Here's the thing: I find the "no booking fees" model appealing, of course, but from a business perspective, how on earth is a site like that going to handle the R&D and advertising costs necessary to even begin to compete with AirBNB and HA/VRBO?  It's a catch-22 - VR owners aren't going to spend a few hundred bucks to list on an unproven site, but in order to prove itself, the site will need some serious capital to invest in development and ADVERTISING.  

In closing, while I think fresh ideas and competitors are good in this space, it's going to be tough to convince me that any given upstart site is going to be able to compete for a top spot.

I was not referencing a cheaper cost in terms of lessor quality. I was comparing if you had the same or similar option on multiple sites, the cheapest site would gain the most bookings from a cost standpoint. The reason it can function without charging the fee's is because everything is not automated. The owner is still handling the transaction. Thus booking directly. This would be a site that serves more like the marketing arm, getting you all the traffic and bookings to your listings. So paying a few hundred dollars per year to have your listings advertised seems like a no brainer. Not to mention you can write off the cost upfront as a marketing expense. 

The listings can all be uploaded with everything into this new site. No need to create new listings.

Every company/site has to start somewhere and nobody wants to be the first. I totally understand not wanting to waste money on an opportunity. What else would entice everyone to list on a new site? What about being grandfathered into the lower fee for the life of the site? What if it works and you make more revenue? Can they charge more based on amount of bookings after the initial cost? Or is the small upfront cost worth the risk. A new company needs to get the bookings to succeed and grow organically and viral.  

I hear more bad than good with the top sites. Fee's are high, not easy to use, bad customer service, no coverage on damages etc. etc. Keeping the bookings direct is the way to go. Everyones feedback is greatly appreciated. 

Hi Dustin,


My general opinion is that the larger sites are extremely powerful marketing engines and you get what you pay for (though I think VRBO/HA are a bit excessive).  I wouldn't limit yourself too much, but to manually track more than (3) OTA's can be challenging and monotonous.  As @Julie McCoy mentioned and I agree "how could they support themselves without charging fees?"  Interestingly @Brad Shepherd I just joined a Tokeet introductory webinar yesterday.  Interesting solution but their full integration is somewhat limited to particular OTA's that allow a full level of integration.  It's a worthwhile hour just to check it out as they are very competitively priced and their capabilities may outweigh their limitations.  I will be signing up for their second, more advanced webinar to dig deeper.  I've also heard good things about Orbirental and a few others.

Best,

Mike

@Michael Greenberg , thanks for sharing that feedback. Interesting to hear.

I also have my properties on TripAdvisor and used to be on Booking.com, which seem to bring more Europeans. Each one is just a pay-per-booking arrangement and they all sync each other's calendars, so it's easy to set and forget. However, I'm with @Julie McCoy on Booking.com. Their website is horrific. I had to have an account manager walk me through how to set it up and what their jargon means. And they don't process payments, so you have to have a way to run a credit card but they only let you see the credit card info for a few days after the booking, even though the policy is you can't charge the card until something like 14 days prior to the reservation. I've had to go back to upcoming guests and ask for their card info because I either didn't capture it in time, they didn't put in a zip code which the card processor requires, or by the time I go to run their card they've canceled that card completely. Total joke of a process so I just turned it off. I have one more Booking.com reservation to go and then good riddance.

Originally posted by :

However, I'm with @Julie McCoy on Booking.com. Their website is horrific. I had to have an account manager walk me through how to set it up and what their jargon means. And they don't process payments, so you have to have a way to run a credit card but they only let you see the credit card info for a few days after the booking, even though the policy is you can't charge the card until something like 14 days prior to the reservation. I've had to go back to upcoming guests and ask for their card info because I either didn't capture it in time, they didn't put in a zip code which the card processor requires, or by the time I go to run their card they've canceled that card completely. Total joke of a process so I just turned it off. I have one more Booking.com reservation to go and then good riddance.

 That is EXACTLY why I'm no longer with Booking.com.  It was such a pain to set up (I think their over-the-phone on boarding is mandatory, but it NEEDS to be, you literally can't set it all up on your own) and while I did get bookings, communicating with the guests to get whatever missing card information there is meant I got cancellations, too.  I didn't realize you couldn't charge the card until 14 days before the stay - that might explain some of my troubles, but it's one more reason to not use them.  (besides, the one successful booking I had through them resulted in a $58 fee to Booking.com, which they invoice you for later.  And I thought VRBO was bad!!)

I do wish they were easier because I'd like to tap into the international market more, but that process is not at all worth my hassle.

The website I was referring to is Tripz. I welcome everyone to take a look and give feedback.

I say list on all of them. The more eyes on your property then the more reservations. Of course it is ideal to create your own platform and then drive your traffic there but in the meantime list everywhere and adjust accordingly to produce a profit. Then of course there are platforms that are just a pain in the rear to list on such as booking.com but you do get a lot of traffic.

I would far prefer a channel with higher fees, if it brought me lots of high $$ bookings in an easy to use interface.....as compared to a new channel that brought me a small number of bookings but was a pain in the *** to work with, that confused my guests, and messed up my operations in general.

I completely understand your frustration with Booking, but I highly advise that you give them a chance. They have brought me A LOT of money. I found a rep to help me and cite it as non-refundable and the bookings have slowed down, but the ones that book pay very nicely. 

Originally posted by @Julie McCoy :
Originally posted by :

However, I'm with @Julie McCoy on Booking.com. Their website is horrific. I had to have an account manager walk me through how to set it up and what their jargon means. And they don't process payments, so you have to have a way to run a credit card but they only let you see the credit card info for a few days after the booking, even though the policy is you can't charge the card until something like 14 days prior to the reservation. I've had to go back to upcoming guests and ask for their card info because I either didn't capture it in time, they didn't put in a zip code which the card processor requires, or by the time I go to run their card they've canceled that card completely. Total joke of a process so I just turned it off. I have one more Booking.com reservation to go and then good riddance.

 That is EXACTLY why I'm no longer with Booking.com.  It was such a pain to set up (I think their over-the-phone on boarding is mandatory, but it NEEDS to be, you literally can't set it all up on your own) and while I did get bookings, communicating with the guests to get whatever missing card information there is meant I got cancellations, too.  I didn't realize you couldn't charge the card until 14 days before the stay - that might explain some of my troubles, but it's one more reason to not use them.  (besides, the one successful booking I had through them resulted in a $58 fee to Booking.com, which they invoice you for later.  And I thought VRBO was bad!!)

I do wish they were easier because I'd like to tap into the international market more, but that process is not at all worth my hassle.

Originally posted by @Julie Gates :
I completely understand your frustration with Booking, but I highly advise that you give them a chance. They have brought me A LOT of money. I found a rep to help me and cite it as non-refundable and the bookings have slowed down, but the ones that book pay very nicely. 


 Non-refundable is no good if I can't charge their credit card!  I didn't have a single booking where I received all the card info I needed without having to follow up with the guests for more information.  

I'd be willing to reconsider them IF they processed payments in-house.  I mean, I already went to the trouble of setting up my account, etc. (though I LOATHE that I have to call them up to change certain things on the listing)  

As it is, it's a ton of work for me, a clumsy and tedious interface, and fees out the wazoo just so they can post my listing?  (I paid $58 in fees just for a single booking of 2-3 nights)  At least AirBNB and VRBO process the credit cards and I don't have to worry about having a stranger's sensitive information in my possession, much less have to pester them for a billing zip code or CVC number because Booking.com didn't give it to me.

That's where the rep comes in. They fixed all of that. I didn't like taking the payment at first, but now that I have my own web site I'm taking it anyway, so it's no more work to do Booking. I totally get your frustration, though.

Originally posted by @Julie McCoy :
Originally posted by @Julie Gates:
I completely understand your frustration with Booking, but I highly advise that you give them a chance. They have brought me A LOT of money. I found a rep to help me and cite it as non-refundable and the bookings have slowed down, but the ones that book pay very nicely. 


 Non-refundable is no good if I can't charge their credit card!  I didn't have a single booking where I received all the card info I needed without having to follow up with the guests for more information.  

I'd be willing to reconsider them IF they processed payments in-house.  I mean, I already went to the trouble of setting up my account, etc. (though I LOATHE that I have to call them up to change certain things on the listing)  

As it is, it's a ton of work for me, a clumsy and tedious interface, and fees out the wazoo just so they can post my listing?  (I paid $58 in fees just for a single booking of 2-3 nights)  At least AirBNB and VRBO process the credit cards and I don't have to worry about having a stranger's sensitive information in my possession, much less have to pester them for a billing zip code or CVC number because Booking.com didn't give it to me.

Yeah, I'm working on getting a website in place so I can focus on some direct booking.  And you're right, once I'm doing that, it's all the same thing, more or less.  Thanks for the encouragement, @Julie Gates :) 

I list on both Airbnb and VRBO. They the two platforms that seem to be top of mind when people are looking for rentals across the world. I also will be allowing direct booking on my soon to be website but I anticipate that most of our bookings will still come through Airbnb and VRBO.

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Is there a website template available for easily making your own website? Or does anyone have a web designer they could recommend?

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