How do I best list my vacation property: Airbnb vs Vrbo?
January 7, 2016 9:31 AM   Subscribe

What is the best practice for listing a vacation property online, right now? Is one of the services better than the rest, or do I need to maintain pages on all of them?

My family has a beach house in New Jersey that we rent on a weekly basis during the season via a local realtor. Each year there are open weeks that we want to fill, and I've been tasked with setting up our page/s online. I'm behind the curve on all of the various services available today and don't know the best way to proceed.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by cgs to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been on the renter side. I've rented houses 2-3x/year for the past 15 years, each time using VRBO. I've only had one negative experience in that time.
I don't know what it is like from the owner's perspective, but VBRBO is our family's go-to for all vacations both in the US and abroad.
posted by LittleMy at 9:37 AM on January 7, 2016

AirBnB charges a % commission on every booking, while VRBO offers the option of a subscription where you pay a fee up front but no commissions. Most people find the commission model more appealing, which is one reason AirBnB has been so successful. TripAdvisor is a 3rd player and also offers both payment models. From what I can tell the commission structures are pretty comparable across vendors.

Because VRBO has been in the market longer, they tend to have their inventory concentrated in what I'd call traditional vacation rental markets - beaches, ski resorts, etc., while AirBnB tends to have more inventory in cities. But most people looking for a rental just google it so the difference in traffic is probably marginal.
posted by mr vino at 9:55 AM on January 7, 2016

We just did two weekends through VRBO, and two weekends through AirBNB. I'll probably stick to AirBNB from now on, because the VRBO properties were not as good a fit for us as the AirBNB ones:

--> The "lake cottage" we rented was full of really old furniture that seemed just ready to break; the wooden dining chairs (there were too many to fit into the space) all had loose joints and I really worried that we'd sit in one too much; I moved a bunch of them into another room. We did accidentally break an ornamental table just by picking it up and putting it back down, gently (which the owner did not charge us for). The place was, as indicated above, probably good for families, but it was clearly used by hunters and a very different sort of traveler from us. There were other weird surprises that made me feel like I was on the set of a "family vacation" movie from the 70s; nothing that terrible (air freshener _everywhere_, couldn't walk anywhere on the lake really, contractual cleanup chores at the end PLUS a high cleaning fee). Probably the kind of thing you'd expect if your family had a "lake house" tradition dating back 30 years, but not really geared toward our level of experience.

--> The "modern" house (it turned out to be like living in Ikea, which was kind of a novel experience on the extreme other end of the spectrum from the lake house) we rented turned out to be managed by a large management company that didn't respond to our questions, pre-rental, with anything but a prewritten document. Very impersonal, formulaic, and would have been fine if I had the same needs as every other renter. We ended up staying there anyway because of the location, and it was at least clean and had no air freshener smells, but the experience didn't make me want to use VRBO again.

So, we travel a lot, and are pretty turned off by the VRBO experience.

Oh, also, VRBO keeps sending me marketing material, weekly it seems, encouraging me e.g. to make travel-related New Year's resolutions. Apparently it's run by your parents in the 1980s.
posted by amtho at 10:24 AM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have had a VRBO property listed for about 7 years and I'm perfectly happy with my experience.

As an end user, I prefer AirBnB. The site is easier to use and AirBnB doesn't pay the owner until 24 hours after check-in which is a great security device for the renter.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:45 AM on January 7, 2016

I've used both and had similar experiences as Amtho. I tend to prefer AirBnB, but I've also assume I've gotten pretty lucky with my hosts; I've never had any major issues with either the home or contacting them, and contacting the hosts via the airbnb app worked really well.

(I've also had absolutely lovely experiences with hosts going above and beyond to provide information about the area, good food recommendations, showing us any quirks about the place etc. so I'm probably rather biased)
posted by larthegreat at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2016

One advantage of renting through VRBO -- you _can_ contact the owner directly by phone etc. before paying. I wish I could talk to AirBNB owners before committing; it feels a lot like a leap into the darkness if I don't have the experience of listening to the person's voice. Talking to people directly makes them seem safer than just reading an online profile (which seems easier to "fake").
posted by amtho at 10:50 AM on January 7, 2016

I have many opinions on these things!

I have a ski condo that I rent to short-term renters when I'm not using it. I currently list it on AirBnB, VRBO, and Flipkey (Tripadvisor).

AirBnB is my favorite from a user (host) experience perspective, and it generates about 80% of my revenue. I think they've spent a lot more time on the UI to make it easy for both renters and hosts to do what they want to do -- search, manage prices and the property, manage the property's calendar, communicate with each other, pay and get paid, etc. I also like the fact that search results are based upon the owner's response rate, response time, and past bookings. By contrast, VRBO gives you better search rankings if you pay them more. I also find VRBO clunky and hard to navigate, both as a host and as a renter. And VRBO uses a payment request system that is a pain.

Speaking to amtho's point, I like managing my workflow and communications through email so I have a record of them, so the fact that AirBnB renters can't call me out of the blue is a benefit, rather than a drawback.

I've seen a slightly younger crowd using AirBnB, but our condo is a one-bedroom, so it's not really conducive to big house parties. We haven't had any major issues with renters through any of the three websites, knock on wood.

The only minor issue I've had was a situation where I had blocked off a set of dates on AirBnB but through a computer glitch a renter was allowed to book those dates anyway. I contacted AirBnB customer service, was connected to a real person in short order, and the issue was fixed. So no real problems there. I've also had an easy time figuring out how to modify bookings through their website.

If you're in a bigger market, AirBnB will also field requests for free professional photography. We were able to do it and I think the photos turned out really well.

So, I really like using AirBnB more across the board. But I list on all three sites because if I get one $1,000 booking from VRBO or Flipkey over the course of the year, it's worth it for me to list on that site. Also, I adopted AirBnB early and have had good luck with it, along with good reviews, so my unit appears near the top of our area's search listings. If you're coming into what is already a saturated market on AirBnB, paying to land at the top of the search rankings at VRBO may be a bonus. I think it's worth trying all three to see which brings you the most income with the least hassle, even if that means juggling three calendars at once. And note that all three sites allow you to import and export calendars, so if someone books at VRBO, AirBnB can pick that up and show the date as blocked. Good luck!
posted by craven_morhead at 10:59 AM on January 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've used both services as a renter, and I much prefer Airbnb's interface and functionality. When I've needed customer service from them, I've also been very happy with their response and follow-up. I still look on VRBO, but only after I haven't found what I want on Airbnb.
posted by quince at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you for all of the advice! I'm trying AirBnB first since there is no commitment up front. Is there any way I can list my property as week-long rentals only, rather than daily/weekend? I'm looking through the instructions but don't see this as an option.
posted by cgs at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2016

You should be able to set a minimum rental period. I have it set for 2 nights, but there's no reason you can't set it for 6 or 7.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2016

Response by poster: some followup notes:
- I set up the house on AirBnB and TripAdvisor, as those don't require any money up front
- found the setup very easy, but couldn't get the calendar synch to work
- I've had a bunch of nibbles, but no bites yet.
posted by cgs at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2016

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