Help me choose a website builder for a vacation rental property
October 7, 2017 2:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to help someone who needs to generate income from a property in the Caribbean and does not wish to use Airbnb. I'm having difficulty choosing which website builder to use. I need to pick the best one, that will allow me to use my friend's own domain name, and keep monthly expenses as low as possible. Please help me MetaFilter!
posted by racersix6 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Do they want to be able to run a booking calendar and take payments through the website? Some cheaper website builders do not facilitate this kind of functionality. Your cheapest functional option maybe a self-hosted wordpress site with plug-ins for bookings and payments.
posted by Thella at 3:10 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

Thanks, Thella. Yes, I should have mentioned - would like to have a booking calendar; payments not necessarily required through site.
posted by racersix6 at 6:37 PM on October 7

Building an ecom and scheduling site using one of the known services (square space, wix, etc) cannot be simple. Unless you have experience, you'll likely need programming support. And in that case, prob better to do ur own wordpress site. But the larger issue is: if you build it, who will come? Air bnb, home away and the like all have brand awareness with built in audiences. You'll be an unknown /untrusted needle in 10 million haystacks.
posted by pmaxwell at 11:00 PM on October 7 [3 favorites]

Maybe it's changed now with Airbnb, but in the not too distant past you were fine if you could get your site on the first page for "island/locality vacation rental". Maybe you'd make more doing it another way, but you could keep a decent business going.

I think you still can, even without an availability calendar or online payments. Most people looking for tropical vacation rentals are still older and more likely to be willing to pick up the phone or send an email inquiry. So for now, I'd just make sure to get the nicest photos possible, make a decent looking website that hits the necessary points to show up on Google, and if there's some sort of legitimate local tourism site that will link you for free, get in contact with them. In smaller areas there typically are few enough short term rental homes that people still look for stuff and work in the old fashioned way.
posted by wierdo at 3:15 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]

if you build it, who will come? Air bnb, home away and the like all have brand awareness with built in audiences. You'll be an unknown /untrusted needle in 10 million haystacks.

This, this, this, this, this.
A good friend has a very popular 4 unit rental right on the beach here in Florida. It's booked regularly, and he has repeat customers that come from Australia, the UK and other places around the world to vacation there for a few weeks or even a month.

But it wasn't always that way.
Heck even now, there are weeks where they are empty, usually due to being out of season.
He had to build that audience, build those customers, and the only way is to get your listing on AirBnB, VRBO, Homeaway, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Road Trippers, RentbyOwner, and about a dozen more websites. My own personal opinion, based on nothing but anecdotal knowledge, is that if your friend just has a website, and you can't even book and pay for a rental on that website, you are on a fool's errand.

You must make your place easy to find, easy to view, easy to book, easy to pay for, and easy to communicate with the owner in case of circumstances or questions. I would highly recommend that they rethink this strategy, and cast their net as widely as possible when it comes to making the above happen.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 4:36 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]

Before AirBnB came along, the standard industry model was for owners to pay a monthly subscription to a company like HomeAway or Flipkey to list their rentals. If any of the major players will still sign your friend up for one of these plans, it would be cheaper initially, and probably cheaper in the long run, than going the DIY route. And they all have SEO expertise which is hard to come by.
posted by mr vino at 5:50 AM on October 8

Thanks for all the good info! I'm passing it along.
posted by racersix6 at 9:38 AM on October 9

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