Careful consideration is required when a property owner selects the ultimate listing site for their Vacation Rental Business. From site management to guest interaction and rate settings, many factors play into the decision. We have used all of the big players in developing our property rental business. Here you will find our honest review of VRBO and why we believe that they should play a key role in your STR (short-term rental) success.
VRBO has been around since 1995 and was at the forefront of the Vacation Rental By Owner movement. HomeAway acquired VRBO in 2006, and then they were both subsequently purchased by travel behemoth Expedia in 2015. Expedia also owns many of the popular booking sites such as Orbitz and Kayak.com. The reach of Expedia and VRBO is immense; creating a vast rental potential for the opportunistic owner.
Vacation Rental Savant - Official VRBO Site Review
As part of the famous and far-reaching Expedia group, VRBO offers unsurpassed traffic opportunities. It has proven to be our most consistent booking provider. We have seen our STR sites listed on many smaller sites automatically without us knowing they partnered with VRBO.
Two options are available for commission charges. The first option is 5% of the rental costs plus an additional 3% credit card service fee. Guests nearly always use a credit card so count on an 8% commission. These fees are on the high end for the industry. The second option is what we recommend, as it is a flat $499 (at the time of publication) annual fee. Unless you plan on having very few rentals or do not want to pay upfront, this is the way to go. It should pay for itself quickly, as it does not take very many 8% commissions to exceed $499.
Guest and Owner Fees
Since being purchased by Expedia, one of the biggest complaints that owners have is the escalating fees. Below is an actual snapshot from VRBO of one of our rentals. Note the $128.00 Travel Service Fee that the guest is stuck absorbing. That is outrageous and one of the few real shortcomings of VRBO. Many guests will think that this money is going to the greedy owner, which is not the case. Those fees do not appear until the guest books and can cause sticker shock when added to the rental cost. Not shown is an additional $22.47 fee charged to us for credit card servicing.
Cleaning fees are standard in the industry unless you want to clean your unit personally and not pay yourself for your time. Your time is valuable, compensate yourself or hire a cleaner.
Actual VRBO Itemized Payment Detail
Site Set-Up and Customization
Enough with the bad news, let's talk about where VRBO shines. The website walks you through setting up your STR listing, including property description, on-site amenities, and location highlights. Entirely editable room descriptions are available, along with some great picture and video capabilities to showcase your vacation rental property. Easily modify your listing even after publication, say if you want to show off that new patio furniture you just added.
An owner information page is available along with contact information to help your guests get comfortable in renting from you. Now is your chance to sell yourself and your business. Tell the world why they should stay with you!
Heath and Safety entries are available, which is paramount for health concerns, such as during a global pandemic. Display what extra measures you are taking to provide guest safety.
The layout of the site is organized and flows logically. The owner can add up to fifty pictures and a video so that the opportunity will make your vacation rental listing shine. Take advantage of these features and be sure to use only high-quality images. Hire a professional photographer if needed. Do not skimp here.
VRBO features a powerful engine, so the site runs smoothly even with numerous large images. The listing looks great on phones as well, including on the handy VRBO app. Rental rates and availability calendars are displayed prominently for guest use.
Quickly establish and edit your rates through the calendar function. Discounts are set here for weekly and monthly rentals, which are great for controlling change-over and cleaning costs. Taxes and fees may also be placed here along with any desired damage protection terms.
A Few More Pros
Premier Partner program for exceptional properties. This system rewards high achieving rentals with recognition in the form of a badge and a boost in property search rankings.
VRBO utilizes a two-way review system identifying problem guests. This system helps future rental owners protect their assets.
Included is a filtered search option for guests. It helps guests find certain vital features that are important to them. Bathroom and bedroom numbers and amenities such as swimming pools are filter examples.
MarketMaker program assists in setting rates for your market. It looks at comparable area properties and occupancy rates and then gives you suggestions for future calendar dates.
The Boost system provides power-ups to move up in the search position. Earn boosts by completing rentals and other noteworthy tasks.
A Couple More Cons
Lack of promo code option, unlike Booking.com. These are nice if you want to offer return customers a discount.
Only full home rentals are available; no single room rentals, unlike Airbnb.
Channel Manager compatibility issues for owners with fewer than five properties. Channel managers are useful for synchronizing rental functions when using multiple listing sites or more than one rental property.
The combination of fantastic features, ease of use, and high site traffic make VRBO a top choice for Vacation Rental Owners. We highly recommend that you utilize VRBO as one of your key listing sites to promote your short term rental business.
For a comparison of listing site providers, please see:
Top 4 Amazing STR Listing Sites to Unlock a Rental Bonanza