A detailed review of the FlipKey.com advertising services & website

Without a doubt, the vacation rental market is booming. And with the increase of available properties out there, we’re also seeing an increase in vacation rental websites for you to advertise your properties with.

Above many others, FlipKey has had a solid track record for a while now, and it is definitely one of the best options. It’s part of the TripAdvisor family and it’s basically risk free to use, but is it right for you?

Below is a detailed review of the FlipKey website and their vacation rental advertising services.

In this review, we’re going to explore their history, features, benefits and downfalls. And we’ll even take al look at what people are saying about them from all corners of the internet, all to help you know all the facts when deciding where to list your properties.

Enjoy!


FlipKey.com homepage screenshot

FlipKey.com homepage screenshot


A little history about the FlipKey

Founded in 2007 and acquired by TripAdvisor in 2008, Flipkey has quickly escalated as a top ranking vacation rental website.

It currently boasts over 300,000 properties and rooms across North America, the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe. And with an average of 2.6 million visitors each month, Flipkey is fast becoming a favourite vacation rental search engine among Americans.

Success stories are rampant at Flipkey, with the average homeowner earning $26,000 per year, and top earners making $70,000 to $90,000 a year in rental income. Not bad when you consider that their listings are free and some of these people are using their vacation homes as supplemental income.

With homeowners in charge of setting their own fees, it’s hard to estimate with complete accuracy their average income, but according to Flipkey, the average homeowner can earn up to $26,000 a year.


Listing your properties on FlipKey.com

Standard Features

Listing features are fairly standard across all vacation rental websites. FlipKey offers the standard 24 photos, maps, reviews, calendars, as well as a checklist of amenities to indicate what’s included in the house, along with outdoor amenities.

FlipKey puts a lot of emphasis on your property description, making sure you’re writing with your target audience in mind and offering insightful information on your property.  The listing process is extremely easy and straightforward and offers the added bonus of FlipKey’s helpful hints. You’ll notice these as you go from one step to the next completing your listing. 

At FlipKey, there are no upfront fees, which makes it one of the most desirable listing websites out there. There are no fixed yearly contracts, instead you pay on a commission basis, and at only 3% per booking; making them easily one of the most affordable websites out there. 
 

Free Added Visibility with TripAdvisor

Considering TripAdvisor owns FlipKey, you get to enjoy a few perks. These perks include a largely enhanced global exposure. Meaning your listings will also be featured on all of TripAdvisor’s owned websites and affiliates at no extra cost.

The way they choose to publish/advertise your listings varies from site to site, but nonetheless, it’s an amazing way of increasing your visibility and potential bookings.


Property Manager Plans

If you own or manage five or more properties you will be placed within a higher level of service plan. FlipKey understands that budgets differ from one property owner to the next, and depending on your allotted budget, it offers you 3 different payment plans for you to choose from. 

You can choose pay on a commission basis. This means that you only pay FlipKey a certain percentage of your rates only once you’ve got a confirmed booking. 

Also, there is a possibility of paying a slightly higher commission rate in order to reduce or eliminate the booking fee for the traveller, which in return can make your properties more competitive in price. That said, this structure is only offered at FlipKey’s discretion.

You can also choose to pay only once you’ve received qualified leads. 

Or then again, you can choose to pay a yearly rate.

These different options are at varying costs, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your budget. 

Know that you can always review and change your payment plan at a later date to better suit your business at that time.  

 

Unlimited Pictures for Property Managers

Unlike many other vacation rental sites, FlipKey allows you to post an unlimited number of photos. Which is an amazing opportunity for you to highlight what’s truly unique about your property and it’s best features. 

Quick Tip:
FlipKey, completed a study as to whether or not the quality of pictures could increase bookings and revenue. They studied the page views and booking ratios of several properties with their before and after (HD) images and noticed that the HD images increase listing views by 159% while the bookings increased by a staggering 98%! While it’s great that you’re offered an unlimited number of photos, you also need to take into account their quality to fully utilize the perks of this feature.

 

Account Managers

FlipKey also offers account managers to its property manager accounts so that they can be there to offer you expert advice when needed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as they know the ins and outs of this industry and can offer you insightful information. 

FlipKey’s tech support can also be on hand for any technological hiccups. Which is a great way to ensure you’re back up and running in no time.

 

Analytics Dashboard

Another great features for property manager accounts is the analytics dashboard, which will give you insight on your listings’ current standings along with crucial information regarding messages, visitors, bookings, etc.

This will definitely help you determine how successful your listings are, and where to improve on.
 

 

What travellers are saying 

The Good

TripAdvisor is one of the most trusted review websites in the world. It’s the go to website for most people’s travel needs.

And with over 150 million reviews provided by nearly 34 million active users, and 260 million visits a month, it’s a no brainer for travellers to feel a sense of trust and security when seeing a TripAdvisor review on a FlipKey property.

 

The Bad

It’s important to remember that some negative reviews are written regarding the owners and properties and do not necessarily reflect FlipKey.

However, FlipKey does has it’s fair share or negative reviews, with the most prominent ones separated in various categories below:
 

Customer Service

Travellers have had a lot to say about FlipKey’s customer service in their online reviews. Guests have complained that FlipKey’s customer service is unwilling to help with conflicts between owners and guests when the property in question is not managed by FlipKey directly. This can complicate resolutions as there are no mediators available and you’re stuck in a “he said, she said” scenario. 

That said, this is pretty common among almost all vacation rental listings, mainly due to the fact that they keep a strong stance for staying outside of the relationship between its hosts and its guests. The rental contract is between the guest and the homeowner/manager (person who owns the account with the listing in it), and FlipKey would logically rather stay out of it.

On the other hand, they do provide a “piece of mind protection” if you book through the site, protecting the traveller from being out of pocket if the host drops the ball. It’s also a pretty good way of making sure mishaps get on their radar faster. 
 

Problems with Cancellations & Refunds

In more recent months, several travellers have reported some negative interactions with the financial department at FlipKey... even on the TripAdvisor website.

Many are claiming that sometimes cancelled bookings, even if agreed upon with the owners, have not been refunded. 

And because FlipKey holds the traveller’s payment until 24 hours after check- in, the owners themselves can’t necessarily refund the traveller either. 

 

What Owners & Managers are Saying

The Good

The fact that FlipKey is associated with TripAdvisor for a largely enhanced global exposure is a HUGE plus. With TripAdvisor’s worldwide standing, it’s a no brainer that being associated with them will instil trust in your potential guest.

You can add their badge to your personal website, advertise your rating on other listing sites, etc…

Also, FlipKey is fairly easy to use, and as a property manager you have all those added features that really help you access at managing your different properties.

Lastly, for individual owners, knowing they can post a listing for free on FlipKey is a great perk. You only have to pay a 3% commission once your property is booked, making it a no-brainer opportunity to expand your property’s visibility with no up-front risk.

 

The Bad

Again, negative reviews for vacation rental listing sites are nothing new in this industry. Even AirBnB has its own hate site now; www.airbnbhell.com. (no joke!)

Nonetheless, we've outline and summarized the most common reviews into various categories below.
 

Communication

Some owners have complained that not all inquiries are filtered through. Some claim that while FlipKey’s emails will land in their inbox, their guests’ inquiries have landed in their Spam and were left unanswered, resulting in a poor response rate. 

Some owners have also had trouble with blocked messages. In one instance, an owners message to her client was blocked because it had AirBnB mentioned (source needed). 

Some owner-to-guest messages have also been blocked if FlipKey is under the impression the owner is trying to resolve payment directly with the client rather than through their platform. Which is actually fair on their part.
 

For Property Managers

Over 100 property managers, managing over 14,000 properties sent an open letter to FlipKey’s CEO.  They claim that while they bring a high volume of business to FlipKey they have to pay a 10% commission while individual owners only have to pay 3%.

They also claim that for the past 18 months, services offered have greatly deteriorated due to high turnover of staff. This has resulted in IT issues, which have caused glitches in calendar information, inaccurate pricing, out-dated photos and inaccurate property descriptions. - You can see more about this HERE.

That said, they did provide a response which is also explained HERE. And basically, a lot of the issues were because of all of the recent movement going on due to TripAdvisor’s recent acquisitions and work on updating/launching the new owner centre platform. 

Also, it's pretty important to not that TripAdvisor has been in acquisition mode, buying vacation rental listing sites all over the world, and most probably trying different ways to have them all work, sync, or merge together.

Logically, even for a company as large as TripAdvisor, it’s important to realize that these types of restructuring projects will almost always cause some sort of collateral damage for its users in the short term. Hopefully for our sake, they’ll figure it out soon.
 

 

The grand conclusion

When considering the importance of expanding on your property’s visibility in this growingly competitive landscape, it’s important to understand the related costs, as well as opportunity costs, with every advertising channel.

That said, it’s kind of a no-brainer when posting a listing on FlipKey is FREE.

Sure, you may encounter issues here and there… Whether it be with communication or customer service, but the same is true with most vacation rental websites, and yet not all of them offer free-to-list options.

Plus, TripAdvisor’s brand recognition and reputation hold a lot of value in the eyes of the traveller, so if you’re proactive in asking your clients for their reviews, and respond quickly to negative ones, you’re creating a business that travellers will trusts.

At the end of the day, you need to weigh the good and the bad in order to figure out what’s really best for you and your vacation rental business.

Worst comes to worse you can always choose to cancel your account at anytime anyway, but ultimately the choice is yours.

Happy renting!


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References:
http://www.flipkey.com.com
https://helpcenter.flipkey.com/
http://www.similarweb.com/website/flipkey.com
http://www.usatoday.com/story/dispatches/2014/04/11/lucrative-vacation-rentals-condos-flipkey/7604107/
https://www.flipkey.com/blog/2013/05/01/does-professional-photography-increase-booking-activity-and-revenue/
http://www.digital-trip.com/news-item/why+managing+tripadvisor+is+important+to+every+travel+business+-522.aspx
http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g1-i12105-k6645296-Flipkey-TripAdvisor_Support.html
https://ca.trustpilot.com/review/www.flipkey.com
http://skift.com/2015/08/28/tripadvisor-in-tiff-with-vacation-rental-managers-over-flipkey-changes/
http://www.vrmintel.com/letter-to-tripadvisor-100-vacation-rental-managers-send-letter-to-tripadvisor-ceo-asking-for-help/
http://www.vrmintel.com/part-4-tripadvisor-issues-tripadvisor-responds-to-issues-while-vacation-rental-managers-rally-to-address-concerns/
http://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.flipkey.com

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