An in-depth review of the VRBO.com advertising services & website
If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably contemplating on the idea of whether or not to list your property (or properties) on VRBO. If not, sorry...
But if you are, then you’re in the right place!
Below is a detailed review of the VRBO website and listing services, put together specifically to help you decide whether or not VRBO.com is the right advertising tool for your vacation rental business.
A little about VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner)
Founded in 1995 and acquired by HomeAway in 2006, VRBO still operates under it’s own brand, and is still somewhat of an independent entity.
As of June 2014, the VRBO.com website claims to have over 620,000 properties worldwide and an audience of 18,000,000 monthly visitors. They also claim that the top 5 percent of property owners earned an average of $63,000 in property rentals in 2013, just to give you an idea of the potential.
Many owners report that they have fully booked their rental home by using VRBO. Some even credit VRBO as their highest performing advertising tool, and even some as their sole source for bookings.
With that said, because owners set their own fees, it’s impossible to determine how much the average owner actually makes over the course of a year.
Listing your properties on VRBO
All VRBO.com listings are fairly standard and allow up to 24 photos with maps, traveller reviews, a detailed property description, a calendar, and a list of amenities.
Their checkbox format allows you to easily tick off everything from the features of a room to local activities for guests.
Fees are set by you, choosing your minimum night's stay (if any), and any extra charges such as cleaning, taxes, etc..
Paid listing, Commission based, or full service
VRBO offers multiple ways for property owners to list properties. The most common way is to list your property yourself and manage your own listing.
You can also choose a commission based option, with zero up front investment and a 10 percent convenience fee per booking.However, it's important to know that their rankings favor listings with paid subscriptions. In a recent interview over at Skift admitted that "on average their exposure is still very, very low".
Interesting enough, VRBO also offers listing management services through strategic partnerships with professional companies who can manage your listing(s) for you. This option starts at booking fees of 13 percent, and can go even higher than that.
It's important to note that depending on your time commitment and potential rental income, the commission-based model can get pretty pricy. At just $5K in bookings, it raises your listings costs up $500 (already $150 more than your basic paid listing option). And since many of their top owners earn upwards of $60,000/year, it's extremely important that you weigh your options carefully.
VRBO's has 5 different membership levels, which allow you to pay more for certain features and get a couple extra perks. Here are the basics they publish on their site:
Classic: $349/year for all the basic features
Bronze: $499/year and ranks above the Classic with up to one-third more inquiries
Silver: $649/year and ranks above the Bronze with up to 40 percent more inquiries than the Classic
Gold: $799/year and ranks above the Silver, with a 6-month featured listing and up to 75 percent more inquiries than the Classic
Platinum: $999/year which ranks your listing the highest of all membership levels, comes with a 12-month featured listing and up to 180 percent more inquiries than the Classic
Property ranking factors
Both your membership level and your property listing completeness affect how high your property ranks in search results.
The more information you provide, the higher you'll rank within your subscription category. Luckily, improving listing completeness is an easy fix. VRBO's Listing Scorecard shows you exactly where you need to add more details to improve your listing completeness. By making the suggested changes, you'll boost your search result placement.
As mentioned earlier, pay-per-booking listings get much less visibility, while a higher paid membership will get you more. The higher the membership level, the higher your property will rank in search results. But let’s not forget, the higher the membership level, the more you have to pay.
For property managers
There are many property managers using VRBO to handle multi-unit listings. Generally speaking, the site works the same way for managing multiple listings as it does for managing a single listing.
Through their interface, managers can set calendars across multiple units, respond to booking requests, and accept payments.
That being said, the fees associated with multi-listing memberships are different and if you want this type of membership you have to contact the sales team directly .
What travellers are saying
From a traveler's perspective, VRBO can be a great tool for finding both affordable and luxury vacation rentals. With one of the largest selections in the world, many travellers are happy with their rentals and their overall experiences.
There are also a fair bit of negative traveller reviews of VRBO out there, which some can be quite aggressive. Most of the controversy falls under the following categories;
However, over the years, there has also been a ton of controversy around their property review policies. Many travellers have made claim that negative reviews basically did not show up because owners could refuse them. With that said, in 2011 VRBO changed their policy to ensure greater transparency.
Many travellers have complained that rented properties have not matched their VRBO descriptions, claiming to have been scammed or swindled by false advertising,
VRBO's "Carefree Rental Guarantee" has received its fair share of negative press as it does not cover phishing attacks. Many travellers claim to have been swindled by phishing scams, unable to get their money back through the Carefree Rental Guarantee, which is supposed to cover all travel problems.
What VRBO owners are saying
Vacation home owners who enjoy VRBO, claim success due to the high volume of traffic, inquiries, and ultimately bookings.
As mentioned above, many owners credit VRBO as their best performing advertising site. We’ve even heard from some people who go as far to say it’s the only listing site they advertise with.
Compared with other sites, many owners are saying VRBO is not what it used to be. Most of the controversy falls under the following categories;
As most new vacation rental websites are basically free to list your property or charge a minimal booking fee, VRBO tends to be on the high side.
As the years have passed, VRBO has become very popular. With popularity comes competition, and thus making it more difficult to get as many bookings as many property owners once did.
There are several complaints from property owners due to issues with customer service. Whether it be over simple refunds, phishing scams, or listing issues, many owner reviews claim the support is sub-par and are unhappy with it to say the least.
There’s no denying that VRBO is one of the best vacation rental websites in the industry. A true powerhouse at the top of the pyramid. Their high traffic and popularity among travellers is extremely difficult to ignore. But with that said, so are all of the unfavourable owner reviews…
If enough travellers are turned off of VRBO for its negative attention, they can turn to a competitor booking site that they feel they can trust, which in turn can become a liability for property owners.
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