The Impact of Homeaway and VRBO Changes

Oops! VRBO has done it again. They have taken yet another step to rebrand themselves as a booking site straying from their roots as an advertising platform for owners and property managers. In short, they’ve removed external phone numbers, enforced mandatory online bookings, and are transitioning communication with users into a monitored, unbranded dashboard.

What’s the reasoning behind it? They say it’s to reduce guest confusion, but it seems like they are playing a dangerous game of copycat, mimicking their once successful model to look like Airbnb’s, their largest competitor. If you can’t beat them, join them– right?

Naturally, most homeowners and property managers are concerned. HomeAway/VRBO is risking the loyalty of the people whose rental properties act as the foundation of their website. But we’ll be fine. We saw these changes coming. It’s the guest we’re concerned about.

Last year, HomeAway/VRBO quietly introduced a “service fee” to tack onto incoming reservations. Key players in the vacation rental industry, like Airbnb, have these. It’s typically a four to nine percent charge added to the rental amount that you have to pay if you book through either one of these websites. It might not seem like a lot, but if you’re thinking about reserving a vacation rental on 30A for a week at a rate of $10,000, you better factor in an additional $400 to $900 to your total cost. Keep in mind, this fee won’t be shown until you’re ready to book, credit card in hand.

FOUR HUNDRED TO NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS MORE! At that rate, you could plan another (shorter) vacation if you just booked directly through an actual property manager’s website. Perhaps the worst part about this is that the money generated from travelers like you is being invested back into the network’s marketing strategy, so they can continue to collect from the unknowing guest who just wants (and deserves) to find a good deal on a vacation home.

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