If you've decided to dabble in short-term vacation rental hosting, this is the post for you.
Whether you're in it to earn a quick buck or aiming to do this full-time, you'll need to assess the different platforms available. Every vacation rental platform has its pros & cons, don't make the rookie mistake of thoughtlessly listing on a popular one just because.
We've analysed some of the platforms and its features so you'll know which platform is best for your listing.
These are what we'll be looking at to assess the suitability of the vacation rental site:
- Cost: It's important to consider fees or service charges as lesser costs mean more profits. You should also consider costs borne by guests as it'll affect the listing's attractiveness too.
- Reach: The more potential guests viewing your listing will increase your chances of successful bookings made.
- Support: Support is crucial to a new host navigating an unfamiliar website for the first time. You'll need responsive customer service to solve any potential problems or address queries.
These'll help in the decision-making of which vacation rental site to list on. Read on to see which ones we've analysed!
We'll take a look at one of the most popular vacation rental websites in the world: Airbnb. Airbnb is essentially an online marketplace for people to rent spare rooms and properties to guests. It's got 4million listings in 65,000 cities across 191 countries.
Cost: 3% booking fee
Photo Credit: Evian Gutman
When your listing has a confirmed booking on Airbnb, you'll be charged a 3% booking fee. This flat rate is one of the lowest in the market, making your listing more profitable.
Photo Credit: Airbnb
However, take note that travellers who book via Airbnb do get charged a service fee of between 0 - 20%. A few factors affect the percentages such as reservation amount, duration of stay and property characteristics. If VAT is required, the service fee and VAT charges may amount to more than 20%, making Airbnb one of the most expensive websites to book accommodation from.
Reach: 150 million users
On the flip side, it's got 150 million visitors to its website monthly. This means that you'll have no lack of potential guests as the website's traffic is guaranteed to get eyeballs on your property. The bigger the net you cast, the more fishes you'll get, right?
If your listing is geared towards Millenials and younger travellers, Airbnb is a great platform. Majority of its users consist of the younger generation who are more willing to try the Airbnb experience.
Support: 24/7 support & assistance
Photo Credit: Airbnb Help Centre
Airbnb prides itself on their wide array of tools & hospitality tips to aid hosts on the platform. Their preferred mode of contact is through the help centre, where they direct hosts to articles on various questions.
They guarantee 24/7 support & assistance to users and offer an online community of experienced hosts to help with questions. On top of that, they provide additional safety assurance for hosts as shown below:
Photo Credit: Airbnb
Unfortunately, Airbnb does not have a direct hotline for hosts & guests to seek help from. As a growing platform operating in 191 countries, they have to work on the number of languages they provide support in.
If you didn't know, Booking.com isn't limited to hotels! They do have short-term vacation home rentals listed on their website as well. As long as your property is a form of housing, you can have it listed on Booking.com.
Cost: 15% booking fee + 3% credit card fee
Booking.com may be the most pricey one with its 15% booking fee. Additionally, there's a 3% credit card processing fee that you'll have to absorb, making costs higher for hosts.
Don't let this frighten you though! It's the only website that doesn't charge guests any additional fees, giving them more incentive to use it to book their accommodation.
Reach: 400 million visitors
Booking.com hasn't rated as the number 1 website for travel & accommodation for nothing. They've got over 400 million visitors monthly in the first half of 2018!
You'll need to take into account that the site isn't exclusive to vacation rentals though. They provide additional options for flights, packages and hotels, so visitors may not be your target audience.
Support: Thorough service
Compared to other platforms, Booking.com has one of the most thorough customer service support. Not only do they have a dedicated hotline for urgent matters, they have one for partners as well.
Photo Credit: Booking.com Partner Help
They aim to provide superior customer service from every angle, offering support in over 42 languages! There's also a help centre for hosts to read articles and access self-service tools.
HomeAway is similar to Airbnb. It's a platform for users to list their properties out for short-term vacation rentals. With more than 2 million homes in 190 countries, they pride themselves on having a listing that'll match any budget, occasion and location.
Cost: 3% credit card fee + $499 annual subscription fee OR 5% booking fee
HomeAway has 2 cost structures: subscription or pay-per-booking model.
Opting for the subscription model involves a flat annual subscription cost of USD$499 along with a 3% credit card fee. If your property is rented more than 6 weeks in a year, this model makes the most economic sense.
Alternatively, the pay-per-booking scheme is great for beginners. This model takes a 5% commission from your confirmed booking with the 3% credit card fee. You can test out how well your listing does before switching over to the subscription model.
HomeAway also charges a service fee of 6 - 12% on guests based off the total amount of the booking. While this fee may fluctuate, the rule of thumb is the higher the reservation amount, the lower the service fee.
Reach: 9 million visitors
HomeAway has 9 million visitors monthly, faring much lower in terms of traffic as compared to the rest of the sites. However, listing on HomeAway also automatically includes your property on sister site, VRBO, too.
Its users are similar to Airbnb, consisting of young travellers looking for short-term vacation rental properties. If your property appeals to this crowd, it may be beneficial to list it on both HomeAway & Airbnb.
Support: Most comprehensive & readable
We were impressed with the available support. HomeAway's partner platform was one of the most comprehensive and readable out of the other platforms'. Solutions were presented in detail, while instructions were easy to follow. They've also got a dedicated hotline and email for hosts to reach out to should they have any further queries.
TripAdvisor is one of the largest travel sites with 630 million reviews listed on it. Other than accommodation, TripAdvisor lets you know what to do, where to eat and more. These recommendations are fuelled by reviews so travellers know what to expect based on others' experiences.
Cost: 3% booking fee
Similar to Airbnb, TripAdvisor charges a flat fee of 3% on every confirmed reservation. This is an extremely competitive rate for the reach you're getting on this platform.
However, they do charge a service fee of 8 - 16% on the guest. This fee is based on the total amount of the reservation and may deter guests from completing the booking on the site itself.
Reach: 450 million visitors
As mentioned above, the rate hosts need to pay is extremely competitive for the reach they're getting. TripAdvisor sees a monthly average of 450 million visitors to its site, making it one of the largest travel sites in the world. Listing your property on TripAdvisor also gets your automatically on its subsidiary - Flipkey - which focuses on vacation rental properties.
Photo Credit: Flipkey
While TripAdvisor's main focus may be on offering a wide variety of services, you can be sure that you'll get a vast pool of potential guests looking at your listing.
Support: Just the help centre
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor Help Centre
Like most short-term vacation rental sites, TripAdvisor's has a help centre that directs users to helpful articles to answer their queries.
They did try establishing a customer hotline in 2011 but it was not successful. Hence, all support only comes through the help centre.
After analysing these short-term vacation rental sites, here's a quick overview for ease of comparison:
Ultimately, you should choose a short-term vacation rental site based on how comfortable you are with their policies. Now that you're armed with this information, you're ready to start prepping your property for listing!
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About the Authors
Having faced lock-out situations for a couple of years, Cherry has sworn off keys (and alcohol). She is an avid follower of tech that prevents said situation.
Nydia, not Lydia, has never touched a key in all 22 years of her life. She has been an active advocate of the benefits of going keyless and is excited at the prospect of never needing them in the future.
Always on the go, Keru's busy work and social life have her on the road most days. She's never had to fret over her home because of the features her smart lock has; allowing her to grant access to housekeepers from wherever she is.