Ever since Expedia’s acquisition of HomeAway, VRBO’s parent company, travelers will now be charged an additional service fee, anywhere from 4-10% based on the total amount of the rental, but not to exceed $499, sources say. This new charge is in addition to the listing fees that are already being paid by the homeowner and the credit card fees that are collected by the company for online payments. To add further insult, the fee is cloaked as a “payment protection fee,” to imply that owners are not trustworthy. Many owners claim they were not informed about the guest fee prior to implementation and had just renewed their subscription. Because of these recent VRBO policy changes and new charges, owners and property managers are now looking for viable alternatives to their former listing sites.
First and foremost, vacation home owners who want to remain independent should have a dedicated website for their vacation home. The domain should be the home name for easy recognition and to help build the brand. Continue to use the house name in all of your descriptions in other channels, as well. Make it a habit to refer to the home with its name; not “our home” or the like. Allow guest to book directly on your website with a booking calendar to capture impulse sales and to make it as easy as possible for potential renters to book. Your vacation home website will make it easy for you to be found with a Google search. If you need advice or assistance with your website, contact Paveya for help in your website design, and also for search engine optimization and marketing strategies to drive traffic to your website.
Next, to begin finding the perfect vacation rental listing site in the aftermath of Expedia’s new policy changes, a simple way to begin is by conducting an overall Google search to find other vacation rental listing companies. When searching for “Vacation Rentals Outer Banks NC,” the following results were displayed:
Unfortunately, this can be a time consuming method. Since this is a broad search and this specific location has such a large market with many company websites dedicated to their own inventory, it could take some patience to plow through the list.
One solution might be to try searching for “niche vacation rental sites,” which tend to produce a more varied list for a specific location. For example:
Perfect places – resulted in 798 local listings. This site provides a free trial with the first 5 email inquiries at no additional charge and the subscription prices are a flat fee with discounts for multiple properties.
VacaGetaways –provided 1908 local listings. According to the site, they list vacation rentals for free. Not only are there no monthly fees, they claim that when a company uses their services, they don’t even have to go to their website to upload images, descriptions, or prices…that they will go to your website and get all of that information for you with no monthly fees, no startup fees, and no uploading required. While “Free” always sounds good at first, remember free sometimes means you get what you pay for. Make sure you read the fine print and understand how your data can and will be used.
Find a Theme
Another way to diversify your search is to refine it. Perhaps your vacation rental is ocean front, pet-friendly or has some other defining characteristic. Searching for a specialized vacation rental site in this manner can sometimes yield a perfect match.
Who is your typical renter? Can you use this information to develop a theme. Consider these things:
- Do you allow pets?
- Is your property child-friendly?
- Is it accessible for people with mobility issues?
- How many people can comfortably stay there?
- What length of visit are you comfortable with?
- What do people do when they visit – beach, boating, bird watching, area attractions, skiing, hiking, water sports etc.
Use your developed theme to further refine your search of vacation rental sites on which to list your property.
Nicheescapes is organized around this concept but appears to have limited exposure in the USA. They offer a discounted subscription price or a 3% price per booking. Similarly, Boutique-homes seemed promising but there were only limited properties in the USA. Boatfriendly caught my attention but also did not include any Outer Banks listings, the area I was doing my search example for. The fee for this site is $29 per year per listing.
A great tool to use once you find a suitable website is to use the Google Related function to locate similar sites. Type “related: domain URL”
I searched for sites related to boatfriendly.com below:
While SEMrush is known for performing keyword analysis, it is a good tool to use to find competitive sites after finding a niche site. Once you have the list of competing sites, you can also tell which site has the most traffic to help evaluate where best to place your listing. The screen below shows the results for perfectplaces.com. From the graph on the right, you can see a competing site, vacationrentalpros.com has more organic traffic. Unfortunately, this site is concentrated in the Florida market.
Similar to SEMrush, SPYFU also shows competing sites, keywords and AdWord history. The AdWord history portion is shown below.
Before listing your vacation rental home on an unproven site, do some research on traffic volume for the site. For some additional help on this, check out this page. There are also some vacation rental sites mentioned here that you may want to consider. You don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars in subscription fees to a site with no traffic. On the other hand, be careful when something is considered free. How will they make money and where else may your information end up?
Vacation rental owners should establish a website and create a brand for their rental home in order to remain independent. In addition, it may be time to diversify and increase where they list their properties to maximize the number of weeks rented. Once you have all those rentals, let Xpert Home Services host your property and provide check-in, cleaning and maintenance services for your Outer Banks vacation rental home.