Congratulations! If you’re reading this blog post, you’re either 1) a new vacation rental owner who wants to learn more about listing their property, or 2) an experienced owner who wants to earn more money from their rental 3) an experienced, disillusioned owner who wants to find a better option than his or her current listing site(s).
For Florida vacation rental owners, it’s smart to consider what the top listing sites are, and what each one offers. If you’re looking for sites like HomeAway or alternatives to VRBO, this is the guide for you.
We’re a short term rental site ourselves (you can read more about us in the post below), but we’re here to assess the current marketplace. After all, a growing vacation rental industry is great for both owners and listing sites alike!
As major sites merge and add smaller brands to their “portfolio” some owners are feeling the pinch as their rates go up, inquiries go down, and favorite product offerings are removed. There’s only so much time and budget you have to market your property, so who you work with is critical. How do you find a happy medium by working with the listing sites you know you need, without getting taken advantage of? Educate yourself!
Phocuswright estimates the private accommodation market will reach $36.6 billion in 2018. That’s an exciting number for vacation rental owners. Below we’ve posted a list of the absolute best vacation rental websites (and website families) to advertise your properties.
How to market your property and work with listing sites
Before we launch into the best listing sites for vacation rental owners, it’s important to talk about the economics of how to run a successful rental. Though there are many ways to generate business (referrals from previous guests, loyalty programs, your own website), the best way to have consistent business for your rental is working with listing sites. It’s a fact. Listing sites provide traffic, eyeballs, and inquiries that it would be much more expensive to create on your own.
These companies spend tens of millions of dollars on search engine optimization and Google/Bing ads so you don’t have to. Your payment (either subscription or commission) is a small price to pay for the exposure provided by listing sites. These sites also have brand recognition that dwarfs what you might create on your own, so that’s another layer to consider.
Once you’re listed ON these sites, it’s important to consider your listing. It would be a major waste of money to add your property to these websites, and then leave it unattended or unoptimized. As an owner, focus on things like:
- A catchy headline
- A friendly ‘nickname’ for the property
- High-resolution images of all areas of your property (bedrooms, bathrooms, common areas, patios, backyards, exterior of rental, etc.)
- Hiring a professional photographer, although expensive up front, will earn you thousands on the back end. Trust us! It’s much better optics than using your iPhone for grainy pictures.
- A description that touts the best parts of your rental and the surrounding area
- An honest depiction of the property (don’t like about bedrooms and bathrooms, that will leave to negative reviews!)
- A helpful post-booking communications flow (help your guests with easy check-in, check-out information)
Best vacation rental websites to get more bookings and profits:
Though there are new sites launching every year, the websites listed below are the most established and most popular vacation rental sites in the industry. So let’s start looking into who’s who and the best ways to maximize and manage your bookings:
HomeAway & Subsidiaries
HomeAway is THE market leader for traditional vacation home rentals. With over one million rentals listed internationally, and a family of 25 sites, HomeAway sets the pace for the market. It’s no surprise Expedia acquired HomeAway in 2017, as the large firm made a prudent investment/entry into the growing VR space. A large majority of HomeAway’s listings are in the United States and in Europe, particularly in France and Spain.
Heads up – in 2018 HomeAway is increasing annual subscription fees by 25% to push all owners to a pay-per-booking model, even those who were grandfathered in from years of service. On the pay-per-booking model, owners pay a 8-10% booking fee for each of their reservations.
They’ve also increased privacy between owners and guests, limiting any communication outside of the HomeAway site. This stops renters/owners from skipping around the site’s booking fees by speaking outside the platform.
Created by the makers of HomeAway.com, VRBO focuses on United States rental options, making it the best option if you’re looking for popular American getaways like Palm Springs or Maui.
You can search the website’s close to 200,000 listings based on the destination, dates, and number of rooms, but not by price. So, it’s not the best bet if you’re short on time, as you’ll also need to scroll through each listing one by one to see specific details.
Florida rental owners have soured on this option in recent months as the owner portal becomes difficult to work with. HomeAway (as described above) is insistent on commission fees. The communication restraints between owners and renters has led to frustration within the Florida marketplace. After years of owners being allowed to discuss details, pricing, and calendars with guests directly, VRBO and the entire family of sites has cracked down on 1 to 1 communications.
The VRBO Consumer Affairs profile has them rated at 1 star with 1322 reviews.
VacationRentals.com has roughly 250 to 600 thousand visits per month, with over 80% of their traffic coming from Canada and the US alone. VacationRentals.com is part of the HomeAway family and their mission is to help families and friends find the perfect accommodations to enjoy their dream vacations together. The beautiful homes on the site feature more space, privacy, and amenities than hotels, often for less than half the cost per person.
VRBO vs. HomeAway
So what’s the different between these sites? We get asked this question often.
Says Tripping.com, “VRBO has over 794,000 listings worldwide as of 2014. A majority of the VRBO inventory consists of entire homes and apartments. Most VRBO rentals have a backyard, and an average VRBO rental is about 1,850 sq.ft. Due to the typical space a VRBO vacation home provides, this company is ideal for travelers looking for the kid-friendly vacations and or pet-friendly rentals.
HomeAway has more than 1 million listings in 190 countries as of 2015. Whether you want a home near a golf course, a waterfront beach house, a secluded log cabin, or a chic downtown apartment, HomeAway provides plenty of options for globetrotters in every corner of the world.”
HomeAway Family: Pros & Cons for Owners
- More than a million homes worldwide
- High brand recognition and authority
- Secure payment method for many properties
- Options for instant booking
- Detailed profiles, including descriptions, photos, availability calendars, clickable maps and plenty of guest reviews
- Paperwork: e.g. rental guarantee, damage insurance and cancellation insurance all available
- Round-the-clock customer support
- An expensive option compared to other sites. Owners can either pay $399 or $499 for the year (with Instant Booking activated) or pay a 10% fee every time they receive a confirmation.
- HomeAway rewards sites that have instant booking options in the sort order. That means they’ll appear at the top of search, boosting their inquiries!
- VRBO and HomeAway also reward properties using the sites’ payment system, another headache for owners who prefer to collect money their own way.
- Cracking down on one-to-one communication between owners and guests
- The costs for paperwork such as rental guarantee, damage insurance and cancellation insurance can add up and be a turn-off for renters
- Like Airbnb, there are extra costs for guests such as service fees
Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. It’s the biggest fish going, with over 200 million guests served in 61,000 different cities. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.
This site is unique as they were the original company offering “shared spaces” instead of only a second property i.e. the owner can be home during the stay. For those who can offer a spare bedroom, couch, basement, or pretty much anywhere – this is the site for you. They’ve been pushing hard to get more property managers and second home owners listed, and have been making major headway in that space.
Airbnb also has a social component, where guests can review hosts and vice-versa, which makes it easier to feel comfortable with the exchange.
With an estimated 88 to 120 MILLION travelers visiting the website every month, AirBnb is both the fastest growing AND most popular individual vacation rental website in the world. They also have the best brand recognition out of the group listed here, with the most direct traffic.
Airbnb: Pros & Cons for Owners
- Social, inclusive community where you can read reviews of your GUESTS before they book, a nice security feature.
- The biggest brand name in the industry with the most direct traffic – fastest growing with listings, too
- Option to list full home or shared spaces (known for shared spaces, especially)
- Well regarded customer service for both travelers and owners
- Up to $1,000,000 insurance policy known as “Host Guarantee” applicable for guest damages
- Easy to use owner app and desktop platform
- 100% free to list your property
- 6 to 12% guest fees that may turn away potential renters
- Occasional bad press from parties, damages, etc. by guests
- Very restrictive cancellation policies that turn away guests
- Hold owner money until guest checks in, funds are not delivered right at time of booking
- TrustPilot score of 1-star with over 2000 reviews
TripAdvisor & Subsidiaries
TripAdvisor has been adding vacation rental companies to its business for over a decade. They were one of the original “large” companies to see the opportunity rentals provided. As their “non-hotel” business sector grows (which now includes attractions) their reliance on vacation rentals does as well. Here’s a look at each of their brands:
All the subsidiary brands combine to power the vacation rental experience on TripAdvisor. With billions of visitors a year to the site (researching reviews on hotels, flights, rentals, and attractions) that’s a lot of potential eyeballs for your listing!
They recently simplified the owner experience on the platform, with one simple log in and ability to edit all your listings. When signing up, you’ll be listed on all points of sale, with some international affiliates too, if applicable.
It is FREE to list your property on any TripAdvisor site, though you pay a commission on each booking. The more popular your rental, the more you’ll be giving back to TripAdvisor.
Offering properties globally with a specialization in North America and traditional warm-weather rental locales. FlipKey was the first site purchased by TripAdvisor and powered the VR experience on TripAdvisor for many years. It’s free to publish your listing. They deduct 3% from your guest’s payment.
This New England-based company cornered the market on Northeastern US properties. Founded in 2004, VacationHomeRentals joined the TripAdvisorRentals family in 2014.
HouseTrip is the latest addition to the TripAdvisor group of VR sites, with an average of 500K visitors per month and a diverse European audience.
TripAdvisor Family: Pros & Cons for Owners
- The largest travel site in the world with millions of monthly visitors reading reviews of hotels, restaurants, activities, and more.
- 3% booking charge and FREE to list on all websites within the family
- If you have more than 5 properties, you can sign up for a manager account, which will give you access to a better quality of customer service
- Trusted brand name with emphasis on property reviews
- Major issues with new owner platform for managing bookings
- New properties can only use “pay per booking” model which many owners dislike
- Poor customer service according to owners and property managers
We started FloridaRentals.com in 2017 with over a decade of experience in the industry. We know what owners want, and we know exactly what they’re NOT getting from some of the big names on this list.
What sets us apart? Well, we only work exclusively with properties in Florida. From the theme parks to the warm gulf waters and the sugar sand beaches – you can’t beat a trip to Florida. Travelers know that if they want the best inventory of Florida properties, they should book with us.
We charge NO service or booking fees – which saves you 20% over other rental websites. Our team consists of rental industry experts, and we take pride in providing the best customer service to travelers.
You can trust that the properties listed are as advertised. We also allow travelers to connect directly with owners, removing communication restrictions normally placed on rental sites.
We have subscription fees ONLY. We’ve heard from thousands of rental owners that they hate the “pay per booking” model and we do not have that. Many of the larger sites are forcing owners to adopt this model, and we will never do that.
FloridaRentals.com: Pros & Cons for Owners
- Subscription fees ONLY — no forced commissions and “pay per booking”
- Save 20% over other rental websites!
- The only website specializing in Florida vacation rentals
- All travelers coming to this site are looking for Florida properties, so chances are higher of yours receiving an inquiry
- Open communication between owners and guests
- As one of the newest companies in the marketplace, FloridaRentals.com still has room to grow with brand recognition and web traffic
Over one million properties list on Booking.com and there are 6.3 million room nights booked daily! That’s a lot of potential business. You pay per booking here, too, like many of the other large sites. Booking.com is the #1 most-visited travel site online which means you can get your property in front of more people. The site has some extra costs for owner fees and traveler fees, so it’s up to you if the extra eyeballs are worth the cost.
What’s more, it’s 100% free to list your property with them. Your properties will also be distributed to many of their international affiliates. Although you don’t have to pay commission on bookings for guests who never show, all guest bookings are instantly confirmed and deemed commissionable. Which means that potential guests can book without communicating with you beforehand or your consent to the transaction.
Booking.com: Pros & Cons for Owners
- FREE to list your property
- Massive amount of web traffic from travelers
- Distribution to international affiliates
- Known for hotels, not vacation rentals
- VR bookers typically don’t head to Booking.com first to search for a rental property
- Charges a large booking fee of 15% — which makes them the most expensive option on this list
- Instant booking confirmation – owner can’t decide whether to “accept” or “decline”
Bottom Line: If you want to make more money, your focus shouldn’t be on picking the platform that saves you a few hundred dollars – it should be on getting more bookings. If you’re looking to learn more about costs and fees, this post by Evolve Vacaton Rental Network breaks down the pertinent info.