As a property manager, VRBO can alternately be a source of profit or of frustration. It’s hard to ignore this popular vacation rental listing site, but it can also be a challenge to optimize your VRBO property listings in a way that successfully drive bookings. This guide will help you better understand VRBO and how to get the most out of it for your business.
It’s time to get familiar with VRBO Property Listings. We’re taking a deep dive into the online travel agency (OTA) to show you what VRBO actually is, how to list a property on VRBO to maximize your efforts and break down of the cost to list on VRBO. Whether you’re a vacation rental manager or a vacation rental owner, we’re here to help those at every stage of their marketing journey.
Before we begin, the first thing you need to know is that VRBO is owned by HomeAway, which was purchased by Expedia in 2015.
You may be wondering, “Why is this so important?”
Expedia has brought a vast amount of change to the way VRBO pricing now works. Honestly, it can be overwhelming to stay ahead or even stay up-to-date with the effects that change like this causes. When you listen to our Webinar, you’ll learn the strategies you can implement to combat the 2018 Expedia price change and how it’s affecting your property. Don’t wait: it’s time to start reducing dependency on your VRBO subscription today.
Here’s What You Need to Know About VRBO Property Listings
WHAT IS VRBO?
VRBO, or Vacation Rentals by Owner, is an online listing management tool for vacation rental properties. They promise global reach, secure online booking, customer support, and a payment platform.
For the traveler, you can find reviews from both hosts and previous renters, care-free booking guarantee, and secure messaging. This is important to note as you consider the travel consumer journey.
For rental property managers, VRBO allows you to list on their platform to expose your property to potential renters. However, listing a property on VRBO comes at a cost by way of pricing and fees.
VRBO PAY PER BOOKING VS SUBSCRIPTION PRICING
You may be wondering, “How much does VRBO charge?” and, “What are the different VRBO listing fees?” Have no fear; there are two main charges you need to be looking at:
- Pay Per Booking: This offers no up-front fees and charges 10% of all pre-tax booking dollars. Note that the total includes line items for services such as cleaning fees.
- Subscription Pricing: This is an annual fee of $499.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM HOMEAWAY & VRBO CHANGES
- Pass the expense onto the property owner:
- Create a line item for this expense and phrase it as a “marketing fee for listing”
- By using the term “marketing fee,” you give yourself flexibility for future marketing. If you opt to drop the VRBO listing, that marketing fee is now available for you to do your own brand marketing.
- Drop your VRBO listings:
- If you opt for this, you’ll need to invest in your own marketing. Reallocate funding from VRBO to your own branding.
- If you show prospective homeowners your marketing plan is more comprehensive than just listing on an OTA, you will have a competitive advantage.
ADDITIONAL VRBO SUBSCRIPTION FEES
[Update: Due to industry outcry, HomeAway has made “Match Back” voluntary but indicated it does impact rankings on their platform.]
We already discussed the Pay Per Booking fee, but it’s important to note that VRBO also launched “Match Back” on March 15, 2018, for any new or existing listings. Match Back is a fee charged via credit card for any booking believed to have originated on VRBO, but booked directly on a third-party payment management system (PMS). As it turns out, HomeAway owns two popular PMS solutions: Escapia and V12.
VRBO “matches” based on email address and similar search dates. You may wonder how VRBO has a person’s email address if they are just doing a search. An email address isn’t required for a search. But, if that person has ever inquired or booked through VRBO in the past, the new search would be linked to the email address provided in the past.
This is extremely important to understand. VRBO will be looking at your bookings, determining if they think the booking originated on their platform, and simply charge you 10% of the pre-tax booking fee, which is alarming to many in the Vacation Rental Management industry. You’ll want to take some time to understand what these fees mean for you and what the price tag might be.
HOW TO AVOID VRBO SERVICE FEE
Seek First to Understand
Your HomeAway account manager can currently run a report for you that shows the bookings that would qualify for Match Back if it were in place today. That will help you understand the size of the impact.
- Send the guest back to VRBO for booking
- It saves you from unexpected fees in the future
- The challenge is, how do you know which people to send back?
- Ask guests to provide a different email address that they didn’t use on VRBO
- Might not be a scalable solution if you manage a lot of properties
- May feel strange to the guest, especially in the age of hackers and phony websites
- We don’t strongly recommend this option, but it could be worth testing
- Switch PMS software
- Our preliminary research suggests that HomeAway can only charge you Match Back on the software they own (Escapia and V12).
- Some people have heard that they can search all PMS software, but as of December 20, 2017, we haven’t been able to verify that.
HOW TO MARKET TO MILLENIALS
As you’re marketing your property on any platform, it’s important to keep in mind how the hospitality market is changing. It’s no secret that more and more Millenials are taking over the bed and breakfast and boutique hotel scene. With this in mind, it’s imperative to stay up-to-date with Millennial travels trends and ensure your marketing strategy is appealing to this audience.
Some of the easiest ways you can attract this audience are simply by posting high-quality pictures, promoting your unique amenities, and emphasizing how great not only your property is, but the surrounding area. Check out the Top 8 Millennial Travel Trends for a complete list of the best and easiest strategies to hone in on this market on any and all of your platforms.
Seeking Options Beyond VRBO? Q4Launch Can Help!
Q4Launch has perfected a marketing strategy for vacation rental managers that allows VRs to reduce their dependency on OTAs such as VRBO. We know exactly how to build your own brand, drive direct traffic to your website, and convert visitors into booking guests. If you’re reconsidering your VRBO Property Listings and are looking for real results in these areas, it’s time to partner with Q4Launch for your website design and marketing strategy services!
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