Thursday, August 4, 2011

Some Advice on Using Home Rental Sites in the Future

The big kahuna in online home rentals, has been gobbling up the competition in the last few years, integrating their properties and technology (in the case of the late Second Porch, which had an innovative social media side to it). So successful has HomeAway been that its rare to find a direct-to-owner site that it doesn't control, TripAdvisor's Flipkey being a notable exception.

A Homeaway Rental in Mexico
Its for this reason that I'm getting very "inside baseball" today, writing about a significant changes in policy at Homeaway that will likely have ripple effects across many vacation rental sites.

What's the change? Its basically a pay to play scheme, or really pay more to play better. Homeaway will be allowing those rentals who pay more to float far higher on the search page than the competition.

Why should consumers care? For two reasons. First off, the change will mean that those rentals paying more may have to charge more to their customers to make up the difference. Which could mean that the most visible properties will also be the most expensive.

It also means that the rental agencies that list their properties on HomeAway, VRBO, and other sites in that corporate family, will also have a bigger presence. The agencies, after all, will likely have greater resources for advertising than individual property owners. And agency referred properties tend to be pricier than those rented directly from owners.

The take away? Scroll. And scroll again. In order to get the best prices on rental homes, you're likely going to want to read the home rental listings from the bottom up from now on.


  1. I use VRBO several times a year and I can say that sometimes that the better deals are down the page a bit. Caveat emptor!

  2. This is a great tip. Spending a little extra time digging through the many listings may very well save you a great deal of money!

  3. The best and safest way to secure a vacation rental that meets all of your needs, including your budgetary constraints, is through a licensed Realtor who is familiar with the inventory in your vacation spot.

  4. There are over 200 vacation rental advertising sites in the U.S. alone. Yes, Homeaway, and of their sites, dominate the market but using some of these smaller sites is not wrong. Before renting any vacation rental, ask questions and don't rely on the advertising listing to tell all. Also realize that many of the higher ranked vacation rentals are managed by management companies who can afford to spend more advertising one property to switch you to another. I.e. they get more benefit from a single ad and therefore can afford to spend more on it. Rental management companies not bad, just be aware of who you are renting from and whether or not that is what you want. - Dave Ness, SnapVR LLC

  5. All you have to do is SORT by Price: Lowest to Highest to find the least expensive properties, if thats what you are looking for.

    A VR owner

  6. Good advice, as always Pauline. To be fair about this, VRBO uses the same device though a bit disguised. With VRBO, if you want to be up higher, you pay for more pix on your listing. Flipkey/TripAdvisor rank by reviews (quantity and quality) so it is a bit fairer, IMO.

    The bottom line is that a serious shopper should scroll and scroll and ask lots of questions. Most of all, if they find a deal too good to be true, then it probably is!

  7. Hi Pauline, This is nothing new. HA started raising listing fees and creating pay to play a la carte options pitting VR owners against each other in a bidding war as soon as they gobbled up the major VR directories 6 years ago.
    They spent a fortune doing it and were building to go public. Increasing individual listing fees to the bearable limit has always been a major part of the plan.
    Now they are a public company with a valuation in the billions, and without the income to support the valuation. Over 90% of their income comes through listing fees, so this big jump in fee options has to be just the beginning.
    It's a risky game though. When will VR owners call uncle on their price increases? When will other sites that don't have to support the inflated valuation step in to compete?, the VR portal of TripAdvisor/Expedia, is getting set for a public spin off, which will make them expensive to list in too as they follow HA's "success".
    The VR industry is ripe for a shift.

    So yes, Scroll Down! There are a lot of us who'd rather be at the bottom of the sorting than pay for premium ranking or muddle in the middle.

  8. I agree with anonymous: Go with a realtor and have some peace of mind without feeling as though you've been manipulated or ripped off.

  9. As the owners of, which is geared to vacation rental properties on Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Florida, we have found that our approach to the order of presentation of listings is the one preferred by most vacationers. Our site allows vacationers to search by a price cap and to list the results by either “most expensive first” or “least expensive first” – not to mention a myriad of other criteria such as “walking distance to a beach” or “pets considered” or “has a/c.” Thus, vacationers achieve very targeted results from their search, saving them tons of time and allowing them to view only properties that meet their criteria rather than those that have paid extra to promote them.

  10. Very interesting comments. Many thanks!

  11. Great Post! It's very nice to read this info from someone that actually knows what they are talking about. home rental management

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  14. There are "owners" who have their own sketchy contracts that you HAVE to receive first. DO NOT GIVE them your credit card over the phone. I had PLAYA AZUL, LAQUILLO BEACH, PUERTO RICO, try that on me, and I asked if they charge 3% to use a credit card and they LIED and said NO.
    It was right on the bottom of THEIR contract so BUYER BEWARE. I also read that others arrived, to filth, and were switched to other units. I am so DONE with all of them. If I do not know you, I will NOT rent from you.
    I pay cash, NO TAX, no security, no "cleaning fee", because we leave every place cleaner then when we arrived.
    Sick of walking around and having "black-feet" when I want to go to sleep. Washing my feet in the tub, because the cleaners watch tv for 30 minutes and leave. NOBODY IS CLEANING~

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