Avoid Fees and Book Direct

Booking Sites Cost You!

The short answer to saving on your vacation home rental is – Avoid booking fees and book directly with the homeowner. All of the major booking sites (TripAdvisor, HomeAway, VRBO, VacationRentals, Expedia, AirBnB, Booking.com and others) will charge you a booking fee. Some are up front about this fee, which is generally over 10% and in some cases close to 20% of the rental fee. Others require you to click through little symbols many layers deep to see what this fee amounts to. Regardless, it’s money going directly to a disinterested 3rd party.

Booking Sites Influence You

Booking sites make money by matching you to a wider range of homes including those not in your preferred destination. Directing you first to Instant Booking listings eliminates interaction with the homeowner. Once you click to reserve, the booking site has their fee. Unfortunately, now is when you’ll learn this reservation was a mistake!

Many owners offer only partial refunds on cancelled reservations. Expedia companies like HomeAway and VRBO make a lot of money off of you this way. Their Terms state when a reservation is cancelled, you will only receive their Service Fee refund if the homeowner fully refunds too. So if a homeowner charges a $25 cancellation fee, say good bye to the $200 service fee you also paid HomeAway!

Why might the homeowner charge a cancellation fee? Remember that when you book dates, the homeowner’s calendar is blocked. Better-fitting guests won’t be able to reserve these same dates. The homeowner will have invested time in producing a rental agreement and updating their management system. The cancellation will result in a demerit from the booking site. As demerits increase, the higher the likelihood of the booking site de-listing the property. Cancellation timing may mean no income for that time period. Cancellations cost!

How do I find the home owner to book directly?

Luckily, these booking sites are not your only options to find a vacation rental home. Free-to-book regional listing sites are being developed regularly in 2017. More and more homeowners are finding that the booking sites’ goals of attaining service fees does not mesh well with their vacation home rental business. These new regional listing sites benefit the entire vacation rental community.

A non-profit group started an aggregator site with links to world-wide vacation rental listing sites. You’ll find many of the links I’ve listed below also on StayInVH.com. This is a great place to start your search!

Check out these links to listing sites where the guest doesn’t pay any fees to the site:

Another listing site that working towards being more by including blog posts by property owners is Houfy.com. Not only can you look up properties, but you can read posts written by the owners in that area. You’ll learn about places to visit, the best restaurants and hidden gems.

If you haven’t quite decided where to go, this worldwide map highlights vacation rental properties. Zoom in and scroll about the map. Click on a pin to find out details about the property at that location.

There are also Facebook Groups/Pages that you’ll want to search. Post what you’re looking for. Or search the Group for your place of interest.

Should You Even Look Through Booking Sites?

If you intend to search on HomeAway or VRBO, you probably want to ensure you’ve installed the StaySavr add-on to your browser first. This add-on can figure out the homeowner contact information and display it while you’re looking at this listing on VRBO/HomeAway. Here’s an example of what you’ll see using Stay Savr (real name and number are blocked out.)

Stay Savr Add-on Example
Stay Savr Add-on Example

Rather than interface through the booking site’s system, call the homeowner directly. Be aware that if you contact the owner through the booking site, if they are following the Terms of usage, they will have to book you through the site and you will have to pay the booking site fee. The homeowner will earn demerits if you contact them through the booking site but don’t complete a reservation through the site. Demerits lead to de-listing! Avoid communicating through these sites’ web interfaces and apps!

Will StaySavr Always Give Me HomeOwner Contact Info?

Unfortunately StaySavr does not list the homeowner name and number for all listings and it doesn’t work for bookings sites other than VRBO and HomeAway. Some homeowners are risking getting de-listed by including their name and number or some semblance of that data in their listing. I heard one homeowner used the uppercase values on her numeric keys to display her phone number! It’s really terrible that these homeowners have to be sneaky to avoid the intrusion of booking sites into their major investment management. Homeowners want to protect their properties and to do so, it means direct communication with the prospective guest. From the booking site’s perspective, direct communication means they won’t collect booking fees.

Are There Other Ways To Find The Property and Homeowner?

You betcha! Many owners have either or both – their own Web site or a related Facebook Page. Some may have their properties listed as a Google Place so that they can be found on Google Maps. Use a search engine to look for the property name. If you don’t see a property name on the listing, search for the first few sentences listed on the booking site’s description area. Homeowners often use the same copy in each place they advertise.

Another search option is using Google Image search. Generally, the homeowner will use the same primary picture of their property in each of their advertising venues. You can learn how to do a Google image search here.

Don’t Miss Out on Properties Not On Booking Sites!

I no longer pay to list my properties on HomeAway and VRBO and I can’t justify my guests paying a 15% fee to AirBnB. Regardless of their fees, all of these Booking sites are trying to apply self-serving management tactics to my rental homes and that just doesn’t work for me. There are many vacation rental homeowners that feel exactly as I do. That perfect vacation home you’re seeking may not even be listed on a booking site so you will have to do an Internet search.

Use keywords that are meaningful to your search. Specify “vacation rental” and the town or area that you’re hoping to be in. When the search results are returned, just pass by all the paid-for results usually indicated by symbols stating that these entries are advertisements. You may have to scroll to pages 2, 3 or even 7 to fine the “good stuff” like BeachDelight.com!

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