Airbnb vs VRBO for Owners and Guests

12/3/19 | Christopher D. Davis

What's the difference between Airbnb and VRBO?

It's 2019, and by now, there are plenty of vacation rental listing sites to choose from. Still, VRBO (owned by HomeAway) and Airbnb are two of the biggest vacation home rental players in the travel industry today. Let's see how they compare for owners looking to list their vacation home somewhere. 

If you're a traveler wondering which site is better for booking vacation rentals, here's a quick breakdown:

  • Airbnb charges guests a service fee as high as 20%, which comprises the cleaning fee and additional guest fee. On top of this, you'll pay Airbnb's fees and taxes. This is why the price jumps so much between the time you see a home and when you check out. Often, the advertised price on Airbnb will be higher than on HomeAway.  
  • The VRBO/HomeAway guest service fee ranges between 6%-12% on a "sliding scale." We go into detail about how this fee is configured here

And then there's the #BookDirect movement, through which travelers are seeing huge savings by avoiding Airbnb, Homeaway, and other OTAs (online travel agencies) altogether. These savings can be up to 15%, which on a $3,000 reservation, means $450 back in your pocket. 

Booking directly also helps create the safest environment possible for both guests and homeowners. In late 2019, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to be on the lookout for fake vacation rental listings, and gave travelers a simple solution for ensuring their safety and trip security: Book directly with a homeowner or property manager.

Next time you're planning to book a trip, explore booking directly from the homeowner's or property manager's own website. For example, all of InvitedHome's Airbnb Luxe rentals are found on that platform as well as our own site, however booking directly on InvitedHome's website saves you 15%.

What are the fees of Airbnb and VRBO?

VRBO/HomeAway: If you want to list your home on VRBO, you have two options. The VRBO rental agreement shows you can pay an annual fee of $499, which will allow for unlimited inquiries and bookings. If you choose a pay-per-booking fee structure, you'll be charged a commission starting at 8% per booking. This number comprises the 5% commission charged for the rental amount and the 3% credit card transaction fee on the total payment received from your guest. An additional 2% may be charged if the credit card isn't from the U.S.

So how do you choose? VRBO suggests that if it's rented more than six weeks out of the year, the annual subscription is a better option. It's worth noting that if you opt for the subscription model, you'll pay even if your home never books. However, if you're with InvitedHome, we'll take care of that subscription cost, and optimize your listing to maximize its visibility on VRBO and HomeAway.

A note on VRBO guest services fees: Since HomeAway was acquired by Expedia, the company has been introducing new service fees on a sliding scale. In this post, we break down the cryptic HomeAway guest service fee, or you can check out this easy-to-understand table, so you know exactly what your guests are experiencing when they book through these channels. 

Airbnb: Airbnb is a little more straightforward. There's no annual subscription here -- instead, you'll pay a flat 3% fee on every booking. With Airbnb, you also won't have to pay any credit card fees. Once again, homeowners with InvitedHome don't have to worry about any of these costs. We'll take care of them.

Rankings and Reviews

There's no single silver bullet for how to rank higher in Airbnb and VRBO's search pages, but there are certainly best practices to follow. For a more in-depth look, check out our 18 Ways to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings and Profits in 2018.

First and foremost, though, you'll need to generate positive reviews, and this goes for both sites. If guests are staying without leaving a review, you may need to tactfully reach out and encourage them to do so. You'll also need to respond to any negative reviews to assure potential guests that if there was a problem, you've already taken the steps to address it. Negative reviews are inevitable, but it's how you respond to them that makes all the difference.

It's also important to include the right amount of photos for each website. To rank high on VRBO, you'll need at least 24 high-quality photos of your home. There isn't as steadfast a number for Airbnb, however you'll need a minimum of five to appear in mobile search results.

InvitedHome takes care of all of this -- from managing guest reviews to providing professional photography. We'll make sure your home is visible on both Airbnb and VRBO, but we'll also list your home on our own website, where 50 percent of our guests complete their bookings. Our impressive portfolio of luxury vacation rentals attracts the right guests for your high-end home. To see a real-world example of how our strategies for maximizing revenue benefit homeowners, check out our case study on revenue management.

Instant Booking features on VRBO and Airbnb

The Instant Booking features on VRBO and Airbnb are more or less the same. You can choose to enable or disable the function at any time, and indeed, both websites claim that turning the function on will likely give you a boost in ranking. If you don't feel comfortable with the guest for any reason, you can still cancel the reservation penalty-free, however, if you cancel for any other reason, you'll get hit with the standard penalty for cancellations. 

It's critical to keep your calendar updated, regardless whether you use Instant Booking or not. At InvitedHome, we've developed the technology to automatically update the feed on both Airbnb and VRBO, which prevents reservations from being automatically confirmed. This gives our team the opportunity to perform a multi-step vetting process for all guests before they are confirmed for a stay in your home. Through this, we've established the perfect balance of high visibility on listing sites while still attracting only the guests you're comfortable with.

The Guest Experience

The guest experiences of each listing site are very similar. Both charge a service fee  between 6% and 12% of the total, excluding taxes, which the guest pays. 

The only major difference is the number of single rooms for rent on Airbnb. It's much more common to find shared, shorter-term accommodation on Airbnb than VRBO. On the latter, you'll find more long-term stays and "entire home" listings. 

Both websites also require a closed communication system, so it’s difficult to form a relationship with your guests and determine whether your home would be right for them. If a guest calls VRBO or Airbnb for more information on your home, the agent they speak to can only provide as much information as is included in the listing. What's more, HomeAway is now pledging to track users online and take a cut of direct bookings. For example, if your guests find your home on HomeAway, but reach out to book directly through you, HomeAway is attempting to trace that user path, and charge you 10% of that booking. 

Conversely, at InvitedHome, our Guest Experience and Reservation teams are dedicated to ensuring that not only is every guest the right fit for your home, but that your home is a right fit for your guests.

If you're managing your vacation rental yourself, be sure you know the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of both websites. Need help? We'd love to manage your luxury vacation rental, and take care of everything from preventative maintenance to guest services.

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VRBO Vs. Airbnb

Want to learn more about the different listing sites?

Our Owner Consultants can explain exactly how we market your home across more than 30 vacation rental listing sites to maximize your home's exposure. With InvitedHome, you'll also have an in-house marketing team that will feature your home in email blasts, social media pushes, and PR campaigns to generate the most bookings possible. Call now to learn more.