Airbnb may have started the short-term rental (STR) game, but over the last decade, it’s gained its fair share of competitors. More than 10 years after the original platform’s launch, there are now at least a dozen Airbnb alternatives. And with each one, there’s a new opportunity for short-term rental investors to expand their reach and maximize profits.
Are you looking to venture outside of the Airbnb platform with your next short-term rental investment? Or maybe you just want to supplement your existing Airbnb income by expanding your listings. Either way, this guide can help.
Why You May Want to Look Outside Airbnb
There's nothing wrong with Airbnb, but it's no secret: the platform is pretty crowded, and you might not be getting the exposure or promotion your listing deserves.
All in all, here are a few reasons you might want to look outside the Airbnb platform:
- Your listing isn't getting noticed on it and you want more exposure
- You want help managing your property
- You want help marketing or promoting your property
- You've received bad reviews on it and want a clean slate
- You want to supplement your existing Airbnb income
You might also find yourself tired of the fees, which range anywhere from 3% per booking to 20% (if you're listing some sort of hospitality business or full building.)
Seven Airbnb alternatives to have on your radar
From full-service listing services to platforms that market on major sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Trivago, today’s Airbnb alternatives are no lightweights.
Here are seven of the short-term rental platforms you’ll want on your radar come 2020:
HomeAway & VRBO
HomeAway and VRBO are probably Airbnb’s biggest competition, so if you’re simply looking for the most exposure, these two are your best bet. Both owned by Expedia Group, the two sites use the same platform, which has listings across 190 different countries. They offer both annual subscriptions and pay-per-booking options ($499 per year vs. 8% commission per booking).
Like Airbnb, you can also set your own pricing, establish house rules, and review renters after every stay on HomeAway and VRBO. The two sites also offer up to $1 million in liability protection. This is similar to Airbnb’s $1 million host guarantee (also called host protection insurance).
Additionally, the platforms also come with the MarketMaker tool, which helps you set competitive rates based on local market data. Consider it the answer to Airbnb’s dynamic pricing tool.
The sites are open to both vacation homes and primary residences of all kinds, including condos, apartments, cabins, single-family homes, and more. You must be willing to rent the entire home (not just one room) in order to list.
Vacasa is another vacation home-specific platform, this time on a much smaller scale. Still, it offers legitimate exposure. The site is home to about 23,000 listings across 17 countries, and it services more than 2 million guests per year.
The big perk with Vacasa is that it’s full service. It manages your property, cleans it, and even restocks it after every guest. Vacasa will even photograph your place, make a 3D virtual tour for it, and customize your listing. Another advantage? Vacasa provides tools to help you find solid income-generating rental real estate in the first place.
The platform also offers digital marketing and promotes its listings on other short-term rental platforms, including Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and more, and it has built-in guest screening tools to protect both you and your investments.
TurnKey takes a similar approach to Vacasa, handling all the booking, guest communication, and housekeeping tasks of your short-term rental. Listing on the platform also gets you marketing across more than 50 travel websites and with 130 million Marriott Bonvoy members.
TurnKey also offers what it calls a “revenue guarantee,” which ensures you get at least $5,000 more per year than you had with a previous property manager. Per-booking commissions vary between 18% and 23% on the platform.
You may have used Booking.com to book a traditional hotel room, but the site actually accepts homes, guest houses, and apartments, too. The platform sees more than 1.5 million nights booked worldwide every day, with 68% of those being families and couples (probably not loud, late-night partiers!). It also comes with complimentary search engine marketing to get your listings seen.
Like other platforms, you can set house rules, customize your availability calendar, and create security and damage deposits, just in case. There’s also guest misconduct reporting if anything goes awry.
To list on Booking.com, you’ll just pay a commission per night booked. (It varies by area, but in my city, it’s currently at 15%).
Owned by TripAdvisor, FlipKey is another vacation rental platform to put on your radar. At just a 3% fee per booking, it’s also one of the more affordable options out there. Eligible properties include everything from single rooms to full homes, houseboats, and more.
As a nice little bonus, sometimes FlipKey’s listings are displayed in TripAdvisor’s search results. If someone is on that site looking for flights or hotels in your city, there’s a chance your property could pop up there and snag you an extra booking.
Don’t let the name fool you; Hotels.com isn’t just for the Hiltons and Hyatts of the world. It’s also open to short-term rental investors just like you. By listing on the site, you’ll get access to its 675 million monthly visitors, as well as exposure on its partner sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Trivago.
You’ll also get real-time market data and listing analytics, and search engine marketing services are included. You can list apartments, homes, condos, vacation properties, and more.
|SHORT-TERM RENTAL PLATFORM||PRICING||REACH||FEATURES|
|HomeAway / VRBO||$499 per year or 8% commission per booking||190 countries, millions of travelers annually||• Built-in pricing tool
• Customizable house rules
• Two-way reviews
• Fraud protection
• $1 million in liability protection
|Vacasa||35% management fee||17 countries, 2 million guests per year||• Full-service property management, housekeeping, and guest booking
• Promotion on other listing platforms, including Airbnb, Expedia & VRBO
• Built-in pricing tools
• Real-time data and analytics
• Included 3D virtual tours and professional HD photography
|TurnKey||17.5% commission or higher, depending on your listing and market||Marketing on 50-plus travel websites, promotion to 130 million Marriott Bonvoy members||• Annual revenue guarantee
• Full-service property management, housekeeping, and guest booking
• Promotion on 50-plus travel websites
• Fraud protection
• Included photography, virtual tour, and digital floor plan
• Nearly $5,000 in home technology (digital locks, noise monitors, etc.)
|Booking.com||Variable commission per booking (see your area’s commission structure here)||1.5 million nights booked daily||• Included Google Maps advertising
• Promotion with airlines like Emirate, American Airlines, and EasyJet
• Guest misconduct reporting
|FlipKey||3% fee per booking||Worldwide exposure and millions of visitors per day via TripAdvisor||• Promotion in TripAdvisor search results
• Payments in 24 hours
• Listing management, booking, and guest communication available via mobile app
|Hotels.com||Variable fee per booking (agreed upon during set-up)||675 million monthly visitors||• Promotion on partner sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Trivago, and more
• Promotion on over 200 websites across 70 countries
• Real-time market data and listing analytics
• Included search engine marketing
• Built-in revenue management tools
Three other ways you can rent your property for extra cash
Want more cash than these short-term rental platforms can offer? There are other ways you can make money from your property without renting it out to tenants.
Here are just a few:
- Rent it out for photography and film shoots. Letting a film crew or photographer rent your space can net you anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per day, depending on your digs. You can list your home with a location agency or register it with a location renting platform like Giggster, FilmLocationsWanted.com, or LocationsHub. (Hint: Properties in Georgia, California, New York, and Louisiana are in high demand for these services, so take note!)
- Rent out your storage or parking space. Do you have extra room in the driveway, shed, attic, or closets? Monetize it. Tools like Neighbor and StoreWithMe let you rent out spare storage space, while Pavemint and SpotHero are good options for renting extra parking spots (even just a spot on the street).
- Open it up to events. Event space is at a premium in some areas. Let your property be the backdrop for weddings, parties, showers, and even corporate gatherings by listing it on platforms like Peerspace, Splacers, and VenueBook. It could mean hundreds or even thousands per night.
The bottom line? Airbnb isn’t the only way to make money off your real estate. Up that rental income by venturing outside the traditional platforms, and consider monetizing your space in other ways, too. Just be sure to check your local regulations and zoning ordinances, and make sure any income-earning activity you take part in is in line with those restrictions. You may also want to check your deed restrictions and HOA policies just to be safe.
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