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Airbnb vs. VRBO: Which Is Better for Property Owners?


Jul 03, 2020 by Barbara Zito

While COVID-19 has grounded much business travel and many a vacation this year, short-term rental property owners should be at the ready for when travel restrictions are lifted. If you have a room or an entire house that you're looking to rent to vacationers and business travelers looking for hotel alternatives, you'll want to be ready with property listings on Airbnb or VRBO (NASDAQ: AWAY).

Both Airbnb and VRBO are titans in the world of online property listings. Millions of people looking to book overnight trips or longer vacations flock to both websites each month -- which means there are plenty of opportunities to get your property rented quickly and often.

Which online property listing site is right for you? Let's take a closer look at both.

VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner)

Established in 1995, VRBO merged with HomeAway.com in 2005 and VacationRentals.com in 2007. Today, it's one of the largest global online travel sites, with over two million listings in over 190 countries. While there are single rooms listed on the site, vacationers who are looking to rent out entire homes for either the short term or the long term regularly seek out VRBO as their vacation rental site to book their family vacations.

Airbnb

Established in 2008 as Air Bed & Breakfast, it was rebranded as Airbnb the following year. While this vacation rental site might not have been around as long as VRBO, it has quickly grown and established a reputation as an alternative to expensive hotels for those traveling for work or for pleasure. While this site does list full-home rentals like VRBO, the site's bread and butter is single rooms. In pre-pandemic (and hopefully post-pandemic) times, Airbnb vacancies are sought after for overnight and business travel, making this a great website for property owners in big cities and metropolitan areas. But Airbnb is a great site for property owners virtually anywhere. Recent stats show that there are over 6 million listings in over 190 countries on Airbnb with more than 150 million users.

Opportunities abound for your rental property

With that many eyes on these two vacation listing sites, savvy property owners would do well to drop everything to list their vacant rooms and properties on either Airbnb or VRBO -- or maybe both. Which is right for your property? Let's take a look at some key features.

Feature Airbnb VRBO
Approximate number of listings 6.1 million 2 million
Listing fee None None
Booking fee (commission taken by site) • 3% flat fee for every booking.
• No credit card fees.
• Annual fee of $499 for unlimited listings, or 8% per booking (5% commission + 3% credit card).
• Additional 2% fee for international credit card.
Instant Booking option Yes Yes
Communication between host and guest Online through site Online through site
Guest service fee (usually includes cleaning fee) As much as 20% (not including taxes and other fees) 6% to 12%
Listing photos At least 5 are required to show up in search on site. 24 photos needed to achieve a high ranking.
Single rooms for rent Yes, many Yes, but not nearly as many
Whole house/property for rent Yes Yes
Guest experiences available Yes No

Which vacation rental website is better for your property?

Both Airbnb and VRBO are arguably among the best in the business when it comes to listing your property for short-term rentals. And with both having instant booking options that make it even easier for renters to complete the transaction, your vacancies can fill up with just a few clicks.

Which is the better rental website for you? It all depends on the type of property you have, whether you have added amenities/experiences, and how long you will permit people to stay.

Airbnb is best for:

  • Owners with properties in cities/metropolitan areas.
  • Owners with single rooms to be rented for a few nights at a time (single nights and longer stays are available).
  • Owners who can also create "experiences" for their guests, such as tours, lessons, etc.

VRBO is best for:

  • Owners with properties in vacation destinations.
  • Owners with entire homes to be rented out. While single rooms are listed on VRBO, most visitors to the site are looking for more space.
  • Owners with multiple properties/vacancies because of the annual membership ($499) for unlimited bookings -- though this does mean that you'll still pay regardless of whether your listing actually books.

It bears noting again that while Airbnb is known for its single-room rentals, there are also full-house listings. However, most people who are looking to rent full houses usually become VRBO guests.

Still, a property owner or property manager looking to rent out a house would be wise to list on both VRBO and Airbnb to get in front of all those millions of site visitors. It makes financial sense, too, as there are no fees to list -- only to book.

If you want more people to click on your listing, you'll have to do some clicking of your own. Just as online real estate listings garner more clicks when there are photos available, you'll want to make sure that potential guests can see your rental property. Both sites require a certain number of photos as a minimum, but the more you have, the more you'll show up in the searches.

Positive reviews are king

Like so many things in both the real and virtual world, word of mouth can go a long way. That is why it is so important to provide the best experience possible for your guests so they'll post positive reviews on the site. Just as a hotel or resort will send out a guest-experience survey after you check out, VRBO and Airbnb hosts should follow up with their guests and solicit reviews.

As those positive reviews start to rack up on your property listing, more potential renters will see your property as a safe haven in a strange destination and feel comfortable about clicking "book." One of the things to strive for as an Airbnb host is the "superhost" status, which is an honor reserved for those property owners who book often and provide exceptional stays -- with or without the added experiences -- for their guests.

The bottom line

The pandemic has impacted many things, including the real estate industry. Property owners were left with many empty rooms and vacation homes around the world. But as conditions improve and travel restrictions are lifted, vacation rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO will be key to getting those rooms and properties filled once more.

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