It’s becoming evident that the recent decision by HomeAway/VRBO to join the other big box sites in assessing vacationers a fee may merely be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
A few weeks ago when I wrote “Why Homeowners are Outraged about Vacationer Booking Fees,” most homeowners were still not aware of many of the changes recently implemented by the vacation rental behemoth. Since then, however, the backlash against HomeAway/VRBO has grown – and, in part, due to other reasons.
For one, homeowners are reporting that their bookings from HomeAway/VRBO are significantly off from previous years.
One Nantucket homeowner, joining our site for the first time, admitted that he was getting panicky because he only had 2 weeks booked through HomeAway, whereas he was usually nearly fully-booked by this time. We’ve heard other stories from homeowners who claim to have lost bookings they thought were all but confirmed when the vacationers went to pay online for their booking and were taken aback by the new fees. Understandably, they feel resentful that they now have to pay for something that had been free for years.
Homeowners were incensed because HomeAway/VRBO initially presented the fees to vacationers by implying that they were imposed by the homeowner, not by the rental site. Although they temporarily added “HomeAway” or “VRBO” to “service fee,” it has been deleted, leaving it as “Service fee.” This may lead many vacationers to believe that the service fee is being imposed by the homeowner or manager/realtor, not the listing site. Homeowners are also frustrated because the extra service fee restricts their ability to either raise their rates or charge their own fees, e.g., cleaning, linens, etc.
In addition, many homeowners currently using HomeAway/VRBO dislike the pressure they are receiving to accept online payments, which is necessary, of course, in order for the fees to be assessed by the rental site. While there is currently an option to view the vacationers’ contact information and “go around” the system – enabling valuable direct communication and for vacationers to avoid the new fees – homeowners often do not realize that doing so impacts their search order ranking.
What’s more, vacationers are being told, “You must complete your booking or payment through the HomeAway checkout process in order to be protected by our Book with Confidence Guarantee. We can’t protect payments that are completed outside of HomeAway.” This message to vacationers clearly implies that any homeowner who does not buy in to the HomeAway Payments option may be untrustworthy.
It will soon be a moot point anyway because, by the end of 2016, all listers will be required to accept online booking. While this might be acceptable for some homeowners and managers, others object to their advertising source dictating how they should run their business and restricting their ability to freely vet prospective renters. And many homeowners balk at having to accept or decline a vacationer within 24 hours.
In recent statements from HA/VRBO, the company denies that these changes have adversely effected booking results for their homeowners, but we’re hearing significant evidence to the contrary.
Are you listed with HomeAway/VRBO? Have your inquiries and booking been as healthy this year as in the past? Do you mind that you will be required by them to accept online bookings by the end of this year?