VRBO can help you rent out a vacation home, but charges more to hosts than Airbnb and doesn’t deliver better service
Expected pay: You set it
Commissions & fees: 5%, plus 3% payment processing
Requirements: 18 or older; vacation home to rent out
Before there was AirBnb, VRBO and it’s affiliated companies (Home Away and VacationRentals.com), were the only games in town if you wanted to earn a little extra money renting out a vacation home. The services are similar, but Airbnb is better on a variety of fronts.
How it works
Both AirBnb and VRBO allow you to list your rental for free and just pay a service fee when someone books. You plug in where it’s located; bedrooms and baths; number of people this rental can accommodate and plenty of photos. You also set the schedule showing when your rental is available.
But VRBO, which lists you on all its affiliated sites, charges a bit more than AirBnb.
The VRBO service fee is 5% (vs. AirBnb’s 3%), plus you pay the 3% transaction fee when your guests use a credit card. Notably, this service fee is applied to full booking costs, including cleaning fees, pet fees and any other extra — even when the extra is refundable.
At one point, VRBO offered the option of paying an annual subscription of $499 instead of the per-booking fees, but has since gone back to the pay-per-booking model.
Like Airbnb, VRBO also adds a service fee to traveler’s invoices too. This service fee varies, but can add substantially to the traveler’s costs.
AirBnb also covers your home with their insurance policy when it’s rented; VRBO does not. (From the company’s terms and conditions: “Users are solely responsible for obtaining insurance coverage sufficient to protect their properties and guests or their trip, as applicable. Members agree to provide us with copies of relevant proof of coverage upon request.”)
The best place to list a short-term rental is Airbnb. While VRBO isn’t terrible — it scores better than competing rental site RedAwning, for instance — it’s hard for us to find an argument for listing here rather than with Airbnb.
If you want to find longer-term renters, however, there are a variety of better sites. Our favorite is SabbaticalHomes, which charges modest fees and specializes in placing educators in months-long rentals. If you happen to have a Cape Cod rental, we also like WeNeedaVacation.
If you’re an empty-nester looking for a roommate, check out Silvernest.
What their homeowners say: (From Consumer Affairs)
As many of us do, I worked very hard to finally at 57 purchased a condo in Bimini in the Bahamas, I sign up with VRBO thinking I will be protected while renting my home away from home. From time to time we lose water for a few hours, (this is a small island.) The renter left the kitchen spigot on and left to go home, the water came on and flooded my cond. Destroyed everything including my neighbors below. VRBO is refusing responsibilities for this damage. Please review their liability policy before using this company to rent your property. Now I am left with over $30,000 in damage
Used to love this site
“I used to love VRBO, was happy to pay their yearly fee, and have gotten 99% of my guests through them for years. No more! I am going to try other sites like HomeEscape that has the old VRBO model.”
“I used VRBO to advertise my property for 15 years and was very satisfied. As of this past year they have taken control of my home. I am not allowed to talk to my clients before renting nor accept checks or PayPal. My clients are charged an extra fee that amounts to hundreds of dollars.”
“We bought a small condo and wanted to rent it out on VRBO and Airbnb. After the first 30 days VRBO had no bookings or inquiries. Airbnb was filling up fast with over 10 books in the first 30 days (same photos same description). A few months later we came to the conclusion that Airbnb met our needs much better so we called to cancel VRBO only to be told we can only cancel in the first 30 days and receive a refund. Not satisfied with the customer service or how I was blamed for them not booking the unit. Never will they have my business.”
“Simply said, VRBO, or Homeaway, and Vacation Rentals.com, want those they “use” to pay for the subscription. There are certain parameters that penalize those, like me, who do not. Basically, if you do not pay for a subscription, they put you in the bottom of the search results. I used to get half my business from Homeaway/VRBO until they changed a while ago to a harsh unequal format, that makes Property Management companies their most important customer, meanwhile leaving me, a owner operating rental, scraping for attention.”