As a vacation rental manager or an operator of serviced apartments, your ultimate aim is to increase your occupancy rates as high as possible. To make the best income out of your property management, you need to reach out to travellers by getting into the vast, at times infinite, network of the hospitality industry. OTAs and booking platforms are among the most immediate tools to increase occupancy, thus the bottom line.
Not surprisingly, in return for advertising your listings, they charge large amounts of commissions from you as a vacation rental host. Airbnb and Vrbo are two of the most popular vacation rental marketplaces and property listing sites that make up one of the most extensive and diverse networks worldwide. Keep reading Airbnb vs Vrbo to learn more about these popular platforms.
Airbnb vs Vrb: Starting Points
Airbnb was launched in 2008 from someone’s room who could earn some extra pocket money and was known as Air Bed and Air Breakfast. Nowadays, Airbnb has become a $113 billion company with 150 million users and more than 7 million listings in over 220 countries.
From Airbnb owners’ point of view, you need to respect the laws of renting out in your city or neighbourhood. As a host, you have 24 hours to accept or decline reservation requests. You can communicate directly with guests to accept or decline a reservation request. Guest reviews also facilitate the process of getting higher Airbnb rankings, thus more bookings and revenue.
Vrbo started out quite differently. In 1995, with somewhat a similar idea, Vrbo – Vacation Rental by Owner back then – was established. Today, there are over 2 million listings on Vrbo in more than 190 countries. HomeAway acquired Vrbo in 2006, and they both currently belong to The Expedia Group. So, by listing your short-term rentals on Vrbo, you will automatically get listed on HomeAway, too.
Airbnb and Vrbo are both desirable and vital booking platforms for both hosts and guests. However, when listing your property as a vacation rental manager, you need to know the differences as we all seek to make our vacation rental business the most profitable. Selecting either of these depends on many factors like the property, its location, size, pricing models, and many other considerations.
Here at Zeevou, we have made a list of nine key factors you should consider before making up your mind when it comes to the question of Airbnb vs Vrbo!
Airbnb vs Vrbo: Which One Is Better?
1. Types of Rentals | Airbnb vs Vrbo
This is a key difference between Airbnb and Vrbo. Airbnb allows an extensive and varied range of hosts and many unique home experiences. You can rent out a shared room, a private room, or an entire property with Airbnb.
Conversely, Vrbo lets you list mostly full houses, which means you can hardly get any booking for shared spaces and hotel rooms on Vrbo. In other words, you can sell your hostel or a hotel room on Airbnb but not on Vrbo. That is why Vrbo has a more limited number of listings than Airbnb.
What Is Vrbo’s Policy Regarding Shared Space Rentals?
According to the Vrbo’s website:
“We are committed to offering a private experience for guests. As such, our platform does not support shared space short term rentals. A shared space, or hosted listing, is a listing where the guest might share areas inside the property with the host or other guests, not in their group. For example, we do not support dormitories or homestays. Please contact us if you are unsure whether your listing is suitable for display on our platform.”
How Does It Affect the Types of Guests?
This defining distinction between the two affects the types of guests who choose to stay in your properties based on the travel giants’ marketing strategies. For example, Vrbo promotes private spaces for rent and encourages potential bookers to “have privacy and feel like your own home. Do not share and keep the whole place to yourself.”
Unlike Vrbo, Airbnb encourages travelling, including sharing, social experiences, spending less money, and adventure. Consequently, Vrbo attracts families and the elderly who travel and book longer stays.
On the other hand, Airbnb attracts younger adventurers, students, business people, or those seeking new experiences or short budget trips.
Barbara Zito finds Airbnb a better choice for owners with properties in cities and metropolitan areas while Vrbo is best for owners with properties in vacation destinations.
2. Owner Fees | Airbnb vs Vrbo
Credit Card Fees
While Airbnb doesn’t charge any credit card fees, Vrbo charges you 3% if your guest pays with a credit card.
It is free to list your vacation rentals on both Airbnb and Vrbo. But, what about booking commissions?
On Airbnb, as a host, you will be charged about 3% of the subtotal commission fee per booking. For additional features like hosting experiences on Airbnb, you will have to pay 20% of the booking value as a service fee. For more details about this, check out “What are Airbnb service fees?”
Vrbo has two pricing models. If you have an empty house and expect many reservations during the year, it makes sense to pay the annual subscription of $499. If you invest in a short-term rental, paying 5% per booking fee suits you better.
3. Guest Fees | Airbnb vs Vrbo
Guest service fees affect the number of guests you get, as the lower your rates are, the more occupancy you will probably achieve. However, low prices are not the best, and more are involved in your rankings and revenue-making. So, it makes sense to use a dynamic pricing tool to push the rates that fit your rentals. As Airbnb states:
“Most guests pay a service fee that is under 14.2% of the booking subtotal (the nightly rate plus cleaning fee and additional guest fee, if applicable, but excluding Airbnb fees and taxes). The fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests, including during checkout before they book a reservation.”
Both booking platforms allow hosts to charge guests an extra cleaning fee in their total rates. They also encourage guests to rate the cleanliness of their place of stay after check-out. Adding cleaning fees helps hosts use a cleaning service or buy cleaning supplies.
There is a slight difference in policies, though. Vrbo requires you to clarify the cleaning fee on the first listing page as an additional charge. But on Airbnb, guests might not know about the cleaning fee until their check-out. The cleaning fee depends on the nightly rate and length of stay.
Jay Whiteley’s comparison at Evolve shows that Airbnb and Vrbo/HomeAway charge the lowest guest service fees after Booking.com, which does not charge guests anything.
Tax rules depend on local regulations on both booking platforms and differ from city to city.
4. Host Protection | Airbnb vs Vrbo
In case of property damage or guest injury, Airbnb and Vrbo have provided multiple ways to keep you ready for the unexpected.
Airbnb’s Liability insurance is part of AirCover for Hosts. As a host, you are covered up to $1 million in case a guest is injured, or their belongings are damaged or stolen during their stay at your place. Co-hosts and cleaners are also included. In addition, this insurance protects you when guests (or others) damage common areas, such as lobbies and nearby properties.
Vrbo’s Liability insurance provides protection for all reservations made through the HomeAway check-out process. It covers hosts up to $1 million when they are legally responsible for a guest’s injury or when a traveller damages the properties of third parties (neighbours).
During an Airbnb stay, AirCover for Hosts offers hosts $1 million in coverage in case your place or belongings are damaged by a guest. Airbnb’s Host Damage Protection covers damage caused by guests, co-hosts, or cleaners to your place or possessions. It also protects cleaning costs incurred due to the behaviour of a guest (or others) and cancellations due to damage caused by guests (or others), resulting in lost income.
Vrbo’s Property Damage Protection (PDP) is an optional insurance plan provided to guests to protect them from having to pay out of pocket for damaged property. The host can suggest an insurance plan level. Alternatively, the guest may select a level of PDP as a refundable damage deposit instead of the non-refundable amount.
There are two kinds of security deposits that guests may encounter when booking an Airbnb. One is Airbnb-required security deposits with a cap of $1,000 USD that begin two days prior to the stay. Guests won’t be charged, but an authorisation hold will be placed on their payment method. When Airbnb cannot authorise the hold, they’ll email the guests, giving them 12 hours to provide a different payment method. Airbnb will release the hold 14 days after the check-out or before the next guest’s arrival if there is no damage.
The other option is host-required security deposits. The amount will range between $100 and $5,000, which is determined by the host. But, Airbnb doesn’t place an authorisation hold, and the host needs to take care of this.
With Vrbo, the damage deposit and its amount are set upon the host’s request. They keep the refundable damage deposit for seven or 14 days after check-out. Hosts have seven or 14 days to claim all or part of a refundable damage deposit if losses are incurred. Otherwise, the deposit will automatically be released.
5. Special Features | Vrbo vs Airbnb
While looking for information regarding the comparative topic of Airbnb vs Vrbo, we also found features on both websites which allow vacation rental managers to get more bookings.
Airbnb offers Experiences – aggregated local activities that local people host. It presents a long list of experiences such as restaurants, adventures, and creative activities. This feature plays a vital role in encouraging travellers to use Airbnb, which might eventually increase your occupancy level if you are appealing enough to attract all people looking for Airbnbs and Experiences in your area.
Vrbo’s Trip Boards
Planning a trip is made easier with Vrbo’s Trip Boards, which help travellers to organise and compare their favourite destinations. In the case of a group trip, guests can invite friends to collaborate on the board and search for accommodations together.
Airbnb and Vrbo Owners’ Community
The Host Community of Airbnb allows property managers to share their experiences of listing their properties on Airbnb. Vrbo also provides the owners with a website called the Partner Community with similar functionality.
6. VIP Hosts’ Programmes | Vrbo vs Airbnb
Both Vrbo and Airbnb provide special programmes to property managers who consistently deliver great guest experiences.
A selection of some of the best quality Airbnb homes with hosts known for great reviews is available on Airbnb Plus. These vacation rentals are picked based on their elegant design, consistent amenities, and spotless maintenance.
Airbnb Superhost program recognises and rewards its highest-rated and most experienced hosts. Superhosts will gain more visibility, obtain more earning potential, and get premier rewards.
Vrbo’s Premier Partner Programme
This program rewards owners and managers who sustainably deliver great service to guests. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you’ll be added to the program automatically and will benefit from a Premier Host badge and filter, the Boost program, and priority 24/7 support.
7. Cancellation Policy | Vrbo vs Airbnb
To protect you as a vacation rental manager against the common problem of cancellations, Airbnb and Vrbo have both set various levels of restrictions as cancellation policies.
Airbnb has six cancellation policies that you can offer to your guests. These policies are called Flexible, Moderate, Strict, Long Term, Super Strict 30 Days, and Super Strict 60 Days.
Similarly, on Vrbo, five levels of cancellation policies are defined as No Refund, Strict, Firm, Moderate, and Relaxed.
Due to its rental types, Vrbo is more strict than Airbnb. A full refund is impossible even for the Relaxed option, which returns only 50% of the money only if the cancellation happens 14 days in advance. The Airbnb Flexible option enables guests to get a full refund within 24 hours before check-in.
According to both Airbnb and Vrbo cancellation policies, refunds do not include the rental service fee.
8. Rules | Vrbo vs Airbnb
Airbnb Rules for Listing Your Property
- You need to specify:
- the exact location of the property.
- the number of guests you can accommodate.
- how your property looks like by providing photos.
- Pets are allowed with a fee, and it might differ from listing to listing. Assistance dogs are allowed with no discrimination.
- Airbnb encourages its hosts to provide clean accommodation. “Airbnb also encourages its host to add a cleaning fee in their total rate to cover the cost of hiring a cleaning service or buying cleaning supplies.”
Vrbo Rules for Listing Your Property
- Pets are also allowed with a fee for Vrbo properties.
- Vrbo owners can ask their guests to give back the property clean minimally. “This includes running the dishwasher, putting out the trash, or leaving all used linen in one area. The platform offers guidelines on how hosts can clean specific rooms in their properties.”
9. Review System | Vrbo vs Airbnb
Airbnb review system allows guests and hosts to know who they are going to book with, but of course, up to some extent. Both guests and hosts have 14 days to write a review.
The Airbnb review system appears as a five-star rating system with guests rating the accuracy of descriptions, cleanliness, communication, location, check-in, and value for money. Guests can filter accommodations by reviews before making a booking if they have certain concerns about an Airbnb.
Vrbo has a review option, but the verification/vetting process on Vrbo is less thorough. Guests or hosts can leave a review for up to a year after their stay. Nevertheless, once one of the parties submits a review, the other party has 14 days to share theirs.
Vrbo also uses a five-star rating system. But, in contrast to Airbnb, hosts’ responses to guest reviews appear in the review section.
Vrbo vs Airbnb: Which One to Choose?
It seems clear now that your choice of the listing channel is determined by the type of property you offer and the target guest you intend to attract.
If you want to list a full house with a strict cancellation policy on Airbnb, it makes more sense to put it on Vrbo. People searching on Vrbo might be more suitable as potential customers for you in this scenario. However, Airbnb may give you a wider range of audiences and more flexible policies in privacy levels, favoured more by travellers.
Choosing between Airbnb and Vrbo also depends on the region your properties are located. There are local regulations in some places that restrict listing on OTAs. Sometimes, the power of each platform varies from one region to another. In some areas of the world, Airbnb is better known and offers many more listings. Your properties get more exposure and coverage, although offered in a more competitive market.
Regarding the owner’s booking fees, you might have a preference for Vrbo’s yearly subscription or Airbnb’s commission per booking model.
Hosts at Airbnb Community have found Vrbo reservations longer, booked earlier, and with better guests.
Some owners believe that Airbnb is a good opportunity for beginning your vacation rental business, and as your business grows, you may also list them on Vrbo.
How About Listing on Both Airbnb and Vrbo?
It is possible to list your property on both platforms as increasing your exposure is always recommended. However, by listing your properties in different places, you need to make sure that no overbookings will happen. To prevent overbookings or double bookings, you should use a channel manager. An all-in-one property management software helps you synchronise the calendars to avoid such risks.
How About Having a Direct Booking Website Instead?
Imagine you paid no commissions to OTAs and could add to your bottom line, track your traffic through top analytic tools, and use your income to expand your vacation rental business. Wouldn’t you immediately act? All of these are possible if you get a direct booking website and invest in what belongs to you!