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For owners: The best listing sites right now

Published on March 31, 2017 by Maria Lamb

Maine Vacation Rental

Where should I list my vacation rental by owner?

Disclaimer:  By the time this is published, I’m sure there will be even more changes with the vacation rental listing companies.  It seems every day one company or another tweaks their website or changes their terms and conditions.  Many owners are getting out of the vacation rental business altogether - if they were purchased as an investment, they are either selling or converting to long-term rentals.  If they are family vacation homes, the owners are just deciding that they are not enjoying being a vacation rental landlord anymore and the few dollars they net is just not worth the hassle.

To confuse matters, everyone and their brothers are starting new listing sites so there are a plethora to choose from.  Below are some of the pros and cons of the most popular.

AirBnB

Yes, I’m listing this one first because it seems like all of its competitors are changing their formats to copycat AirBnB.  It was started as a home SHARING site, but now has many, many whole house listings.

Pros for owners:

  • Well known worldwide
  • Ranks high in searches
  • Free for owner to list
  • Owners can show an unlimited number of pictures
  • Only 3% commission for bookings

Cons:

  • The actual process of writing and editing a listing is not intuitive.
  • Owners have to choose one of the set cancellation policies and they are not ‘owner-friendly’ for vacation rentals in seasonal properties.
  • Owner is not provided the last name or contact info until after the guest has booked, so communication is not always simple.
  • It can be hard to have traveler agree to an sign a rental agreement - it can be signed only AFTER a booking is confirmed.
  • Although AirBnB charges and remits lodging tax in some locales, if they do not, there is no way to all it to the listing as an extra charge (it must be built in to an all-inclusive rate or collected at arrival).

Pros for travelers:

  • Huge selection of properties, many very unique.  Some are entire home rentals, some are just rooms in homes (and some are treehouses, Airstream trailers, and top bunks of a bunkbed)

Cons for travelers:

  • …fee added on the the rental rate that goes to AirBnB
  • May be hard to communicate with owners since info is masked
  • Very clunky search platform - lack of filters makes it hard to narrow down properties unless the map is significantly zoomed in upon.

HomeAway/VRBO

The former giant of the vacation rental industry has significantly changed the way they operate.  Owners currently have a choice of paying for a subscription or listing by commission.  The current fee for a new yearly listing is $399 plus approximately 3% for credit card processing fees if you process payments through their system (or $549 per year if you process payments on your own).  For listings using the commission plan (PPB), the commission is 6% and you are required to use their payment processing.

Pros for owners:

  • Well known worldwide
  • Ranks high in the searches
  • Can be free to list if you choose the PPB option
  • Option of processing your own payments
  • If you choose an annual subscription, you are shown the guest’s name and contact info immediately

Cons for owners:

  • If you choose the PPB option, you are not shown the guest’s contact info until after they book.
  • HomeAway/VRBO’s has new cancellation options which don’t allow for custom cancellation policies.
  • The listings now include a ‘booking assistance’ phone number.  Guests wanting to know more about a property might call this number and find themselves speaking to someone in a call center in another country.
  • Owners are required to uphold certain standards to have their listings shown higher up on a list. In theory, this is wonderful.  But in order to respond to an inquiry within an hour, I know that I’ve gotten out of bed at 3am or pulled over into a rest area in order to respond to an inquiry.
  • Direct website addresses are blocked.  This is very frustrating to me.  I understand that the company doesn’t want someone to direct someone to another site to book, but many times I want to pass along the website of a whale watch tour company or another local business.  This is not allowed.

Pros for guests:

  • Huge platform for vacation rentals - if you can’t find one you like here, it probably doesn’t exist

Cons for guests:

  • ….fee on top of the rental amount that goes to company,  not homeowner
  • The new search and best match ‘features’ make it very hard to narrow down properties in one small area.  Travelers are being shown properties hours away from where they are actually interested in staying.
  • Can be hard to communicate with owner because identity is masked for PPB listings

TripAdvisor/Flipkey (Vacation Home Rentals)

This is the next listing site that is changing things around and is now looking like they are trying to be a copycat of AirBnB as well.  Just to make it more confusing, TripAdvisor has swallowed up Vacation Home Rentals and is consolidating listings (you can no longer list on VacationHomeRentals.com).  It's similar to HomeAway/VRBO in that owners have a choice to list via commission or purchase an annual listing.

The fee for a yearly subscription is currently $599 (plus 3% per booking for online payments).  The fee for the commission listing is 3%.

Pros for Owners:

  • Ranks high in search engines
  • Listing process is easy
  • The commission listing is free to list

Cons for Owners:

  • Guest contact information is masked unless a subscription is purchased
  • Money is held until 24 hours after guest checks in
  • Cancelation policies are not customizable
  • Owner may be assessed a $200 penalty for canceling a booking under certain circumstances

Pros for travelers:

  • Well known worldwide
  • Large selection of properties

Cons for travelers:

  • …fee added on the the rental rate that goes to AirBnB
  • May be hard to communicate with owners since info is masked

HomeEscape

Of all of the new listing sites that are coming to the market, HomeEscape is probably the one that is better known.  It is free for the owner to list and free of fees for the traveler.  There is an option of process payments through the site, but it is not a requirement.

Pros for owners:

  • Free to list
  • Ability to communicate directly with traveler without masked information
  • Payment processing if needed.
  • Ability to customize policies

Cons for owners:

  • Does not rank high in searches

Pros for guests:

  • No traveler fees
  • Ability to communicate directly with owner without masked information

Cons for guests:

  • At this time, not a large selection of homes

GlampingHub.com and Campnative.com

are two niche listing sites that are listing vacation rentals if you think that your home is appropriate for that category.

Owner Pros:

  • Free to list
  • Small charge per booking (4%)
  • Both Glamping Hub and CampNative will create the listing for you

Owner cons:

  • Editing a listing on either site is very confusing — it is not an easy platform to understand.
  • Does not necessarily rank well in a search (unless someone is specifically searching for camping or glamping sites).

Traveler pros:

  • If you are looking for that ‘glamping niche’, both are good sites to search on
  • Traveler cons:
  • Traveler fees are additional on top of rates
  • The search feature is not very user-friendly

Avroa

Avroa is The Association Of Vacation Rental Operators & Affiliates and has a database of vacation homes.  Memberships start at $49/year and owners can list up to three properties at that level.

Owner pros:

  • Low annual cost to owners
  • Owners are actually joining an association of vacation rental owners and managers
  • Listings are fully customizable

Owner cons:

  • Does not rank high in searches
  • Owners must have a way to process payments for bookings or only accept checks

Pros for travelers:

  • No fees

Cons for travelers:

  • Does not rank high in searches - easier if travelers go to website directly

Private property managers

Some owners just don’t want to deal with all of the hassles of booking.  There are plenty of property management companies out there.  Some just do the advertising, marketing and booking of the property.  Some just do the day to day maintenance of the property and some managers do it all.  Some will let you list your property on your own, some will want exclusive control over all bookings. Fees and services vary widely, so when inquiring, make sure you ask just exactly what they provide.

Pros for owners:

  • Hands off - Not having to deal with inquiries and bookings.
  • Local knowledge - Most likely, a local property management company won’t have someone in another country answering calls.

Cons for owners:

  • Fees - depending on location and service, fees can vary anywhere from 10% - 40% or more.  Some property management companies also charge a yearly fee.
  • Hands off - not having complete control over your own property could drive you nuts if you’re like me.

Pros for travelers:

  • Local knowledge from mostly small companies
  • Traveler fees - some property management companies charge zero fees to travelers.

Cons for travelers:

  • A manager may or may not be as flexible to unique situations as an owner would be, such as the ability to modify a rate or schedule.
  • Fees — although some property managers do not charge a fee, many charge fees up to 20% to the traveler as a service charge.

Maine Vacation Rental

Meet The Author
Maria received degrees in both business and psychology and had worked as both a travel professional and a real estate agent when she realized that she could combine both of her passions — travel and residential real estate and design. Managing vacation rental properties since 2003, she has spent countless hours obsessively networking with other vacation rental professionals. Her love for residential architecture and beautiful landscapes has led Maria to collect houses around the globe, including one purchased sight unseen on the Bay of Fundy in Canada. She’s also been lucky to live in some really cool locales – an 18th century carriage house on Beacon Hill in Boston, a medieval castle in Europe, several resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, and a historic Spanish-eclectic Pacific view home in southern California. Maria currently divides her time between an artsy farmhouse in Machiasport, Maine, a quintessential cape house on Cape Cod and a beach cottage in tiny Phinney Cove, Nova Scotia. Oh, and her, oh-so-chaotic, home life consists of a musician hubby, two teenagers, four cats, two dogs and a diaper-wearing house-chicken.
My Properties
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Featherbed Island House
United States
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The Frisky Fish Cottage
United States
From From $145 per night

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