Many people are surprised to learn that there is an alternative to Airbnb in the world of renting out your home. They are even more surprised to learn that it has actually been around 10 years longer than Airbnb.
We’re, of course, talking about Vrbo. Vrbo, along with the UK version of itself, HomeAway, has been around since 1995.
So why haven’t you heard of them or used Vrbo before either as a host/guest? That’s more to do with the effectiveness of Airbnb as an industry disruptor than any real fault on Vrbo’s part.
And it’s much more popular than you realize. There are over 2 million Vrbo properties around the world.
So, is it worth listing your place on Vrbo instead of Airbnb? Find out in this ultimate Vrbo review.
Table of Contents
What Is Vrbo?
Vrbo stands for “vacation rental by owner.” It grew from one man’s idea to list out his ski resort condo in 1995 to become a fairly large platform. The original Vrbo was bought by HomeAway in 2006.
Then in 2015, Expedia Group (which also includes Hotels.com, Travelocity, and other names you’d recognize) bought HomeAway and rebranded it to Vrbo.
Vrbo originally began with a subscription model where homeowners paid a set fee to list their homes on the website. Now Vrbo offers both this option and a per rental fee arrangement.
If you’ve had experience with Airbnb, then Vrbo will feel familiar. You can get started with their calculator to see just how much you can earn from rental.
Vrbo bases this number off the 10% of rental earnings in a given area. It may be a touch aspirational, but it does give you something to shoot for.
Below is an example of earnings from a neighborhood in London.
Once you confirm your email address. You can begin setting up your listing. Vrbo lays out all the steps for you. It’s super straightforward and includes things you’d expect, like location, description, local laws, and everything else you need to help your place perform well on the platform.
Vrbo has a dual pricing structure. You can either pay the annual subscription fee of $499 or charge on a rental basis.
If you choose later, Vrbo will collect 5% of each booking plus a 3% transaction fee. For example, if someone books your place for a 2-night, $100 stay, then Vrbo will automatically deduct $8, and you’ll receive $92.
The majority of Vrbo owners pay the annual subscription fee, but you’ll need to do the math to find the find best option for you. If you can earn more than $6,238 per year from your rental, then go with the subscription. If less, then the per-rental fee structure may be a better option for you.
Vrbo Guest Profile
It’s very easy to quickly shrug off Vrbo and just go with Airbnb instead. But there is a reason why they have 14 million users and properties in 190 countries worldwide.
Many tourists prefer Vrbo because they tend to have large inventories on properties in popular getaways. Vrbo also generally targets families, older audiences, and people who don’t mind paying the full price to get a large comfortable space.
This is why we do recommend it as an option for people with larger homes, especially in tourist hotspots. You’re also less likely to get the kinds of people looking for you to haggle on your price.
Anybody who’s used Airbnb (or any sharing platform like Uber or Upwork) knows just how important reviews are to your bottom line. Unlike Airbnb, where a guest has 14-days to leave a review, Vrbo’s gives up to one year after a stay for either a host or guest to initiate a review.
Once this happens, the other party has 14-days to leave a review. Similar to Airbnb, guests use a five-star rating system, and their reviews are crucial for other users.
The only real difference is that host responses can be clearly seen in the review section just in case you have a bad review and need to give them your side of the story.
How To Make Money As A Vrbo Host
Whether you opt for Vrbo, Airbnb, or anywhere else, turning a profit is really all on you. All of these platforms really do is give you a place to showcase your rental to a larger audience. They provide a few other services like messaging, payment protection, and insurance but making money is up to you.
To start, you need high-quality photos. There is no excuse for poorly lit, grainy images. This is doubly true if you are renting out your $1 million condo for $10,000/night.
You need a lot of photos. Even smaller listings will have 20+ photos so people can really get a good idea about whether they want to stay there or not. If you don’t have a fancy camera or brand-new iPhone, find someone on TaskRabbit to shoot for you. It doesn’t have to be art, just quality.
Likewise, descriptions are essential. People love amenities. That includes big-ticket items like pool and gym access down to whether you have an iron for them. Be descriptive.
Price is also essential. Most markets are pretty competitive. While you don’t have to be the cheapest, it should still be affordable. This is particularly true when you’re first getting started on the platform and haven’t built up a good selection of reviews.
Finally, you’ll have to consider it a little bit like a second job. Be ready to respond quickly to messages. Play around with prices to keep your place constantly full and strive to be a good host.
If you do all these things, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a Vrbo (or Airbnb) property empire.
Who Should Use Vrbo?
Vrbo is a good fit for any part in a true vacation rental market (hence the name Vacation Rental by Owner). This is definitely the niche for most users searching for properties on the site.
While there’s wrong with featuring an apartment in the city on Vrbo’s, you’ll likely have better results renting it out on Airbnb.
If you’re a seasoned host and know how to effectively market your place regardless of where it is, then Vrbo can be a very lucrative platform.
Is Being A Vrbo Host Worth It?
Yes and no. The per-rental fee is quite high, especially compared to Airbnb, which is just 3%. Everything boils down to whether you can beat that magic $6,298 number we mentioned before.
If you can bring in $10,000 annually, then Vrbo is a great option. But if you can’t, you’ll be better off with Airbnb instead.
Ultimately, it boils to the market you’re in and how well you manage your listing. And don’t forget there always may be unforeseen circumstances that shut down travel, so have a backup plan always in mind.
- Connect your listing to 14 million+ users
- Easy to create a listing
- Insurance coverage
- Annual subscription is a great deal for high-income rentals
- Good fit for vacation listings
- Strong customer support and resolution teams
- Solid community of hosts
- Flexible cancellations policies
- Different pricing models for hosts
- Listing get connected to HomeAway and Vrbo properties
- Caters to family and older guest who tend to have more money
- Per-rental fees are on the higher side
- Not as large as user base as Airbnb
- Fairly limited selection of rental property types
Airbnb Host vs. Vrbo Host
First and foremost, they are not mutually exclusive. Like how people can drive for both Uber and Lyft, nothing is stopping you from using both to market your place.
In fact, when you start coming across successful Vrbo hosts, you’ll find they take advantage of all the resources available. For example, they might also use Craigslist, Facebook groups, and other travel platforms alongside Vrbo or Airbnb.
This is the advantage of keeping a per-rental fee for Vrbo. You can list on both, and if somebody books with Vrbo, you’ll eat a higher fee, but doesn’t that beat having your place sit empty?
Likewise, it’s the same effort to onboard yourself with photos and descriptions for both platforms. So, you might as well try them both out. If you have to decide, later on, you can then go with whichever one brings you the most profit.
Vrbo: The Bottom Line
While Vrbo’s may not be as popular as Airbnb, it is a solid platform and a good fit, particularly those with vacation rental properties. With its flexible pricing model, it’s also easy to try out and see how well it works for you before committing.
Ultimately, regardless of whether you opt for Vrbo, Airbnb, or another platform, how much money you make is mostly based on how much effort you put in.