Airbnb and VRBO are among the top platforms to list your short-term vacation rentals but which reigns supreme? What are the key differences between these websites that makes hosting different? Each site has a variety of differences that make them a unique albeit similar sales channel. Within this article we will explore differences in audience, fees, policies, and an more in the battle of Airbnb vs VRBO.
Both Airbnb and VRBO allow you to list entire properties, from cabins and condos to castles and small luxury estates. This creates a false sense that the travelers on these sites are the same, which in many cases is true, however because of unique marketing strategies these sites do have unique target audiences.
The Airbnb guest is looking for a local experience. Together with its Experiences platform, hosts can offer a wide range of experiences, from cooking classes to city tours, which allows Airbnb to cater to a more targeted audience. This compliments their shared space and shared room offerings, that further capture the experience traveler plus the more budget conscious. In addition to experience focused travelers, Airbnb has been very successfully in urban markets and in developing their business traveler market.
Because VRBO prioritizes families and is more often used by an older, more affluent guest, vacationing in large groups. VRBO has more stringent restrictions on what is listed on their site such as not permitting shared spaces. (Shared spaces are where guests may share common areas inside the property with the host or other guests.) Unlike Airbnb that hosts many urban listings, most VRBO listings are found in vacation markets.
Service fees are an important consideration when choosing between platforms. While listing properties is free on both Airbnb and VRBO, service fees are calculated based on the total rental amount (including fees for cleaning, pets, etc). Airbnb charges hosts a commission of 3% per booking though it can be as high as 5% in certain countries and for properties that have Super Strict cancellation policies. Guests pay a service fee of up to 14.2%. Airbnb also offers a host-only fee option where the entire service fee is deducted from you and no service fee is paid by guests. The host-only fee typically ranges from 14-16%.
VRBO offers a per booking option where you pay 5% commission per booking and 3% credit card processing fee (5% in the case of a non-US credit card). Guests pay 6-12% in service fees.
The cancellation policy you chose impacts your business. While more lenient options make bookings more attractive, it also means you lose out on revenue if you can’t find a new booking when a guest cancels at the last minute.
Airbnb offers a wide range of cancellation policies to choose from. Super Strict 60 Days and Super Strict 30 days will see you paid 50% of the reservation amount even if the guest cancels within the stipulated time period. Strict, Moderate and Flexible allows free cancellations or a 50% payment depending on when the guest cancels. Long Term is applied automatically to stays exceeding 27 nights.
VRBO also offers a wide choice including a No Refund policy. Its Strict, Firm and Moderate options allow for free cancellations and for a percentage of the reservation to be paid depending on when the guest cancels. The Relaxed option allows for a free cancellation if it is made at least 14 days before check-in and a payment of 50% of the reservation if made at least 7 days prior.
On Airbnb you can chose from bank transfers, Paypal, Payoneer debit card and Western Union to receive payments. Payments are sent 24 hours after the guest checks in. For longer stays (over 27 nights), Airbnb sends earnings in monthly installments, starting 24 hours from when the guest arrives.
On VRBO you are paid through its secure platform via Visa, Mastercard or American Express processing. Alternativly professional hosts can choose to make credit card charges, via processors such as Stripe or Braintree, securly using an integrated channel mananger.
Getting great reviews is critically important, allowing your listings to rank higher and making them more attractive to guests. On Airbnb, hosts and guests have 14 days after checking out to write their review and they are published only after both parties have submitted theirs or once the 14 days have passed. VRBO gives you and your guests up to one year from the date of a stay to leave a review. However, once a review has been shared, the other party has up to 14 days to submit their review in return.
Both Airbnb and VRBO feature an overall satisfaction rating, but Airbnb breaks the score down into individual aspects such as cleanliness, communication, location, and value. Airbnb also awards hosts who have maintained their accounts in good standing Super Host status which can help increase bookings and revenue. VRBO has their own superior hosting status called Premier Host.
Scruffs and scratches are part and parcel of renting out properties but for guests to cause extensive damage is rare. To protect from the possibility however both Aibnb and VRBO offer damage protection programs.
Airbnb’s Host Guarantee program provides up to $1M in property damage protection in the case your property or belongings are damaged by guests. You can also set a security deposit, between $100 and $5,000.
On VRBO you can choose to set a damage deposit amount which the guest will be responsible for if they cause damage to the property. Completing the House Rules lets guests know the rules on maximum occupancy, smoking, pets, etc and you can even require they sign a legal rental agreement before arriving at your property.
Airbnb offers hosts the option of Smart Pricing which automatically adjusts the nightly rate in response to demand, increasing or decreasing your rates by day of the week, seasonality, and local events to help attract more guests.
On the other hand, listing on VRBO automatically advertises your property on all its affiliated sites including Expedia, KAYAK and CanadaStay which increases your property’s exposure.
Most property owners will benefit from listing on both Airbnb and VRBO because it maximizes the property’s exposure to travelers. As the all-in-one tool for vacation rental property managers, Hostaway allows you to integrate all your listings across channels, prevent double booking and manage guests, cleaning and other tasks.