Avoid VRBO/HomeAway/AirBnb Service Fees

You don't mind paying a few extra hundred dollars on your next vacation rental, do you? According to HomeAway & VRBO you don't. The brilliant minds at VRBO/Homeaway have actually said "travelers don't mind paying a service fee". We're not sure what reality they are living in!

In January 2016 HomeAway & VRBO were bought out by corporate giant Expedia for 3.9 BILLION dollars. The next month they rolled out a new Service Fee that they are charging to travelers who book through their websites in an effort to be more like Airbnb. While Expedia said originally that the fee will range between 4% and 9%, more recently they've raised the service rates to 6% to 15%. AirBnb has already increased their service fees to 20%. We've heard about internal memos from HomeAway/VRBO stating their end goal is also "a 20% take rate". 20 PERCENT!!! Added for nothing! 

Traveler Confusion

The Service Fee these big companies are charging the travelers is for booking through their sites do not go to the homeonwer. These companies all the money. The homeowner gets none of it. However, they label it simply as “Service Fee” on their site. Understandably, renters are often confused, as they think the homeowner is charging this Service Fee, and are unaware that it is charged by HomeAway/VRBO/Airbnb and the homeowner has no control over it.

In some instances, travelers don't even know they are paying a Service Fee because these sites have gone to great lengths to hide it from plain view or identify that it is their fee. So, if "travelers don't mind paying a service fee", why try to hide it and not own up to it?

When some homeowners have sought to offer clarification in their listings or communications with travelers, HomeAway/VRBO/AirBnb has penalized them and even gone so far as removing rental listings if a listing contains any mention of the fee. Owner communications through their system to travelers on an inquiry are also not allowed to discuss the Service Fee.

Limiting What you See

All of these sites are attempting to hamper any effort for travelers to avoid paying the Service Fee. They hblock owner's telephone numbers from rental listings, so the only way traveler's are able to contact owners is through their sites. As of January 2018 HomeAway/VRBO has completely hidden traveler's and owner's contact information (name, email address, telephone number) from the homeowners and travelers until the traveler books, leaving the only communication possible being through their system to ensure they can collect their extra fees from the traveler. VRBO used to be a great site to use, but everything changed when Expedia bought them out. AirBnb is no better since that is the direction VRBO is heading.

In addition to Blocking contact information, Expedia has also begun hiding listings from view in the sort when Expedia deems that owner to be one who is not playing along with their new "payment structure". What that means to you the traveler is that even though you think you are seeing all of the available properties in a location, there may be hundreds that you will never get a chance to consider for your vacation.

In response, many owners have begun listing their vacation rentals on local and regional sites, creating their own sites, and creating Facebook pages for their properties, in order to be able to book travelers without the traveler having to pay the Service Fee and to engage their potential clients BEFORE requiring any money to change hands. Caring owners want you to have a great vacation and may help you understand that their house or condo may not be exactly what you are looking for. Best to do that freely and openly before the booking.

What Can the Traveler Do?

If you find a vacation rental you like listed on HomeAway, VRBO or Airbnb, don't immediately inquire to the owner or book it on the listing site. Instead, search our regional vacation rental listing sites, where you can email or call the owner freely, and book it without paying the Service Fee. If it is not listed on these sites, contact the owner and tell them to list their rental here so you can book it without paying the Service Fee.