Summer Vacation Rentals on the internet: AirBnB vs. VRBO

- Whether you’re headed to the mountains or the beach, or even just out-of town, the Internet has totally transformed the vacation rental industry.

Here with INSIDER ADVICE is real estate expert, John Adams:

Q:  John, what's the latest on summer vacation rentals?
A:  Just fifteen years ago, local real estate companies dominated vacation rentals. Each company would publish and mail to you a printed vacation rental guide, then you could call and pick what was available at that time.

Q: Then what happened?
A: The Internet totally DISRUPTED the vacation rental market.

Q:  How did that happen?
A:  In 1995, Dave & Lynn Clouse, created a little website to rent their ski condo, and the site took off like wildfire.  It was called VRBO.com, standing for VACATION RENTAL BY OWNER.  It was actually created before AL GORE invented the Internet.

Q: How did it work?
A:  Anyone owning a vacation home could list it on VRBO.com for a small fee, giving prospective renters pictures and info about the property. At that time, all prospects were simply directed to contact the owners for more info.

Q:  So what happened?
A:  The site met a powerful need in the real estate market.  Prior to that site, most owners listed their homes with local real estate companies. Most of these brokers charged from a third to a half of the total rental as a fee.  With VRBO, there was NO FEE WHATSOEVER once the property was listed on the site, and that was only a small fee, under a hundred dollars.

Q:  Then what happened?
A:  In 2006, the site exploded, adding almost 100 new listings per day. Renters took notice, and owners who listed were rewarded with quality renters at full price with no rental fee. Renters loved it because they were connected directly with owners, rather than dealing with a realty agent.

Q: So, what’s happened since then?
A:  Not surprisingly, Mr. & Mrs. Claus SOLD OUT!  No one know for sure, but they sold to HOMEAWAY.com, probably for many millions of dollars.  VRBO.com continues to be the FLAGSHIP brand for the HomeAway family of websites.

Q: OK, what’s the latest scoop?  
A:  As you can image, HomeAway has boosted prices for listing a property on VRBO to stunning levels, now charging over a thousand dollars a year just for a listing!  Owners are desperate for an alternative.

Q:  So where are we now?
A:  The INTERNET will FIND A WAY.  There is a NEW player on the scene called AIRBnB, who is challenging VRBO on all fronts.

Q:  How does it work?
A:  AIRBnB is a totally different approach to vacation rentals, and they have spread worldwide.  Launching in 2008, two roommates couldn’t afford their San Francisco apartment. They made their living room into a “BED & BREAKFAST” accommodating 3 guests on air mattresses and providing breakfast. It clicked - BIG TIME!!!

Q: NEXT?
A: By 2011, they announced their ONE MILLIONTH BOOKING, and the website has exploded since then.

Q:  SO what’s your advice for summer vacation rentals?
A: Here are some tips:

  1. Start with VRBO, then move to AIRBnB. Also look at Craigslist for the community you seek.
  2. Carefully examine online reviews for each property. Know that offbeat reviews are likely “blackmail” reviews designed to get refunds and nothing else.
  3. Talk directly to owners and demand lots of photos of the property as it exists right now. Google the street address to see if Google STREET VIEW looks like the property you see in the ads.
  4. Finally, check TRIPADVISOR.com as another source for unbiased reviews and more information about the place you want to visit.

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