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3258 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: May 31, 2013 1:57 PM by momskico RSS
New Member 3 posts since
May 9, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

May 9, 2012 12:20 PM

Unresponsive owners - initial queries and stale calendars

In my latest booking, I've found nearly half of the owners on VRBO and HomeAway to be unresponsive. Many calendars are un-updated, and query emails go totally unanswered. Owners who do not respond immediately should be flagged and eventually removed from the service. Otherwise, searching, already very time consuming, becomes basically a huge waste of time. VRBO and HomeAway now seem seem to be half ghosttown and half useful. After many happy rentals on VRBO, I'm now finding myself looking at other rental sites a lot more.

  • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
    Aug 9, 2011

    Hi  jkalucki,

    I'm an owner who advertises on VRBO for years. I answer within the hour...sometimes within minutes.  But, the reason I'm responding to you is not to apologize on behalf of the owners who did not respond to you!   I represent myself in this response, only.

     

    I have another reason for contacting you.  I have a question for you about your  "search habits":

     

    When you searched, did you send ONE inquiry to many owners in an area using the search feature at the top of the 'home page'?

      • sophie Senior Contributor 970 posts since
        Mar 4, 2011

        jkalucki,

         

        I think you are being a bit unfair to generalize owners on vrbo.  Myself, like anja, respond normally within minutes of an inquiry and am available virtually 24/7 for my renters.

         

        You said: "Owners who do not respond immediately should be flagged and eventually removed from the service."

         

        I would like to point out that I spend hours and hours of my time repsonding to renters who I never hear another word from. Should renters who don't respond to owners be flagged and eventually removed from using the service? Because, believe me, we spend way more time on renters not responding then any renters do on owners who don't repsond. And most probably don't respond to the inquiries because they don't meet the initial criteria on dates or people or it was a blast inquiry.

      • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
        Aug 9, 2011

        Hi again jkalucki,

         

        I feel your frustration for non response...but from the owner's side.

         

        First, I want to say that it's nice and refreshing to hear that you actually "searched" individual properties and did not use the "one email to many owner" which results in what is termed a "bulk" sending...or "blast" sending to dozens of owners simultaneously.

         

        I like hearing that there are still travellers out there that take the time to read our ads and check our calendars.  But, the mass search inquiry feature on the home page is a plague for us, owners, in my opinion!   I think results with a "bulk" mass sending to many owners, in any selected location,  can be a cause of  "poor response results" for the traveller  because those inquiries are "too general" and "unfocused" for many owners to deal with, actually.

         

         

        The "bulk" mass sending is not programmed to filter out calendars that are marked "unavailable"...so when we are "booked" we still get "bulk" inquiries for the nights that we do not have available.   I get that type of inquiry all the time...but I still do answer every single person who inquires  whether I have the dates open or not...simply because of my own work ethic.

         

        So, owners get too many "bulk" inquiries these days from HA-VRBO sites ever since they instituted that "mass / bulk inquiry search feature".  I simply *hate* that feature...and it's the one thing that I would change immediately, if I could.  I would abolish it.  I prefer the days when travellers had to choose a location and scroll the list to read our 'headlines" and then our crafted descriptions ...before they sent the inquiry to us.  So, the "bulk" inquiry is one reality we have to deal with.

         

        What  'sophie'  stated is absolutely true for the owners. We have to deal with a few realities with the "new" VRBO since HA purchased it.   Many owners  feel "underserved" often by HA-VRBO for the high  premiums we pay annually.  Many owners responsibly answer inquiries right away...and we work on customizing offers for so many travellers who contact us and express interest....we send them every answer to every question...we stretch ourselves to respond with "tips" and activity recommendations they ask for because they are so interested in our rental  {when we are really only obliged to offer info on accommodations...but we want to help them}....and then we never hear from them again.   Travellers do not bother to respond all too often.....it's too common that we "work" to make the offers...and they just do not respond.  It's time consuming for us to do this, over and over, and get no response...from so many travellers who seem so eager to hear what we have to offer.  So, I feel your frustration  but from the owner side.

         

        The response rate for owners is dismal as we deal with dozens of email inquiries via VRBO and the other ad portals we advertise on.  Why?  Travellers send several inquiries to compare properties, locations, prices.....which I can understand....but I do not think I ever had a traveller "get back to me" to say they booked elsewhere and would not be accepting my offer....they just do not respond when they are "fielding" other offers from other owners....and if they book elsewhere.. .I never get a message stating they did. Often, we are waiting for an  answer from the traveller...and we send them a reminder about our "offer they requested"...and even so we don't hear back from the traveller.  Why?  Do you have the answer for this?

         

         

        So, how do we fix the system to "weed" out all the travellers who request our offers, express interest...play us along ....keep us hanging with interest for the booking....and then they never contact us again....no booking...no short message stating "No thank you" ? Believe me...this is not a "one off"....this is very, very common for owners to send offers into the abyss of non response.

         

        So, I do feel your fustration ...but from the owner's side. It happens to us both --- both the traveller and the  owner get "no response", it  seems.   I have already, at least once, tried  to tell HA-VRBO on this forum that both of their "customers" are being negatively affected by their "bulk" inquiry system. But, they respond that "travellers" like sending one inquiry to many owners, simultaneiously. It's easier for the traveller to do this ...to "search once and reach many owners".  Such is our reality.

         

        I pay almost $1000 a year for my listing on VRBO...for my one property.  Other owners are more fortunate than I with having more than one property.... so their HA-VRBO member fees run into the thousands, multiple thousands of dollars.   So, no --- I do not agree with your charge of throwing owners off the site.

        We pay to use the site....you do not.  But, I do agree with you that something is wrong...something is not functioning as it should.  I think the reason goes beyond a "few lazy owners" who do not update their calendars or care to answer some inquiries.

         

        We should  not be thrown off the site  if we do not respond  to inquiries...sorry...especially since it is the "inquiry system" created by HA-VRBO that I believe, and many other owners believe is flawed.   In fact, some  owners have been asking HA-VRBO managment to help create a better response rate that, I believe, would serve both travellers and owners better... for each and every inquiry by changing "the inquiry search" system.  HA-VRBO is tinkering with the inquiry system all the time, adding "search features" to narrow the searches. But, that "bulk" feature is still there.   I believe that "bulk" inquiry system is a failure. It is affecting both the traveller and the owner - negatively  in my opinion....too often causing a low response rate...and non response.   My property has been listed on VRBO since 2001 ...way before HA purchased VRBO and changed it...reprogrammed all  the inner workings. So, I've experienced the "evolution" to what it is today.  Not all good -  these new developments HA mandated.   The results are staggering in fewer targeted inquiries ... but an increase in "untargeted" inquiries via the "bulk" inquiry search system from the home page.

         

        Why are many calendars not up to date?  Could be because many properties handled by property management agents who intentionally leave the calendars "blank" ....because they  have more than one property for rent...so they leave the calendar blank to instigate interest....so they can promote more than one property [more than one unit]  with only one HA-VRBO account.  The calendar only reflects a single rental....one listing per property is permitted...so only one calendar.

        And, some owners who have more than one home to rent ...but only one HA-VRBO account...do the same {because maybe they can't afford to pay another high premium for a second listing for another rental they may have}. It has become very, very expensive to advertise on HA-VRBO sites.  That is our reality.  You, the traveller, uses the system for FREE....we, the owners are trying to work with it and  all it's mandated features and security issues ....as we pay thousands of dollars.   Free-using travellers should not, in  my opinion, charge that owners should be thrown off if they choose not to respond  to an inquiry.....if they are not interested in the reservation.  What travellers need to understand is that owners "choose" who to rent to....we do not accep all requests....we pick and choose who we want to rent to and it based purely on "specifics"....on criteria we have.  You said only half responded to you...well, it's a numbers game!  Not everyone will respond. The reasons could be many they are not interested:  the size of your party, the number of nights...even the tone of your inquiry ....a wrong choice of words could have the wrong impact on the receiving end  {believe me...I've had down-right rude inquiries} ...these.are only a few reasons they may not be inclined to respond.  Believe me, if they wanted the reservation they would let you know.  You should  not be offended if 4 out of 8 owners did not answser your inquiry ...,it's not personal....its' business!

         

        There are also owners who are just not good at keeping their calendars up to date....for no special reason.

         

        I'm not making excuses for anyone.  But, so many owners hold full-time jobs, have families, pressing responsiblities while they also have a rental they self manage.  That is another reality.

         

        Vacation rental by owner means that --- private owners. Many do this 100% self managed.  I do.   I do not have any hired staff to help. I wear all the hats with my husband for my small rental business. But, I can control everything and keep on top of calendar, inquiries, offers, bookings,  payments, maintenance, cleanings, ...accounting...  and servicing 'on call' for  my guests when they are here.  Not every owner can do this...many live far from their properties...many rely on property managers to "answer inquiries", make the offers, book, and the rest.

         

        So, owners are not all the same, we do not all have the same resources and limitiations. We are all different but we are all dealing with the same "ups and downs".

        Some of us are well organized....some are just not!  We're all individuals.

         

        So, please do not generalize about owners.  Please do not hold "all owners" accountable for the very few that you sent an inquiry to in your recent attempt.

         

        I would go as far as saying that you should not hold HA-VRO accountable for the "non-responsive" owners.  If you cease using them to find future rentals, you only hurt the thousands of owners like myself and sophie who are diligent ....we strive to help everyone.  Many of us do.  I know this...it's clear from the other Owner Members on this Community.

         

        Please do not hold all owners accountable, by generalizing, for the failures of a few owners you've experienced recently.

  • momskico Contributor 31 posts since
    Jul 24, 2012

    While it isn't polite or good business to not respond, there are a few more things that can cause a homeowner to not respond quickly.  Anja and Sonjia were spot on in their response from the owner's point of view.

     

    Our property is listed as sleeping 8 and there is a minimum stay of 5 nights during holiday weeks. We will already be booked for the dates for months and have them blacked out on our calendar, yet get hammered with people requesting our home for 2 nights  (too short a stay) for twelve people (4 more than we sleep). While I still try to answer everyone in a timely fashion, if I have 20 inquiries in a day for rentals that are obviously outside our minimum stay requirements, calendar availability and/or group size, they will be the last inquiries I respond to as I need to respond to my genuine possible rentals first. This always happens as Christmas, New Year's, Forth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, President's Day, Martin Luther King Day and Thanksgiving and Spring Break roll around.

     

    Also, if the inquiry says "give me your best offer" or "our budget is $2,000  and we would like to rent your home" when the listed rate would be $2,765, I am not going to get back to them first.  On  the few occassions we have taken one of those bargain hunters, they have been the disaster renters that pile in extra people and treat the home with zero respect.  So we don't do that anymore.

     

    Right sized properties are another issue that comes up a lot.  There may only be 2 adults in someone's party, but I don't need to reduce the rental fee of my 4 bedroom home to compete with the prices of their one bedroom needs. Plus, the old "there are only 2 of us" ploy is usually just that and neighbors will report a party of 8 rolling in. Owner's don't have to get burned too many times before we learn some valuable lessons.

     

    That said, I think there must be a lot of folks that don't respond quickly based on all the "thank you for responding so fast" comments I receive.  Owners and their property managers should take it to heart and it is good to have a reminder from the renter's point of view.  I am sorry you had a bad experience.

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