By Bob Carden June 3 at 7:58 PM, the online vacation rental site, has riled customers with a change in practices that some say has made the getaways of their renters more expensive.

At issue is a new “service fee” that HomeAway imposed in February on renters who book through the company’s site. The move has infuriated property owners, some of whom pay HomeAway thousands of dollars each year to list on the site. They say HomeAway, which owns and, is using its market power to hit renters with excessive fees.

“I was blindsided by the fees,” says Ivan Arnold, a Los Angeles-based investor who lists five homes on Arnold is the lead plaintiff is a class-action lawsuit filed against HomeAway in March, claiming fraud and breach of contract. Arnold claims the service fee has “had a devastating effect on inquiries and bookings. We already pay them to list; they shouldn’t go after our renters as well.”

Arnold paid $1,848 as a subscription fee to list one of his properties on the site for 12 months, according to court documents.

The booking fees came after a change in ownership late last year when travel giant Expedia bought HomeAway for $3.9 billion, a move that positioned the company to compete more aggressively with Airbnb, another short-term lodging website.

The new owner added the booking charge, levied on all renters of HomeAway sites. The fee is 5 to 9 percent of the rental cost and can add hundreds of dollars onto the price of a vacation rental. Some renters have balked.

By April, the backlash over the fees had hit HomeAway headquarters in Austin, Tex. Tom Hale, chief operating officer, left the company after slightly more than a year in the job. He had become the public face of change, and homeowners had focused their anger on him.

“We appreciate his contributions over the years,” a company spokesman said, declining to comment further on his departure.

HomeAway vigorously defends the fees and plans to use most of the money for marketing, says Jordan Hoefar, corporate communications manager for HomeAway. He adds that booking on HomeAway’s system is safe and secure and should give travelers peace of mind.

“Our book-with-confidence guarantee protects travelers against fraud, double bookings,” Hoefar says. “We guarantee the vacation experience.”

Controlling the process

Its critics say HomeAway is trying to limit owner-renter interaction in order to control the entire rental process.

“I have seen a dramatic drop-off in bookings,” says Larry Grossmann, a Missouri investor who owns four condos in Gulf Shores, Ala. “Renters are angry with the fees.”

In recent years, two basic revenue models for short-term rental companies have emerged. HomeAway’s rival, Airbnb, allows the homeowner to list a property for free. In exchange, Airbnb controls the booking process and does not permit the homeowner and prospective renter to communicate outside Airbnb until the payment is made. Airbnb takes a percentage of the rental (between 6 and 12 percent) and distributes the rental proceeds to the homeowner once the tenant checks in.

HomeAway’s model has always been the opposite. Homeowners pay a listing fee, and the service has been free to renters, who contact the owners directly. They then agree to a price and can either make the transaction among themselves or use HomeAway’s online booking service. This approach allowed homeowners and renters to get to know each other before committing to rent.

“We like to talk to the [prospective] tenants before we rent,” says Eric Karla, owner of a cabin at Sonora Pass near Yosemite, Calif. “We can vet them. We like to know who is going to be staying in our places. We cannot do that with Airbnb.”

Many homeowners said the original HomeAway model worked well. Homeowners could find tenants at a fraction of what property managers or Realtors charged, and they controlled the whole rental process. It was similar to a nicely designed classified ad site. You post your house, someone sees it, contacts you, rents the house. Clean, simple, profitable for all.

(Full disclosure: I list a property on VRBO and have always been happy with the results. I’ve yet to see a large drop in bookings, though this is not my rental season. I do not use HomeAway’s online payment system and am not a party to the lawsuit.)

Do you have a spare home? Or a villa? Or a condo? Have you ever thought about renting your vacation home? Rent for for short-term can generate an consistent extra income for yourself.


If you want to learn more on how to give an incredible service to your guests and how to maximize the potential income from your property using short term rental you are in the proper place, I recommend you to visit the profitable home rental website, I am sure that it will be a unique learning opportunity for you. I am using that website as my journal for this adventure, for staying focus and motivated and for sharing my experiences and adventure with like minded people. My ultimate goal is give the opportunity to you (my reader) to learn from what I am doing in a pure “paying forward” manner and not repeat my mistakes.


For more information visit Profitable Home Rental

I'm new to the Community from Home Away, but have had many personal homes on Home Away & VRBO for around six years.  Currently, I have one listing.  Today, when I was reviewing my listing from the travelers' perspective I noticed sponsor linksNow these links were not for attractions and tours, as I was expecting.  They were for Bed & Breakfast establishments, lodges, hotel/motel and even some private homes not on Home Away or VRBO.  All had active web links which would take one of our potential clients to another site.

I don't know about any of you, but this really irked me.  I pay this company to represent me online, not to provide suggestions of other places to stay and take one of my potential clients from the site I'm paying to represent me.  I wouldn't have minded if the links were for tours in the area.  I'm in the California wine country, which provides many types of tours that do not include lodging.

Last year, Home Away and VRBO did a push in my area to get more homes listed.  They were quite successful and rather thrilled with themselves.  When I called, in February, to inquire about the decrease in my inquiries, about 50%, I was told about the marketing drive.  So the successful campaign flooded the market and reduced occupancy across the board.  My sales are down about $15,000.00, to date. I think the loss would have been more if I hadn't reduced my rates, paid VRBO for a more expensive membership and sign up for Book It Now, all to get my listing to rank higher on the page.

And now, I see this, which maybe I've over looked for years, but I think selling advertising for lodging on a site we are paying to sell OUR location is in direct violation of what we are paying for.  Am I the only one with this opinion?  I feel we should ban together and object.  They aren't giving that advertising away, they're making money.  Our costs have not been adjusted. 

My background is in hotel management and ownership, average size 200-300 rooms.  I understand how this business works.  I've been in cities where the Convention Authority and City Council kept approving hotels and adding rooms to the detriment of occupancy overall, but advertising for someone to go someplace else is a new one.

I would love to receive some feedback on this.  I know I've been long-winded and for that I apologize, but thank you for sticking with me to the end.  If anyone has suggestions on how I should or could proceed with my complaint, I would so appreciate the information.

Thank you for your time.

Eileen Ferrari


Rank and Subscription Levels

Posted by paprika Sep 13, 2014

I plan to also lower my subscription level when my renewal comes due in several months.


When I renewed my two subscriptions a little less than a year ago, I  was curious as to how the various subscription levels would play out relative to my inquiries. I rent two virtually identical condos located (side by side) on the same resort property site which is situated on a beach with a total of 122 VRBO listings.


For Condo A, I chose the highest level (Platinum at $999), and for the second, Condo B, I subscribed at the lowest level (Classic at $349).  For the area of the island where our rentals are located, those subscriptions placed Condo A at position #4 and Condo B at position #116 on the front page listings.


After 10 months I have received almost the identical number of inquiries for BOTH condos!! Our separate "Inquiry Performance" graphs look very, very similar!


Discounting all other variables and based on this fact alone, I find Homeaway/VRBO's claim that "Platinum subscribers average 121%* more inquiries than Classic" to be something close to pure fiction! The more accurate claim based on my experiment lies closer to "Platinum subscribers average 20% more inquiries than Classic!" Looks like I'll be saving $650 at renewal time as I will list both condos at the "Classic" level. Getting the actual bookings will still be left up to me!




* Maybe it's a personal bias of mine, but I find it curious and questionable when any statistics appear TOO exact when we KNOW we are not dealing with an exact science of such calculations.  I already know the numbers are skewed (i.e., made up?), so why not just go ahead and round up or down?

"Platinum subscribers average 121% more inquiries than Classic. (How about just 120%?)

"Gold subscribers average 74% more inquiries than Classic."  (75% is close enough.)

"Silver subscribers average 39% more inquiries than Classic."  (40% will work.)

"Bronze subscribers average 23% more inquiries than Classic."  (How about just 25%?)

Read all about it at and at


Were you able to set it up for yourself??


It won't let me setup mine yet, but I will blog more when I find out more.

There is a fight brewing.


Cities in Colorado and the state of North Carolina are trying to go after VRBOs to get tax revenue.  HomeAway is fighting back to protect its VRBOs from paying fines, back-taxes ... and probably even stay open as a VRBO.  I bet more states and towns will get involved Read On:


Austin-based HomeAway sues North Carolina in dispute over customer data


Vacation rental website claims Colorado towns' tax hunt is illegal


Next will be AirBnB with all of its unauthorized Mom & Pops renting their sofa's and spare rooms.  The big guys of course support this... if you are a hotel or a vacation rental manager paying your taxes and abiding by local and state regulations, why wouldn't you want the small guys to abide by the same rules??

Yesterday, Google released a new tool called Go Mo to see how your website looks in a mobile phone.


If you have been following Google at all, they have been raising a pretty big public squawk about the importance of mobile. 


The Google speaker at VRMA shared this year:



  • 1/2 of Americans will have smartphones by end of year
  • 29.7M mobile travel researches by 2012 in US
  • 74% increase in Mobile bookers from 2010-2012 estimated
  • 19.5% of queries in Google are on a mobile phone in the hotel and accommodations category (BlizzardTracker data shows that at 11%)
    • 377% of year-over-year increase in query volume
    • 844% in year-over-year increase in click volume
    • Vacation Rental specifically had an increase 2X the volume increase for general travel.
  • 9 out of 10 searchers have taken action as a result of a smartphone search


Here are some additional bits:


VRM Data from September shows Mobile is 10% of traffic


Huge Growth in Mobile traffic from 4% to 10% over last 12 months


Keyword Research Tool for Mobile


Mobile click-throughs higher and conversion lower


Mobile Users have a tonite and tomorrow booking window


A whole slew of mobile data for travel and tourism industry

An interesting article at Travolution suggested the travel industry losing 2B  a year in poor site design... wouldn't it be more accurate to see the "loss" as business shifting to a BETTER travel website or moving to the phone instead of an online booking?


I wish I could prove how much business the vacation rental and hotel industry loses due to design and usability issues... Blizzard just completed an A/B test on a quick search widget (top right of homepage vs lower on homepage) and a visitor was 11.4% more likely to search inventory when the quick search was at top.  Hopefully that is 11.4% more customers who don't leak out to a competitor's website!


We used Google Website Optimizer to do the testing which achieved a certaintly level of 99.2% over about 30 days of testing.

The early iterations of Google Plus are interesting to watch, but Google Plus is still only a curiosity from a business standpoint.  Not only is there not a business offering, Google has warned businesses not to setup a Google+ account for your business.

Officially, Blizzard recommends you wait a bit longer on Google+… but read on for more specific instructions.


That said, it is easy to imagine how a business could use the existing functionality to build a business page and create a circle of “friends” and clients to communicate with.  Right off the bat the Hangouts feature is a promising business tool.  Blizzard tested Hangouts this morning with a video conference call and it worked great.  It was an easy tool for a bunch of Blizzard employees and clients to get together at an appointed time and have a discussion.  Hangouts allowed just audio or audio + video.  Additionally, any user can share their screen.  Hangouts is limited to 10 people AND the organizer of the conference can’t control it. In this sense, GoToMeeting is a much better option for a more push-type presentation.  Here is a short video from Google:


We recommend that you:

  1. Get a GooglePlus (or Google+ if you prefer, I use them interchangeably) account for your personal business just to acquaint yourself with how it works.  Read Google + for Newbies if you want some great tips.
  2. Try the “Hangout” feature to see if you like it for business meetings with remote colleagues.
  3. Add the +1 button to your website, parallel to the “LIKE” button so early +1 users can start using it. Click here for directions on adding the +1 button to your website.
  4. Watch for the Google Plus business offering.

Google has released a first-glance at its new Google Plus Business Page with a demo by Ford Motors:

Hopefully, pages like this will be made available to all business soon!  Of course, it will be one more thing your social media and SEO marketing team will have to deal with. Sigh.

The “new” version of Google Analytics has several new reports that are worth studying.   One report I like is the “site speed” report which is newly available in Google Analytics… it simply tells you how fast your website loads on average and also breaks down specific pages for analysis.

In order to make this new feature work you have to add a snippet of code to your tracking scripts: “_gaq.push(['_trackPageLoadTime']);”  You can read all about how site speed works and how to add the tracking script on the Google Analytics Blog.

The other 90 second improvement I made to my Google Analytics reporting was to integrate it with my existing Google Webmaster Tools account.

Both these steps are worth the few seconds required!

Here is a link to 10 links that could help any vacation rental manager.  The will drive qualified traffic and/or help you get better Page Rank in Google (hopefully)

Keyword Research Tools

Posted by trent.blizzard Oct 28, 2011

Lee Odden over at the TopRank Online marketing blog shared 10 tools for alternative keyword research.


These are extra tools to perform keyword research in specific niches:


  • Mobile: Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool offers several filtering options for mobile: All Mobile Devices, Mobile WAP Devices, Mobile Devices with Full Internet Browsers.
  • News: Übersuggest provides a useful service by collecting the auto-suggested search words provided by Google News as you type.
  • Video: YouTube Promoted Video Keyword Research Tool provides insights into what users are searching for on YouTube with options to source your suggestions from keywords, another YouTube video or a diverse array of demographic information.
  • Social Media: socialmention is a general social media search engine that provides a downloadable list of keywords that most often occur in conjunction with whatever it is that you search on.
  • Image: Google Insights for Search using the Images filter, provides  ”top searches” and “rising searches” relevant to your query.


A few great ideas here.

Advanced SEO Video

Posted by trent.blizzard Oct 28, 2011

This is a video recording of an Advanced SEO class taught at the Vacation Rental Manager's Association annual conference in Orlando on October 11th, 2011.


IF you cannot watch it in this post, here is a direct link to the video and Powerpoint slideshow.




Funny Video from Google

Posted by trent.blizzard Oct 28, 2011

This video reminds me of some of the problems of booking a vacation rental (direct link if you cannot watch on this page):

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