33 Replies Latest reply: Nov 12, 2012 1:31 PM by snowlow RSS

    Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!

    New Member

      We have been renting our vacation home very successfully on VRBO only for 10 years but in the last year or year and a half our bookings have PLUMETTED while tourist visits, sales tax & lodging revenues have all increased in the area!! The VRBO site has changed in the last year or 2 & I'm wondering if anyone else has seen their rentals decline? I'm suspecting that it's the addition of "neighborhoods" as a search criteria. What do others think? We're about ready to give up on VRBO since it's been absorbed by Home Away and booking went from great to aweful.

        • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
          method Contributor

          I've been using both VRBO and homeaway for four years now and it's been steady as ever. Perhaps your right that it's the introduction of neighborhoods, but first; and not to be contentious. But what about the competition? I'm sure in 10 years the prices have changed, are you keeping up to date with the demand and what people are willing to pay?. Maybe you could use some new pictures or some new amenities. First thing i would do is check out the competition that are getting bookings and compare it objectively to yours; If you haven't already that is.

          • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
            terirusso Contributor

            We are in NJ and the high rental season is short, June 15-Labor Day, so most regular renters know that in order to get the best houses at competitive prices, you need to book early. But the past two years I have found that, where I used to be totally booked and then some by late February maybe early March, I now not booked until April. I also used to have the mid seasons of Memorial Day-June 15 and Labor Day-October 1 booked. Now I find that those people who were comming at that time of the year because it was quiet and less expensive are looking to haggle the price even though it is aready less than half of the high season rate.I have lots of friends that also have homes in the same area as ours that are finding the same thing that we have found. I have only raised my rates $150 in the past 5 years, as I think the economy has people looking at how much they are willing to spend.  At the same time-I have put a lot of money into my house in the past two years,   and always update my pictures. 10 years ago when the economy was booming, people were fighting to rent a vacation home. Most homeowners will hold a security deposit toward re rental of the home for the following year if the renter decides they want to do that. The remainder of the deposit is due by November 1 or the home goes back on the market. Well years ago, on November 1 the inquiries started comming in and by December you had half of your season filled. And people would never complain about the condition of the house or haggled the price. It seems that the worse the economy got the more people want for their money.

            • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
              Contributor

              I think that there is a lot more competition to be honest.

               

              The economy has been bad for a lot of folks and vacation renting is becoming more popular and a creative way to get the mortgage paid.

               

              I have also noticed that the ease of the rental system can make all the difference.  People want one click bookings, like they have with a hotel.  I notice the easier I make it for them to rent, the more likely I get the booking.

               

              Maybe consider expanding your advertising market as well.  I get a lot of my rentals from other sites.  HA and flipkey.

              • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                gabriel Active Contributor

                VRBO and Homeaway have been so successful that their offer is probaly growing faster than new clients renting, and they made it very simple for potential renters to inquire multiple properties with one click.

                 

                Unfortunately their prices and upgrade strategies are not in line with effective rentals per property. I hope they revise this and hodl their prices down, otherwise they will invite competition.

                  • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                    New Member

                    I think they're already inviting competition. Their model totally caters to the traveler & NOT (their customer) the home owner. I think that they think that if they take care of the end customer (the traveler) everything will follow. I am fairly certain that their business is going to decline as they have fewer home owners (who pay them) & more travelers (Who don't) There's a website called FlipKey.com that is a better model I believe. VRBO used to work great until Home Away bought them & imposed the Home Away business model on VRBO. Home Away ruined VRBO. If it aint broke, don't fix it.

                  • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                    swiss-house Contributor

                    HomeAway owns three different VRBO type sites now:

                    VRBO.com

                    HomeAway.com

                    VacationRentals.com

                     

                    All three are identical in purpose, although the interface for each is a bit different.  I personally like HomeAway best.

                     

                    But what cheeses me off is that all three sites effectively compete against each other, and as a homeowner, I have to pay for separate (although they can be linked) accounts.  So if I have a listing on HomeAway.com, the same company that I'm paying to list me is also drawing search engine traffic away from my listing in my town with its VRBO and VacationRentals pages for those towns.  To get coverage, I have to buy listings on the other two services just to keep my own listing agency from drawing traffic from my listing.  And, if they buy another VRBO type site and build up its traffic (effectively drawing seach engine placement from VRBO, HomeAway, and Vacation Rentals), I'll have to buy a listing on that 4th one too just to keep pace. 

                     

                    Don't get me wrong, the HomeAway products are great for generating sales.  I can keep my place rented just about every weekend.  But it's just not right that they compete against themselves in such a way that forces listers to keep adding on accounts with their sister companies. 

                      • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                        anja Senior Contributor

                        I also noticed a huge decline in the bookings via VRBO.  I could not understand why until I recently learned what VRBO is doing.  First, I've used VRBO since 2003...loved it for years...but this year is the absolute worst result.  I have 16 photos and am the first in the list in my area because my property has the lowest member number. But, this year the *bookings* plummetted dramatically from inquiries via VRBO....not so with other portals where  I advertise so the problem is with VRBO's new policy,  in my opinion. I think the reason for VRBO's poor results is the very fact that now there is a "managed response" system to every inquiry. Try this:   send yourselves a {false}  inquiry from your own VRBO ad.  Just fill in the reply form on your property page.   When you receive the {your} false inquiry, you will notice that VRBO actually invites {you, the inquirer} to look at OTHER properties in your area!!!   So, before you even get a chance to answer the inquirer, the person is being presented with all the other properties to look at in your area.  I counted 10 other properties that VRBO was presenting to "my inquirer".  VRBO/HA have been very clever marketers for themselves...and very deceptive towards us, the Owners, who pay for website space to promote OUR PROPERTY.  If I knew this before I paid for their very expensive photos (16 of them) to be higher placed on the list in my area, I would never have invested so much money for the ad.  It's utterly useless because VRBO is now leading all my inquirers interested in hearing from me to look my competition in my area....when the person was contacting me about my property!   I work from home and always respond to inquiries within minutes of getting them.....so it's not my slow action....not my ad's position on the page....not the number of photos it has.  If I do renew at all, next time, I'm going back down to the lowert number of photos permitted [5] because my property will be "presented" anyway within everyone else's inquiries for my area!  But, I will not renew at all....if I do not get at least a few bookings that will cover the cost of the expensive VRBO listing.

                          • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                            terirusso Contributor


                            anja, I just tried this and every other listing in my area came up with a line that said "consider looking at these listings too". I intend to contact them today and cancel my listing with VRBO. I am sure I can find some other way to waste my money. I just looked back at my emails for inquiries and discovered that 99% of them are comming from HomeAway and other websites anyway. When I first started using VRBO I think it cost me about $375 a year. This year's subscription was over $600. Wish I got that much of a pay increase in 5 years.

                              • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                anja Senior Contributor

                                Terirsso, another way that VRBO might be affecting a lower performance for Owners is by giving the "traveler" the possibility to send ONE "general" email inquiry to MANY Owners, simutaneously.   The traveler does NOT even have to read our headlines, or our ads, our rates or even check our calendars. They just shoot out an email with dates they seek....and it hits us ... plus all of our competition.  We, Owners, scramble to answer the "untargeted" request....{if we have an opening} and thus the traveler gets potentiallyh an inbox full of MANY offers...and we Owners have less of a chance to achieve the booking....we're lucky if we get a response at all to the offer we send.  I have experienced a dramatic drop in VRBO performance since I started using it in 2003. If you read the "Traveler Community" here, you will realize that the Travelers are not happy either although it is clear that VRBO is clearly focusing on how to serve the traveler and seemingly cares nothing about the affects their policy is having on Owners.  The "bulk" email sendng is not all that it's cracked up to be...not for the Owners.

                              • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                marym Active Contributor

                                You know what's even funnier?  I just got this note from VRBO telling me about my "statistics"...How many inquiries I've had in the past X months, and how I could IMPROVE my performance - by using their reservation manager, their responses, their payment system, making my home handicapped accessible, etc., etc.   I really think it's pretty disingenuous to tell me that the higher up my listing is (i.e., MORE photos - translate: more expensive!), the more business I'll get, and then go and promote other properties when an inquiry is made to me. Unbelieveable!!

                                  • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                    anja Senior Contributor

                                    That's the problem....you nailed it marym....that is exactly how VRBO has managed to manipulate Owners into spending more money on "features" to help us  like their expensive images ....while it really does not matter whether you have 5 or 16, in the end.  Our properties, in any given area,  will be "presented" to every respective inquirer, regardless of "improvements" we let ourselves be manipulated to pay dearly for.

                                      • Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                        terirusso Contributor

                                        I spoke to VRBO this morning, and the gentleman I talked to knew nothing about the way the website worked. Should that suprise me? He was going to send the information off the the "technical" dept. I told him it was not a technical "problem, but a management problem. Anyway, when I told him I was considering canceling my account, or taking some pictures off at the very least to reduce my payment, I kind of got the impression that I would not be getting a refund. I will keep you posted. They are supposed to get back to me in a few days.

                                    • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                      New Member

                                      Anja...I did exactly as you indicated and truly believe these changes by VRBO are causing me problems in bookings for this year. Since January, I've had 17 inquiries and not one booking. I'm also on Home Away and received 15 inquiries there, with no solid bookings. For the past 9 years, I've had a successful summer rental season. I'm questioning if that will be the case for 2012.

                                       

                                      Also, I wrote and complained to VRBO about their new tactics and they told me that my listing would be included when someone sends an inquiry for another rental property in my area. So, I had a friend send out 50 inquiries to see if my property came up on any of these inquiries. Because I have paid dearly to be at the top of my listing for my area, my rental property never shows up in those 10 other possibilities. That tells me that it's better to be in a lower tier to have your property be part of those other possibilities. When my renewal comes up in May, I'm dropping to the lowest tier. I'm not paying VRBO's high prices ever again!

                                  • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                    New Member

                                    I am really irritated at the fact that one company ownes all these sites therefore competing with each other.

                                        I am paying for 3 of these sites now and refuse to rejoin VRBO because their prices have skyrocketed.  Ultimately we are forced to join the other sites they own because most other people have. They could come up with even more names and more sites. I think we should open our own site. I have listed free on Craig's list and E-bay with fairly good success. What stops these people from opening up even more sites with different names and we sll go broke trying to join those also. I know they came out with their IPO about 2 months ago and I saw the CEO interviewed on Bloomberg. My grcious did you hear how much money they are making. Maybe we should sell our houses and buy the stock. Anyway I am for Flip Key now and am doing well with them.  Leslie,   Fort Lauderdale, Florida

                                    • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                      Contributor

                                      Go to forums, then customer support, then VRBO.  Check out the discussion "VRBO, not what it used to be.

                                      There are reasons we are not getting good inquiries!

                                      • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                        susaninrehoboth Senior Contributor

                                        I'm going to list on Flipkey and compare bookings-not inquiries. I just checked about renting a condo in the FL panhandle. When I viewed the calendar, there was an ad for Westin hotels. Really, VRBO, it is just idiotic to have an ad for a potential competitor on a listing's calendar. In the long run, I think VRBO will lose more revenue becasue of owners canceling their listings than they get from these ads.

                                        • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                          lrbaldwin Active Contributor

                                          No serious inquiries in the past 2 months.  We've had only 3 bookings from VRBO for 2012, and two were in August, one in early October.  NOTHING SINCE!  Is it coincidental that every time a prospective renter sends an inquiry they get a list of OTHER RENTALS similar to mine in the same area?  This is TERRIBLE.  VRBO, please stop that practice!!!

                                           

                                          ChatterboxToo in Duck, NC

                                          • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                            New Member

                                            I've been with VRBO since the first year they opened the website. When they sold it to Home Away, things changed drastically. I don't mind price increases if it helps the owner. But, these new changes only hurt us. I sent myself an inquiry and found they are offering 10 other properties similar to mine as an alternative. For years, I've paid top dollar for their advertising. Now, I will pay minimum and use the balance of that money to advertise elsewhere. Why pay them good money, so they can steer potential rentals away from my property. That is just the most absurd thing that I've ever encountered.

                                            • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                              gabriel Active Contributor

                                              I am advertizing my property with VRBO and other sites, some free, others charge some and VRBO & Homeaway the most expensive fixed fees.

                                               

                                              My experience is that VRBO is still the highest inquiry generator, but not the highest money generator, less than 5% of the VRBO inquiries turn into a rental whereas another site gives me closer to 20%, that is a big difference in the amount of effort we have to put in to respond versus the return.

                                               

                                              VRBO must review its inquiry process to make sure a casual guest does not send 20 or more inquiries and wastes everyone's time.

                                              • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                New Member

                                                Here's something an owner wouldn't know unless they send themselves an inquiry. VRBO sends a separate email called a Rental Inquiry Confirmation and it HIGHLY SUGGESTS that the inquirer should use their Reservation Manager for payments. Also, they tell the inquirer to use a credit card or PayPal, if possible, so the inquirer can do a "charge back" if there are problems with the reservation. VRBO tells the inquirer that if they use their instructions for payment, their payment will be guaranteed $1,000. through VRBO.

                                                 

                                                I will never use VRBO's Reservation Manager and would never accept credit cards, PayPal or wire transfers. I have a solid contract and expect payment 60 days in advance by personal check. This is what I've done for the past 9 years and it's worked just fine. I'm not opening the door to someone's charge back. This is the worst thing VRBO could suggest to a potential renter.

                                                • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                  terirusso Contributor

                                                  vrboowner I totaly agree that this year,  especially, has been slow. I always seem to fill in in the end. But 8 years ago when I first started using VRBO/HomeAway, I also used local realtors. The first year, I only had one rental from the Realtors and the rest of the 30 weeks that my house was rented came through VRBO/HomeAway. And my high season from Memorial Day-Labor Day would be fully booked by the beginning of March. And my off season was filled in with renters comming to the area to visit family for holidays for a week or so at a time,etc. I don't have the winter inquires, but did have some renters the past 2 witnters who were local people looking for temporary housing while they were working on there homes. If not for those renters, my house would have sat empty all winter. I do think that the economy has a small part of the lag. But blame much of it on the changes in VRBO/Home away. I still won't use Realtors, because I know that they don't screen potential renters.

                                                  rbeachrental, I like you will never use Reservation Manager, and even changed my policy this year for new renters and require final payment 45 days prior to occupancy, where I used to require 30 days prior. Personal, or cashiers check, Money order and of course cash. And my cancellation policy will never change. 30 Days written notice. Refund will be made only if I can fill in the week at full rate, If I fill in at a discounted rate, the refund will equal the discounted rate. If I can not replace the rental, no refund will be issued. Reservation manager and Realtors are too quick to offer a refund for cancellation.

                                                  • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                    New Member

                                                    I too had been a happy vrbo lister for 10 years but something has definitely changed! I have had no response from vrbo since tuesday and I have emailed them multiple times! The issues that I was having started a few weeks ago and were not even acknowledged! Instead I was told that it was my computer and that I needed to erase my history and my cookies and upgrade my browser, NONE of which helped. I added a "P.S." informing them that this also happened on my phone and they said: "The site isn't meant to be used from a smart phone." Seriously?! But that's not all.....I am adding a property for my aunt and we went through all of the prompts but once the payment was confirmed I was unable to upload any information or photos. So I emailed them AGAIN and have had no response! What has happened to this company??? I have advised my aunt to file a complaint and have her $700 returned as she is not benefitting from this at all. This is the image that I get over and over when I log on:

                                                    Screen Shot 2012-07-19 at 10.50.51 AM.png

                                                      • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                        New Member

                                                        Vrbo was bought out by Homeaway several years ago. Now they keep opening up

                                                        websites with new names so we have to join them all. I think there should be a

                                                        law against it.  Try using Flipkey or 

                                                         

                                                        VacationHome Rentals.com

                                                         instead. I would love everyone to boycott Homeaway, VRBO, VacationRentals.com

                                                        by Homeaway  and HomeawayUK

                                                         

                                                        Leslie Wells Rambin         www.FLVR.co                     

                                                        www.FortLauderdaleVacationRentalsLLC.com

                                                        Fort Lauderdale Vacation Rentals LLC

                                                        USA  954-562-9134 cell    (954-467-9707 office)

                                                      • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                        New Member

                                                        I had no problem adding VRBO for $99 extra on top of my HA listing price, but the new price is too steep. Years ago before HA I listed using VRBO and had little success. Lots of tire kickers and cheapskates. I can only speculate why but when HA started up the quality of inquiries were very good, now it's declined considerably as they add "features" that let people shop for a rental as if this is Priceline.

                                                         

                                                        I tried FlipKey free for six months in 2011 and did not get a single inquiry. At this point I would hesitate to advertise there until they get better known. At least HA has promoted hard to get their name out.

                                                          • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                            gabriel Active Contributor

                                                            We all get upset when we spend a significant amount of money in marketing our vacation home and feel that we are not getting the right number of inquiries, but sometimes is not so much that the marketing company (VRBO, Homeaway or Flipkey) are not doing their job, it may be other factors.

                                                             

                                                            I agree with most that the pricing strategy of Homeaways and VRBO works against us, and by pushing multiple properties and making it simple to make 25 reservations at the same time makes all of us work harder for less actual bookings. But there is a reality, HA & VRBO have the highest global or US ranking.

                                                             

                                                            In my experience Homeaway attracts more travelers going abroad and VRBO is for the local crowd. My property is overseas so HA produces more for me.

                                                             

                                                            I would caution owners to try out different companies, since I have seen that some owners are in hot areas where by January 15th they completed their yearly bookings and go on vacation, they only need to advertize in one company. Others are in soft markets and require multiple ads and still have 25% occupancy. I am in at least 6 or 8 companies, most are free or fee for booking, so it has no cost unless they produce, since my market is soft and with many competitors.

                                                             

                                                            But if you are like me, in a soft highly competitive market, I would suggest:

                                                            1. Advertize in as many Free or Commission based websites as possible (Check their reputation first).
                                                            2. Pick a couple of paid sites and measure inquiries and bookings.
                                                            3. Create your own website to generate direct traffic and repeat business
                                                            4. At the end of the year, drop the paid companies that did not generate enough to pay for the ad, if you paid $250 and only got a $500 booking in the year, I would drop it, if I made $2,500 in the year that I wouldn't have rented otherwise, I would keep it, but you decide.
                                                            5. Review your pictures, prices, promotions, to generate more traffic.
                                                            6. Ask a friend to compare your property and prices with your competitors, include as competitors nearby areas, as Aspen competes with Vail and Breckenridge for instance, to ensure you have a competitive product.
                                                            7. Contact past guests for suggestions on how to make their next year's vacation better.
                                                            8. Contact lost guests, those that did not rent from you but went elsewhere, to tell you why.

                                                             

                                                            At the end your goal is to get the highest occupancy for the best price, not so much how to spend the least in marketing or lower the quality of your product.

                                                             

                                                            Gabriel

                                                            www.Pochomilbeach.com


                                                              • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                                New Member

                                                                This is great advice and I want to add one other option, which is using Social Media. You can buy highly targeted ads on Facebook and with Google. This is something I plan to try in the upcoming months, and I think it could be quite helpful in booking vacations in the off season here. 

                                                                  • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                                    gabriel Active Contributor

                                                                    True, but make sure you measure effectiveness.

                                                                     

                                                                    I started advertising on Google Adwords, used up all my daily budget everyday (I set a daily limit) and after three months found that all visits were lasting 0:00 seconds. People were clicking the ad and then dropping off, because many sites put the ad just where you need to click to continue to make money from clicking mistakes.

                                                                     

                                                                    I even blocked certain sites, game sites, countries, and then other countries and sites started generating new traffic, same 0:00 results with 100% bounce rate.

                                                              • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                                New Member

                                                                I have used VRBO for 6 years and the majority of my renters all came from here. However, it does seem some of the new algorithms and increased yearly listing fees and structure have dramatically changed the website. I don't think it would be right if we blamed just VRBO. Our responsibility as a property owner is to advertise and rent our property. We shouldn't ever limit our listing to one website if we want to ensure we always have it rented. We need to use other websites like http://www.FVRA.com , cyberrentals, vacationrentals and more. Heck, you can even use Craigslist each week since it's free even though it isn't as clean looking and resourceful as vacation websites made specific for properties. Just food for thought.

                                                                  • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                                    New Member

                                                                    Hey, if you are a Mountain Vacatio Homeowner a really cool site popped up that is starting to get some mentions.  We live in Park City where they launched out of called mountaintravelcompany.com.  Free to list only pay for performance.  As a vacation homeowner it's nice to see Pay for Performance models popping up.  Also nice to see a group that is focused on one niche. 

                                                                  • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                                    New Member

                                                                    I have to admit I am pretty happy these days with all of the changes. I do think there were A LOT of glitches and issues that were being either ignored or addressed way too slowly. But I noticed a huge difference about a month ago. It was as if they hired 500 IT staff to get cracking on all of the coding. Although their mobile platform sucks, I'm now using Reservation Manager and tossed out my credit card machine. 80% of my inquiries and thus bookings come from vrbo, then flipkey and on a rare occassion from vacationhomerentals. I also get a few bookings from craigslist along with a lot of spam/scammers. I'm thinking of bundling with homeaway if anyone has any feedback.....

                                                                    • Re: Used VRBO successfully for 10 years, NOW Not So Much!!
                                                                      New Member

                                                                      I bought the global bundle of 279688 PLATINUM LEVEL from VRBO and I am not getting any single enquiry. The main reason is the location of the apartment is not right. I reported many times without any result (they modify on some web pages but not at all of them). Second reason is that I am not allow to have my headline and apartment's information on all different european languages (people from Homeaway is allow to do that). I asked for an extension of the Global Bundle until everything is solve without any result.

                                                                      I am loosing my money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!