25 Replies Latest reply: Aug 9, 2012 9:50 PM by swlinphx Branched from an earlier discussion. RSS

    Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO


      OK, let me try again.


      First, I wanted to thank Laura from Homeaway for her interest and participation in this forum. It's reassuring to hear that "someone who cares" is listening.


      I also wanted to thank TSVR for the question as to the exact problem(s) I had with VRBO, as opposed to Homeaway.  The original poster who started this discussion asked specifically about policy on reviews, so maybe the question of Homeaway vs. VRBO (or, which might be more suitable for your purposes)  would better be the focus of another forum.


      But I know of no such forum, and so here I go.  When I got to thinking about your question, TSVR, I sort of revisited the matter, and realized that my negative feeling about VRBO had a lot to do with the different format of its inquiries, different property i.d. numbers, etc.  You see, I already had both of my brain cells working overtime because we had started off with two properties on Homeaway about 3 years ago, and maaging two properties is exponentially more complicated than one. It also has its advantages,, but that is another story.


      I was also upset by the lack of customer service.  I also seem to recall that the "listing" format on VRBO was more limiting, allowing fewer photographs?  (I could be wrong on that one, not sure.)


      But if I may, I want to use a very tricky analogy: "Mac people" vs. "windows people."(I can already feel the cyber-bullets flying!)  People "huff and puff" about one or the other, and each clearly excels in certain respects, but bottom line is that either will get the job done, in the end.  I am a Windows guy, but have certainly put in my time of hair-pulling, outrage, and outright disbelief at the amount of very specific, otherwise useless knowledge we are expected (I assume) to have been born with, in order to accomplish even the most simple tasks.  I once reached a point of such frustration, in fact, that I tried a switch to Mac, but found it just as counter-intuitive and frustrating as Windows, just in different ways.


      Had I started with Mac, I'm sure I would have been much happier with it, in the long run.  But I didn't.


      My point: both VRBO and Homeaway are great products.  I don’t know of any truly substantive differences.  If a poll were taken of the users of each, I'm sure high ratings would be given to each.  (My less positive, personal experience had a lot to do with managing two properties on each at the same time.)  At the same time, predictably, a few who would respond with negative feedback about either.


      The reason I take the time to write this, is out of respect and empathy for the people now considering "having a go" with the vacation rental experience, and trying to inform themselves about the differences between these two possibilities.  It is an absolutely critical decision, and I’m not aware of much out there that offers guidance.  Just a couple of points:



      1) You have two good options here, and though they command a large share of the market, there are other possibilities out there.  Consider the entire lay of the land.



      2)  As Laura mentioned, VRBO has been around a lot longer, and for that reason has a strong, loyal customer base unlikely to go elsewhere.  If I were to guess, I  imagine their customer base to be somewhat older than Homeaways, though I could be wrong.  I mention that only because you might think about what kind of people/ groups, etc. would best fit your property.



      3)  On the other hand, Homeaway owns VRBO.  As soon as I read that, I decided on Homeaway, because I felt fairly confident that Homeaway wouldn’t be going anywhere.  Also, please note that Homeaway ads saturate the American media (including Super Bowl air time), not VRBO.



      4)  Our properties, an Old Spanish Mission-style home and a true blue garden Cottage, rate high on the unique factor.  So we get inquiries from every kind of people you might imagine, and then some.  And that's the way we like it.




      Yet we have also found that part of our "role" is as ambassadors to the vacation rental idea, which is still completely foreign to a certain percentage of the population, but fast becoming much less so.  (I recall with a smile one gentleman, a coach and family man  from, let's say Utah, who asked in a phone conversation, "Now..what exactly does this kind of thing involve?"  I explained to him how simple it really is (OK, imagine a hotel, take away the daily cleaning/room service, add a unique property and a calendar, and *boom* there you go").  Meanwhile, I was just cracking up inside, because the question and the way he asked it was so utterly sincere and yet so skeptical that it was easy to imagine he was asking about the practice of "wife swapping.")


      My point, if I must have one: with VRBO, there's prob. going to be less need for "basic education."  But if you enjoy people and have the ability to muster up patience, those skills can pay off big-time with Homeaway.


      I will sign off, hoping my response will be of some help to somebody.  But Laura, I know that (for obvious reasons) Homeaway hasn't spoken much of its ownership relation to VRBO.  But my feeling is, that if some confidence is placed in the people, everyone might benefit from even minimal useful guidance as to this important choice.


      OK Thank you folks.  Have a wonderful *whatever*!


      Message was edited by: Laura Kelso

        • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
          Active Contributor

          Hi Paul,


          Thanks again for your thoughtful feedback. As per your suggestion, I took the liberty of "branching" the discussion into a new thread, since we'd moved quite a ways off the topic of "VRBO mandating participation in reviews."


          And because it seems like there is still a good deal of confusion related to the difference between HomeAway and VRBO, here is a little more detail that helps distinguish each brand:




              •    Top ranking on industry leading search engines, like Google

              •    24 FREE photos as part of your subscription

              •    Expert tips and advice for renting your property

              •    Broad-reach advertising programs and public relations programs to promote our site to millions of travelers, including our 2011 Super Bowl advertisement

              •    Additional protection options for your vacation rental

              •    Advanced searchability to allow travelers to quickly find the property they are looking for

              •    Customer service over the phone, online, and via email

              •    Established in 2006




              •    More than 95 million travelers visit VRBO each year

              •    Over 160,000 listings worldwide - the largest vacation rental-by-owner site on the Internet

              •    Each month, travelers can find VRBO through more than 600,000 keyword searches on major search engines

              •    Ranks high in Google and Yahoo search results

          • Customer Service over the phone, online, and via email

              •    Established in 1995 – over 14 years helping members successfully advertise vacation rentals online

              •    Founded and run by Vacation Rental Owners



              •    Both HomeAway and VRBO are very efficient marketing channels, but owners should try both to see which works best for them as performance for each site varies by location and property type

              •    The overwhelming majority of travelers use either VRBO or HomeAway, not both. So, you are marketing your property to new travelers with each subscription


          I hope this brings a little more clarification to the discussion, and of course, please don't hesitate to let me know if you have more questions.


          Thanks so much,


          • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

            I started with VRBO in Octopber 2007. We added HomeAway about 10 months later. Out of our 120+ reservations, VRBO leads by a 5 to 1 margin. However, HomeAway has been coming on strong over the last year, or so.

            I do feel that HomeAway is more member friendly. I think VRBOs picture policy is pure unadulterated gouging.

            • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

              100% of my bookings have been through HomeAway.  I receive very few inquiries through VRBO and I assume it is because of the neighborhood breakdown. It takes someone knowing exactly what neighborhood they want in order for people to find us in VRBO and that just doesn't work in our situation. At this point, VRBO just doesn't work for us at all but I love HomeAway and will definitely continue with them in the future!

                • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

                  Hi Christineb,


                  Homeaway and VRBO display a listing of the neighborhood breakdown






                  I can't figure out how Homeaway sorts their listing once you click one of the neighborhoods. I know VRBO does it by Photos and people have to pay for more photos  to get to the top of the list. I would be interested to see how Homeaway sorts their listing


                  A combination of Homeaway and VRBO has helped and throwing Craigslist as well has helped even more.

                    • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                      Active Contributor

                      Hi Claudio,


                      It's a good question regarding how HomeAway sorts listings.


                      Here's a little info that I hope illuminates:


                      From a technical point of view, the primary factor that influences a property’s search ranking on HomeAway is regular calendar updates. HomeAway recommends updating your availability often. Note that calendar updates will affect positioning once every 7 days, so you only need to update your calendar once a week. The “update” day varies for each individual listing. During the 7-day period between updates for your listing, it is possible that other listings will move above you. If you update your calendar again after this period, it may move up again. It is normal to see your property position fluctuate.


                      After calendar updates, additional factors may be taken into account when determining sort order. They are listings with:


                      -Rates entered in the rates table

                      -All 24 photos

                      -Special offers


                      Though all of these factors can influence sort and search order on HomeAway, please note that at this time there is not a way to guarantee a position at the top of search results.


                      I hope this helps!


                      All the best,



                      HomeAway Community Manager

                        • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

                          Thanks. That helped me a lot. I couldn't figure out the

                          algorithm for Homeaway.  I like it that it's based off how often somone updates their calendar or at least has it in the logic.


                          I guess I better start updating my calendar more frequently.

                            • Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

                              VRBO - Band Aid, Jacuzzi, Kleenex, Chapstick, Astro Turf, Q-Tip, White Out, etc.

                              HomeAway - adhesive bandage, whirlpool bath, facial tissue, lip balm, artificial turf, cotton swab, correction fluid, etc.


                              Smart buy by HomeAway....too bad they could not keep that portion of the company as Vacation Rentals BY OWNER as the name states and the founders of VRBO started the company.

                      • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

                        I'm frankly puzzled by the lack of legitimate inquiries I've gotten from Homeaway. In the last year, not a single Homeaway inquiry has ever followed up on an inquiry. 90% of my Vrbo inquiries follow up. I've actually wondered if the inquiries were leg imitate on Homeaway, since the email addresses would disappear or the phone numbers, after the inquiries. I hope there is a refund policy on Homeaway as there is on Vrbo. I assumed there would be. Does anyone know if there is a refund policy if you don't rent under Homeaway?

                          • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                            HomeAway Employee

                            Hi devinitra,

                            I’m sorry to hear you haven’t received many inquiries on your HomeAway  listing. HomeAway does offer the No Booking, No Fees Guarantee for new  members who are property owners (as opposed to property managers).  Please read the terms of the guarantee to see if your listing is eligible for a refund.

                            I hope this information is helpful and please let me know if you have any further questions.


                              • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO


                                Thank you for responding.




                                Sent from my iPad

                                  • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                    New Member

                                    Hi Laura,


                                    Another one you did not mention for HA is, if you take online payments, this guarantee's you a top position and you never have to update your calendar, ever. And the rentals that do not have online payments follow after them in the search results.

                                      • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                        Active Contributor



                                        Yes, you make an excellent point - thanks for adding to the discussion. When I posted my answer in November 2010, HomeAway had not yet rolled out our new reservation management software. Now that we offer Reservation Manager, you are correct in highlighting the fact that if you sign up to accept online payments, it will also positively impact your position in the HomeAway search rankings.


                                        If you'd like to learn more about our new reservation management software, check out this blog post about it.


                                        Thanks again,


                                          • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                            Senior Contributor

                                            Sorry, but I think this is just silly. SO, I pay  VRBO ( not a member of HA) to advertise. I already have a very good credit card payment system in place that has a better rate than VRBO's.  However, I get a higher listing if I use VRBO's Reservation Manager, and use THAT system for accepting payments?

                                            Wow!  That is amazing. 

                                              • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO

                                                Is that ranking a result of taking any on-line payment or just for using the HA one (which is unavailable to me as a Canadian). If ranking occurs due to accessing a product that is not available to all, I think that's rather unfair.

                                                  • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                    Senior Contributor

                                                    I've been through my contract with VRBO, expires in May, 2012, and can't find any reference to this "bump" in ranking. Nor have I had any email notification of this change in the middle of my contract.


                                                    I'd love VRBO to to be able to reference , word for word, how/ when  I was notified of this change.



                                                    • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                      New Member

                                                      This is for HA on-line payment, not for paypal or other CC's. I keep my calendar updated have prices listed reviews and photos. This does not work for the higher ranking you need to have on-line payment w/HA. The owners that have this do not need photos, reviews, prices listed or update the calendar, they get top spot. I would sign up for the on-line payment and never use it, but they want your social security # and I am uncomfortable with that.

                                        • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                          HomeAway Employee

                                          Hi Everyone,


                                          Thanks again for your input.  The goal with all of our listing criteria is to improve both your vacation rental business and the traveler experience.


                                          VRBO.com and HomeAway.com currently have different sort order criteria: 


                                          HomeAway.com: To make the most of your ranking in HomeAway search results, visit this page: http://toolkit.homeaway.com/homeaway-sort.

                                          • One thing to note for HomeAway.com is that there are 6 criteria that affect sort order, so no one criterion will make or break your listing sort order. For instance, accepting online payments through ReservationManager™ is not yet available for customers residing outside of the United States, which means that these advertisers should focus on updating the other criteria to positively impact their search ranking.  Also, since you have the option to improve your ranking by updating your listing and/or by buying a higher subscription level, take a look at your particular destination to determine what will work best for your business.


                                          VRBO.com: To maximize your ranking in VRBO.com search results, visit this page: http://toolkit.vrbo.com/photos.


                                          * For both sites, the longer your listing is live, the higher it will rank in search results. 


                                          For more detailed information about what is included with your listing on each site, visit the VRBO.com list your property page: http://www.vrbo.com/global/owner.htm#slide2.


                                          For a list of what you get with your HomeAway listing, visit the HomeAway subscription levels page in the toolkit: http://toolkit.homeaway.com/subscription-levels.


                                          We appreciate your thoughts and look forward to serving you further.


                                          Best regards,

                                          Tiffany Keeton

                                          Product Marketing Manager

                                            • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                              swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                              Many don't realize that "HomeAway" is not newer (just the name is).  Originally, the company now known as HomeAway was a conglomerate that ran A1Vacations, CyberRentals, GreatRentals and VRBO.  VRBO splintered off independently and "HomeAway" was started as the owner of A1, Cyber and Great, as well as its own namesake.  Once they became HomeAway, they purchased both VRBO (with iTravex) and VacationRentals.com.  Ironically we were signed up for all of these services since 2004 so we had listings on them all before all of this.  We still have listings on all these sites, but the HomeAway group has increasingly assimilated their sites (especially VRBO and HomeAway) to be almost indistinguishable.


                                              The Dashboard and navigation are now indentical.  The main differences are the color scheme, pricing policy (more photos with VRBO, tier levels with HomeAway), and some sort order ranking, although aside from the aforementined two (VRBO photos and HomeAway rankings work virtually the same way) they both still similarly rank by last calendar update, seniority, accepting Reservation Manager payments.  They also switch off for such things as VRBO charging for account transfers yet HomeAway charging for Special Offers, but not vice versa.  They increase their revenue this way because they still run the sites independently and travelers still use the sites separately (and owners often don't advertise on both either, so either may have listings the other does not).  However, the same listing on both sites, even with different listing numbers, update each other automatically just by editing the calendar on one only, share the same reservations & reviews, and likewise Reservation Manager need only be set up on one to work for the other.


                                              VacationRentals.com (ironically, another site we had listed with long before they were associated with HomeAway.com, or even before the "HomeAway" brand was created) is their slightly more economical listing site with possibly less traffic, but similar Dashboard and setup too.  They currently don't offer Reservation Manager but all listings here are likewise integrated with VRBO & HomeAway, so you don't need it there if you have it on the others.  One last tip:  You can use HomeAwayConnect (formerly known as "rentors.org") to manage all reservations, calendars, guest books, etc. in one place (it's free).


                                              Hope this helps! 

                                                • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                  Active Contributor

                                                  That's one heckuva primer - thanks.  Like a number of other owners, I'm looking for alternatives and it's nice to see who not to consider...

                                                  • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                    HomeAway Employee

                                                    Hi swlinphx,

                                                    Thanks for the great description of the differences between HomeAway’s websites. I just wanted to clear up a few things. VRBO.com’s search rankings are actually based on the number of photos and how long the listing has been on our site. For more information, see the VRBO Toolkit.

                                                    While your HomeAway Connect calendar does sync with your VRBO.com and HomeAway.com calendars, reviews entered on HomeAway Connect do not sync with the VRBO.com and HomeAway.com review system.

                                                    I also wanted to share this video of HomeAway co-founders Brian Sharples and Carl Shepherd talking about how the company got started.

                                                    All the best,


                                                      • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                        swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                                        Hi Travis....


                                                        Thanks for the response.  Yes, maybe I wasn't clear but that's what I meant when I said VRBO ranks by number of photos while HomeAway uses the tier system (different payment levels for priority status) yet allows everyone 24 photos.  Of course, within the same HomeAway tier system or VRBO photo ranking (which, since they are paid upgrades, are their initial respective sort order determination) they are further sorted, as I menioned, by seniority, calendar updates, using Reservation Mgr., etc.


                                                        You are right about the reviews on HomeAway Connect now.  Formely the Guest Book on Connect (rentors.org) was synced with the HomeAway system, but that link has been severed.  I had just used it for so long that I was remembering when it used to be one of the shared features.  The most important aspects (reservations and calendars) are what is still synced and can be used instead of logging into each site independently (although if you plan on using Reservation Manager to book or manage a reservation you will need to log directly into HomeAway or VRBO).

                                                  • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                    victoriam Active Contributor

                                                    I think the real issue/problem with the whole ranking system is that it doesn't really matter to the potential guest where your listing is in the lineup. People are looking for a particular location or neighborhood - "North Beach" in SF or "Dupont ******" in DC.  Or they are searching for certain features or amenities - ON the beach, allows pets, sleeps 6, hot tub, walking distance to Metro, ski in & out etc.


                                                    Getting your listing higher in the ranking doesn't help if you don't have what the person is actually looking for.


                                                    Both sites need much better search features!   

                                                      • Re: Difference Between HomeAway and VRBO
                                                        swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                                        Since my previous post above the sorting system has changed (more than once).  They stopped ranking VRBO sort by photos a while ago, and now they will both have the same five levels:  Classic, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.


                                                        While it's true that many listings will be filtered out when a traveler keys in their search parameters, when they initially go to an area such as "Arizona" or "Phoenix" or "Desert Condos", etc. higher levels will show first and then within each level it is based on tenure, using RM, number of photos, calendar update, reviews, etc.  Even when they narrow down their search results, those that then still show up with the desired parameters are ranked the same way.  That is the advantage of appearing higher up; people don't like to sift through pages and pages and will go for what they can find on the first page or two.