Airbnb vs VRBO, differences that all hosts should know

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Home-sharing describes the process of sharing a property — be it a portion or the entire property — with people looking for short-term stays in exchange for money. In the last decade, home-sharing has become more prevalent across the globe, with businesses like Airbnb and Vrbo (Vacation Rental By Owner) gaining popularity.

The short-term stay rental sector presents a lot of advantages for renters, one being offering flexibility and a myriad of options for those looking for alternative accommodation. There’s a lot to be said about Airbnb and Vrbo from a customer’s perspective, but have you ever wondered what the key differences are between the two should you decide to host on either platform? Knowing the key differences between both platforms will help you make an informed decision about which platform to host your property on in order to receive a better return on investment.

A brief background of Airbnb and Vrbo

Airbnb was founded in the year 2008 and aims to connect hosts with customers looking for short-term rental stays. The company is present in over 200 countries and has over 7 million listings, making its reach quite extensive and impressive, particularly for hosts looking to reach a wider potential customer base.

On the other hand, Vrbo was founded in 1995 and has 2 million listings available in 190 countries. Although Vrbo has a lesser reach than Airbnb, its affiliation with the HomeAway brand means that once your property is listed on Vrbo, it has the potential of reaching more people as it will also be listed on other home-sharing sites under the Vrbo/Homeaway umbrella.

The similarities and differences between Airbnb and Vrbo

The obvious similarity between Airbnb and Vrbo is that they both serve as additional accommodation options for guests, outside of the traditional route of booking directly at a hotel. Other similarities include that both platforms charge service fees and both have cancellation policies and offer customers an opportunity to review the property they stayed at. While this is so, the way in which each of these factors are run by Airbnb and Vrbo differ greatly.

Service fees

Hosts on both Airbnb and Vrbo are expected to pay service fees. These fees are charged to ensure that the cost of products and services as well as customer support are covered.

Airbnb has two different fee structures, namely: split-fee and host-only fee. A split-fee allows both the host and guest to pay for service fees. If you choose this option, Airbnb will charge you about 3% for every booking confirmed. Your guests will be expected to cover the rest of the service fees, which will be under 12% of the booking subtotal, excluding the Airbnb fees and taxes. The host-only fee, as the name states, is paid by the host. This fee is 14% to 16% and can be compulsory for hotels and hosts in Australia. The host-fee option is expected to be rolled out to a majority of Airbnb hosts from 7 December at 15%.

Vrbo also offers two types of fee structures for hosts. The first one gives hosts the option of paying a $499 annual subscription and the second gives hosts the option of paying a 5% commission for every booking, along with a 3% credit card processing fee. The subscription model will be more cost-effective if your property generates a lot of bookings per year.

Airbnb Costs and Fees Stats VRBO and HomeAway Costs and Fees

Cancellation policies

Cancellation policies are put in place to protect the host by setting out penalties for guests for unexpected cancellations.

Airbnb offers strict, moderate, and flexible cancellation policies. The flexible cancellation policy allows guests to cancel at least 24-hours before check-in and still get their money back. Using this type of cancellation policy on your Airbnb listing can attract many guests, but you may lose out on revenue if guests cancel unexpectedly. Booking greater than 28 days (Long term bookings) have a slightly different setup in that guests can cancel as long as this is 28 days before the next check-in date.

Vrbo offers 5 different cancellation types: no refund, strict, firm, moderate and relaxed. The most lenient cancellation policy, which is relaxed, only allows guests to cancel at least 14-days before check-in for a full refund. This can reduce the number of guests defaulting on their booking.

Airbnb and Vrbo don’t list the same types of property

Airbnb allows a variety of properties on its platform. For example, it’s very common to find houses, apartments, hotels, lodges, and even villas listed. Added to that, one can rent out a single room in a property on Airbnb, which Vrbo doesn’t allow. This provides flexibility for hosts as most types of property are allowed to be listed and for extra income, one can rent out different rooms in say, a house, to various guests.

Vrbo only accepts certain types of properties, such as hotels or full-spaces, and doesn’t allow shared-spaces like bedrooms like Airbnb does. It is more suited for longer stays, whereas Airbnb is suited for short-term stays. As a host, choosing between Airbnb and Vrbo will depend on the type of property you own.

Types of guests

Airbnb guests tend to be younger and open to home-sharing. They also desire convenience, affordability, and adventure — which Airbnb caters for through its Airbnb Experiences offering.

Vrbo attracts guests who seek quality accommodation in travel destinations. People travelling with their family or in large groups who are willing to rent out full-spaces flock to Vrbo, so if this describes your space, consider listing on the platform.

Reviews on Airbnb and Vrbo

Guests on Airbnb have 14 days to leave a review after their stay. They can rate places based on cleanliness, communication, location, check-in, value for money, and whether the listing matched its description.

On Vrbo, both guests and hosts have one year to leave reviews. Each party can respond to their other’s review, but only within 14 days. Vrbo uses a 5-star rating system and its ability to allow hosts to respond helps other people get ‘both sides of the story’ instead of a myopic view of what it’s like to stay at an accommodation.

What platform is best for you?

Using both Airbnb and Vrbo can be beneficial as a host, particularly if you have a full-space accommodation that you’d like to be occupied. However, if you have an alternative space that you want to make extra income from and is close to urban areas, using Airbnb might be more suited for you. Ultimately, your choice in which platform to use will depend on how much service fees you can afford, what cancellation policy works best for you, the type of property you have, and the type of guests you’re looking to attract. If both match your criteria then use both to help maximise your bookings. If you’re using more than one provider then we suggest using a channel manager to help you manage listings, bookings and calendars.


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