The next time you shop on AirBnB or VRBO/HomeAway or any of the big sites, ask the owner, "Are you on Houfy yet?"
In an attempt to maximize their profits, Expedia has decided that consumers using sites they own, like VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and HomeAway, will pay a service fee. This policy follows the model established by AirBnB. This fee, they say, is to pay for the website, customer service, and advertising.
And even though we don't charge more per person, HomeAway/VRBO and the rest of the Expedia Group of online travel agencies (OTAs) have found another way to get more money from our guests. The more people in your group, the more they will charge.
Don't believe it? Below is a copy of a letter they sent to an owner asking why the service fee increased based on the number of guests, even though her rate stayed the same.
Control Direct Communication: VRBO/HomeAway has also made it difficult for owners and renters to deal directly with each other. Contact information is kept from both renters and owners, and owners can be penalized for trying to take inquiries from the site, off platform, or to allow customers to book direct. The companies want their money. But is it really a deal? Before you inquire on one of these booking sites, know what you are paying for and decide if it is worth it.
Advertising. Security. Convenience: This is what they say the service fee is supposed to pay for: advertising, security, and convenience. Many you choose a privately owned vacation home because you want to deal with the owner instead of a customer service agent who has never been to the house and knows nothing of the location. What you are really paying for on HomeAway is for their advertising to help them make more money. In terms of security, we use the same payment processor HomeAway has used for years, which is no less secure, but they will try to convince you otherwise. Now they are bringing payments in-house to control the flow of money, which, make no mistake, is all about more control and making even more money.
The truth is they provide very little value, except the use of their website. As owners, we pay the credit card fees and subscription fees, while renters pay add-on guest fees described as service fees. They are given a 1-star rating by Consumer Affairs for service and quality. So why pay it?
Free to Use - Fair & True Pricing with Houfy: If you want fair and true pricing, check out Houfy! There are no service fees, so you pay less for the same home. The value you receive, for FREE, is direct contact with owners. As owners, we provide blog posts and vacation guides, with our local recommendations and an easy-to-use website to look at various homes, different seasons and their prices, and instant quotes. VRBO/HomeAway just can't compete!