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What is Vrbo and How Does Vrbo Work?

Vrbo was initially founded under the name Vacation Rentals by Owners but has subsequently changed its official name to what it was better known as - Vrbo. The platform currently has around 2 million properties available for guests to choose from and is across 190 countries worldwide. 

But how does Vrbo work? In this post, we’ll look at what you can expect when you decide to use Vrbo as a platform for hosting and how your guests book through the platform. There are many perks to using Vrbo and some fundamental differences between using this as a platform vs. others like Booking.com and Airbnb


What is Vrbo? 

Vrbo is a vacation rental booking platform with a comprehensive booking system for guests and provides a platform for hosts to list their properties to attract more guests to book their spaces. It was initially founded in 1995 by David Clouse in Colorado when he had an apartment available to rent at one of the ski resorts there. Vrbo was bought by HomeAway in 2006, which was subsequently incorporated by the Expedia Group in 2015. 

When using Vrbo, hosts had a lot of flexibility surrounding their bookings, nightly rates, and property availability, making it the ideal platform for anyone who is new to the short-term rental business. It’s a slightly smaller platform in terms of the number of listings available in given areas. This makes it a great space for hosts as it means they’re not competing with as many properties in their regions. 

For guests, Vrbo offers a good user experience with an easy booking system and host messaging system. The user-friendly interface is appealing to travellers looking to book accommodation for their next trip. 



How Does Vrbo Work for Hosts?

Listing a property on Vrbo is a straightforward process for hosts to follow. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when choosing to list your short-term rental property on the platform. Once you have your property listed on Vrbo, one of the major perks is that your listing will also appear on other sites owned by the Expedia Group, including Trivago, KAYAK, and TravelMob. This is great for anyone who is looking to increase the online visibility of their property and maximize the opportunities for guests to book to stay. Below is a step-by-step breakdown of how hosting works on Vrbo.  


Signing up and Listing the Property 

When you choose to list your property on Vrbo, the first thing you have to do is create an account and sign up. Listing your property is free, and can usually be done in less than an hour, provided you have all the right details with you beforehand.

To list a property, you will need to have the following: 

  • Professional-looking photos of the property
  • A good description that tells guests why your property is special and some of the perks they can look forward to while staying there
  • The rules, terms, and conditions about staying on your property
  • Have in mind any marketing tags you want to feature with your property
  • Choose the correct location tags so that guests who are looking for accommodation in the area can easily find your property.

Following these steps when you initially set up your listing will give your property the boost it needs to attract the customers you want. 


Setting Pricing and Availability 

Vrbo pricing is different for hosts and for guests. Naturally, the main way in which Vrbo makes money is by charging hosts a small fee to list their vacation rental properties on their platform. When you sign up to be a Vrbo host, there are two main pricing schemes you can choose from. 

You need to set your pricing with the platform charges in mind while remaining competitive with other similar properties on the platform. You’ll also need to decide whether or not you want your property to be available all year round. 

Vrbo offers hosts the option to pay the platform annually or per booking they receive. The one you choose should depend on how much you charge guests for your property and which pricing scheme would work better for you and your business. 

The annual cost of hosting your home on Vrbo is $499. There are also additional benefits associated with going for the annual subscription option, such as receiving a personal reservation manager and calendar software. This option is probably better suited to anyone who wants to run their vacation rental as a full-time business throughout the year. 

Hosts can also opt to pay per booking they receive through Vrbo. This scheme is better if you, as a property owner, do not want to let your property out for the entire year. Each time a booking completes through Vrbo, hosts will be charged 5% - 8% of the total booking cost. There is also a service fee associated with the pay-per-booking scheme, which is an additional 3% which is essentially for using Vrbo as a service.

Whichever pricing scheme you choose to go for, hosts should way up the costs before choosing and seeing which one is more economical for them. 



Communicating with Guests 

Guests can use the Vrbo messaging platform to get in touch with hosts either before or after they make a booking. Guests can send these messages directly from the property page on the platform, which is a facility that has been developed by Vrbo.

As a host, it’s important that you reply to these messages within 24 to 48 hours and take note of the urgency with which a guest has sent you a message. This will help to ensure your guests are happy with your service and will also help you to build a good reputation from a customer service perspective. 


Managing the Property

Vrbo is also an ideal platform for hosts, given the fact that it can link to property management software which will help you manage the availability. With the annual subscription that hosts can choose, there is also the benefit of getting your own reservations manager who can help you with property availability. 


How Does Vrbo Work for Guests? 

One of the most appealing aspects of Vrbo is its easy-to-use interface and simple booking process. Guests have the option to either use the Vrbo app or the website to book their properties. But exactly how does Vrbo work for guests who want to book their vacations through the platform? 


Searching and Booking a Property 

Firstly, guests will have to add the dates they intend to travel as the platform will only show guests properties that are available during this time to avoid double bookings. 

When looking for their property, guests can search for properties using the search and filter tools provided by the platform. Guests can filter their searches by amenity, location, price range, and property type. There are also additional features you can choose to have at the property, such as pet-friendliness and certain facilities like laundry if you need them. 

The platform will then show you all the properties that match your needs. You can choose from these properties and simply move onto the checkout page once you have found the property you want to stay in. 


Interacting with the Host 

Vrbo has a messaging platform whereby guests can contact hosts for any other specific questions they have before booking the property. Guests also have the option to contact hosts after they have booked their property which is useful for additional queries or perhaps for a special request on a special occasion. 

Hosts are encouraged to reply to their guests within 24 - 48 hours of the message being sent. If you want to contact your host on a matter of urgency, then the best way to go about this is to contact Vrbo directly, who can then contact your host on your behalf. Vrbo operates a 24/7 customer service department meaning you can contact them anytime. 



Reviewing the Stay

After the stay is completed, guests can leave their host and the property a review. Reviews help the platform to vet who the top hosts are and also help other guests to understand more about what they are in for when booking the property. 

Hosts also find the review feature useful for improving their own services and for ironing out any issues that may have occurred during the stay. As Vrbo is a popular platform with those looking to run a small business on the side, the more reviews they receive, the more they can improve as a host. 


Pros and Cons of Using Vrbo

As one of the top vacation rental booking platforms, there are naturally some distinguishing factors that set Vrbo apart from its competitive counterparts like Airbnb. We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons you should weigh up before using the platform. 


Pros for Guests

  • The properties on Vrbo are larger, given that hosts are not allowed to list shared properties.
  • Short-term rental solutions are often a lot cheaper than hotels.
  • Guests can look forward to more privacy when they book a property through Vrbo, as they will have the entire place to themselves.
  • Guests will have a more local experience as Vrbo hosts are often people who live in the area, giving guests a more authentic experience when traveling.


Cons for Guests

  • There are sometimes hidden fees when booking your accommodation which add up on top of the listing price. Fees like service fees and fees for cleaning will only be shown to you at the final checkout, so keep this in mind when using the platform to
  • Properties are usually booked up quickly. Therefore, there is sometimes limited availability, especially during peak tourist season.


Pros for Hosts

  • Flexible pricing
  • Increased property exposure on Expedia.
  • Hosts can vet guests by setting certain criteria before booking.


Cons for Hosts

  • Slightly higher commissions than other platforms, with percentages going up to 8%.
  • Hosts are responsible for organizing additional services like cleaning and maintenance should anything happen to their property. Vrbo does not offer support in this regard.


Alternatives to Vrbo

When you are a host on any short-term rental platform, the main objective is to ensure that your property reaches as close to the maximum occupancy as possible. For this reason, it’s common practice for hosts to list their properties on other platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com. 

Both platforms have similar features for hosts, with some varying services on features like guest-host interaction and fees associated with using the platform. 

If you, as a host, are using multiple platforms to list your property, a piece of software like Hospiria is an ideal solution for you, as it will sync with all bookings made on the various platforms and update your property’s availability automatically. This will help to mitigate the risks of double bookings, which could end up costing you more in the long run, given that you will have to compensate disappointed guests. 


Final Thoughts

Vrbo is a great platform to use as a host and is also a great solution for guests who want to book accommodation for their next trip. The platform has been well-optimized over the years to provide hosts and guests alike with a good experience. Having been taken over by Expedia, the platform is also a perfect solution for anyone who wants to push bookings for their property, as Vrbo offers excellent promotional tools for hosts. 

The interface of both the app and the website makes it the ideal platform for guests to book and offers filters and search tools for guests to find their perfect vacation rental. If you haven’t used the platform before, either as a host or as a guest, it’s certainly worth trying the next time you list a property or book travel. 

The platform also links with Hospiria’s software and can help you manage bookings in a professional manner. Our software handles everything from property availability to invoices and payments, making it easy for you to get a good overview of your vacation rental business.