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VRBO changing their policies and adding significant fees

New Hartford, New...
Destination Expert
for Myrtle Beach
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2,103 posts
172 reviews
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VRBO changing their policies and adding significant fees

Be aware when booking through VRBO, Homeaway, VacationRentals. Unfortunately VRBO, Homeaway, VacationRentals, now charges a significant "fee" to renters when booking with a credit card. They call it a service fee and it is in addition to the credit card fee. As great as VRBO used to be it's going to be more expensive to use them and closer in price to booking directly with a hotel. It's very unfair to the owners who use VRBO as they receive no benefit other than reduced bookings as VRBO is taking a hefty percentage with this new fee. When asked what service is provided for this fee they responded with:

"Should a homeowner arrive and can't get in to their rental VRBO will work with them to find other accommodations. That may be a hotel or whatever we can find for them." So if you booked a 3 bedroom condo don't think you'll be getting the same in return. If you've used the same rental property for years and are happy with them, stick with them and pay the owner directly to avoid the fee. Whatever property you are looking at read the reviews, call the owner and do an internet search to make sure you don't find anything misleading.

To make things more unfortunate the CEO Brian Sharples had this to say:

"The combination of the new fee and what you already charge is too much” – We hear you on this. With the launch of the service fee, we did take down the rates charged to our suppliers for our pay-per-booking listing product (and our subscribers are always welcome to choose that option). In April we will announce a new long-term plan for subscribers that we believe is more balanced than what we have today. This will be based on our research leading into the launch, the data we are observing from this launch, and also will include the feedback we’ve been receiving."

But in the meantime our renters will pay through the nose for a fee that does little for them.

Bay Area, California
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177 posts
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1. Re: VRBO changing their policies and adding significant fees

Hi Lillious, Thank you for reporting on this important and unfortunate change at VRBO.

The GOOD NEWS is if a smart traveler asks, many or most owners listed on VRBO will still provide the option to rent their vacation rental directly to the traveler, and owners don't charge these new fees!

So just by asking, you can probably work directly with the owners.... (as has been the VRBO model for the past 10 years).

This change by HomeAway is NEW. They have made subtle changes to their website that intend to coerce travelers into believing that it is no longer safe to book directly with owners. But there is no substance to this claim, it is only an attempt to increase HomeAway/VRBO's "take rate".

And the allegations to make travelers distrustful of owners, well this is quite demeaning to owners. Most owners work hard to attract guests to rent their properties, to offer a quality vacation rental that will receive rave reviews and repeat guests, and who have loyally listed on VRBO, some for 10 or more years.

The best way a traveler can verify this for themselves, google this phrase - take rate airbnb sharples skift. And then to read the actual Ts and Cs of the "Book with Confidence Guarantee", link provided at the end of this post.

You will see from the interview with Skift with HomeAway's CEO Brian Sharples, that HomeAway has been eyeing the model that AirBnB employs in order to take about 10 to 13% of the rental transaction.

HomeAway had been working with Expedia for months prior to their November 2015 acquisition by Expedia to test the waters to see if they could coerce owners into believing that they must turn over the control of their former close and direct interaction with guests. The new fees and Book Online features are the initial rollout of this program, more changes to come later this year.

HomeAway/VRBO is attempting to sell something they call the "Book with Confidence Guarantee" to rationalize why they are now charging a [still optional] service fee. They are no doubt counting on the fact that most people will not actually read the Terms and Conditions of the Service which costs 6-9% of the rental transaction for all persons who chose to book online rather than working directly with the owner.

But what HomeAway doesn't say is that what they are attempting to "sell" for 6-9% additional cost for the rental is essentially what your credit card already provides you with today for Free, fraud protection.

And in fact, the HomeAway 'Policy" will not payout unless the traveler has first gone to their credit card company to formally dispute a charge due to fraud, and even after the traveler has done this, HomeAway's legal wording clearly shows they reserve the right to deny reimbursement.

It's acutally no guarantee at all, except a guarantee that you'll acrue more "points" or "miles" on your credit card purchase when you pay an extra 6-9%.

Travelers who have with great success been using VRBO in the past should continue to do so. If you don't wish to purchase the "Book with Confidence Guarantee", just inquire with an owner whether they require you to book through the VRBO system or whether they will work with you directly.

In the future, VRBO may decide to restrict direct communication between owners and prospective renters, similar as to how it is handled today by AirBnB who also seeks to earn their revenue via restricting direct communication.

If this happens, travelers will just have to use their internet search skills to find where the property they are interested in may be advertised elsewhere. Most owners have more than one internet site they list their property. Use of Google Chrome Image search or finding some phrases that seem unique to the property's descriptions are both ways to search for the owner's other listing sites.

And to find a reputable rental, and for anything you book on the internet, do your homework!

For a vacation rental, see how long they've been listed. If it has been a couple of years or more, then they are almost certainly legitimate because they would not be paying an expensive listing fee year after year. Additionally any fraudulant listing would have been discovered, reported and taken down in a fairly short period of time.

If you want to ensure that the property listing is accurate and not mis-representing what you will actually find when you arrive, read the reviews carefully (ie don't just count the number of reviews or see the number of stars). Look to see that prior traveler comments are consistent with what you desire. Reviews on HomeAway/VRBO can not be entered by the owner, rather they are verified to be from someone who actually stayed at the property or they won't get posted.

Don't be fooled by this smoke-and-mirrors "Guarantee", it's no guarantee at all, just a way to make money off of those who are easily fooled and don't bother to read the Ts and Cs... https:/…bookwithconfidence

And don't give up on VRBO yet......just be a wise shopper to get your value for your next vacation rental.

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2. Re: VRBO changing their policies and adding significant fees

Good posts. These fees are just brutal. And yeah, the 'guarantee' is just pointless.

3. Re: VRBO changing their policies and adding significant fees

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