Why book directly with us?
There used to be a time when Vacation Rental owners could simply advertise their homes for rent and field calls and emails from travelers. We like to call this “2015”. VRBO was a fantastic venue for Owners and Renters to find each other. Owners paid a flat fee to advertise and Renters could find the perfect house for their family vacation. Then, along came Expedia and AirBnB. Expedia bought VRBO and AirBnB became a national phenomenon. This changed everything for Owners and Travelers alike. AirBnB started charging travelers “booking fees” of 6-12% and owners 3% for handling the credit card transactions. Owners increased rates to cover the CC fee and now travelers were paying 9-15% on top of their rental fees. Expedia, in trying to recover some of their $4 billion purchase of HomeAway/VRBO started doing the same thing. 3% charge to owners to use HomeAway payments, and 5-12% to travelers on top of the rental amount. That means on your “$3,000” family vacation you may get hit with an additional $500 in “booking fees”. AirBnB charges even more!
UPDATE: In 2018, NJ passed a sales and occupancy tax on vacation rentals that add 11.625% to the cost of the booking. Individual owners are not required to charge or collect the tax on direct bookings, but VRBO and AirBnB ARE. Combined with their fees, a site like AirBnB can end up costing you almost 25% MORE on your vacation! That’s over $2,000!
Not only are you looking at paying significantly more, but both companies prohibit travelers and owners from communicating directly with each other. If you have specific questions about the area or the house, your only option is to send messages back and forth using VRBO’s messaging platform. You can’t pick up the phone and talk to the owner. That is strictly forbidden! These major listing sites are using scare tactics such as “Million dollar guarantees” and warning of fake owners with fraudulent listings. But the reality is, only a “real owner” is going to take the time to build and maintain their own property website. In this day and age it is very easy to identify the true owner of a property. Simply go to the county’s website and look up the property address in the tax records and you will see the name of the owner. VRBO and AirBnB don’t even bother with this simple verification. Besides, if you are using the same credit card to book directly, your credit card company affords you the same guarantees.
We do advertise our property on VRBO and AirBnB, and take bookings when people contact us through them. Those sites still bring in some rentals so we still use them to advertise, but if you don’t mind doing a little more research you can find the owners of the properties online and contact them directly. Many owners are getting smarter and having their own web presence, and naming their sites and properties the same so it becomes easier to find!
So, take a minute and see if you can book directly with the owner. When you book directly, you are saving money, money that is better spent on a nicer home, a day at the amusement park or a nice family dinner at a restaurant.
Some tips for booking directly:
- Try local or regional listing sites like www.VacationRentalsLBI.com or www.vhrnetwork.com. These “By Owner” listing sites are trying to re-create the direct-to-owner experience that VRBO used to offer, including not charging renters any booking fees. Give them a try.
- Use FaceBook. Lots of owners have their own pages for their vacation rentals. You can search by area or name. Also, check for a local or regional “group” like the LBI, NJ Rentals group. You will find many owners on these groups and you can post what you are looking for or ask for recommendations.
- Use StaySavr to unveil owner contact info on VRBO. You can either use their new look up tool at www.staysavr.com/look/ or install the browser extension called “staysavr” in your browser. It is available from www.staysavr.com . Once installed, you can visit VRBO and a reported 70% of the listings will now show the owner’s phone # or email address and you can contact them directly! Either option is a great way to save big $.
- Use the major listing sites to search for properties you like.
- Make note of the “name” the owner has given the property….like Moose Lake Cabin or Beach Haven 7. Then go to Google and search for that name, chances are the owner has a website that will allow you to book direct.
- If you are using Google’s Chrome browser, simply right click on the main photo of the house and select “Search Google for image” to find that image on the web. There is a good chance the owner uses the same images on his own site.
Once you have found the owner’s contact info or website, ask if you can book directly. Chances are most owners will jump at the opportunity. In terms of saving money, ask the owner how you can save money booking direct. One suggestion is to pay by check, eCheck or bank transfer. These options cost the owner much less than credit cards and they will likely pass the savings on to you.
Cost comparison of booking a week in our rental: