The launch of vacation rental sites VRBO, Airbnb and other online travel sites began coming onto the scene in the mid 1990's; and their existence was lauded by both vacation guests and vacation home owners for years.
Guests were given access to the equivalent of Google, but solely designed to discover your “perfect" vacation rental in any destination, world-wide. Property owners and management companies suddenly had a tremendous amount of access to throngs of guests inquiring about their properties.
Everything was AWESOME! But then....
Those two words, "But then" point towards change. Clearly "change" is inevitable. It is something we all have to face, but changing can be for good or bad. These vacation rental search sites discovered (maybe they knew all along) their potential financial power; and the effort to begin cashing in on their platform became the mission.
That was the shift and it wasn’t for the financial good of the consumer or the property owner.
What went from manageable listing fees or commissions paid for solely by owners, soon evolved to a guest funded "service fee" - a fee determined by the value of the vacation home rental package you decide to book. That's right, every apartment, condo, villa or home comes with a service fee because you found it on their site. Theses sites are free to use right up until you book.
The return? A promise of insuring every home listed, and every reservation made and paid for using their site was backed by 24/7 "support" and a "guarantee" that the property booked is valid and available.
Wasn't that assumed all along? They didn’t do this before? Of course they did.
Make no mistake, every property advertised and every reservation made on any site should be validated in more ways than one. It's for the benefit of us all; and any bad actors should be identified and removed.
The change, though, was only getting started.
Next came the withholding of key identification information and limited messaging capabilities between the vacation rental guests and the property owner or property management company until the reservation was made and paid for on their site and their money was collected. When some of these companies became publicly traded, or sold out to other publicly traded corporations, the only people who won was them and their investors.
So, if you're with me this far, you may be asking "Where do I go from here”?
First, let me make sure you understand we're not against listing sites, and we're not against corporate profits. Vrbo and Airbnb serve a certain segment of the overall population and industry well. For that, they deserve to charge what people will willingly pay. For others, possibly this is you, the ability to change how you search for and book a vacation rental isn't a one-way street or a patented process.
Here's a few tried and true methods to save you money that can be put to better use as you learn to search and book direct:
If you’ve found a home on one of the major vacation rental sites, before you book it and accept their extra fees, Google search that vacation home property name and city to see if the owner has an independently owned, managed and bookable website like you've done here at www.sunkissedandsalty.com.
Check out regional listing sites like Florida Rental By Owners www.floridarentalbyowners.com for your next vacation property. These sites are no less trustworthy as they have excelled in placing all the safeguards necessary for validating properties listed on their site. The best news is they do not charge any guest any fees - ever. Our listing can be found there at https://www.floridarentalbyowners.com/listing.103
Search for vacation property managers in an area you want to visit. They host tens to hundreds of homes in their marketplace. They'll be glad to help you identify the property that best fits all of your needs - usually without added fees. Note: some rental agencies on the island now mimic listing site fees and we suggest avoiding them. Be sure to review the checkout page for any added fees other than tax, linen or cleaning fees. Challenge them on it!
If you return to a particular vacation destination frequently, we suggest driving, biking or walking around the areas you love most. Notice and write down the contact information on rental signs posted in front of vacation rental properties. Our home has signage with all our contact information steps away from the street.
My parting question to you is are you satisfied with the status quo in vacation rental home listing sites and giving away more of your money than needed (if so, continue doing so), or are you ready to become a more savvy consumer.?
We invite you to the world of booking direct.