Listing your room or property? We’ve pitted two of the most popular vacation rental sites against one another, Airbnb vs VRBO, to help hosts like you make wiser decisions
While there are many listing sites to choose from, Airbnb and VRBO are still two the most well-known. For hosts, this can be a source of confusion. Should they list on just one or is it better to use both services for more exposure? To cut straight to the chase, hosts are better off listing on both for good measure, but not so fast.
These rental sites offer different perks and features; while Airbnb accepts more diverse listings, your property type might not be allowed on VRBO.
You may also find that VRBO’s yearly hosting fee works better for you as opposed to Airbnb’s pay-per-booking option.
To help you in your selection, we’ve scoured the web to give you a detailed rundown of Airbnb vs VRBO, complete with features, details on how each platform works, and their pros and cons.
Table of Contents
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb, which was first named Air Bed in Breakfast when it was founded in 2008, is a home rental platform with a simple goal: to connect customers looking for short term rentals with homeowners who could share their space.
The idea to become a middleman came from founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, who rented out a part of their space to young creatives visiting their city for a design convention.
After bringing in another roommate, Nathan Blecharcyzk, as chief technology officer, Airbnb was born.
Since its inception, Airbnb has been a popular addition to the sharing economy, along with TaskRabbit and Uber.
The service has around 150 million users around the world and over 7 million worldwide listings in more than 220 countries. Listings in Airbnb are diverse; apart from regular spaces, you can rent out over 14,000 tiny houses, 4,900 castles, and 2,400 tree houses.
As of 2019, the company is worth $31 billion.
How Airbnb Works
Airbnb allows hosts to rent out entire properties or spare rooms to guests. If you plan to rent out your space, you will have to register your listing on the platform and provide certain specifications which include number of rooms, size, area, and other details.
You will also be prompted to specify your exact location, the availability of your space, and how many guests you can accommodate. Airbnb encourages hosts to include high-quality images of their space.
Before hosts get to list their place, they must check the legality of listing a rental in their city or neighborhood. Do note that there are various laws on renting out spaces for extended periods of time (for some countries or cities, Airbnb isn’t legal).
In Airbnb, guest approval is up to the host. After receiving requests to book your listing, you can communicate directly with the guest to either approve or deny them.
Hosts get access to guest reviews written by other hosts, so you can size up a guest before accepting them into your space.
After approving a guest, the platform holds unto the payment until 24 hours after check-in. Payment options vary from country to country, but you can expect to be paid through wire transfer, PayPal, or direct deposit.
Airbnb offers a plethora of services for hosts including refunds, rebooking assistance, insurance programs, a $1 million Host Guarantee, and safety services including smoke detectors, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers.
What is VRBO?
VRBO, which stands for Vacation Rental by Owner, was established in 1996. It was one of the first few companies to offer vacation homeowners a chance to list their homes for guests looking for a place to rent.
VRBO became a part of the HomeAway family of companies in 2006, which extended its reach even further. In VRBO, properties can be run by the homeowner, but if you have 10 properties or more, you can qualify to use the platform’s property manager service.
Most of VRBO’s listings are empty homes available to be rented all throughout the year.
VRBO’s unique selling point is its full-space rentals. Renters never share the spaces they rent with homeowners or other lodgers, so when travelers book a rental, they’re actually reserving the entire property. Rentals range from massive estates to smaller apartments.
How VRBO Works
VRBO matches property owners with travelers looking for vacation rentals. Management companies and individual property owners both use the platform to attract short-term tenants.
A homeowner may opt to choose nightly or weekly rates for his property, with the freedom to set his or her own rates.
Apart from showcasing your platform on its website, VRBO also advertises your listing on all of its affiliated sites including Expedia, KAYAK, Trivago, TravelMob, and CanadaStays.
Differences between Airbnb and VRBO
Airbnb vs. VRBO: Renting Details
Both platforms allow assistance animals without discrimination, but for other pets, fees vary from listing to listing and depend on the property owner. For more information, here’s Airbnb’s non-discrimination policy for assistance animals.
VRBO’s website offers a guide on how to build a successful pet policy that protects their interests.
Airbnb encourages its hosts to be responsible for providing clean accommodation. This includes vacuuming and laundering towels and linens when guests leave. Hosts are reminded that guests are asked to fill out a cleanliness rating after their stay, further encouraging them to keep their spaces tidy.
Airbnb also encourages its host to add a cleaning fee in their total rate to cover the cost of hiring a cleaning service or buying cleaning supplies.
In VRBO, it’s common practice for owners to ask their guests to clean minimally. This includes running the dishwasher, putting out the trash, or leaving all used linen in one area. The platform offers guidelines on how hosts can clean specific rooms in their properties.
Airbnb vs. VRBO: Fees
For hosts, the platform takes 3% commission for every successful booking, and between 6% to 12% from guests. Airbnb allows you to set your own fee, with listing prices that you can set per night, week, or month.
VRBO has two pricing models for hosts. The annual subscription costs $499 and is advised for homeowners who expect to collect more than $10,000 in annual rental. Signing up for the annual subscription gives hosts access to several helpful features which includes a reservation manager and a calendar, two tools which can help them keep track of who their guests are and when they are staying.
For hosts who don’t expect to rent their property often, the platform’s pay-per-booking option makes more sense.
With this option, VRBO charges a 5% commission for every booking made, a 3% payment processing fee, and a 2% additional fee if a non-US credit card is used to book your property. In total, a total of 10% commission may be slashed off from the booking fee.
When it comes to taxes, VRBO may find the need to send you a 1099 form, but its best to follow up with the company to confirm.
Airbnb, on the other hand, sends your rental history report to the IRS regardless of how many nights your rental was booked.
Tax rules may be complicated for both Airbnb and VRBO, so it’s best to check with the IRS for more comprehensive details.
Airbnb vs. VRBO: Types of Properties
Airbnb offers a diverse variety of spaces both large and small from luxury estates to small basements. You can list an entire place, a hotel room, a private room, or a shared room.
Homeowners who list shared rooms or private rooms will most likely reside on the property while their listed space is being rented. Most guests nowadays often find this kind of set-up to be a plus to their travel experience as it involves meeting new people.
For Airbnb, a good listing is one that is:
- Not intended for mobile use, such as watercraft or vehicles
- Meant for lodging, so you cannot list garages that also house storage boxes or cars.
- Situated in a base location permanently owned by the lister (vessels like boats and mobile homes must have an owned campsite or dock)
Unlike Airbnb, VRBO doesn’t accept shared spaces. When guests rent a space from Airbnb, they rent the entire home. Owners who are also property managers only meet the renter to transfer keys or appear during cases of emergency (such as maintenance issues).
Most VRBO properties are cabins, houses, and condos with a wide variety of listing types that include barns, villas, cottages, bungalows, chalets, castles, yurts, mansions, and chateaus, among others.
The platform also accepts mobile RVs, and although they can be moved around, they must be housed at a base location.
Airbnb vs. VRBO: Cancellation
For both Airbnb and VRBO, hosts are protected by cancellations by requiring guests to pay a certain percentage of the total booking cost.
There are three standard types of cancellation policies for Airbnb ranging from flexible to super strict, including three individual circumstance policies.
The flexible policy offers guests a full refund if they cancel within 24-48 hours before their check-in. Policies have their own rules and requirements (check them out here).
VRBO, on the other hand, has five cancellation policies that include relaxed, moderate, firm, strict, and no refund. VRBO’s policies are simpler and easier to understand than Airbnb’s.
The relaxed plan offers guests a full refund if they cancel 14 days before their booking. If they cancel within 7 days of booking and they get a 50% refund.
Pros and Cons of Airbnb and VRBO
Let’s evaluate a number of the benefits and disadvantages of Airbnb vs VRBO.
Pros of Airbnb
Unlike VRBO that only offers full-space rentals, Airbnb allows you to book single rooms in various types of properties. Apart from being an affordable option for penny-pinching travelers, this also offers one thing most modern travelers are looking for: a chance to hob-nob and live with the locals.
Hosts can entertain their guests personally and offer local insights – a plus for travelers looking for a culturally-rich experience.
One of the features that make Airbnb unique is its Experiences platform – a feature that allows hosts to offer guests activities and experiences near their Airbnb location.
When reserving a space, guests can select from a wide range of experiences in categories that include the arts, nature, sports, classes & workshops, entertainment, health & wellness, music, and history, among others.
This allows hosts to make their booking offers more attractive.
Cons of Airbnb
If you’re renting out a single room, you’ll be sharing your home with your guests. This means sharing your common areas, your kitchen, and even your bathroom.
You’ll find that you’ll also more likely to be self-conscious with other people in the same house – which means no walking around in your undies and being quieter at the wee hours of the night.
See Related: 10 Important Pros and Cons of Airbnb Hosting
Pros of VRBO
Listing on VRBO means listing on HomeAway and other affiliated sites. This means more exposure for your property, and possibly more income in the long run.
Subscription Fee Options
One of the best things about VRBO is its two subscription options. You can enroll in their listing service via its per-booking fee of 3%, or via a yearly subscription of $499. With the right strategy, you’ll find that this gives you more opportunities to save.
Cons of VRBO
Lack of Property Types
Limited rental options are definitely an issue with VRBO. It just doesn’t have the flexibility that Airbnb has in terms of property types.
If you have space in your rental property for more than one guest, VRBO will not allow you to book two different guests in one property as it requires full-space rentals only.
Pricy Service Fees
VRBO has steep service fees, and to cover the cost of these fees, the owner may need to increase his nightly rate. When you combine pricy guest service fees with increased rates, you may be pushing potential guests to look elsewhere for their vacation rental.
VRBO also imposes credit card fees, so if your guest pays for their booking with a credit card, the platform will charge for you this transaction.
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