In this first instalment in our series ‘An independent vacation rental owner’s guide to listing sites’, Homes and Rooms looks at what they are, what they provide and how they fit into the vacation rental business.
Vacation rentals are arranged through the owner or with an agency, often via the internet and frequently via a listing site. At its simplest, a listing site is a website that lists details of vacation rental properties submitted by their owners for rental. A large proportion of potential renters visit the listing sites to track down the property that meets their requirements.
Some listings are free
Some listing sites are free to use by owners but charge guests a fee. More often, listing sites charge the owner for being listed and also provide additional services. Charging is either by a subscription, usually annual (whether or not the owner gets any reservations as a result) or on a commission based on resultant bookings. This is known as the ‘pay per booking’ model.
An owner’s listing is effectively their shop window, so images are important. Listing sites all carry photographs of the rental property, but the number and quality of those allowed are generally restricted by the listing site. Some offer a more lavish display than others, while a number charge the owner for any additional images.
These sites are effectively advertising your property and the larger operators claim to reach millions worldwide. HomeAway, for example, describes itself as ‘the world’s most comprehensive, trusted source for holiday homes’ and claims to have more than 1million properties listed worldwide.
Maximum exposure claimed
In addition, they promise maximum exposure by reaching, they claim, ‘over 60 million travellers across our global network of sites each month.’
HomeAway sees its role as: ‘Connecting property owners and managers with holidaymakers looking for the perfect accommodation to share their dream holidays together with families and friends’.
As announced on 4 November, HomeAway is due to be swallowed up by hotel booking giant Expedia early in 2016, so what they offer vacation rental owners will change. Already it has been confirmed that guests as well as owners will be charged for using the site and that commission charges to owners will be reduced.
A lot of owners have their own websites, but many will also use listing services as a major source of bookings. To help owners operate efficiently and independently, Homes and Rooms subscribers are given their own free website when they first register their property with us.
Guests will often, though not always, contact the property owner directly in order to book.
Vacation rental agencies
In contrast to listing sites, vacation rental agencies will handle reservations and billing on the homeowner’s behalf. Here there is no direct contact between the guest and the owner. The fees or commission charged to the owner by vacation rental agencies will be higher than those charged by listing sites. But then, owners will have less work to do.
Most owners – especially those living remote from their properties – will also contract a vacation rental management company to manage the property for them. Such companies will handle housekeeping and property maintenance.
There are some management companies who will do this and also act as agencies. They will take away most of the work of running your property – but at a price! And that can range from 20% to as much as 50% commission on your bookings. They will market your vacation rental, handle reservations and billing as well as housekeeping and property maintenance.
Owner gets a guaranteed rental
And for those who want minimal involvement in managing their vacation property, there are companies which offer owners a guaranteed rental. They effectively lease the property from you for a set number of weeks or months in the year, then market and rent it out at rates decided by them. Owners get a pre-agreed, guaranteed income while the management and risks of the property are the responsibility of the management company.
As well as taking away the control of your own property from you, this can be a very expensive solution. The income you get from your vacation home will be just a fraction of what it could have been had you handled things yourself.
Services to help you self-manage
There are easy to use, time-saving tools available that can help you self-manage your property so that you can enjoy the full income and be in full control. There are SaaS (software as a service) providers who can build you a website, provide you with an internet-based billing and reservations system and more.
And there is Homes and Rooms who can provide you with your own free website and all the powerful tools you need to manage your property. Manage it in the way you choose, while maximizing your revenues. Why not take a trial of Homes and Rooms and see for yourself with our 14-day challenge just how easy it can be to self-manage your property before considering some of the more costly alternatives.
Look out for the next instalment in this series when we’ll be bringing you a who’s who among the listing sites. Meanwhile, if you have any comments or listing site experiences you’d like to share with us, we’d be delighted to hear from you.