In this, the final instalment of Homes and Rooms ‘Independent Vacation Rental Owner’s Guide to Listing Sites’, we look at how to choose and use listing sites and keep your independence.
Choose your listing sites carefully. Even though choosing may seem a daunting task, we don’t recommend the pin-sticking or coin-tossing methods.
We considered the downside of listing sites in Who Calls the Shots? Part 4 of our guide. With this in mind, before signing up with anyone, do your homework. Read the industry coverage to get more of a handle on the big players. Here at Homes and Rooms we often carry details of major industry developments in our Blog. You can also find other stories on the independent blog of Homes and Rooms founder Barry Sacks.
Check out owner-user reviews
Look on the web for user reviews too. Not only from the guest point of view but, more importantly, from the pov of the vacation rental owner. You should find many that are happy with the service they get while others find plenty to criticize. Another good reason for not being tied to one channel. If you make the wrong choice at first, it needn’t be a total disaster.
You’ll need to decide which model you prefer of those used by the listing sites. In Part 1 of our guide What Can Listing Sites Offer the Independent Vacation Rental Owner? we looked at the various models.
Would you prefer to be listed for free and let the guest pay? Would you rather pay by result – the pay per booking model where you pay the listing site for any booking they get for you – or via the subscription model where you pay for the listing service irrespective of any bookings received as a result?
Don’t expect any consultation
But remember that what holds true for today may change tomorrow! Hence the need to spread your marketing methods widely. Following the proposed takeover agreement with Expedia, HomeAway plans to begin charging guests as well as owners for their services. Subscription rates for owners are not normally negotiated. Nor are the big listing sites known for consultation with the property owners on whom they depend when it comes to fixing these rates.
There is a marked preference among the industry big boys for the Book Now realtime button. Intending owner subscribers should look carefully at this where it is being touted by a listing site as a great thing. It is a good thing for listing sites, offering their ‘want it right now’ guests (or should that be your guests?) an instant booking facility. They also gain a huge degree of control over property owners.
Book Now facility is not always good news
Online customers are more likely to book where this facility exists. And you, as an owner, won’t get any pesky inquires. In fact, you get no inquiries as the dealings with your guests are handled exclusively by the listing site. Not necessarily good news as you may not even get the guests’ contact details to help build your own database. As noted in Part 3 of our Essential Guide, this guest database is a vital resource in retaining your independence.
So far, HomeAway owner-users can choose whether they have the Book Now button that cuts them out of the loop. But next year, when Expedia is scheduled to take over, HomeAway subscribers will no longer have this choice: everyone will get the Book Now treatment.
Once you have signed up, monitor and analyze the performance of any listing sites you use, as we suggest in Part 2, A Who’s Who of the Vacation Rental Listing Sites. Homes and Rooms provides the tools to help you do this as part of your subscription.
We’ve seen how the pace of change in the growth and reach of listing sites can leave some owners high and dry. Particularly those without their own website who have built their online marketing around a single major listing site.
Retain your independence
As providers of service to independent vacation rental owners and managers, we devised this guide to help owners benefit from the activities of the listing sites while retaining their own independence. We are not saying don’t use listing sites. They can offer significant benefits.
What we are saying is: spread it around, use more than one site. Be selective about how you use them and add other channels to your marketing mix. Mine your own guest database, use social media as we outlined in Part 3, What Alternatives to Listing Sites for Vacation Rental Owners.
But without your own website, you will be totally reliant on the whims of the listing sites. And, judging by the way the wind is blowing, you will be handing over substantial control of your property and your choice of guests to those same listing sites that rely on businesses like yours for their success.