Thinking of advertising your vacation rental on HomeAway or its family of international sites to get more bookings? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Below is a detailed review of HomeAway.com and their vacation rental advertising services.
This review is a comprehensive overview that will give you - as a host - verified research and detailed insider information, including both the good and the bad, in order to help you make the right choice with your future marketing decisions.
A little history about the HomeAway
HomeAway Inc, was founded in 2004 in Austin, Texas. After acquiring several vacation rental websites, the company decided to combine these to create HomeAway.com, which was successfully launched in the summer of 2006.
They have since grown exponentially by continuing to purchase both U.S and internationally based websites, allowing for one of the largest selections of vacation rental properties available.
As of 2014, HomeAway boasted over 1 million vacation rental listings across 190 countries and more than 9.8 million visits on a monthly basis.
In a survey conducted in 2013, it was found that the top 5% of property owners were averaging $56,000 in annual income. With the option of featuring your vacation home on all HomeAway owned websites, with a combined 640 million visits, you have an amazing opportunity of increasing your visibility while reaching out to a much larger pool of travellers.
That said, success rates can be hard to calculate, as it truly depends on your location, your nightly rates and how much work you actually put into it. Ultimately, your due diligence and follow-ups are key in ensuring a good relationship with renters to ensure good reviews and future bookings.
Listing your properties on HomeAway
When choosing to list your properties on HomeAway, you’ll be faced with several options. Whether you choose to list your properties yourself or get professional help, all listings come with the same set of standard features, which are similar to what you’d see on any other vacation rental website – including but not limited to, a property headline, along with description, up to 24 photos to showcase your property, reviews collected from past guests can be added to your listing, a map to show it’s location and nearby attractions, and finally a calendar to manage your property’s availability.
Prices start at $349 per property for an annual subscription, which is considered the better option for owners who rent their properties year-round.
Within the annual subscription you have 5 different membership levels, the more you pay, the more perks you get. Listed below is the information as featured on the HomeAway website:
Classic: $349/ year- Basic ranking in search results
Bronze: $449/year- up to 10% more inquiries than Classic
Silver: $649/year- up to 15% more inquiries than Classic + 1-month listing in the “Feature Rental” at the top of your areas search result page
Gold: $849/year- up to 35% more inquiries than Classic + 6-month listing in the “Feature Rental” at the top of your areas search result page
Platinum: $1,249/year- up to 70% more inquiries than Classic + 12-month listing in the “Feature Rental” at the top of your areas search result page.
When choosing one of the levels, you should seriously consider your property location and how competitive it is. If there’s a lot of other properties featured in your area, it’s probably best to choose one of the higher levels to ensure better visibility.
HomeAway also offers Bulk Discounts. So if you have a lot of properties, you can negotiate with an account manager to get better pricing on your annual subscription. Even if you own one of two properties, there are sometimes discounts or coupon codes available, just like the following coupon code & link: G307 which will save you $25 on your next listing.
Other options offered are the U.S and Global Bundles.
US Bundle: The U.S bundle is an extra $299, and features your property not only on HomeAway, but also on VRBO and VacationRentals.com.
Global Bundle: The Global Bundle is an extra $599 and will showcase your properties not only on the sites featured in the U.S bundle, but an additional 24 international websites.
What’s great about the bundled options is that your subscription level will be the same across all websites; meaning if you’ve chosen the Platinum level, you’ll be featured as Platinum level across the board. Which is a great opportunity to increase your visibility and maximize your potential for generating more bookings.
This is HomeAway’s free-to-list option with no annual fees or set up fees. Instead, when your property is booked, a minimum of 10% commission will be paid to HomeAway.
What can be seen as a downside for this option is that your listings will be featured within the Classic search results or below, giving you less visibility.
That said, any option chosen at HomeAway can always be converted later should you feel an annual set up is best suited for you.
HomeAway scores your listings by reviewing various components.
These include your response time, using an updated calendar, quality of photos, quotable rates, online booking “slash” payment processing, reviews and maps. The better you score in each of these categories, the more visibility and hits you get in the search results.
It’s a well known fact that the more visibility you get, the more bookings you’re likely to incur. And therefore it is imperative that you stay proactive in the management of your property.
What travellers are saying
HomeAway has an impressive inventory, giving the traveller ample choice of location, style and amenities. Travellers also enjoy the fact that HomeAway does not charge a booking fee.
Some people tend to feel more secure when booking through HomeAway, as vacation rental owners must pay a fee to list their homes. This typically means that the owners will be more motivated about managing their properties professionally, giving the traveller some piece of mind.
Like so many other listings websites, you’re going to find a lot of negative reviews. These range from poor property descriptions, to property switch ups, to poor customer service, etc.
Most of the negative reviews you’ll find from travellers are actually about the property owners, and not the actual website. So as long as you’re honest and transparent throughout communication/ booking process there shouldn’t be any problems.
Some negative reviews are about the review system. Some travellers will try to post negative reviews that HomeAway or VRBO will not post as they do not comply with their guidelines. The good thing is this sort of issue often saves owners from scathing reviews that have gone too far, but it can also go the other way around too (we'll get to the a little further below).
Ultimately, the negative reviews you might read most probably have little to no effect on travellers’ decisions to use HomeAway, as they literally dominate most search results and their traffic stats continue to increase year in, year out.
What owners are saying
The visibility and high level of traffic offered by HomeAway, and the websites it owns, are an extremely favourable quality.
And despite the recent surge in competition from free sites like AirBnb and FlipKey, many owners still claim that HomeAway and their family of websites is their number one source for bookings.
According to a HomeAway 2014 Press release, homeowners average 9 hours a week managing and marketing their rental properties, with an average weekly rate of $1,520, their salary compares to $84 an hour. Which is a great way of supplementing your income.
That being said, it’s extremely important to note that your income from HomeAway will always be positively correlated with the amount of effort & investment that you put into it.
"Expensive listing fees"
HomeAway can get quite pricey, especially when dealing with an annual subscription that doesn’t necessarily guarantee bookings.
Subscribing with either Silver, Gold or Platinum will result in your property being featured in the “Featured Area”, but if you own rental properties in a popular destination, your property will rotate with others who have purchased one of these levels.
While several owners have been frustrated with this rotation, you still need to consider the potential ROI. For example the Silver level cost $649 annually (or $54 a month), and gives you 1 month in the “Featured Rental” section. If you consider that the average nightly fee on HomeAway is $217/night, with most renters staying a minimum of 3 nights (total of $651 for 3 nights), you can easily make your money back on your first booking. And by that math, it’s probably how they calculated their pricing… but don’t quote us on that.
So when you pay a decent chunk of change, and you don’t get the results you were looking for, it tends to be a hard pill to swallow, and really doesn’t sit well with owners. Even despite the fact that a $1,000 investment
It is therefore essential to stay on top of your calendar, as well as inquiries to make sure you keep your visibility maximized.
People will always choose to book with owners they know to be serious, so responding in a timely & professional fashion is absolutely imperative.
"Poor customer service"
Some of the most common negative reviews about HomeAway’s advertising services are regarding poor customer service. These issues range from listing issues, to technical issues and even refunds. Some owners have had a really hard time getting any type of response beyond the typical “IT is currently working on it.”
With that said, it's unfortunate, but this type of complaint has often been seen industry-wide.
"Frustrating review policies"
Some owners have been subject to false negative reviews about their properties. Some hosts even claim to be "held ransom" for refunds or else... But yet again this is another issue we see almost everywhere across the industry.
The issue is that HomeAway is only a middleman, and can only do so much without implicating themselves into dodgy territory.
So it's extremely important that as a host, you do your due diligence in communicating with your guests and make sure that they understand the rules and implications of breaking them. Written renter's agreements are key at solidifying your protection against this sort of thing.
There are many stories of terrible guests booking for a specific number of people, but then show up with more, throw parties, do damage, wreak havoc in the neighbourhood, etc...
The problem that when owners find themselves in these types of situations, they will have very little to no recourse from HomeAway. Again, this is pretty much industry-wide and as the middleman, they tend to want to take a step back and let the parties resolve it on their own...
But once more, the best way to protect yourself against this sort of thing is by having all of your guests sign a renter's agreement. Our modo is that if the guest is not comfortable signing an agreement that is set in place to protect you and your property agains any harm-doing, then you probably wouldn't want them staying at your property in the first place.
Competition across the industry has increased dramatically over the past 5 years. And vacation rental advertising websites are undergoing massive amounts of pressure to adapt, keep up, innovate, grow, and increase profits - all at the same time.
Unfortunately, HomeAway is not immune to this type of industry-wide pressure, and it seems that it has affected the results that they are able to provide for their owners -for better or worse.
Often, owners who used to average $25K+ per year in bookings per listing on HomeAway are now finding it difficult to see half of that, and are often complaining about the fact that they’re paying more than they used to in listing fees.
Nonetheless, the HomeAway brand is still one of the most recognized in the industry and arguably the most dominant portfolio of international websites on which to advertise your vacation rentals.
You can love them, or hate them. – As it seems very few people fall into the middle ground… - But it does not change the fact that they ARE one of the industry’s top companies when it comes to advertising your vacation rental.
Every property is different.
Every location is different.
And every owner’s management style is different.
Only you can decide whether or not HomeAway is right for your vacation rental business.
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homeaway.com - comScore's Media Matrix Media Trend Report, January 2013