To VRBO Or Not To VRBO – That IS The Question- Part 1

Since 1995, VRBO/HomeAway, has operated as online classifieds where vacation rental owners pay to advertise their homes. The site puts guests in contact with owners or property managers.

After collecting all of the traveler’s preferences (think online dating for vacation rentals) several matches would be made for you consider.  Once you found the type of property you were looking for, the site would put you in contact with the owners or managers of that particular property.  After that, the rest was up to you and the owners to arrange.  It was a great idea as it allowed property owners a larger format to share their homes and vacationers a broader array of options to choose from.  From those with large families who want to stay together to those with health complications and need more than a hotel room, who may have thought that travel was largely out of the realm of possibility, to everything in-between, this was a fantastic and brilliant vacation option for the owners and travelers alike.  Now comes the “However”……..

However, after an acquisition by Expedia, completed in 2015, they have slowly begun charging an extra “booking fee” of 5-15% to guests (you) to book any vacation rental.  This fee goes solely to VRBO/HomeAway/Epedia, not to the owner or manager of the vacation rental. It is expected that  ALL guests and homeowners will pay this fee by the end of the year.  At this time, the guests of CASA MÚSICA DEL CARIBE do not pay a fee because we opted not to allow VRBO/HomeAway online booking or online payments when we renewed our advertising last time.  They reportedly are also going to start charging the owner a “vacation penalty” for each booking.  This is money they will take from you (the traveler) – money which could be used for something FUN – and me (the owner)comes into play – for all of us.

In order to collect their fee, which currently caps at $499 per booking, VRBO/HomeAway has removed OUR contact information so you cannot call or email us to book our properties outside of their website. They have also removed YOUR contact information so we can’t see who you are until after the property is booked. As a result,  it is very difficult to  offer perks to our repeat guests, reductions on longer stays, help with last minute reservations, or assist with adjusting your dates a day or two to help with your schedule or ours. We want to communicate directly with you so we can give you the very best service and experience when you stay with us, just as we always have.  Our returning guests receive a 10% discount, as do  Active Duty Military Personnel.

For many, vacation travel is a privilege.  It’s not something that comes easily and the majority must save, budget, and plan throughout the year to ensure they’ll have that beautiful and memorable escape with their loved ones.  The owners of CASA MUSICA DEL CARIBE not only understand, but can relate to that. However, at this time, it looks like we will be forced to accept this new “vacation penalty”  at the end of the year when the new surcharge becomes mandatory and our renewal is due.

In this economy, we understand that vacations are a luxury.  We also understand that most of us save all year to have that ONE WEEK with our loved ones.  In some cases, the service fee from VRBO/HomeAway may remove our home (and many other beautiful homes) from consideration because it may have just pushed them over what they have budgeted.   If a guest stays 7 nights in an average home of  $325 per night, they will pay an additional $113.25  (at 5%(vacation penalty) for their trip.  You can have a whole lot of fun with $113.25.   This simply is not fair.  The owner loses that much money.  The travelers receive nothing else – other than the fact that they (VRBO/HomeAway) took $113.25 out of your vacation budget simply because they wanted to

We ASSURE you that you can book directly with us in full confidence that you will be taken care of in the manner that WE expect when we travel.  You DO NOT need to do an online booking with ANY listing site to have complete faith that your stay will be beyond your wildest dreams!  You WILL NOT incur a booking fee of 5-15% on top of our rental rates.  You WILL receive the personalized service and attention that we expect when we travel.  Need more assurance?  Our reviews and 5 star rating speaks for itself!

VRBO/HomeAway speak of customer 24/7 customer support in exchange for their astronomical booking fees..  However, they have nothing to do with any of the properties.  If a guest does not have any hot water, if a guest is locked  out of the house, if the flight is delayed, if the wifi is giving you problems, if you want a nice restaurant (or hire a private chef to cook for you at your Paradise Home of CASA MÚSICA DEL CARIBE)….VRBO/Home Away cannot help you with any of that.  They have no idea who the project managers or owners are.   They don’t know who to call to fix the a/c. ONLY THE PROPERTY MANGER OR OWNER CAN HELP WITH ANYTHING ON YOUR TRIP. The Booking Sites are simply a platform for people to list their homes. This worked fine and wonderful…..until corporate greed took over (enter Expedia,).

We understand that sometimes life happens – an illness preventing you from travel; a hurricane; death in the family, etc.  Our cancellation plan is much better than HomeAway/VRBO.  When we have contact with the guest before the check-in, it always helps.

VRBO/HomeAway tell the guests that if the owner doesn’t offer online booking through HomeAway’s checkout that you won’t be eligible for the VRBO/HomeAway “Book With Confidence Guarantee”.   What they call their  “Book With Confidence Guarantee”,  is no different than the same guarantee you get when you pay for any purchase with your credit card or with PayPal and you are protected against fraud.

For peace of mind,  we always advise that you purchase travel insurance, which is substantially less than paying VRBO/HomeAway their exorbitant “service fees”.   We do not endorse, nor recommend,  any company.  However, to make things easier for you, here are a couple of the most used travel insurance companies.  You are responsible for doing your own due diligence with regard to research and purchase.

Allianz Travel Insurance

Insure My Trip

As stated on the VRBO/HomeAway website: “Travelers pay the service fee by credit card when paying through the secure HomeAway checkout process. The service fee is only charged to the card once the booking has been accepted by the property owner or manager. The service fee is a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees. The service fee is between 5-12% for most bookings but can be above or below, based on the reservation. The percentage rate may change from time to time. Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of service fee.”   It sure sounds like  VRBO/HomeAway are now “Ticket Scalpers”.   In our opinion, this is nothing more than another way to make additional profit just to have a site for people to list their homes.

Remember: The homeowners do ALL of the writing and ALL of the advertising for their own homes.   They pay for professional photos.  They take great time and care to put together all of the information that you receive from the booking site (VRBO/HomeAway, AirBnb, etc.) after you make your reservation.  The booking sites compile and compose NOTHING.  They are just people on the other end of the phone.  They have no knowledge of any of the homes.

If you would like more information on a house you are considering renting, by all means go to the Booking Site (VRBO/HomeAway/Expedia or AirBnb or similar site) that you have used in the past.  Find the name of the property and “LOOK BUT DON’T BOOK”.  Then google the name of the house.  Chances are that you will find the owner and you can book direct.

The savings will look good on you and also in your wallet. 

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