VRBO.com – not a traveler friendly website


VRBO.com homepage
Screen shot of the VRBO.com homepage

Part of the HomeAway Inc’s conglomerate, VRBO.com, the website which specializes in vacation rentals by owners has always been receiving mixed reactions from both owners and travelers. So today I thought I should do a review on it.

The website, like all websites of its parent company has a good presence in the markets of the US and Europe. Although it has entered the markets of Asia too, the website has nothing new to offer. The website lacks an individual character and in the first shot looks like a reflection image of the homeaway.com website.

The website charges an owner $349 to list his property with an option to improve search position in the website by paying an additional fee of $29.99 per level. Since the website claims to be the vacation rental for owners, you expect, as an owner to get good assistance from the VRBO.com team to help you in your rental business.

However most of listings, particularly those in places like Phuket, had the most important thing of a listing missing – the availability calendar. Some owners do not use this feature which means you’re contacting properties that may already be booked. Then those that show their availability calendar do not always keep their calendar current. As a traveler who wants to book an accommodation I’m left with no option but to either call numerous owners or email them. It is a really painstaking exercise. Had the availability calendar been there, I could have easily decided based on availability. So VRBO.com doesn’t help the traveler much.

VRBO.com availability calendar
Printshot of the missing availability calendar in one of the listing in the VRBO.com website.

But, what about the owners? Well, there have been many media reports have criticized VRBO’s official policy to let owners either open up their properties to all reviews, both positive and negative, or none. While, best practices in the vacation rental industry should be to give a clear picture of the property, which I don’t see VRBO.com adhering to. A report published in the Forbes, even goes on to debate on whether this is a case of deceptive advertising. You can read the entire report by clicking here.

The website is also giving a guarantee to owners to give a free extension of the subscription fee for another six months if the owner doesn’t get 10 times the subscription fee paid to VRBO.com, which is $349 x 10 = $3490. Now for a property whose rental is $100, it means VRBO.com is guaranteeing the owner a little above a month’s occupancy, which I believe is very minimal.

Lastly, as a traveler, I find the search of VRBO.com very basic. It only gives you the option to narrow properties by location and dates. It would have been helpful to sort on additional criteria like number of bedrooms, price range, amenities and bed size for example.

VRBO.com search
Printshot of the VRBO.com's search

Although VRBO.com website has a good collection of properties, for the traveler, it is a daunting task to find one that is available for the dates he would to have his vacation. And this ultimately will hurt owners too, who are bound to see less inquiries.