As a property owner, listing on sites like Airbnb vs VRBO can generate rental income. But their different fee structures and traveler focuses makes you wonder – which is better for real estate investors?
As a hotelier, I have found a multi-platform approach, including a direct booking site has value. But depending on your goals, one site may suit you better.
In this article, we’ll compare considerations like fee structures, property type focuses, and traveler demographics between Airbnb and VRBO.
Whether you’re an experienced host or just starting out, you can maximize rental earnings by choosing the platform best aligned to your property and hosting objectives. Let’s explore the key differences between Airbnb vs VRBO to guide your listing decision!
- Platform Differences: Airbnb offers diverse accommodations, appealing to various traveler needs, while VRBO specializes in entire vacation rentals, suitable for families or groups.
- Booking and Pricing Variances: Airbnb features a user-friendly, instant booking process with upfront costs and a 3% commission. In contrast, VRBO separates nightly rates, charges a yearly subscription fee, and a 5-10% commission.
- Safety Measures and Considerations: Both platforms prioritize safety with host verification, secure messaging, and protection plans. Property owners must weigh pros and cons, such as flexibility and global reach (Airbnb) or control over bookings and targeted audience (VRBO).
Airbnb is a website and app that lets people rent out their homes or rooms to travelers. You can become an Airbnb host if you have an extra room or an entire house.
VRBO, which stands for “Vacation Rental By Owner,” is a platform that helps people rent out their vacation homes, cabins, condos, or other properties to travelers. You can become a VRBO host if you own a second home, a cottage, or a unique place where people might want to stay during their vacations.
Comparing Airbnb and VRBO
Both VRBO and Airbnb connect travelers with places to stay, but they have unique features and ways of doing things. Here’s the breakdown of their differences to help you decide which one suits your preferences as a property owner:
1. Accommodation Types
Airbnb: Airbnb provides a wide range of accommodation options. You can list everything from a single room to an entire apartment or house. This variety is beneficial because it allows you to cater to different traveler needs and budgets.
You can offer affordable options for solo travelers or small groups if you have extra space in your home and you are open to sharing it. And if you have an entire property available, it’s ideal for larger groups or travelers seeking more privacy.
VRBO: VRBO primarily focuses on vacation rentals and lists entire homes or apartments. You’ll usually rent out your entire property, providing travelers a private and spacious experience. This platform is well-suited for hosts with second homes, vacation properties, or unique spaces that can accommodate families or groups of friends looking for a home-away-from-home experience.
2. Search Functionality
Airbnb: Airbnb is known for its user-friendly search system. Travelers can quickly start their search by entering their destination and travel dates. They can use different filters to narrow down their options.
These filters include selecting the vacation rental property type, such as an entire home, a private room, or a shared room. Travelers can also set their price range and filter by amenities like Wi-Fi, a kitchen, or pet-friendly options. Airbnb provides a map view, allowing guests to see where each property is located with the places they want to visit.
VRBO: VRBO offers a search feature to help travelers find the right vacation rental. It starts with entering the destination and travel dates.
VRBO provides filters that allow travelers to refine their search based on factors like property type, usually entire properties or apartments, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and specific amenities like a pool, hot tub, or waterfront location. VRBO’s focus on vacation rentals means they won’t find options for shared or single rooms in someone’s home.
3. Booking Process
Airbnb: Booking a place on Airbnb is straightforward whether it’s hotel rooms or other accommodations. Guests browse listings, select the property they like, enter their travel dates, and click the “Book” button. Guests must provide some personal information and payment details before confirming their reservation.
Airbnb also offers an “Instant Book” feature, which allows guests to book specific Airbnb properties without waiting for your approval as a host. This feature can be convenient for quick reservations and make booking faster.
VRBO: Booking through VRBO is a slightly different process. They will send a booking request to the host after guests choose a property they’re interested in. You have the option to accept or decline the request.
Some hosts may have specific rules or requirements that guests need to meet. The vacation rent payment process occurs once you accept the booking and the reservation is confirmed.
4. Cancellation Policies
Airbnb: Airbnb offers various cancellation policies, which can differ from host to host. The main types are Flexible, Moderate, and Strict. The Flexible policy allows guests to cancel for free up to 24 hours before check-in.
The Moderate policy offers a full refund if guests cancel at least five days before check-in. The Strict policy is less flexible and provides a full refund only if guests cancel within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before check-in.
VRBO: You can set your cancellation policies for your property. Some hosts offer more flexible options, while others might have stricter policies. VRBO provides categories like “Strict,” “Firm,” and “Relaxed” as you approach cancellations.
5. Pricing and Service Fee
Airbnb: Airbnb displays the total cost upfront, including the nightly rate, cleaning fees, and guest service fees. The service fee is how Airbnb makes money, typically a percentage of the total cost. You may charge security deposits, which can be either refundable or non-refundable, depending on your policy.
Airbnb charges hosts a 3% commission on each booking. There are no subscription fees or monthly charges for hosts to list on Airbnb.
VRBO: The pricing and fee are presented differently on VRBO. They show the base nightly rate separately from any additional fees.
These extra fees may include cleaning fees, service fees, which are VRBO’s way of earning revenue and are also typically a percentage of the total cost, and sometimes other charges like a pet fee. You can also require security deposits, and the specific amount depends on you.
VRBO has a subscription fee of $499 per year to list on the site. They also take a 5-10% commission on each booking. The commission percentage depends on the level of subscription a host selects.
Airbnb: Airbnb offers different opportunities for discounts to attract guests. You can set special rates for longer stays, which means guests who book for a week or more may get a lower nightly rate. Some hosts also offer last-minute discounts for bookings closer to the travel dates.
Airbnb runs occasional promotions and provides referral credits to users who invite friends to sign up. These discount options can make your property more appealing to potential guests and increase bookings.
VRBO: VRBO also provides opportunities for hosts to offer discounts, primarily for longer stays. Guests planning extended vacations can benefit from lower nightly rates.
VRBO hosts may choose to run promotions or discounts during specific seasons or for particular booking periods. These discounts can attract travelers looking for cost-effective options and boost your property’s visibility.
Airbnb: Airbnb emphasizes safety by implementing a host verification system. It means they verify your identity as a host to have a secure interaction.
Airbnb also provides a secure messaging platform that allows communication between you and potential guests before booking, enabling you to ask questions and share information.
Airbnb also offers a host guarantee that covers property damage. This Airbnb’s host guarantee program offers up to $1 million or $3 million in coverage, depending on the terms and conditions in case of accidents during a guest’s stay. These safety measures help provide peace of mind for you and your guests.
VRBO: VRBO also places importance on safety. They offer a messaging system that allows secure communication between guests and hosts, confirming that interactions are reliable and protected.
VRBO also provides property protection plans to cover accidental damage during a guest’s stay. These safety measures aim to protect you and your guests during the rental process.
Airbnb: On Airbnb, both hosts and guests have the opportunity to leave reviews after a stay. These reviews offer valuable insights into the property and your hospitality. You can learn from previous guests’ experiences and understand what they liked and didn’t like about their stay.
This information helps you make improvements and gives potential guests an idea of what to expect, building trust and credibility for your property.
VRBO: VRBO also allows guests to leave reviews after their stay. These reviews provide potential renters with information about your property and hosting style. Guests can get a sense of what their experience will be like at your property by reading reviews.
9. Customer Service
Airbnb: Airbnb offers dedicated customer support available 24/7 to assist guests and hosts. They provide help with booking issues, reservations, and general inquiries. Airbnb even offers a resolution center for handling disputes between hosts and guests.
You can easily contact Airbnb’s customer service through their vacation rental site or app, making sure that you have access to assistance whenever you need it as a host.
VRBO: VRBO also provides customer support, but their approach may involve more direct communication between you and your guest since VRBO acts as a platform connecting guests with hosts.
VRBO encourages guests to contact you first if they encounter any issues during their stay. However, VRBO does have a customer support team that can assist with some problems if needed.
10. Special Features
Airbnb: Airbnb stands out with its “Experiences” feature, where you can book activities and tours hosted by local experts. It means you can offer your guests unique experiences, from cooking classes to guided city tours.
Airbnb also offers “Plus” listings that are verified for quality and comfort, which can boost your property’s credibility. Airbnb also recognizes “Superhosts,” who are highly-rated hosts and property managers known for exceptional hospitality, and becoming a Superhost can be an achievement for hosts.
VRBO: VRBO primarily focuses on vacation rentals, so its unique features are more property-oriented. VRBO allows you to showcase your vacation rental property in detail. This platform offers different tools to highlight your homes and provide potential guests with a comprehensive view of what they can expect during their stay.
Make a decision that aligns with your hosting goals, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for your guests during their stay by understanding these differences between Airbnb and VRBO.
Choose the one that suits you best for you to succeed as a host since both platforms offer unique advantages.
Pros and Cons of Airbnb for Property Owners
If you’re considering renting out your property on Airbnb, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Here are some points to consider to help you make the right decision:
- Extra Income: Renting out your property on Airbnb can provide a steady source of extra income. This can be beneficial if you have a spare room or property that is vacant for extended periods.
- Flexibility: You can choose when and for how long you want to rent out your property as an Airbnb host. It lets you adjust your availability based on your schedule and preferences.
- Global Reach: Airbnb attracts a wide international user base, letting you reach guests from around the world potentially. It increases the chances of bookings and exposure for your property.
- Pricing control: You have control over the pricing of your listing, allowing you to set rates that align with market demand and your financial goals.
- Social Interaction: Hosting guests through Airbnb can provide opportunities for cultural exchange and social interaction. It allows you to meet new people and form a meaningful connection.
- Time and Effort: Hosting on Airbnb requires commitment and effort. Investing time in managing bookings, communicating with guests, cleaning, and maintaining your property is necessary.
- Guest Screening: There’s still a risk of having problematic guests who don’t treat your place well, even if Airbnb tries to verify guests. It can be challenging to make sure that all guests will treat your property with respect.
- Legal Considerations: There may be legal requirements and regulations you need to follow as an Airbnb host, depending on your location. It’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws and tax obligations.
- Potential Wear and Tear: Frequent turnover of guests can result in increased wear and tear on your property. It may require additional maintenance and repairs, affecting your time and expenses.
- Unpredictable Income: While Airbnb can provide a steady income stream, it’s important to understand that bookings may fluctuate throughout the year.
Below chart shows the Airbnb listings per 1,000 inhabitants in selected cities in the U.S. as of June 2023.
Pros and Cons of VRBO for Property Owners
Understand the advantages and disadvantages of renting out your VRBO property. Here are some key points to consider:
- Control over Bookings: You have control over your bookings as an owner on VRBO. You can set your availability, determine rental rates, and manage reservations according to your preferences.
- Targeted Audience: VRBO attracts vacationers who specifically look for rental properties. It means you can reach a targeted audience of travelers seeking accommodations like yours.
- Flexible Rental Options: VRBO allows you to offer different rental options, such as short-term stays, weekly rentals, or monthly bookings. This flexibility will let you accommodate different guest needs and maximize your rental potential.
- Additional Income: Listing your property on VRBO can help you earn additional income. It is beneficial if you have a vacation home or a property that is vacant for periods of time.
- Feedback and Reviews: Guests can leave feedback and reviews about their stay on VRBO’s platform. Positive reviews can enhance your property’s reputation and attract more bookings in the future.
- Competition: The competition among listings increases as VRBO grows in popularity. It may require additional effort to stand out and attract potential guests amidst many available vacation rental properties.
- Fees and Expenses: VRBO charges fees for each booking, which can impact your overall earnings. Other expenses, such as cleaning fees, maintenance, and taxes, should be considered.
- Effort and Time: Renting out your property on VRBO requires time and effort. You’ll need to invest time in managing inquiries, communicating with guests, coordinating check-ins and check-outs, and making sure that the property is clean and well-maintained.
- Guest Vetting: Hosting problematic guests is risky, even if VRBO provides some verification tools. Clear rental rules and expectations to reduce potential issues.
- Seasonal Demand: The demand for vacation rentals on VRBO may fluctuate seasonally depending on your location. You may experience lower occupancy rates and reduced income during certain times of the year.
Based on the statistics from Newsilver, there are more than 48 million active monthly users on VRBO platform this 2023.
Choosing the Right Platform for Your Vacation Rental Property
Now that you’re aware of Airbnb and VRBO let’s dive deeper into how to choose the one that suits you best. Here’s what to consider:
Think About Your Place: Think about what you’re renting out. Is it a room in your home, your entire house, or a vacation home you own? The kind of property you have can make one platform a better fit than the other.
If you’re renting a spare room in your house, Airbnb will be great because it attracts all kinds of travelers. But VRBO could be better if you have a vacation home since it specializes in vacation rentals.
Consider Your Goals: Ask yourself what you want to achieve as a host. Are you looking to have many guests and earn as much as possible? Or do you prefer having more control over your listing and how things are done?
Airbnb is a better choice if you want many guests and easy bookings. But if you like setting your own rules and prices, VRBO should be the way to go.
Know the Rules: Every place has its own rules and regulations for hosting. Understand and follow your local laws and tax rules for hosting guests. Different areas have different requirements, so be sure you comply.
Each platform has its own set of rules and policies, too. Take the time to read and understand them to make sure that you’re comfortable with how they operate.
Read Success Stories: It’s helpful to learn from others who have been in your shoes. Look for stories from hosts who have used Airbnb or VRBO successfully. They can provide practical tips and insights into what worked for them.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here. Your choice depends on your property and what you want to achieve as a host.
Deciding between Airbnb and VRBO depends on your goals and property type.
If you want more control over your listing, VRBO might be better. You can set rules and fees, which is great if you want to do things your way.
But if you want lots of guests, Airbnb is a good choice. It’s easy to use, and you can decide when guests can stay.
Airbnb vs. VRBO FAQs
What percentage do VRBO and Airbnb take?
On Airbnb, hosts typically pay a commission fee of around 3% for each booking subtotal they receive. This fee covers the vacation rental services that Airbnb provides, such as customer support and marketing.
For VRBO, hosts usually pay a 5% commission fee on the rental amount, which includes any additional fees like cleaning or pet fees.
Can I set my own house rules on both platforms?
Yes, you can set your own house rules on both Airbnb and VRBO as a host. These rules may include guidelines on smoking, pets, noise levels, or any other expectations you have for guests.
How do I start hosting on Airbnb or VRBO?
You must create an account to start hosting on either of these platforms. Provide details about your property, set your availability, and upload appealing photos of your space.