Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, there are so many to choose from! Choosing a booking platform for my short term rental can feel overwhelming.
What platforms should I use and avoid?
Different properties in different markets managed by different owners are going to have different needs. Not a big surprise to any of us. Please take everything I’m saying into context when deciding on which booking platforms may or may not be right for your property and management style. I will be reviewing some of the top platforms.
Airbnb: You should highly consider using this platform.
Reasons to use Airbnb:
They have the highest number of users and will drive the most traffic (bookings, guests) to your listing. According to the public shareholder letter, the platform generated $46.9 BILLION in 2021–wow! Most people when starting out, will get the majority of their bookings from Airbnb. They have the biggest variety of listings so most listings will fit into one of their categories. Airbnb makes it easy to add your cleaner or boots on the ground or a co-host, unlike other platforms. The process is very user friendly, and they even have a system in place where a seasoned host can help walk you through the process to help you get used to all the features. I have personally helped quite a few hosts set up their listings. If you are looking for that, please use this link so that I can assist you too!
Reasons not to use Airbnb:
There are several factors that are consistent headaches for Airbnb users. First, Airbnb has a funky rating system. If you get below 4.2 out of 5 stars on average, you can potentially get your listing removed from their platform. Guests don’t always understand this. They often assume 4 stars is a perfectly reasonable score for a nice stay. Owners can also have issues with Airbnb support truly supporting them when things don’t go according to plan. It is a guest-centric platform. In times of guest complaints or when damages occur, often hosts don’t feel well supported.
VRBO: You should highly consider using this platform.
Reasons to use VRBO:
They come in second to Airbnb for most users and can also drive a significant number of bookings to you. But, 2021 revenue was closer to $2 Billion which is nothing to be embarrassed about but a far cry from Airbnb’s earnings. They are best for vacation communities like beaches, mountains and tourist areas. VRBO users tend to be a bit older and generally more independent travelers (meaning they don’t tend to desire a lot of back-and-forth communication via the app with their hosts). The platform is fairly user friendly. VRBO support is helpful in working with new hosts to get their listings up and visible to future guests. They have good support for hosts and allow rental agreements to be uploaded for guests to sign. They also provide trip insurance that you can require guests to purchase.
Reasons not to use VRBO:
They do not list shared and some unique spaces. If you are listing a room in the home you live in (house hacking), you cannot list it on VRBO. They don’t offer as many unique spaces options so your property may not fit into one of their categories. The bookings can be very hit or miss from VRBO, depending on which market you’re in. Users are looking for classic vacation properties, and if you are a bit out of the mold, I would set your expectations accordingly.
Direct booking website: You should highly consider using this option.
A direct booking website puts you in control of your business and doesn’t limit you to the terms of service of the big-name platforms. Your direct booking site gives you the opportunity to introduce guests to your property, allows them to make a booking and safely secure their reservation without the help of a third-party listing site.
Reasons to use a direct booking website:
You want your business to be your own and not always be at the mercy of the platforms. You may not feel ready for this step right away. Get this up and running and you can use it with friends, family and beloved guests for their return trips. A suggestion I have it to first re-market to guests you already hosted from Airbnb or VRBO, etc. and grow from there. You always want this as an option, even if you don’t have the self-marketing platform behind it to drive many bookings at first. You could put a QR code in your physical or digital guestbook in or your website URL on your Stayfi splash page (Stayfi is Wifi for your unit) when guests log into your internet. Using direct booking is a way to continue to generate bookings even if Airbnb or VRBO don’t allow you to use the platform, or you decide you do not like their terms of service.
Reasons not to use a direct booking website:
It can be challenging to create your own website with calendar sync, dynamic pricing, etc. You will need to do your own marketing to get your listing in front of potential guests. Guests will not come to you like they do from a platform like Airbnb. Marketing can be a big task if you are unfamiliar with how to do it. Starting out, I used Hostzaver.com to create my website. It was one click and under 5 minutes to get it going. There are plenty of options, and this one is very user friendly.
Furnished finder: This option comes with a yellow light.
Reasons to use Furnished finder:
Are you mid to lower priced and near a hospital? Are you one or two bedrooms? Do you allow pets and stays of over 30 days? This is a site geared for travel nurses and others who travel for work on extended stays or need mid-range accommodations. Payment and rental agreements are easy to manage with this site
Reasons not to use Furnished finder:
The listing fee is $100/year. Not high, but the risk is upfront while the platforms above charge per booking. There tend to be lots of inquiries and discount seekers that lead to nowhere so you may be investing more time with less payout.
Booking.Com: This also gets a yellow light from me.
Reasons to use Booking.com:
There are a lot of bookings to be had from this site. And that is where my positive list ends.
Reasons not to use Booking.com:
It can be a difficult platform to navigate if you aren’t tech savvy. You don’t get to vet your guests and communication with them is essentially non-existent. Customer service isn’t great when you need something as a host, and they do not offer a lot a lot of tech support. The platform comes with risk to your property.
There are thousands of smaller sites for all sorts of niches. If your listing fits well into the center of the bullseye with one of them, use it. Please let me know how it goes. When I started out, I spent a lot of time setting up my listing at so many sites I lost track of them all. Most of the smaller ones didn’t result in many views, let alone inquiries or bookings. Get good at the big three: Airbnb, VRBO and a direct booking site. (Or three that are well suited to your listing). You can add more later if you still need to fill occupancy at the rate you desire. It is better to be good at and understand a few sites rather than not know what you’re doing on a whole bunch of them.