So you have a house you want to rent but how do you get the word out. Advertising is probably the most critical step in renting out your house. There are many websites both paid and free that offer to host your information. I have tried 4 sites and will try to give you a break down of each in the order of least successful to most successful.
1) AirBnb – AirBnb is a fairly new player in the vacation rental website business with the majority of their customers looking for a single room. We don’t fit this model since we’re renting the entire house. Out of the 35 listings in Northern Arizona there are only 7 that are renting the entire house. The site is unique in that the renters have to join and have profiles along with the rental owners. The owners are also able to rate the renters in the same way the renters rate the house they stayed out. This gives both parties the ability to gain trust in one another before signing a contract. AirBnb’s payment approach is also unique in that the renter pays all the fees and the rental owner pays nothing to list their house or even when they get a booking. This may change as the site gets more popular but for now it allows us to advertise for free. I’ve had 2 inquiries since listing our house in February 2013 and no bookings.
2) CraigsList – As the most viewed website in the world, you would think CraigsList would bring in the most reservations. I have found I get many more hits from CraigsList than any other site however I have only received a single reservation. I will continue to pursue CraigsList for a couple months and see if the trend continues. The most frustrating aspect of CraigsList is the shear volume of scam emails I receive versus honest inquiries. Since starting in February 2013 we’ve received 12 real inquires, 7 scammer inquiries and 1 reservation.
3) FlipKey – FlipKey is an older vacation rental website that is now owned by TripAdvisor. They are popular outside the US which makes for a perfect advertiser when your vacation rental is near one of the seven wonders of the world. FlipKey charges rental owners a monthly fee in addition to the booking fee they charge renters when they reserve a house. The renters get peace of mind knowing that their hard earned money sits in escrow until the renters check-in the first night at which point the money is transferred to the owner. Although waiting for payment until the first night as an owner is painful, it prevents scammers from creating fake listings. We began advertising in February 2013 and have received 3 inquiries and booked 1 reservation.
4) VRBO / HomeAway – HomeAway has the largest market share of all vacation rental websites not because of their superior marketing skill but do to their endless supply of money. Over the last 5 years they have purchased nearly every other vacation rental site. With this large market share it allows them to charge as much as $1300 a year to advertise on all of their sites. We chose the most expensive package they offer to better our chance as a new rental owner and have had decent luck so far. We have had 20 inquiries and booked 3 reservations through VRBO since starting in February 2013.
So you may be wondering why I haven’t listed on all the free vacation rental sites on the internet. The problem with listing all over the place is management of those listings. Most sites have their own settings and have to be manually updated when you change prices or need to block out a date on the calendar. I decided I would stick to the main sites for now and see how they do.