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VRBO vs Airbnb: Which Is Better for Property Managers?

August 24, 2023

If you're a property manager who wants to rent out your vacation rental property, you might be wondering which platform is better for you: VRBO or Airbnb. Both are popular online marketplaces that connect travelers with hosts, but they have some key differences that can affect your hosting experience and income.

In this article, we'll compare VRBO vs. Airbnb for hosts across several criteria, including guest demographics, rental property types, and pricing. By the end, you'll have a better idea of which platform suits your needs and preferences.

VRBO vs Airbnb: A Comprehensive Comparison

Here are the key differences between Airbnb vs. VRBO for owners:

Potential Guest Demographic

One of the main differences between VRBO and Airbnb is the type of guests they attract. VRBO stands for Vacation Rental By Owner, and it mainly caters to families and groups that are looking for spacious and comfortable accommodations for their vacations. VRBO guests tend to book longer stays, plan ahead, and have higher budgets.

Airbnb, on the other hand, appeals to a wider range of travelers, from solo adventurers to business travelers to couples. Airbnb guests tend to book shorter stays, be more spontaneous, and have lower budgets. They also value experiences and authenticity more than luxury or convenience.

Rental Property Type

Another major difference between VRBO and Airbnb is the type of property they allow hosts to list. VRBO primarily focuses on traditional vacation rentals like full homes or condos. It does not generally offer “shared” spaces like private rooms or more unusual options like campsites. VRBO also has stricter quality standards for its listings, requiring them to have certain amenities and features.

Airbnb offers a variety of property types, from entire homes to private rooms to hotel rooms. It also features more unique and creative options, like treehouses, yurts, castles, boats, or even igloos. Airbnb does not have quality standards as strict as VRBO's, but it does have a “Plus” category for listings that have been verified in person for quality.

Guest Verification and Security Features

Both VRBO and Airbnb have guest verification and security features to protect hosts from fraud or damage. VRBO's security protections require guests to provide their full name, email address, phone number, billing address, and credit card information before they can book a property. It also offers hosts the option to request additional information from guests, such as a government-issued ID or a signed rental agreement.

Additionally, Airbnb requires guests to provide their full name, email address, phone number, payment information, and profile photo before they can book a property. It also encourages guests to complete additional verification steps, such as connecting their social media accounts or uploading a government-issued ID. Both types of properties allow you to list house rules for guests to follow.

Pricing and Fees

VRBO vs. Airbnb fees have significantly different models. VRBO charges an annual subscription fee of $499 or a pay-per-booking fee of 5% of the total booking amount. VRBO vacation rentals also charge a guest service fee of 6% to 15% of the total booking amount. The service fee is displayed as part of the total price when guests search for properties.

Airbnb, on the other hand, charges hosts a flat 3% commission fee for each booking. It also charges guests a service fee of 14% to 20% of the total booking amount. The service fee is displayed separately from the total price when guests go to book a property.

While VRBO host fees vs. Airbnb fees differ, both platforms allow hosts to add extra service fees like a cleaning fee or damage deposit. Neither platform charges a credit card processing fee.

Reputation and Market Reach

VRBO has been in business since 1995, making it one of the oldest and most trusted vacation rental platforms. It has over 2 million listings in over 190 countries, with a strong presence in North America, especially in popular vacation destinations like Florida, California, and Hawaii. It also has a loyal customer base of repeat guests who value its consistency.

Airbnb has been in business since 2008 and is one of the most innovative and disruptive vacation rental platforms. It has over 7 million listings in over 220 countries, with a global presence and a diverse range of accommodations. Airbnb has a large customer base of often younger and adventurous guests who value its variety and experiences.

Marketing and Visibility Tools and Features

Both VRBO and Airbnb offer various tools and features to help hosts market and optimize their listings. VRBO offers hosts tools like:

  • Boost — A feature that allows hosts to pay extra to rank higher in search results
  • MarketMaker — A feature that provides hosts with data and insights on pricing and demand
  • Premier Partner — A program that rewards hosts with high performance and guest satisfaction with more visibility and benefits

Airbnb also offers marketing tools for hosts like:

  • Smart Pricing — A feature that automatically adjusts prices based on demand and seasonality
  • Superhost — A feature that rewards highly ranked and popular hosts with higher visibility in search results
  • Plus — A category that showcases verified listings with high-quality design and amenities

Ease of Management

VRBO and Airbnb both strive to make property management as easy for hosts as possible, but they have notable differences. VRBO offers rental management tools like Reservation Manager, the VRBO Owner app, and Channel Manager that allow hosts to sync and manage their guest stays on web and mobile app platforms. VRBO customer service is available 24/7 for hosts and guests.

Airbnb’s management tools include its Calendar, where hosts can view and manage their stays and availability, and the Airbnb app, which lets hosts view their listings and stays while on the go. Both VRBO and Airbnb additionally offer "inbox" features to view and send instant communications with guests. Airbnb customer service is also available 24/7 for hosts and guests.

Cancellation Policy

Both VRBO and Airbnb have a variety of cancellation policies for hosts to choose from. VRBO offers five different cancellation policies:

  • No Refund — No refund offered for any reason or time frame.
  • Strict — Bookings canceled at least 60 days before the stay can receive a refund.
  • Firm — 60-days-prior cancellations will receive a full refund, and 30-days-prior cancellations will receive a 50% refund.
  • Moderate (recommended by VRBO) — 30-days-prior cancellations will receive a full refund, and 14-days-prior cancellations will receive a 50% refund.
  • Relaxed — 14-days-prior cancellations will receive a full refund, and seven-days-prior cancellations will receive a 50% refund.

Similarly, Airbnb offers hosts six cancellation policies:

  • Super Strict 60 Days — Guests receive a 50% refund if they cancel at least 60 days before check-in.
  • Super Strict 30 Days — Guests receive a 50% refund if they cancel at least 30 days before check-in.
  • Long Term — Guests receive a full refund if they cancel within 48 hours of the time of booking or at least 28 days before check-in.
  • Strict — Guests receive a full refund if they cancel within 48 hours of booking or at least 14 days before check-in.
  • Moderate — Guests receive a full refund if they cancel within 48 hours of booking or at least five days before check-in.
  • Flexible — Guests receive a full refund if they cancel within 48 hours of booking or at least 24 hours before check-in.

For both platforms, hosts can choose the cancellation and refund policy that best suits their needs.

How To Know Which Is Better for You

As you can see, VRBO and Airbnb have their own pros and cons for property listings. There is no definitive answer to which one is better, as it depends on your goals, preferences, and situation. However, here are some general guidelines to help you decide:

Choose VRBO if you have a traditional vacation rental that can accommodate families or groups, want to attract longer-term and higher-budget guests, want more control over your bookings and liability, want more simplicity and functionality in managing your reservations, and want more certainty over your cancellation policy.

Choose Airbnb if you have a diverse or unique portfolio of properties that can offer memorable experiences, want to attract shorter-term and lower-budget guests, want more flexibility and coverage over your bookings and property damage, want more communication and automation in managing your guest interactions, and want more flexibility in your cancellation policy.

Ensure Proper Cleaning and Maintenance for Your Vacation Rental

Whether you choose VRBO or Airbnb — or both — one thing that's essential for any property manager is to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance for your vacation rental. Cleanliness is one of the most important factors that guests consider when booking a property, and it can also affect your ratings and reviews.

Cleaning and maintaining a vacation rental can be challenging, especially if you have multiple properties. That’s why you should consider hiring a professional cleaning service like TIDY. TIDY is a platform that connects property managers with vetted and experienced cleaners who can handle all your cleaning needs.

With TIDY, you can:

  • Book a cleaning service online in minutes
  • Choose from different cleaning plans and options
  • Customize your cleaning checklist and preferences
  • Track the status of your cleaning service
  • Communicate with your cleaner directly
  • Pay securely online
  • Get a satisfaction guarantee

TIDY can help you save time, money, and hassle while ensuring that your vacation rental is always clean, comfortable, and ready for your guests. Whichever hosting platform you choose, make sure to keep your property clean and well-maintained with TIDY. Contact us today to get started.

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