Rental property owners can get puzzled when navigating and analyzing all the different vacation rental websites available for listing their rental properties – “What is the best one for my property?” Airbnb and HomeAway are likely the two platforms that come to one’s mind first. Which is better for listing your rental property? What kind of real estate marketing strategies do they support best? In the following, we will present our Airbnb vs HomeAway analysis to help you choose the right platform for you and your investment property.
Airbnb vs HomeAway by the Numbers
When marketing a rental property as a short-term rental, it is good to have a basic understanding of the size and reputation of the vacation rental listing site. HomeAway, for instance, has been around since 2005 and was acquired by Expedia for $3.9 billion in 2015. HomeAway also brought on other property rental companies. Now its companies (such as VRBO and VacationRentals.com) have some 2 million listings in 190 countries, spread across 50 websites in 23 languages.
This is impressive, but how does it compare with Airbnb? Unlike HomeAway, Airbnb has remained independent and has not been bought by a larger company. It has some 4 million listings worldwide, from 640,000 hosts across 191 countries. So, by the numbers, Airbnb is the winner. However, this is mostly due to the shared spaces it lists, as it can offer multiple listings in one single location.
Why do the numbers and the reputation of the website matter? The answer is quite simple: the short-term rental listing site with more listings and a better reputation can attract more users. Thus, the odds they will choose your property grow!
Eyes on the Fees
Hosts have two options when it comes to paying HomeAway host fees: they can either pay a subscription charge ($499 per annum) or on a per-booking basis (a minimum of 8% commission on each reservation made). Airbnb fees are simpler, as hosts do not need to pay any annual fees, but rather, are charged a 3% commission for each completed reservation on their vacation rentals.
Both vacation rental listing sites offer additional revenue-making options for covering these host expenses, such as additional fees for pets, cleaning service, extra beds, etc. Airbnb also offers hosts the possibility to offer leisure activities to their guests but charges a 20% fee for each activity (except nonprofit partnerships).
As a real estate investor, it is useful to be aware of the charges for your guests. Guest fees can determine the listing site certain customer segments would prefer. HomeAway will ask a guest fee of approximately 4-9% of the price of the stay. Airbnb guest fees are also based on reservation details and typically around 6-12% of the booking total, but usually, they get smaller with higher reservation totals.
Comparing the fees of both listing sites, Airbnb comes out as the less costly option for hosts. In term of the guests’ fees, it is hard to determine which is more affordable as the type of rental property and duration of the stay determine the percentage.
Use an online calculator to track costs! Learn more: The Airbnb Profitability Calculator: The Best Friend of the Short-Term Rentals Investor
Reviews on Airbnb vs HomeAway
Ever thought how to get more bookings for your vacation rental property? Reviews are the single most effective way to do just that. Both Airbnb and HomeAway provide both guests and hosts a chance to review each other, using a star rating and free text comments. This is useful for the hosts when they need to evaluate whether a person is the right fit for a stay. When you find the right match, the guests will also be more likely to leave positive reviews. This will help build the credibility of your vacation rental business.
The deadlines for posting the reviews differ quite a lot on Airbnb vs HomeAway. HomeAway allows both guests and hosts up to a year to post their reviews. However, should either party initiate the review process, the other party must complete their part within 14 days. On Airbnb, in turn, both guests and hosts have only 14 days to post reviews. This is useful, as the more time passes by, the more likely that either party forgets to post a review, or leaves important pieces of information out from their review because they simply already forgot.
Related: How to Always Get Positive Airbnb Reviews
Types of Properties on Airbnb vs HomeAway
HomeAway has become known as a more family-friendly listing site because it only offers private properties for their guests. This means they do not have to share it with other guests or the owners. Since HomeAway only offers private accommodations without shared space, budget-friendly options, it tends to attract guests that can potentially spend more. This is definitely a factor for real estate investors to consider, especially when evaluating the platform’s fees.
However, Airbnb does provide the same accommodation option too, but also a chance to choose listings where guests would have to share the space by the homeowner or other guests.
You cannot really evaluate which is better in this regard, but the type of home or living space you own will help you determine which platform is a better fit for you and your short-term investment property.
Insurance Schemes Available
Both vacation rental listing sites provide insurance schemes. Airbnb offers hosts a free of charge Guarantee of $1,000,000 should there be any damage to the real estate property. This comes with additional Host Protection for the same amount should your guests get injured or property damaged.
HomeAway offers almost the same liability protection to owners, also worth $1,000,000, but the property insurance slightly differs from that of Airbnb’s. This means that hosts are offered the option to count in a Property Damage Protection charge in their listing prices. However, this protection will only cover $5,000. This way HomeAway encourages you to get vacation rental insurance. Both platforms also recommend collecting refundable security deposits prior to accommodating guests.
Vacation rental management on these platforms includes mediation in case of disputes. Airbnb’s Resolution Center allows hosts and guests to settle their disputes or monetary claims before escalating them to Airbnb. They will have a 60-day timeframe to file most dispute resolution requests to the Resolution Center. However, those involving the security deposit must be reported within 14 days after the stay. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, Airbnb will mediate the conflict and decide upon a solution.
HomeAway basically offers the same but encourages the guest and property owner to resolve any issues by themselves. Should they fail to do this, HomeAway gets involved and offers mediation to the parties.
Signup Requirements for Airbnb vs HomeAway
While it is easy to sign up for the vacation rental websites as a guest, it does require additional effort from the hosts. In terms of the very basics, both sites ask for mandatory pieces of information when registering new listings, such as location and description of the property, detailed information of the property (coupled with photographs), contact information, as well as pricing and cancellation policies. These are the basics, but should not be underestimated nor neglected. Clear and well-organized information gives a good first impression and can create a sense of trust for the potential guests.
Additionally, there are five additional criteria for an Airbnb rental property, namely:
- Provision of essential amenities to guests, such as towels and bed sheets
- Responsiveness (replies ideally within 24 hours after receiving an inquiry from a guest)
- Proper acceptance rate of reservations, i.e. the property should not be kept empty
- Avoiding unnecessary cancellations as much as possible
- Maintaining high overall ratings for the listings (this will not benefit only that particular listing, but all those posted on Airbnb)
It seems Airbnb has somewhat stricter signup procedures and criteria for the listings. However, all this ensures a good reputation of the platform and makes sure it will continue to be one of the top vacation rental listing websites out there.
Related: What Will 2019 Look Like for Airbnb Real Estate Investing?
We hope our Airbnb vs HomeAway analysis has provided you useful information for evaluating the right vacation rental listing website for your investment property. If you need more data and tips for analyzing and making money on your real estate, we suggest you try Mashvisor’s investment property calculator to get a better idea about returns and costs.
To learn more about how we will help you make faster and smarter real estate investment decisions, click here.