The majority of real estate work can be done online, from looking for a property to finding tenants. Short term rental sites make it happen.
If you’re an investor, you can probably do everything offline. But thankfully, that’s unnecessary. If you use the internet to discover short term rental properties or research them before making a decision, you’re saving a lot of time.
Table of Contents
- The 5 Best Short Term Rental Websites
- Tips for Investing in Short Term Rental Properties
- What Short Term Rental Sites Should You Use?
If you know the best websites, you can save plenty of time on real estate activities, coming a bit closer to making it really passive income. Using the best websites can potentially save you significant sums of money both on purchasing the vacation rental and on shortening the vacancy rate.
In this article, we’ll explore the five best short term rental sites that help real estate investors across the board.
The 5 Best Short Term Rental Websites
Information is the most important aspect of the modern business world. Here are the five best and most popular short term rental sites that must be in a real estate investor’s bookmarks.
Airbnb is one of the best websites a real estate investor can use. Simply due to the huge investments in branding and recognition, Airbnb can easily be the only website you need to find short term rental tenants.
There are approximately 150 million users on Airbnb. Most people are so used to the idea of Airbnb that the platform is their primary choice when looking for a short term rental. It means that maintaining a profile in good standing on the website can be an endless source of tenants.
On the flip side of the service’s popularity, there’s intense competition among prospective and existing hosts. Thanks to the brand being recognized worldwide, a lot of other rental owners flock to the site.
There are around four million hosts using the platform and over six million listings. It makes the life of an average host who wasn’t on Airbnb from the start to gain reviews or doesn’t own a unique rental quite tough.
In top destination cities with significant tourism numbers, there are hundreds of Airbnb hosts with competing rental properties. Even in cities that aren’t in the top ten of tourism attractions, the odds are there are a couple of rentals you’ll be competing with.
The benefit of using Airbnb is that it puts most of the service fees on the tenant. They’ll pay 14% of the total bill to book a rental, while most hosts only pay 3%. Considering the fact that hosts must pay taxes and potentially licensing fees on their rental income, a low service fee is very handy.
Since it may not be possible to book a vacation rental entirely on Airbnb, it’s best to use a couple of websites aside from Airbnb. Out of those, Booking.com is probably one of the best and most popular sites.
It’s a European brand, and even though it generated a peak of over 700 million site visits per month this year, only a fraction of those are from US-based users. However, it can be a plus in a way.
Booking.com is a bit less popular than Airbnb, so you may enjoy lower competition on the platform. The only drawback is that you’ll compete not only with rental properties but with hotels as well.
Booking.com allows both listings from hotel chains and from hosts with a single rental unit. It may be a problem when it comes to attracting an average website user, but if the tenant is looking for a website like Airbnb to book a rental in an apartment building, it’s not much of an issue.
A bigger issue with this website is the service fee. Hosts typically pay anywhere between 10% and 20% service fees. That’s not the best amount to be paying for a booking and can eat up your rental income.
In addition, hosts can even get charged the commission on no-show guests. There’s a short window of time where you can tag users as no-shows before the commission is charged on the rental.
Another website on the list of best sites like Airbnb is Expedia.com. The short term rental aggregator counts 18 million monthly users and an estimated 1.8 million short term vacation rental listings on the website.
In addition, it’s much more popular in the US than Booking.com; it’s only bested by Airbnb.
It makes Expedia both a potentially powerful source of rental income and a place with high levels of competition. Just like Booking.com, the platform includes rental listings from both homeowners and hotels, which makes the competition on the site a bit higher.
Another drawback of booking your short-term rental on Expedia is the service fee. It ranges from 10% to 30% and makes you either charge a premium on your rental or eat up the costs. Again, not the best arrangement.
Despite the high fees, it still makes sense to work with the platform. People use it to book their whole trip, from the flight to the car rental. Purely due to the number of visitors using the website, you have a pretty good chance of booking out your vacation rental.
If you’re looking for a website that’s very much like Airbnb, Vrbo is the next best choice. The acronym stands for vacation rental by owner, and it doesn’t list hotels, motels, or other corporate hosts on the platform. It only includes property owners renting out their short term vacation rentals.
Vrbo splits the service fees between the tenant and the owner of the rental pretty evenly. Most guests pay between 6% and 12% in commission. Hosts pay a flat fee of 8% on the full price of booking the rental, including cleaning or pet fees.
It’s not the best fee since Airbnb charges much less for booked listings, but it’s doable. Either charging 8% more or receiving 8% less off of your listing is much better than what Expedia and Booking.com can offer.
The audience on the site is also quite like Airbnb—it’s one of the best and most popular rental sites in the US. Vrbo booked 15 million trips in 2021, so you can expect the vacancy rate on your rental to be low.
Vrbo does face a fair bit of competition, but it’s still less than what you’d find on Airbnb, and you’re only competing with other rentals, not hotels.
If you already own a rental unit with no debt attached, the location of the rental is not a huge issue. All you need is to do a nice renovation and put the listing on multiple websites to book the rental. If you’re looking for investment opportunities, you’ll need to do quite a lot of research before finding vacation rentals for sale.
Apart from a website to book a short term vacation rental, real estate investors need a website to buy one. The location of your rental is extremely important for its success. Even neighborhoods that are close to each other may see vastly different vacancy rates due to factors we can’t predict.
Buy a short term vacation rental in the wrong neighborhood, and you’re hurting your bottom line.
A sure way to make a profitable investment is by finding rental listings on a website that offers real estate comps. Mashvisor is one such website, and it’s one of the best in its niche.
It’s a real estate platform that gathers millions of rental listings and provides real estate comps to guide your choice. You can see an estimate of the cap rate and cash on cash return right on the listing card as rental units appear in the search.
Real Estate Heatmap
You can also see the map in a heatmap mode with areas that are more profitable being highlighted. The heatmap tool can help filter by cash on cash return or rental income (both either long term or short term rental), listing price, and short term rental occupancy rate.
Once you narrow down your search for a couple of the best areas, you can look up more detailed real estate comps on specific rentals. The most important one you can access with Mashvisor is the vacancy rate on short term rentals.
Mashvisor estimates the metric based on the availability of millions of rental listings on sites like Airbnb. It helps investors understand what occupancy they can expect and make more accurate projections of rental income in their specific case.
Hosts can do it by running the numbers through this cash on cash return calculator. Mashvisor provides the statistical data necessary to do a correct estimate.
Want to see how it works? Sign up for a 7-day free trial and browse the most lucrative areas for short term rentals.
Tips for Investing in Short Term Rental Properties
We’ve established what the tools of a short-term vacancy rental owner are, but how do you use them? Here are four concise but valuable tips on managing short term rental property that will get you started.
1. Location Is Key
Location is everything in the real estate business, especially so for the vacation rental business. Even if the renovation isn’t perfect, a property in the top tourist destination can do wonders for your bottom line. That’s why you should find short term rentals for sale in the right neighborhood.
2. Invest to Optimize Cash on Cash Return
Despite being crucial to the bottom line, the property’s location may be misleading. For instance, choosing the best, hottest rental real estate markets isn’t a straightforward decision.
Since demand skyrockets, so do the prices of rental units. If you buy now when the market is hot and maybe a bit overvalued, you run the risk of achieving much lower cash on cash return once the market cools down.
So the main factor you should consider when making the final decision is the cash on cash return estimate. You want to buy vacation rental property that is located in an area with a decent occupancy rate and one that comes with a moderate price tag.
3. Advertise to Maximize Occupancy Rate
The biggest money sink in any real estate investment is the property sitting vacant, especially so with short term vacation rentals. Depending on your financial arrangement with the loan provider and pricing per night, booking 30% of days in a month means you’re running at a loss.
That’s why paying higher fees to short term rental sites like Expedia or Booking is fine if it helps you reduce vacancy significantly.
Instead of focusing on a single short term vacation rental website, put your listing on multiple ones to maximize occupancy. Now, you may not want to work with every platform out there simply because it’s hard to manage listings on multiple sites.
Pick two or three of the biggest rental platforms and try to work with them. If you’re finding it hard to compete with other local hosts, you may want to search for a smaller rental platform where there’s less competition.
4. Give Generous Discounts for Long Term Stays
Even though websites like Airbnb are focused on short-term rentals, attracting long term guests is extremely important. They are few folks looking to book a short term vacation rental for a month, but they save you a lot of money.
With a long term tenant who wants to stay for three to six weeks in a rental unit, you’re saving on cleaning fees and vacancy. Attract them to your rental by giving a generous discount for extended stays.
The exact amount of the discount can be established by calculating how much you’re losing on vacancy and cleaning per a given period. You can either charge a bit less than that for the rental or reduce the booking price by the whole sum. In that case, even if you don’t receive a premium for overbooking a rental, you’re saving a lot of time on property management.
What Short Term Rental Sites Should You Use?
Reducing vacancy by any means is key to success in short term vacation rental management. That’s why you shouldn’t limit yourself by running a purely Airbnb business. Put your listing on short term rental sites like Airbnb to get more bookings and maximize profit from your rental.
Vrbo is one of the best additions for small-scale landlords. Just like Airbnb, it focuses on rental listings by owners and charges fairly low fees.
If that’s not enough, add Expedia or Booking.com to the arsenal of your tools. You need to know that they charge a pretty high fee, though.
For real estate investors who are only looking for a rental investment opportunity, a website like Mashvisor is going to be priceless. The platform provides rental estimates based on millions of listings and helps investors make profitable decisions.
Schedule a demo now to see how Mashvisor can help you make more money on your short term vacation rental.