Avoiding VRBO & HomeAway Service Fees
You don’t mind paying a few extra hundred dollars on your next Destin, 30a, Florida vacation rental, do you? According to HomeAway & VRBO you don’t. They have actually said that “travelers don’t mind paying a service fee”. I’m not sure what reality they are living in, but it is not even close to a real world reality.
In August 2017 HomeAway & VRBO rolled out a new Service Fee that they are charging to travelers who book through their websites. While they say the fee will range between 5% and 15%, they calculate the fee based on the rent and any other fees charged (cleaning fees, etc.). It is not assessed on taxes or security deposits. So, if the rental rate is $3,000 and there is another $400 in fees for cleaning, linens, pet fees, etc., the Service Fee will be based on $3,400.
FOUR HUNDRED TO NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS MORE! At that rate, you could plan another (shorter) vacation if you just booked directly through an actual property manager’s website. Perhaps the worst part about this is that the money generated from travelers like you is being invested back into the network’s marketing strategy, so they can continue to collect from the unknowing guest who just wants (and deserves) to find a good deal on a vacation home.
The Service Fee they are charging the travelers is for booking through their site and they keep all the money. The homeowner gets none of it. However, they label it simply as “Service Fee” in their site. Understandably, renters are often confused, as they think the homeowner/rental management company is charging this Service Fee, and are unaware that it is charged by HomeAway and the homeowner/rental management company has no control over it.
In some instances, travelers don’t even know they are paying a Service Fee because HomeAway & VRBO have gone to great lengths to hide it from plain view or identify that it is their fee. So, if “travelers don’t mind paying a service fee”, why hide it or why not own up to it?
While some homeowners/rental management companies have sought to offer clarification in their listings or communications with travelers, HomeAway has penalized them and even gone so far as removing rental listings if a listing contains mention of the fee or communications through their system to travelers even mention the Service Fee.
Limiting What you See
HomeAway is attempting to hamper any effort for travelers to avoid paying the Service Fee. They have begun blocking rental management companies telephone numbers from rental listings (we imagine it will soon be all listings), so the only way travelers will be able to contact owners is through their system. It is only a matter of time before they begin hiding travelers contact information (name, email address, telephone number) from the rental management company until the traveler books, leaving the only communication possible being through their system.
What Can the Traveler Do?
If you find a Destin, 30a, South Walton, Florida vacation rental you like listed in HomeAway or VRBO, don’t immediately book it. In almost every case the property is listed on a private website or with a vacation rental management company for a much lower price than on VRBO. Instead, search destindays.com, where you can book it without paying the Service Fee. If it is not listed on our site, contact the owner and tell them to list their rental with Destin Days Vacation Rentals so you can avoid the service fee with VRBO.