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The OwnerRez Blog

A blog about our thoughts, services, upcoming features and the industry at large.

An end to (some) HomeAway integration

One of the first goals we had, from the very beginning, was creating a simple way vacation rental owners could keep their HomeAway/VRBO calendars up to date and collect inquiry data across multiple listing sites in one central place.

This is part of our fundamental goal to be the best neutral vacation rental software on the market.  We want to work with all listing sites, but we don't want to be part of - or influenced by - any one of them in particular.  And we want you to be able to manage your guest data in a neutral central way.

Over the past several years, integration with HomeAway has gotten increasingly difficult to maintain as HomeAway continues to increase the security of their websites and hide the guest information you pay to see.

We have maintained an open dialogue with the HomeAway development team and continued to ask for APIs and other industry-standard ways of sharing guest data - again, data you pay for - but those needs have not been met.

The latest increase in HomeAway security is a 2-step authentication requirement which requires the user to get a phone or text message before logging into the HomeAway website.  While we have developed programmable ways of integrating with this, it is fraught with uncertainty and our testing has shown less than desirable results.

Even more heinous, the HomeAway login screen is now using a fingerprinting technique to 'remember' the user's computer, but the technique is extremely buggy.  During our integration testing, we found that we could access multiple user accounts even after restarting the browser and clearing login data!

This testing has shown us that their latest round of security updates is not well developed and is prone to errors and attacks.

Given this current state, and the belief that HomeAway will continue to hide guest data and make access difficult, we have made the official corporate decision that we will no longer integrate with the HomeAway/VRBO family of websites with respect to using the user's credentials to update their account.

In other words, we will no longer "crawl" your HomeAway listing to do updates.  This applies to calendar, inquiry data and any other data associated with HomeAway listings.  If it requires our system to use your HomeAway login, we don't do it.

We will, however, continue to integrate with HomeAway in public ways that do not require your login.  For instance:

  • We will parse inquiry emails that are sent to your @inquiryspot email address the same as always.
  • We will provide "Respond in HomeAway" links for inquiries that require you to login to HomeAway.
  • We will provide public and customizable iCal feeds that HomeAway can choose to import.
  • We will be working on supporting 2-way syncing so that we can export HomeAway reservations via iCal.
  • We will be working on supporting the property manager (PM) API that HomeAway offers for users with 5 or more properties.  This API allows us to update calendar data.

There will be a lot of disappointment over this, I'm sure, but we sincerely feel that there is little choice here for us to make.

I'd like to note that virtually every other vacation rental software provider - all of our competitors - have had to do the same thing.  Over the past few weeks or months, they've been slowly turning off HomeAway integration except for the larger accounts that have at least 5 listings and support the PM API.

This decision to turn off HomeAway integration is not the fault (or desire) of neutral software providers like OwnerRez.  It is the fault of HomeAway for making purposeful decisions to block you from your customer data and force you to use their reservation tools.

And would you do us a favor?  Tell HomeAway how you feel about this.  Contact them directly and explain that, as a customer of HomeAway, you'd like them to provide direct integration with software providers like OwnerRez so that you can manage your bookings more quickly and efficiently.  If they mention using their own reservation software, remind them that you have listings on FlipKey, Airbnb, your own website and elsewhere, so you'd prefer that they integrate with neutral software providers like OwnerRez.

The good news is that we will have vastly more time to spend on features that you've been asking for.

One of the big drawbacks to supporting listing site integration, where it required crawling, is that is sucked a lot of energy from our development efforts.  Every time HomeAway made a slight change, our crawlers had to be adjusted, tested and re-released.  We have had to delay numerous new features - auto responders, rules, booking widgets, better notes, etc. - over the past two years because of setbacks with crawling.  No more!  We look forward to putting these efforts back on the front burner and getting them out there!

The fastest, most-professional way to book is with OwnerRez, the leader in online vacation rental software.  Sign up for your free account!

11 Comments (add yours)

Dec 23, 14
11:26 am
Wendy@A-List says:

Thanks for the updates on what is going on over at OwnerRez. I'm disappointed you've had to make these changes and a little confused about the credit card situation so will have to get into that separately. Will be emailing HomeAway also...
Thank you for your site and look forward to other improvements. I hope your business doesn't suffer because of these changes.
Wendy

Dec 23, 14
1:26 pm
Jacques L says:

Thanks for keeping us in the loop. Sorry for the problems with the processor and homeaway, but I'm not surprised. That seems to be how business runs - stiff everyone as you go bankrupt, but keeping giving bonuses to your CEO, or the flipside of squeezing every last dollar out of an industry by forcing your way into a semi-monopoly through acquisitions, intentional failure to interoperate, etc.

Any suggestions for a best bundle of advertising sites to use instead of homeaway and the other sites they own/run? Looks like a couple of them offer 3% commission instead of upfront charge (flipkey, airbnb), which for my rentals would be a fair tradeoff, as they generate moderate amounts each and have a high percentage of repeat renters.

Dec 23, 14
1:38 pm
Randy Juneau says:

I'm not sure what I'm getting right now that will be removed. I have 8 properties on homeaway/vrbo and all are on OR. I use iCal for the calendar updates. The change that I have made recently in my inquiry response process is that I use the homeaway system to quote and the OR system so my potential guests are getting 2 quotes from me. The OR system is a lot more friendly for guests since it automatically charges the 2nd payment and automatically reserves the security deposit. Homeaway handles those tasks differently and is not as friendly as the OR system.

Dec 23, 14
3:18 pm
Michelle J says:

Hi Jacques,

Thanks for your words of support. Many listing sites do offer a commission structure but that locks you into dealing 100% with their web software. So answering the guest and getting payment must be done entirely on their website. In the case of Air, they no longer show you the guest email EVEN AFTER the guest has paid you. You have to use a proxy email address. We are working on a way to integrate some of this so that you can click links to answer on the third party website while returning booking data back to OwnerRez.

-Michelle

Dec 23, 14
3:20 pm
Michelle J says:

Hi Randy,

The larger properties owners will be spared some of the hassle because HA/VRBO tends to you view you as a property manager, and they are much more hands-off with the property manager. Generally speaking, anyone with 5 or more properties on HA/VRBO has all their inquiry emails left alone which means you can continue seeing/responding to guests directly. You will probably not notice much, if any, difference.

-Michelle

Dec 23, 14
6:32 pm
Wendy@A-List says:

I wanted to let you know that I just emailed HomeAway, hopefully all here will do the same and hopefully they will "hear" us...
Wendy

Dec 23, 14
6:54 pm
Wendy@A-List says:

Well already got a response... here it is along with my initial message.

Dear Wendy,
Thank you for contacting HomeAway Customer Support. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and ideas with us. Many of the improvements to our products, policies and processes are made in response to customer suggestions such as yours.

Please feel free to continue to share your thoughts in the future via our Feedback tab when visiting our website. The Feedback tab is located on most of our pages on the right side of your screen. Click on the Feedback tab, type in your comments, and click Submit Feedback.

If you need further assistance, please feel free to contact us again through our Help page at the link below. This resource also provides commonly asked questions and answers.

http://help.homeaway.com.

Thank you for using HomeAway, the world leader in vacation rentals, with over 1 million listings across our family of brands.

Best regards,

Nora

HomeAway.com Customer Support

-----------------------------------------

Your Case Description:



Hello, I'm a homeowner and property manager as well as a customer of HomeAway, I would like you to provide direct integration with software providers like OwnerRez so I can manage my bookings more quickly and efficiently. I have listings on other listing sites as well as my own website so I would prefer that you integrate with neutral software providers like OwnerRez so I can manage my properties in the way that I would like and that is more convenient for me. Please let me know what you will be doing regarding this issue.

Thank you,

Wendy

Dec 27, 14
10:19 pm
Wendy@A-List says:

Another clarification, so if we enable or use the ical calendar option you will still be able to sync our calendar with vacationrentals.com and vrbo? but with the current system you are unable to, correct?
Thanks,
Wendy

Dec 29, 14
8:35 am
Sam Westcott says:

@Wendy:

OwnerRez supports iCal right now. You can use it at any time. Find it under Property > iCal.

Only some listing sites import iCal. FlipKey and Air both do. HA and VRBO both do not. I do not believe that VacationRentals.com does. To find out for sure login to that website and look around and see if they have a "sync with other calendar" or "import calendar" option. If they do, that would iCal.

Jul 8, 15
2:54 pm
WhiteDog says:

[*updated 7/11 with HA reply below my comment to them -- they say they are working on adding the ability to import calendar data.]

I sent HA/VRBO a note today after double booking someone because I hadn't manually updated their calendar. It's added more work and mental fatige to remember to update it every time a booking comes in.

I told them that I'd been a customer for 10 years and that their costs had gone up while the % of bookings they bring me have gone down - they were 75% of my business in 2011 but now Flipkey/TripAdvisor are at 65% and HA is down to 45% - and I've been using them both (and others)for the duration.

I told them they're costing more, helping less, and without open integration and/or more bookings I was liable to leave them next renewal period.

I love your service and commitment to keeping things easy. I too love the way you bill and take deposits. I don't mind the small charges you're having to make for the bookings. Keep up the good work!

Tim

HA reply:
Hello Tim,

Thank you for contacting HomeAway Customer Support.

I hope this message finds you well. I understand you need email addresses to be visible in the notification email. For security reasons we have had to stop sending email addresses on the notification emails. You can find the traveler's email addresses using the following steps.



Log into your HomeAway account.
Select the desired property
Click on Inbox.
Click on the inquiry from the traveler who's email you are looking for.
The traveler's email address is near the top of the details page
You also mention that our calendar does not import data from other calendars. We are working on adding this feature to our calendar soon. Watch for updates on this subject in future email.


If you need further assistance, please feel free to contact us again through our Help page at the link below. This resource also provides commonly asked questions and answers.

http://help.homeaway.com.

Thank you for using HomeAway, the world leader in vacation rentals, with over 1 million listings across our family of brands.

Best regards,

Arizsun
HomeAway.com Customer Support

Jul 8, 15
3:58 pm
Randy Juneau says:

Tim, I agree with you. I now have 10 properties I own and self manage and it has become such a burden for me to be sure to have everything booked on all the calendars. Also having to update 15 to 20 rate periods per year on HA, FLIPKEY, EXPEDIA & OWNERREZ for 10 properties has become a huge undertaking for me. I have vowed to find a solution by the end of the year either to get other management software that has HA/VRBO, Flipkey, AirBNB and Expedia Calendar integration or I will have to hire someone to assist me which will bite into a large portion of my operation.
Randy

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What is OwnerRez?

We are an online booking service for vacation rental property that helps managers and owners save time, create quotes and bookings faster, look professional and keep detailed records without needing an accountant or staff.