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VRBO and Subscription Options

Replies: 31 - Pages: 2 [ 1 2 ] - Last Reply: Apr 24, 2017 2:47 PM by: BlueMtnCabins
Glenn Moore
Registered: 11/11/12
VRBO and Subscription Options

Does anyone know the lowdown with VRBO and its subscription options?

I really would like to have OwnerReservations (OR) handle as much of my bookings as possible (including billing, etc). I just spent an hour with a guest who wanted to change extend their upcoming reservation and then struggling with the VRBO pricing system to get a reasonable adjustment to the billing for the reservation.

Why VRBO or AirBnB cannot make something as clean and concise as OR quoting and billing is beyond me.

The problem for me is that VRBO has a solid footprint in my rental area and most of my reservations come through it...even though I have tried to move to other services and even a custom webpage. I also have a lot of good reviews on VRBO which also helps.

Several years ago, I simply had the email from VRBO forward to OR and all was good in booking. I know that along the line VRBO changed policies several times and there was a back and fourth on if they would allow forwarding and parsing of their emails.. I think that they actually now have a closed messaging system?

Anyhow I notice that there are two subscription options now with them. An upfront amount and a pay as you go. I have the upfront amount (which has gotten even more expensive over the years....). Do either of these support automatic inquiries to OR now? I am sure they must not like it as it would bypass a service fee that they are also adding onto the renter for each reservation.

Just trying to look to optimize using OR for managing the costs on a booking (as well as the super useful scheduled emails), but keep a footprint in VRBO to optimize my traffic.

I think AirBnB is locked down very tight and not even worth asking about....

Glenn

Chris Hynes
Registered: 10/19/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

VRBO is migrating to the same model as AirBnb, what we call a "walled garden". Basically they're forcing communication and payment through them by not giving you the guest email address on inquiries. We still parse the inquiry emails, you just can't send an OwnerRez quote to the guest and have them check out via OwnerRez because VRBO wants their cut of the action.

There are a few larger property managers that VRBO has excluded from that rule, but even there they are planning to switch everybody over to the new model at some point this year.

The best thing to do if you have listings on VRBO/AirBnb is to take the booking on that side and use our Calendar Import (https://www.ownerreservations.com/support/articles/calendar-import) to populate the OwnerRez calendar with the booking automatically. Once you make a booking you can email the guest and ask for their real email address, populate it in OwnerRez, and then your scheduled emails will work for those bookings as well.

We've got some enhancements for walled gardens planned for later this year -- stuff like parsing the booking and payment notifications so we can populate charges and payments, a guest "checkout" that would accept their email address and have them sign your renter agreement, etc. As the situation develops and we see what VRBO et al actually end up doing, we'll implement the correct features in OwnerRez to streamline that as much as possible.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

VRBO is not going to stay in the lead IMO. In 2015 80-85% of my bookings were VRBO. Now it is hovering around 30% and I am halfway or more booked for the year.
if I were you I would not try to spend too much time on trying to automate VRBO interface as I predict the bookings from that source will continue to diminish barring a miracle. They have messed up the site too much.

I do not even use auto reposnders with vrbo. I just let whomever wants to book using VRBO book via VRBO, then reservation gets synced/imported to OR and from there on I use OR for the communication.

As far as additional payment, it can be done via VRBO dashboard, but I do not recommend. get yourself a Square account and just bill/invoice a renter for an extra night, for example. Square produces beautiful invoices and receipts and it takes about 3 days to get money deposited to your account. Unfortunately I do not think Square integrates with OR, but it is perfect for one -off situations like this.

ShenRent
Registered: 12/4/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

Love to see some site wide data from OwnerRez on VRBO vs. TripAdvisor vs. Air vs. private/custom sources. I guess it woudl "system listing sites" vs personal ones. I strongly suspect BlueMtnCabins is right. Same thing for us. VRBO has dropped dramatically for us from the good ole days when it was nothing but VRBO. They may have made a lot of money from their acquisitions and changes but it's really hurt traffic for a lot of owners.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I have my own data for last year and this year in a table form by source, but i do not think I can post a JPG here?

Marinas Edge
Registered: 10/10/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I love this thread. Here's what we do (it isn't perfect but works).

-We allow instant booking on VRBO. When a guest instant books my wife uses the information to manually create an instance in OR. This is well worth her time as we send a number of automated emails.

-If a guest doesn't instant book on VRBO we use the VRBO inquiry parser and manually input the guests email address (available from VRBO). Then we simply send the standard OR quote and life is great

-We also have a 3rd party booking units for us. We use the awesome OR ical import for these bookings. It's automatic and it just works.

-We, too, have seen a dramatic decrease in VRBO inquiries but a HUGE increase in AirBnB bookings. This has happened in the last year. I'm a huge believer that AirBnB will dominate in a few short years. We use the AirBnB app or website to do all correspondence with the guest. Once a guest books we use the awesome OR ical import (automatic). My wife gets the guests email address (available after booking) and puts it into the OR booking that came from iCal.

My money is on AirBnB. The new generation AirBnB's....the older generation VRBO's. If you aren't using AirBnB I'd recommend doing it sooner than later.

Sam Westcott
Registered: 12/19/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I think Marinas Edge is right, but it pains me to say that... I'd love to love Air, but they make it hard for 3rd party integration. They also REALLY restrict guest interaction with other guests which they claim is for protection. They def. got their claws into the market in a way that VRBO and others are now struggling to copy. If you're not on Air, you really should be.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I hate ABB period; I do not like a lot of clientele they provide (messy and at the same time picky). the owner dashboard, price setting etc is clunky. But they started to generate bookings so i will use until better alternatives are developed.

ShenRent
Registered: 12/4/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I understand what you're saying, Sam, but it seems like 90% of our bad guests come from Airbnb. Young college age groups, foreigners who don't understand our signs or house rules, groups of people looking to "crash" somewhere". We are listed on Airbnb but I have a HUGE LOVE/HATE relationship with them. We aren't going to take down our listings yet, but we cringe every time we get bookings through them. They are almost always bad.

ShenRent
Registered: 12/4/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

The rates too!!! Yes, blue mountain is right! Same thing for us. The don't have any way of setting seasons unless you literally set a rate for every night of the year on the calendar. TERRIBLE. We've had guests get mad at us because "the rate was higher than your website" but we have to do that to make sure we're covered for taxes and seasonal differences.

Glenn Moore
Registered: 11/11/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

Regarding Marinas Edge's posting, I have also read elsewhere that AirBnB is Millennial vs VRBO which is older generation. Obviously the older generation is a preferred group to rent to ... less likely to have parties, more traditional with vacations, etc. I am wondering if setting the limit on minimum number of nights to a higher number would attract a tamer crowd (ie not people looking to crash for a few days). Does anyone have any experiences with that?

I am on the edge of not renewing my VRBO subscription when it is time for renewal. I hate the fact that we owners have to pay for it AND there is a guest service charge as well... just seems overly greedy. Combine this with the fact that they shortchanged me my security deposit last year on a rental and it took me four calls to sort it out. The first two calls were met with 'oh you don't know what you are talking about... the settlement on your rental is fine'. The third call was ... 'oh I guess you are right there is a mistake in the (bizarre) way we calculate the settlement and we indeed did make a mistake and short change you $500'. The fourth call was 'oh yea, we did notice we made a mistake in your account as per your third call two weeks ago, but we don't know why we never sent you your $500 let us take a few weeks to look into that. Are you kidding me?

I might not like AirBnB and how closed it is, but at least they way they calculate settlement is straightforward and they haven't made a mistake yet.

Glenn Moore
Registered: 11/11/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

Has anyone been able to make a third party web page work? I created one on Weebly, complete with calendar and inquiry widget back to OR. However I haven't gotten one hit from it yet. Obviously it is not coming up in the search engines. Any strategies for that? I know OR is going to start offering to host web sites. But I have discovered you can have the most beautiful site in the world but it is of no use if it does not appear in the web searches. I have dabbled a bit in facebook and google adwords advertising, but to zero effect.

Marinas Edge
Registered: 10/10/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

Interesting to hear that people have had problems with guests from AirBnB. Here's some data to consider (out total #of bookings by year for AirBnB-it's exponential growth, doubling every year and more than quadrupling last year since we started). There are other factors contributing to this growth, but if not for AirBnB this last year we would have had major cash flow problems with our business.

2013-3 bookings
2014-7 bookings
2015-15 bookings
2016-73 bookings
2017-12 bookings to date (it's only February)

Of all these guests we've had <3 that have been problematic. AirBnB offers 2 way reviews, so if a guest is problematic they get a poor review from us which means in the future if they want to book the host will know they are problematic. It doesn't happen that way with any of the other platforms.

For us, AirBnB integrates very cleanly with OwnerRez with the iCal synching I never wonder if my calendar is in synch. While it would be nice to have backend integration I honestly don't see the benefit (the AirBnB app is incredible and is ridiculously simple to book guests).

In terms of pricing....here's a trick I've learned....don't even try to keep prices in synch...it's a nightmare. I have chosen to use AirBnB's "Smart Pricing" feature and let it choose (with a minimum price set by me) for the majority of the offseason. I set the price for the peak season and holiday seasons.

A few other things to consider...AirBnB doesn't charge for their listings (free). They deduct their fees from my prices (vs. charging the guest like VRBO). I can move guests between units (I have multiple condos in the same complex) on AirBnB seamlessly (I can't on VRBO).

I'm obviously a huge fan of AirBnB. Don't miss this wave...they'll blow VRBO out of the water in a few short years I believe (they already are).

ShenRent
Registered: 12/4/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I just now, this morning, was notified by Airbnb that a guest who damaged a $50 stainless cooking pan and took two pool cues and brought extra guests without paying would not have to pay anything.

I did the normal "request money from guest" (which is a joke of course) and the guest rejected it. I escalated it and Airbnb has now denied the claim. They saw the pictures but said pans are "wear and tear" items. This pan was purchased brand new within a year (I have the Amazon receipt) and was completely destroyed. The pool cues can't be paid for because they're "missing inventory" which evidently isn't paid for. I mean huh -- "missing inventory"??? So if a bunch of sheets, dishes, etc all disappear, nothing is covered?

If I try to get security deposits directly from the guest in the future, that's a violation of Airbnb terms. So Airbnb guests can basically steal whatever they want from the house and Airbnb won't cover it and I have no way of billing the guest.

How do you handle this, Marinas Edge?

Marinas Edge
Registered: 10/10/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

We just don't have these problems. Is your minimum age 25?

ShenRent
Registered: 12/4/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

Yes, it's 25. And that doesn't particularly matter because Airbnb does not verify the age ;-). Their ID checking process is a joke, I found out, even assuming you have that turned on. The current people who we had a problem with were in their 40s and 50s.

(Oh and the same guy left a 3 star review on TripAdvisor because "our price was higher on Airbnb than on our website and he felt over charged" even though I explained that the Airbnb rate has to be higher to account for things like taxes that they don't add on. And of course there's a service fee)

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

Marinas Edge said:


In terms of pricing....here's a trick I've learned....don't even try to keep prices in synch...it's a nightmare. I have chosen to use AirBnB's "Smart Pricing" feature and let it choose (with a minimum price set by me) for the majority of the offseason. I set the price for the peak season and holiday seasons.





You must be joking right? if I let AirBNB set their "smart pricing", they would charge about 40% less per night than I do (and my calendars are pretty full as it is). yes i know I can set min price, but then what is the point? I do not know, maybe smart pricing works somewhere someplace, but not for my type of property - it is more like "ripoff pricing".

And yes, while AirbNB booking percentage in overall mix has gone up (from 0 in 2015), they do supply higher percentage of problem/messy/do not follow the rules guests than any other platforms.
Like someone above mentioned, I also cringe every time I get AirBNB booking , thinking "what will this one do?"

ShenRent
Registered: 12/4/09
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

I think the minimum price setting takes care of them going too low, but I've never used it.

Marinas Edge, have you gotten higher prices with the smart stuff turned on? Or does it always tend to hit your minimum?

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

ShenRent said:

Yes, it's 25. And that doesn't particularly matter because Airbnb does not verify the age ;-). Their ID checking process is a joke, I found out, even assuming you have that turned on. The current people who we had a problem with were in their 40s and 50s.

(Oh and the same guy left a 3 star review on TripAdvisor because "our price was higher on Airbnb than on our website and he felt over charged" even though I explained that the Airbnb rate has to be higher to account for things like taxes that they don't add on. And of course there's a service fee)


No, but what I do is I make them agree via email to mu house rules (which includes having to sign rental agreement and provide copy of ID to me - not to Airbnb). Only after they acknowledge that they understood and agree, I accept the booking. after booking is accepted I have their phone #, I get their email, send the rental agreement to be filled and signed via signnow, and have them email or text me copy of their ID.
Granted it will not make me whole in case of breakage, but at least having to verify age, supply and ID and sign the rental agreement has some deterrent effect.
I also find that higher percentage of AirBNB guests have this "I know it all " attitude(when they don;t). Like I specifically send very detailed driving directions (we are in the mountains and I KNOW that in many spots GPS and cell phones have no signal). My email specifically says "do not rely on GPS alone, follow directions". The know-it-all AirBNB guests more often than any other disregard my directions, and then start texting me or calling because they are on a wrong street etc. I just shake my head - I send directions and instructions for a GOOD reason, not just for them to ignore. because I KNOW how GPS may be wrong or lose signal. But of course they are oh-so-smart until they get lost.
I also hate the fact that AirBNB took upon itself not to include babies in overall guest count. So technically according to AirBNB they can bring over limit number of people just because they do not count babies. i guess if natural disaster happens, we will tell rescuers not to look for babies - as babies do not count, according to AirBNB. And who AirBNB thinks they are to decide who should/should not be counted in the guest count? I find it amazing how company that owns nothing but website and arrogance basically dictates owners policies.

Marinas Edge
Registered: 10/10/12
Re: VRBO and Subscription Options

@blueMtnCabins-

I'm not joking. I agree, if you don't set a minimum on smartpricing it won't work.

Sounds like you've had some bad luck with AirBnB. Knock on wood, we haven't and I personally believe it is the future...a $25 Billion Dollar valuation is indicative of what the rest of the world thinks as well.

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