If you want to list your property as a vacation rental, you’ll have to answer a big question early in the process:
What service do you want to list your short-term rental on?
After all, there are many different lodging options available in the gig economy.
Different sites have different audiences, different reach, and different terms and conditions.
Some offer room rentals, some offer shared spaces, others request that you list the entire property.
One of the biggest players in the field is HomeAway, a company that specializes in vacation rental listings for entire homes.
If you’re considering renting your home on HomeAway, it’s helpful to get all the information ahead of time, including what service fees there are, how they affect the listing price, and how they are calculated.
This article will look at HomeAway, its competitors, and property owner fees, including an examination of the two different fee models that HomeAway offers for people who rent on their family of websites.
We will also look at how those fees are passed on to the travelers, and how it affects prices for them.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
- What Is HomeAway?
- HomeAway Fees for Homeowners
- Choosing the Right Fee Model
- HomeAway Fees for Travelers
- Fees Compared to Competitors
What Is HomeAway?
HomeAway is a company that specializes in short-term rental properties for travelers.
It has thousands of booking listings around the world for apartments, condos, beach homes, and vacation destinations, and allows travelers to book them directly through the owner of the property.
HomeAway also owns VRBO, VacationRentals.com, and several other websites, which has allowed them to build a massive, searchable database of properties around the world.
(All properties listed on HomeAway are also listed on all of its partner websites.)
Unlike Airbnb or couch surfing websites, HomeAway and its partner sites specialize in entire homes and apartments, and doesn’t allow its renters to list individual rooms or shared spaces.
What Are Fees for Homeowners on HomeAway?
Property owners looking to rent their vacation home on HomeAway will find that they have two different fee structure models.
The first of these is an annual subscription fee model, which allows you to select from two different annual fees, one of which is dependent on you allowing for online reservations.
The second fee model is a pay-per-booking model, which allows you to miss out on the annual fee but charges more for each individual booking.
Annual Subscription Fee Model
There are two prices for the annual subscription.
For properties that allow online booking, the cost is $349 for the year.
For those that insist people book directly through the owner, the annual fee is $499.
HomeAway charges more for people who don’t allow online booking because the company is missing out on service fees that it could charge to people who book using the site.
If you are using their site purely as a place to list your property, and not allowing them to take part in the booking process, they will charge more annually to make up the difference.
The pay-per-booking model allows you to skip the annual fee altogether.
Per HomeAway, this fee is 10 percent per transaction, which is broken down like this:
- “5% commission charged for the rental amount, any fees (such as cleaning or pet fees), and any additional payments.
Please note, bookings originating from one of our expanded distribution partners may be higher.”
- “3% credit card/eCheck processing fee charged on the total payment amount you receive from your traveler, including taxes and refundable damage deposits.
The portion of the processing fee charged for the damage deposit is refunded when you refund the deposit.”
- “2% international surcharge may apply if using a non US credit card.”
Choosing the Right Fee Model
When choosing the right model for you, it’s helpful to consider how often you plan on renting the property in question.
If you’re planning on renting your home one week a year when you’ll be out of town, the annual fee model probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If you have a second home and will look to rent it as often as possible, the annual fee will quickly pay for itself.
It’s just a matter of frequency, and how quickly the fees will add up.
And then there are the two levels of annual cost.
When vacation rental owners are deciding between the two levels of annual subscription cost, they should consider what’s important to them.
If you want to control the transactions for each rental, and insist that users book directly through you (and avoid any traveler service fees in the process), it may be worth it to you to pay the additional cost for the annual subscription.
If that doesn’t sound very good to you, and you’re happy to let people book through the site, you’re incentivized to do so with the lower annual cost.
What Are Guest Fees for Travelers Renting a House With HomeAway?
Some online booking services can be frustrating because you don’t see added on fees in the search results, so you think you’ve locked in a good rate, then when you go to check out, you’re surprised to find a massive add on to the bill from a booking fee or other mysterious extra fees.
HomeAway.com charges guest only a service fee, which can be paid by credit card when a traveler books and pays through the HomeAway websites.
The fee is between 6–12% of the rental amount for most bookings, and can go higher or lower depending on the reservation.
Travelers can get hit with additional fees, though, which are determined by the owners or property managers.
These can include pet fees, cleaning fees, and other fees. It’s best to review each listing carefully when booking.
Can You Get a Refund on a Service Fee?
Per HomeAway’s website, the owner can’t waive a service fee, and the only time it can be refunded is when “when an owner uses the Cancellation Refund feature from their account and the cancellation is requested within the terms of the owner/manager’s cancellation policy.”
If a traveler and an owner work out a cancellation or a refund outside the website, the service fee can’t be refunded.
Airbnb has a similar cancellation policy.
Anyone who books online with HomeAway’s sites is protected by the Book with Confidence Guarantee, which guards travelers from fraud, and entitles them to customer support from HomeAway.
If you have any questions, here is a handy guide to contacting HomeAway support.
Fees Compared to Competitors
As stated before, rental sites VRBO, VacationRentals.com, and many others (see a full list here) all are HomeAway sites, and because of that they all have extremely similar fee structures.
Airbnb is the biggest competitor to HomeAway’s family of sites, and does not charge an annual fee to property owners to list on their website, instead choosing to implement a 3 percent service fee to owners per transaction.
For travelers, Airbnb service fees will range “between 0% and 20% of the booking subtotal … and is calculated using a variety of factors—these include the reservation subtotal, the length of the stay, and characteristics of the listing,” per the Airbnb website.
Listing sites like Expedia, Booking.com, Orbitz, and others can add a booking fee when you reserve hotels, flights, and cars through them, but those are generally worked into the listing cost and not added on after.
Know Where Your Money Is Going
HomeAway is an attractive place to rent your home because its wide family of sites allows you to reach a wide range of potential renters.
And while its annual subscription fee requires an initial investment, that can quickly be made back up with just a few rentals, especially for larger properties.
When choosing which fee structure to pursue, it’s helpful to consider how often you’re renting the property.
And remember, if you rent your home or additional property past a certain number of trips or bring in a certain amount of income, you’ll be facing new fees…from the IRS.
For travelers, fees are going to pop up whenever you book on short-term rental sites.
Airbnb is considering moving to a model where all service fees are picked up by the owner, but there could still be a cleaning fee, pet fee, etc.
Do your research when booking, factor in fees to the cost, and you’ll be all set.