With all the quirks and options on offer, the VR industry — also known as vacation rental booking — sure isn’t what it used to be. Websites like Airbnb and HomeAway have gone more than mainstream, offering travelers of all sorts plenty of superb alternatives to the traditional hotel experience—all at substantially lower prices. It’s even been found that in the U.S. alone, day-trippers and getaway-seekers alike spent nearly $23 billion on vacation rentals in 2012, amounting to nearly one-fifth of the U.S. lodging market! Let’s just say that good old stays at various high-rise hotels are starting to become nothing but a distant memory because the fact of the matter is, vacay-rentals are now the thing.
Opt for something way more extraordinary than a dimly lit room with a fluffy king size bed or some boring beige carpets and striped wallpaper. How about a country villa, a spacious loft, or even—if you're feeling really crazy—a nice little dome?! What’s more is that often times, on top of the potential savings, you’ll also be able to get local resident’s input on things such as sights to check out and snazzy spots to chow down at. But since good and reliable rentals aren’t always the easiest to hunt down, here's an overview of some of the most popular sites offering alternative accommodations (in addition to the hot San Francisco startup that started it all). Ladies and gents, may we present the best and brightest Airbnb competitors.
A leading search engine for vacation rentals, Tripping.com has got over 8 million properties in 150,000 destinations, offering travelers with more than wide variety of unique accommodations especially for the long-term. It’s been deemed as the “Kayak for long term rentals,” a one stop shop for vacay-homes that has partnered up with several major hotshots in the VR business to allow users to easily compare vacation rentals across providers.
Founded in 209 by Jen O’Neal, a former StubHub employee, and Jeff Manheimer formerly of Travelzoo, the San Francisco-based company boasts a partnership with AARP and since teaming up with Booking.com in 2015, was the first vacation rental metasearch website to debut on-site booking. Plus, with friendly relations with major sites from HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, Housetrip, Homestay, and TripAdvisor to Wimdu, ZenRentals, Bedycasa, and WayToStay, as well as numerous others, it’s the perfect spot for users to browse by price range, ratings, locations, and a lengthy list of other features and amenities.
Acquired by TripAdvisor in 2008, FlipKey is one of the main Airbnb competitors and provides adventure seekers with both domestic and international offerings, with each property profile detailing everything from the number of bed/bathrooms, amenities available, and detailed descriptions of the space, to management information, photographs, and weekly availability. Though cancellation and payment policies vary by property, this VR favorite offers the ability to easily browse listings based on certain parameters such as low-cost, family-friendly, luxury, or even by the type of trip you’re hoping to embark on—i.e. city, beach, mountain getaway, etc.
The “vacation rental marketplace,” as it so lovingly calls itself, has got a growing inventory of over 300,000 properties with exposure to over 160 countries. Plus, since they introduced their Free-to-List option, it’s become even more of an ultimate fave, as it often receives enough targeted visibility to provide an average of 72 inquiries per listing per year. What’s more is that when you team up with FlipKey, your vacay-rentals will be equally distributed to a dozen other popular sites, including good old TripAdvisor, meaning that all in all, you’ll be exposing your property to just over 340 million travelers per month—with no extra charge! There’s even a Pay-Per-Lead option that allows you to only pay when you get qualified leads. Yes, please.
It’s the parent company to quite a few Airbnb competitors, including HomeAway itself. Property profiles provide travelers with all the basics—i.e. info on number of bedrooms/bathrooms, minimum stay requirements, images, property descriptions, reviews, owner/management information, amenities, as well as availability—just as long as you sign a rental agreement and pay 10-50% upfront in order to completely book the reservation. As with other sites, cancellations and other details depend on the rental agreement you sign with the property owner, and many a times, a security deposit is needed.
Still HomeAway is a true VR giant that’s been dominating the vacation rental industry for many years now, continuing to top the list of Google searches for most popular rental sites. It also continues to mother an array of other very successful sites like VRBO and VacationRentals.com. According to the company, they claim that on average, owners can earn approximately $12k per year on their site (though average earnings do also include extremely luxurious properties that rent out for $10k per week). Plus, it starts at only $349 per property listing per year, with top owners earning upwards of $50,000 annually per listing. What’s even better is that they also offer a "Free-to-List" option with no up front charge, and a commission structure at 10% per booking—it’s a superb option for owners with shorter seasons and smaller income potential. Though you should keep in mind that even the CEO himself admitted to Skift that their rankings tend to favor listings with paid subscriptions.
Vacation Rental By Owner a.k.a. VRBO offers worldwide accommodations from people willing to rent out their space—similar to Airbnb. And apart from the selection of rentals on its site, it isn’t really all that different from the latter, with property profiles listing bedrooms and bathrooms, reviews, photos, minimum stay requirements, amenities offered, and availability, among other details. Cancellation and payment policies vary by property, as with most other similar websites, and though it was acquired by HomeAway Corporation in 2006, they’ve been one of the leading vacation rental market spaces since their inception way back in 1995. With a proven track record of success, VRBO seems to be a pioneer in the VR industry, claiming that their members receive an average of 127 inquiries per vacation rental property listing per year. What’s more impressive is that despite having only half the amount of property listings than HomeAway, they carry roughly as many travelers as their parent site does on a monthly basis (if not more). Let’s just say competition is super fierce!
Pricing-wise, structures are pretty much the same as with HomeAway—there are both paid and free-to-list options, with the free listings usually providing significantly less visibility and costing quite a bit more in the long run. Still, top owners, according to the company, can earn upwards of $60K on the site so this one’s definitely a good choice for top notch results and great performance.
Though it hasn’t been around for as long as some of the others, this one’s definitely an up-and-comer to watch. Headquartered in Lausanne, it’s know as “the AirBnb of Europe” --but without the 3% commission. So while AirBnb is popular for travelers in North America, European getaway seekers are going wild for this “online holiday rental marketplace.”
What’s more is that since it’s currently an untapped market with very little competition for visibility, you’ll have the pleasure of being one of the first properties in your area on the site, which means you can get a head start at building on that reputation to further reap the benefits down the line. Plus, it’s absolutely free to list your property so there really is nothing you have to lose! Check it out now.
Half vacation rental marketplace and half property management tool, this one services quality properties in highly coveted destinations all across the globe. It’s a super safe way to book your rentals instantly via credit card, as all listing are professionally managed and fully verified so that there’s nothing travelers need to worry about.
Based in Chi-town, the site specializes in luxury properties in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the U.S, and as a company, vows to bring a new level of quality and standardization to the VR marketplace. Browsing through the colorful site is no doubt a great way to get your travel inspiration on!
Previously named Zaranga, this one’s got more than 13,000 vacation rentals all across the United States, with a bountiful inventory of professionally managed properties in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. Payment and booking processes occur straight from the VaycayHero site, and all cleaning and service fees are paid for at the time of booking.
Founded in 2011, the San Francisco headquartered company offers “a happy medium between renting home properties and ensuring that customer service is on par with hotel chains,” says VentureBeat. Plus, as a consumer-facing service, it only lists professionally managed vacation properties that are fully vetted ahead of time, “which means there's typically a team of people around to make sure your trip is pretty hassle-free." So, for easy peasy and absolutely no surprises—ever—opt for this hero of a site.
If unforgettable experiences and extravagance is what you aim for, then look no further than Luxury Retreats. Specializing in villa rentals, this Montreal-based company was founded in 1999 with only a single property. It has since expanded to offer a carefully curated portfolio of over 4000 luxury properties in more than 100 destinations globally. These villas serve as beachfront escapes, city breaks, and a lavish home base for large groups or corporate retreats. Travelers can enjoy a 24/7 personal concierge service available for assistance, as well as complimentary full-service guest support.
There are no sign-up costs or fees for homeowners wanting to partner with Luxury Retreats as it follows a pay-for-performance model. Less than 5% of villas are accepted into the site’s collection. Even so, Luxury Retreats holds bragging rights to $150 million in annual bookings, as well as 40% repeat clientele. With upscale rentals in the Caribbean, Central America, South Africa, New Zealand, North America, Europe, the South Pacific, and more, guests can live up the extravagant life virtually anywhere in the world.
With over one million registered users and about 300,000 properties in over a hundred countries, this one’s another fierce Airbnb competitor that’s doing an impressive job in getting a slice of the private-rental pie, especially in Europe-- since unlike the North American VR giant, Wimdu seems to focus more on rental market spaces across the pond (while Airbnb has its sights set on global domination!). It’s a great option for short-term rentals, offering travelers with a more than easy and pleasant booking and rental experience that’s easy to navigate so that you can get on your way to that stellar va-cay. Fast.
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This article was written by Pamela Chan.