Airbnb vs. Vrbo: How are They Different?

Airbnb vs. Vrbo

Airbnb vs. Vrbo has been a common topic of discussion among hosts and guests. The two platforms are travelers’ two most popular choices when discussing vacation rentals. These vacation rental booking platforms boost millions of listings worldwide. Vacation rentals have gained popularity among travelers, especially after the pandemic when people want to travel with as little peer-to-peer contact as possible. 

The two platforms share similarities and differences, but their demand gap is enormous. Airbnb is a more popular choice among travelers and hosts, with over 5.6 million listings worldwide. However, some markets have more Vrbo listings. In this blog, we will be discussing their similarities and differences. We will also discuss markets with more Vrbo listings than Airbnb based on PriceLabs market data. 

Airbnb vs. Vrbo: How do the two channels compare?

Airbnb was founded in 2007 and now has over 5.6 million property listings and over 4 million hosts in more than 220 countries across the globe. Airbnb is a platform that provides guests with a plethora of accommodation options. These range from everyday, casual accommodations to luxurious ones. Hosts can also list boats, castles, treehouses, private islands, lighthouses, and igloos. The recent Airbnb update’22 has 56 categories that allow you to choose houses based on their design type instead of the location. 

Usually, Airbnb attracts younger people looking for more affordable accommodations. Nevertheless, business travelers and families looking for shorter stays with specific amenities also choose to rent Airbnbs.

Vrbo, formerly named HomeAway, was founded in 1995. At present, it is a part of the Expedia Group. The platform offers over 2 million vacation rentals. These include condos, villas, cottages, ski chalets, beach houses, and lake rentals. With their slogan “Travel better together,” Vrbo generally caters to families, vacationers, and larger groups. Therefore, they list only full-space rentals on their website. 

Airbnb vs. Vrbo: Similarities

When discussing Airbnb vs. Vrbo, we must first talk about their similarities.

Listings

Airbnb and Vrbo are the two most preferred vacation rental channels. As a result, several vacation rental owners believe in listing on both channels to increase their visibility. Although Airbnb promotes unique homes and Vrbo promotes houses for the use of families or larger groups, several listings are common between the two channels. 

Cleaning

Post Covid-19, both the platforms have released new cleaning guidelines for the guests. These guidelines are more thorough and align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Cristal International Standards.

Airbnb has released a new ‘Enhanced Cleaning’ reflected in the listing’s description. If the host follows all the advanced cleaning guidelines Airbnb sets, the platform mentions it in the listing description as ‘Enhanced Cleaning.’ 

Vrbo also mentions in the listing’s description that the house is disinfected once the owner follows all the cleaning guidelines set by the platform. 

Hosts on both platforms can add cleaning fees, and the amount of those fees can be different for each host.

Service animal policy 

Vrbo’s policies are similar to Airbnb, and properties accept service animals without documentation, extra fees, or prior notice. The Americans dictate these policies under Disabilities Act; hence, both platforms follow the set guidelines. 

Accepting pets is also considered an amenity and shows up in the listing details. 

Every listing has its pet policies and fees to accommodate pets. However, an exception is made for assistance animals where things are not up to the property owner.

Last minute bookings

Airbnb and Vrbo both offer instant booking and host approval-based bookings. Both the platforms provide last-minute bookings as well. They also allow owners to set specific discounts for last-minute bookings. 

Not just that, hosts can also set promotional discounts for weekly and monthly bookings. 

Airbnb vs. Vrbo: Differences

The topic of Airbnb vs. Vrbo is incomplete until we talk about how the two platforms are different from each other.

Types of rentals 

Airbnb is filled with unique and creative home experiences: Users can rent everything from a house created entirely from Lego bricks to Donald Trump’s childhood home. Of course, Vrbo offers unique stays, too. However, Airbnb focuses more on them and rewards the owners of unique stays by giving them more visibility on its platform. 

Like Airbnb, anyone can post a listing on Vrbo. The platform also offers a plethora of different rental types. These include houses, apartments, castles, condos, tree houses, etc. However, unlike Airbnb, Vrbo only allows listing entire homes, which means it has fewer rentals than Airbnb. 

Instead of smaller spaces like single rooms, Vrbo only lists larger areas. For example, whole houses, condos, or apartments that customers will have to themselves instead of sharing them with the homeowner or other guests.

Since Airbnb permits the listing of shared spaces, it usually attracts younger travelers and traveling professionals who like to opt for budget-friendly stays. 

On the contrary, the traditional family stays and bigger vacation homes listed on VRBO attract large families and a slightly mature audience. It also attracts larger groups traveling together who prefer to have their own space instead of sharing with a host. 

It is to be noted that this does not imply that families or larger groups do not use Airbnb or that younger travelers do not use VRBO.

Provisions mandated by Airbnb and Vrbo. 

Airbnb requires hosts to provide certain essentials to guests. Essential amenities include the basic items that a guest expects to have a comfortable stay. These include:

  • Toilet paper
  • Soap (for hands and body)
  • One towel per guest
  • One pillow per guest
  • Linens for each guest bed

Vrbo doesn’t mandate any amenities, but their suggestions include almost everything a family would need when staying at a rental. 

These even include pancake mix and Tabasco sauce.

Payment options 

Guests don’t need to make payments through Vrbo/HomeAway, although the platform highly recommends it. 

The company is no longer obligated to safeguard your payment if you pay outside the HomeAway payment system.

The HomeAway checkout platform processes all the online payments for Vrbo rentals. The ‘ Book With Confidence Guarantee’ of Vrbo protects these payments.

Service fees and platform costs

The costs and service fees on both platforms will depend on the type of rental, total booking cost, and other extra services.

Below I have mentioned various fee structures: 

Listing Fee

Digital marketplaces usually charge a listing fee, which is the fee you pay to be able to use their platform. 

The fee may be flat fees or charged in the form of percentages. Some platforms permit users to list their services for free. Airbnb and Vrbo belong to that category. They don’t charge hosts to list their property on their platform. 

However, Vrbo offers hosts to purchase an annual subscription of $499. The subscription excludes them from paying the 5% booking fee that they pay each time a guest books their listing. Instead, they just have to pay the 3% fee that the platform charge for a credit card or eCheck processing per booking. They also get access to other benefits like being able to add more photos and a better user dashboard. 

Commissions and fees

Commission fees are usually percentages of the platforms’ total charge from each completed booking. There may also be fees for other guest services, payment charges, and taxes.

Airbnb charges hosts a fee of 3% of the subtotal (including host-generated fees like cleaning or pet fees). It can be more than 3% in certain countries or when the host levies hefty fees, restrictions, or complicated cancellation policies.

Airbnb also has a 20% host service fee for Airbnb Experiences, although hosts who participate in nonprofit partnerships can have this waived. 

On Vrbo, those who do not opt for the subscription model have to pay Vrbo a 5% commission on the Pay Per Booking model plus a 3% payment processing fee.

Taxes

Airbnb reports your rental history to the IRS regardless of how many nights guests booked for your rental. It doesn’t matter how many nights your guests stayed. 

Vrbo may or may not send you a 1099 form, so it’s best to follow up with them to confirm. Depending on how often you rent your property and how meticulous your record keeping is, renting could help you or hurt you come tax time.

You could claim several deductions, but you also have to be careful not to book more often than you can afford. For example, if you book just over 14 days, you might not make a profit at all.

There are some fine lines. For example, if you rent your home for 14 days or less per year, you don’t have to report it as income to the IRS. But you may need to send documentation to the IRS and a letter to use this loophole. The tax rules are complicated, so it’s best to check with the IRS for more details.

Cancellation policies

Although not ideal, short-term rental property owners will have to deal with cancellations from time to time. While the decision to cancel a reservation is most commonly down to the guest, both Airbnb and VRBO allow hosts to choose from several cancellation policies, giving them some control over the process.

Airbnb Cancellation Policies

Airbnb cancellation policies differ, and guests can get a refund under the following plans:

  • Flexible – guests can get a full refund if they cancel 24 hours before check-in.
  • Moderate – guests can get a full refund if they cancel until five days before check-in.
  • Firm – guests can cancel until 30 days before check-in for a full refund.
  • Strict – guests must cancel within 48 hours of booking and 14 days before check-in for a full refund.
  • Long-term – applies to stays of over 28 days. Guests must cancel within 48 hours of booking and 28 days before check-in for a full refund.
  • Super strict 30 days – guests must cancel 30 days before check-in for a 50% refund.
  • Super strict 60 days – (invitation only for specific hosts) guests must cancel 60 days before check-in for a 50% refund.

Hosts can apply different cancellation policies to various properties, so Airbnb hosts do not have to choose just one.

Vrbo Cancellation Policies

Hosts can also choose VRBO cancellation policies for each short-term rental property and include:

  • Non-refundable – bookings are non-refundable
  • 60-day policy – guests can cancel 60 days before check-in for a full refund.
  • 60/30-day policy – guests can cancel 60 days before check-in for a full refund. Guests can cancel 30 days before check-in for a 50% refund.
  • 30/14 day policy – guests can cancel 30 days before check-in for a full refund. Guests can cancel 14 days before check-in for a 50% refund.
  • 14/7-day policy – guests can cancel 14 days before check-in for a full refund. Guests can cancel seven days before check-in for a 50% refund.
  • Custom – some properties have custom policies that have different cancellation terms and fees.

Bear in mind that while it is up to the host to decide which cancellation policy they use, the stricter the policy, the less attractive the listing will be to potential guests. Therefore, you will need to find a balance that protects you as a host yet gives your guests peace of mind should their circumstances change.

Additional costs for guests

Guests must also pay specific percentages to the platforms for use and service. The fee is a percentage of the total fee, additional services, and taxes.

Airbnb charges guests around 0-20% of the subtotal before adding Airbnb fees and taxes. The percentage depends on the listing. The higher the listing cost, the lower the rate on average. However, some guest fees may look over 20% when guest service fees and Value Added Tax (VAT) are factored in.

Vrbo charges a service fee of 6-12% of the reservation total from its guests. Similar to Airbnb, the more the rental price, the lower the service fee percentage on average. The platform also charges the necessary VAT. Over this, the hosts can also charge additional fees for cleaning, pets, and other services and amenities. 

Markets with more Vrbo supply than Airbnb

Although Airbnb has more listings than Vrbo, according to PriceLabs market data, there are specific markets where the latter is dominant with more vrbo listings. These locations include : 

Northern Outer Banks (NC, USA)

The Outer Banks of North Carolina offer a welcome relief from crowded cities and overrun vacation spots. Nother outer banks don’t have any cities, just 100+ miles of wide-open shoreline, seaside villages, and a mix of towns brimming with personality and fascinating connections to the USA’s history.

Southern Myrtle Beach – Murrels Inlet (SC, USA)

Murrells Inlet allows visitors to experience the quaint natural feel of nature in a salt-marsh ecosystem that is left unaffected by the fast-paced nature of cities. It is a nature lover’s paradise. The village has a cozy and pleasant Boardwalk that small restaurants surround. 

Islamorada – Florida Keys (FL, USA)

Islamorada is the village of six islands just 90 minutes south of Miami and about two hours north of Key West, the southernmost spot in the continental United States. Islamorada is known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World”. It hosts the biggest fishing fleet per square mile worldwide.

Lubmin Beach (Germany)

Lubmin Beach is located in the Bay of Greifswald on the shores of the Baltic sea. This picturesque sandy beach is quite broad, surrounded by rocky mountains and forests, coinciding with its name, which translates to “gryphon’s forest” in German. 

Sylt (Germany)

The beach draws jet-setters and backpackers to Sylt. Nearly 40 kilometers of sandy white shores stretch along the island’s western and northern coastlines. Thatched-roof cottages fields with tall grass and wild roses make up the landscape of Sylt. 

Hinterstoder (Austria)

Hinterstoder is authentic, traditional, and more than just a tiny Upper Austrian village. Hinterstoder is a year-round holiday paradise nestled in the charming mountains of Pyhrn-Priel. 

Binz Beach, Rügen (Germany)

Binz is a beach located in the city of the same name in Germany. This beach with fine white sand and a view of the Baltic Sea is a perfect destination for families with kids. Binz beach is made accessible for people with disabilities. Lifeguards are on duty to ensure your safety. The beach is a particular pet-friendly area and is also frequently visited by nudists. During the evening, barefoot concerts with chill music are organized on the beach.

Langeoog Beach, Langeoog (Germany)

Langeoog is a beautiful coastal island located in the Wadden Sea (north Germany). 

The beach of the island is 9 miles (14 km) long. The island doesn’t have any private vehicles on its territory. Instead, people use bicycles or horse taxis except for the fire department and ambulance to travel around the city. Tourists come from around the world for coastal holidays away from the busy city.

Locals call it the ‘island for life.’ Nature surrounds this island, and health-conscious people live on this island. 

Timmendorfer Beach, Niendorf (Germany)

Timmendorfer Strand has long been the favored destination of Germans looking for the spa and wellness perks of an invigorating yet relaxing holiday. Its 5 miles of golden sand beach and pier also attract young and not-so-young visitors to take a more active break enjoying all types of water sports.

 Ahlbeck Beach, Usedom (Germany)

Ahlbeck beach is situated near the German town of Heringsdorf. Fine white sand covers the beach that stretches along the beautiful Baltic coast. Ahlbeck beach is suitable for families with kids, and it is also adapted for people with disabilities. 

Conclusion

Airbnb and Vrbo give us several reasons why they are so popular among travelers and vacation rental hosts. While Airbnb is more popular among the hosts with significantly more listings than Vrbo, the latter has markets of its own where it dominates over Airbnb. 

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