How to rank high on HomeAway in 2017

A giant in the vacation rental industry, HomeAway has been making bold changes to the platform in 2016. The results in terms of profit have been incredible: HomeAway made more profit in the last quarter of 2016 as it did in the whole of 2015! With all these changes affecting the way PM and owners have historically worked with HomeAway, the company is often organising local workshops, helping shed the light on how the platform now works, from guest stats to booking models, costs and what affects the algorithm. The last one of those was on the 24th of Feb 2017 in the very cool TSociety venue in Barcelona. HomeAway kindly invited Rentals United to present alongside top managers in the HomeAway group and shared with us how to rank high on HomeAway in 2017.

1. BARCELONA VACATION RENTAL STATS (SCROLL DOWN IF THIS IS NOT YOUR MARKET!)

Often labelled the World Capital of Vacation Rentals due to the sharp rise in available properties it experienced from 2011 to 2014 (from 1000 properties to 9000 in 3 years!) , HomeAway shared some very revealing stats about the city:

7M tourists came to Barcelona in 2016!
• 66% come for vacations, 24% for professional reasons, 10% personal reasons
• Average number of nights spent in Barcelona: 5
• Average number of people staying: 4/5 people
Guests book on average 77 days before arrival
• Average spent per stay is €950, per night per person average €69

And who is the HomeAway traveller that comes to Barcelona?
Americans make 25% of the travellers that come to Barcelona via HomeAway,
Followed by French, Germans, Brits, Canadians, Italians, and Spanish travellers

More stats demonstrating how mature and professional the market in Barcelona is:

• HomeAway has 5000 options in Barcelona
• 74% of owners / property managers accept credit cards
• 93% confirm in 24 hours

2. UNDERSTANDING HOMEAWAY: INSTANT BOOKING / PAY-PER-BOOKING / SUBSCRIPTION

Understanding HomeAway subscription

The one umbrella model is called Online Booking (HomeAway abbreviates it OLB) which means that the payment is done online.

Beneath that there’s:

Pay per booking: where the PM pays a commission to HomeAway and the PM has the option to decline the booking (not advisable and affects your ranking)

Instant Booking: is what makes you rank the highest but this is not given to everyone, you need to prove to HomeAway that you’re very professional and comply with all the Best Match requirements (see below)

Subscription model: where you get enquiries and you pay a yearly fee as opposed to a commission per booking . High-value properties usually work on subscription.

3. UNDERSTANDING HOMEAWAY COST 2017

Pay-per-Booking / Instant Booking:
€0 subscription, 8% per booking: if HomeAway charges for you, you will get paid 5 days after the check-in

Pay-per-Booking / Instant Booking:
€0 subscription, 5% per booking: if you charge the client yourself you get the amount instantly (depending on your payment provider) and you pay HomeAway 30 days after check-in.

Subscription:
per year €229: you get paid 5 days after accepting the booking

The Guest pays 6% and a max of €329 per booking.

4. INSTANT BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH HOMEAWAY THROUGH RENTALS UNITED

HomeAway & Rentals United

1) It is easier to get the instant booking model: why? because when you come from a channel manager correct availability is guaranteed.

2) Pay less commission: When you work with a channel manager you can receive the credit card details and charge them with your payment provider (or use the Rentals United integrated payment provider) as soon as the booking is made. In this case you will only owe HomeAway 5%, 1 month after the checkout.

Note: Unless you already work with HomeAway.com (as opposed to one of the family sites) you need to get a new account to work with a channel manager, and your reviews will be moved over. Please book a demo with us to find out more.

5. HOW THE NEW BEST MATCH ALGORITHM WORKS

Since HomeAway turned on the new “best match algorithm” based on a scoring system of your properties + the online booking system, they made more profit in the last quarter of 2016 than the whole of 2015! This new algorithm clearly works for guests, here’s how you can make it work for you as an owner / property manager and how to rank high on HomeAway in 2017:

First of all the algorithm looks at relevancy for the traveller and his/her preferences then it ranks your properties according to:

• good reviews (4,7% score average)
• how well you convert enquiries to book
• time that you respond to enquiries
• don’t refuse bookings
• having a calendar up-to-date (use a vacation rental channel manager! be always up-to-date!)
• 6 photos minimum but best to go for the max 24 photos (the max)
• making sure you have all your services listed
• no codes in the title, making the title attractive

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  • OttToyBoy

    The explanation of how Pay-Per-Booking works, above, is misleading. It leads one to believe that the only cost to the owner is 8% (if HA collects the funds via credit card) or 5% (if the owner collects the money). This is not true or, at minimum, is grossly misleading. The guest ALSO pays a fee to HomeAway or VRBO of between 6% and 12% which, ultimately, is coming out of owners’ pockets. It is lost opportunity cost for the owner and increases the cost to travelers with no real benefit.

    The “subscription” model explanation is also incorrect. The guest does not pay 6%. They pay between 6% and 12% with a current maximum of $299 U.S.

  • Hi, I see from your Disqus profile that you’re not HomeAway’s biggest fan. I’m sorry that’s the case.

    I just quickly wanted to thank you for your constructive comments and for clarifying the subscription model explanation: True, the subscription model is capped at $299. The Traveler service fees works on a curve between 4% to 12% and averages at 6%.

    I don’t understand why you think the guest fee comes out of the owners pocket – unless the owner decides to mark up down and take the hit, but he doesn’t have to do that.

    Again thank you for your comments and do let me know if we can help with the HA relationship or any other listing site for you.

    All the very best! Vanessa

  • OttToyBoy

    Hi Vanessa,
    Thanks for the reply. I think my opinion of HomeAway (Expedia / VRBO) is in good alignment with many independent owners who have been taken advantage of by them for the past six plus years — but, I suppose, that really is beside the point.

    >> I don’t understand why you think the guest fee comes out of the owner’s pocket?

    How could it be otherwise? To believe otherwise is to not understand basic economics or to be rationalizing to support the position. The fact is that guests have a certain budget for travel. If outside factors increase prices (such as these booking fees), it *necessarily* means that we owners either *must* reduce our rates (if we were already priced correctly at current market rates) or we will be unable to increase our rates for the next few years to keep on top of our expenses because the OTAs have already increased the cost to travel (while adding zero traveler or owner value) which precludes us from doing so.

    It is a fallacy to say that an owner may *choose* to reduce rates to compensate for the fee. Again, owners who are already market-priced *must* reduce their rates to compensate (or suffer reduced bookings). Ultimately, though, this fee comes directly out of the owners pocket. For some immediately, and for others it will be deferred due to inability to increase their rates.

    While not directly related to my rentals, I also object to the fees as a traveler. I have recently retired and I have always been a fond and frequent user of vacation home rentals. To now have my limited budget further reduced by up to 15% by these OTA’s — while adding absolutely zero value to me — is making it difficult to afford. Their greed is indefensible and preys on those of us least able to afford the increased cost.

  • randy and amy

    I see OttToyBoy’s point about the fee of increasing the overall cost which can cause some potential tenants to get priced out. I believe this has happened to us a few times from potential renters who seemed very excited then never booked. The fees can add up with the only way to offset is to lower rates. We use VRBO and we feel the prices they charge are fair as we see their service very useful. Not having to deal with checks and security deposits is a huge bonus for us. We also have the credit card fee paid by the tenant and for the most part no complaints but as I mentioned I suspect we have missed a few opportunities because of it.
    Mount Snow vacation rentals