First things first: Yes, you can easily save up to 15% (up to $499) on your next vacation rental.
All you have to do is book direct with me, Cavel. Yes, it’s that easy.
But first, are you interested in the details on that $499 fee you’re now paying? Here are a few things you should know:
From Listing to Booking
Over the last few years, HomeAway, VRBO, Airbnb and other major vacation rental listing sites have changed their business model. While they were once straight advertising/listing sites – basically, online vacation rental classifieds – they have slowly evolved into booking engines, similar to Hotels.com.
So what?, you say, you like online booking via credit card.
So do we. But that’s not the change that concern us. These are:
1. You’re Now Paying up to $499, Per Booking, in Service Fees
Have you noticed the new HomeAway and VRBO service fee? It was introduced in 2016. Essentially, in exchange for the convenience of booking online, HomeAway and VRBO (owned by HomeAway) now charge an average of 5-12% on top of each booking. And beware: Fees can go higher than 15%, and they top out at $499 per booking.
Put in real numbers, when you book a $2,000 vacation rental on HomeAway or VRBO, you’ll now pay up to $240 extra (or more, depending on HomeAway’s algorithms) for that privilege.
The Airbnb guest service fee is calculated at 5-15% percent. Again, on that $2,000 rental, be prepared to pony up an additional $100-$300, just for the privilege of booking via Airbnb.
2. They Hide Your Contact Information
In the past, we could chat before your booking. You could ask us questions, we could answer. We could point you to our website, send a link to photo albums, invite you to give us a call, and send emails back and forth.
In June 2017, HomeAway laid down a new law: No more pre-booking contact. No more one-on-one phone discussions about properties that interest you. No more back-and-forth emails. I’m not even allowed to send you my free Jamaica travel guide.
3. No Discounts Allowed
Here’s a new one: The new rules make it nearly impossible for owners to offer deals or special discounts, including senior discounts or military discounts. Owners have reported that, if the online messaging/rate system catches us trying to give you a deal, the site will simply increase the service fee and bring the total back to the original amount. It’s lose-lose, at least for you and me.
4. Customer Service Isn’t What You Think
The big booking platforms would like you to think their 24/7 customer service is worth up to $499.
I don’t think it is. The booking process is automated, so unless you have an unusual problem there, you won’t need to contact the booking platform. And when it comes to staying in a home, how can customer service reps, located across the ocean and who have never been to my vacation rental, help you figure out the DVD player, or recommend the island’s best restaurants, or direct you to that beach you read about? They can’t.
Good owners, myself included, are already available to you. When you book with us, you have our phone numbers (or our property manager’s phone numbers). At Jamaica Ocean View Villa, there’s an entire staff on-call; you’ll never need to call Customer Service.
So that’s the long and the short of it: You’re now paying more to book vacation rentals on the big booking sites.
How to Save Money (and Have a Better Experience)
Okay, so you know you don’t want to pay a booking fee. You know you want to talk with an owner before you book. How do you go about that?
Simple. Just take the home’s name (ex. Jamaica Ocean View Villa) and Google it. Find the home’s website or Facebook page. The owner’s details, including contact information, will be right there – front and center.
Call. Email. Contact us however you please. And when you book, know that you’re not paying anything for the privilege of booking.