Online Bookings vs Personal Sale for Vacation Rentals
Owning your own vacation rental business is all about making decisions. One of the most important decisions any vacation rental owner will be faced with is determining how to sell their rentals. There are numerous options. However, it boils down to two things: online bookings and personal sale.
Since opting to list on online booking sites tends to be the more popular option, let’s start with the underdog:
Definition: Personal sale means you directly list your vacation rental homes on your own business website and social media pages. There is no middle man. You list your rental homes and book guests directly without the help of an intermediary online booking platform. This is the equivalent of selling your own home without hiring a real estate agent to find buyers. With personal sales, the vacation rental owner or property manager post the listings online and do all the work to attract guests and make sales.
– Total freedom & control: With personal sales, you’re free to build online sites and pages for your business. This includes an official business website and social media pages like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Because there is no middle man, you retain total autonomy over all of your listings. You decide how to market your rentals, what audience to target, the aesthetics of your own marketing campaign, and more. You do not need to oblige by booking site rules or requirements when listing your properties on your own business site and pages.
– Retain all profit from sale: This is probably the most important pro for choosing personal sale. Some booking sites (like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Turnkey) tack on additional commission fees per completed booking while some charge annual subscription fees (VRBO, for example, starts at $499/year). Opting to personally list your properties can save you the money that you would lose to booking sites.
However, a good thing to keep in mind is the cost of owning your own domain name and operating a live website. Unless you are a gifted coder, you will most likely go through website builders like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix to build your own site. It costs money (usually a monthly fee) to keep your site open to the public. The more sophisticated you want your site to be, the most it will cost you.
– Build your own brand: Another pro for personal sale includes total brand autonomy. Branding your vacation rental business will help you establish an independent presence in the travel accommodations industry. Choose your own property name, logo, design, and more. Maintain polished social media pages that reinforce your brand. Put out quality content that shows off your rental properties to their utmost potential. Listing your rental properties on personal business pages allows you to build a recognizable, strong, and unique online presence.
– Sharpen your business skills: Personally listing your properties will sharpen your business skills unlike anything else. Because there is no middle man, you will be in charge of online marketing, guest communication, task-management, property-management, and just about everything else you can think of for running your own vacation rentals business. You will come to wear many hats.
If it sounds like personal sale is a lot of work that’s because it is. Simply put, personal sale demands a lot out of you.
– Less online visibility: Starting from the bottom with your very own personal business site is an uphill (but doable) battle in order to gain web presence, clicks, and a consistent stream of online viewers. Your web presence is basically where your personal website is located on the internet. There are millions of websites out there but it’s your goal to get your site on the first page of Google (and other search engines) in vacation rental searches. You can achieve this by using SEO keywords in your online content and incorporating backlink strategies. Which leads into the next con…
– Need to hire staff: Operating a successful personal web presence can require a team of specialists including copywriters, data analysts, digital marketers, and more. Unless you happen to be a jack of many trades, you may need to hire outside professional services.
– Missed marketing opportunities: Another con of opting to personally list your rental homes is missing out on the built-in marketing tools of big-name vacation rental listing sites. For example, Booking.com, one of the most popular online booking sites, advertises hosts’ properties on Google maps, which is another huge online platform.
Tips: If you’re thinking about personally listing your rentals, AllTheRooms Analytics has plenty of helpful resources for how to get started.
First things first, you want to make sure you’re marketing the best of what your business can offer. Polish your guest experience game and make sure your existing customers leave positive reviews on your personal site and come back for more stays in the future. Improving guest satisfaction is a sure-fire way to build brand awareness and trust, which will go a long way in growing your own website from scratch.
Instagram is a booming marketing space. This is an excellent social media platform to market your vacation rental business. Directly connect with guests, host giveaways, post quality photos and videos, and much more. Instagram marketing is a great option for vacation rental owners who want to personally list their properties.
Take advantage of online pricing tools to make sure your rental homes are always being listed at competitive market value. These tools will help you price your rental homes throughout the ups and downs of travel seasons.
And finally, education is key to running your own online listing platforms. There are numerous free vacation marketing e-books that will help you learn the in’s and out’s out the travel accommodations industry.
Definition: Online booking sites connect rental hosts and owners with potential guests. Property owners upload their rental homes to online booking sites and complete online transactions through the intermediary site’s platform. Some of the most popular online booking sites include Airbnb, Booking.com, AllTheRooms, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, and VRBO.
– Audience: Some of the most popular online booking sites receive millions of viewers each month. Gain access to a massive audience of potential guests by listing on such sites as Airbnb and Booking.com.
– Trusted name: Another perk is benefiting from the trusted name of popular listing sites. Online booking sites have already done the hard work of gaining a loyal following for you. For example, Airbnb has about 150 millions users per month and Booking.com receives 4.5 million bookings each week. Listing your properties on well-known, consumer-trusted sites legitimizes your vacation rentals.
– Verification: Many online booking sites have built-in verification systems based on a two-way review process. Guests review hosts and hosts review guests, which is a solid way of holding both parties accountable for their actions. Boost your reputation as a vacation rental host by cultivating positive reviews and ratings on popular online booking sites.
– Additional Services: Online booking sites also offer easy integration with other programs including a channel manager and online payment services. Do it all in one place with booking sites that allow you to sync all of your properties, maintain an updated calendar, and accept online payments.
– Extra fees: The most notable con with online booking sites is being charged with additional fees to use their services and platform. Airbnb charges guests an additional 0-20% service fee, which means the price guests see on your listing is not the price they pay at check-out. Booking.com charges its 10-15% commission fee to hosts. VRBO and HomeAway charge annual subscription fees.
– Rules and requirements: If you choose to list on booking sites, you must comply with their rules, requirements, and/or regulations. However, most booking sites allow hosts to maintain a significant amount of control over their listing pages.
Tips: Listing on online booking sites is a great way to get your properties out there for all to see. Here are some savvy tips and tricks to optimize your online booking strategy:
Optimize your business strategy on big-name sites in order to get the most out of what they offer. Read up on how to optimize your pricing strategy and market your properties on Airbnb. Master the art of booking on Booking.com.
Get your properties on the big-name sites but don’t forget about the numerous alternative options. Alternative listing sites open your business up to potential guests you may be missing on the more popular sites. For example, Misterb&b is a gay travel accommodations site with an impressive network of gay-friendly hosts. Expand your online presence and audience by listing on alternative sites.
About the author: Emily Russo is a writer based in New York. She loves traveling, meeting new people, reading, and being outdoors. She hopes to travel to Italy 500,000 more times in her lifetime.