To avoid a new fee being charged to travellers for vacation sites, book directly with the owner or find listing sites that do not charge traveller fees.

In Feb. 2016 HomeAway/VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owners) rolled out a new traveller fee. It is up to 10% and is embedded within an online quote when you inquire about the cost of a owner vacation rental.

This fee is applied to the rental plus cleaning costs and goes directly to VRBO, not the owner.

They don't identify that it's a Booking Fee, so some travelers think the owners are adding this, but that is not the case.

You still have the option to book directly with the owner and you don't need to pay that fee.

When you email the owner VRBO messages pop up that dissuade you to book directly with owners. It includes the following messages that are meant to make you feel nervous about not purchasing their "Book with Confidence Guarantee". The popups include this information:

Always make sure you book and pay using the VRBO checkout so we can protect your booking and give you access to:

Comprehensive payment protection protects your full rental payment against listing fraud, phishing, property significantly misrepresented and more*.

Premium customer service is available 24/7 to help you with issues or questions regarding your stay

Emergency re-booking assistance helps you find another vacation rental should your booking be cancelled by an owner or manager at the last minute

Security deposit protection helps make sure you get your deposit back if it is wrongfully withheld

Before you select a property, regardless of whether you are wanting to purchase the add-on Service Fee Guarantee, you should do the following:

1) Review the fine print of the Book with Confidence Guarantee. It uses language that is in favor of HA and not the Traveler as where a refund or remedy is to be provided it says "May" rather than the stronger language "Will" and "Shall", AND, a traveler seeking compensation against this policy must first perform 9 actions before submitting a claim: fine print here: https:/…bookwithconfidence

2) Review the owners listing carefully to see how long they've listed their property with HomeAway/VRBO.

3) Read the Reviews. Don't just see how many reviews there are, read the and see if the guest comments reflect the type of considerations YOU will have in selecting the right property for your vacation.

AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY.....If you have any doubts about a property at all, call the owners! Why would you book a vacation rental that you are not 100% confident in and instead buy a "protection insurance" policy and just "hope" that you made the right choice??

Owners look forward to speaking with the people who will be staying in their second home and are the best ambassadors of promoting their area and making sure you will have a great time. That's what good owners love to do and what they want to do.

Boycott greed from Expedia- Homeaway - VRBO

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Response to the above article, below:

1. I am a VR owner whose properties have been online since 1999 - first with A1Vacations and then Homeaway  (was acquired by Expedia on November 3, 2015) when HA purchased A1Vacations in 2005. I pay many hundreds of dollars each year to have them listed on HA/VRBO. I am also a VR renter - having rented 4 VR's in the last year alone. All that to say, "Bravo" to you for posting this. It is information that must be spread far and wide to owners and guests. Thanks!

2. Thank you for sharing that. VRBO is now charging up to 10%, maximum $499 guest fee on each booking! VRBO used to advertise that they were "FREE" to use. This might explain why I saw all different prices on different websites for the same  vacation rentals  when searching for our family vacation. I'll bet that is the reason -- that some sites charge guests and others do not, especially when I found the by owner's website and FB page for the towns I was searching in.

3. An excellent article to read to help explain the 2016 trend to charge Fees to Travelers, like the NEW ones by HomeAway, but also the ones that AirBnB charges. You can avoid these fees if you wish and the article provides guidance on that as well:

4. Thank you so much for posting this! Can you share it on other forums? I'm a Vacation Rental owner and have advertised on VRBO, A1Vacations , CyberRentals , etc. since 2003. Then HomeAway came along and bought all of them and turned this into a nightmare for owners. The new "service fee" is designed to make the owner look like a bad guy and implies the mighty HomeAway "may" rescue the renter. Nothing is further from the truth... Always contact the owner directly. There's usually an email owner button on a listing or better yet - look at the name of the property and pertinent details and Google the owner for their own website or Facebook page. You can vet them yourself and will at the least save the bogus "service fee". Don't feed HomeAway!

5. Great article! As a VRBO owner, I'm more than happy to answer any questions a guest has about a property as well as save you some money!. The service fee is unnecessary. If there is a leak in the roof, my phone number is posted in the house so the guest would obviously contact me and not VRBO customer service. If they did call VRBO guess what customer service will do ? Call the owner!

We, as many owners do, have a rental agreement that offers protection for the traveller and owner. Be wary of VRBO's "protection" I'm hearing many stories of how vrbo will ask the traveller to go to their credit card company first... what kind of service is that?

Many homeowners on VRBO are fed up and by googling the house name & area, you can easily find them on FB, local sites, Airbnb, Homeescape...

6.Excellent advice. I have 2  vacation rentals  that I advertise with them and vacationhomerentals and TripAdvisor's own Flipkey. I do not have a facebook page or my own website.

The fee can range from 4-9% of the rental cost.

It should be noted that there can be fees charged the traveler on FlipKey as well. I think theirs range from 5-15%. This is if the lister chooses a pay-per-booking plan. If the lister/owner pays something like $400-$500/yr for a subscription plan, then there is no fee to the traveler.

7.Great article.

I am an owner who uses Home-Away and feel that adding the circa 10% lift is outrageous, what other business can do this at one stroke in the current environment. Interesting that Home-Away want to penalise all client / owners, even those who have never overbooked, have fantastic feed back ratings and have been clients of homeaway for years and not just those who are fraudulent etc. (Slegehammer / Nut comes to mind but I suspect PROFIT is also in there somewhere). As an owner we already pay homeway an advertising charge and we also have chosen to absorb our clients credit/debit card fees. We have contacted Home-Away on how the increase is represented to the clients. We were told that the full cost has to be advised at time of booking. I have no problem showing the clients the full cost up-front, however to find out how much the service fee is, you need to navigate two drop-down menus from the original price page and It is also not immediately explicit as to who benefits from the fee. We have asked Home-Away to bring the details to the first page and show that the fee is not for the owner. I believe this charge should be optional and for the client to choose as part of the booking process similar to having extra baggage on an airline not an automatic add-on. If the client does not choose to use the add-on service fee, they are unable to use the payments credit / debit card system within homeaway, even though the credit card charge, in our case is already covered so a loss of a service for owners. We await their reply, although I suspect I know the answer.

8. I would like to share my VRBO story regarding the new Service Fee. My rental is located 10 miles from the Canadian border, so I have a very high amount of guests from Canada. I have found that some of these guests will book my property using homeaway.ca (Canadian Site) and others will use homeaway.com (U.S site). And for those that use homeaway.ca there is NO Service Fee applied.

Because of this pricing difference I would have guests call and question why sometimes I charged the fee and other times not. So I put a message on my VRBO listing that directed all guests from Canada to use the homeaway.ca site because of the Service fee issue. Once I did this Homeaway deactived my account until I removed this verbage, stating I was violating the rules and policies of their site by trying to tell people how to avoid paying the Service Fee. I told them I was only pointing out their policies to my guests, nothing more.

9. I'm also a  vacation rental  owner and have advertised on VRBO since 2003. I didn't implement the online booking or any "HomeAway Payment Option" so at present they cannot asess a Booking/Service fee to my guests as they are not a part of the booking process. I note that I am "Owner Direct" in my ad to help potential guests understand that at my properties, they won't be paying an additional 9-10% for the privilege of booking through VRBO.

As a traveler - I look for "Book Direct" and also search the property name on Google to find the owner's website for booking outside of VRBO, HomeAway and TripAdvisor. All of them are adding fees. Always go to the source (the actual Hotel, Vacation Rental, etc.) to book and you will save money.

10. good advice. Mom and Pop hotels/motels as well. All the booking sites charge them fees too. Booking.com is 15%. So if you call the motel direct they will give you a better price, maybe not the whole 15% but the cheapest price is ALWAYS direct. (except for one time and I think it was because the staff was inexperienced did a hotel not give a better price directly than on line) I always contact owners directly for vrbo rentals. Some just like the convenience and don't care, others work with you. They may have some issues with their contracts with vrbo so I don't push too hard, but will move on to the next rental....

11. Great article, great tips !

I am an owner of a villa in  Spain  and like to add that Homeaway is also forcing homeowners to use the 'direct booking' and 'Book with Confidence Guarantee'. If you do not allow that, your ad will only be shown at the bottom of the listed properties. I hardly get any enquiries anymore since I do not want our guests to pay more than necessary so do not offer the 'Book with Confidence Guarantee' option, for what I am punished by Homeaway.

12. I use VRBO/HomeAway to advertise and recommend using the "book now" option for very last minute rentals. I did not like the idea but it works. At least 5 different happy parties at one condo alone, including a family that just left today. People are used to pay these days so much in "taxes and fees" any time they rent a hotel room, so there is not a big surprise here. For last minute rentals, if you overnight payment, get a cashier's check may cost you extra $$ anyway. VRBO payment system is convenient for both owner and guest and both have to pay for it, BTW! In the end, it is still less expensive going this way than using a rental agency etc., which have their own "processing fees" that may be as costly if not more. It is easy to avoid that "service fee", sending the inquiry to owner and wait for instructions of how to proceed. Do not click on "book now" option, go lower on the page and add your info on the side bar. If you are asked to add your credit card info, you used the "book now" option. Stop and start over.

13. I have found that using the  Homeaway.com.au  site the service fee is not charged. I just found it by accident and I let the owner know. I am a bit concerned about how easy it will be to get my damage deposit back through HomeAway as it is charged to your card when you make the booking, at least that's what it appears to be. When I have dealt with other rental agencies the damage deposit is normally done separately as a hold on the credit card so not actually charged to the card, unless there is damage. So HA are getting renter's money for a period of time for no good reason. I do hope there is no issue with getting the damage deposit credited back to my card. I would much rather pay it in cash to an owner or manager and then have them return it upon inspection of the property on checkout.

One of the issues with not being able to use credit cards is that when I did an international bank transfer for a rental through HA recently it incurred $22 charge. It seems there is really no way around some sort of additional charges on top of the total rental costs. So if I email and owner and ask to pay them I still pay if they use bank transfer. I guess PayPal would be another option owners could use easily. When I have found a property on TA I have tried googling the name and finding the owner's website if they have one and I book through that. It is not always possible as not all owners have a website. FB might work though.

As a renter the service charge will stop me booking some places as it just tips the balance of what I can afford. I avoid using airbnb due to their service/booking fee unless the price of the property is very reasonable. Unfortunately HA and VRBO websites are very easy to use and when I have tried using some other booking sites I have found them just too difficult to navigate so if owners are going to look to alternatives they need to be user friendly - good, large clear pictures, easy map links etc.

I read all reviews but a few times have taken a risk on booking a place with no reviews. Someone has to be first.

14. Sad indeed. Consolidation of companies usually leads to more stringent demands on profits, and naturally the customer is the one squeezed for these (both Owners and Renters in this case). Expedia now owns HomeAway, among many other virtual booking places (including TripAdvisor btw), and this is the latest measure taken towards that squeezing process. It is extremely rare to find a customer oriented company in nowadays business climate; whichever was is no more, (TrueCar comes to mind). If HomeAway had the renter's best interest in mind, assuming this fee is charged for his/her protection, then it should continue to offer this optional. But I think we all know what the fee is really applied for. It is very disappointing and I for one will continue to use my best judgement, negotiating prices,coordinating deposits and payments by contacting the owners directly.

15. In response to renters' posts here, I strongly suggest contacting the owner directly. The service fee is mainly for using the credit card for payment. VRBO or HomeAway have no direct knowledge of any property or the majority of them. We, owners input all the property info using their template. By talking to owner you can ask as many questions about the property, get a feel if you can do business together. I have used VRBO and rented for many years, since around 2005. I managed without credit card until this year! Credit card on very short notice, even now. Never had a check lost in the mail and we figured ways to make it possible even on short notice a few times. In other words it is possible to do the same and avoid Service Fee, at both ends. They charge owners percentage for the use of credit card too! Even for security deposit that we have to refund later, 100%.

Do your part and call the owner. You may even get a break! I waived security deposit in a few cases when I talked to potential renters.

16. I found a property on VRBO/Homeaway. I did my payment and found I was dealing with the owner/other rental agent by the name of Shore Dream. My payment (in full) went to Shore Dream and I checked my account and found the correct amount that we had agreed on and then found a $55.53 charge put in on my card number by Homeaway. I called them and was told, by a gentleman in some other country that this was for Homeaway advertising and listing the property I had rented. I see now this is a new policy of VRBO/Homeaway started less than 1 year ago. BEWARE IT IS JUST A SLICK WAY OF GETTING MORE $ out of travelers.

17. The HomeAway fee on VRBO, VacationRentals.com, HomeAway.com is still being charged. Look very carefully at the detail of charges when you get a quote. You may have to click little question marks on the upper right of the breakdown of the actual rental costs. The ~9% fee is charged to the vacationer on top of the rental, tax and security deposit. And that is also in addition to the fee that the homeowner has already paid HomeAway for advertising. The Service Fee goes to HomeAway - NOT the property owner. If the payment goes through HomeAway, the cost for credit card charge (approx. 3%) is also going to them. If you find a property on HomeAway - try searching via Google to find that same property's website and work directly with the owner. The fees you pay HomeAway are not going to improve your experience... In fact, your credit card company is your best ally if you arrive at a property and discover it is not what is advertised. Last - beware that your "service fee" is possibly not refundable if you cancel your reservation. Read the small print carefully. And this advice applies to FlipKey, TripAdvisor, etc. as well. Buyer Beware!

18. I have two properties listed with HomeAway/VRBO. Neither one charges the service fee simply because I don't use HomeAway's booking engine. HA / VRBO are listing sites and should not have anything to do with my rental business other than listing my properties. They cannot force property owners to use their booking engine. When a renter wishes to book one of my vacation properties, I send them to my own booking engine, hence no service fees. If you are a renter, only look for properties that do not have the "Book Now" option.

19. The aggravating thing is that instead of the owners whose costs to own these properties continue to go up.. VRBO and HomeAway are chipping into the owners profit margin as to set up a situation where owners of rental properties will have trouble raising the cost of their rentals as their cost continue to increase..

I could understand a 1% fee or a fixed $25 or something but what they are charging is absolutely ridiculous!

20. Google is your friend to find the property you want to rent without the additional fees. Remember - Expedia owns HomeAway, VRBO, VacationRentals.com, etc., etc. When was the last time you could book a hotel through Expedia without a laundry list of fees? I won't book anything through Expedia - use their search engine for research and book direct. :)

21. Absolutely correct... finally, when the demand in the Gulf Coast become year-round and we can afford to own these beachfront properties, the vulchers sweep in to gouch the renter steal any chance we have to make it more equitable to own a beachfront property....

22. So, so true. I manage to book my places without the fees at this point. Renters are becoming more educated about contacting me directly instead of via VRBO. And if I get an inquiry on VRBO - people ask how to avoid the fee. We are fortunate to not use the VRBO system for booking/payment, so there is no fee at this time. I have always booked outside of my ads on the listing services. We offer personal contact. I try to educate every guest - even ones who just call me to book. They vacation elsewhere. I tell them how to avoid paying the fees. With an effort by all owners, we may manage to make it harder for VRBO to compete with us small owners. It used to be " vacation rental  by owner" - not "vacation rental by megalith with their finger in every money pie". This was a fun business to be in - I hope it gets back there before I decide it's not worth the misery. :) Happy booking!

23. I agree with other posters. Use the big sites for research then book direct. Find independent reviews to check on the owner and you will be fine. The big sites like Homeaway don't offer anything that you cant do yourself and their guarantee is worthless.

If you do pay their fee you can get it back. I was tricked by their disguising of the fee as something worthwhile. I worked with the owner rep to do the following: -

1. Have the owner rep cancel the booking with Homeaway, this is the only way to get a refund.

2. Before cancelling, tell the owner rep why you are cancelling -'just to get a Homeaway refund'.

3. Ask the owner rep to open a new reservation at the same time as cancelling and to exclude the Homeaway fee part.

4. This way you keep the reservation, avoid owner rep cancellation fees and have your deposit re-usefd - that is not lost

24. Hey Ducksdelux,

Not sure what you mean "owner rep" - I OWN my condos - the mortgage payment tells me so every month... I work with each guest personally - after all the whole concept was  Vacation Rental  By Owner and not Vacation Rental by Subterfuge and Customer Rep in India...

Your comments regarding the fee are technically true, BUT the problem is that any owner who cancels a booking gets "downgraded" by HomeAway/VRBO for not delivering that fee to them. AND it is a violation of the legal contract between VRBO and the property owner. What happens is that the "downgrading" will reduce the owner's visibility on the HomeAway/VRBO website. If it happens enough times - their listing will be removed from the system or just be invisible after paying all those dollars to advertise. YES - Expedia (who owns HomeAway/VRBO) has a big financial interest in you and the owner keeping the agreement inside of the HomeAway system. They are double and triple-dipping and the renter is paying that bill.

I don't use their system to book - my listings used to be #1 and #2 on the VRBO website because of my longevity in the system (I signed on in 2002). Since I refuse to give them yet more money and more control, they have dropped my properties to the bottom of the second page.

At some point, VRBO is going to start prosecuting owners for "dealing behind their back". If I used their booking system, it would take a lot to convince me to cancel a booking so a guest could get their fee back - I'd be in violation of my contract with VRBO. I'm honest - Expedia is not.

A renter is better off trying to find the owner by Googling to find the website for the rental and initiate the transaction outside of the VRBO platform. VRBO is now hiding my phone number from prospective guests. Some owners report that the inquiries they receive come from "GUEST" with no contact information so you are required to communicate via the VRBO/HomeAway dashboard until a credit card has been charged. Do you want to do business with someone you don't know who they are?

The choices for vacation rentals are narrowing. When you look at my community - a very small place on the Gulf Coast of  Florida  - a "ya can't get there from here" sort of place due to geographical boundaries - a careful review of the properties offered by VRBO's system includes rentals more than 1.5 hours away from my town - unless you sprout wings to fly to my little island. (Most people come via car...)

It is becoming a "Renter Beware" system on HomeAway/VRBO. Do your due diligence.

25. As a long-time owner and renter of properties, starting with cottages in  Maine  through the original Vacaton Home Rentals in the ealry 1990's, I agree 100% with all the comments about VRBO's new fees. What I did not realize is that they are probably at least part of the reason that our bookings are down in both coastal Maine and downtown  Boston . On the other hand, VRBO still brings us many more inquries than Trip Advisor or Airbnb.

I have another question: Has anyone had trouble with "chargebacks?" After 25 years with nary a problem we have encountered 2 in a row, at our home in Boston. Guests did not respect the rules -- smoked and damaged antique furniture -- so we withheld the $500 damage deposit they'd paid via credit card. They disputed the charge. Fine print on VISA card agreement says that "merchant" is specifically forbidden to charge for "damages" without previous written agreement from the "client." In other words the damage deposit is useless to the owner, if the guest is savvy enough to demand a "chargeback."

Has anyone else run into this? Any thoughts? This should probably be on another forum, but I cold find one.

Thanks,

Woody Halsey

26. I think that people should boycott these website that are charging hidden fees. It is hard to compare apples to apples when they are all practicing deceit

27. This is not in relation to fees, but has anyone been receiving over the past month through HA fake enquiries. I have been getting hundreds and HA has advised that there is no suspicious activity on my account. I have tried to cancel the pay on line option , but cannot do.

I have always found that with a genuine enquiry the person will write a message.

28. guestservicefee.com has done a very good job of explaining and exposing this obscenity.They have not mentioned that the salary of one boss (of Expedia -Homeaway etc) Khosrowshahi, is 96million$ ! And he is much respected in the US.

Nor have they caught up with the latest turn of the screw : the total money from the customer is taken immediately and pocketed by the site , to be payed out at the last moment . Only simple arithmetic will show the profits on that capitalist trick.

29. Other possibilities -we group together (as owners ) and organise a boycott of the big three , well publicised, to force a return to the classic VRBO system.

Write to your local and national newspapers exposing this, to give the sites a bad name,

at the same time recommend : guestservicefees.com

30. We have used HomeAway to rent vacation homes for years in  Maine ...No More....We now contact the Home Owner Directly (Often getting a better Rate then was listed on Homeaway)

I am glad this topic was posted

Butch & Jackie Wheeler

31. Maybe this was mentioned already, but there is a lawsuit in the works:

http://vrbknow.com/

32. I am only allowing perspective renters to book it with me as the owner. But Homeaway, & VRBO, through their new Programing, they hid my home, so

NO ONE could SEE my home in their website of you are a potential renter. I have 16 reviews and all are 5 STARS, I have all high resolution pictures, I update my calendar every day, and my property is a very luxury with top amenities, which was ALWAYS RENTED before the CHANGE, and before there was online booking and then collecting their high percentage service fee.

I only can see my home if I log in as a homeowner with my ID number. But I tried many times, so did, my husband, my friend, and our ex client who had my phone number, NONE of US could find my property on Homeaway & VRBO !!!!

I paid $499 for one year membership, but in order to collect their OWN SERVICE FEE from the houses that BOOK with THEM, they HIDE my home.

I have called MANY TIMES, they say they can see it in their computer, off course they can. I give them my ID NUMBER. While my hometown for this weekend is 81% rented for this weekend, they still hide my home till all those houses with service fee in their pockets will be rented. I only get a request when there is NOT even ONE home AVAILABLE, then I get few requests. Like President weekend

33. I tried to remain as before to rent as owner to avoid the huge service fee for my client, but through their Programing if you search through all properties, mine is hidden and you as a potential renter will NEVER see mine, unless ALL HOMES in my town that they carry SERVICE FEE, are ALL rented. Then The Potential renters would SEE my property, since there is NO MORE Houses with fees are LEFT. So on President Weekend and another school weekend i received request for rent, but this weekend there are houses with no reviews, or bad reviews are listed, but I couldn't find my hone in both Homeaway @ Vrbo !!! So I received NOT even ONE inquiry!!! Since mine is HIDDEN, mine does FILL their POCKET with SERVICE FEE. This is a fraud, since I have paid $499, and I don't see my own listing as a client. By the way I update my calendar every day

34. will only deal with owners. All but one owner has wanted to work with me. One just didn't want to deal with booking their place- clearly an inattentive owner and one to stay away from. One mentioned they were concerned they would be black listed- they were actually scared of vrbo. That is not cool. I will continue to book direct with owners. I don't have a contract with vrbo. they cannot control me.....

35. Hi, it's Liam here posting. Great post outlining the bullying that's going on within Home Away and their associate sites.

I would like to add something else that is really troubling me at the moment and it concerns SEPA direct debits.

We have listed with Home Away for some 7 years.

We only have one rental and that's our holiday home nestled away in the heart of Connemara,  Ireland . We tend to get 14 /15 bookings per annum and we are satisfied with this level of business, as it helps the cottage pay it's way.

We really have never had to deal with a cancellation, however, this month we did have one, through no fault of the visitor. A really lovely person by all accounts.

Right, you have probably guessed it a " Bloody nightmare " has evolved, with Home Away insisting we fill in a SEPA direct debit mandate in their favour before the visitor can get a refund !!

We refuse to fill in this mandate, so contacted the traveller directly and got agreement to reimburse her through our Pay Pal account. We have done this.

Deposit taken by Home Away € 296.00 of which we received € 195.00 after they had taken out their enormous fees.

We sent this traveller a refund of € 195.00 leaving Home Away to reimburse the fees they had taken directly.

Wait for it.........NO.........NO.........NO....Says Home Away.

Even though we have put the traveller back in credit with the exact amount we received Home Away are still insisting we fill out the Direct Debit Mandate in their favour.

Question for the forum: Is this legal ???

Because of changing circumstances with the Home Away package.....Best Match.....Booking Fees....and other rubbish we decided to set up our own holiday home web site 12 months ago.

For anybody interested it's http://www.cuachcottagedirect.com.

Simple to use and book securely on. No hidden fees or other worthless stuff offered by Home Away.

Bookings this year with Home Away are at 2.

Home Away performance 2017

Inquiries have completely fallen away, bookings as scarce as finding hen's teeth, complete waste of time and money I say

 

Stop the VRBO service fee

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