VRBO This OTA is more host-friendly, although the web- site is not nearly as user friendly as Airbnb. The host chooses and charges a security deposit amount to the guest, and then decides how much the guest gets back. With VRBO, hosts are completely in control of the rental calendar and can also set nightly rates, cleaning fees, etc. The clientele on VRBO lean more toward groups who are seasoned vacation property renters, and there seems to be larger homes available on VRBO. VRBO’s hosting fee is 5-8 percent or a flat $499 annual fee, you choose. Like Airbnb, it is inexpensive to host through VRBO. You do have much more control if there is an issue, since you get the security deposit and then refund, if applicable. meaning guests can go to our website and book direct- ly. This is less expensive for us and the guests! We have a great trust and safety partner who verifies the guest and gives us complete control and coverage if there are issues. It does take a while to build your brand. It’s great to start on either Airbnb, VRBO, or to understand the industry, how guests operate, what to expect, and then add other OTAs and possibly your own direct booking site. You’ll want to search in your area to see which OTA is more popular, and start with that one, then build. Hosting is one of the greatest honors and respon- sibilities. You have guests coming in from around the world and they have chosen your property and you as their host. Please ensure you’re in this not just to make money, but to provide quality accommodations and experiences. Afterall, happy guests = great reviews = higher nightly rates = maximized ROI! • DIRECT BOOKINGS My company just went live with direct bookings,

AIRBNB Guest-centric and extremely user friendly, Airbnb has a lot of perks. The site offers properties in over 191 countries! It is easy to list a property, has inexpen- sive host fees of less than five percent, and you have complete control over when you host, how much you charge, and what discounts you offer. As a host, you can choose whether guests book instantly or whether you approve their stay. Approving a guest is a great feature, especially if you rent out a room in your house. However, there are some downsides on Airbnb. There is not a security deposit (unlike VRBO). If there is an issue with a guest who has checked out, you only have until the next guest checks in to submit damages. This can be a real issue because if the guest damages items, you need pictures and a quote for repair, some- times within four hours of the guest checking out and the next one arriving. That’s impossible in some cases, depending on the damage and/or issue. Airbnb has a very stringent policy on its resolution center where hosts submit “special requests.” When you submit what’s called a special request, it goes to the resolu- tion center. Airbnb has the final say on everything, and their decision, no matter what, is final. If you do have a claim, you’ll want to document it, take lots of pictures, obtain quotes from a third party, and submit it as soon as possible.

Online Travel Agencies


by Elizabeth Maora Sickels

nline travel agencies (OTAs) have shaken up the vacation rental industry making short-term rent- als more mainstream. Traditionally, vacation rentals were available in vacation destinations near beaches or in the mountains, for example. But now, thanks to internet booking sites and worldwide rental availabili- O

ty, vacationers and business travelers can stay almost anywhere. People searching for short-term rentals have options not only where they stay, but in how they find their sought-after spot, and property owners have the same options. So, which is the best return for your vacation rental?

Elizabeth Maora Sickels is a farm girl from Indiana. A Purdue graduate, she had a rewarding corporate career and traveled the world. In 2016, she "retired" from her planning/strategy position at Ford Motor Compa- ny to strike out on her own! She traveled for six months, and via Airbnb hosted her condo in Michigan. Having a great experience being a host, she has built a full-service hospitality and property management business for vacation rentals. Elizabeth is also a licensed Realtor®, real estate investor, and philanthropist.

48 | think realty housing news report :: august / september 2019

thinkrealty . com / hnr | 49

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