Maximizing your vacation rental income means finding and listing your properties on the best website. Many hosts start with Airbnb, but there are many alternatives for your consideration.
Depending on your priorities—whether it’s increasing bookings, paying the lowest fees, or having someone to call when accidents happen—you want to explore all the options before committing. You also need to think over your strategy, do you prefer vacationers who stay for a night or two, or longer-term guests who stay a month?
So which website is the best? We compared the costs, services, perks, and trade-offs of major players in the space to help you make the most informed decision.
2nd Address is an online marketplace for furnished homes, with footprints across major U.S. cities. Unlike most short-term rental sites, guests on 2nd Address are mostly business travelers who stay longer than just a few nights. The typical stay length is more than 30 days, while the site also offers weekly stays. Less turnover means lower operating costs.
Listing a property is free on 2nd Address, and the commission for each booking is lower than big-name sites. This cost-effective site offers free services such as tenant screening—even facial recognition—and thorough background checks so hosts can rest at ease.
2nd Address charges 5% per booking based on your nightly or monthly rates. To keep it low, the commission doesn’t take into account any added fees such as cleaning. Guests who book with 2nd Address pay for 4-11% service fees, and 3% if they use credit cards. This commission structure is host-friendly.
A host receives payments prior to the guest’s arrival. If the move-in date is in the near future, 2nd Address releases the payout to the host about 24 hours after the guest pays online. If a booking is made far in advance, the payout is processed a week before the scheduled move-in.
2nd Address is one of the only platforms that screens guests for hosts, which include background checks for guests and credit rating checks for corporate customers. The site incorporates the latest facial recognition technology to verify the guest’s identity.
Hosts on 2nd Address are automatically enrolled in its Host Assured program that reimburses up to $10,000 for property damage.
As bleisure trips become more common, business travelers present a new opportunity for your rental homes. Recognizing the trends, venture capital recently poured $10 million into 2nd Address to disrupt the business travel market.
Airbnb is the company that brought short-term vacation rentals to the mainstream and made home-sharing popular for travelers.
Airbnb charges a percentage-based fee for every booking. The host service fee is generally 3%, but may be higher for hosts with a Super Strict cancellation policy. This fee is calculated from the booking subtotal (the nightly rate plus cleaning fee and additional guest fee, but excluding Airbnb fees and taxes).
For guests, there’s a service fee that ranges between 0% and 20% of the booking subtotal. So keep in mind, whatever price you list at, your guests will see that price marked up when they book. If you aim too high, you run the risk of driving down conversions.
Airbnb hosts generally get paid 24 hours after the guest’s scheduled check-in time. If a guest stays for 28 or more nights, payouts for that reservation are released monthly.
Airbnb provides basic background checks on guests, including public criminal records, sex offender registries, and OFAC list (which includes terrorist designations). The site doesn’t perform any credit history check.
Its Host Protection Insurance program provides liability coverage of up to $1 million, in the event of third-party claims of bodily injury or property damage.
Even though Airbnb allows long-term stays (more than 28 nights), the site doesn’t require any lease between the host and the guest. In case of a rental dispute, the site offers little protection to the hosts.
Vacation Rental By Owner, a.k.a. VRBO, started way back in 1995. This marketplace is powered by HomeAway which is the owner of both websites. Unlike Airbnb, VRBO focuses more on the classic rentals of entire homes that are built for vacations instead of business trips.
VRBO does things a little differently. As a host, you have two options to pay. You can opt-in an annual subscription of $499 which includes unlimited bookings. Or, you can pay 5% commission per booking based on the total rent amount, which includes additional fees like cleaning.
In case you are doing the math now, an annual subscription is more appealing if you plan to make over $7,000 a year.
When guests book your property, they also pay for a booking fee, which varies for each booking but caps at $499. A 3% fee kicks in for credit card or eCheck, and another 2% for international credit card.
Host payments are typically released one business day after the check-in date, and should be available in your bank account 5–7 business days later.
Hosts on VRBO are responsible for conducting background checks on guests themselves, if they choose to. The site doesn’t screen guests for you.
VRBO offers up to $1 million in coverage for property damage or personal injury.
Acquired by TripAdvisor in 2008, FlipKey offers vacation homes by owners across the world—similar to Airbnb. And apart from the selection of rentals on its site, it isn’t really all that different from the latter.
Hosts pay a 3% fee per booking, which is calculated based on base rent plus any optional fees. Guests on Flipkey pay an additional 8-16% fee per booking. For hosts, the high guest fee means that they need to lower their base prices to make sure the total prices are still competitive in the market.
Host payouts are transferred about 24 hours after the check-in date, but Flipkey only processes transactions on work days.
To host on Flipkey, you have to do everything yourself, from conducting background checks to getting the right insurance coverage.
One perk of Flipkey is its visibility on TripAdvisor, but there’s a catch. Visitors on TripAdvisor don’t necessarily look for vacation rentals, they may be focused on reviews, hotels, or car rentals.
Combined with high guest fees, FlipKey is not your main channel choice. But there’s no harm in adding FlipKey as a hedge to another more dominant site.
Booking.com is also venturing into the vacation rental space, even though most travelers still think of it as a hotel booking site. You may want to consider Booking.com for visibility, but the trade-offs are high host fees and strict rules.
Booking.com charges its hosts a 15% fee on each booking (ouch!). You are essentially paying the costs for your guests so that they don’t pay any additional fee. The pricing structure of Booking.com is more guest-friendly.
Booking.com doesn’t have a credit card processing fee, but you will need a payment processor—such as Stripe and Square—to make credit card transactions. Your processor may charge a fee on each transaction, which varies based on your location.
Besides the name recognition, Booking.com doesn’t provide many extra services for hosts. You are responsible for your own tenant screening and property insurance.
Booking.com mandates instant booking for all hosts, which means you don’t get to decide who stays in your properties.
Booking.com’s visitor volume is certainly impressive, but there’s no guarantee those visitors are looking for a short-term rental. Vacation rentals are only a small portion of its offerings, which include hotels, flights, rental cars, and vacation packages.
What’s your conclusion?
Every short-term rental site has its strengths and weaknesses. Consider what’s most important for you first. Is it getting your properties filled up, or paying the lowest fees, or something else? Once you get past the first step of choosing a platform, your true journey will start!