It’s official. HomeAway, VRBO, and all of their sister brands are finally sloughing off their “listing site” model in favor of being an online marketplace with online reservations, online payment, and accompanying data. How did they signal this change?
By the end of January 2017, all phone numbers will be removed from HomeAway listings.
Instead, a site visitor may email an owner or manager via the platform or proceed to online booking (if enabled).
Much has changed since Expedia purchased HomeAway in December of 2015—including HomeAway’s approach and business model, and customers have not been happy.The “Best Match” algorithm changes and the addition of traveler service fees have left owners and guests reeling. Stories abound of frustrated vacation rental owners and small property management companies who have seen their listings plunge in search results, thus leading to severely decreased business.
And all of these changes are undoubtedly the bellwether of the permanent change that lies ahead for individuals and small businesses in the increasingly competitive, sophisticated online rental distribution business.
So where does that leave an owner or small property manager whose search results and vacation rental income have dipped?
What HomeAway’s Changes Mean for Homeowners
With all phone numbers removed from HomeAway, homeowners and antiquated vacation rental managers will be further unable to vet and screen guests.
An owner can adjust and adopt online/instant booking, but that will still do little to bolster search results against robust professional managers who optimize their listings, drive higher online conversion rates, and are thus rewarded by Expedia for doing so.
An owner can distribute across other platforms, but some, such as Airbnb, already essentially require online or instant booking and limit offline communications until after a reservation is made.
Smaller retail distribution sites have tiny fractions of the budgets but may enable an owner to maintain control of the booking process and do so offline. Cooperative organizations such as AVROA can help owners with more distribution and some lead sharing.
Most owners feeling left behind and marginalized by the rapidly changing business of retail distribution sites should seek professional help. And no, I don’t mean psychologists—though they may help get you through this tough time.
Vacation rental owners should find the best professional management help they can get for their assets through Rented.com. It’s free, there is no obligation, and it’s chock full of over 750 of the world’s best vacation rental and short-term rental managers who compete for the right to work with you. Each company is different, but generally speaking, we select for many of the best companies who invest in superior technology, online distribution, quality in-market operations, and more to ensure you maximum income, asset care, and peace of mind so you can… Relax, it’s rented.
UPDATE: HomeAway has updated their site to clarify that phone numbers will be visible after guests make inquiries or bookings: "If you are a subscription customer, travelers will access your phone number after an initial inquiry. You also have access to their phone number in your dashboard, from the inquiry or booking request.If you are a pay-per-booking customer, travelers will access your phone number after the booking has been confirmed. You also have access to their phone number in your dashboard after you accept the booking."