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If you’re among the millions who choose to offer short-term rentals out of their homes each year, you’ll quickly realize that there are many options for hosting platforms. Airbnb, Homeaway Network, Booking.com and Tripadvisor’s flipkey feature all provide opportunities to conveniently offer short term rentals from your home.

Airbnb

Airbnb is one of the largest short-term rental services currently offered. There are 500,000 stays booked each month.  There are more than 4 million Airbnb offerings across the world! It’s easy to see why Airbnb is so popular. The site doesn’t charge rental owners a credit card fee or subscription fee, and the booking fee is 3 percent. Airbnb does charge a service fee for travelers, ranging from 0-20 percent of the booking subtotal. Both hosts and guests can leave reviews, up to 14 days after checkout. These ratings are then made public to help future travelers make informed decisions. In addition, Airbnb hosts and guests each make a profile featuring profile photos, verification options and personal descriptions. The combination of ratings and verified profiles leads to accurate, transparent reservations for both hosts and guests.  Verification options are ways to connect your profile to other information about you, such as a Facebook profile, phone number, email address or government-issued identification in order to prove that hosts and guests are who they claim to be!

Hosts can rest easy knowing that Airbnb offers Protection Insurance liability coverage up to $1 million. Additionally, eligible hosts can rest easy with the host guarantee program, which reimburses eligible hosts for damages up to $1 million. Hosts can also take comfort in the knowledge that they’ll likely never have to use these protections: Airbnb reports that significant damages occur in less than .7 percent of all rentals! Airbnb also makes it easy to collect appropriate taxes. If you determine that you need to collect occupancy tax, you can add it by sending a custom, special rate offer or ask your guests to pay it in person. In some locations, Airbnb will make it easier by collecting  occupancy taxes from guests and sending it to the tax authority.

Airbnb offers a variety of property options. Guests can rent out an entire home, a private room or a shared room. Many hosts live in their properties full time and provide rentals when they are out of town for work or vacation. Airbnb also lists non-traditional homes such as ryokans, campers, nature lodges, tree houses and castles. The typical Airbnb guest is looking for a spacious and comfortable rental destination that is affordable, functional and typically in an urban area. The average stay for Airbnb guests is typically about three or four nights, and the typical booking is two to four people. Airbnb is popular among young people: more than 60 percent of users are millennials. The site is popular among last minute reservations, likely due in part to the instant booking model. With this feature, guests that meet certain conditions (like a minimum rating or verification requirements) can instantly book a reservation. Airbnb also offers request-based bookings, which include back and forth dialogue between potential hosts and guests before any official reservation is finalized. Airbnb is a “big name” in short term rentals for a reason. More than 150 million people regularly use the site, and properties are available in 191 different countries! In 2017, Airbnb saw more than 240 million nights booked. This number will only increase in the next few years. In 2018, Airbnb will have 38.4 million users in the United States alone- a number 13 percent higher than 2017. The popular short term rental software has roughly 50 to 65 million visits each month, and more than half of this traffic comes from the US alone.

Booking.com

Booking.com offers a similar service, with more than 5.4 million properties in 228 countries.  With Booking.com, there’s no traveler fee. Rental owners pay a 3 percent credit card fee and a 15 percent booking fee, but there’s no subscription fee.

The review and rating system for Booking.com is a little different. The only way to leave a review is to first make a booking, which ensures that guests actually stayed at the property. Booking.com will verify the authenticity of all guest reviews before actually publishing them. Unlike Airbnb, guests don’t have profiles. Property owners can request damage deposits from guests to help cover any potential damage caused by a guest. Guests will have motivation to treat everything with respect, and hosts can be reassured that their property will be taken care of. Hosts can report any damage through Booking.com’s misconduct reporting feature. Additionally, hosts can independently add short-term rental insurance to their existing homeowner’s coverage. This extra coverage will cover liability in case someone is injured on your property as well as your actual belongings. A helpful online tool to consider is Proper Insurance. In just a few minutes, Proper will give you a quote for insuring your short-term rental property. Proper offers business insurance, which covers your business property, liability and any income generated from rental activity.

Booking.com offers apartment rentals, vacation rentals and entire homes. Guests can’t rent rooms or portions of a property. Booking.com’s platform network also includes Priceline, Kayak and Agoda.

Demographically, Booking.com is more international- less than 9 percent of their web traffic comes from the United States. Booking.com was started in Amsterdam in 1996. With Booking.com, guests only have the “instant book” option, meaning that hosts can’t negotiate specific prices or communicate before finalizing the reservation. There’s no official verification method, but hosts can require guests to provide ID or credit card verification. Booking.com doesn’t offer any official tax collection services. If necessary, hosts can collect the taxes in person.  

Booking.com sees more than 40 million monthly visitors, but a portion of these clients are looking for flights or other services.

Expedia (Homeaway Network)

Expedia owns several vacation rental companies: Homeaway Family, VRBO, VacationRentals.com and Homelidays. They handle more than 2 million rentals across in 190 countries.

The vacation rental owner will pay a 5 percent service fee for bookings and an additional 3 percent credit card processing fee. Vacation rental owners can also choose to use the subscription model. The cost of an annual subscription is $499, which will negate any booking fees. Even with the subscription fee, hosts must still pay a 3 percent credit card fee. Guests will pay a service fee between 6 and 12 percent for most bookings, but there’s no credit card processing fee on their end.

Under Expedia’s review and rating system, travelers and owners each rate the experience after the vacation is completed. Both parties have only 14 days to write the review. Once both parties have submitted their review or the 14 days are up, neither party will be able to provide further edits.

Expedia’s $1 million liability insurance provides owners and property managers with liability protection for all stays processed online through the HomeAway checkout. Hosts can also charge and remit security deposits online. Travelers can purchase Property Damage Protection from CSA during the booking process, and owners can require that guests purchase the damage protection.

Guests can create profiles with photos of themselves as well as information about themselves to build trust with the property owner.  Guests and hosts alike have the opportunity to verify their profiles with google or facebook.

Expedia properties are primarily full time vacation rentals, but they have expanded to urban markets with a focus on apartments and even part time vacation rentals of primary residences. Rentable properties include villas, homes, beach houses, ski chalets, luxury condos, quaint cottages and cozy cabins. Expedia only offers entire properties to rent, not shared or private rooms. The typical stay is about a week long, and the typical renters are families and large groups vacationing together. Guests typically book long in advance, but Expedia has improved technology to improve last minute bookings.

Guests can request to book, or use instant booking tools. Prior to booking, guests can message back and forth with potential hosts. Expedia’s platform includes 25 websites, like Homeaway, VRBO, VacationRentals.com and Homelidays. Homeaway was acquired by Expedia in 2015, which has a lot of resources and extended worldwide distribution.

Property owners are typically obligated to collect and remit the taxes associated with renting a property. For online bookings in certain jurisdictions, HomeAway is obligated to collect and remit Lodging Tax. HomeAway can collect and remit Lodging Tax in specific jurisdictions when rental bookings and payments are made online.

HomeAway has about 14.3 million visits per month from America, and 2.4 million visits from the UK. VRBO gets 18 million visits from the US each month. VacationRentals.com has roughly 250-600 thousand visits each month.

Tripadvisor

TripAdvisor also offers short-term rentals in 179 countries.

There’s no credit card or subscription fee for rental owners, just a 3 percent booking fee. Travelers will pay a fee from 8 to 16 percent for the majority of bookings. TripAdvisor doesn’t directly offer insurance, so hosts can look into independent short term rental insurance or check out Proper Insurance. For certain jurisdictions, TripAdvisor Rentals collects relevant taxes automatically and passes them on to the authorities. Otherwise, it’s up to owners to collect taxes through FlipKey or in person.

TripAdviser offers an instant book feature as well as a booking request option where hosts must accept a reservation within 24 hours. Guests can also contact the owner before booking within the listing.

There’s no guest profile feature or verification options. Guests and hosts will have 14 days after the rental to leave a review. Once both reviews are ready, TripAdviser will send an email so that each can see what the other wrote. If only the guest or host writes a review, it will automatically be shared 14 days after checkout.

There’s about 300 thousand listings through TripAdvisor, which also owns FlipKey, Holiday Lettings, Niumba, HouseTrip and Vacation Home Rentals. TripAdvisor sees about 38 million visitors to its site each month, but the website does offer plenty of services beyond vacation rentals. TripAdvisor users are 57 percent female and 43 percent male. Only about 22 percent of TripAdvisor users are based in the US.

Like the Homeway network, many longer term vacation rentals are booked through TripAdvisor. Technology is improving to offer last minute or part time rentals. Like Airbnb, Flipkey does allow owners to rent out private rooms. The typical stay is a week.

Who Will Win

Airbnb may dominate as the household name and poster child for the industry, but they have competition, and that’s good news for the homeowner. In the end, you win because it’s now possible to list a room, apartment, condo, or house on multiple sites simultaneously, via property management systems, through aggregators for vacation rentals or manually managing multiple listings. Airbnb competitors just mean more exposure and ultimately more bookings for your property.

About Pillow

Pillow is solving short-term rentals for multifamily properties, allowing building owners and property managers to have control and transparency over short-term rentals while enabling their residents to rent their units short-term on Airbnb. When someone books a short-term rental reservation with a resident, building owners are earning 10 percent of each booked reservation allowing them to increase their net operating income or to invest back into their communities. Additionally, building owners receive daily and weekly short-term rental activity reports with key reservation information including dates, guests’ names and contact information. Landlords can also leverage Pillow’s Vacant Unit module to manage and monetize vacant units. With Pillow, landlords can rent out their empty units for a few nights at a time to make the most of this valuable asset. Pillow charges an 8 percent fee per completed reservation: the average property manager can make 10-30 percent more than typical market value by offering short-term rentals in addition to traditional leases. All in all, Pillow offers a one stop shop for managing short term rentals in multifamily buildings. With one service, you can offer your residents the flexibility to rent to short-term guests and easily monetize your vacant units.

If you own a multifamily complex or management company and are interested in providing short-term rentals, email partnerships@pillow.com or visit www.pillow.com.

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Written by Todd Conway | July 2, 2018

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