You don't mind paying a few extra hundred dollars on your next Alabama vacation rental, do you? According to sites like AirBnB, TripAdvisor/Flipkey, HomeAway & VRBO you don't. They have actually said that "travelers don't mind paying a service fee". I'm not sure what reality they are living in, but it is not even close to a real world reality.
In February 2016 HomeAway & VRBO rolled out a new Service Fee that they are charging to travelers who book through their websites. Most recently they've raised the service rates to 5% to 15%, so it may end up costing you as much as 20% of the rental rate. AirBnB me? No thanks - That catchy phrase is costing you up to 15% in booking fees! What about Booking. com? Booking.NAH! They hide their 15% fee as a commission to the owner. The bottom line is, the lowest cost way to vacation is to book directly with owners. Not just any owners, but VERIFIED owners like the owners on ALAVHR.com.
The Service Fee they are charging the travelers is for booking through their site and they keep all the money. The homeowner gets none of it. However, they label it simply as “Service Fee” in their site. Understandably, renters are often confused, as they think the homeowner is charging this Service Fee, and are unaware that it is charged by HomeAway or AirBnB and the homeowner has no control over it.
In some instances, travelers don't even know they are paying a Service Fee because these sites have gone to great lengths to hide it from plain view or identify that it is their fee. So, if "travelers don't mind paying a service fee", why hide it or why not own up to it?
While some homeowners have sought to offer clarification in their listings or communications with travelers, VRBO/HomeAway has penalized them and even gone so far as removing rental listings if a listing contains mention of the fee or communications through their system to travelers even mention the Service Fee.
Limiting What you See
VRBO/HomeAway is attempting to hamper any effort for travelers to avoid paying the Service Fee. They have begun blocking owners telephone numbers from rental listings so the only way travelers will be able to contact owners is through their system. Now they are hiding travelers contact information (name, email address, telephone number) from the homeowners until the traveler books, leaving the only communication possible being through their system.
Many owners have begun listing their vacation rentals in alternative sites, creating their own sites, and creating Facebook pages for their properties, in order to be able to book travelers without the traveler having to pay the Service Fee.
Watch Out for Scammers!
While the greedy big sites are busy trying to get your hard earned dollars, they are creating the perfect breeding ground for scammers. The stories are all too real of honest, hard working families losing thousands of dollars to scammers pretending to be legitimate owners. We are dedicated to stopping scammers and at ALAVHR.com, we verify every owner on our site. Want to protect your family? Check out our video and blog on "How to Spot a Scammer."
What Can the Traveler Do?
If you find a Alabama vacation rental you like listed in AirBnB, TripAdvisor/FlipKey, HomeAway or VRBO, don't immediately book it. Instead, search a trustworthy site, like ALAVHR.com, where you can book it without paying the Service Fee or site commissions. If it is not listed on our site, contact the owner and tell them to list their rental here so you can book it without paying the Service Fee.