The Ultimate Review & Practical Tips on Vacation / Short Term Rental Websites

– Based on owner/host real life experience

The current major vacation / short term rental websites are Airbnb, FlipKey / TripAdvisor, VRBO / HomeAway.

These websites may look similar at the first glance. But they work totally differently in real life. The summary here is based on our real life experience with them, and hopefully can save you lot of potential troubles & thousands in losses or more.

Top Tier & Best Choice – Airbnb: Professional, Efficient, and Basically Worry-free

We have used Airbnb the longest period of time and get most guests from here. The best of all is – with least amount of trouble. And even when there’s a problem we could always solve it with help from Airbnb smoothly and professionally. Plus, there has never been any payment issue. As a result, we are very confident using Airbnb to rent our properties. We are not afraid to enable Instant Booking features. We also offer our best prices here thanks to the basically worry-free business relationship with Airbnb.

Why are bookings/guests from Airbnb the best? Our guess is because Airbnb handles everything from the beginning to the end with a proven system. Starting with verifying guests’ picture matching their ID, so to prevent potential online fraud. Their customer service representatives, at least the ones we talked with so far, speak perfect English, are professional and a pleasure to deal with. Plus, Airbnb provides $1M Host Protection Insurance coverage for owners/hosts, which certainly provides extra peace of mind.

2nd Tier – FlipKey / TripAdvisor: So-so Service, Many Fake Inquiries, Pushing Owner/Host to Accept Some Guests’ Unreasonable requests

We listed our properties on FlipKey / TripAdvisor at the same time as on Airbnb. However, the amount of real bookings is much less here. Funny thing is – there are tons of fishy inquiries that simply vanished after the first contact.

Real headache starts when you have a problem with a guest. The customer service representatives here usually speak terrible English. Many of them speak with such a strong accent that they can sometimes be hard to understand. And they are usually clueless and sound like they’re just drafted from a backstreet into this new position. Answers you get from different representatives can be totally contradicted to each other. That certainly doesn’t help.

The worst part is FlipKey / TripAdvisor tries to coerce owners / hosts to accept some guests’ unreasonable requests, such as cancelling at the last minute against clearly written cancellation rules, and even trying to cancel payment with whatever ridiculous excuse after living at a property. Instead of following the rules and be fair, almost every time FlipKey / TripAdvisor tried to push us to refund those unreasonable guests. We argued but always ended up with refunding partially or even the whole amount back to the guests, though the rules are clearly written on its own website and we didn’t do anything wrong.

Worst of All – VRBO / HomeAway & Its Payment Handling Partner Yapstone aka HolidayRentPayment – Charge Highest Fees, Full of Frauds & Totally Irresponsible

Comparing to others, VRBO / HomeAway is simply a shame. It charges the highest fees (9% on average comparing to 3% charged by Airbnb), but provides no service or protection at all. Does that highest fee mean its service is the best? On the contrary, it’s the worst. According to VRBO / HomeAway, it is just a Craigslist and won’t be responsible for anything at all.

It is so easy for any fraudster to cheat owner / host and live at your vacation properties for free. You can get a chargeback months down the road from a cheating guest, claiming whatever ridiculous excuse. Whenever you get that, VRBO / HomeAway washes their hands & walks away, for they’re just a Craigslist. So go ahead & ask the Yapstone / HolidayRentPayment to do something, for they’re the ones charging extra fees every time to handle the “fund processing”.

Well, don’t bother. You WILL lose every dollar and more, for you have to pay Yapstone extra “processing fees” to “fight the chargeback”. Yapstone / HolidayRentPayment will happily pocket that extra fee from you, but won’t do anything at all.

We just went through such a process at the end of 2017, from a VISA chargeback claimed by a Portuguese speaking lady named “Joanie Bordeleau” (female, dark skin but not totally black, in early 20s in 2017, about 160cm / 5’3″), who turned out to be not only a lying & cheating fraudster but also a prostitute working mainly in Laval / Montreal area, based on private investigation with solid proof. The following is the exact process we went through with Yapstone / HolidayRentPayment, and see with your own eyes how unprofessional, incompetent & ridiculous that company is.

  1. Got email from Yapstone regarding the chargeback
  2. We emailed evidences and documents on the next day to Yapstone to fight the fraudulent chargeback, totally following instructions on Yapstone’s email
  3. We then called Yapstone and confirmed they received our response
  4. We also received email from Yapstone confirming they received our response
  5. Weeks down the road, just days before the “evidence sending deadline”, we received another email from Yapstone, claiming they haven’t received any evidence from us so there’s nothing they can do unless we do that right away. Ridiculously, in that same email, you can see their previous confirmation that they received our evidence and documents
  6. We emailed evidences and documents, again for the 2nd time, to Yapstone right away
  7. We again received email from Yapstone confirming they received our documents, and they will “submit your chargeback dispute documents to the card issuing bank”
  8. About a week after the deadline, we received another email from Yapstone, saying “Please be informed as we did not receive a response before the expiration date provided in our initial e-mail, this case has now been closed per regulatory guidelines. Unfortunately, we have no further chargeback rights to pursue on your behalf.” And right in that same email, you can see their previous two confirmations, yes TWICE, that they received our evidence and documents

If the first time mess up was due to Yapstone’s unprofessionalism & incompetence, the 2nd time exact same mess up can’t be explained by any logic. The only explanation left is Yapstone purposely designs its system to not give owner / host any chance to win back any chargeback. Instead, it happily helps any fraudster to cheat money out of honest owner/host’s pocket, for it can shamelessly make extra in “processing fees”.

We did a brief Google search and it proves our suspicion. Many other owners/hosts went through the same process of being cheated by fraudulent chargebacks. The loss is anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, or even in one case $15,000 on a luxury vacation property. Sadly in all those cases, not a single owner/host ever got anything back from the fraudsters. Thanks to VRBO / HomeAway & its payment handling partner Yapstone aka HolidayRentPayment’s astonishingly irresponsible operations.

What We Can Do As an Owner/Host

There are few options:

  1. Cancel your listing on VRBO, so to totally avoid this kind of unbelievable fraudulent situations.
  2. Continue listing on VRBO, but be very careful on the bookings. We stopped Instant Booking on VRBO, for it is simply too risky. Now, when we get an inquiry from VRBO, we will ask much more questions, and tell potential guests as clear as possible that they are more than welcomed to book either through Airbnb, or through us directly and get a discount.

For guests insist on booking through VRBO, we have clearly written rules to have a copy of their ID and a selfie before releasing the key. We may also require them to sign a specific rental agreement. That being said, this option is only available for guests from our local area. The reason is simple – For any guest out of your local area, even if you have all the solid evidences in the world, if they issue a chargeback months later, the payment process company Yapstone will let them do that easily and owners/hosts will have no chance or any recourse, for Yapstone will shamelessly pretend you have no evidence no matter what. We can most likely win a lawsuit but it doesn’t make any sense financially if the culprit is from another province/country or even continent.

So far responses from guests are good. There’re actually guests so happy to deal with us directly, for not only they can get a 20% discount, but also avoid credit card frauds that they experienced as a guest booking through VRBO just recently. And we already blocked a few fraudulent guests from booking our places. Can’t image how messed up VRBO & Yapstone is & how many fraudsters are enjoying the messed up system to cheat on owners/hosts.

Hopefully this can help you to save lots of money and tons of trouble.

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2 years ago

Great article & very informative. Thanks!