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The Pros and Cons Of Booking Direct – Vacation Rental Secrets

The Pros and Cons Of Booking Direct - Vacation Rental Secrets

The Pros and Cons Of Booking Direct – Vacation Rental Secrets When it comes to finding and booking a vacation/holiday rental, the vast majority of guests head over to Airbnb, Booking (.com), or VRBO, they search for a property that suits their needs, and when they find the one that fits the bill, they simply hit the Book Now button.

Job done.

But is it a job well done?

In this article, we will take a deep dive into the little-known world of booking direct with the host or management company, and we’ll look at the pros and cons so that you can make informed decisions when booking your next vacation rental.

How do you find direct booking options?
Magic Search
When is it a good idea to book directly with the host or manager?
When is it not such a good idea to book direct?
The pros of booking a vacation rental direct
The cons of booking a vacation rental direct
Direct bookings from the host and managers perspective

A short vacation rental history lesson…

Direct contact and direct booking is nothing new.

In fact, up until relatively recently, booking directly with the owner, host, or manager of the property was the only way to book vacation/holiday accommodation.

30 something years ago, my mother-in-law had a holiday apartment in Spain. I called her and asked if I could rent it for two weeks in the summer. She said no problem. My wife and I booked the flights, and that was that.

My mother-in-law had also placed classified adverts in newspapers and had pinned an advert on the noticeboard at her work. This, and word of mouth, was how the vacation rental business worked before the internet.

In the early days of the internet, some websites were born where owners like my mother-in-law could take out a subscription, and they could advertise their rentals online. The sites did some marketing, and they attracted potential guests. These potential guests found properties that they were interested in, and they contacted the owner directly via email links or phone numbers on each property page.

Airbnb was launched in mid-2008 and with it came the introduction of on-platform bookings and the dreaded ‘service fee’. Airbnb introduced terms and conditions that don’t allow direct bookings between the owner of the listing and the guest. They even monitor and censor email communications between the two parties to reduce what they call leakage.

Leakage is when a guest has found a property on the platform, but the guest books direct, leaving Airbnb without their commission.

Booking (.com) and Vrbo have similar rules and functionality.

In the same way supermarkets have stopped most people from buying bread directly from a baker, the big online travel agencies (OTAs) have gone out of their way to stop guests from booking short-term rentals directly from owners and managers.

As with so many things in life, the power of the big brand has impacted the lives of small traders.

What most potential guests don’t realize is that booking through sites like Airbnb is generally 15% more expensive than booking directly from the host or management company.

How do you find direct booking options?

The easiest way to find out if you can book a property directly with the host or manager is to find a property you are interested in on Airbnb, Booking (.com), or VRBO.

Then copy the URL and paste it into HiChee.com. HiChee will check to see if the property is available on other platforms and compare prices for your dates.

But many listings have a true verified owner or manager status, and you can contact the owner or manager directly via the HiChee listing.

Even if the listing doesn’t have a true verified owner status, you can use the magic search option, and this will bring up a list of other booking options.

This video shows how to use Magic Search and the user saves over $2,000 in less than two minutes. Always check it before you book it.

When is it a good idea to book directly with the host or manager?

Booking directly really comes into its own when booking somewhat more expensive homes. 

By that, I mean bookings of over $300, As a general rule, you would make a saving of around $50 if you book a stay of around $300 directly with the host or manager. If you are booking a property that costs around $1,000 you could be saving $150, and on a booking of $5,000, you could save around $750.

The more that the rental costs, the more that you will save if you book direct!

When is it not such a good idea to book direct?

There are several instances where booking direct may not be the best option.

Short notice stays

My wife and I recently made a 6,000 km road trip through Europe and booked Airbnb stopovers on the fly throughout the trip. We weren’t sure how far we would drive each day, and we booked places just a couple of hours before arrival. Instant booking through the platform is super helpful in this instance, and trying to do the same via direct contact would be next to impossible.

Short stays

If you are just staying for one or two nights, booking directly with the host may not be the best option. You won’t save much money, and the benefits of booking through a major platform (ease of use and customer support) may well override the small gains made by dealing directly with the host.

In fact, for some short stays, you may even be better off booking a hotel as the cleaning fees for a short-term rental can be disproportionately high for one or two-night stays.

Cheap stays

It’s probably best to book through one of the big sites for any booking under $300. 

Vacation Rentals – The Pros and Cons Of Booking Direct

Here are some other things to bear in mind when deciding whether or not to book direct

The pros of booking a vacation rental direct

Lower prices, best price guarantees

As I said before, you will generally save between 5-15 % on the price of a booking if you book direct. You can make substantial savings on high-end rentals by doing away with the middleman and going direct.

Many hosts advertise their properties on multiple listing sites like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo but also advertise on smaller, local sites. Many hosts will give a best-price guarantee if you book direct, so you know that you are getting the best price on the internet.

Special bonuses

If you book direct, you can sometimes receive extra benefits. You may get a free night, or you may be offered an early check-in or a late check-out.

Direct contact with the host or manager of the property

Sometimes it’s good to speak with a host prior to booking. You may have questions about access or the suitability of the property for your party. Taking the direct booking path allows you access to the host or manager’s phone number prior to booking, and you won’t get that opportunity if you book through one of the big online travel agencies (OTAs).

Insider knowledge

Hosts and managers have an intimate knowledge of the property and the destination. Online travel agency call centers do not. If you have special needs or questions about local amenities, the best nearby restaurants, or recommended beaches, who better to ask than the people you plan on renting from.

The cons of booking a vacation rental direct

What if the host cancels

Sometimes a host may need to cancel a booking. This may be due to circumstances out of their control, but it can happen. In the unlikely event that a host needs to cancel a direct booking, you could find yourself in difficulty.

This is where the big platforms have an advantage. Both Airbnb and VRBO state that they will find you similar or better alternative accommodation if the host cancels within 30 days of your arrival, or they will give you a refund.

A host will, of course, refund you if they have to cancel a booking, but they probably won’t be able to find you alternative accommodation.

Bear in mind that even the big online travel agencies may struggle to find you an alternative property in high season when demand is at its highest.

Note that some of the money saved by booking direct can be used to buy cancellation insurance in case something prevents you from going on vacation.

No 24/7 help lines 24-hour Safety Line

The big box brands have 24-hour customer service helplines that operate 24 hours a day, whereas hosts and managers will generally only be available during office hours.

Airbnb operates a 24-hour safety line that guests can call if they feel unsafe, but to be honest, you may be better off calling the police if that is the case.

Vacation rentals – The pros and cons of booking direct from the host and manager’s perspective.

We asked hundreds of hosts for their insight into the book direct process and their thoughts on the pros and cons.

Here’s what they had to say.

After the obvious benefit of saving money on a booking, the number one factor that came up repeatedly was that hosts and managers build better relationships with their guests. This resulted in the guests having a better holiday/vacation. Guests leave better reviews, and guests often rebook year after year.

Guests generally feel more at home when they communicate directly with the owner, host, or manager.

Hosts also have more control over who books the property, which is important when entrusting their homes to ‘strangers’.

Many hosts said direct bookings involve more work (email questions, answers, and phone calls), but getting to know the guests is more rewarding.

Some mentioned that the money the guest saves could be put towards upgrading their stay, and they may have money left over to buy cancellation insurance if something prevents them from going on vacation.

Book direct has a place, but so do the third-party websites, as plenty of people use & like them. The choice is nice and people should do what’s best for them, for their property, or for their vacation.

The Pros and Cons Of Booking Direct – Vacation Rental Secrets

The Pros and Cons Of Booking Direct - Vacation Rental Secrets

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One Comment

  1. I totally agree when you said that guests will feel at home if they can talk directly to the owner of the property. That is what I want to experience as well when I look for a lakefront wine trail vacation rental in Penn Yan, New York. Also, if I find a place like that, my questions or inquiries will be answered on a more personal level if the owner is easily to contact as much as possible.

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