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BEWARE! Costly Service Fees.. Airbnb & Vrbo Posted by Shannon Sinnard | Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A simple Google search of Airbnb & Vrbo "service fees" will quickly garner a search results page full of articles and forums of disgrunteled travelers (and homeowners/vacation rental businesses) regarding the costly fees that Airbnb (and, recently) Vrbo/Homeaway charge in addition to traveler and owner fees. However, there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the fees. What are they for? How much are they? etc. With all this uncertainty, we thought it might be helpful to clear up some of this confusion and 'cut through the noise' with a simple overview of these fees.

So, let's get started...
Psst.. before we begin, it might be helpful to note that Vrbo, Homeaway & Expedia are all sister companies and operate under the same umbrella. You can read more here.)

► What is a "service fee"?

While each company (Airbnb, Vrbo/Homeaway) describes theirs a little differently, the overall explanation is pretty similar. The "service fee" is found to be a necessisty in helping contribute to operations costs such as their own customer support, each's website, online transactions, marketing costs, etc. 

► How much is the "service fee"?

Again, depending on the third party you're booking with, this may vary. While smaller, lesser known, third party sites may sometimes charge a monitary amount, Airbnb and Vrbo/Homeaway are both similar in that they charge a percentage based on total reservation amount. However, they each do seem to differ in percentage amount. 

  • Vrbo (also, Homeaway) describes their service fee as "a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees, paid by the traveler." They are a little vague about how much their service fee actually is, but note that the "amount varies" and that "generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of the service fee." They do also clarify that this service fee is taxed, based on local tax regulations. (Worth Noting : an article by the Frugal Travel Guy refers to verbiage saying Vrbo/Homeaway's fee is based on "a sliding scale of 4% to 9% of the rental amount").

  • According to Airbnb, their service fee is said to be "typically under 14.2% of the booking subtotal" with the booking subtotal including "cleaning fee(s) and additional guest fee(s)" in addition to total rental costs. They do note, however, that the "fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests during checkout before they book a reservation" via Airbnb.com. Here, at Ski Country Resorts, the average "service fee" amount we often see our geusts pay is around 9%.

► Who collects the "service fee"?

As noted above, these fees go directly to the third party (Airbnb, VRBO/Homeaway, etc). Not the homeowner or property management company. With this, it is important to keep in mind that should you, for any reason, need to cancel your reservation or request a refund of any sort the owner or property manager is unable to refund this fee.

  • According to Vrbo/Homeaway "owners and property managers do not have the ability to discount or waive the service fee."

  • And Airbnb says their fee is only refundable if "you cancel within 48 hours of booking" and if "you haven’t already canceled 3 reservations in the last 12 months".

► So, what can you do to avoid a "service fee"?

Again, according to the Frugal Travel Guy site, these costly service fees "won’t go unnoticed" for those planning a vacation. The article sites planning a vacation that "was $1,800 for the week." It's noted that "this fee could have added another $162 to the total cost. And if you plan to rent a huge place and share it with friends, the new fee could easily reach several hundred dollars." So what can you do to curb these costly fees?

The best answer is to BOOK DIRECT. Sometimes this can be hard with an individual homeowner, but in places like Breckenridge, Co most vacation rental properties are managed by a professional. Make sure you are taking note of a couple of important factors in the Airbnb or VRBO/Homeaway listings : 

  • 1) The name of the host. If it is a professional company, you can typically Google the company's name (listed as the 'host' on these third party sites) and find their website that will, undoubtedly, list this same exact rental home/property but without the added "service fee".

  • 2) The name of the home or rental property. Typically this will be right in the listing, either in the title or the description. Again, a quick Google search should lead you to the property's own page where a direct booking (again, without added "service fee") can be made.

It is understandable that, with all of the sites available for homeowners and property managers to list their vacation rentals, shopping for a home or condo for your vacation can sometimes be confusing. We can not deny that using these third party sites can be convienent as they do offer a 'combined pool' of a good marjority of rentals available in the area you are searching. But a saavy traveler uses these sites as just that, a tool. Once the perfect 'home away from home' has been decided on - the seasoned traveler will typically take the extra time to find their rental on a site that does not require them to pay the extra amount of a "service fee." 

We hope that this overview has been helpful, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.. Or, if you are looking for the perfect Vacation Rental in Breckenridge, our dedicated and knowlegeable Reservations Staff is happy to guide you through our large assortment of over 200 rentals throughout Breckenridge to find your perfect accommodations. Even better, at Ski Country Resorts, we guarantee that you are getting the best online rate when you book with us!  Click the link below to read more!

Check Out Our Lowest Online Rate Guarantee Here

Additional Travel Tip! Now that you've saved yourself possibly hundreds of dollars on a "service fee", why not apply that toward Travel Insurance? Travel Insurance will often times cost you far less than third party "service fees" and offers so many more benefits! Including full refund on your trip (vacation rental, flights, rental car, etc) in extrenuating circumstances. Any unexpected hospital costs while you are on vacation. And so much more! Plus, oftentimes, the Travel Insurance policy can incorperate all travelers in the group you are traveling with - so can be split amongst you all to make the cost very affordable.


For more information on Airbnb's & Vrbo/Homeaways "Service Fees" (and where we gained much of our information) please visit this links below :

BEWARE! Costly Service Fees.. Airbnb & Vrbo
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