For the past four years, we have used three of the big name vacation rental advertising sites as our way to connect with vacationers for Sandpiper on Jekyll Island. This is our 6 bedroom / 5 baths beach house. These sites offer the convenience of seeing a variety of choices, and you used to be able to use the biggest such site for free.
Last year a well-known travel company bought that site, and now it’s hard to avoid a service fee without booking directly with a vacation home owner. These fees can be significant. Even if the vacation homeowner pays the listing site a subscription fee, the site will charge the renter a minimum service fee of 4% – 8% of the rental. Otherwise, the fee can currently be as high as 13%, depending on the site. “Service Fee” sounds somewhat better than “Booking Commission,” but it’s simply a fee the site charges the renter for using its services.
There’s nothing wrong with a vacation rental site charging a fee for its service, though it tends to irk us when they charge both us and our customers. And the sites are making it more and more difficult for us to communicate directly with our customers. But there’s also nothing wrong with looking for a way to avoid fees.
Free Vacation Rental Sites
As the big sites have tacked on fees, some smaller sites have arisen to compete by charging no service fees. They make their money strictly from homeowner subscription fees. If you want the convenience of seeing many choices while avoiding service fees, look for these sites. Here’s one of them that we’ve started to use:
Many homeowners are creating their own websites so you can book directly with them. You’re reading this article on just such a website — jekyllsandpiper.com – Sandpiper on Jekyll Island. If you book direct, you communicate directly with the owner and can avoid booking fees. And they might show you more photos, guest testimonials, and other information than you can see on a rental aggregator. But how do you find such a site?
- Look at your destination on Google Maps. Some rental homes, including ours, will show up. You can see where it is and whether it has a personal website.
- Search on Facebook for the name and location of your destination to see if some of your favorite properties have a website or a Facebook page. From there you can contact the owner/manager directly. You can find our page, for example, by doing a quick Facebook Search for “Vacation Rental Jekyll Island” or visiting us at https://www.facebook.com/sandpipervacation/.
- Use a vacation rental site to narrow down your choices and see if your desired home has a name. If so, plug the name and your destination into your favorite search engine.
Please do your own due diligence. Read the reviews for a home in multiple locations. Then make your choice on how you would like to proceed with booking.
Do Service Fees Provide You Extra Value?
Vacation rental companies advertize that they will guarantee your stay and give you 24/7 support during your stay. But they don’t own any inventory they can substitute, and credit card companies can better help with a money guarantee. We’ve had very good success getting card companies and PayPal to help us when our order was not delivered. Many homeowners will accept credit cards, even when you book directly. Further, how will the big travel sites help you if the cable TV stops working. They wont! We will!!! And we will help you with so much more, such as where to eat and the best beaches to visit.
Lets work together to make booking a vacation home a personal process again!
Here is another great article with tips on booking directly with vacation rental owners, written by an owner with Pocono Mountain Vacation Rentals.