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Low Quality Inquiries from Non-Airbnb Sites. What's Your Experience?

So I’ve been hosting now for a few months and have had several great groups of Airbnb guests thus far. What a relief! Fingers crossed for many great guests to come.

One curious thing that’s popped up. Just to test the waters, I’ve also listed my place on VRBO and FlipKey. Although I haven’t received many inquiries from either site, nearly ALL of the inquiries I’ve gotten have been very suspicious or raised red flags. They’ve also been very short - usually 2-3 very brief sentences (as opposed to many Airbnb inquiries that vary in length, with many having several normal-sized sentences).

For some examples, many of the inquiries from VRBO and FlipKey have asked where my place is located (even though my listing says what area I’m located in and shows a circle on a map that clearly indicates my specific neighborhood - but not specific address). A couple inquiries even asked whether my place was close to some other place, which was very far away (I’m in Los Angeles and one inquiry asked if I was close to San Diego (!!).) Nearly all of the inquiries have asked about attributes that are prominently described in my listing, such as what my nightly rate is (right there on the listing), what are the sleeping arrangements (described in very good detail in the listing), is there an elevator (in my personal home, mind you), do we allow smoking (very prominently: NO), and do we offer transport to the airport (um, really?).

I realize that some people are just lazy and don’t bother to read the entire listing. However, ALL of the many inquiries I’ve received from Airbnb (except for 1) have appeared to come from normal folks who’ve read the details in my listing. Their messages to me have seemed normal and conversational and I’ve only seen one inquiry that raised any red flags.

Has anyone else had experiences like this? I have a big enough sample size now to be able to see a very weird pattern. Anyone else get a bunch of weird inquiries from VRBO, FlipKey and other sites? If so, any theories as to why this might be? I’ve just raised my rates on those sites so for any future inquiries I will at least feel like the hassle and worry associated with guests from those sites will be potentially worth it.


Air definitely provides the highest conversion rate. I’d say at least 90% of contacts turn into bookings. The guests generally have a defined purpose for their visit, and a large number have already put in payment information, so it’s a simple choice of Accept or Decline.

HA/VRBO was a good deal more solidly reliable before they started squeezing travelers with an additional fee.

FlipKey has been a nearly total flop. Conversion there is around 10%. Lots of questions and requests for quotes come through, but they also tack on hefty fees. We received our first guests from that site in October, so it will be a while before a report is available on the quality of the guests. Their communication censorship is obscene.


My mind is still boggled by why the other sites haven’t kept up with Airbnb in terms of giving hosts a better view into guests. I can’t tell you how much I value Airbnb’s guest profiles with reviews and verified IDs.


HA/VRBO recently started collecting reviews on travelers. It will just take a long time for those reviews to build up. Their guests seem to travel less frequently than Air guests, most likely due to the length of their stays. They also allow guests to review you up to a whole year after their visit…

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I use HA/VRBO and have found the following:

  1. Way better clientele than AIR
  2. The fact that HA/VRBO provides the guest’s email and phone number, BEFORE accepting them, allows you to better vet the guest

I would take a VRBO guest over an AIR guest hands-down, 100% of the time first. Sorry AIR, but your host services, client service reps are awful; AIR could’nt care less about their hosts if they tried, and the guests, though alight, I have less faith in them those that come through HA/VRBO.

Also, it seems that the AIR guests are the ones who want to check-in early, check-out late, need extra this, that or whatever compared to the HA/VRBO guests.

About two thirds of my business comes through HA/VRBO.

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We have never converted VRBO/HA/Flipkey guest. We get a decent amount of inquiries but never any bookings. I was telling DH last night I think I’m going to pull our listings from those sites.

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Oddly I never even had one person look at my listing on Flipkey and my photos are great. Airbnb has enabled me to pay my entire mortgage and to pay my 2 car payments!I canceled Flipkey I have all the business I want from airbnb.


Alan… as you may or may not know… all of this will be changing. HA was acquired by Expedia last year for a massive number that includes a B in it. :wink: Before the end of the year, they intend to turn HA into an Air -like platform, restricting communication such as email or phone numbers and forcing all payments through them so they can take a cut. The fee collection portion of this process already began. All of this is in addition to their charging of subscription fees at the various tier levels. If you don’t do as they mandate you will be sent to the basement in search results regardless of your tier level. Also, many of the listings now also include ads for competitors at the bottom of the listing that YOU paid for!!! That’s just the tip of the iceberg… They intend to commoditize ST owners and make them part of the offerings (hotels, PMs, etc) that you can choose from in the Expedia travel experience. Just google and you will see what I mean. As a lawyer, you may be interested in the class actions that are being filed on behalf of owners. I believe the first one is awaiting certification as we speak.

On HA/VRBO, the times, they are a changin.

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FlopKey is horrid, as I’ve shared numerous times on this forum. Run, don’t walk from them!

And I believe HA now cuts off the phone number and email before booking. I looked at my injuries and I don’t see any phone numbers or email addresses.

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INJURIES. :wink: Now that is a Freudian slip!

Wow, totally :). I meant inquiries. Lol

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@konacoconutz: The VRBO system will allow hosts to continue to pay a subscription fee and not use the pay per booking fee. As such, the subscription hosts will continue to see phone numbers and emails. This of course also means the hosts who pay an annual subscription will not be shown on the Expedia site since there is no financial advantage to them to have a booking sent to a host using the subscription option; I have no problem with that arrangement. I have no interest in being on Expedia, and not being able to vet the guests properly. For the amount of business I will not obtain, compared to the headaches and lousy people I will not have to deal with, that is acceptable to me. As for the class action - completely foolish idea.


Have you been keeping up with the Homeaway threads over the last couple of months? Tom Hale (their COO) did not deny that they will be moving to a closed communication system. I specifcally asked him when he initially made his appearance on the forum (to do damage control over the missed webinar). When I asked if they were moving to a communication format like Airbnb - his reply was that we already have apps like Airbnb…blah blah. He danced around the response.

Then the question was asked again and finally he responded that if owners are going to “abuse the marketplace” by taking reservations outside of the system, then they will have no choice but to close off communication. They want that service fee and they know if they leave communication open then travelers can call owner directly to book.

They will soon be creating standard cancellation policies just like Air too.

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Also Tom Hale is now gone! Resigned with little notice to no doubt take his millions to some exotic and impossibly expensive place like the Kona Gold Coast and buy up a multi-million dollar resort home… that will surely NOT be turned into a vacation rental!

I just saw that there’s someone on the HA forum saying that last year he was booked for 359 nights. This year, he has a short booking in May and then nothing. He said that by this time last year, he had the whole summer booked up with just a few odd vacant days.

@cabinhost, you may be correct, but it is not my understanding. My understanding is that if you remain as a paid subscription, and not as a pay -per-booking, then the email and phone number will remain visible when you have an inquiry.


Where is your understanding coming from? If it was from a year ago then things have changed drastically.

Yes, pay per booking has always been advertised as having blocked communication. But Homeaway is on a path to squeeze owners until they are choking now…gasping for breath. Homeaway’s CEO (Brian Sharples) has had an end goal of transitioning the site to instant booking. Whether they can achieve that…no one can know what the future holds. But if they can’t achieve that…they do want the service fee on every single listing. They want everyone to use HA payment system because they split the profits from YapStone. Will they turn into a hybrid site like Flipkey? Maybe. Where some are on PPB and others are grandfathered into subscription. However, those search results are still manipulated. Another VR owner did testing and pay per booking on Flipkey inquiries reached the owner within minutes, while annual subscribers did not receive their inquiry for 4 hours. Why? Because Flipkey wants to earn more off of commission listings.

Homeaway is manipulating all search results now. If a place with hardly any bookings on their calendar needs a few bookings…that property will be flashed in front of consumers left and right. If your property used to do very well and always stayed booked year after year…you are likely seeing a huge drop. They are hiding you…because they know the minute they show your property travelers will jump at it.

I stated many times over on the Homeaway forum that Sharples told investors - they have realized many of the suppliers are willing to receive 7X Return on Investment versus the 30X Return on Investment they have received in the past. I cannot tell you how many times (when I was an active forum particpant) I stated this. It went completely ignored. This is what everyone is now seeing with the new “Best Match.”

Do not be fooled by the name that “best match” means it is a best match for the traveler. No…this is a best match for Homeaway to increase their revenue. I read every day on the forum of owners still begging and pleading with Homeaway…and they think Homeaway made a mistake in the search algorithms. Actually what Homeaway is doing is working well for them. When Tom Hale said “our plans are to bring “you” more and more bookings”. He only means that in the aggregate sense of owners, not individual suppliers.

If you have followed the forum over the past couple of months you will see his many insulting, arrogant, twisted posts for the gullible. All the sites now are out to gain the most revenue for themselves off of assets they do not own. They got people dependent and now think they have no where else to turn.


Cabinhost rocks!!! They should hire HER to run a company!!!

A lot of "ifs’, “maybe” and “I think the future”, conjecture in your posts. I have not found any decline in bookings, and I suspect the only people who are moaning about the changes are the ones who want to point a finger at someone else for the decrease in bookings. Maybe, the decrease in bookings is the result of the incredible increase in the number of people who are offering accommodations as a part time operation. Maybe the decrease in bookings is a result of the new people in this business offering foolishly low prices in the hopes of getting more bookings and reviews. And with these new people and their low prices, they are taking the business from those who operate a real business, not some side hobby. I have seen no decrease in my revenue, and I have a comfortable five figure income from my operation. From what I have read, it would seem that many of the people in this business are offering their accommodation at too low a price, and far too many are not reporting their income. As far as I am concerned, I hope the government clamps down on these tax cheats, which will discourage them from operating their “part-time hobby bs business” and let those of us who operate a quality venture continue on. And seeing as how everyone thinks AIRb is the greatest thing since slice bread, and HA is turning to their model, well, should you blame HA, or the part time tax cheats?

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