Screening VRBO guests

Hi all. We are new to both airbnb and vrbo but have already hosted 3 times on airbnb. Airbnb has been good. VRBO makes me a little less comfortable to accept bookings as it seems very difficult to screen people.

Is it too much for me to ask for a reference? Also I want to send our house rules and ask potential guest to confirm it’s been read before accepting the booking. Thoughts?

I already asked for references and a photo of ID on two vrbo inquiries and never heard back. I think I scared them away.

On one hand: it’s March, off season here, and we’re new and could really use the money so part of me just wants to accept and see how it goes. On the other hand, I just really want to be able to make sure no one is trying to throw a party/trash our house. We do live on site above the apartment which in some respects makes me more comfortable knowing we’d be here to keep an eye on the place…

I don’t know but asking for a reference is not really done with vacation rentals. I am not on VRBO, but on FlipKey Trip Advisor there is also no way of knowing a guest and you take your chances. I have two guests who booked without even sending a message. At first I thought they did. The message said. “Looking forward to our stay, see you soon!” And then I realized that was just the canned message they provide! I have a TA guest here now (whom I did not screen) and he is the cat’s meow! If all guests could be this great! And I won’t even get to leave him a review!

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I don’t like VRBO at all. The website is very hard to use. They payout is not clear, when they quote always includes $300 refundable deposit that I will never receive. For the guests, never have any profile of the guests, last year I received so many BS inquiries. In 6 month I only got 3 real bookings. But one of the 3 bookings was very good. It’s a company they even returned to stay at my place for a long stay. That’s pretty much the only reason I still keep it on VRBO. Hope for something like this will happen again. :slight_smile:



First - be sure to HAVE A CONTRACT - not just “house rules”. [Most] Guests on VRBO are used to signing and returning a contract. To make it easy on the guest, send it via DocuSign or some other e-signature website, and have them initial the clauses that are important to you. Ensure the contract says “No parties or other social events”, lists the names of all the people staying overnight, and restricts access to the property to only the people listed. State the penalty for violating this (such as loss of security deposit, eviction, etc). Note - your state may restrict what you can actually do as penalties, but your main objective here is to “scare” off the people that plan to violate your terms.

Set a minimum age (many owners use 25).

Many owners do require a photo ID along with the contract and payment (not before sending a contract - that would scare me off, too).

When they inquire, be sure to tell them that you live above the rental, and that you will personally meet them (if possible). That will ensure partiers think twice.

By the way, is there a particular reason you are worried about the house being “trashed”? Are you in a party-prone area?

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We’re in a really residential area. The only reason I thought was because they seemed really young, like, potentially not even 18 from googling their names.

Is there any way you would share your contract or could you recommend where to get one?

@belwoodranch -
We have our contract posted on our website: ( You can also find a lot of examples and discussion on this on the Homeaway owners’ forum
If you still have questions, contact me through our website’s email.

I won’t promise you our contract will hold up in court- I am not a lawyer - but it serves to let people know we are serious about some things and is a starting point

Good luck!

I have been doing VRBO for about 18 mos and am only now getting in to Airbnb so I guess I have the opposite problem! (getting used to Airbnb).

I -do- have a contract on file with VRBO and my guests must acknowledge it. This can be done thru the VRBO system … My contract spells out $$ penalties if guests don’t follow the rules.

on VRBO I choose not to do the instant booking/confo option … if someone wants to reserve my home I have 24 hours to accept or it automatically declines. The minute I receive an inquiry or reservation request I respond to the guest with several questions that give me some insight into their maturity, experience and motivation for choosing my home … I also state “in case you didn’t see this on my listing” and then provide facts about the property (quiet hours, etc) that I want to be sure the guest acknowledges before I accept their business. I offer a phone contact if email isn’t convenient. If they don’t respond or its not a good fit I decline the booking. So far, so good. My home is in an area with “3 strikes” rules on vacation rentals, so I’m highly motivated to keep my neighbors happy and my permit in force.

I do like the fact that I receive the VRBO’s client’s $$ when they pay it (according to what I set up) and don’t have to wait until their arrival to get paid.

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Does VRBO not attempt to block the exchange of contact information like Airbnb does?

And do you use Homeaway as well?

They will block it on the commision listings (pay per booking).

The other listings pay an annual subscription so you can still exchange info. But they are moving towards removing contact info. I believe on some they have moved the contact info from the main listing area, to the booking page. They are in constant A/B testing of moving things around, changing the search process, etc. They just do it in steps so that owners can swallow the changes gradually.

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Hi @cabinhost,

Thanks for the information. How is VRBO comparing currently to Airbnb? Hopefully they don’t have an Extenuating Circumstances thing, at least. I seem to recall you are not so active on Airbnb any longer.

Hi faheem, no, VRBO doesn’t block the phone # exchange nearly as much as Airbnb … but they’ll white out the name “Airbnb” if you use it in a message. I have a listing on Homeaway as a by-product … when you sign up for VRBO you can also choose to have listings on their affiliate sites (they use same info/photos/etc on all sites)

Hi @HbgLin,

Thanks for the information. If you are using VRBO/Homeway as well as Airbnb, how do you find they compare currently?

@faheem - I use both HA/VRBO and AirBnB, too. When you say “compare”, do you mean number of nights booked, or some other comparison?

Hi @PitonView,

I’m just asking about an overall comparison of how you like using those sites overall, how you find their policies and their execution of those policies, their customer service etc.

@faheem -
Right now, I far prefer VRBO/Homeaway to AirBnB. VRBO/Homeaway lets me communicate with the guest prior to booking. I can send pdf files to the guest with information about my home before they book. I get to use my own contract. I can set different extra person rates for different seasons. I invoice the customer through my PayPal account and receive 50% upon booking and the other 50% 45 days before arrival, and control my own security deposit. I do have to pay for my listing (once a year). I control my money and my reputation. In other words, I feel like I can (mostly) control my own business. (These options may not be available for new listings - I know they are moving towards the AirBnB model, so I might lose some of the things I like before long.)

I do like some things about AirBnB, mostly about the interface. I do like guest reviews (it’s only fair that both parties get to review each other). I do like guest verifications (on VRBO, I have to do my own research on guests)

I do have a three-bedroom property in a sought-after area of the Caribbean that I let out as a whole property, and our prices are high (starting at over $400 US per night). So we’re not really a good fit for AirBnB, and it shows - I only get about 10% of my bookings from AirBnB. And we have full-time staff at the villa, so I don’t need to worry too much about vetting guests (no one flies to St Lucia to have a one-night graduation party and play Beer Pong). So others may have drastically different perspectives about the differences between the sites.


Hi @PitonView,

Thank you. That’s an interesting overview.

Here’s a probably dumb question. There are a lot of spams done using Airbnb - apparently doing wire transfers is popular. How does this work if the platform isn’t handling the money? How can your guests trust you to hand back the security deposit, for example?

For my situation, AirBnB is just easier. But my best guests have been through HomeAway/VRBO. What stinks is through VRBO, you don’t get the money from your first booking until a month after their initial payment. What’s funny is I’ve gotten a direct booking from that first guest and they stayed a second time before I got their money from their first stay!

The main difference I’ve noticed is it’s a different kind of guest that books through VRBO and AirBnB. I haven’t bothered screening people, I rely on gut feeling and communication. But I’m also on-site and rent a full apartment above my garage, so I don’t have the screening needs of probably most people who list on VRBO.

Overall I like the clientelle that comes through VRBO better, but I like the system and payments better through AirBnB.

Hi @Sarah_Warren,

Different how? Details, please. And What percentage do you get from HomeAway/VRBO and Airbnb? And are HomeAway & VRBO actually one site, or do they actually function as separate sites?

That’s weird. You mean you might get the money after the guest has long gone? Is Homeaway the same?

The guests I have gotten through VRBO/HomeAway (sister sites where listing on one puts you on both), tends to be more vacation takers. Longer stays on average, planned in advance, only looking for whole-place, more like “old-school” rentals before AirBnB came on the scene. The listings have to be whole place rentals. My guests on AirBnB are a lot more varied, but I get many last minute bookings because the AirBnB interface makes that easier. The AirBnB guests tend to be more tech-savvy and more instant gratification on the booking/communication. But with what you offer @faheem, you’d probably get the same kind of guests on both platforms.

I just listed on VRBO/HomeAway about 2 months ago and have had 2 bookings now. Honestly I’m still learning, but I think it’s a complicated process to get paid through them. The first booking is 30 days after payment. I have it set to get paid 50% when booked and the remainder 15 days before arrival. And yet my second booking arrived yesterday and I haven’t received either payment from HomeAway. But my listing is still new enough it may still be delayed? I’ve loved both sets of guests though so far, but if future bookings don’t get paid out by at least day after arrival I’ll be suspending my listings as most of my expenses are in advance and it’s very frustrating.

But honestly, it’s just a gut-feeling difference. The AirBnB guests have been so varied but overall the guests have been true to the “home-sharing” vibe. But VRBO is set up to be more true to “vacation rental”, so there’s a level of expectation that’s different. The couple here right now feel like my aunt and uncle in a way that’s hard to describe. My aunt had arranged a whole house rental for us a year or so ago for a trip and did the whole contract, direct payment, etc, that is a lot more personal and direct than the AirBnB system where you’re trapped to their TOS and contracts. VRBO is closer to a true listing site where you’re more in control. But it’s a more complicated interface where it’s got a lot of hoops to go through to load contracts and stuff (that I honestly don’t want to worry about, haha), so honestly I’m probably not well protected legally. But Air’s TOS is a joke anyway, so I don’t really care since I’m on-site.

I’m probably not making any sense. I’m dealing with really bad seasonal allergies and my head is so congested I’m having a difficult time thinking and trying to put my thoughts down coherently.

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Hi @Sarah_Warren,

Sorry to hear about the allergies. I used to get bronchial problems (though not so much recently), and those might have been allergy related. It was in NC - it might have been the pollen. The air here is some of the dirtiest in the world, and here I don’t really have a problem.

Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts. So, how do your guests trust you not to rob them if you control the money? Does the site step in if necessary? And the paying late thing does sound problematic (and unprofessional), though personally being paid late would not affect me that much. Have other users of VRBO/Homeaway had similar issues?