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Are you paying for a tiered package with Homeaway? If so you are paying for fools gold.
Homeaway are defrauding vacation rental owners and they are doing so across the board.

The company offer a number of listing options from “Classic” up to “Platinum”. Classic is the basic option and comes in at $349 but they offer a tiered system so if you pay more you will appear higher in the results. The company promote these tiers and suggest that if you splash out $1,249 a year on a Platinum package you will appear at or near the top of the results.

As they say on their website,

HomeAway offers five subscription levels based on the amount of exposure you need. Your subscription level determines where your listing will be ranked on the search results page when a user searches your area. The higher you rank, the more likely you are to be seen by travelers.

Sounds fair enough doesn’t it!

BUT IT”S ANYTHING BUT FAIR

It turns out that the company are serving up different results for different searches and that the majority of site visitors don’t get to see Platinum listings at the top of the search results.

If someone types Homeaway.com directly into the browser address bar they will be presented with Platinum listings at the top of the page but if they arrive at Homeaway via a search engine they get a different listing where those that have paid for tiered promotion appear on the 3rd page or lower.

This happens via the use of cookies and these particular cookies are not session based so this same site visitor will always see skewed results (see the video below).

Where does that leave owners that are paying over $1200 for a Platinum package?
What about those that have paid for Gold, Silver or Bronze packages? They are being demoted even further down the food chain.

This whole concept is very misleading (if not illegal) but not really surprising if you think about it.

Take Barbados as an example, Homeaway lists 1,382 properties on the island and it’s default listing layout displays 30 properties – That equates to 46 pages of results.
Let’s imagine that only 5% of owners opt for a Platinum package that would be 69 properties or two full pages of properties on Platinum so even if you buy a gold package you won’t be showing up in the listing until page 3 (at best).
But what about the owners on page 46? They would never get a booking. No one is going to scroll through 46 pages but HA need to provide these same owners with some enquiries (and bookings) in order for them to renew their subscription at the end of the year.
So of course HA need to stir the listings in some way to stop owners languishing in the dark depths of the listings cellar.

The thing is, you can’t have everybody on Platinum. In fact if you were to list all the tiered properties as per their paid for positions those below them would struggle for any exposure at all.

Add to this all of the ‘Pay Per Booking’ properties and you end up with a huge logistical nightmare that doesn’t work.
This is a direct result of lumping over a million vacation homes into one place. It’s only going to get worse.

To show what Homeaway are doing Roger Almaida, a property owner in Naples, Florida has made the following video.

[bctt tweet=”Homeaway Fools #vacationrental Owners With Fools Gold”]

For more lively debate, including talk about a class action, on this subject visit the owner community on Homeaway and have a read of this thread.

We have two things to say to Homeaway –

Firstly – You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Secondly – You really have no idea how social media works. Please have the decency to respond to owners within your own community.

#homeaway

 We hope you found this Vacation Rental Websites | Homeaway Fools Owners With Fools Gold article useful. If you have any comments please leave them below.

12 thoughts on “Vacation Rental Websites | Homeaway Fools Owners With Fools Gold

  1. Darren says:

    Wow, when HA’s own paying customers are investigating an issue together like this then they have a massive pr issue on their hands.

    On the one hand I can see the need for them to rotate / mix up the search results, but what they are doing as evidenced by those videos is just plain wrong. It’s amounts to lying to their own customers over the ranking boost provided by their higher priced tiers.

    Another shocking element is their lack of communication regarding the complaints with the customers, as you say Alan, they need to do the decent thing and take ownership of the problem and let their paying customers know what they are going to do about it before it becomes an even bigger issue for them.

    It will be interesting to watch how this develops…

    1. Alan Egan says:

      Hi Darren,

      Thanks for your comments.

      The trouble is this whole tiered system is flawed as it creates a very uneven playing field and in effect it sets owner against owner.
      It also gives HA a major headache as to how to keep all of the people happy all of the time.
      Owners Direct had the best system where everyone paid the same subscription and the listings were served up in a random order.

      As far as the lack of communication goes, this has got worse in recent times. The HA community doesn’t even have a moderator any more. Even when the community had a moderator they didn’t answer questions put directly to them. These days owners complaints are just left to fester. Only Brent made some sort of effort regarding addressing community issues and he’s gone now.

      This attitude will bite them in the ass.

  2. jenny says:

    Owners Direct in the UK – taken over by HomeAway has adopted the same system as HomeAway in the last week or so with tiered payments.
    A great shame as up until now I have had more bookings from Owners Direct than any other source since advertising independently:
    24% for Apr 13-14
    30% for Apr 14-15
    25% for Apr 15 – Aug 16. In fact my 2 most profitable bookings since Apr 15 have come via Owners Direct.
    Well I have the cheapest rate – Classic – and plan to stick with it!

    1. Alan Egan says:

      Thanks for the information Jenny.
      It’s such a shame that Owners Direct should adopt this owner v owner model. It does no one any good.
      Their old “rotated” method was so much fairer.

  3. mark rusconi says:

    We really liked your description and hope you receive some sort of answer as to what Homeaway is doing and also why homeaway does this. Earlier this year we downgraded our platinum to classic because of the increasing price and also we did not appreciate the way Homeaway changed the intro page and now tries to fool people into entering dates prior to looking at what is available. We feel that if you pay the money for the ranking, then you should be seen by potential guests, even if you are booked for their dates. Many of our guest inquiries were (in the past) willing to adjust their travel dates in order to stay with us. Many other guests remembered us, even if we were booked and then they returned a year later. If a rental is not seen, it basically does not exist.

    1. Alan Egan says:

      So true Mark, so true.

      Even if you do get an enquiry these days the listings site send your potential guests a ‘travellers who liked this property also liked …..” email on top of these other issues. It’s lose, lose for owners.

  4. Barb says:

    Thank you! I have always used classic as my area is NOT flooded with VRBO listings, this will help with the decision making process as I have been thinking of using another service.

  5. No one dislikes HomeAway more than I do, but you are completely missing the point here!

    HomeAway does not promise that Platinum listings will be shown first in ALL search results.

    What they promise is that Platinum listings will be shown MORE than other listings.

    Think about it! Who is going to keep going through all the listings to find a property on the 37th page out of 43 results?

    This being the case, if all they ever did was show the platinum listings first in ALL results, the lower ranking properties would never be shown. Obviously, they can’t have that being the case, because those listings need to be seen too.

    So what HomeAway does, is based on the search parameters, serve up a SELECTION (or particular sort) of properties that meet the search criteria. If you run a search one day, without any parameters at all, as in your example, you will receive a certain sort order of properties. If you come back a week later and do it again (not the same day) you will see a different sort order, which brings another group of properties to the front.

    What HomeAway is doing, is making sure that the properties SHOW UP in results a proportionate number of times based on their tiered ranking. I have a Platinum listing. I don’t expect to be first in all search results, that is not what they promised. What I expect, and what I get, is to be SHOWN much more than anyone else with a Gold, Silver or Bronze listing, and that is (I believe) what happens.

    Think about it. If the properties were ONLY shown according to their tiers, the Bronze or Classic listings would NEVER be viewed. HomeAway can’t have that… those folks paid to be seen too, they just didn’t pay as much as you did.

    So for example, if I have a platinum listing, which cost me $1250, my property will be shown to prospective guests 1250 times in a particular period, say a month. Well the guy who bought the classic listing for $250 may get his property shown 250 times in a month. (Obviously I’m keeping the numbers in this example simple to illustrate the point.) The only way that poor guy is going to get his property seen 250 times, is if he happens to show up at the top of the listings once in a while. It may be today, and may continue to be that way for another day or two ( I don’t know), and then another guy with a Silver listing will show up for a few days more, and me with my Platinum listing might show up at the top of the results for two weeks out of the month.

    HomeAway doesn’t guarantee a placement in all search results based on the tier purchased. They guarantee that you will receive more views than other listings based on the tier results.

    So forget all of your search and sort order results. They are meaningless. And don’t expect HomeAway support people to be able to help you with this because half the people in HomeAway don’t understand anything about it, and the other half understand so little that they can’t help you either. (In truth, there are really only seven people at HomeAway who understand anything and they are so busy figuring out how to further relieve you of your money that they have no time for trying to explain this stuff to the hired flunkies you get to talk to.)

    The only way to do your ‘research’ is to take a group of properties in an area, and compare the number of times their listings are VIEWED, group the properties by tiers, and see how the number of VIEWS compares amongst each tier, and how the number of VIEWS of properties within tiers compares to the number of VIEWS of properties in other tiers.

    But sort order based on a search? It is a pointless thing to focus on. The minute a guest enters some parameters, the sort order gets altered. What happens if your property isn’t available for the dates the guest is searching for? It isn’t going to be shown… To few rooms? It isn’t going to be shown… No Smoking… It isn’t going to be shown…

    HomeAway HAS to have some means of sorting and showing properties, but it CAN’T only be based on sort order. Otherwise, many of the properties would NEVER be shown, and obviously that can’t be an acceptable solution.

    HomeAway didn’t say that Platinum properties would always be shown first in search results. They said that Platinum properties are viewed and booked more often than Gold, Silver, Bronze… and that is how it has to be!

    Look at it another way. My property is pretty successful. Which means I’m already booked a lot of the time. What good would it do me for my Platinum level listing to be shown ahead of a bunch of other properties if I am already booked for those dates?

    You say you didn’t enter any dates in your test? Fine. What good does it do to show my property AGAIN to somebody who it has already been shown to? If they didn’t click on it the first time, then the current serving of other properties gets presented. They are the properties de jour, being served up today as alternates to the Platinum listings. Next week there will be others being shown.

    Again, HomeAway simply has no choice but to create a fairly complicated system to keep track of how many times a property is shown and make sure that it does get shown a proportionate number of times, based on the tier that is purchased. So getting back to my example above, if I am booked already for the times that most of the people are searching for this week, I’m not going to be showing up, and I’m glad, because it means that I will be showing up a LOT for those people looking for those dates when I’m available, because I wouldn’t have used up my quota of views that I would be receiving if it was based only on the tier that I have purchased.

    I hope that this explanation makes sense. While there are many things that I can attack and criticize HomeAway for, this isn’t one of them. You are expecting a simplistic understanding of what HomeAway promises and provides. Go back and check the wording of what they describe a higher tiered listing as providing. They say it will be seen more often, not that it is guaranteed to show up at the top of every single search that gets performed.

    In conclusion, if you can get a significant group of owners in a well defined area, and in different tiers, together; and do an analysis of their view counts, only then will you know if HomeAway is keeping their promise or not.

    But for now, there is no smoking gun here.

    Perhaps the time invested in this would be better spent figuring out how to market your property outside of HomeAway’s services, than worrying about what they do or don’t provide.

    Huuaaahhhh!

  6. Robert says:

    Homeaway.at — I have anual subscription for one house with 2 units. One unit works perfectly another one is not workin. A lot of guests have caled me on my phone to ask me have I received their reservation requests. I haven’t received anything. I have tried to send reservation request to myself and I haven’t received anything. So, apartment is visible but i don’t receive reservation requests on my email address neither on their site. I wrote to them and they didn’t replied for more then a month. Wrote several times and finely they have replied.
    They have activated one month of top advert for unit which is not working!! So, apartment is on top line right now and I can not receive reservation requests. When I have wrote to them to tell them that it is pointless to have top advert when I can not get inquires, they have sent me reservation request for apartment which is working. And I have told them that it is not problem with that apartment and then I have received test inquiry which I have sent to my self 1 month ago. Then I have tried to send one more reservation request but it is not working. and they do not reply on my messages. It is solved for them.
    The question is how they have sent me that test message which I have sent to myself one month ago. IMPORTANT! It must be that since there are adverts with annual subscription and adverts with commision on same website they filter or block inquiries for annual subscription. That way potential guest thinks that host (owner of apartment) doesn’t reply on his inquiry and sends another reservation request to other apartments. that way they rise possibilty that commision based advert will receive inquiry and that that way they will have more profit.
    It must be that something is wrong with filter for my apartment since i don’t receive any reservation request. And where they have found my test inquiry which they have send to me after one month even if that it was not visible on my user profile until they have sent it. Must be they store that inquiries and also that they make email lists from potential guests.
    I would like to know how I can protect my rights since it seems that they are not interested to solve my problem.
    Robert

    1. Unfortunately, this is just bad customer service. You have a technical problem with their site (or rather, THEY do, but you are suffering for it) and it needs to be fixed.

      Keep after them. Don’t call as an owner. Call as a guest, explain that you contacted the owner through the site, and didn’t receive a reply. See how they respond. Then call them again, say you are a guest, different name, and that you sent an inquiry through the site and didn’t receive a response. Then call them again, say you are a guest, different name, and that you sent an inquiry through the site and didn’t receive a response. Then call them again, say you are a guest, different name, and that you sent an inquiry through the site and didn’t receive a response.

      Keep doing so. If you get a reasonably intelligent person on the help line, tell them you spoke with the owner and he didn’t receive the inquiry. Tell them you want to know why the inquiry didn’t go through. And simply keep after them.

      Make five inquiries on your own listing using a VPN services, one that allows you to access the internet through different locations, and see how many responses you get. Always use a different name and email address to make the inquiry. Then go after them with the results. They can’t ignore the math and proof if you have it.

      This is one of the dangers of them hiding and masking email addresses. What happens if their system brakes down?

      Interestingly enough, I received a call just the other day from a prospective guest who said he sent me an inquiry through their system, and never got a reply. This is an issue because I ALWAYS reply to guest inquiries. I checked my records, and I did not receive an inquiry from this particular guest, even checking on the VRBO site. I don’t think the guest is lying. He called them to ask about not getting a reply, and they told him to call me directly, which he did. We had a nice discussion, but I wonder about that.

      Sometimes guests will simply enter the wrong return email address when making an inquiry, so of course they won’t receive a response!

      I truly doubt that they would be misdirecting your inquiries, but could their system be broken? Absolutely! I don’t trust their maintenance and programming skills at all!

      Good luck with getting it sorted out.

  7. Aloha All!

    I have read through this entire discussion and it seems we are all quite frustrated with Homeaway. Hoping that through discussions like this, we might get their attention! Dealing with Homeaway for me is like having to call the cable company! We don’t get any answers!

    Warmest Aloha,

    Pattie

  8. Jennifer says:

    Very interesting thanks for the contributions.
    Just 5 cents worth from downunder. VRBO was a wilderness site for guests seeking Aussie homes. I made a punt that the biggest site in USA would get bigger here. So I joined when only 2 listings on for my city. I was promised if I joined then and there, I would be listed 3rd spot for all time, on the classic listing. Or if I was first to buy top tier, I would be there for life. I spent around $2000 over 2-3 yrs with VRBO for ONE booking. As it turned out I was right. VRBO took off. Then HA buys them and changes the rules. My early investment a waste of $$$.

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