You don't mind paying a few extra hundred dollars on your next Eleuthera vacation rental, do you? According to HomeAway & VRBO you don't. They have actually said that "travelers don't mind paying a service fee". I'm not sure why paying them a fee is better for you especially when you are renting from an owner directly whether you know it or not!
In February 2016 HomeAway & VRBO rolled out a new Service Fee that they are charging to travelers who book through their websites. While they say the fee will range between 4% and 9%, they calculate the fee based on the amount of rent and additional fees charged by the owner for property maintenance (cleaning fees, etc.). Most recently they've raised the service rates to 5% to 20%. Thin about it. It may cost you as much as 20% more simply for locating the property on their website. If the weekly rental rate is $3,000 and there are another $400 in fees for cleaning, laundry, etc., the Service Fee could be as much as $680. Your $3,400 rental could cost you more than $4,000 and you aren't even getting any additional benefit or value added service from the middleman - VRBO, AirBnB, HomeAway, TripAdvisor.
The Service Fee they are charging the travelers is for booking through their site and they keep it all. The homeowner gets none of it. However, they label it simply as “Service Fee” in their site to further confuse the vacationer. Understandably, renters are being misled, as they think the homeowner is charging this Service Fee, and are unaware that it is being charged by the middleman, HomeAway, and the homeowner has no control over it.
In some instances, travelers don't even know they are paying a Service Fee because HomeAway & VRBO don't disclose it and have even gone to great lengths to conceal what it is for. So, if "travelers don't mind paying a service fee", why hide it or own up to it in the first place?
While some homeowners have sought to offer clarification in their listings or communications with travelers, HomeAway has penalized them and even gone so far as removing rental listings if a listing contains mention of the fee or if they try to discuss this with renters directly. In other words, homeowners are penalized for trying to help THEIR customers until the middleman gets their fees.
Limiting What you See
HomeAway is attempting to hamper any effort for travelers to avoid paying the Service Fee. They block exchanging telephone numbers and email addresses from the two parties who are conducting business. The only way travelers can contact owners is through their system and it is under constant surveillance. Phone numbers and email addresses are stripped out of communications and homeowners are penalized if they try to circumvent the system. It is now common practice with these vendors that contact information (name, email address, telephone number) are hidden from the homeowners until the traveler books, leaving monitored communication through their platform as the only way to exchange information.
Many owners have begun listing their vacation rentals on alternative sites, creating their own sites, and using Facebook pages to help fill vacancies and so that travelers can reserve a property without paying the excessive Service Fees.
What Can the Traveler Do?
If you find an Eleuthera vacation rental on HomeAway or VRBO, don't immediately book it. Instead, search this site, where you can book it without paying the Service Fee. If it is not listed on our site, contact the owner and tell them to list their rental here so you can book it without paying the Service Fee.