Comparing Short Term Home Rental Services

Millennials are not the only generation to have embraced the use of short term home rentals for vacation getaways. Baby Boomers are a growing segment of the market. If you haven’t tried “home sharing” here is an essentials primer and comparison.

What home sharing sites do

Home sharing sites provide a venue for people seeking travel accommodations to link up with homeowners for short term rentals. These homeowners make all or a part of their home available to guests as a way to earn income. Typically these are for 30 days or less, often for vacation trips. The websites list the properties and seekers use search criteria to find properties that match their criteria. These sites provide a service to both parties: travelers find a unique place to stay, often less expensively than a hotel, and homeowners monetize their property with a supply of customers.


Airbnb allows you to rent a full house or even just an owner’s spare bedroom, guest cottage or apartment. Airbnb lists 5 million accommodations worldwide, even including tree houses and castles!

Airbnb offers the opportunity to to stay in a property where sometimes you meet your hosts, ask questions and even get advice on local amenities and sights or assistance with some needs if they are capable. Because Airbnb rents a full house, or an apartment or even just spare room, the types of accommodations are very diverse.

The search filter is similar to that of a hotel. You can read reviews of properties by previous guests.  The “experiences” section allows you to research nearby attractions. You can arrange restaurant reservations through the site. For hosts there is a community page where owners can post tips and answer questions for one another to help provide the best  experience for both guests and hosts alike.

Guest have the ability to review a property after successful checkout.

Costs: Airbnb charges both parties to the transaction. Guests are charged between 5 and 20 percent of the booking and hosts are charged 3 percent. You will not be charged extra for little perks like bottled water and snacks.Generally Airbnb will be cheaper than hotels.

Homeaway and VRBO

We look at these two together because Homeaway owns VRBO, which stands for Vacation Rental By Owner. The key difference between Airbnb and Homeaway/VRBO is that VRBO only offers full house rentals. Thus VRBO is a more expensive experience and is better suited for finding group accommodations such as for a family reunion or vacation. You will have the whole property to yourselves. You can search both services on one site.

VRBO’s search filter allows you to not only search by location but by type of locations, such as beach or mountain settings. In fact you can get very granular with search options, including accommodations with barbeque grills, big screen TVs and more. VRBO also has reviews by guests after check out,  but with the added feature whereby the owner can reply to guest comments.

Costs: VRBO charges a 6 to 12 percent rental fee to travelers. Owners pay an annual subscription service fee of $499 and 5 percent fee per booking.


We’re all familiar with the hotel experience and there are still things appealing about hotel stays. You can check in at any time. If you stay often with a particular brand you may have reward points that you can redeem. You can get last minute deals on hotel rooms through sites like Expedia and Priceline. A hotel will rent a room for cheap at the last minute rather than let it go unoccupied for the night. Daily maid service and room service are pretty nice.

Know what you are buying

Read reviews of any property you are considering for rental.

Be certain that you read and understand additional fees and the cancellation policy. Additional fees would include cleaning fees with the home rentals to make your accommodation ready for your arrival,

Understanding the cancellation policy is very important. All three home sharing sites give property owners a tiered level of strictness on cancellation refunds, from “Relaxed” to “Very Strict”. When you cancel is usually the biggest determining factor on how much of a refund you can receive. Read this policy carefully before booking.

All three sites will off trip insurance as part of the rental process, which you would be wise to accept. You should also read and understand the policy on liability if you damage the property while there.