#BookDirect – Jamaica Villa Rental Guest Awareness Day
First things first: Yes, you can easily save up to 15% (up to $499) on your next vacation rental.
All you have to do is book direct with me, Cavel. Yes, it’s that easy.
But first, are you interested in the details on that $499 fee you’re now paying? Here are a few things you should know:
From Listing to Booking
Over the last few years, HomeAway, VRBO, Airbnb, and other major vacation rental listing sites have changed their business model. While they were once straight advertising/listing sites – basically, online vacation rental classifieds – they have slowly evolved into booking engines, similar to Hotels.com.
So what?, you say, you like online booking via credit card.
So do we. But that’s not the change that concerns us. These are:
1. You’re Now Paying up to $499, Per Booking, in Service Fees
Have you noticed the new HomeAway and VRBO service fee? It was introduced in 2016. Essentially, in exchange for the convenience of booking online, HomeAway and VRBO (owned by HomeAway) now charge an average of 5-12% on top of each booking. And beware: Fees can go higher than 15%, and they top out at $499 per booking.
Put in real numbers, when you book a $2,000 vacation rental on HomeAway or VRBO, you’ll now pay up to $240 extra (or more, depending on HomeAway’s algorithms) for that privilege.
The Airbnb guest service fee is calculated at 5-15% percent. Again, on that $2,000 rental, be prepared to pony up an additional $100-$300, just for the privilege of booking via Airbnb.
2. They Hide Your Contact Information
In the past, we could chat before your booking. You could ask us questions, we could answer. We could point you to our website, send a link to photo albums, invite you to give us a call, and send emails back and forth.
In June 2017, HomeAway laid down a new law: No more pre-booking contact. No more one-on-one phone discussions about properties that interest you. No more back-and-forth emails. I’m not even allowed to send you my free Jamaica travel guide.
3. No Discounts Allowed
Here’s a new one: The new rules make it nearly impossible for owners to offer deals or special discounts, including senior discounts or military discounts. Owners have reported that, if the online messaging/rate system catches us trying to give you a deal, the site will simply increase the service fee and bring the total back to the original amount. It’s lose-lose, at least for you and me.
4. Customer Service Isn’t What You Think
The big booking platforms would like you to think their 24/7 customer service is worth up to $499.
I don’t think it is. The booking process is automated, so unless you have an unusual problem there, you won’t need to contact the booking platform. And when it comes to staying in a home, how can customer service reps, located across the ocean and who have never been to my vacation rental, help you figure out the DVD player, or recommend the island’s best restaurants, or direct you to that beach you read about? They can’t.
Good owners, myself included, are already available to you. When you book with us, you have our phone numbers (or our property manager’s phone numbers). At Jamaica Ocean View Villa, there’s an entire staff on-call; you’ll never need to call Customer Service.
So that’s the long and the short of it: You’re now paying more to book vacation rentals on the big booking sites.
How to Safely Book a Vacation Rental Directly with an Owner
We’re here to help you understand the alternative options available! You can book securely and safely, directly with a vacation rental owner. Preferably on an owner’s Secure Certified Website or on a No-Fee Vacation Rental website. You’re sending thousands of dollars to a complete stranger to secure your dream Jamaica villa vacation so it’s wise to do a little research before handing over your money for the reservation. We’ve put together some quick tips on how to research a legitimate vacation rental owner.
Look for the HTTPS:// in front of the website address, this means the website has a security certification.
Look for social proof. Is the owner ready to tell you who they are on the ‘About Us‘ page? if you Google their name do they show up on professional websites like Linkedin? Have they been on Facebook for a lengthy period of time? Do their faces and names match?
Read reviews. The abundance of reviews will be an indicator of what kind of service you will get by booking directly with an owner in addition to how long they have been in business.
Google the name of the “house”. If you search up “Villa Serenity or Jamaica Ocean View Villa” as an example, you can instantly find all the locations where this property is listed and any press related to the villa or the owner.
Call the owner directly to ask questions. A legitimate property owner will be able to quickly and easily tell you their name, how long they have owned the house, locations of the nearest restaurants, hospitals, or any other question you may want to throw at them. If they can’t easily answer you they may be a scammer posing as an owner.
- Google the address of the home on Google Maps. Does the exterior satellite-street view match the photos advertised?
Use a secure payment platform when handing over money to an owner. Credit cards are a great way to ensure your payment is secure and protected against fraud (check your credit card details before paying to ensure you have proper coverage should something go awry. Wiring money in our opinion is not a good idea. It can’t be traced or returned.
If you are still not sure, ask for references of past guests. Any professional vacation rental owner will be able to put you into contact quickly with past guests.
- If the owner is pressuring you into a decision this could be a red flag. It’s true that during high season rentals do book quickly, but if an ‘owner’ keeps pressuring you to book it may be a sign that they are trying to scam and dash so to speak.
If a vacation rental looks like an incredibly low price compared to what the property offers it may be another red flag. Scammers try to lure travelers into booking before they are found out and shut down. Advertising ridiculously low prices is a red flag that something isn’t right.
Ask for and carefully read the rental contract. If an owner doesn’t have one, this is another red flag. Respected owners want to minimize risk and to do this a detailed rental contract is a legal document that ensures the renter and owner understand exactly what rules to follow and what risks are evident. An owner who has a poorly written rental contract with grammatical errors could be a sign that you are communicating with a scammer.
If you believe that you have been scammed it’s a great idea to report it to the government below to lodge a complaint. It’s also a good idea to contact the advertising platform to inform them of the fraud so that they can take the appropriate steps to remove the listing and cooperate with the authorities if necessary.
What You Can Do with Traveler Service Fee Savings
So let’s have some fun and imagine what you could do by saving this amount of money on your next vacation?
We’ve come up with a fun list of things like horseback riding, parasailing, chartering a boat, enjoying a tour, catamaran cruise, or zip-lining, and more.
This type of money could even be used to buy your groceries. How about a little shopping spree? Enough talking, let’s do it.
.#BookDirect Day ~ Special Promotion
How to Save Money (and Have a Better Experience)
Okay, so you know you don’t want to pay a booking fee. You know you want to talk with an owner before you book. How do you go about that?
Simple. Just take the home’s name (ex. Jamaica Ocean View Villa) and Google it. Find the home’s website or Facebook page. The owner’s details, including contact information, will be right there – front and center.
Call. Email. Contact us however you please. And when you book, know that you’re not paying anything for the privilege of booking.