HomeAwayhas been taking great strides in becoming the go-to source for vacation rentals, having bought VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) last year and having expanded its websites (including HomeAway.com, VacationRentals.com, CyberRentals.com, A1Vacations.com, GreatRentals.com, TripHomes.com), to list between 80,000 to 240,000 properties, depending on how you count. Yesterday, the company announced a guarantee that makes renting a vacation condo less risky.
First, some background: What HomeAway wants to do is be like Craigslist—bringing together buyers and sellers in a way that makes it easier for everyone involved. The company attempts to vet its classified listings, but some fraudsters may get through. So the company has rolled out a new guarantee. If a listing on one of its sites turns out to be fraudulent, the company will offer you a refund of up to $5,000 in rental fees. (Find details on HomeAway's website.)
In another recent improvement, the company has introduced user-reviews to its site, so folks who have rented a house, villa, or apartment can rate the property in several different categories—including how accurate the initial posting was, and how true-to-life the photographs were. We thought it was very clever to make sure that only proven renters can post ratings. Second, the company hopes to soon introduce technology that will facilitate payments—so you can use your credit card, or PayPal, to pay for the rental (versus having to deal directly with the owner, or worse, bank transfers).
Most travelers get nervous at the thought of renting someone else's house; there are just so many variables. What HomeAway appears to be doing is overlaying the trust that any good brand can instill, so that travelers will believe that they're in capable hands. It's an effort that's certainly worth keeping an eye on.