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Airbnb & VRBO: What to Know as a Host

Cozy and well-lit cabin interior with a kitchenette, loft ladder, and wooden furnishings, featuring a marble coffee table with books and an iced drink in the foreground.

In August 2008 in San Francisco, a startup launched that would change the vacation industry forever. A stranger rented an apartment space from the owner and paid them a fee for that stay. Airbnb was born and popularized the concept of the short-term rental business. However, many may not realize that a company called VRBO had already worked on this same concept before.

VRBO started in 1995 with the idea of pairing homeowners with families looking for a place to stay on vacation. The very name VRBO stands for “Vacation Rentals by Owner” and currently boasts a collection of more than 2 million homes for rent on its platform. Both companies are interesting for homeowners, also known as “hosts”, to consider putting their property out for rent. 

Considering Your Target Audience

Hosts must consider their target customers before renting out their property on either service. It is important to consider this because VRBO and Airbnb tend to appeal to different audiences. For example, VRBO is known to appeal to more family-oriented and older audiences. These individuals are willing to pay extra to have an entire house rented just for themselves. On the other hand, Airbnb has a broader appeal to those looking for a bargain on their rental. Additionally, Airbnb users are sometimes willing to rent a single room in a house, condo, or guesthouse to save money. 

Depending on your property, you may find it suits one service over the other.

Here are some of the reasons why you should consider putting your property on Airbnb: 

  • You want to rent out your property to as many tenants as possible
  • You would like to continue to live in your property and just rent out individual rooms
  • You are willing to accept smaller payments for higher volume

On the other hand, you might consider placing your property on VRBO if the following apply:

  • Your property is particularly family-friendly
  • You are interested in renting out a rental property or secondary property 
  • You want to maximize the amount that you can charge for the rental 

Each option is worthy of consideration, but each will likely be more useful for certain types of properties depending on the nature of those properties. 

How is Your Homeowners Insurance Impacted by Setting up a Rental?

You should understand that your current homeowner’s insurance policy will likely not cover your property if you set it up as an Airbnb or VRBO rental.

If you rent out your property regularly, a standard homeowners policy likely won’t provide adequate coverage. Home insurance policies often exclude liability coverage — including bodily injury and property damage — for any business activity run from the home. If you are relying solely on your home policy for protection, you may be at risk of being underinsured.

Therefore, you might want to look at something known as a home-sharing insurance policy. These policies are crafted to protect those who intend to rent out their properties on either Airbnb, the VRBO platform, or both. Several things might happen when renting out your property to tenants who have found your property on either of those platforms. When you get your hands on a home-sharing policy, you will have extra liability and damage coverage that you wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Risks Faced by Airbnb and VRBO Hosts

It is fair to say that there are significant risks faced by both Airbnb and VRBO hosts. This is not the kind of business you can get involved in without seriously considering these challenges. 

Property Damage 

The first risk that most think of when they set up their Airbnb or VRBO rental is the risk of a guest damaging their property. Whether the damage is accidental or intentional, the cost of such damage can be significant. Therefore, hosts should consider purchasing extra insurance coverage to protect the property from the potential of a guest causing damage. 

Guest Injuries

It is scary to think about a guest in your rental property getting injured during their stay. You can be liable for the injuries and related costs associated with those injuries. Some of the most common things that could potentially result in a guest getting injured include the following:

  • Trampoline
  • Hot tubs or pools
  • Fireplaces
  • Stoves
  • Uneven surfaces

Any host with these things on their property should take extra measures to warn guests about the dangers of these features. Alternatively, they might want to eliminate these options from their property in the first place. 

Theft

Letting a stranger into your property might be asking for trouble. There will always be the possibility that they might attempt to steal from you. This might become particularly appealing to some if they see your personal property of high value lying around. Always store your most valuable possessions away from your rental property. At the same time, you might want to add a rider to your insurance policy to cover your items of value. 

Squatters 

In extreme cases, there are situations when a squatter might try to take over your property from you. This happened to a Pennsylvania man when he rented out his property and ended up with a squatter problem that last more than 8 months. The man had to sue the occupant to throw him out of his own house! 

These types of things are not common, but they are yet another thing to be concerned about if you are about to begin your venture into renting out your property on VRBO or Airbnb. 

All in all, it is fair to say that turning your property into an Airbnb or VRBO property can be an excellent way to generate more income than you otherwise would have had before. At the same time, there are risks and considerations to make before pulling the trigger. Make sure you are covered with the right insurance coverage before putting your first listing up on Airbnb or VRBO. 

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