- Kelly Marohl started renting out her property in Ocean City, Maryland, on Airbnb and Vrbo in 2021.
- She likes Airbnb better because of the app and the fact that she gets more bookings there.
- Here's her story, as told to writer Robin Madell.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kelly Marohl, a 33-year-old who rents out a property in Ocean City, Maryland, on Airbnb and Vrbo. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
In addition to running a motherhood and baby website, I also manage a rental property in Ocean City, Maryland. My husband and I purchased our property, which sits on the beach, when COVID-19 started in 2020, with little plans to rent it out.
However, we also purchased our new primary home in Severna Park, Maryland — which is a little over two hours from our rental property — around the same time, and it's a big renovation project.
After hearing the going rate for weekly rentals in our neighborhood, we knew it was too much to pass up. Our plan is to use our rental profits to pay for the entire renovation on our primary home.
Our beach house is listed on both Airbnb and Vrbo online rental platforms. I actually planned to start out just using Vrbo and posted our listing there first on December 2021. Vrbo has a reputation of having very family-friendly users, and I liked that.
But shortly after listing on Vrbo, I read that it's best to cross-promote on both platforms, so not long after that I set up our listing on Airbnb, too.
I prefer to use Airbnb to manage my year-round rentals
For starters, I receive way more bookings through Airbnb than on Vrbo. We're currently accommodating four to six bookings per month and will finish the year with around 50 total. Only five of those are through Vrbo, while Airbnb remains our top platform for the remainder of our bookings.
Before I started managing my own property, I was a user of both platforms myself. I always just thought of Vrbo as the go-to platform for weekly beach rentals. In my mind, Airbnb was known for quicker, more frequent stays. I think I get more year-round bookings on Airbnb because the short-term rental market views them the same way.
Because of this, overall, I spend most of my time and energy on Airbnb. On average, I spend between five and 10 hours a week directly on the Airbnb platform, versus maybe an hour on Vrbo. Usually, this time is spent answering message inquiries, sending arrival instructions for upcoming stays, and communicating check-out reminders.
I find the Vrbo owner mobile app is way clunkier and less user friendly than the Airbnb mobile app
For instance, when messaging on Airbnb's app, you'll find nice icons at the bottom for quick replies, sending images, scheduling messages, and sharing recommendations with guests. Each user's photo is shown at a good size next to their message, and overall, it's a colorful display. Meanwhile, Vrbo messenger is all black, gray, and white, and they have two basic buttons that just read "use template" and "attach file."
Finally, I love that Airbnb gives hosts a 3% host commission option and lets the guest pay the rest. Vrbo requires an 8% host fee (commission plus payment processing), which slowly affected my bottom line.
For example, the average weekly stay at our property costs $7,000. Vrbo collects $560 on each of these bookings, whereas Airbnb takes just $210 for the same booking from us. A $350 difference may not sound like a lot, but losing 5% from our bottom line over the course of a full year really adds up.
My No. 1 piece of advice for renting out your property on either platform is to invest in professional photos
I see so many listings with dark, unattractive cellphone photos. If you want to attract the maximum amount of listing views, you need to have bright, clear photos of your home to entice people to click on your listing over another.
You should also start small. Maybe it's not your goal to make your home a full-blown rental property, and that's okay. You can start off by simply collecting enough "side hustle" money to cover your car payment, groceries, or maybe even your mortgage.
Do you make money on Airbnb or Vrbo and have a story to tell? Email [email protected].