Although vacation rentals owners should not rely on FREE vacation rental listings sites to generate the majority of their bookings, they can be helpful in filling vacancies. However, how do you go about selecting the most appropriate FREE vacation rentals sites for your vacation rental?
To start with, FREE vacation rental listings sites come in various forms. The type of free sites you should choose depends on the objectives and expectations you have for your listing on that vacation rental site.
Firstly, there are new sites, who are seeking to build up the number of vacation rental listings on their site. In order to be attractive to renters, vacation rentals sites need to have a decent number of vacation rental properties listed. For new sites, the easiest way to generate new listings is to offer a free trial period, usually for a minimum of 6 months and often for more than 1 year. Once established with a strong pool of potential renters visiting each day, the intent is for the vacation rental site to begin charging vacation rental owners for their listings and ultimately reduce or eliminate the free trial periods.
Listing on these sites is somewhat of a long term bet. They are not likely to produce a lot of bookings in the short term, but as the site gets established in the vacation rentals market, they may well generate bookings for you.
Examples of this type of site are Villa Holiday Homes and Tenant.com, although there are many others. (You can find more information on these sites on the Compare Owner Holiday Rentals website.)
A second type of site that offers FREE vacation rentals listings is the permanently free site. These are funded either by advertising (e.g. Google ads) or offer the opportunity to upgrade your free listing to a paid listing. Generally, the sites that offer a free upgrade tend to be a better bet for generating bookings, particularly if there are not many other vacation rental properties in your location listed on that site.
An example of this type of vacation rentals site is Vacationrentals411, on which a basic listing is free, but which allows you to bid for a premium position in search results. (You can find a review of Vacationrental411 on the Compare Owner Holiday Rentals website.)
A third type of FREE vacation rental listing is the “free trial” offered by some of the established vacation rental sites. This is a “try before you buy” model, with the intent being that you should be sufficiently impressed by the level of enquiries and bookings for your vacation home during the trial period that you will go ahead and pay for a listing at the end of the trial period. Trial periods are usually relatively short (between 1 and 3 months).
These sites are generally quite effective at generating bookings, although once the free trial period is complete, you will then need to pay for your listing (and most sites can identify vacation rental owners who have previously availed of a free trial). For best use, I would recommend you sign up for these trials during the “busy” season for bookings in the location of your vacation rental: this has the highest chance of generating bookings and also provides the best test of whether this particular vacation rental site works for the location of your vacation rental.
Examples of this type of vacation rental sites are Homelidays and VacationHomeRentals. (You can find reviews of these sites on the Compare Owner Holiday Rentals website.)
Finally, there are sites which offer FREE classified listings. The most famous of these is Craigslist, although US Freeads is another popular example. The primary drawback with these sites is that you need to continually repost your listings, although they can be effective, particularly for filling specific vacancies at relatively short notice.
With all of these free options, why would anyone pay for their vacation rental home to be listed on a vacation rentals site?
The answer lies in the fact that most free vacation rental sites will generate fewer enquiries and bookings than the paid sites. However, it’s still worth listing your vacation rental home on several of these free vacation rental sites: after all, what do you have to lose?
(Research completed by Compare Owner Holiday Rentals shows that you should list on at least 3 paid sites, plus a number of free sites in order to optimize bookings. You can find more details in the articles section of the Compare Owner Holiday Rentals website.)