Airbnb, Vrbo, and Vacasa vacation rental fees make hotels seem like a bargain

Ovi Kabir, a digital marketing consultant in Knoxville, Tennessee, was unpleasantly surprised while searching for an Airbnb for a recent trip to Nashville. While he was able to find options under his budget of $ 85 a night, a cleaning fee of $ 200 to $ 300 drastically increased the price of a weekend getaway.

“I understand that there may be reasons for this, but we have found the hotels to be much more accommodating and affordable,” Kabir said.

Kabir booked his first Airbnb a few years ago in Orlando, Florida. He remembers paying around $ 50 a night for private dog-friendly accommodation, a godsend in the eyes of a college couple broke with Harry Potter dreams. “Our universal [Studios] tickets cost more than our entire stay, ”he said.

Also see: Is Airbnb Too Expensive? CEO plans ‘systematic price update’ as travel recovers

Kabir has since gotten used to paying anywhere from $ 100 to $ 110 a night for an upgraded hotel room with breakfast, cleaning, gyms, swimming pools and more. “Before, you used to give up on amenities but save money,” Kabir said. “Now you pay the same price, but you get more for your money in hotels. “

Overall, cleaning fees for short-term rentals have increased an average of 5.8% in the United States since 2019, according to AirDNA, an analytics company that tracks data from Airbnb and Vrbo, an Expedia-owned vacation home rental website.

This increase is due in part to a preference for larger spaces in the holiday markets, places where AirDNA shows cleaning costs are already generally higher. The emphasis on cleanliness also played a role.

“Cleaning costs are expected to increase throughout a pandemic, as customer expectations for cleanliness have also increased, which means more time and labor required to meet these more standards. high, ”AirDNA said.

The average cleaning fee for a short-term rental of an entire room is currently between $ 48 and $ 112 per night, depending on location. In a large urban city like New York, the average is just under $ 76, according to AirDNA data.

Larger homes generally charge a higher cleaning fee, especially when they are by the beach. The average cleaning fee for an entire home rental of five or more bedrooms in a coastal area is just over $ 381, reports AirDNA.

Cleaning is a one-time charge, but it does count towards the customer service charge. The higher the cleaning fee, the higher the service charge a guest can expect to pay in addition to their room rate per night and any other charges that may apply. Most customers end up paying a service charge of around 14.2%, Airbnb said.

Vrbo started charging customers a variable service fee in 2016. The percentage of this fee depends on the cost of the rental and is collected in addition to cleaning, hot tub or other fees charged and set by owners. “We saw that not having a service charge didn’t create a brand difference that significantly resulted in bookings,” Vrbo wrote in a guide to helping hosts in Australia understand the charges.

Vacasa, an Oregon company that operates more than 25,000 vacation rentals, charges guests a separate booking and cleaning fee. In some states, customers must also pay additional damage waiver fees. Additional charges also apply for properties with hot tubs and for those traveling with pets.

The company did not respond to interview requests for this article, but defended its spa fees online, describing spas as “a treat” on Twitter in 2019. “Spas are being used well, and we need to clean up. , drain, and maintain them to keep them in good condition, ”Vacasa tweeted in response to someone who posted a screenshot showing a hot tub fee of $ 98 for a $ 118-a-night property with an additional cleaning fee of $ 102.50.

Teddy Montoya said he was still scarred by the expense of a 2017 work trip to Keystone, a popular ski destination in the Rocky Mountains. Montoya and his colleagues decided to save the boss money by booking a six-bedroom house on Airbnb instead of individual hotel rooms for a conference. The plan backfired. Between the service charge, the cleaning fee, and the taxes, the house ended up costing more.

“It was kind of our fault,” Montoya said. “We didn’t look too far into the fine print.” He now leans towards hotels. “They tend to be cheaper than Airbnb and Vrbo.”

This has become especially true in some high-priced cities. In San Francisco, for example, average hotel rates per night in 2020 fell to about half the price of comparable Airbnbs, according to an analysis by bus and train travel comparison site Wanderu.

This analysis, published in October 2020, showed that Airbnb rentals in Chicago were 21% more expensive than hotel rooms in the Windy City. In Miami, travelers can expect to pay 64% more for an Airbnb than for a hotel, according to Wanderu.

While Vacasa sets its own cleaning fees, Airbnb and Vrbo do not cap the cleaning fees that hosts can set. “Hosts have to set their own cleaning fees because everyone is in a different position when it comes to cleaning,” Airbnb said in response to people complaining online about its pricing structure.

Almost half of Airbnb listings around the world choose not to charge a separate cleaning fee, the company said. For hosts who charge a separate cleaning fee, the figure is typically less than 10% of their total booking cost, Airbnb wrote.

Vrbo said last month that it is now seeing more and more travelers settling for seven-night stays instead of going for quick three-night getaways, an approach that would let guests pay a little less for cleaning every night.

On all vacation rental platforms, guests are free to set their own rates per night.

While Airbnb suggested a nightly rate of at least $ 120 for her one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, Trista Kempa set the price at $ 200 a night. “It’s definitely a high fee, but it has to be worth it to make me feel compelled to leave,” she said.

Living in New York City early in her career, Kempa began renting out her personal living space on Airbnb to subsidize her rent. As his career and salary grew, Airbnb became an option, not a necessity. She adjusted her prices accordingly.

Kempa adds a $ 190 cleaning fee on top of her rate per night – a figure based on supply costs, laundry prices, and the $ 150 she paid for the last professional cleaning of her apartment. “As the host, I don’t intend to shoot a quick one on the guest,” she said. “It’s going to cost me $ 190 to return this apartment. ”

Her approach also encourages longer stays, which is more convenient for her. “It’s not worth it for me for less than a few days,” she said. Not only is there a lot of prep and cleanup, there’s an intangible negative as well.

“You let someone sleep in your bed,” Kempa said. “That kind of shit.”

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