How to Start a Lucrative Vrbo Business

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Young woman standing with a suitcase at her vacation rental

Property Profits

The prospect of raking in hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars in extra cash every month renting out a home through Vrbo or Airbnb is an enticing one. But the process is complicated. Hosts have to contend with local regulations, taxes, competitive rental markets, marketing, and more. This guide tries to make it easier, using Vrbo and Airbnb documentation, firsthand host experiences, and other online resources to illuminate the process. Here's how to start a profitable Vrbo business.

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Research Local Laws and Regulations

Is owning a Vrbo home rental worth it? That depends, in part, on local regulations. Some cities have strict short-term rental laws and high taxes, which might dissuade you from setting up a Vrbo business. In San Francisco, for example, owners have to apply for a short-term rental certificate, including a $250 nonrefundable application fee. In any case, you'll want to research local laws to know what you're getting into. Vrbo's help page provides some guidance about rentals in Mexico City, San Francisco, and France. Airbnb also has a helpful list of cities and local laws, which, while tailored to Airbnb hosts, is applicable to Vrbo properties.

Related: Airbnb Guests Share Their 'Most Common Complaints'

Vrbo Screenshot
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Explore the Rental Market

Spend some time on Vrbo's website and explore your rental market. Looking through other listings will give you an idea of how much you can charge per night and how much competition you'll face. Vrbo also has a tool to estimate how much you can earn from a short- or long-term rental, though you'll have to make an account to see the results. Once you log in, you can use Vrbo's MarketMaker tool, a pricing tool that uses real-time data to come up with a listing price.

Related: Best Vacation Rentals With Indoor Pools

Doing taxes

Budget Your Expenses

Prepare to spend time and money on your rental listing before you make a cent. Not only will you have to budget for fees and taxes, but you'll also have to stock your space with essentials such as toilet paper, basic cookware, and pantry items. To list with Vrbo, you have to pay either a $499 annual subscription or a 8% fee on each booking. As for guest essentials, the company has its own checklist for hosts unsure what to provide.

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Prepare Your Home

If you want to get bookings, it's important to provide amenities — and no detail is too small. For instance, potential guests can narrow their results to properties that provide a kettle and blender. Other nice-to-have amenities include USB chargers, power strips, and a hair dryer, according to Airbnb experts. “Try staying in the space yourself, so you'll know if you're missing a bottle opener or don't have enough crockery,” one host suggests.

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Charday Penn/istockphoto

Set Up Your Listing

Once you're confident that listing your property is worth the investment, make an account on Vrbo and start setting up your listing. Their website has a thorough checklist of tasks to complete before going live, including choosing rates, picking dates, and writing a description.

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Market Your Listing

If you want your listing to stand out, you'll have to market your property — and that begins with high-quality photos. “I am a vacation rental marketing consultant, and trust me when I tell you it is 100% worth it to have a real estate photographer take photos for you,” one host on Reddit wrote. The listing's description and title are equally important. You'll want to be concise, informational, and eye-catching, limiting yourself to 700 to 1,000 characters, according to Vrbo's website. If you prefer to learn by example, take a look at succesful listings in your area.

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Ask Veteran Hosts

Ask veteran hosts for tips on Reddit or Facebook, where there are multiple Vrbo and Airbnb-focused forums. Keep in mind that there's overlap between many of the rental platforms, so the information is often universal. Popular groups include r/Vrbo, r/Airbnb, and Short-Term Rental Discussion on Facebook.

House Keys

The Bottom Line

Starting a lucrative Vrbo business won't be easy. But if you do your research, make a budget, and put in the time to market your listing, you could set up a reliable stream of income. Many of those same tips also apply to other home-sharing and rental platforms, though we also have an Airbnb-specific guide. To find out which website is best for you, check out Host Tools' detailed comparison.