Vacasa is another vacation rental business but they have a unique model that causes unique problems.
In the growing world of home vacation rentals, Vacasa is a newer entrant and fits into the market differently than other competing firms like Airbnb and VRBO. What makes Vacasa different is that they focus on the management of the experience for real estate owners and attracting guests is secondary.
Vacasa’s value proposition is to market vacation homes both directly, but also on other sites and handle the property management by assembling local teams in concentrated markets like Ocean City, Maryland, Central Florida, and Galveston, Texas.
Passing The Buck (or Rental)
This week, we attended a family vacation in which VRBO was the provider for the home rented. However, once the reservation was confirmed, VRBO passed it off to Vacasa for completion. This hand-off also resulted in an extra service fee paid to Vacasa. Despite two travel agents in the party and two travel agency owners in attendance (including the owner of Scott & Thomas Travel Personalized), we found the process confusing and unnecessary.
Further, the home, while lovely, had some issues operationally. We had some technological concerns, and some functionality issues – we needed to lean on the service side of their offering which they claim is their greatest strength. We called in to Vacasa for support, and were passed to around before an agent on the other end of the phone laughed her way through the call. It was the kind of customer service call that moved from private to speakerphone because our caller was so shocked she was being laughed at by support.
The customer support person, which Vacasa clearly claims is run by “local teams”, didn’t know what time zone the home was in (caller ID or the listing would have told them this if they bothered) yet claimed that they would have support out by 9 (they said PM initially, then when corrected by our caller, changed it to AM.) It was Saturday over a holiday weekend so we naturally doubted this would be the case, but weren’t prepared for them when they arrived well into the afternoon.
Two service professionals were called out, one of which arrived to address the wifi issue and just called the internet service provider himself. That had to be one expensive signal ping for the homeowner.
Once it had been handed over to Vacasa, who do we follow up with for service? And if we just end up working through the process with the local management team anyway, then why pass it off to Vacasa at all? We learned from the local service professionals that VRBO handles properties in the area prior to Memorial Day weekend and Vacasa takes over during the “high season.” With our stay overlapping before and after the holiday, our booking was a little more complex for the two companies. But many others have booked this weekend as well, it’s one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. It may make sense for Vacasa to take over the high season generally, but perhaps that should take place days prior and end days after to avoid this issue.
In trying to make things easier, it made things harder and for the property owner, more costly. They had the second commission to pay, then the service calls which could have been easily handled with the property owner directly.
Why Bother With Vacasa?
For the property owner, Vacasa likely succeeds in reducing stress and cutting out the details that go along with managing individual stays. It’s yet another commission on top of homestay rental companies, but a reduction of effort required to operate a vacation rental business on your own.
For consumers, there should be a greater level of technological enhancement with app integration and smart home products that work. This is the right idea (and one that Airbnb and VRBO should adopt for more and more vacation rentals) but it only works if they deliver. Failing to execute these concepts adds an unnecessary layer to the rental mix that can cause issues for consumers and thus, property owners.
If I was the homeowner, perhaps I would appreciate the ease of using Vacasa to get my listings out to more rental sites. I might gladly pay the extra commission and even for the simple service calls if I didn’t have to think about my listing or deal with guests. I could factor that into my cost. As a guest, this experience was overly complicated contrasting the company’s selling proposition of making the process simple. They failed to deliver that simpler service.
What do you think? Have you tried Vacasa? Did you have similar issues or a smoother experience?