My name is Rex Brown. I live in Australia, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I run two of my holiday rentals here on the coast, and another in inner Melbourne . They are all quite different, but they all run at high occupancy. They are the sandpit that I play in, running constant experiments about what works and what doesn’t.

Optimizing your vacation rental for HomeAway



For local inhabitants and businesses, the disaster is also economic. Florida is a big travel market. With great beaches and world-famous attractions such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, the state attracts many families who book a vacation rental for their stay. Cities like Orlando and Kissimmee usually rank high in market size for vacation rental revenues.

We continue with our series on optimizing your performance on the big listing sites – this week HomeAway.  It has similar opportunities to the others, but a whole arsenal of extra tools to help you improve.

Best match search

The algorithm assesses guest preferences from past behavior, e.g. prefers detached houses to condos. It then shows guests properties that match their preferences as well as specified dates, bedrooms, etc. These are ranked on various other factors listed below. This all means that ranking is complicated!

Ranking factors

Reviews, declines and cancellations, response rate, instant book, calendars, price, and appeal.

Many of these are reported back to you in your dashboard, so you can see how you are performing. There are few guidelines on most of these, whereas Airbnb gives implied guidance via eligibility criteria for superhost status.


You should have at least 12 reviews, preferably recent, the higher the score the better. HomeAway has found properties having over 20 reviews will have 80% better performance than others. Clearly, asking guests directly will get you more reviews, and rating the guest will prompt them to review you. Clearly, giving them a great experience will score you higher.

Declines and cancellations

The fewer booking requests you decline, and the fewer times you cancel a booking, the better.

Response rate

You should respond to booking requests and inquiries within 24 hours. The faster you respond, the more professional you will appear to prospective guests.

Instant book on

Apparently, this will rank you higher. The system will also expose you to many Expedia searchers outside HomeAway.

As described for Airbnb, instant book may not be appropriate for larger properties and remote properties vulnerable to party guests, and owners should decide based on risk rather than a small chance of extra bookings.


They should be updated frequently. If not updated for 60 days, ranking will suffer, and you may even be removed from the search results.


Price is included in your ranking, particularly if you are way out of step with competitors. There is a pricing tool to help you see how the market is moving, e.g. for busy periods.


How your listing appeals to guests won’t be reflected in ranking but will impact the number of bookings you get. Factors include whether your title gets attention, whether your photos are high quality and make you stand out, whether your description is appealing, the facilities on offer, your host profile, your pricing, your minimum nights stay.

How do you know how you appeal to guests compared to your competition?

This is where HomeAway shines. It has several tools that show how you’re performing compared to other listings in your area.

Win/loss cards

These posts in your feed show how you fared (won/lost) compared to another listing that was being considered by the same guest. If you lost, i.e. you weren’t booked—great. You can look at the winner and see what they were offering compared to yourself. What was appealing? You can have a shot at figuring it out. All the way from title, description, and photos to pricing.

Comparative set

You can define a “comparative set” of properties similar to your own that you can compare yourself to on your dashboard. You can see how you are ranking on various factors compared to your set competitors. Any discrepancies, e.g. for your response rate, will help you work on things you can change.


You can have a description 70 characters long. HomeAway suggests it be catchy, and it includes special facilities or local attractions. Yes, it’s helpful to compare titles when you lose on your win/lose card.

Leakage via your property name

The big opportunity that is not mentioned by HomeAway, for obvious reasons, is to include your brand name in the title—e.g. “Millys Place.” That way, a smart prospective guest who doesn’t want to pay a service fee can choose to not put in a booking request, but contact you direct via your own “Millys Place” external website. That’s “leakage” from the HomeAway system to you.

Key takeaway: HomeAway has a powerful set of tools to help you determine how you are faring compared to your competitors, and to discover ways of improving.

This article is taken from my upcoming book, Vacation Rental Mastery


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