Heading to London for the Olympic Games this summer but can’t find a hotel room? No problem. Renting a room, apartment, or entire house has never been easier, thanks to the abundance of vacation-rental sites.
One of the biggest players on the Continent is HomeAway; more than 50 percent of its 300,000-property inventory is in Europe—with a sizable selection both in the countryside and in urban areas. It’s getting competition these days from Airbnb, which started in 2008 as something of a domestic couch-surfing site, but now lists increasingly polished residences across the globe. Today a full 75 percent of its bookings are international, with Paris, London, Milan, Barcelona, and Amsterdam being the most popular cities. What’s more, you can now link up Airbnb with your Facebook profile to view properties listed by friends and friends of friends—taking some of the mystery (and anxiety) out of peer-to-peer rentals.
Thanks to a recent explosion of online booking sites, the $24 billion short-term rental market is now about one-fifth of all U.S. hotel-room revenue, according to Alexis de Belloy, a vice president at HomeAway and VRBO. De Belloy’s sites, which are among the first generation of online rental agencies, cater mainly to families looking to book entire houses—a great way to save money on the road. The success of HomeAway and VRBO has helped to launch a slew of home-rental sites, many of which serve travelers with ever more particular tastes and interests. With listings in 10,000 cities and counting, AirBnB is like eBay for rentals: each host has a profile with user reviews and images. Plus, everyone is encouraged to submit ratings after a visit, which maintains quality control. Roomorama and iStopOver provide similar offerings, with additional features such as the ability to post requests for specific types of accommodations, in case you want, say, organic food in the fridge or a toddler-friendly apartment. And finally, taking the house-swapping trend to a whole new level is Luxe Home Swap, which lets you trade stays at your chic place with one of thousands of comparably stylish options across the globe for an annual fee of $159. At press time, a high-design house in Tucson, Arizona, and a relaxed beach retreat on Isla Fuerte, in Colombia, were just two of the properties available.
Illustrated by Leif Parsons
When it comes to vacation rentals, we’re all familiar with hotels, resorts, villas, yurts, and boats. But what if you had the chance (and budget) to take it to the next level, and rent an entire country? (No, there’s no typo there. And yes, you read that right.)
Airbnb.com, a vacation rental site that lets people rent out their own properties to travelers looking to stray from the typical hotel stay, is really stepping up its game with this offer, which (literally) puts the key to the small country of Liechtenstein (which rests on Austria’s western border) in your hands. But you’ll need to be a high-roller (or at least have a ton of friends willing to pool resources) if you want take advantage; the cost is $70,000 per night.
New York Times (PARIS) — Many people buy a pied-à-terre in Paris to use for a few weeks a year and to rent the rest of the time. Most of them don’t realize, however, that they are breaking the law. Now, the city government is trying to address the problem with a more direct approach to enforcement.
Mayor Bertrand Delanoë ordered an agency last year to warn property owners that renting out residential apartments for less than a year at a time violated French law. The move was intended to address the lack of affordable housing in the city center. Those who ignored the warning, he said, would be prosecuted. (...)
But the rental industry in this most-visited city in the world is concerned and, as more owners slowly become aware of the issue, confusion is growing. A few have pulled their properties off the market, others have deleted addresses or other identifying details from Internet listings. And dozens of rental agencies have banded together to try to save their lucrative business.
Good news for those thinking about an affordable spring or summer rental. We learned this morning that HomeAway, one of the largest vacation rental companies, is expanding its offerings to include homes in South America. With its purchase of Brazil’s top rental site, AlugueTemporada.com.br, HomeAway, with more than 12,000 new properties to choose from, now has the most vacation rentals in the region—and some 453,000 additional homes spread across North America and Europe.
HomeAway appears to be on an acquisitions roll; the company also announced last week it purchased BedandBreakfast.com for an undisclosed sum.
Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.
Image courtesy of HomeAway