Since we developed Carolina Vacation Home Rentals in response to the detrimental changes to the industry caused by HomeAway & VRBO, we have received numerous inquiries on what what it would cost them to develop their own regional vacation rental site. They asked what script we used for our site and what is involved, and expressed frustration with the lack of options available for developing such a site, and the enormous expense they have been quoted from developers, which have ranged anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000.
Why regional sites? Several national vacation listing sites have been developed since HomeAway began it's changes however, a national site would require massive amounts of marketing dollars in order to be even remotely competitive. Regional sites, however, can target their marketing efforts on specific areas where typical vacationers come from, thus being more effective for far less money.
There are multiple scripts available that can be used for creating a regional vacation rental listing site. However, most of them are clones that come out of Asia, and are geared towards the AirBnB model, which does not suit what people are looking for. While AirBnB does have it's niche market, it often does not fit well with vacation rental owners in many aspects. The clone scripts require severe customization to fit the needs of vacation rental owners, which can easily run up the development costs. Some have also expressed frustration with difficult communication with the developers due to the language barriers.
A simpler option for some has been to use the WordPress platform and purchase an inexpensive theme. This is not an alternative we would ever consider, nor recommend in creating a viable regional vacation rental listing site.
Before we developed Carolina Vacation Home Rentals we evaluated all of the scripts that were available, and tested each one thoroughly, before choosing which script to use. Most of them would not do what was needed. The script we chose does everything that is required, and much more. We chose it because it was capable of being a back to basics HomeAway & VRBO type website, our ultimate goal, without forcing vacation rental owners into restrictive cancellation policies, being able to display contact information and not having to charge service fees among other things. The script is extremely versatile and contains a lot of additional functions that we disabled because they were not needed in what we were creating.
The script has an online quote system which we left entirely optional as to whether the vacation rental owner wants to use it. Some owners do, and some owners don’t. It generates a quick quote and then allows a person to request a booking. Visitors also still have the option of contacting the owner through the inquiry form as well or calling the owner. One of the goals for our site was to offer the options to the owners and leaving it up to them as to whether they would like to use the tools provided. Owners also have the option of whether they want to display their calendar, rates or phone number. We left it completely up to them.
Even though the script does have the capability of accepting online payments for bookings, after careful consideration, we decided not to offer an online payment system for bookings. After researching the matter and seeing what is happening with AirBnB and state tax authorities it really wasn’t something we wanted to delve into. There was too much uncertainty and possible liability. We leave it entirely up to the owners to use their own payment processing. This fits with our policy to allow vacation rental owners as much flexibility as possible without restricting them to any certain way to do things.
Other features we have in our site that are available with the script are:
1. SMS alert system. This sends the owners text alerts when an inquiry or booking request comes in so they can respond quickly. This is completely optional as to whether the vacation rental owner wants to use it or not.
2. Our calendars can sync with their calendars on VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, iCal, etc. Again, it is completely optional for the vacation rental owner as to whether they want to use it.
So, what would it cost for your to have your own Regional Vacation Rental Listing website using the script and method we used? Not as much as you think:
1. You will need a domain name, of course. This would run you about $15.00 per year.
2. You will need hosting with an SSL (Secured Socket Layer) Certificate. We recommend a dedicated IP address. Our hosting has a dedicated IP address and SSL. You can get this for around $125.00 per year. The reason an SSL would be needed is that Google is changing the way they list sites and those not SSL enabled will eventually be marked as unsafe.
3. You will need to purchase the Script from the developer. It runs around $250.00 for a lifetime license. You would also have to purchase the calendar sync module, which runs about $100.00. There would likely be another $100.00 or so paid to the developer for some customization that we were not able to make as portions of the script function files are encrypted and proprietary.
3. If you want to offer the SMS alerts you would need to use a third party service, which runs about $300 per year. We find this is a minimal expense to offer and a great tool to property owners.
So, your initial costs for all of the essential scripts and third party services for your site would run you less than $1,000.00, with annual recurring costs of about $500.00.
We spent many hundreds of hours customizing our site, look & feel, and to get it to operate as we wanted. As our site grew we made other modifications based on both owner and user experiences and asked owners for feedback and made adjustments based on their preferences. We still make tweaks as we feel are needed based upon how people interact and use our site.
Does that mean you would have to spend hundreds of hours on your own regional vacation rental listing site before it is even launched? Well, you could, but there is an easier way.
Once you have purchased the necessary scripts, the editable site files from our site, which have been customized, can then be used to overwrite your site files and tweaked accordingly. This saves a lot of time of having to manually customize your site and do everything we did for ours. However, there is still a lot of manual configuration that has to be done setting up regions, rental types, guides, adverts, features, activities etc. However, as we are intimately familiar with the script and it's capabilities, we can get this done faster than you would if you were to have to learn the system from scratch.
If you wanted to take the quick route and have use do the setup and customization for you, the cost would be $1,000.00 for us to customize your site and get it up and running. That's less than $2,000.00 startup cost for your own Regional Vacation Rentals Website. We could have your site completed in several weeks.
We do need to let you know that operating a regional vacation rental listing site does require some time be put into it. It is not a static site that you can build and just let go on it's own. You will have some interactions with property owners and site visitors. So, if you are not able to devote time to the site this may not be a good option for you. It is a business opportunity and like any business, it requires nurturing and attention.
You will also find that there will be some expenses for marketing your site. This may be in the form of ads on search engines or social media, or just getting hands on and promoting your site in other arenas. We will offer guidance to you from our experience of what works, and what doesn't.
This is a great business opportunity for those who want to start their own business, help vacation rental owners, and put the screws to HomeAway.
We will be happy to answer any questions you might have, so don't hesitate to contact us.