VRBO / HomeAway Have Abandoned Faith With Travelers By Corrupting Their Review System

One of the best innovations on the web has been customer review scores.  I use the reviews of products at Amazon.com, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Opentable all the time to aid in my buying.  Sure they can be frustrating -- some reviewers will petulantly give 1 star reviews for absurd issues or failings.  And I know that as much as reviews on Tripadvisor, Google Places, and Facebook can drive me crazy, they help me improve my business.

But these systems only work when they are run with integrity. I once had to get a Tripadvisor review deleted because it was fraudulent (made up claims from a disgruntled employee rather than a customer).  It was a long, uphill battle to get that one review deleted, as it should be.

Unfortunately, VRBO and HomeAway (I think they are the same company now) have abandoned this integrity.  For those that do not know, these sites feature rental of vacation homes and apartments.  We love this travel option - often we can get a nice 2 bedroom condo with kitchen and living room for the same price as a hotel room.  On this site there are often hundreds or thousands of options for rentals, and so customer reviews can be an important source of information in choosing.  Does it really look like its pictures?  Was everything there that was promised?  Are there any location or noise issues?  Essentially, reviews make sure the landlord cannot try to hide issues from travelers.

It used to be you could just log in and review the location, just like one does with a product on Amazon.  I think there was some testing to make sure you had actually rented it, but this is easy and Amazon has the same thing where it tags reviews with something like "confirmed buyer" or whatever.  But VRBO has now gone to a system where the landlord can essentially opt out of the review process.  If they don't send you a review link, you can't review.  In other words, you can't review without the owners permission.  And, as you may guess, owners with properties that have flaws that would readily be pointed out by reviewers do not allow one to review.

To compound the problem, VRBO hides all this.  For example, we rented this flawed beach home in San Diego.  It was wonderful in every way except for one -- the properties below and around it seem to be preferred destinations for loud groups of frat boys partying.  We pretty much got no sleep.   I wanted to warn future customers of this potential issue, but that is impossible because the landlord will not send me a VRBO review link, and that is the only way I can review it.  VRBO hides this because the listing says "This property doesn't have any reviews yet!"  That sounds far more innocent than the more accurate statement, which would be "This property does not choose to participate in the review process."


  1. mckyj57:

    I gave up on VRBO and moved to AirBNB for two reasons. One is the review thing, the other is the less-than-transparent pricing on the search. With AirBNB, they attempt to show your actual cost per night or per stay. With VRBO, they give just the "rate" and leave all of the various service charges on.

  2. Swami:

    Yeah, as someone familiar with San Diego, you definitely rented in the young, transient beach frat house area. As a recommendation for anyone renting in the Pacific Beach or Mission Beach areas of San Diego, I would suggest renting a unit on Crystal Pier. They are reasonably priced, over the water and they have a gate limiting access to the pier at night to renters. Much more peaceful at night.

  3. David:

    This is an awful system. A landlord could conspire to create false rentals on the site and only send review links to those renters. That way, they could amass a pile of 5-star reviews, even raise their prices based on this, and reap the benefits of their deception.

  4. Mercury:

    Oh come on!

    Which, of the 24 pictures posted on the VRBO site didn't scream 24 HOUR PARTY to you? - the tricked-out coke palace interior design? the dudes 'n babes "boardwalk" promenade in front of the house's viewing pavilion? the gigantic sandy beach in a densely populated locale in southern California? the roller coaster in the background?

    What were the chances that your neighbors (8 1/2 feet to the left or right) would be mild-mannered retirees looking to scare up a game of cribbage or a 5pm dinner reservation?

    With 15 minutes of effort you can probably find a porno filmed in this place within the last 12 months...

  5. joe:

    I have a preference to renting through a real estate management company vs vrbo - even though my cost is 15-25% higher. I usually get a better sense of the pros and cons of various properties. Generally have had very good luck.

  6. MikeM:

    As a 10 year property lister on VRBO, I would love to get away from them but they still produce the bulk of our rental request. Since they were bought by Expedia, things have gone down hill. No reviews or only old reviews screams "Buyer Beware!" unless it is a brand new listing. We manage our own properties and take pains to keep them updated and clean. Our VRBO reviews reflect that. AirBnB has its own set of problems.

  7. slocum:

    Good to know that about "This property doesn't have any reviews yet". I was leery of those already, now I guess that goes double. But often you can find the same property you're interested in listed on multiple sites and you may be able to find additional reviews that way.

  8. marque2:

    Trip advisor can be too accomodating. They have been caught squelching reviews at hotels where people have been poisoned and even died, because of bad alcohol and things put in the alcohol. Some people only had one drink. I am sure the hotel had something to do with the "blatant lies" being squelched.


  9. Fred_Z:

    I have used VRBO quite happily for some time, but it's good to know they are as creepily dishonest as too many others on the net. I'll steer clear of their "no reviews" properties for sure.

    My wife and I have a cottage in the BC Rockies. It was listed on both VRBO and Air B'nB. We dumped Air B'nB because they required us to pledge to be Ultra Politically Correct and accept any tenants regardless of obvious problems. Our reviews on VRBO are pretty good so far, even if we had to write them ourselves. Ha, ha.

    There are too many corporations getting enmoled by crooks and leftists. But I repeat myself.

    Don't know about you lot but I always read the one and two stars first and most carefully. Most of them are nuts, but some cut to the heart.

  10. tfowler:

    Yes. Its bad enough to generally not allow reviews, but if VBRO is going to allow a denial of reviews it should be a blanket denial, not the ability to decide who gets to review and who does not.

  11. Robert Rounthwaite:

    Seems like you were able to review them now?