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What in the world are all these new "service/booking fees"?
Short answer: GARBAGE!"

VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) was one of the first sites on the web to allow renters to book directly with owners, eliminating the middle man and greatly reducting costs. A few years ago, property managers were allowed to list on VRBO, which greatly increased your choices, but also removed the personal touch and again increased fees for those choosing managed properties. HomeAway bought VRBO and most other relevant sites, almost creating a monopoly in the owner advertising arena. At the end of 2015, HomeAway was acquired by Expedia. So the VRBO that you always loved and counted on, is now owned by the Expedia Corporation, the same one that books flights and hotels.

Soon after this acquisition, VRBO/HomeAway (and all the other sites it owns), started leveraging a hefty “Service Fee” to travelers who booked their vacations online. VRBO now slides the fee into the total and they certainly don't disclose it in large bold print. The owners have no control over the fee and don’t see one red cent of it. If an owner is caught even MENTIONING the fee to guests, VRBO will take down their listing. (Keep in mind the emails to owners and their replies are inside a VRBO thread where they can see everything we write.) Owners already pay a fee to list on VRBO/HomeAway, but expedia wants more! Afterall, their CEO makes $264,110 A DAY, yes, every single day, but this isn't enough. They want MORE!

Beginning July 2017, VRBO began withholding contact information for both parties. This was done to prevent an owner from steering the renter around this fee (outside of their system). They say it's for "safety" but that is absolute bologna. We know you are much safer if you are able to google my name and info and see if anything bad turns up. Don't be fooled! This withholding of my contact info is because THEY WANT YOUR MONEY. Just how much, you want to know? The “service fee” that YOU pay is not small change. It's up to 15% of your rental cost. In my case, that swings from about $130-$300 per booking depending on the season. Owners have been in revolt over this new fee, as we pay VRBO to list. VRBO doesn't care. They want your money, that's ALL they see. You get the same condo and same great service with me if you pay VRBO’s fee or not. VRBO provides a listing site. I provide your service. Many owners are letting their listings expire and finding alternatives. In this business, we have a huge investments and risks on the line, and letting VRBO control our business and view us as "inventory" that they haven't invested a dime or a minute's work in just isn't acceptable.

Be a savvy shopper. Use Google to find the properties on another listing site that doesn’t charge the fee. If owners are true to their guests and have their guests’ best interests in mind, they will expand their advertising. Almost all of the owners I personally know are doing this. My website was created just for this reason!

What to do? Say you found one of my units on a site that charges a booking fee. The ad would tell you it is “Waterscape C203”. Search google for “Waterscape C203” (the unit number will be important for specific search results). You will find the unit in other places with no fees. I want you to be able to find vacation properties without unnecessary fees, not just in my units, but for all your vacation rentals! Here are some sites that are just taking off. I don’t know which one will become the “winner” as far as gaining market share because this is a brand new problem owners are trying to overcome. All of these sites allow direct communication with owners and do not charge extra fees to book through their site:

Emerald Coast By Owner (Also known as This site is really taking off with over 1000 listings already. On the gulf, this is your best alternative so far.

AVROA ~ This is a Vacation Rental Owners' Association. It's for us, by us. So no corporation here! (Do not confuse with, which is owned by Expedia and of course has the fee.) This ties to Trip Advisor and they are trying to start charging fees too. Just watch your quote carefully and be cautious. As long as you go in through this link, I don't think you will see a fee.

Vacation Rental By Owner .net (not .com!) This has links to the regional sites that owners are trying to build to fight VRBO/HomeAway.

Gulf Coast Rentals

Home Escape (brand new since the fee was instated but has a ton of listings!)

Friends and Guests (brand new since the fee was instated)

Tripz (been around but trying to revive itself since the fee was instated)

Vacation Stayz (brand new since the fee was instated)

Break Away Vacation Rentals (brand new, and these things do take time to build up. VRBO wasn't built in a day, or even a year! But owners are trying!!)

There is one more cool feature that really takes all!! It's called StaySavr and was made by a ticked off owner. This is a browser extension (something you download to your computer) and it will show the phone number of any owner on VRBO/HomeAway. I have used this and it is safe and not a virus or scam. It ONLY works from a computer--not a cell phone. And I think it only works from Windows computers (not Apples). If you like to frequent VRBO, this may be for you.

Likewise, there are a ton of groups on Facebook that you can search. Here are a few links but you can search anything!
Destin Florida Vacation Rentals
Florida Vacation Rentals by Owner
Vacation Rentals Florida
Great Smokey Mountains
Got it? Seek and you will find!!

Be cautious out there and don't overpay!