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Airbnb Alternatives – Going Down the Accommodation Rabbit Hole

2011 July 18

After I posted my review of Airbnb, readers mentioned a couple of alternatives for backpacker accommodations/vacation rentals. I decided to follow the rabbit down its hole and take a look at some other Airbnb-like services out there. Here are a few (and nowhere comprehensive) brief reviews.

HomeawayThe elephant in the room, Homeaway recently priced a $216M (up to $248M) initial public offering valuing the company at $2B. Since the company has gone public, shares have risen quite a bit giving them a market cap of $3.35B as of 7/13/11. And because they’re now public, we’re able to take a look at the filings and get the nitty-gritty financials. As of 3/31/11, Homeaway has over 560,000 paid listings, gets 9.5M visitors a month and generated $167.9M in revenue in 2010. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, the company generated $52.0M in revenue. Of the $168M in 2010, $16.9M was profit.

To sum up all that mumbo-jumbo: Homeaway is the largest player in a huge market and they are generating a lot of money. Now how does it pertain to the average backpacker? You can search listings by location of property (beach, downtown, mountain, etc.), travel style (luxury, budget), and amenities. Like Airbnb, each of the properties has photos and reviews. There is calendar that shows availability, a grid that lists all the amenities and an “email owner” link. The interface, although not as slick as Airbnb, is everything you’d expect.

I searched for rooms in San Francisco for 8/5 – 8/7 and the cheapest I found were $95. Many of the rooms had weekly and monthly rates, indicating that the website was also suitable for longer-term rentals. At first glance, $95 seems like a lot but if you dig deeper, you’ll find that the rate listed is often for an entire apartment/house. Split that $100 between 2-3 (the website lists max for each property) and it’s a very reasonable deal. The one caveat, however, was that many of the listings were not in San Francisco. Many were 30 minutes away by car so it would be very tough to get around.

Overall, I think the best value in Homeaway is if you can find a centrally located property that you can share with 2-3 of your friends. Paying $95/night for an entire apartment just doesn’t make sense for a solo backpacker.

– – –

Roomorama – Mentioned by one of my readers, Roomorama is very similar to both Homeaway and Airbnb. It has the standard listing interface, reviews and pictures. A couple of differentiators that make it interesting include a “shoutouts” feature and local perks. “Shoutouts” let people looking for rooms list the location, time and number of people. The messages are displayed on the right side of the search page. Anyone looking at the search page sees shoutouts from all over the world. So instead of renters browsing through pages of listings, a property owner can contact them directly if there is a match.

Perks is also a nice touch for travelers. For staying in Roomorama properties, the website partners with nationwide and local merchants to provide discounts or special offers to customers. A sample of the perks I saw included a free day pass at a gym, 10% off a luggage shipping service and 5% off a car hire service. Nothing ground breaking but still something nice, especially since they come with the room for free.

Searching in the same time period, I found slightly cheaper rates (starting at $69, a few others under $100) compared to Homeaway. And like Homeaway, many places were for more than one person. Nonetheless, the website is generally more expensive/higher end than Airbnb and I would advise using it in the same use case as Homeaway.

– – –

Casacasa – Also mentioned by a reader, Casacasa looks to me like a paid version of CouchSurfing. Members pay $40 a year for access to ~200 hosts around the world and you must be willing to host other members. The site also suggests $15-20 a night for gratuity/clean sheets. I can’t comment on any specific listings because you need to pay the membership fee to see them, but I assume it’s similar to the kinds you’d find on CouchSurfing (spare bedroom, with a host, etc.). So why would anyone choose this over CouchSurfing? Although I personally wouldn’t use it (had a great experience with CouchSurfing), there is value in a more structured and stringent exchange program. The website lists rules and expectations that must be adhered to otherwise membership is revoked, thus removing any bad apples. It’s also a much smaller community so reputation holds a lot more weight.

It’s cheap when compared to hotels or hostels but then again, CouchSurfing is free. I think the service would be useful for backpackers who prefer the quiet over the party scene and feel more assured with a more structured program than CouchSurfing. Not for me, but some may find it useful.

– – –

In the course of looking around for these types of sites, I also found a review of CouchSurfing and three alternatives: Hospitality Club, GlobalFreeloaders and BeWelcome. Instead of reinventing the wheel and reviewing these sites, I’ll just provide the link to the original author’s review here.

It’s really quite amazing how many alternative accommodation options backpackers have these days. The variety of services, prices and places is a bit overwhelming but that means there’s probably something out there that matches exactly what you’re looking for.

18 Responses leave one →
  1. Rico permalink
    July 22, 2011

    You are missing, probably the biggest competitor to AirBnB. The competitors listed in this blog are small potatoes compared to it.

    • Paul permalink*
      July 22, 2011

      Well I think Homeaway is pretty big, given that it is public but you’re right, didn’t know about Wimdu prior to your post.

      It looks like it’s the European heavyweight. Looks nice and clean just like Airbnb. I’m going to dig up a bit more info and see how big it is…

  2. Jake permalink
    July 22, 2011

    I love roomorama. Been using it for a while. I even list my apartment with them when I’m away on business. Very cool site and nice post. I guess these kinds of rentals are all the rage now.

    • Paul permalink*
      July 22, 2011

      Yea, in a way it’s “democratizing” accommodation. In your experience, do you get more money from using Roomorama or subletting?

      I may take a 4-6 week trip in a few weeks and I’m wondering if it’s worth it to look into renting the room through Airbnb vs. subletting…

      • Jake permalink
        July 22, 2011

        I’d say peer to peer rentals would make you more money. If you get a subletter he/she is going to want to pay less since they’re staying long term. As long as you have a friend to drop off/pick up the keys when new guests swap out, you’ll end up making a lot more cuz you can charge more per night. Just be careful with airbnb, i had a friend that had a really bad experience renting with them. i’ve never had problem with roomorama though.

    • Paul permalink*
      July 22, 2011

      Very interesting… I looked at some prices in my area (~$90) and filling up 10-12 nights/month would equal the monthly rent. But then you gotta wonder if getting 30-40% occupancy rate is easy…

  3. mel permalink
    July 22, 2011

    i love roomorama, because i used their shout out column and not one but THREE hosts responded to me in 2days and i actually went ahead and booked with one of them. it turned out to be great. since then, ive been encouraging my friends to this concept of traveling.. it’s soo helpful

    • Paul permalink*
      July 22, 2011

      Do you find that “shoutout” works better than browsing for listings?

      I would imagine there is better variety in the listings versus hoping people see your shoutout.

  4. July 26, 2011

    all very good but not what i was looking for i live in a 3 bed house now on my own and am looking for a female to do a bit of cleaning and some work on my laptop accommodation and food is free own room and more anyone out there jr

  5. David permalink
    January 19, 2012

    How about ? they focus on top universities alumni, but provide a decent alternative in term of finding people you can really trust. Their only problem is that they are still too small (at least in the states) to really compete with Airbnb. For now it’s a better value alternative, but with limited availability.

  6. Doug permalink
    April 28, 2012

    This is all good info.

    Mind you what I don’t like about these services is that they charge by the person, so it pushes the price way up for the same bed. An additional cost I could do without considering I’ll be out sightseeing than laying in the bed.

  7. May 22, 2012

    Hi I’m looking for advice about reaching germans and north-european travelers in general; I have been renting an apartment in Siena (Italy) on airBnb, works well but all guest so far came from the US, Canada or Australia.. which other sites should I concentrate on ?!

  8. Farnaz permalink
    May 23, 2012

    Anyone heard anything about Vaway? recently I posted a listing on Craigslists – someone responded, and when I responded back to them, I got what looks like an automated response telling me about Vaway! It looks very similar to Airbnb, but as I didn’t like their approach, I have an uneasy feeling about them. thanks

  9. Barbara permalink
    July 26, 2012

    If you’re heading to Central Europe, try A good source for vacation rentals in Budapest, Prague, Krakow or Berlin.

  10. Marijke permalink
    October 22, 2012

    You are also forgetting which I have been using for over 5 years now. And I can also think of 9flats, and, obviously, VRBO. I think they all cover different market segments. Rentasofa is popular with backpackers and people on a budget, so, if you have a small room, it’s your best bet. On VRBO you wouldn’t advertize a small room because I think you have to pay about 300$ just to sign up. And there’s also Craigslist 🙂

  11. January 17, 2013

    In Poland new initiative like has been started. No additional fees are charged if I remember well..

  12. February 19, 2013

    Thanks for this list – and to the alternatives to couchsurfing too! I must say I’m getting pretty sick of AirBnB and their “funny” pricing system that just never seems to add up to the same amount. Couchsurfing is also so over.

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