When most people think about renting a vacation home or apartment during their next trip, they often turn to a site like AirBnB. The company, which has ultimately legitimized vacation rentals across the globe, has also been the source of several controversies in key cities around the planet.
In many urban metropolises such as New York City and San Francisco, local regulations have been enacted to prevent owners from turning to the vacation rental model. The reasoning? Traditional rentals are suffering and housing prices are soaring out of reach for many people that are looking for a long-term rental.
It’s quite clear that demand is outstripping supply in this red-hot travel sector. Alternatives to the AirBnB experience are plentiful, but it still paints a dire need for regulation in an industry that’s largely unregulated. Many new vacation rental companies and sites lack any sort of accreditation or licensing in the real estate field to manage or book the properties that they represent.
So, many people are left in the dark on where to turn when it comes to finding the right vacation rental site that’s reputable and will ensure a smooth and worry-free experience. In fact, with thousands of vacation rental managers out there, it can often be confusing enough. Yet, there are companies that seem to rise above the noise.
Clearly, any list in an unregulated industry might seem subjective, but there are some obvious winners out there. This has as much to do with building a solid brand presence as it does with fostering trust with travelers and effectively scaling the business while also getting the proverbial word out there through a variety of online marketing (and offline) channels.
This list has been crafted and concocted with several variables and factors in mind that include the following:
- Vacation Rental Site Age: The age of any company is an important factor. Considering that roughly half of new businesses fail within the first 18 months, and that only roughly 4% of businesses make it to the 10-year mark and beyond, the age has a significant impact on a company’s ability to be considered the best of the best. This doesn’t mean that brand new companies can’t make a list like this, but the newnesses of a business has a wide impact on its reputability.
- Personalization Of Travel: This list isn’t just a list of the top vacation rental sites on the internet; this list is about personalization in travel, something which has become increasingly important over the years. The bespoke travel experience largely affects the luxury sector, but not always. More and more rental companies are realizing that small personalizations, even in the economic sector of vacation rentals, has a big impact on bottom line due to metrics related to consumer satisfaction.
- Platform Automation: Automation is key in the personalized vacation and villa rental marketplace. Companies that lack automation, struggle to keep up with reservations, and the guest experience drops. For example, a system that keeps up with check-in alerts, work orders, financial statements and concierge requests is critical for running a smooth and hitch-free operation.
- Rental Footprint: Footprint is important. Some vacation rental companies that specialize in home rentals manage homes in specific areas. Some manage homes across a wide swath of regions. However, vacation rental sites represented in this list have a healthy footprint, allowing them to serve demand towards an existing client base across many of the most sought-after travel markets.
- Size Of Team: For the most part, businesses just starting out lack the team size required for any semblance of scale. When the team size is lacking, so is the traveler’s experience. High-touch travel and personalized experiences don’t often come from one-man shops, but rather from larger and more fully-scaled out teams.
- Services And Amenities: Services and amenities are paramount in the vacation rental space. While the budget market might lack a lot of the so-called frills, the personalized travel market comes with loads of amenities. Companies are often judged by their standard array of services and amenities that include things like round-the-clock concierge services as consumers demand more of a personal touch.
#1 — InvitedHome
One of the most impressive and fastest-rising companies in the personalized travel space is vacation rental company, InvitedHome. With an extensive software and business background, co-founders, Tom Feldhusen and Michael Joseph initially launched their company as a software play called Vacation Rental Partner.
With a significant capital investment and sweat equity into the platform, Vacation Rental Partner allowed the pair to really flesh out a platform that’s by far the most all-encompassing in the industry. While many vacation rental sites focus solely on the guest’s experience through their software automation, InvitedHome has also been acutely focused on the owner’s experience as well.
With a portfolio of over 200 upscale properties under exclusive management in the hottest vacation rental markets in the United States, InvitedHome has seen exponential growth, thanks not only to their software automation, but also to a number of acquisitions performed in the early stages of its founding that allowed it to become one of the foremost players in this market.
#2 — Luxury Retreats
By far one of the biggest vacation rental sites in the world, Luxury Retreats, recently acquired by AirBnB for a reported $200 million, is a haven for upmarket villas and condos in the most sought-after destinations on the planet. Luxury Retreats provides a personalized booking platform for over 3,000 distinct properties.
However, Joe Poulin, the company’s founder, certainly didn’t experience success overnight. In fact, as one of the world’s largest, well known and oldest companies on this list, Luxury Retreats has been scaling its operations since way back in 1999. It was Poulin’s vision towards a global footprint that led the company to where it is today.
Luxury Retreats also runs one of the most extensive advertising platforms in the entire industry, carefully leveraging conversion-pixel tracking and gradually-descending bidding to get in front of potential customers almost immediately after visiting the site but leaving for whatever reason. This extensive ad network with a successfully fleshed-out CPA has allowed the company to scale at such a fast pace.
#3 –Villas of Distinction
Recipient of numerous awards, including the “Best Villa Rental Companies” award from Condé Nast Traveller, Villas of Distinction represents thousands of properties across 50 different markets that range from one-bedroom condos to 42-bedroom estates, many of which are equipped with butlers, private pools and even personal chefs, and has been in business since 1989.
The company, originally founded by Robert Eastman, offers up a variety of services and amenities for guests’ stays prides itself off a high level of service that includes personalized touches at every bend and turn. With a large team and one of the longest-running businesses when it comes to vacation rental sites, the company is clearly a go-to for some of the world’s affluent travelers.
#4 — One Fine Stay
Acquired by Accor Hotels in April of 2016, One Fine Stay is the youngest of the companies listed, with its operations beginning in 2009. However, the company was able to quickly scale out its platform and inventory to over 2,500 homes at a dizzying pace. Today, the company claims to offer an “unprecedented level of service” to its guests.
Originally founded by Greg Marsh, Tim Davey, Evan Frank and Demetrios Zoppos, One Fine Stay has seen its share of massive press coverage, and for good reason. By far, this is one of the top vacation rental sites when it comes to personalizing your travel. They offer up 24/7 concierge services and those extra added touches that don’t often exist when booking direct to owner or using a vacation rental listing website as opposed to one that manages the entire experience.
#5 — Dream Exotic Rentals
Another company in business since 1999, Dream Exotic Rentals offers high-touch personalization across their entire portfolio of properties in dozens of sought-after travel destinations. The company, like many others, offers a number of services such as concierge services and even travel insurance.
Founded by Maria Salazar and based in the Miami area, Dream Exotic Rentals works with its guests to create highly-personalized travel itineraries and has a significant footprint in the rental marketplace. Dream Exotic Rental’s high-touch service is certainly one of the best in industry, making it one of the most highly-acclaimed vacation rental sites in the industry.