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2 HomeAway Execs “Step Down” – Is Home Away Dying?

2 Top Level HomeAway Executives “Step Down” Stocks & Popularity Plummet

 

homeaway stocks falling

Many of you have shared that you feel your complaints fall on deaf ears at HomeAway and you can’t believe the way HomeAway treats their customers and even wondered “how can they stay in business?”.

I believe the impact of those owners and managers who have spoken up either with their voices or how they spend their vacation rental marketing dollars has really been felt by HomeAway.

If you haven’t yet heard, two of HomeAway’s top senior executives Co-Founder Carl Shepherd and COO Brent Bellm are leaving HomeAway, it’s been officially announced they’re “stepping down”.

Brent Bellm COO |President HomeAway

brent bellm homeaway coo leaving stepping down quiting

carl shepherd co founder home away

Carl Shepherd HomeAway Co-Founder

What could’ve resulted in such a dramatic removal of HomeAway’s head leadership?

You may remember Carl and Brent from the very heated debate I had with both a few months ago. This wasn’t just any debate, it became the biggest online argument involving HomeAway’s COO, Co-Founder and dozens of the biggest vacation rental property managers and professionals. This negative press has undoubtedly hurt HomeAway among these big players. The blog has been dubbed the most commented blog in the vacation rental industry

The announcement of these executives stepping down happened after reports of sinking HomeAway stock. HomeAway is failing to meet up to shareholder expectations and that’s a serious issue for them but is this a long-term problem?

HomeAway stock has been on a consistent downward spiral for over 200 days on Wall Street a definite sound of trouble in “vacation paradise”.

Why Is HomeAway Stocks & Popularity Falling?

One analyst stated HomeAway’s movements to rent vacation rentals with less friction is rubbing some users the wrong way.

There are many smaller property owners who insist on more time to properly vet prospective renters and they haven’t warmed to HomeAway’s approach.

The instant booking option that they’ve been pressing on owners and managers has affected HomeAway in a negative way.

Reverdy Johns the director Blueshift Research LLC went on record saying the switch in HomeAway’s original business model from subscription to pay per booking fees may have contributed to flat renewal charges for property advertisers.

They’re moving one way that’s upsetting some people as it’s brought more listings to the site,” he said. Property owners “are open to more options to list on more places than just HomeAway.” (I love to hear that last statement)

HomeAway’s biggest competitor is AirBnB. Most recently HomeAway has made AirBnB the center of their conversations in several interviews. In fact HomeAway went as far as to create a 2015 advertising campaign costing a 100 million dollars to show how HomeAway is different from AirBnB.

Could the competition of AirBnB be a contributing factor to these changes in leadership and or sinking stocks?

Is it all the new regulations being implemented on vacation rental properties that have investors worried?

Is it also being realized that it’s going to be harder than initially thought to hotelify vacation rentals?

Has it become clearer that it’s going to be even more difficult for HomeAway to be bought by a travel giant like Expedia?

Expedia and Priceline made it very clear that in order for them to consider acquiring HomeAway, properties must be bookable online. This is one big reason there is a huge push to make all properties instantly bookable.

What do you think?

One thing’s for sure red flags went up in April (just before the stocks tanked) when Carl Shepherd sold off 83,074 of his HomeAway shares worth around 2,590,330 U.S. That’s one big payout. Why did he do that? You don’t sell stock if you believe it’s going to increase, do you.

Is this insider trading? Did Carl know something others didn’t? Is the writing on the wall for HomeAway?

Whatever is going on this instability confirms how we can’t trust vacation rental listing sites blindly with our businesses.

We can’t have all of our eggs in their business. We can’t have them tell us what tools to use and separate ourselves from our guests. We need to continue to resist and reallocate some of our vacation rental marketing dollars in places other than HomeAway.

HomeAway and other large listing services have bought out all the sites that made the vacation rental industry diverse, dynamic and a wonderful place of growth and opportunity. Thats a monopoly and unfair to you.

HomeAway has wanted to make it “one way” by eliminating all of your options. If not HomeAway other giants will likely continue to buy out listing sites that excel but there is one competitor to their business model Home Away can’t buy out and that’s Google and other search engines.

In an interview Brian Sharples said HomeAway is focusing on advertising using SEO, email marketing and search engine marketing, the same things I’ve urged everyone here to do.

You can and should be following that model for your business as well. If you don’t think a little guy like you can compete with HomeAway read how one of many owners like Pepe get their vacation rentals on the top of Google.

To read more about how to leverage Google and online marketing and never have to worry about HomeAway hurting your business read the article I wrote about content marketing called “HomeAway ain’t the only way”.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts you (owners and managers) used to be HomeAway’s primary customer but that switched to shareholders over the years but now their primary customer is not satisfied because you’re standing up. Could this change their approach to focus back on giving owners and managers better customer service in order to please shareholders?

I’m not so sure. Brian Sharples recently said he expects all listings to conform naturally to online bookings and if they don’t by mid 2016 he will enforce it.

It would be wise to begin investing your marketing dollars in your vacation rental business not just in HomeAway.  I’ve said it before if you want to get them to hear you “hit them where it hurts… their pockets” and you do that by spending your money elsewhere.

Where do you think HomeAway is heading?

I had someone ask me about this so I’ll ask you…

Would you ever buy HomeAway stock? Have they hit the bottom and If so is now a good time to buy?

Lots of material here. Let’s talk, what are your thoughts on all of this?

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  • Loraine

    Very interesting articles especialy the part about Carl Shepherd dumping all those stocks – so timely. Things that make you go HMMMM

    • Gracias Loraine, glad you found it iteresting!

  • Loraine

    Very interesting articles especialy the part about Carl Shepherd dumping all those stocks – so timely. Things that make you go HMMMM

    • Gracias Loraine, glad you found it iteresting!

  • OttToyBoy

    HomeAway has mistreated us vacation rental property owners and taken us for granted. We pay the bills yet are treated as only “inventory”. It’s time for a change. HomeAway will undoubtedly be relevant for a few more years but they have lost all credibility and goodwill with this owner and I welcome any way to divorce my rental business from their greedy clutches.

    (Sorry, that’s short on fact and long on emotion — but I was in a sharing mood..)

  • OttToyBoy

    HomeAway has mistreated us vacation rental property owners and taken us for granted. We pay the bills yet are treated as only “inventory”. It’s time for a change. HomeAway will undoubtedly be relevant for a few more years but they have lost all credibility and goodwill with this owner and I welcome any way to divorce my rental business from their greedy clutches.

    (Sorry, that’s short on fact and long on emotion — but I was in a sharing mood..)

  • Darla

    Homeaway has forgotten who their customers really are! We, the property owners, are their customers. They should be catering to us but they seem to be alienating us instead. The guests who rent the properties are our (the property owners) customers. I have started and will continue to decrease my use of Homeaway and other listing companies that try to tell me how I have to conduct my business.

    • Yeah… @OttToyBoy is right Darla, owners and managers are now just “inventory”

      Good job Darla with reducing your need for HomeAway! “Home Away Ain’t The Only Way!” (chant, chant, chant) lol…

      • Jennifer Pecci

        What do you recommend other than Home away and Airbnb?

  • Homeaway has forgotten who their customers really are! We, the property owners, are their customers. They should be catering to us but they seem to be alienating us instead. The guests who rent the properties are our (the property owners) customers. I have started and will continue to decrease my use of Homeaway and other listing companies that try to tell me how I have to conduct my business.

    • Yeah… @OttToyBoy is right Darla, owners and managers are now just “inventory”

      Good job Darla with reducing your need for HomeAway! “Home Away Ain’t The Only Way!” (chant, chant, chant) lol…

      • Jennifer Pecci

        What do you recommend other than Home away and Airbnb?

  • Jennifer Pecci

    Airbnb is just as bad towards vacation rental property owners aka hosts. They are all about the cash and take advantage of the meatime and break (hosts). Hosts are the driving support yet we get no to little support. I was going to switch to Home away for that reason. Airbnb lost many hosts trust due to lack of integrity and credibilty. If you think they are better just read online and check out the group forums. I don’t think there is a good company out there but it’s definitely not Airbnb.

    • Marcus

      Fully Agree… And they charge a very large % overall ! I think they are just benefiting from the large Buzz they have made over the last few months but this is not the company of the future…

    • One of the problems I have heard a lot about AirBnB is that they charge the traveler a fee on top of the rental rate the hosts provide. When travelers finally do get connected with the owners who they booked with, they find out they paid more than the owner/manager/host was charging and it makes them (travelers) feel like they over paid or got ripped off, Nobody likes to know they paid more than then what something normally sells for.

      • Jennifer Pecci

        Oh that’s makes sense. Thanks for clarifying. I didn’t realize that. That explains so much. Now I get why people mark me low on value. I unlike other hosts don’t charge extra for more than one guests and reasonable for cleaning. I get now though why they feel they overpaid. Airbnb makes bank off guests. They only take a 5% off our fee.

  • Jennifer Pecci

    Airbnb is just as bad towards vacation rental property owners aka hosts. They are all about the cash and take advantage of the meatime and break (hosts). Hosts are the driving support yet we get no to little support. I was going to switch to Home away for that reason. Airbnb lost many hosts trust due to lack of integrity and credibilty. If you think they are better just read online and check out the group forums. I don’t think there is a good company out there but it’s definitely not Airbnb.

    • Marcus

      Fully Agree… And they charge a very large % overall ! I think they are just benefiting from the large Buzz they have made over the last few months but this is not the company of the future…

    • One of the problems I have heard a lot about AirBnB is that they charge the traveler a fee on top of the rental rate the hosts provide. When travelers finally do get connected with the owners who they booked with, they find out they paid more than the owner/manager/host was charging and it makes them (travelers) feel like they over paid or got ripped off, Nobody likes to know they paid more than what something normally sells for.

      • Jennifer Pecci

        Oh that’s makes sense. Thanks for clarifying. I didn’t realize that. That explains so much. Now I get why people mark me low on value. I unlike other hosts don’t charge extra for more than one guests and reasonable for cleaning. I get now though why they feel they overpaid. Airbnb makes bank off guests. They only take a 5% off our fee.

  • So… I just received a message on my my phone from Carl. It’s a bit lengthy but I will post his comments here shortly. Stay tuned and know they’re listening to what we’ve got to say

  • So… I just received a message on my phone from Carl. It’s a bit lengthy but I will post his comments here shortly. If you’ve got something to say… say it… they’re listening

  • Ling

    Yes, I have tried to work with HomeAway twice, and each time was met with terrible customer service, and even downright fraud. They have lost many thousands of dollars from me alone, I can only imagine the cumulative effect of thousands of customers like me, taking our money elswhere. Just plain bad business.

  • Ling

    Yes, I have tried to work with HomeAway twice, and each time was met with terrible customer service, and even downright fraud. They have lost many thousands of dollars from me alone, I can only imagine the cumulative effect of thousands of customers like me, taking our money elswhere. Just plain bad business.

  • Marcus

    I had so much fun reading this blog ! I have been a customer of Homeaway for a year and did not renew after complaining so many times to them…

    I am fine with the fact they are pushing their customers (villa owners) to accept online booking as I truly believe this is a trend in the market. This is becoming so important that it account as 19% of your business quality listing (that influences your homeaway position >> Concretely some of us pay additional bucks to get a better position but if you do not accept online booking then your subscription is just the equivalent of the low end sub anyway.

    This being said I own a house in Indonesia that I rent. I have a Bank account in Indonesia and one in Hong Kong (where I live) and it is not possible to activate “online booking” if your bank account is not in their short list (USA, France, UK, Etc.)

    I have asked them to let me accept $$$ on my paypal account (like AirBnB, Flipkey – my favorite BTW, Wimdu, Etc.) and so far their feedback has been “we are working on it”… It has been more than 1 year.

    I was replying to all the request promptly (even if most of those were scams), all the pictures were uploaded, Etc. and my listing quality was only 81% because I would not (yeah guys, I told you do not enable me to activate it!!!) activate online booking…

    Bye Bye Home Away and Big Thanks to Flipkey once again 🙂

    • Hi Marcus, I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

      Vacation rentals are as unique as each of their owners and so are our procedures and systems. This rapid movement toward instant bookings is abrupt and unfair for owners and managers who have spent a lot of time and effort into setting up systems to help them manage and grow their business. I am for online booking but not for this “Do it or else” approach. If we are to move into this online booking we should be given more options and some flexibility. Instead of this “hard and fast” tactic.

      Marcus are there any other reasons you prefer Flipkey over HomeAway?

  • Marcus

    I had so much fun reading this blog ! I have been a customer of Homeaway for a year and did not renew after complaining so many times to them…

    I am fine with the fact they are pushing their customers (villa owners) to accept online booking as I truly believe this is a trend in the market. This is becoming so important that it account as 19% of your business quality listing (that influences your homeaway position >> Concretely some of us pay additional bucks to get a better position but if you do not accept online booking then your subscription is just the equivalent of the low end sub anyway.

    This being said I own a house in Indonesia that I rent. I have a Bank account in Indonesia and one in Hong Kong (where I live) and it is not possible to activate “online booking” if your bank account is not in their short list (USA, France, UK, Etc.)

    I have asked them to let me accept $$$ on my paypal account (like AirBnB, Flipkey – my favorite BTW, Wimdu, Etc.) and so far their feedback has been “we are working on it”… It has been more than 1 year.

    I was replying to all the request promptly (even if most of those were scams), all the pictures were uploaded, Etc. and my listing quality was only 81% because I would not (yeah guys, I told you do not enable me to activate it!!!) activate online booking…

    Bye Bye Home Away and Big Thanks to Flipkey once again 🙂

    • Hi Marcus, I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

      Vacation rentals are as unique as each of their owners and so are our procedures and systems. This rapid movement toward instant bookings is abrupt and unfair for owners and managers who have spent a lot of time and effort into setting up systems to help them manage and grow their business. I am for online booking but not for this “Do it or else” approach. If we are to move into this online booking we should be given more options and some flexibility. Instead of this “hard and fast” tactic.

      Marcus are there any other reasons you prefer Flipkey over HomeAway?

  • We’ve been doing WhistlerbyOwner.com for over 10 years. Many of our customers tried HomeAway and AirBnB only to come back to our directory. No pressure, no commissions, great customer service. The personal contact booking model will prevail and the ‘guaranteed cheapest price’ will, hopefully, go away. Where will you book your next vacation rental? I like going where I can talk or email with the owner directly.

    • Jennifer Pecci

      How do you sign up for Whistler? I am interested in listing my place.

  • We’ve been doing WhistlerbyOwner.com for over 10 years. Many of our customers tried HomeAway and AirBnB only to come back to our directory. No pressure, no commissions, great customer service. The personal contact booking model will prevail and the ‘guaranteed cheapest price’ will, hopefully, go away. Where will you book your next vacation rental? I like going where I can talk or email with the owner directly.

    • Jennifer Pecci

      How do you sign up for Whistler? I am interested in listing my place.

  • Jay – good post. HomeAway & Flipkey are currently my predominant source of leads [which I hope to change this year] and I pay HA a pretty penny to have platinum/global package. I do not use their BIN option preferring to have personal contact with prospective guest [they like that It]. We have to be able to vet guests – this is particularly critical for our Nice property since there are certain east European citizens that will trash apartments because they can and have the money they think will pay for damage. It irritates me no end that Sharples etal are saying we have to use their system. Maybe they will get away with that in the US but Europeans are not happy and I think you will see more fleeing the sinking ship – we certainly will once I can get an alternate feed of inquiries, either through my website or other options. HA should remember that there are other options. Rant over for now 😉

    • Jennifer Pecci

      Where do you list your website? Is it Google or WordPress?

        • Jennifer Pecci

          I just looked at it. It doesn’t appear to be WordPress. It’s just a regular website made by Villa Marketing. Very nicely done and easy to navigate.

          • Thank you Jennifer for your compliments of our work!

          • Jennifer Pecci

            Your very welcome. I appreciate good work and acknowledge it. Especially since it’s something you pay for.

        • Nice website Ralph! 😉

    • Ralph, maybe we are a bunch of pushovers in the US?? I know they mentioned they’re having a tough time imtergrating their system in Europe and that was one of their excuses for the drop in Home Away stocks. I’m gald to see you’re getting your wings and flying the HomeAway coop.

  • Jay – good post. HomeAway & Flipkey are currently my predominant source of leads [which I hope to change this year] and I pay HA a pretty penny to have platinum/global package. I do not use their BIN option preferring to have personal contact with prospective guest [they like that It]. We have to be able to vet guests – this is particularly critical for our Nice property since there are certain east European citizens that will trash apartments because they can and have the money they think will pay for damage. It irritates me no end that Sharples etal are saying we have to use their system. Maybe they will get away with that in the US but Europeans are not happy and I think you will see more fleeing the sinking ship – we certainly will once I can get an alternate feed of inquiries, either through my website or other options. HA should remember that there are other options. Rant over for now 😉

    • Jennifer Pecci

      Where do you list your website? Is it Google or WordPress?

        • Jennifer Pecci

          I just looked at it. It doesn’t appear to be WordPress. It’s just a regular website made by Villa Marketing. Very nicely done and easy to navigate.

          • Thank you Jennifer for your compliments of our work!

          • Jennifer Pecci

            Your very welcome. I appreciate good work and acknowledge it. Especially since it’s something you pay for.

        • Nice website Ralph! 😉

    • Ralph, maybe we are a bunch of pushovers in the US?? I know they mentioned they’re having a tough time imtergrating their system in Europe and that was one of their excuses for the drop in Home Away stocks. I’m gald to see you’re getting your wings and flying the HomeAway coop.

      • I think the Europeans are more critical about how they spend AND receive their money. Arrogance doesn’t go down well either.

  • HA and VRBO are still providing most of my guests in Brussels, Aix-en-Provence and London, Airbnb is my main provider in Buenos Aires and for me Flip Key or Holiday lettings are just not in the race. I refuse booking on line and being paid through their system because it is absolutely vital to vet our guests to avoid prostitutes or people who could make a lot of damages or disturbing our neighbors. Also by accepting their payment system I was unable to choose the currency I want to be paid with. They were automatically changing in Euros making the exchange profit at their side.
    I find that Airbnb is even lest owner friendly than HA and VRBO but they are more and more present. We have our own website but don’t get inquiries through that channel. It is used mostly to provide infos to our guests. It is almost impossible to get a correct ranking, all the big players are investing so much money in the game that we cannot be correctly placed. At least that’s my experience. I frankly hope they will improve and not disappear.

  • HA and VRBO are still providing most of my guests in Brussels, Aix-en-Provence and London, Airbnb is my main provider in Buenos Aires and for me Flip Key or Holiday lettings are just not in the race. I refuse booking on line and being paid through their system because it is absolutely vital to vet our guests to avoid prostitutes or people who could make a lot of damages or disturbing our neighbors. Also by accepting their payment system I was unable to choose the currency I want to be paid with. They were automatically changing in Euros making the exchange profit at their side.
    I find that Airbnb is even lest owner friendly than HA and VRBO but they are more and more present. We have our own website but don’t get inquiries through that channel. It is used mostly to provide infos to our guests. It is almost impossible to get a correct ranking, all the big players are investing so much money in the game that we cannot be correctly placed. At least that’s my experience. I frankly hope they will improve and not disappear.

  • We absolutely LOVE HomeAway and can’t say enough bad about Flipkey and AirBnB. We have had no end of issues with Flipkey changing our information, our location and our pricing (including deleting our damage deposit). I have to keep daily on top of our information to make sure something else hasn’t changed. When I call, I am on hold for more than 45 minutes just to hear, “Yes, we’ve had some issues with some accounts not transitioning well. Change it back and deal with it.” Not once have they sent out a notice that you might want to check such-and-such because we’ve been having some complications…we just randomly find our listing is now in a completely different state when a guest inquires.
    When I’ve had an issue with AirBnB, they tried to fine me…I cancelled a booking with a guest (at their request) and generously refunded their money back to them. The customer service reps at both businesses are rude and extremely poorly trained.
    On the other hand, whenever I’ve had a question or issue with Homeaway (VRBO) I’ve had extremely kind and professional customer service and am to no end impressed with the value of their site.
    We get 80% of our business from VRBO and 20% from Flipkey. Since placing my listing back on AirBnB 4 months ago (we had finally taken it off out of frustration), we have not received 1 inquiry and the guests we had received previously left much to be desired.
    By the way, VRBO is now offering you to have more options for accepting payments – including paypal. I received an email which led me to a page where we can set up different payment accounts – it will be implemented very soon…not that I’m interested in Paypal since they take such a HUGE portion of the profits.
    I have no desire for any of the sites to fail and I wish them all well. My greatest desire for each though is for them to train their staff properly and keep their site safe, attractive and each listing accurate.

  • We absolutely LOVE HomeAway and can’t say enough bad about Flipkey and AirBnB. We have had no end of issues with Flipkey changing our information, our location and our pricing (including deleting our damage deposit). I have to keep daily on top of our information to make sure something else hasn’t changed. When I call, I am on hold for more than 45 minutes just to hear, “Yes, we’ve had some issues with some accounts not transitioning well. Change it back and deal with it.” Not once have they sent out a notice that you might want to check such-and-such because we’ve been having some complications…we just randomly find our listing is now in a completely different state when a guest inquires.
    When I’ve had an issue with AirBnB, they tried to fine me…I cancelled a booking with a guest (at their request) and generously refunded their money back to them. The customer service reps at both businesses are rude and extremely poorly trained.
    On the other hand, whenever I’ve had a question or issue with Homeaway (VRBO) I’ve had extremely kind and professional customer service and am to no end impressed with the value of their site.
    We get 80% of our business from VRBO and 20% from Flipkey. Since placing my listing back on AirBnB 4 months ago (we had finally taken it off out of frustration), we have not received 1 inquiry and the guests we had received previously left much to be desired.
    By the way, VRBO is now offering you to have more options for accepting payments – including paypal. I received an email which led me to a page where we can set up different payment accounts – it will be implemented very soon…not that I’m interested in Paypal since they take such a HUGE portion of the profits.
    I have no desire for any of the sites to fail and I wish them all well. My greatest desire for each though is for them to train their staff properly and keep their site safe, attractive and each listing accurate.

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