Why I Hate VRBO

Canadians of a certain age are between a rock and a hard place if they’re looking for an affordable place to escape the harsh Canadian winter for a month or two.

In this case, the rock is the weak Canadian dollar; the hard place, VRBO–another insidious American company (like Apple) I could cheerfully cast to the depths of corporate hell.

With the Loonie hovering below 80 cents, it’s bad enough that the California desert, Arizona, Texas and Florida have become ridiculously expensive. What makes it worse is that once-affordable destinations in Mexico and Costa Rica have followed suit.

Why?

Because VRBO has imposed the US dollar as the standard rental currency, even when you’re renting outside of the United Sates. Sure, you’ll save money in Mexico on food, booze and restaurant visits, but you’ll be paying for the most expensive part of your trip–rent–in greenbacks.

My second issue with VRBO is that it creates a closed, artificial marketplace that favours short-term over longer-term rentals. You can find some rentals that have, say, a 30-day minimum rental period, but such places are in the minority. Also, pricing for these properties is still based on a daily rate, which make them really expensive when calculated on a monthly basis. At least AirBnB gives its client-landlords the option to discount longer stays.

If you have any doubts that VRBO creates an artificially inflated market, consider this: the lowest price I could find for a modest two-bedroom condo in Palm Springs from June 15 to July 15 was $67 USD a night. This equates to $2,052.29 USD for the month, or over $2,500 Canadian during an off-peak time when temperatures routinely soar to the mid-forties. Celsius.

But wait–there’s more! This doesn’t include manager fees ($415.00 US) and a further $152 USD “Service Fee” which “helps VRBO provide a safer and more secure booking experience, coupled with 24/7 customer support throughout your trip.”

Customer support? Does that mean I can call VRBO if I’m stuck at the side of a busy highway with a flat tire? Perhaps they’ll even send a representative to help me look for the keys to my rental when I lose them?

Grand total for the cheapest Palm Springs rental in oven-like heat? Over $3,400 Canadian after your bank has taken its cut of the exchange rate. Now, I can understand high rental rates in Canada, where housing costs and property taxes drive inflated rents. But this is a condo that sells for around 180K USD.

Hmmm…maybe VRBO should look at seasonal rent-to-own agreements for Canadians.

Still, this Palm Springs rental is only slightly more expensive than the one I found for the same dates in Acapulco, which, tragically, has become a war zone between competing Cartels, and reigning murder capital of Mexico. That two-bedroom condo would only cost me $2,378.20 USD, unless I trashed the place and lost my $200 USD damage deposit.

What’s most frustrating about VRBO and its aggressive competitor, AirBnB, is that they have a stranglehold on the holiday rental market, and you have to work extremely hard to find affordable long-term rentals and escape the tyranny of the US dollar.

Though many Canadians can no longer afford to rent off-season condos in deserts and war zones, there’s always the good ‘ole RV as an option. After all, we Canadians just love the whole camping experience, don’t we?