Jun 25, 2013

FlipKey offers a free listing with commission based pricing. This means that you pay nothing up front to be listed on FlipKey and TripAdvisor, their parent company, but instead pay 3% of each booking made.

We first listed with FlipKey in 2009 as part of a promotion that meant we only paid $2.99/month. In 6 months we received only 1 booking, and so when the promotion ended we canceled our listing. At the time it just seemed to be one more listing site that didn't get enough traffic to compete with the big players. But to be fair we didn't have any reviews, and the six months spanned a fairly quiet season for us. So when FlipKey announced their free listing, we decided to give it a try and called and re-activated our listing.

So how does it work?

First, it's important to realize that all of the restrictions I talk about below are specific only to the "free" (commission based) listing. If you pay for a traditional listing (currently $299/year) then FlipKey works just like VRBO or any of the other listing sites.

No Direct Communication

To ensure that FlipKey can collect their 3% commission, they need to make sure that you will process any payments through them. To do this they don't allow any direct communication with prospective guests. Instead, all communication is channeled through the FlipKey messaging system. As an owner, you login to the FlipKey web site or use their iPhone app, to review inquiries and respond. You don't see the potential guests phone number or email address, and they don't see yours, until a reservation is confirmed and payment has been collected.

It's worth mentioning that FlipKey detects any attempts (intentional or otherwise) to circumvent this. They detect phone numbers, email addresses, and certain web links included in messages, and either prevent the message from going through altogether, or remove the offending information. Here is how a message came through from the first person to inquire (I've changed their name)
Jane Doe
to Heather Chapman 
For security reasons, contact information is hidden  
Hi again,
Do please reserve the house for us. I'll sort out payment after I get home from work today. When I put in the dates on flipkey, I think it comes up as unavailable. Would you mind checking on that for me. My phone number is (phone: hidden) if it would be helpful to communicate that way, this evening.
Thanks, Jane

For us this lack of direct communication is the most significant issue with FlipKey's free listing. We're fortunate to have had minimal damage in our vacation homes since we began operating them in 2006. And we put this down in large part to very thorough screening. We recognize why FlipKey has to impose this restriction, and we've made the decision to accept the risk for the next 6 months. But then we plan to either pay for a listing, or drop FlipKey again.

FlipKey holds the payment until the guest checks in

As part of agreeing to make a booking with a guest, you get to define the payment schedule and cancellation policy. The guests make their payments to FlipKey through the web site. But FlipKey doesn't release this payment to you until after the guest has checked in. Presumably this is an attempt to reduce fraudulent listings. But it leaves us feeling that if a guest simply doesn't like the property then they could contact FlipKey and get their funds back, circumventing our cancellation policy.

In the many years we've operated a vacation rental we've never had this situation happen. But we put that down again to good communication with the guest before making a reservation. When we screen guests, we're not just making sure they aren't likely to damage our property, we want to make sure that they will be happy in our home.

Offers expire in 48 hours

When you extend an offer to someone through FlipKey, they have 48 hours to accept or reject. Since you have no way to contact them other than through the FlipKey messaging system, you can be left waiting for 2 days before you can offer the same dates to someone else. Our normal practice has been to put a 24 hour expiration on any offers that we extend. This reduces the chance that we have to turn away another inquiry while we're waiting to receive confirmation from a first one.

We contacted FlipKey about this 48 hour period and their explanation was "The reason why the 2 day rule is in place is due to the fact that owners and travelers can be in different time zones".

Do you have a free listing with FlipKey? If not, are you thinking of getting one? Or do the restrictions make it better to pay for a traditional listing? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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  1. I have 3 listings on Homeaway/vrbo and also on Flipkey using the comission based format.. in two years I have yet to make one booking using flipkey while conversely I remain almost fully booked using homeaway/vrbo. I have found that the lack of communication with a prospective guest significantly hurts my chances to book because I am hands on with my business, and I answer any questions and make arrangements with a guest prior to booking, which is impossible using flipkey. Also, them holding my money until after the stay is unacceptable.. I still have my flipkey listings but am considering deleting them since I keep replying to the two or 3 inquiries I get a month and they never turn into a booking.

    1. FWIW, FlipKey did recently contact several owners about a trial that would let us get payment much sooner. But that doesn't solve the bigger issues with not being able to communicate with guests directly. I've heard some owners report getting as many bookings with FlipKey as with HomeAway, but that seems to vary a lot by area. In our area HomeAway/VRBO are definitely the place to be.

    2. I joined the commission based Flipkey about six months ago. I get sooo many emails that so-and-so is interested in my property and quickly respond to the inquiry. Then FK prepares a quote that is sent to the inquiring guest. Then I get an email telling me that a request for payment has been made. Then I get an email saying that the payment request has expired. A LOT of back and forth emails but NO BOOKINGS until two weeks ago. Someone actually booked AND PAID Flipkey. What I did not understand is that I receive NOTHING until after the guest has stayed and gone! What the hell kind of system is this? Let me explain. My rental property is in Kissimmee, Fl. Almost all rentals there rent Saturday to Saturday. Flipkey states that they will release your money when the guest checks in. But then there is a line about releasing the money after one business day. Well, my guest checked in Saturday. No money was released. My guests are in my condo Sunday. No money released.. My guests are in my condo Monday, AHA a BUSINESS day! My funds are "released" Tuesday and I am told it will NOW take three to five business days to appear in my bank account! I asked them if someone actually gets in a car and drives to my bank in NJ to deposit my money but even that would take ONE day from Boston! So if all goes well, I will be paid at the earliest the Monday after my guest's 7-day stay is over and they are GONE or Wednesday of the week after they left!

      I own a business and yesterday's credit card receipts are in my bank TODAY. Five business days after a 3 day hold before my money is "released" in the year 2014 is no business model I am interested in staying with. Obviously, the float FK gets on all the deposits that they can hold for as long as it takes to get to check-in and then this automatic 9-10 day hold is money in the bank for them. They should not charge the renter or the owner for their service if they just keep the interest on the float they will make a killing. Once I get paid, I am out of there!

    3. we started listing ~5 months ago. FK yielded finally 1 booking, which starts next week. All others came through Airbnb. with both of these sites the delayed payment feels very uncomfortable. We had a French family in for 1 week. They arrived (all 9 of them!) on Friday evening. We did not see a $ until the following Wed because Mon was a holiday.By then they had been in our house for 5 nights!

    4. FlipKey are now running an "early payout" trial, which we've recently had our first experience with. As promised, the funds were transferred to our account within 5-7 business days of the guest paying. For anyone else on FlipKey's pay-per-booking plan, I recommend you contact support@flipkey.com and ask to be added to this trial.

  2. I have four properties on the HomeAway "suite" of web-sites. They really do control most of the first page of a google search with their three sites, HomeAway, VRBO, and VacationRentals. I keep waiting for another company to bump them aside (I think their rates are highway robbery, at close to $1000 annually for all three sites).

    So I've listed on FlipKey, and we'll see how it goes. The first thing I noticed was the pricing FlipKey offered the visitor. My unit rents for $194/night, or $970/week. FlipKey quoted them six nights at $194 = $1164 for the week, and of course I would never charge my visitors $1164 for six nights, when 7 nights is cheaper. So I'll have to figure out how to sort that out.

  3. Can anyone tell me how to get Flipkey to reply to my requests to revert to the Annual Fee system? We are in Sydney Australia and previously had successful bookings via this method. The 'free' system with no communication with guests + huge booking fee means we have had no bookings this way.
    I have had several attempts to email them and have phone Boston once...wait time of 15 mins. I will de-list if I can't contact them very soon. It's all a waste of my time and prospective guests.

    1. Were you able to contact them?
      I'm having same problem. I've been trying to contact them last few months via emails and phone calls, nobody answers them.
      I get inquiries but nobody want to book it because of big booking fee.
      I just want to change to yearly/monthly subscription from commission base, but I can't get anyone from Flipkey to communicate with me!

    2. Hello Miki and Christine.

      I am empathetic to your experience, for I just got off the phone with a "Renewal Team" member - after two weeks and three phone calls to 'customer care' (who kept telling me someone would call me back within 24-48 hrs) and I finally insisted that I speak to a supervisor/manager now.

      Here's what I heard to the questions I had:

      *Free Commission Model - host pays 3% commission and guest pays a booking fee between 5 & 15% - determined by a set algorithm looking at location, popularity and price of home.

      *Paid Annual Subscription:

      + self-service change to subscription is not an option (at this time) and must be done in person (phone/email) with a renewal team member... (yes, a bit surprising given it is 2016 and competitors have been doing it safely for a while now)

      + Cost = $499 for 1st property, $449 for 2nd, and ~$424 for 3rd listing.

      + guests (and hosts) don't pay any booking fee

      + host has direct contact with the guest (phone/email)

      + host can manage payment offline if they want; though, the online booking tool is available as an option

      + when the online booking tool is used, the money is sent to host bank/PayPal account 24 hours *after* guest check in - and there is a 3% processing fee per booking (typical credit card fee)

      + the property is deactivated internally during the change over to subscription model

      + when subscription payment is received, the internal validation team reviews (fraud prevention) - the process takes between 3-5 working days. Property is reactivated after review is clean.

      Lastly, I was told that a properties ranking does not improve when switching to the annual subscription model. Apparently, that is all driven by response times and customer reviews.

      I did get the sense that not having a self-service process online may be stretching the team's resources too thin - thus a back-log and lengthy delay (and frustration!) for hosts/customers like us.

      A faster response to questions or request to switch from commission to subscription may be possible with the following email: renewals@flipkey.com

      I hope this helps.

  4. Stay away from flipkey. They hold your money till after the tenant moves in and then it takes 10 days to get paid.


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