Our listing websites are focused on specific countries or regions, we build them initially using a process of applying our custom web technology on to a new site.
Once the mechanics are in place we spend time looking at the specific areas that make up the country and divide it up into sub regions and then towns and resorts.
At this stage we have the outline of the website but that’s not a lot of good without any properties to display to visitors.
Now we are hit with the old chicken and egg scenario, we need property listings to help attract website visitors but it’s difficult to attract new property listings without website visitors.
We would never take any money or offer to list properties for free without first having a website which has decent traffic levels, it could be tempting to take the money for listings immediately but in my opinion it’s short-sighted, even though I know of quite a few other sites that try to start up this way.
If we don’t manage to generate any enquiries or bookings for our paying customers then they are never going to renew and will likely tell others that we are not worth bothering with. It might work for someone looking to make a quick buck but for a long term business it’s just not worth it.
The approach we decided upon was to strike a deal with a company that already has properties to list and utilise their inventory to populate our websites with holiday rental properties. The company we chose was Villa Renters.
Having looked around we decided to partner with Villa Renters for a few reasons:
- They had a good selection of properties covering the areas we initially wanted to go live with
- They offered property feeds which our developers could work with
- For referring visitors we could earn a small commission of the booking fee
With regards to their booking process and commissions, Villa Renters operate slightly differently to how we do. They offer their customers a full online booking service, if you find a property you want to book then you pay online with your credit card, Villa Renters handle the transaction, take a booking commission and then pass the funds on to the property owner.
Personally I’m not a fan of that booking model from a property owners point of view but more of that in another post.
What we did like is that by earning a commission on bookings made by visitors who first found the properties through us then we could definitively see how our sites were performing, if we earn lots of regular commissions for bookings then you could say that people listing their own properties directly with us should see decent enquiry and booking numbers.
Our commission level is an indicator to us when a listing site has grown to the level of being viable for our own customers.
As our own inventory grows, i.e. we accept more and more of our own customer’s properties we will adjust the number of Villa Renters properties down, eventually weaning ourselves off them entirely or perhaps just using them for areas where we have low inventory levels.
Finally I should note that when a website visitor performs a search on any of our listing sites the first results returned will always be our own customers properties, not the Villa Renters ones. Our focus is on making the best performing listing sites for our customers, any commissions earned from elsewhere are secondary to this.
Hopefully that explains where our initial property inventory comes from and why we have gone down this route. If you have any questions just let me know in the comments.