The Simple Google Hack That Will Help You Find Better Vacation Rental Deals

In 2023, a slew of property owners complained about experiencing an "Airbnbust," revealing that their vacation rental properties are collecting cobwebs due to the lack of bookings. Airbnb, however, noted that its revenue soared so much that it garnered $1.9 billion in 2022 alone, its biggest profit to date. So what gives?

As it turns out, there are just far more rental properties than renters. "There's more listings and more demand, but less demand per listing," Jamie Lane, the vice president of research at data analytics platform AirDNA, told The Washington Post. "Even though overall demand is up, everyone feels a little bit worse off, because those bookings are getting spread out over more listings." This trend is expected to continue beyond 2023, and while it's bad news for hosts, it's advantageous to travelers looking to save more money on accommodation.

Hosts are reportedly lowering their prices on Airbnb, Vrbo, FlipKey, and other vacation rental marketplaces, resulting in travelers having a wealth of options when it comes to choosing rentals that fit their budget. But get this: You can save even more money on your chosen rental with a lesser-known Google trick. All you have to do is perform a quick Google reverse image search.

Use Google Images to locate the listing on other platforms

Rental property hosts tend to raise their fees on platforms such as Airbnb to offset the charges websites take from every booking. This is simply how business works, of course, and you obviously can't expect them to turn a profit if they keep shouldering, say, the 3% service fee that Airbnb collects from them. What's more, some hosts also add cleaning fees, late checkout fees, and extra guest fees on top of the daily rate, resulting in the overall accommodation ballooning to a price that can raise eyebrows.

If you don't want to fork over more than you need to, you can try looking for the rental on other platforms where they may be listed at a more agreeable price point. How? All it takes is heading to Google Images and doing a reverse image search on the photos of the rental. You can use exterior shots of the property and see if it turns up on any other site. If it does and you see a better rate, great! If it doesn't, better luck next time.

Your chances of finding the property elsewhere are higher now, though. A growing number of vacation rental property owners are creating their own websites to generate more income. "I do think Airbnb has a place in my business to bring me clients, and I'm happy to pay them a percentage," Alexandra Greenawalt, a longtime Airbnb host, told CNBC. "But if people find me organically, I can make a little bit more money on my direct booking."

This hack can also be used to spot scams

The Google reverse image search not only helps you book accommodations for cheaper, but it also helps you determine whether a specific rental property online is a scam. Aside from checking if the reviews are fake and the description sounds sketchy, you can also verify whether the photos are really from the property owner or lifted elsewhere. A quick reverse image search ought to do the trick.

Make no mistake: Just because you found the property listed on other sites doesn't mean it's automatically a scam. In fact, spotting them on other booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo likely means that they are legitimate. However, if you find that they have a different owner on another site, or worse, the photos are ripped off furniture ads or magazine spreads, then it's a clear sign that the listing is bogus. 

It's worth noting, however, that booking a vacation rental outside of reputable sites often means that you're letting go of certain protections provided by those platforms, so tread carefully. "With vacation rentals, the most important thing is to make sure you're booking with a reputable company," Jessica Hinton, owner of Barefoot Vacation Rentals, told The Washington Post. "When booking from a large platform like Airbnb or Vrbo, there are many protections."