I've used both, once each. Not a big enough sample to favor one or the other. I'm inclined to favor VRBO because it seems a little easier to use. I want to rent an apartment in Paris next year for a week or two in Arr. 4, 5, 6, or 7. I would consider 15 or 18 if the location is right. I would like your opinion or a recommendation for a specific apartment. I probably want a studio at under 100 Eu per night in a fairly busy neighborhood with bakeries, bars, Metro, etc.
I've use VRBO many times in the US with no bad experiences. Used it to book two places this past May in Amboise and Paris. The place in Paris was on Boulevard de Sebastopol, one block from the Pompidou Center. Studio with Murphy bed in a building with an elevator. Owner was very accommodating and helpful.
We thought the location was perfect, within walking distance of everything in the Marais plus many restaurants around Les Halles. Near the Les Halles/Chatelet metro stop.
I prefer the set up and search functionality of homeaway.com.
You might face problems if you are planning to rent an apartment next year, due to the changes in required internet registration numbers which must be posted on internet advertising.
It's quite possible that the apartment you choose might not be approved, or will be otherwise unavailable.
AirBnB does hold your money in reserve before you actually see the apartment.
VRBO/HomeAway don't do this.
I've only used Airbnb in the US so I can't compare them. I used this VRBO studio apartment in Paris in 2012 and absolutely loved it - #275340. It's still an active listing and still gets good reviews. The location was excellent, on a fairly busy street (Rue du Temple) half way between the Hotel de Ville and Rambuteau metro stops and walking distance to many many places - Notre Dame, Louvre, Rue de Rivoli with all the shops, etc.. Owner was very helpful and accommodating. It was perfect for me, but there are some caveats - 1. It's on 4th floor (5th floor in US) and there is no elevator so you have to be able to do lots of stairs; 2. There is no A/C, but because it's on the top floor and it's a corner apt with basically floor to ceiling windows there was always plenty of air movement, I was there in August and I didn't even need a fan, but I'm sure the owner would have provided one if I had asked; 3. It's in a 'gay' neighborhood with quite a few bars and clubs so you have to be open minded about that. Personally, as an older woman traveling alone I never felt unsafe in any way and had no problem walking in the area late in the evening from the metro stops (the building has a security system). I have recommended it to others and they enjoyed it also and, if I felt I could still do the stairs, I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
I've used VRBO for years. When I looked at AirBnb, it appeared that you had to have a web cam in order to send in a photo and be active on social media. I couldn't meet these requirements. Unfortunately, from my experience with VRBO/Homeaway this May, it appears they may be starting to trend toward AirBnB's mode of operation. The host has your e-mail and phone number, but you no longer have theirs. The only way you can contact your host, unless that persons contacts you directly, is to go through the site's messaging. I find this frustrating. When a host went a week without responding to a message from me asking for arrival information, I called Homeaway. Their only suggestion was that they could send the host a "courtesy e-mail." They would not give me contact information. Also, they're now asking hosts to rate the guests, as AirBnB does. This is new. (It's fine; we got five stars, but I just liked the "original" VRBO modus operandi better.) We've rented two apartments in Paris on VRBO, but not in your preferred locations.
I have used both several times and have friends who have as well whose rentals I have visited and while I had some excellent experiences with AirBNB I found that the properties were more likely to be badly kept and the owners 'unprofessional' than on VRBO. I will never forget the Christmas where I rented a place for the family that had 5 plates for 9 people, no working lamps, not enough blankets or towels for the people booked and a broken dishwasher and broken oven (and us with the 14 pound turkey). The owner fixed things like plates and towels and lamps but we were stuck with the faulty appliances. The only time I had anything like that with a VRBO was a failure of the hot water system and while it was a pain to be without hot water for a week, the local agent worked very hard over a holiday to get it fixed and it was presumably more unpredictable than having appliances that were obviously long since non functioning.
I think AirBNB is more likely to attract someone who hopes to make a quick buck without working very hard. On the other hand we had one agent in LA whose apartments we were willing to rent without reviews or pictures because we had such confidence in his professionalism and word. It always boils down to the particular owner in the end.
We've only used AirBnB for one trip to Germany & Prague, and all our stays were great. We tended to stay shorter term (2-3 nights) rather than a full week. I thought most VBRO homes we researched, had longer minimum stay requirements.
One disadvantage of AirBnB, however was a host who cancelled about 3 weeks before our intended stay. (We reserved approx. 2 1/2 months in advance). I know life happens, and emergencies sometimes occur, but this was too far in advance for that. The host said he accidently 'double booked'. My guess is that our one night reservation happened to fall in the middle of a longer term request, so we were the obvious choice to bump. This was in a small town, and by the time we looked for a replacement, nothing was available that worked for our family. Since this was our first trip using AirBnB, and because an equal substitute could not be found, AirBnB both refunded our money, plus gave us a voucher to use (good for 1 year).
Guests cannot rate a host unless they actually stay, but it does indicate in the reviews when a host has cancelled a booking. I don't think that was always the case. We were at least fortunate that we had a 3 week notice. I've seen some notes indicating last minute cancellations by hosts. We also now glance through as many reviews as possible to see if that is a pattern.
You might consider Booking.com. It also lists lots of apartments.
I've used VRBO, Homeaway, AirBNB and Booking.com. My worst experience was with AirBNB involving an apartment in Athens. It was so bad that it soured me on ever using them again. I also had one annoying experience with a VRBO rental in Bruges.
My best experiences have been with the others, or with local agencies not affiliated with any of them, or with renting directly from the owner after finding the place on one of them, which saves both us and them money.
If you find something that looks good, do a Google search for keywords in the title of the listing. You may find that the apartment is listed on many services and/or that there's a way to contact the owners directly.
One caveat is that Paris has been cracking down on "illegal" rentals. We had a great place in the Marais in 2012. It was about 2 blocks from les Enfants Rouges, but it might not be an option anymore.
Thanks for your excellent suggestions and responses. I've used Booking a lot. I didn't realize they had numerous apartments. The financial arrangements in renting apartments are cumbersome. I see the reasoning behind the prepayment requirement; it's to protect the landlord. I wonder how easy or hard it is to get a refund if plans change.
I would definitely want an elevator unless the apartment is on the first floor.
Booking has a reliable reference system. Do the others have reliable recommendations? I know the companies have been around for years, but each apartment should have feedback from people who have stayed there.
I just spent some time looking at the AirBNB listings in my own city. Some look nice, legitimate, and in good areas. Others look unclean even in the pictures. (You can't pick up dirty laundry and clean off the table?) Some owners blatantly lie about the neighborhood. One listing was in a mobile home park that is known to have a lot of sex offenders.
My favorite was one that had four big pillows with Nicholas Cage them. That was on a loft bed with a "theater room" underneath, with a real bean bag chair.
I don't mean to disparage AirBNB. You'll want to look closely at any listing, but I think VRBO/Homeaway will have more professional places.
A VRBO rental is more likely to be a true vacation rental, as opposed to someone moving in with their boyfriend/girlfriend whilst you occupy their space for a time. I've rented through Airbnb once, very successfully, a separate basement apartment in the owner's house. A friend of mine rented a place, through Airbnb, in Vermont for a week and the owner popped in three times during his stay to pick up some things. I'm not saying this is common but it can happen. I've also read of short notice cancellations by Airbnb owners, which can be very inconvenient.
You can save a lot of money with a little bit of research by contactng owners directly, either through their websites or through the local town/district website. Although not very helpful when it comes to big cities, or Italy in general, local tourist boards in England, France and Germany have tons of information regarding holiday rentals. I rented a place in Cochem this year for at least 30 percent less than the price advertised on Booking.com. Another place I looked at in Swabia was almost 50 percent more on VRBO than by going directly through the owner (this place had a third party property manager listed, which only adds to the fees).
Ali this will change in Paris - sometime between Octobre and Décembre 2017.
I'd suggest that you hold off sending any money until Décembre to be certain that every listing has a legitimate registration number.