Booking Fees – First of a Three-part Series
We at Abalone Bay want to explain about booking fees, to help you save money, and to instruct you on how to directly book vacation rentals safely whether you stay with us or others. We have prepared a three-part series on how to do all that. In this, our first blog post, we explain what are the booking fees for Abalone Bay and shed light on guest service fees.
Our second part of this story is how to book directly to save money on the guest service fees.
Our final post guides you to booking vacation rentals online securely.
What Are Abalone Bay’s Booking Fees?
Are there any other booking fees tacked on to the cost of booking directly with Abalone Bay?
The answer to that question is: Yes — there are added booking fees. But those are required by law.
But unlike the online booking and advertising sites such as VRBO or Airbnb we are very up-front about those fees.
What Are the Required Booking Fees?
When you book your stay at Abalone Bay we charge the full cost of your stay. Other locations may charge 50% deposit with the other portion to be collected days to weeks prior to your arrival.
Included in the cost is the following required fees:
Sonoma County Transient Occupancy Tax of 12%
Abalone Bay’s Transient Occupancy Tax number is TOT ID# 1596.
Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), also commonly known as ‘bed tax’, is authorized under State Revenue and Taxation Code Section 7280, as an additional source of non-property tax revenue to local government. This tax is levied at a rate of 12% in Sonoma County.
Anyone who plans to operate a lodging facility (Hotel, Motel, Bed & Breakfast, Campground, Second Home, etc.) in the unincorporated area of Sonoma County is required to register with the Tax Collector’s office.
Transient Occupancy Tax must be charged and tracked separately from the stated room rate.
Sea Ranch Association Assessment of 3.5%
The Sea Ranch Association is the nonprofit membership corporation of the properties located in The Sea Ranch. The Association seeks to meet the increasing and highly sophisticated recreational demands of this unique region for the full enjoyment of its historical traditions and natural environment. In order to maintain The Sea Ranch’s common grounds, its recreational facilities, its extensive system of trails a Home Owners’ Association fee is collected.
Guest’s of our Abalone Bay home, as well as other vacation rentals, are also assessed use fees of 3.5%
You may read more about our Covenants and Conditions of home ownership here.
Sonoma County Tourism Business Improvement Area (BIA) fees of 2%
Property management companies and hotels are assessed by Sonoma County Tourism 2% for BIA fees. Currently individual homeowners are not, if their properties generating less than $350,000 per year. The BIA payment is an assessment, rather than a tax, that is placed on a guest’s lodging managed by a company, and charged back to each guest upon departure. The BIA assessment is 2% of the total revenue collected from rents charged.
Currently individual homeowners are not required to charge their guests and remit this fee as their yearly income from renting their homes is is less than $350,000.
However in November, 2022 the Sonoma County Tourism presented an initiative to zero out the base level of income. The goal was to have all lodging entities, including individual homeowners to charge their guests the 2% BIA fees. The initiative was suspended, with the goal to to institute it by 2023.
What are the Added Taxes?
Sonoma County adds 12% tax on the 3.5% Sea Ranch Home Owners Association Fee collected. Sonoma County Assessor and also taxes the cost of housekeeping.
What’s the Cost Breakdown of Booking Fees?
These taxable fees for Abalone Bay break down as follows:
- Base rate at $585 per night [actual rate dependent on dynamic pricing]
- 12 % Sonoma Taxes (TOT) on the full rate
- Sea Ranch HomeOwners Association Fee is 3.5% of the base rent plus
- The Sea Ranch Fee is taxable by Sonoma County at 12%
- There is no tax on deposit fees
Are There Any Other Booking Fees?
The short answer for Abalone Bay is – NO.
We allow up to 2 dogs without added fees, though other home owners may have an added fee. Housekeeping fees are not sorted out of our pricing as other homes may do as well.
We do require a refundable Damage Deposit of $500. This damage security deposit will be returned following an inspection by our staff of the home after your departure.
Is That ALL of the Fees?
To answer that question depends on how you are booking. There are no other booking fees when you book directly with us.
So when you book directly with us, then the answer to that question is… Yes, that is all the fees we charge you.
And this is a BIG BUT…
If you book your stay via an online booking or travel agency then you will likely find you have been hit with a costly guest services fee neatly tucked away in your cost break down.
Yes, this is hidden until AFTER you clicked on the Book Now or Request to Book buttons!
There’s Hidden Guest Services Fees Too?
And we are NOT happy about it any more than you are.
Guest Service Fees are another means for online booking and travel agencies (OTAs) to put more of YOUR money in their pockets.
What are OTAs?
An online travel agency (OTA) is a website that sells travel-related products, including airline tickets, car rentals, cruises, experiences, accommodations and more. As a vacation rental owner we utilize OTAs that specialize in renting temporary housing (less than 30 days usually) to travelers.
Basically they are online marketplaces that sell everything to do with travel. They provide travelers easy and quick access to a variety of travel options that meet a wide variety of travel needs. They make purchasing airline tickets, accommodation, tours, car rentals, and everything in between convenient and quick! Examples in the short term rental world include Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, BringFido, MisterBandB.com, and TripAdvisor.
As a short-term rental host, we also advertise our accommodation on the OTAs so that Sea Ranch Abalone Bay has a greater chance of being discovered by travelers.
However, when you use a third party to book your travel and vacation location, you must also pay them for the service. Below are the various OTA’s service fee explanations:
Booking with Vrbo, guests are charged a 6% to 15% service fee of the subtotal (minus taxes). The service fee is a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees paid by the guest. With earlier the push-back from guests and owners, Vrbo no longer charges guest service fees for experiences (e.g. renting extra items such as boats, golf carts).
This fee helps cover the cost of secure transactions, product development, and 24/7 customer service. Additionally, when a guest pays through our site, they are eligible for the Book with Confidence Guarantee.
Note: The service fee amount varies. Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of the service fee. A value-added tax is charged on top of the service fee, if required by local regulations.
Service fee refunds
Hosts can’t discount or waive the service fee. If a reservation is within the window for a 100% refund as per the property’s cancellation policy, the service fee is automatically refunded when the cancellation is confirmed.
Airbnb not only charges you fees, it also charges us, the host fees! Needless to say, many hosts, who also book directly including us raise our pricing to recoup that added cost to us. Recently guests have wisened up about the added fees causing Airbnb to show the fees now in the total price prior to check-out. It has also encouraged owners to include the fees into the over all costs.
This fee structure is the most common and is split between the Host and the guest.
Most Hosts pay a 3% fee, but some pay more, including:
- Airbnb Plus Hosts
- Hosts with listings in Italy
- Hosts with Super Strict cancellation policies
This fee is calculated from the booking subtotal (nightly rate + cleaning fee + additional guest fee, if applicable—excluding Airbnb fees and taxes) and is automatically deducted from the Host payout.
Most guest service fees can be as high as 14.2% of the booking subtotal (nightly rate + cleaning fee + additional guest fee, if applicable—excluding Airbnb fees and taxes). This fee varies based on a variety of factors and is shown during checkout before you book so you know what to expect.
2. Host-only fee
With this structure, the entire fee is deducted from the Host payout. It’s typically 14–16%, though Airbnb Plus Hosts and Hosts with Super Strict cancellation policies may pay more.
Tell Me More about These Disgusting Guest Service Fees!
These fees serve to simply make a profit for an online booking site, pay back shareholders, and increase brand dominance for increase bookings. Their ultimate goal – to increase the cycle of profitability and growth.
What They Want You to Believe
The blurb you’ll see if you are clever enough to click on the mysterious question mark will “assure you” these added fees are to help make your booking safe and secure.
Check out the pop-up boxes below. As you can see – if you book our home or any other properties through their sites, you’ll be charged an additional fee.
Airbnb’s added service fees for a booking in October is over $500!
Also note that we have increased our rates for Airbnb to accommodate Airbnb’s recent risky new refund policy.
Note that VRBO’s overall pricing is less than Airbnb’s but VRBO still adds $331 to your total costs.
OTAs to the Rescue – Yeah Right!
Sure they promise added customer support. But what does that really mean? Will you actually call these companies if you have a problem with access to Abalone Bay or any other holiday home?
Do you REALLY believe Airbnb will come over to help you out if there is a problem?
Are you going to call VRBO to make sure there are some flowers or champagne left for your anniversary, or if the hot tub can be heated on arrival, or if a raccoon is trying to become best friends with your dog?
So just what is this mysterious premium service for which they are charging this exorbitant fee?
Well honestly… That is anyones best guess!
Must I Shell Out Money For This?
I REPEAT…. NO!
NO, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY THESE FEES!
This is one booking fee you can definitely avoid simply by booking directly with your vacation rental’s homeowner or property management.
Want to put money in your pocket when staying at Abalone Bay?
All you need to do is to book directly with us here.
Save Even More!
Our Inner Circle members save even more. By signing up for our mail-list as an Inner Circle guest save as much as 20% on bookings when they book direct with us.
Whether you stay with us in the future or any other property in the world, I wanted our valued guests and friends to be aware of the change.
Easy Peasy… And About $1,000 Cheaper!!
We hope this helps to explain the added booking fees you will find on your receipt. To learn how to book directly to save money click here for our second post in this series.
We want you to stay informed about booking fees, guest service fees, and other important issues that face you as a guest in our vacation rental.
We also want to keep you up to date with the latest tips and announcements of events and activities to enjoy while you are staying at Abalone Bay.
Save Even More as an Inner Circle Member!
The best way to do that is to sign up now to be a member of our Inner Circle. Members receive discounts, special benefits by being a member. Our newsletter announces these as well as information and special tips for your vacation planning.
With your subscription to our newsletter, you’ll receive immediate information that will make your stay at Abalone not only enjoyable but also economical.
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