When Airbnb first arrived on the scene, it was a game-changer. Such marketplaces connect people who want to rent out their properties with those who are looking for places to rent in some specific area.

Building your own vacation rental marketplace similar to Airbnb is not a tough deal anymore, and it can become a great source of revenue since any booking platform can be easily monetized in several ways.

In this article, we’ll explain to you:

We’ll walk you step-by-step through the whole process of setting up your website and briefly explain the most popular monetization models for your multi-vendor booking platform.

Okay, let’s get started!

What Is a Rental Marketplace?

A rental marketplace is a platform where people can rent real estate from each other. Probably, the most prominent example is Airbnb.

Airbnb homepage.

When Airbnb first arrived on the scene, it was a game-changer. The idea behind Airbnb was as simple as ABC – connect people who want to rent out their accommodations with those who are looking for a place to stay.

It’s a community-based online platform that has changed the way we travel and has become a world-famous company without even having its own property. But let’s take a closer look at how it works and makes money.

Airbnb’s Business Model

One of the main secrets of Airbnb’s success is that it’s completely free to sign up on the platform, and it’s free for anybody to list their property. The marketplace charges users only when there’s a confirmed reservation.

Airbnb is a two-sided marketplace, and it receives commissions from two sources upon every booking, namely from the hosts and guests. Most guests pay a service fee under 14% of the booking subtotal, and at the same time, hosts are charged a 3% commission. For example, on a $100 booking per night set by a host, Airbnb might make about $15, split between the host and guest fees.

Additionally, the platform allows experienced hosts to offer different kinds of experiences (in-person or online activities). They can provide travelers with special knowledge, unique skills, and inside access to experiences, places, and communities, from Mezcal & Tequila cocktail masterclasses to overnight desert safaris. Needless to say that Airbnb charges hosts who offer experiences with a service fee of 20%.

Just think about it for a second – Airbnb has more than 150 million users around the world, and it charges each of them every time they book something. To get a better idea of Airbnb’s revenue, take a look at the stats below.

Revenue of Airbnb.

Revenue of Airbnb worldwide from 2017 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars).

Prerequisites to Create a Multi-vendor Booking Platform

Okay, now you have a better understanding of rental marketplaces and how they work, but what about launching your own one. All you need to do is choose a more specific niche and put all your efforts into offering high-quality services to a target audience.

When you have an idea for your online business, the easiest way to test it is by building a website with WordPress. It’s a free and user-friendly content management system that even a rookie can handle and create a fully functioning website like Airbnb without a single line of code.

So, before starting your vacation rental platform, make sure that you have the following prerequisites:

  • Domain name;
  • Hosting plan;
  • WordPress installation;
  • A WordPress theme.

Let’s briefly cover each of them.

Get a Domain Name

The starting point is to select the right domain name for your future rental marketplace. Basically, it’s a web address of your website, like “example.com”. It’s crucial to pick a good domain name from the start since it can be a hassle to switch later on without hurting your brand and search rankings.

A general piece of advice is to use a domain name that will indicate what type of business you are running. Also, here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your domain name:

  • Brandable over generic;
  • Shorter is better;
  • Easy to type;
  • Easy to pronounce;
  • Avoid hyphens and numbers.

Bear in mind that you cannot buy a domain name permanently and have to pay for the registration every year (usually, it costs $10-15 / year).

Choose a Hosting Provider

The next step is to get a hosting service for your rental marketplace. It’s necessary since you need a place to store your website’s database and files. There are many providers on the market, so you can choose one according to your preferences. However, if you are not sure which one to select, you can’t go wrong if you use one of the WordPress recommended hosts.

On average, a hosting plan costs $8-16 per month.

Install WordPress

Once you register a domain name for your rental marketplace and subscribe to a hosting plan, you can proceed with the WordPress installation. However, setting it up manually may be a bit time-consuming, and there’s no need to do it on your own since most web hosts have a one-click installer that will handle the whole process for you.

Nevertheless, if you want, you can follow this step-by-step guide to install WordPress manually.

Select an Airbnb like WordPress Theme

Finally, if you want to create a website like Airbnb with WordPress, you need to choose a WordPress theme tailored to this use. There are dozens of options on the market, but when looking for a theme for your rental marketplace, you should keep your eyes peeled for the themes that have a specific set of features.

Essential Features for a Vacation Rental Marketplace Theme

Before choosing a WordPress theme for your rental marketplace, bear in mind that it should already include the following features:

  • Booking System. Users should be able to book accommodations on your platform.
  • Marketplace Functionality. It’s necessary to allow users to register and list their properties on your website if you want to create a multi-vendor platform like Airbnb.
  • Monetization Tools. Your theme should support at least one monetization model so you can make money with your website.
  • Ratings & Reviews. It’s crucial for rental marketplaces to allow visitors to rate and review accommodations since they help build consumer trust and exclude untrustworthy hosts. 
  • Geolocation. The location-based search is a must-have for rental marketplaces.
  • Various Search Filters. It should be easy for travelers to narrow down the search using different search filters (e.g., price, number of rooms, square footage, etc.).
  • Messaging System. You need one, so users can communicate with one another.

As you can see, building a website like Airbnb with WordPress requires a ton of functionality, and you need a powerful theme if you are about to create a vacation rental marketplace.

Out of all the options available, we’ll use the RentalHive theme for the sake of this tutorial. It’s a modern multi-vendor booking WordPress theme that was crafted especially for building vacation rental marketplaces similar to Airbnb. It goes with all the required features right out of the box, so you can kick off your booking platform right away.

In the following steps, we’ll explain to you more about the RentalHive theme and how to set it up. So, let’s dive in and create a website like Airbnb with WordPress!

Steps to Build a Website like Airbnb with WordPress

1. Installing RentalHive

Your first step should be installing RentalHive. You can install directly from your WordPress dashboard by going to the Appearance > Themes > Add New > Upload Theme page. Then you need to upload the theme ZIP file, install and finally activate it.

Once you activate RentalHive, there will be a recommendation to install several plugins, including HivePress. It’s a plugin that will power most of the marketplace and booking features on your booking platform. So it’s necessary to install and activate all the recommended plugins by following the suggested link.

To keep things simple, you can also import the RentalHive demo content to get a better idea of how everything works with pre-made listings. You can follow the step-by-step screencast below to import it properly.

Now let’s move to the next step and install some add-ons.

2. Installing Add-ons

There are 15+ RentalHive add-ons that you can install to enhance your vacation rental marketplace. For example, you can install the Geolocation extension in order to integrate your website with Google Maps and allow users to search properties by location. It’s a crucial feature since location is the most important factor for travelers when they are looking for a place to stay.

Feel free to check the whole bunch of HivePress add-ons in the WP Dashboard > HivePress > Extensions section, in order to enrich your booking platform with additional features.

The list of the HivePress extensions

Once you install the necessary add-ons, you can move to the next step.

3. Adding Custom Listing Fields

Alright, now you can start setting up your booking marketplace. Since each website is unique, it may require different booking details depending on the site niche and requirements. In the case at hand, we are building a website similar to Airbnb, so let’s add some custom fields specific to property listings. You can add custom fields in the WP Dashboard > Listings > Attributes section.

For example, you can add a “Parking” attribute so users will be able to search for properties with parking. To do that, simply set the attribute name, allow its front-end editing, and select the attribute type. It’s better to select the “Checkbox” type for this one. Then mark it as filterable to allow users to filter properties using this field value and set “Checkbox” as the search field type.

Finally, you can define how this custom field will appear on the listing page by assigning it to certain template areas and setting its display format. When finished, click on the Publish button.

Adding custom listing field.

That’s it! In the same way, you can add more custom attributes and search filters, depending on your website niche and requirements. Okay, now let’s try to add the first property listing.

4. Adding a Property Listing

For the sake of this tutorial we imported the RentalHive demo content, so we’ll show you how to add a new listing to one of the pre-made categories (e.g., the “Houses” category). To get a better sense of how it works for users, we’ll do it from the front-end by going to the website, clicking on the List a Property button, and selecting the “Houses” category.

First of all, you have to fill in all the necessary details about your house, like square footage, location, price, description and so on. Next, you can customize the booking settings. You’ll notice that there are a few fields related to the booking restrictions.

Adjusting booking settings.

For example, you can set how many days are required prior to the booking date, then specify the booking window that defines how many days in advance a booking can be made. Also, you can set the minimum and the maximum booking duration to avoid single-day or long-term bookings. Finally, you can enable the “booking requests” option to accept each booking request manually.

When you complete the listing form, click on the Submit Listing button.

5. Booking a Property

Now let’s sign out and register a new account in order to check the whole process of booking a house by a regular user. To do that, we need to log out of the admin account, click on the Register button and complete the registration.

After the registration, we have to go to the “Houses” category and locate our previously added listing and try to book it. If a host sets some booking restrictions, users will be limited to a certain extent. For example, in the case at hand, users cannot book this house for more than 14 days and cannot check in earlier than 5 days from today (take a look at the screenshot below). That’s because we have set several booking restrictions in the previous step.

Example of how to create a website like Airbnb with WordPress.

In order to book a house, it’s necessary to pick the dates and click on the Request to Book button.

There will be a redirect to the confirmation page, where users can verify all the details before sending a request, as well as add some notes. After checking all the details, users can finish booking by clicking on the Send Request button.

Once a user books a property a host will see a pending request for booking in the My Account > Bookings section and can accept or decline it.

Example of a booking request.

That’s it! Once the booking is accepted, users receive a booking confirmation via email so they can start packing their suitcases.

Also, keep in mind that there’s a calendar feature that allows hosts to block or unblock specific dates to make them available or unavailable for new bookings. Moreover, the booking calendar helps hosts to see the whole picture of the month, like upcoming bookings, available and unavailable dates, and so on.

Booking calendar.

6. Monetizing a Vacation Rental Platform

Finally, we’d like to mention several monetization models that you can use in order to make money with your booking website.

  • Firstly, you can charge hosts a one-time fee for listing their properties on your website. It’s a widespread way of making money that is used by thousands of marketplaces. You can easily create and sell listing packages with the free Paid Listings extension, which is available in the WP Dashboard > HivePress > Extensions section.
  • However, websites like Airbnb use another monetization model. These booking websites make money from the commissions and transaction fees that they take for each booking. For example, Airbnb takes a flat 10% commission on each booking from the travelers and also charges hosts 3% of the booking amount as a transaction fee. If you want to use this monetization model, you can set up commissions on your website with the help of the Marketplace extension which is already included with RentalHive.

You can choose any of the above-mentioned monetization models or take advantage of both of them. Additionally, if you get decent traffic, you always have an option to place banners on your website or use Google AdSense in order to make an extra profit.

Wrapping Up

That’s all for today! Hopefully, this article has given you an idea about the tools you can use to build your own booking platform similar to Airbnb in no time.  Like with any online platform, gaining the first users may take some time and marketing efforts, but once you get decent traffic, your website may become a profitable business.

So, if you want to create a website like Airbnb with WordPress, bear in mind that you can easily build it with the RentalHive theme. It’s a lightweight, easy-to-use, and highly customizable theme that has all the necessary features right out of the box.

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