Big news in the world of vacation rentals

Yesterday, HomeAway, Inc., announced that it had acquired its largest competitor, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), one of the biggest vacation rental sites on the Web, and certainly our favorite here at SmarterTravel.com.

HomeAway.com, which was rated as "Best of the Web Directory" for 2006 by Forbes magazine, claims to have listings for 90 countries on six continents. With the acquisition, the company hopes to add VRBO's 64,400 rent-by-owner properties to its repertoire for a grand total of 130,000 properties in nearly 100 countries between the two sites.

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I spoke with Brian Sharples, HomeAway's founder and CEO, who told me that the company will make it easier for homeowners to post their listings on both sites, which means that consumers will have more choice on the site they prefer.

VRBO won't change dramatically, as it will continue to function as an independent website. And thank goodness, too, because I'm not ready to see its casual "craigslist" format go. I've booked several vacations on the site, and am rather attached. I will, however, look forward to poking around HomeAway.com—which appeals to a different type of consumer who likes to browse by region—just so I know I'm seeing everything, including the site's exclusive special offers.

HomeAway, Inc., has also secured a record $160 million in financing, which it plans to use to improve (and market) its sites for rental owners and consumers.

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