Top 3 Online Contract Options for Vacation Rental Owners


Online Contract options for Vacation Rentals

Ladies and gents, gather the kids & pack the car.  I’m about to take you into the future.

Actually, the future (online contracts, online payments, book it now, etc.) is already reality for most of us. Now we are just waiting for everyone else to catch up and join the party.

It’s time to alert your fellow Vacation Rental Owners so they don’t get left behind….unless you actually want your competition to die a slow death (enter evil laugh here).  But really, let’s get everyone on board. It’s a much better experience for our guests which means it’s good for our industry.

The case for Online Contracts vs. Paper & Ink, mailed or faxed/scanned.

As a VR owner/manager, you are busy. How would you like to shave 5 or 35 minutes of busy work off of each booking? At the same time, wouldn’t it be nice to delight your guests with a modern & simple way to book? Note: while online payments go hand in hand with this discussion, we will focus on contracts & eSignatures for this post. 

Headaches you will NEVER have to deal with again if you switch to Online Contracts:

  • Waiting & wondering if that contract or payment is in the mail or not.
  • Juggling other guests until you know if someone actually sent the contract.
  • Checking your mailbox everyday!
  • Running to the bank. Hoping the check clears. Mailing back deposit refunds.
  • Stressing out even more when you travel  and are away from your mailbox.
  • Feeling like you are always in limbo.
  • Struggling to read a blurry fax or poorly scanned contract.

Can I stop now? Enough examples?

No? You want to see it all in a pretty little chart? Ok, you win!

Comparison Chart of Online VS. Paper & Ink Contracts

Online vs Paper Contracts

Ok Steve, we get it!  Just tell us what the best online contract options are.

If you use VRBO or HomeAway you get free access to Reservation Manager. RM allows you to upload your contract so the guest has to agree to the contract before making a reservation. RM also handles the credit card or eCheck payments as well as complete “Book it Now” functionality.  If you want to simplify your life & only use one method for everything, RM is a great choice. You can even use RM to process other bookings outside of VRBO and HA.

If you use Flipkey’s FREE Listing (which EVERY owner should use to increase bookings) you have to use their online payment system which is a breeze. You simply upload your contract to their site once and you are done! Flipkey handles all the credit card fees, deposit refunds & more.  If you are still on their subscription model, you can use Reservation Manager above or one of the services below to handle your online contracts.

If you are on lots of listing sites, plus your own website etc., you may want to look at alternative online contract solutions. Most all of the Vacation Rental Software companies have built-in online contract management, but here are the best stand-alone eSignature solutions from Google FormsEchoSign, RightSignatureDocusign, HelloSign and SignNow: 

eSignature Options for Vacation Rentals

In case you are wondering, online contracts are just as legal and enforceable as paper and ink. See this eSignature guide from PCWorld with more info.

Online Contract Workflow Comparison:

Google Forms:

1) I reply to inquires via Gmail. 2) Click on my Email Template in Tout. This pulls up a pre-formatted email including quote, payment link (PayPal) a link to my contract. Fill in details, hit send. Done.  3) Customer fills out contract, I get notified. Customer is officially booked when payment received. Your time spent on Contract: 0 minutes. Guest time: 5 minutes to read and click.

Check out the Google Forms video below:

Reservation Manager:

1) Log into RM. 2) Click “reply now”, fill in quote details. If you have uploaded your contract, it makes them sign the contract also. Click send.  3) Customer signs contract, makes payment and is officially booked. Your time spent on Contract: 0 Minutes. Guest time: 5 minutes to read and click.

Reservation Manager

eSignature Software:

1) Agree on quote/payment separately via email or phone. 2) Pull up eSignature website 3) Log-in 4) Pick agreement to send 5) pull email address from email and add to software 6) Click send. 7) Customer signs contract, and along with making payment, your VR is officially booked. Your time spent on Contract: 2 minutes. Guest time: 5 minutes to read and click.

Here is how it works with EchoSign

Paper & Mail/Fax/Scan

Sorry, no video. Would you watch a 3 day long video?

1) Log into Email. 2) Prepare & email contract to Guest. 3) Guest receives contract.  4) Must now print contract to be able to sign it. Usually not a problem but is for some. 5) Guest must now read & sign 6) Now guest must either  a) Fax – do they have access to a fax? Do you accept faxes? b) Scan Contract – do they have access to a scanner? Do they know how it works? Maybe they need to make a trip to Kinkos? or c) Mail the contract – pay for a stamp and put in envelope. Ooops. Left it on the counter and missed the mailman. 7) Place in mail. 8) Wait for mail to arrive. 9) Go to mailbox to pick up contract. Hope it’s not a blizzard today.  Your time spent on Contract: 5 to 10 minutes plus possible multiple DAYS of waiting for the mail. Guest time spent: 7 minutes best case (5 to read & sign + 2 to scan or fax assuming they have a home office). Worst case 30+ minutes + cost of gas, a stamp and a huge hassle. Not the kind of start most people want for a vacation.

What are the Top 3 Online Contract Solutions for Your Vacation Rental? 

1) Reservation Manager from VRBO & HomeAway

IF you use VRBO or HomeAway, try Reservation Manager first. It’s all there for you. At least start there and try one of the other options if you don’t like it. Remember, you can use RM for all your bookings, not just those from VRBO/HomeAway.

The obvious negative of RM would be you need to have a listing on their site…but then again, if you are serious about renting you vacation rental, you really should be on the top 5 listing sites – here is why. See the Listing Sites (and coupon codes) for the Top 5 sites here.

2) Google Forms

Google Forms holds a special place in my heart. OK, did I go to far?  Guilty as charged.

I just can’t think of an easier service to use. I simply have a link to my online contract in my Inquiry Reply Email Template, (thanks ToutApp) that gets automatically sent to every inquiry that I offer a quote to. I never even have to make 1 extra click to send my contract, much less think about it. This is key as I may send out 20 – 50+ of these a month just for one cabin. I simply get notified when a new contract has been signed.

The only very minor downside is that it may not appear quite as professional as the other paid services, but it works as well or better and is just as legal.

3) EchoSignRightSignature or HelloSign

If you pick any of these three, you will be very happy. RightSignature is the best value on a monthly basis with a free 30 day trial. If you are an extremely low volume user, you may be able to use EchoSign for free as you get 5 free contracts per month. HelloSign is well designed and easy to use. You can’t go wrong with either of these 3 options.  I researched about 10 of these services and these 3 stood out for value, trust, and other VR owner recommendations.

ANY of these options will be a huge improvement over paper. Your guest will like it, you will love it and you might even get a thank you note from that tree you saved. Pick the one that suits your needs and go for it!

*This is not legal advise. I’m not even a lawyer on TV. Any legal questions should be answered by your attorney.

Loading Facebook Comments ...


  1. Good stuff.
    I was thinking to ask a developer to create a system for me. Thanks a lot for listing these options!
    I have a question to you, Steve: I usually update rental agreement with individual price of rental, whether pets are allowed, any specific conditions and then send to a client. How do I do that in any of these systems ( I checked e-signature and watched your video on Google Forms) and is it really necessary?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Olga,

      I don’t modify each one myself, but even on Google forms you can have the guest use a check box, pick a multiple choice option or fill in the blank, etc, to make sure they are agreeing to what you need. This makes it easy as I then send the same exact link to everyone, and it turns out being personalized by the guest.

      Thanks for your comment! Steve

Speak Your Mind