What does the HARP program and Airbnb have in common? Maybe more than you would think.


I have had properties on VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) since 2001. Vacationers can search properties for rent by owner and deal with the owners directly.

VRBO was bought by HomeAway and parent Expedia in 2016.

All of a sudden, the once easy, benign VRBO methods of talking to potential guests, accepting their credit card for payment by phone, actually answering their travel questions and making them feel welcome, etc. became history.

The buyout by online booking giant, Expedia, forced VRBO subscriber owners to offer online booking. And if you refuse, you are cast to the bottom of the listing chart and castigated to hell.

And on top of that, the “new” VRBO/ HomeAway/Expedia debacle charges a 10% booking fee that goes straight to them – not the owners!

So guess what? Rates have gone up and the traveler now will spend much, much more to book a vacation spot on VRBO.


So in my desperation and refusal to fall to the smarmy tricks of Expedia, I decided to place my condo at the Lighthouse in Gulf Shores on Airbnb.

Before I could even set up my PayPal account, I was bombarded with requests – all Millennials, with smarter phones than mine, wanting to book for three days.

I did not even have time to sync my Airbnb/VRBO calendar before I had three online bookings.  I had to decline them all.

Funny thing, none of the millennials wanted to actually talk to me. They just wanted to click, pay, get a text, and show up for a mini vacation.

I was in over my head. So I decided to hit the “snooze” profile for now.


HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) was rolled out by Fannie Mae in 2009-2010 after the housing crash to help homeowners that were underwater on their mortgages.

It has been extended until late this year.

Anyone with a conventional loan (not VA or FHA) can refinance to a lower rate without an appraisal, very little documentation, and do pretty much everything online with a Lender.

Like Airbnb, HARP allows for instant gratification with very little interaction with a real, live person. HARP was never designed to be an online, quick fix for a stupid decision made when one bought their home.

Easy is not always easy. Does anyone remember the old saying “Haste makes waste”?

Does anyone really want to actually communicate with another human being anymore?

I guess that explains the popularity of reality TV shows and televised sports. Real people are forced to communicate with each other in order to win the game of life.

Sure, let’s offer online news, banking, iMortgages, shopping for cars and homes, prescription eye wear, even food!

And then there’s Amazon. (More on that later.) A picnic is always easier than a pilgrimage.

My Conclusion

For the trained professional salesman, I suggest he/she use their knowledge to develop an online delivery system or they will find themselves unemployed and joining the ranks of the milk man.

For me, I really want to speak to someone when it comes to a rare vacation opportunity. And I definitely want to TALK to a live person when dealing with my home finances.

Sad part is, if this online, non-communicative way of living ever does come back around to the need of human interaction, it will be too little too late unless our Millennials learn how to verbally communicate with their fellow man.