Google Ventures Backs Vacation Rentals Site HomeAway

HomeAway, which operates websites listing holiday homes for rent, has confirmed it’s taken investment from Google Ventures.

NY Times first reported the deal three weeks back; now it’s confirmed. HomeAway says Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has bought shares from existing shareholders; NYT put the deal at $25 million. HomeAway had already raised a big $410 million by November 2008.

Austin, Texas-based HomeAway has grown in to one of the sector’s leading operators by consolidation of similar sites, and operates in the U.S., 11 European countries and Brazil. its model is to charge holiday home owners for their listing, now featuring 540,000 rentals in 120 countries.

It costs $300 to list a property for a year, and on average, users earned $20,000 in rental income annually.

The move could suggest Google wants to augment its own search index with vacation rentals. But, as we reported this year, Google Ventures is looking beyond investments that merely bolster Google’s own services, in to hard investment opportunities.

HomeAway seems to fit in to that category. It says its turnover grew 45 percent to $120 million in 2009. From its announcement: “Moving forward, with the help of Google, the company will focus its attention on further technological development, among other things, to optimise its websites and simplify the booking process.”

The company also wants Google’s help to expand in to Asia and Australia.

Google Ventures has lately backed local deals aggregator SignPost, mobile game maker Ngmoco, photo ad network Pixazza, mobile location service SCVNGR and affiliate link startup VigLink.

There are 17 companies in the portfolio.