November 20, 2017

How to Be Smart When Booking a Vacation Rental

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I let you know earlier this week that I’m planning a family vacation to Puerto Rico. Since there are nine of us going on the trip we decided to rent a couple of condos rather than book a few hotel rooms. But just as I was in the middle of making our arrangements in Puerto Rico, I read this article about phishing scams in which renters were swindled out of their money and left without a place to stay. Then I got worried.

We’re renting two condos in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and about the time I read that article I had just paid for an entire week’s stay at one of the condos. I had not heard from the owner for a few days, so I started to wonder if I’d just been taken too. Yikes.

A day or two later I heard back from the owner and the arrangements were all set. However, it did make me think about how to be smart when renting a vacation home or condo since in most cases you need to put down a security deposit or pay for the entire stay before even getting on a plane. So, I checked in with the folks at HomeAway for some tips when opting for a vacation rental on your next family holiday.

Book With a Reputable Site. Of course it makes sense that HomeAway, the leading online marketplace of vacation rentals, would offer this as advice, but it’s true. They invest in support and security for their users, and you can’t say the same for Craig’s List.

Read Reviews. When I book a vacation rental, I always look at the reviews. After the photos it’s the next section on a rental listing I check out. I like to see that a property has a good number of reviews, recent reviews in particular, so I can get an unbiased, first-hand perspective about the vacation rental.

Get Rental Rules in Writing. Sign a rental agreement that outlines property rules, such as check-in/out times, cancellation policy and check-out expectations. Some properties also require a cash security deposit at check-in, so it’s good to have it all spelled out to ensure there are no surprises.

Talk to the Homeowner (Before You Pay). Give the property owner a call, and do it before you pay to confirm details of your payment and reservation. This ensures that you have, in fact, been communicating by email with the property owner and also protects you from phishing scams in case the owner’s email was hijacked and you haven’t really been communicating with him or her at all.

Pay by Credit Card or PayPal. If you can, pay for your vacation rental by credit card or by PayPal. These are good, traceable ways to protect your payment. Never, ever send cash or wire money to book a vacation rental no matter how reputable the owner seems. You need to protect yourself, and your money.

Get a Local Contact. Property owners often do not live in the same city as the vacation rental, so get a name and phone number of someone local. While I didn’t think of this before we stayed in a rental in Orlando, the local property manager called me within hours of my arriving in Orlando. He was especially helpful when we needed a local hospital for my daughter when she slipped and cut her head on a table.

Have you ever stayed in a rental property on a family vacation? If you have any more tips or thoughts, leave them in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Prestigious Villas

Disclaimer: This post contains a link to an affiliate. Further, the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are purely mine. I was not compensated in any way by HomeAway to share these tips with my readers. 

Comments

  1. Erin – we rented a condo in Fajardo in December. I tried to use your email contact but it came up blank. Feel free to email me if you want some tips from our recent trip there. We’ve done rentals through vrbo.com several times and had good experiences, but it’s always a scary thought that you might get swindled. Good tips here!

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