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12 Things to Know Before Renting a Vacation Home

June 16, 2015

The new trend in travel is staying at vacation homes instead of hotels. These locations are like a home-away-from-home for renters, with amenities like individual bedrooms, kitchens, multiple bathrooms, and patios. Some include incredible views, quick access to attractions, or seclusion in the middle of nowhere.

In the past seven years, online travel booking has grown by a whopping 73 percent. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of online vacation rentals doubled and now makes up seven percent of the travel industry. It may sound like a small percentage, but that equates to $23 billion in revenue!

While renting homes can be more cost effective for families and big groups than staying at a hotel, it also comes with its fair share of risks. Read on for tips on having a good experience when renting a vacation home.


Vacation Home Safety

1. Only Use Professional Websites

Sites like HomeAway and FlipKey offer many protections for travelers who rent through their site. They use owner verification processes, reviews, some insurance, and other guarantees to help you feel more comfortable with your vacation rental.

2. Rent Through an Agency

There are several agencies all around the world that specialize in rental vacation homes. Agencies often work in limited, yet high-traffic, areas like Hawaii, London, or Paris. The types of homes they manage tend to be in more affluent areas than the average vacation rental, but agencies can often eliminate many of the risks associated with renting a home.

3. Check for Property Management Companies

Large hotel chains and other property management companies sometimes offer vacation home rentals in their areas. These rentals work more like hotel rooms where there is someone available at all times if something were to go wrong.

4. Work with a Travel Agent

Looking for a vacation rental can be stressful, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. A travel agent can help you navigate the rental world and find a great option for you. Even if your travel agent doesn’t have much experience with rentals, they generally have the resources needed to help you research reliable vacation homes.

5. Check the Legality

Since sites like HomeAway and Airbnb arrived, some cities have prohibited short-term rentals. New York City, for example, made it illegal for a host to rent out a room without a permanent tenant staying on the property. Some other cities that have strict laws about short-term rentals include New Orleans, Louisiana; San Francisco, California; and Isle of Palms, South Carolina. It’s important to do your research on whether it is legal for you to rent a vacation home in a specific city.

6. Check Reviews

Other people’s experiences can be your best view into what a vacation home is actually like. As with many things, it’s more common to see comments from vacationers who were upset with their stay, so pay special attention to those who were happy with their experiences and use your best judgement when selecting a home. Avoid any rental that has a review that makes you feel uncertain.

7. Be Aware That Homes Have Quirks

Always have a back-up plan in mind when you make arrangements at a vacation home. You have to remember that you are not staying in a hotel. Unexpected things can happen like no-show hosts, unclean conditions, or homes that are already occupied. In addition, even the most ideal homes can have unusual quirks that you have to work with, or work around.

Get the Right Coverage for Your Home

8. Read Everything in the Description

On a rental listing, the Description is the area where the host of the vacation home lists the home’s amenities and exciting options, as well as house rules and regulations. Remember that while it is your vacation, the place you are staying is also someone’s home. You’ll need to be prepared to follow any specific house rules, so make sure to read the descriptions carefully.

9. Ask Questions

When you are making your decision on where to stay, ask as many questions about the property as you feel necessary. Communicate with your host as much as possible with questions about the neighborhood, noise levels, parking, security, cooking, and anything else that is important to you.

10. See The Property Ahead of Time (If Possible)

If you are renting relatively close to home, you can protect yourself from the unexpected by asking to view the property ahead of time. This way, you can make sure that everything is as expected and up to your standards. If your definition of a vacation is to go as far away from home as possible, seeing the property in person might not be possible, so you’ll have to rely on photos and good faith!

Vacation Safety Tips: 8 Things to Do Before You Leave

11. Pay Through a Third Party

Many popular vacation home rental sites offer in-house payment and messaging services. This service helps to keep the renters protected and also keeps your personal information out of the hands of strangers.

12. Don’t Need a Whole House? There Are Other Ways to Stay

Sites like Airbnb offer alternative ways to vacation, including individual bedroom rentals and even couch-surfing. Depending on what you’re looking for, there are several sites that are tailored to specific cities or certain types of lodging. Always remember to protect yourself and your belongings no matter what type of vacation you’re taking.

Renting a vacation home poses a lot of options, but do your homework to make your vacation as stress-free as possible! Keep these tips in mind and protect the things that are important to you before booking your next vacation home.