10 Easy Steps to Renting a Vacation Home
If you’ve ditched high-priced, highly disappointing hotels for vacation rentals, the odds of a foolproof vacation are in your favor. But how should you go about renting a vacation home? And how can you increase these odds?
1. Start Planning Now
Plan your vacation right now. Some vacation rentals are booked six months to a year in advance! You can always book last minute for last-minute vacation rental deals, but that’s a stressful way to go about things. Instead, think ahead and book ahead. This gives you plenty of time to determine whether or not a vacation rental is right for you. Plus, the sooner you reserve an accommodation, the sooner you can take off from work, purchase airline tickets, and get excited about your itinerary!
Once you’ve picked a destination, browse the site for available vacation rentals. Many owners feature an availability calendar, so use this to rule out vacation rentals that are booked for your dates.
Some easygoing folks choose a destination after they choose a vacation rental – if you’re curious about overlooked vacation spots or you’re an open-minded jetsetter, this is a fun and smart way to go.
2. Narrow It Down
Visualize your ideal vacation rental. Does it have five bedrooms or just one? Will Sassy the Cat feel welcomed in it? Does it have a swimming pool for the kids to splash around in? Is it close to attractions or away from distractions? Is it ultra-cheap? As you become more and more demanding, your list of vacation rental candidates will gradually shorten and you can focus on the best ones for you and your trip.
3. Inquire About Your Top 3 or 5 Vacation Rentals… At Least
If more than a couple vacation rentals jump out at you, inquire about them all, even if 10 or 30 properties catch your eye! Some vacation rentals may already be booked for the dates you’re interested in, unbeknownst to you, but if you inquire about a lot of properties, that won’t easily trip you up.
When inquiring, make sure you’ve already eyeballed the property’s availability calendar and out of courtesy, don’t inquire about booked dates. It’s typically okay to ask about cancellations, though.
Be specific about your needs from the get-go. If you’re traveling with a big group or your pet dog, for instance, say so right now. If the vacation rental owner has a problem with it, it’s best to know from the start. Most vacation rental listings give information on if they allow pets, large groups, or guests under 21, etc, so read their listing carefully before you inquire.
In your inquiry, feel free to ask about special offers and begin the bargaining process right away. If a vacation rental is out of your price range, the owner may bring his or her rates down for you. Simply express how much you can and can’t spend.
4. Look Up the Address
If the owner gives you the property address, look it up! The location of your vacation rental is of the utmost importance, so ensure it’s exactly where you think it is. A one-minute walk to Disney World is very different than a 15-minute drive.
5. Do Your Research
If the current listing photos don’t tell the whole story, ask for additional, up-to-date photos to help you judge the property. Find reviews of the property on the web if possible or ask the owner for references. If there’s a way you can visit a property in advance, go for it, particularly if you’re hosting a wedding or corporate event.
6. Review the Contract
Before you give a single thought to reserving a vacation rental and paying the subsequent deposit, make sure you have a contract in your hands or on your computer screen! Verbal agreements are useless. Not only is a written contract standard for any rental transaction, it should be thoroughly reviewed. What’s the pet policy? What’s the cancellation policy? Is the deposit refundable? Is there a cleaning service or are you responsible for tidying up?
7. Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Now that you’ve looked over the contract, you may have a few questions and concerns. Address them with the owner immediately! If the owner has a vague pet policy, ask them to flesh it out for you – are only small dogs allowed or can your Great Dane tag along? Are linens provided or should you bring your own?
8. Reserve It
If you feel confident about your chosen vacation rental, confirm your travel dates and reserve the property before anyone else does! But don’t send money to the owner just yet.
9. Rent with Peace of Mind
If you reserve a property through Vacation Rentals.com, you can register your trip for free with the HomeAway Carefree Rental Guarantee basic plan and you’ll be eligible for financial protection in the case the vacation rental you’ve booked isn’t legitimate. Register your trip and wait for approval from the Rental Guarantee team before sending the owner money. Want more coverage? Upgrade to our gold plan.
10. Seal the Deal
Now that you’re renting with peace of mind and you’ve evaluated the property, go ahead and pay the owner the deposit or reservation fee so you can get the ball rolling. However, be wary of wire transfers. While they’re increasingly popular methods of payment these days, especially for last-minute bookings, it’s less risky to pay by check, PayPal, or credit card. If a wire transfer is offered up as the preferred payment method, try to talk the owner into a securer transaction.