Top 10 Tips for an Unforgettable Vacation Rental Stay
While most any itinerary to Florida can be fabulous, and vacation rentals offer a great money saver, for my two – or ten – cents worth, here’s what I would share….
- Use trusted travel sites – The most popular sites for vacation rentals are HomeAway/VRBO, Flip Key/TripAdvisor. For quick stays and shared rooms in owner occupied home AirB&B. For Europeans WINDU.com and 9 Flats.com. If the property has a Branded Name, do a web search and Facebook check on the name. Some Web travel portals list top vacation properties but have no connection to the actual real estate. Don’t bother calling if the site won’t permit you to write the owner, it’s the classic bait and switch if you call. That property will always be unavailable but they have others to suggest.
- How long the property has been advertised – the longer it has been on the travel site, the more likely it is to be genuine and legitimate.
- Ask if it’s legal – The state of Florida says cities can’t ban short-term rentals, can’t limit how frequently a property is rented and can’t require a minimum length of stay. So city officials are taking other steps to reduce their proliferation in single-family neighborhoods. Examples include registering with the state and city because the owners are supposed to be paying county and state taxes on the rental, capping the number of renters in any home, require a local contact for emergencies and allow the city to revoke the licenses of properties that repeatedly create disturbances or break the law. If you are renting a cooperative or apartment ask the property owner to confirm that their lease permits subletting.
- Don’t be fooled by Photoshop photography– Ask the owner for additional photos — an honest vacation lessor will always have other pictures to share. If the property offers no exterior photos or you have concerns about the neighborhood, check Google’s Street View to confirm that the property you’re renting actually exists at the address advertised.
- Be careful of the lowest cost per night – If prices seem too good to be true, they often are in Florida. Your greatest savings when compared with area hotels is during PEAK SEASON. Hotels with excess capacity during the OFF SEASON are trying to match vacation properties.
- Read the reviews – Compare the differences in feedback from the first five guests with the last five guests that appears on all travel sites your property is listed: HomeAway/VRBO, FlipKey/TripAdvisor, AirB&B
- Trust your instincts – But remember when the property owner is paying a commission to the website, the web site releases no contact information or last name until the reservation is completed. In other words, the property owner knows nothing about you unless you are a registered member of the travel website. So it’s not a red flag if the property owner has questions about your stay. Better yet, avoid – “Is your place available?” by providing some background, “Hi, we’re interested in your bungalow. We are in our late 30’s, non smokers, live in Baltimore County, MD and we would be visiting with our two sons, ages 7 and 10.”
- Take your time – No need to rush and avoid those properties that are pushing for a decision. On the other hand, know if the property is listed on various travel sites. If so, remember the owner is obligated to accept the first firm offer.
- Be a regular – If you rent a home you like, stick with it. You’ll develop a relationship with the owner if you go back to the same place year in, year out — and avoid the risk of being scammed on a new property.
- Take lots of pictures – But take a break from social media while you’re on vacation. Wait until returning home to post photos. It’s not a great idea to announce to the world your away from home and check your privacy setting and avoid tagging your rental property location.