Never pay vacation rental service fees again
No matter if your Florida vacation is a lifetime’s dream or an annual family ritual, there are many new issues to keep in mind. Firstly, hurricanes. Hurricanes Irma, Michael and Dorian devastated the state, impacting more than two million homes, so talk with the property owners before booking. Sometimes they’ll admit their property itself is fine, but the surrounding area has been badly affected.
So, resist Instant Book and instead ask the property owners about their home, and homes in the neighborhood, even if it’s a few years after a storm.
Secondly, since February 2016 online travel websites have consolidated and vacation rentals have multiplied. Sadly, some permanent residents don’t feel welcome the constant arrival and departure of strangers in their tight-knit neighborhoods. Be sure your rental is welcoming!
Thirdly, service fees. Some community leaders and city personnel believe many listings don’t respect residential zoning rules. Unscrupulous property owners dodge sales and bed tax, condo rules, or apartment leases. Plus, who isn’t annoyed at the service fees imposed by travel websites? Guests never pay a service fee when they book direct.
Tips for finding the perfect vacation rental service
Here are my 2017 top tips for finding the perfect vacation rental service at the best price. Did you know over 60% of American vacationers have yet to try a vacation rental? If this is a new idea to you, why not look at my 2015 top tips?
Lowest cost per night may not be cheapest
Advertised property prices are usually pre-tax and usually without cleaning charges, plus they often come with a host of ‘optional extras’ that you can’t avoid. Remember that in High/Peak Season, a Florida vacation rental home could be 45-55% cheaper than a hotel. In the Off Season, hotels are much keener to match vacation rental rates.
With a vacation rental you also enjoy two to five times the space of the average 450 square foot hotel room. A hotel isn’t the same as a vacation rental home, and here’s why. Vacation rental properties increasingly offer a unique experience – every detail is designed to complement their locale and deliver excellence. A hotel focuses on giving a standard experience wherever you are in the world. Vacation rental service is very different in both cases!
Use trusted travel sites
When looking for a longer stay, Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) may be perfect for longer stays. For example search ‘Tampa FL’ to find Erehwon Retreat listed. A last minute getaway? Airbnb offers excellent options, particularly home shares with the owner is present. Many people are looking for longer stays with COVID-19, so Booking.com now offers weekly and monthly fees.
Trust your instincts, and your host’s instincts
Travel portals can be great, but remember algorithms rob us of the opportunity to experience the new. They place us within a prison of our own predetermined desires. We get what we have wanted previously … and nothing else. It’s a narrow way to travel. Further, the sites increasingly hide guest’s contact details from owners, and don’t give guests the property owner’s phone number either. That’s why so many proprietors have their own websites to:
- let you book direct
- have direct contact with the vacation rental owner
- avoid the 9-16% service fees being charged.
So you’ve found a potential vacation rental service through an online travel agent (OTA). Now dive into the review process and see what people say. Remember, many properties are reviewed on Yelp, Foursquare, TrustPilot and Google. It’s a disaster to discover your property changed hands and the new owners didn’t earn the rave reviews you read online. Look at guest photographs and ask the owner for more photos than are shown online. This gives you a real sense not just of the property but of its location and the neighborhood. Google Street View gives a sense of what you’re renting, but keep in mind, it’s only updated every three to five years.
While OTAs make it easy to set up as a vacation rental owner, it takes real commitment to become part of the hospitality industry. Erehwon Retreat’s refresh program ensures every tiny detail will make your vacation special, as our Eight or Great post makes clear.