Taking a vacation is a great way to relax and recharge, and renting someone’s house provides many comforts and conveniences you may not find at a hotel. But a lot can go wrong if you don’t do your research before renting a home for vacation. We spoke with Steve Turk, partner at Tangy Management, about what renters need to know to ensure a property meets their expectations.
How do you rent a vacation home?
The booking process varies by platform. However, once you find a home you like, you can typically book it directly online. You may need to pay a deposit or the full cost of your stay upfront, depending on the policy. It’s a good idea to read the entire rental agreement thoroughly before booking.
What are the top things to look for in a vacation rental?
What you should look for depends on various factors, including the purpose of your trip, whom you’re traveling with, and the type of vacation you want. Here are some questions you can consider asking to make sure the property you rent meets your needs and expectations.
Some hosts allow parties. Others don’t. There may also be noise restrictions you need to keep in mind.
Recommendations from the host
Hosts who are serious about their rentals know the area well and are happy to offer recommendations. Ask about their favorite restaurants, local attractions, and sights to see to make your stay more enjoyable.
Access to amenities
It’s wise to find out if you can adjust the air conditioning or heating, use the Wi-Fi, or take the kayaks out on the lake before booking your rental.
Before renting a vacation home, find out if the rental has smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and other safety equipment. Rules vary by state, so don’t assume the house automatically includes these items.
There shouldn’t be cameras inside the home, but some hosts have cameras at the front and back of the house.
Some properties have multiple homes on a single piece of land. If you book one, you may have to share common areas like the pool, deck, firepit, and other spaces.
If you’re traveling with children, you can search specifically for family-friendly homes. These properties may have baby gates, an assortment of kid-friendly games, books, movies, and other family-friendly features.
Is it pet-friendly? Not all properties allow pets. If you’re traveling with a dog or cat, ensure the host permits it. Turk says the property listing typically answers many common questions. But it’s up to you to read it through. Importantly, don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions not answered in the description. Turk recommends communicating with the host via email or text so you have a written record in case anything goes awry during your stay.
If you need to have a phone call, follow it up with a written message summarizing what you discussed.
Common mistakes to avoid when renting a vacation home
Not reading the listing
Don’t just look at the pictures. Turk says that 95% of the time the listing answers your questions.
Relying only on the photos
If you see multiple problems cited in the reviews, no matter how beautiful a house looks, tread cautiously.
Not checking reviews
Read at least three to five reviews of the property. Then, if there’s a bad review, ask the owner or host if they resolved the problem. If they don’t give you a straight answer, it could be a red flag that they’re not answering truthfully.
Booking the property without knowing its location
Sites like Airbnb and VRBO won’t let you ask specific questions, including the property’s exact address. However, you can ask for a nearby landmark to ensure the area’s safe and close to the attractions you want to see.
Not checking the home’s inventory
Each property will vary in terms of amenities and supplies. The listing should clearly state what the house includes and what the host will provide. There should be no surprises when you arrive. According to Turk, typically there are enough essentials to get your stay started, including basic cookware, dishes for the number of people on the listing, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, sheets, and towels.
Once you’ve booked the perfect vacation rental, consider getting travel insurance and learn how travel insurance works to protect your trip from unforeseen cancellations and interruptions.