No. of Recommendations: 5
We have been customers of vacation rentals for about 10 years now, and it is by far our favorite way to travel. It is hard to put a label on just what constitutes the vacation rental industry, because there are so many options to chose from, but if I had to define it, vacation rentals are essentially other people's furnished homes and condos that you are allowed to rent, be it for a weekend, a week, a month, or a length of stay you customize. In the city or the deep country, on a ski slope, beach or riverfront, there is something for everyone. Some places may be very rustic and have no phone or TV, while others offer hi def flat screens and high speed WIFI in every room. It might be a studio apartment in the basement of someone's home, or it could be a 7 bedroom 6 bath luxury home. VRs literally offer you the ability to provide yourself a vacation that is designed for you and yours, often at a great value.

A great value. That's worth repeating, and clarifying. It does not mean that VRs are necessarily cheap, but when you calculate per person what a similar quality level stay would be at a hotel, it tends to be a screaming deal. You're not forced to eat out 3 meals a day, which is a huge cost savings in and of itself. Many properties also allow you to bring your pet, sometimes with a small additional charge, which doesn't begin to add up to the cost of a kennel.

So why do we love to VR so much? Beyond the monetary value, we find this to be the most relaxing way to vacation. To begin with, we do have a dog, and he is very much a member of the family. He has never spent time in a kennel since he joined our family. We do not vacation if he can not join us. YMMV.

I am also a very light sleeper, and even now that the kids are teens, I still hear them when they roll over in their beds down the hall. I still don't feel comfortable with their having their own hotel room, so a conventional hotel would have us crammed into a single hotel room. Both kids in the same bed makes for very unpleasant nights. Not relaxing. While there do exist pet friendly hotel suites, which we have taken advantage of when we had to be somewhere that we could not find a VR, the ambiance is lacking at best, the "kitchen" barely functional to reheat leftover restaurant food.

Togetherness is a wonderful thing...so is your own space. I don't have the same sleep patterns as the rest of my family, and operate on very little sleep. I tend to rise a couple of hours earlier than the others, and delight in my alone time as I drink down the pot of coffee I brew to my coffee snob requirements, while I surf my laptop. In a hotel room, I have the choice of lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling until the others get up, or wake them up as I try to silently get dressed to leave the room to choke down the swill they call coffee at the hotel restaurant. Since our preference is rural and private, typically overlooking a river, I can go out on the deck in my PJs with my steaming mug of coffee and use the WIFI, while listening to the burbling of the river rapids. I can start the day off the way I NEED to start it off. It makes me a much happier person to vacation with. And don't even get me started on the need for the kids to have their own room, their space to isolate themselves when the teen-itis surfaces.

The customizable nature of this industry, allowing you to get what you want out of a vacation, is IMO one of it's best features. Because we prefer to vacation rurally, where there do not tend to be hotels, without VRs our options would be to camp, or to own our own vacation home. As much as I like hiking, biking and kayaking, I want a nice comfortable bed at night. Camping is not for me. Our own vacation home means we have to maintain it, and justify owning it by going there just about all the time, ignoring other destinations. A hot tub on the deck of the VR is an option we often look for as well. There is nothing quite like being in the hot tub at night, breathing the cool night air and looking at the stars in the sky... stars that are not camouflaged by light pollution from the hotel parking lot.

But that's my VR choice. Yours may be in a city, perhaps overseas. Choice is good.

There are many websites that can link you with a VR of your choice, but http://www.vrbo.com tens to be the one we use the most. Check it out.

IP
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I agree.
We have used http://www.vrbo.com many times in different places. Always a good deal.
BBDok
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BBDok,

What is it that you look for in a VR? Have you used any other sites to find your rental? Since we look mostly for riverfront properties, I've started to use Homeaway.com, ironically the parent company of VRBO and many other VR websites. HA allows you to search based on type of rental, which included riverfront. It makes it much easier to negotiate huge lists of VRs to get to the handful of riverfronts. As more and more listings come up on line, I have found this kind of search critical.

Sadly, VRBO does not offer that yet, but I have hope they will get there.

IP
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IP,
We are mostly looking by geography, as in is the rental close to where we want to go. We have not been looking for specifics like riverfront, for example. But will take a look at Homeaway.com
Thanks!
BBDok
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We are mostly looking by geography, as in is the rental close to where we want to go. We have not been looking for specifics like riverfront, for example.

You do start off with geographic location as a primary sort, and narrow it down from there. Could be riverfront, pet friendly, cost, number of bedrooms, etc, and can even be narrowed down to available during a block of time you put in. I wish they would update VRBO with the same search options. I confess I fall into analysis paralysis when there are too many options in front of me, and I find having the search engine narrow down the field hugely helpful.

The current VRBO set up was fine when there were not so many VRs on the market.

IP
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We have rented a few times through VRBO. The last time we rented a cabin at Grand Lake for 4th of July. We put down a security deposit and didn't get it back right away even though we left the place in perfect condition (I even cleaned the windows as there was a lake view and the windows were dirty). The owner wouldn't e-mail me back when I asked what the status was. I finally had to file a grievence at VRBO to get our money back and it came about 8 weeks after we stayed there.

The local news did a story about vacation rental rip-offs - basically someone would offer a place for rent on Craig's list that they don't own, then take pocket a deposit for it and disappear.
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We have rented a few times through VRBO. The last time we rented a cabin at Grand Lake for 4th of July. We put down a security deposit and didn't get it back right away even though we left the place in perfect condition (I even cleaned the windows as there was a lake view and the windows were dirty). The owner wouldn't e-mail me back when I asked what the status was. I finally had to file a grievence at VRBO to get our money back and it came about 8 weeks after we stayed there.


I confess I experienced something similar one time. The lack of uniformity in VRs is both it's attraction, in that you have endless options, and it's weakness. Your type experience is why I try to rent only from places that accept credit cards for payments. In fact, the Homeaway group, which includes VRBO, is going to be providing credit card payment access to all who list with them, which should make it easier for all VRs to take credit cards. It can be quite expensive for a small business owner to set themselves up as a credit card merchant.

In my case we had a new owner of a VR, who was out of the country when we rented. The flood alarm went off, in the middle of a drought, and I wasted the better part of the day hanging outside with the dog waiting for their handyman to show up to fix the situation. Then the well pump died, and with two days remaining to our stay we were told we had to leave as it could not be fixed over the weekend. I understood, things happen, and I absolutely would not trade the occasional issue for a cookie cutter crammed to the rafters hotel.

We later negotiated 2 1/2 days rebate to our bill when the owners returned. Time dragged on, phone calls and emails to the owners were ignored, and I finally emailed and called them to let them know that if they didn't get in touch with me by a certain time that day, I was having the Master Card charges reversed. That finally got it addressed and resolved. In all honesty, I think they were just overwhelmed and over their head. From the reviews of this property, they seem to have gotten their act together.

The clean factor can absolutely be an issue as well. Asking the owner questions about who cleans the property can help you separate the clean from the dirty. One owner I talked to told me the $100 cleaning fee was non-negotiable, because no matter how well we thought we cleaned, she would come in afterwards and pretty much sterilize everything. The place was immaculate, almost obsessively so. In owner managed properties, I have found a very strong link between clean properties and significant cleaning fees. Not so much so if the property is managed by a third party.

Our worst rental was one where our dog was savaged by fleas. We had no idea what they were, and only figured it out after bringing him home and infesting the house, which took 6 months to get rid of. NOT A NICE SOUVENIR. While most properties insist that you treat your dog with anti flea and tick meds 3 days before they come, this guy didn't care one bit. He used the cabin quite a bit and it was probably his dogs that had left the fleas!

So yes, as in any transaction, there are ways you can improve your chances of having a good experience. Use your credit card, ask questions of the owner, and check reviews. VRBO is no longer letting owners opt out of reviews, which means they can't block negative reviews. Trust me the owners are worried that people they rent to will trash them with a review if they don't return a security deposit that should be retained for damage.

The local news did a story about vacation rental rip-offs - basically someone would offer a place for rent on Craig's list that they don't own, then take pocket a deposit for it and disappear.

I'll get into the fraud issues in a separate thread, as there are ways to protect yourself there as well. Unfortunately, scammers attack both sides of the transaction, and it's something owners are screening their prospective clients for as well.

IP
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Your type experience is why I try to rent only from places that accept credit cards for payments. In fact, the Homeaway group, which includes VRBO, is going to be providing credit card payment access to all who list with them, which should make it easier for all VRs to take credit cards. It can be quite expensive for a small business owner to set themselves up as a credit card merchant.

I manage a VR lakefront cottage, that we renovated a couple years ago and began renting at that time. We set up a PayPal account to accept credit card transactions, but the fees are extremely high. I've looked into Costco, HomeAway, and others, but there didn't seem to be any significant cost savings considering the volume and type of transactions being made. I have to admit, I definitely prefer to use my credit card for any transaction as a buyer, but now on the other side of things I have 'seen the light' as to why some small retailers don't accept AmEx, for example. Every percent counts. I now request all our renters pay by check, but if someone insists, or it's within 30 days of the rental, we'll use PayPal to ensure the payment is accepted and processed in a timely manner.

The clean factor can absolutely be an issue as well. Asking the owner questions about who cleans the property can help you separate the clean from the dirty. [...] In owner managed properties, I have found a very strong link between clean properties and significant cleaning fees. Not so much so if the property is managed by a third party.

We add a $75 cleaning fee, non-negotiable. I have considered just increasing the rental fee and eliminating it, since as a consumer I greatly dislike 'add-on' fees like that. And I don't want people to think that means they can abuse the property, which is my firstmost concern above all else, income included. I'm not local, which adds a complication in that I have yet to meet any of our renters. But I was fortunate enough to find a local semi-retired couple who act as our onsite managers/caretakers/cleaners, and they do a fantastic job cleaning and looking after the place for us.

We put down a security deposit and didn't get it back right away even though we left the place in perfect condition (different poster)

Our rental agreement is fairly extensive and thorough, and we clearly state that the Security Deposit will be returned up to 30 days after the rental period. If someone has found a way to run up the cable, phone, Internet bills, or caused damage or missing property that's not immediately discovered, I'd rather have an opportunity to find out before returning the Deposit, which is intended to cover exactly those types of things. That said, I usually return it within a couple weeks, assuming everything appears okay.
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Thanks for interjecting some real life VR management experience, Vaking!

We set up a PayPal account to accept credit card transactions, but the fees are extremely high.

Twice now I've had problems using my credit card through PayPal for a VR rental. I was told it was considered a "high risk transaction," and that they only accepted payments for goods, not services, via credit cards. PayPal insisted that a VR rent payment could only be taken by my setting up a PayPal account that was linked to my checking account. Fat Chance. Both times the VR owner tried to talk sense into PayPal, who rejected their concerns. They had to scramble to find a way to take my credit card, and I give them credit for not suggesting I simply send them a check.

I think that websites like the Homeaway brands taking credit cards for their listed properties will go a long way towards protecting both the owner and the consumer of vacation rentals. (Certainly with their large group, bulk discounts are a no brainer, though I fear HA pocketing much of that and leaving owners footing the bill even further. Hmmm, that IPO for Homeaway is sounding like a better investment all the time.) This way potentially offers owners a more reasonable way to get access to credit card payments, and there are fewer fears about a listing getting hijacked by a scammer, since the money would go through HA. (Yes folks, it is not just Craigslist listings that you need to worry about when it comes to fraud, but more on that later.)

IP
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Twice now I've had problems using my credit card through PayPal for a VR rental. I was told it was considered a "high risk transaction," and that they only accepted payments for goods, not services, via credit cards. PayPal insisted that a VR rent payment could only be taken by my setting up a PayPal account that was linked to my checking account. Fat Chance. Both times the VR owner tried to talk sense into PayPal, who rejected their concerns. They had to scramble to find a way to take my credit card, and I give them credit for not suggesting I simply send them a check.

Interesting. I don't think I've had any issues. I had set up a separate PayPal Business account for the property, which we had also placed in an LLC. I worked it by sending invoices to our renters (and glad your post prompted me to log in and look at them for the first time in quite a while.. apparently they've changed their format and the old templates I had saved will be disappearing shortly), and they paid by either credit card or checking account. It's been a while since I've done so, and I don't recall exactly what was selected, but in looking at the current options it appears that you don't need to select either Goods or Services when creating/sending an Invoice.

And to be honest, if it were greater than 30 days out, I would've been one to suggest the check! Like I said, I'm a split personality on this one. Would greatly prefer using credit cards for my personal expenses, and I realize they're partially a 'cost of doing business', but if, in my business, I can avoid a cost of several hundred, I'll avoid it.

I think that websites like the Homeaway brands taking credit cards for their listed properties will go a long way towards protecting both the owner and the consumer of vacation rentals. (Certainly with their large group, bulk discounts are a no brainer, [...] This way potentially offers owners a more reasonable way to get access to credit card payments

HomeAway has had their own brand of credit card processing since I listed a couple years ago. But their rates weren't any more competitive. If they're doing something new, perhaps I missed it in one of the 'spam-like' emails they seem to constantly send.
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And to be honest, if it were greater than 30 days out, I would've been one to suggest the check! Like I said, I'm a split personality on this one. Would greatly prefer using credit cards for my personal expenses, and I realize they're partially a 'cost of doing business', but if, in my business, I can avoid a cost of several hundred, I'll avoid it.

Well, I'll match your honesty and admit that I don't always allow paying by check to get in the way. We like pretty atypical properties that have definite low supply, and often we are last minute travelers. Particularly if I'm going to send a check I do make sure to talk to the owner by phone, and quiz them a bit about the area to make sure they are not actually over in India and just posing as VR owners.

Another possible option for taking credit cards could be to pass on the service fee to those who wish the protection and convenience of using a credit card. Alternatively, offer them a link to travel insurance, assuming it covers fraud, where they can protect themselves for what may be less money than the fee.

IP
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