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When looking for a place to rent, how do you avoid the dumps?

In theory, the reviews.

We don't have any renter-supplied reviews on HomeAway or VRBO yet, but for the past few years of renting our place I've been sending a follow-up email requesting comments and/or their completion of a survey/questionnaire I put online. We also have comments from our guestbook. So, I've been planning to collect these comments and start adding them as owner-added to the listings. I know these will be taken with some grain of salt, since they're provided by the owner, but was thinking it would help.

The other option is to reach out to past renters asking them to do so, but I don't want to bug them too much (would rather they only get a rare email from me asking if they'd like to return!), and could see that some folks wouldn't want to register on the site(s) nor would do both sites anyway.
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