While there’s no doubt that renting a house while vacationing (if you plan to stay in one area) will generally save you a bundle over the cost of a hotel, buyer beware. Among the most popular sites for finding vacation rentals are Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and HomeAway, and while I’ve used both sites myself very successfully at times, be aware that they can be misleading.
VRBO, for example, is designed to list homes rented out directly by the owners of the houses, not by rental agencies. However, some owners get around this by listing their rentals themselves and then referring you back to the rental agency when you contact them. It may not seem like a terrible thing on the surface, save for the fact that one reason people like myself use VRBO is to avoid the impersonal experience, pages of rental agreements, often ridiculous security deposits, and poor housekeeping services of agencies. Last fall, I rented a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina through VRBO and experienced this very situation–the owner referred me to his rental agency. The result was an otherwise fine soundfront house with lovely views and a swimming pool spoiled by the poor cleaning services of the agency. We spent the first day of our vacation scrubbing the place from top to bottom.
More recently we rented a cottage in Norway overlooking the Naeroy Fjord, an arm of the Sogne Fjord (the world’s longest), through HomeAway. While the view was certainly priceless, the cottage turned out to be less than tidy and we found ourselves confronted with owners who turned out to be less than honest in their dealings. When I came home and submitted a review of the property to HomeAway they declined to publish it. I began to understand why all the reviews on HomeAway are so positive–they don’t publish negative reviews of their properties. Understandably, they don’t wish to lose the business of the property owners who pay to have their rentals listed on the site. But they also risk alienating vacationers who are not permitted to provide honest reviews…unless, of course, they’re good ones.
So before you send in that deposit on a vacation rental, exercise a little extra care…lest you spend your downtime scrubbing sinks and floors instead of enjoying your getaway.