3) Do Your Own Homework
Having a telephone conversation with the rental home owner can be much more effective than just looking at photos. Homeowners know where the restaurants and grocery stores are, how best to get around the area, who to get a car rental from, what to do about medical emergencies, etc. More than anything, you want to know they will be responsive to any questions or concerns you may have especially when you are staying at their rental property.
While talking to a homeowner, it can’t hurt to ask how long they owned the property and how often they visit it. Some properties are just meant to be rented. Those that get rented a lot require more intensive maintenance and attention. Others are lived in any number of months out of the year by the homeowners. In either event, it’s good to know how much the homeowner cares about the condition and maintenance of their vacation home.
4) Ask for Referrals
Ask if reviews from other renters are available. Take all reviews with a grain of salt. Just because you are reading a review on the likes of Tripadvisor does not mean you are getting a completely objective opinion. There have been cases where agents, owners or others are simply “talking up” (also known as “shilling”) a property for the sake of renting it. There are other cases where competitors may “talk down” a competitor’s property. You can’t expect these mega websites to check each and every message that is posted on their boards, however you can do some research on whether a person leaving a review has any authority. For example, Tripadvisor provides you with the means of looking at how long a reviewer has been a member, how many reviews the member has contributed and what those reviews were for. If the review was basically the reviewers first and last review, take the review with a really big grain of salt. Very few places, if any, are absolutely perfect. In the end, practically anyone can leave a review even if they haven't really stayed at a place or had other motives.
In other cases, such as Homeaway and others, the “owner” (which may otherwise be an agent or property manager) can block negative reviews.
It’s best to talk directly with a few people who have rented a property and get their candid opinion on what they liked and didn’t like about the rental. It can’t hurt to ask them if they know of any other rentals in the area they might have liked or considered.
Logic and common sense will many times tell you what you need to know. Be careful when it sounds too good to be true.
You get what you pay for. While looking for that best vacation deal, if it is really cheap, there is probably a reason.
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