A Guide to Finding a Great Vacation Rental

You may be considering a private home vacation rental, rather than staying in a standard hotel or motel room, for your next trip. A vacation home rental can have many advantages, from a lower cost to a greater amount of space to a better location to more amenities. However, it is important to know just what to expect before you sign on the dotted line so that you can be sure that you are getting a fair deal and that you will be staying in a home that is well maintained and appropriately located.

When you begin investigating a vacation rental, you will likely encounter two options – you can rent from a management company or you can rent directly from the owner of the property. If possible, try to find a way to work with the owner of the vacation home rental, as you may have access to more information and better support before, during, and after your transaction.

Once you have decided that staying in a vacation rental is the right choice for you and your traveling companions, you will discover that the process of finding the right property should go very smoothly.

The Steps to Renting a Private Home

First, find a reputable website with vacation home rental listings, or speak to your travel agent about your options. Make sure that you feel comfortable that whoever is providing you with vacation rental listings has screened each home to make sure that it exists and that it is owned by the person who is listing it.

Next, search for or specify the type of vacation home rental you are looking for, including:

Price (What is your maximum?)
Size (Are you looking for a condo unit for two people or a multi-bedroom house for a large family – or for multiple families?)
Location (Do you want your vacation rental to be near a particular theme park? Do you want to be able to walk to the beach? Do you need to be within walking distance of a grocery store or a video rental shop?)
Amenities (Do you want your vacation home rental to include a hot tub? Would you like to have access to a gym or to gym equipment? Would you enjoy a game room with video game systems?)

In addition, note whether you will be bringing a pet. (As with all types of rentals, some vacation home rental properties will be pet friendly with a deposit, while others may not allow pets at all. Find this out before you pack Fido into his carrier!) Last but not least, you will need to provide the specific dates for which you will need the vacation rental and the number of people with whom you will be staying.

Researching the Vacation Home Rental

You will then be presented with a list of available vacation home rental properties for your time frame and the other options that you requested. If you are able to work directly with the owners of the rental homes, you can contact them to find out more information. Many owners will be able to answer your emailed questions in depth (but make sure to keep your questions relevant) and to send you pictures of the specific vacation rental. The owner may even have a personal website that you can view for more information about the property. If you are dealing with a management company, you may either be shown pictures of the particular vacation home rental in which you will be staying or pictures that represent the type of home that is available.

In either case, make sure that you feel comfortable with the entire transaction. For example, you may want to avoid an owner or company that sends you emails every hour asking if you have made a decision about the vacation rental, or, on the flip side, someone who takes days to return your messages with answers to your questions, or someone who gives you vague responses.

Finalizing the Deal

When you have found a vacation home rental that suits your needs and with which you feel comfortable, you can then finalize the deal. The owner or management company will have you submit a deposit to hold the vacation rental – usually 10 to 20% of the final cost. Note that you will not receive an actual address or access information until the booking is paid in full.

You will then fill out a rental agreement. Make sure to be honest in this agreement about the number of people and the ages staying in the vacation rental. What happens next may vary depending on whether you are working with an owner or a company. The owner may send you all of the information you will need to access the vacation home rental – including access codes for the lock box and the alarm, so that you can go directly from the road or the airport right into the house. The management company may simply provide you with directions to its offices so that you can pick up the keys and additional important information about the home.

Notifying the Owner or Management Company about Any Issues with the Vacation Rental

Make sure that you let the owner or management company know about anything that is broken when you arrive at the vacation home rental, and also make sure that you inform them about any discrepancies between what your contract said and what you found when you opened the door of your rental. During your stay, remember to treat the home and everything inside and out (including furniture and electronics) respectfully – as if it were your own home all the time. Before you leave, inform the owner or company of anything that was broken or changed during your stay. Also, please take a few minutes to clean up the house by emptying the trash, doing a quick vacuum, and looking around for any other issues that you can easily resolve.

Above all, it is critical to do your own research about any vacation rental before signing a final contract. By becoming familiar with what towns are better for your needs and which locations offer easier access to attractions or beaches, you will be able to make a more informed choice before you sign the final agreement – and ensure that when you reach your vacation home rental, you can relax in style.