Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Looking for more space than a hotel room plus the comforts of home on your next vacation? Then, think about renting a house, condo or villa. Here are some tips and top companies to consider.
With more than $85 billion in worldwide sales, the vacation rental market is huge, offering many lodging options. The biggest benefits of renting a home are more space than a typical hotel room, often more privacy, as well as having the convenience of a kitchen.
Rental prices and quality vary widely depending on location and amenities. Some Caribbean villas sit beachside and come staffed with butlers, cooks and private pools. Some budget condominiums are within driving distance to sand, but offer a two-burner stove and air-conditioning only in the bedroom. Even so, that condo typically gives you more square feet for your money. While an average hotel room is 325-square-feet, the average vacation home is a spacious 1850-square feet.
Follow these tips for a successful rental experience.
Understand how different rental companies operate.
Companies such as FlipKey and HomeAway operate like digital bulletin boards, providing a way for renters and owners to meet. FlipKey has more than 240,000 listings in 12,000 plus destinations. HomeAway features more than 575,000 in more than 140 countries. The filters for number of bedrooms, pools, price and other variables enable you to hone in on many potential rentals that meet your needs. The online photos give you a sense of the property.
What these companies typically do not do is inspect the properties themselves. That means you must rely on owner descriptions (which may or may not be accurate), as well as the reviews of former renters (which may or may not be biased.) Many rentals do not have onsite management companies. So if something goes wrong—the air-conditioning breaks, the stove doesn’t work, electricity is out—you need to deal with this yourself or contact the owner who may not live near the rental.
Villa rental companies, much smaller than the mega-rental sites, typically specialize in certain destinations and the staff members know the properties. You can ask if your active two-year-old can squeeze through the balcony railings, if the onsite pool is big enough for laps or if the unit has winding, narrow stairs too difficult for your mother-in-law to manage.
Typically, villa companies provide a phone number of a local contact who will not only take care of any problems with your unit, but who serves as a concierge. He or she can make dinner reservations, book a boat trip, and suggest outings from horseback rides to scuba sites to secluded beaches or museums.
WIMCO focuses on luxury villas and provides concierge service. Their site offers digital floor plans along with photos. A representative meets you at your villa, acquaints you with the property and goes over your pre-arranged itinerary. The company has 1200 villas, many in the Caribbean as well as in Europe.
Are you in search of a pied-à-terre in Rome, a hillside villa in Santorini, a Scottish estate or a beachfront house in Anguilla? Contact Villas and Apartments Abroad, specialists in high-end lodgings, particularly in the Caribbean, Italy, France and Scotland.
Pay using a secure method.
Rental properties usually require full payment upfront. That’s why it’s important to use a credit card. Foil scammers by never wiring money or paying with a personal check. Also, make sure to understand if there are booking or other fees in addition to the cost of the rental.