8 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Vacation RentalReviewAdvice

8 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Vacation Rental

To get better vacation rentals, ask acquaintances who have already spent time in rental villas in the location you are headed to. Also, seek information online and from your travel agent. By doing all this work upfront, you give yourself an advantage in selecting the best rental homes and negotiating rent prices that fit within your budget. Once you find an apartment or home you like, don't forget to keep in touch with the property owner until you sign the final rental paperwork. By communicating constantly with the owner, you can get answers to all your questions and, therefore, enjoy your vacation.

Does the Landlord Have Other Properties?

This is a good question to ask if you don't like the property you are about to rent, but feel compelled to accept the terms and conditions because the area is great. If the landlord has other properties, he or she may be willing to swap the current one for an abode that fits your needs.

8 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Vacation Rental

What Differentiates You from Other Providers of Vacation Rentals?

If your target location is a popular tourist destination, you may want to ask the landlord about the key selling points of his or her house. The property owner knows that you have options and can take your business elsewhere, so he or she will emphasize things like best service, knowledgeable and courteous maintenance reps, a quick processing of your paperwork, and better amenities.

What Are Three Top Things I Will Enjoy in the House?

You probably know the answer to that question because you chose the property in the first place. But things like relaxation, affordability, peace of mind, adventure, convenience, and flexibility come to mind when you think about why you would choose one location over another.

Should I Contact the Property Owner Directly or Go Through an Agency?

Each option has its pros and cons, and it depends on your situation, personal needs, and vacation preferences. If you contact a property owner directly, you pay no middleman commission and can negotiate things like rent and date right away. However, you are only limited to one or two or three properties, assuming the landlord owns that many houses.

With an agency, you either pay a commission per search or an annual fee that allows you to explore the agency's portfolio of properties around the world or within the confines of the specific region you want. Houses that you can tour online range from penthouse suites to five or six bedroom villas and luxury studios that are suitable for singles and young couples.

What is the Cancellation Policy?

Talk to your prospective landlord to learn more about cancellation policies and whether your advance deposit and/or registration fee, if you paid them, would be refunded if you changed your mind. The landlord may be generous and refund you part of the advance money if you let him or her know, within a reasonable interval, about the change in your travel plans.

Why Is It Better to Rent a Vacation Home Than to Book a Hotel Room?

First, you have price. Hotel room rates, when you add them up on a monthly basis, cost way more than a private vacation home. For example, you can pay $100 per room at a decent hotel, which comes up to $3,000 on a monthly basis, whereas you can rent a well-kept and reasonably furnished apartment or house (I did not say room!) for half-price, say, $1,500 per month.

Second, you have flexibility. Some hotels may not accept pets, whereas, with some luck, a landlord may grant your four-legged cutie pie access to the premises.

Amenities and accommodations come in third position. Unless you book at a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel, you may not have enough amenities, such as pools and fitness centers, at a regular hotel. But you can rent a vacation house with these amenities or share them with other tenants if the landlord owns several properties and favors a collective use of amenities.

How do I Make Sure I Get the Home I See on the Internet?

Confirm this point with the landlord or rental agency personnel before signing any paperwork. Normally, you would get the same property or a similar abode if the agency handles multiple villas or apartments in the same location. The process works similarly to what you see in the car rental industry, in which you don't necessarily get the same car you saw or booked on the rental agency's website.

Can I Negotiate Group Rates?

Yes, you can negotiate group accommodations with a single-property landlord or an agency overseeing multiple abodes. The way it works, the property owner would ask you how many people are tagging along, their respective ages, and how long the whole group intends to stay. This is because the rental agency or property manager must account for things like utilities consumption and floor space as well as bedrooms.

Are There Check-in and Check-out Times?

Discuss entry and exit times with your rental agency or landlord. Normally, you have some leeway in your check-in and check-out times, especially if you will be at the house for a long time, say, more than two or three weeks.

What Should I Do at Check-out?

It depends on what you agreed on in the rental contract. Some landlords want to be there when you pack your stuff and leave the premises, whereas other property owners would want you to give the keys to a representative, who will perform a thorough review. It is not uncommon to hear a property manager telling you to lock up and leave the keys at a specific location around the house or bring them to the office.

Will I Receive a Full Refund of My Security Deposit?

If you made a deposit security when entering the house, you might receive a full refund if there has been no damage to the home. If you caused havoc to the apartment or house, the landlord or rental agency would hire a specialist to appraise the damage extent and would deduct the related repair expense from your security deposit before refunding the balance to you-if, of course, there remains some cash after the repairs.

Does the Vacation House Come Fully Equipped?

Depending on the property, location, landlord, and budget category, your rental would be fully or partially equipped. Note, though, that "empty" rental homes are not uncommon.

A fully equipped house typically has some or all of the following:

  • Air conditioning
  • Heating
  • Electrical/mechanical equipment
  • Pool
  • Linens and towels
  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Microwave
  • Refrigerator
  • Stove
  • Coffee blender
  • Drinking glasses
  • Utensils
  • Plates
  • Cable TV
  • Blender and all dishes
  • DVD player
  • VCR
  • Car garage
  • Beds as varied as King Size, Queen Size, and Full- or Twin-Size beds

Are Pets Allowed?

This is a tricky question you should discuss with your landlord or vacation rental agency. Normally, there is a pet provision in a rental contract if the property owner is comfortable with having domestic animals-or wildlife, for that matter-on the premises. A pet provision typically calls for an extra fee to maintain the property. If there's no such provision in the contract, but the landlord is willing to accommodate your request, then a more informal agreement can be reached.

If the rental agency rep or the landlord does not want pets on the premises, don't try to run afoul of his or her instructions and sneak your pet in, lest you suffer financial consequences if your four-legged companion breaks something onsite or the landlord sues you for breach of contract. Litigation is the last thing you would want on a vacation that is supposed to be more about fun, relaxation, and peace of mind.

Am I Responsible for Cleaning the Property?

Again, this depends on your rental contract. Some landlords might require that you take care of cleaning and uphold some sense of hygienic order on the premises. Others would want their own cleaning service to take care of everything. In the latter case, you could have a daily cleaning routine, usually in the morning or at mid-day, or a weekly maintenance routine. It is not unusual to get a partial cleanup, especially if you had a party that had left the house in sanitary disarray.

If a cleaning service is not available, then it is up to you to handle tasks as varied as sweeping and mopping; refreshing paper products; washing all sheets and towels; vacuuming and dusting; and cleaning the kitchen area, the garden, and all bathrooms. Ask the landlord or rental agency rep whether cleaning gear-such as mops, dustpans, and brooms-is available onsite.

Is Smoking Allowed?

That is another question you should clarify when reviewing your application and signing the rental paperwork. Normally, the landlord or rental agency specialist would not accept smoking inside the house.


Renting a vacation home can be a fun and cheaper alternative to booking a hotel room or staying at a resort. To take full advantage of all services and amenities your vacation house may offer, research the house and location in advance. Talk to friends and relatives who have stayed at similar homes in similar locations. Contact your prospective landlord and ask questions-lots of questions. By being inquisitive upfront, you will have answers to the most important questions and can, therefore, avoid costly mistakes-for example, bringing your pet along when the rental contract specifically disapproves of such conduct.

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