Things to keep in mind when renting a vacation home

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Recently, I shared with you the wonderful experience I had renting a vacation home when traveling to Paris with my son.

I was lucky because my experience was pretty flawless from beginning to end. For those of you thinking about choosing the path of vacation rentals by owners for your travels, I have some tips on what to keep in mind so that your experience is a positive one as well.

When I started my search, I relied on the Internet, however, I made it a point to avoid classifieds and free listings. Instead I decided to put my trust, and a bit of extra cash, in using a rental agency that specializes in such types of transactions.

But for most of it, even with an agent with whom I interacted mostly over the phone and via email, I relied on Google and other websites for images, searched for reviews not only of the area I was looking to rent in, but also of the agency I was using.

This wasn’t available when I first rented the flat in Paris, but these days I also rely heavily on online maps, such as Google map, for street views and at least an exterior view of the building/home and its immediate surrounding area. Also, check the website for the area, often provided by the destination’s tourism agency, as this can tell you anything from what to do, eat, and enjoy there, and whether it is family-friendly or not.

From the agent, you should always ask for references, not only for their agency, but also for the property you are looking to rent. Always ask for a copy of a checklist of what is included in your rental, from amenities to furnishings.

If the rental agency doesn’t immediately provide you with more than just a couple of pictures for the interior of the property, insist that they send you some. One picture or two is not enough to give you a good image of the place the could make, or break if not careful, your vacation stay. If it’s listed as being on the beach or a lake for example, ask to see pictures of that.

When you enter your vacation home or flat, make sure to take pictures of anything that may be damaged in anyway. You want to make sure to point these out to the rental agency right away, either via phone or on the checklist they provide you at time of entry into the premises.

Sometimes, you can get away with not being in the neighborhood you want due to cost, but end up getting a much better deal in a neighborhood that’s just as nice, if not better, for a lesser price.

As is the case here in NYC, most visitors want to stay in trendy places such as Greenwich Village or Soho, when the truth is, these are easy to get to from pretty much any other area in Manhattan, and there are locations a bit further uptown that would not only be less expensive, but bigger and even nicer. Ask the rental agency for options.

Be wary of “amazing” sounding pitches of the property. “Close to all attractions!” or “10 minutes from the beach!” can depend a lot on whether you are walking, taking public transportation, or renting a car.

Never, ever take anything for granted. Ask a lot of question, ask to see a lot of images both of the premises and of the surrounding area, be clear on what your expectations and specific desires for your vacation home are (noting of course that this might add to the cost), and be willing to compromise on location for another that might offer something different, but just as good if not better.

Lastly, though the process sounds like it might be a lot to take on and maybe even a bit daunting, rest assure that especially throughout the years, the process has gotten much easier and there are many great options out there to choose from. It really can be one of the best vacation lodging decisions you ever make.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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