How to Find Your Perfect Vacation Home ….

You get what you pay for!

 Part One of A Two Part Article

70s_porchOkay … So you’re your searching for the “perfect” home for your upcoming vacation.  Unless you have a friend, or a friend of a friend who has a vacation home in your desired location … you have only two choices … search the web for an owner listed property (VRBO, FlipKey, HomeAway, etc.) OR contact a professional vacation rental company such as Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  Searching on the web could take a lot of patience and time but you may find a fantastic deal.  Using a vacation rental company could save you hours on “By Owner” websites but expect to pay slightly higher rates.

If you are using “By Owner” websites you’ll find a vast number of vacation homes from which to choose.  On the up side … owners will sometimes offer rates much lower than a vacation rental company.  Some owners will include arrival gifts such as fruit baskets or a bottle of wine and owners will most likely know their property better than a vacation rental company.  On the down side … not all owners keep up their calendars and many are difficult to reach or do not respond to inquiries.  Many owners will describe their vacation home with words such as “beautiful, updated, well maintained” but “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”  I have viewed prospective properties for my company where the owners have described their property as updated and found upon viewing that the property was last update in the 90s, had Corian countertops and southwest pastel decor.  In the owners eyes it was a gorgeous home and they had updated it … but almost 20 years ago.   In addition, many owners live out of state or even out of country and contacting them for concerns or repairs during your stay could be a challenge.

If you use a vacation rental management company like Vacation Rentals of the Desert, you can eliminate many hours of searching websites. On the up side … You can quickly narrow down your search by speaking to a reservationist who will ask you questions about your desired dates, location, number of bedrooms and desired amenities.  They can walk you through potential properties on their website describing the location, amenities and total cost.  Most vacation management companies will be local and typically easy to contact or visit if you have concerns during your stay.  They have a reputation to maintain in the community and want to avoid unpleasant visits by unhappy guests.  On the down side … the reservationist may not know the property any better than the pictures and descriptions that you are viewing on their website.  Be wary of management companies who are located out of the area and do not have local offices.  They defeat the benefits of working with a local professional company.  Some vacation management companies do not negotiate rates … posted rates are “take it or leave it.”

Ask the Right Questions!

You know the old saying “buyer beware” … this holds true on vacation rentals.  Never, ever “assume” anything!  Whether renting directly from an owner or using a vacation rental company … ask questions, but before you do, sit down and make a list of important “have to haves” in your perfect vacation home.  The following are a few suggested questions … and why you may want to ask.

  • Location:  Are you looking to be walking distance to shopping, dining, the beach, skiing, etc.?    Descriptions that say “close to” or “walking distance” may be deceiving.  Close could be considered a 10 minute drive but what you desire is a 5 minute walk.
  • Parking:  Is there a garage?  Do you want to park your new Mercedes curb-side?  Perhaps that “view property” you’ve fallen in love with is 200 stair step walk up from the vacation home.
  • Ground Floor/Multi Level:  You may want to ask whether the property is single story or on a higher level.  This may be a challenge for some guests.
  • Traffic/Noise:  Ask whether the property is located close to major thoroughfares, train routes, construction sights, etc.  This is especially important if you are a light sleeper.
  • Sleeping Accommodations:  Ask about beds.  If the property states that it sleeps 4 you may want to ask about the bed configuration.  A sofa-bed may be fun for your 6 year old twins but not very comfortable for older guests.
  • Bathrooms:  A traditional full bath may not be desirable for someone who has difficulty stepping into a bathtub.  Likewise, a walk-in shower may not be suitable for bathing young children.
  • Supplies:  This is a constant concern with rentals.  You will want to find out ahead of time whether the home is supplied with laundry and dishwashing soap.  Also think about your expectations in the kitchen … salt, pepper, condiments, type of coffee maker, etc.  Lack of these items are seldom a “deal breaker” but can be a source of irritation if you expected them to be supplied.  It’s best to know in advance.  Vacation home supplies will greatly vary.
  • Smoking Allowed or Pet Friendly:  Ask whether the property is “non-smoking.”  If you do not smoke and you walk into a property that allows smoking inside … you are most likely going to have an unpleasant, if not unbearable visit.  The same goes for “pet friendly” properties.  If you or members of your party have pet allergies than you will want to make sure that the property does not accept pets.  Tip:  Sometimes properties will advertise “not pet friendly” because the owner has a pet and does not want to cause “marking” by another four legged guest.  Always ask whether the owner has a pet that visits the property. 
  • Cooking and Entertaining Needs:  If you are planning on entertaining guests or preparing a special family dinner … Thanksgiving, Birthday, etc. … you will want to ask about the cookware, bake ware and serving pieces.  Just because the description states that the kitchen is “well stocked” … you will be disappointed if it lacks the necessary cookware and table settings to accommodate your family and guests.  Some guests who are driving to their destination may decide to bring their own special pieces but for those traveling by air, this is not an option.  Discuss your kitchen expectations with the owner or reservationist and perhaps they can make arrangements to supply the necessary items for your visit or direct you to a property more suitable to your needs.
  • Updated Décor:  If you are looking for a beautifully updated property you will need to be very specific about your expectations and may want to ask the age of the updates … how old is the bed, quality of bedding, are there mattress and pillow protectors, when was remodeling done, age of property, etc.  Maybe additional pictures are available that do not fit on the listing site.
  • Electronics:  If you have an I Pad, book reader or multiple laptops you will most likely need Wi-Fi.  Some properties are set up with Ethernet or even dial-up internet service.  TVs … just because a property is “updated” does not mean that they will have flat-screen cable TVs in any or every room.  Same goes for premium cable channels such as HBO or Showtime.  Never assume … always ask.
  • Telephones:  For many destinations and many tenants this is high up on the “have to haves” list.  A great percentage of the guests I work with at Vacation Rentals of the Desert are retirees and/or Canadians that visit for multiple months.  Even though most guests will have a cell phone, the roaming charges between Canada and the US are high.  Also if there is someone in your party that has health issues you may want to think seriously about “911” capabilities.  All of the properties my company represents are required to have free local, US and Canada calling.  It is a vacation rental “standard” in the greater Palm Springs area.
  • BBQ:  If you are expecting to do outdoor cooking you will want to ask whether the property is furnished with a BBQ, what kind (gas or charcoal) and most importantly … the location and working condition of the BBQ.  Within a condominium or townhouse area you may want to ask whether it is a private or community BBQ.
  • Cleaning:  Is the cleaning guaranteed?
  • Deposit Refunds:  When will the deposit be refunded and how?  Charged back to your credit card or by check?
  • Check-In Time and Check-Out Time:  If you are arriving in the morning and the check-in time is 3 p.m. you will definitely want to mention this before you arrive.  Likewise with the check-out time.  Often properties are booked “back to back” only leaving enough time to clean between guests.

(image via:  http://www.retroplanet.com/blog/retro-design/retro-decorating-ideas/1970s-decorating-style/ )

Click Here to Read Part Two

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