by Matt Landau
Searching for the perfect vacation rental is not unlike searching for the right pair of shoes: an abundance of places to look, a variety of models to choose from, and only a select few that offer the right “fit.”
While massive growth in the vacation rental industry has resulted in a paradox of choice that can make renters anxious or overwhelmed with so many properties to choose from, growth also gives renters the advantage in getting the best deal on the best rental possible. Here’s how industry experts go about making the right choice when selecting their top places to stay:
1. Determine travel flexibility
Before you begin your search, determining the flexibility of your travel dates can help weed out rentals that are booked or maximize your savings when it comes to flights or weekday (versus weekend) rental rates. Since many owners offer discounts for elongated or low-season stays, being flexible will get you the best possible rate.
2. Make your “short list”
Listing sites like FlipKey allow users to tag rentals, once you log in, as shortlist properties. Adding potential properties to your “My Picks” list helps narrow down and organize your choices. It also avoids wasting time trying to revisit rental pages you once liked but forgot to bookmark.
3. Gauge accuracy of photos
From a vacation rental marketing perspective, photos are one of the most important tools in conveying the look and feel of properties. In general, photos can say a lot about a property: poorly-staged areas or rooms shown with little sunlight tend to reflect poorly on a property whereas clean, crisp, professional images show an owner is serious about maintaining his or her rental.
4. Observe management involvement
It’s important to decide how much assistance you’ll want from the rental’s owner during your vacation. Vacation rentals vary in their owner involvement: from entirely offsite managers with do-it-yourself mantras, to on-site concierge-like managers who are around for travel advice, questions, small maintenance problems…etc. An owner with good communication who’s there when you need him/her can be tremendous insurance for a first-time rental visit.
5. Research the rental elsewhere
Checking the internet for other reviews or descriptions of your potential vacation rental can unearth out some intriguing information, either good or bad. Be sure to research the property on major search engines and on listing sites to make sure it has received good, unbiased reviews. A rental with it’s own website can speak volumes about an owner’s commitment to the rental as a business whereas a choosing a property not mentioned anywhere online is like selecting your destination blindly.
6. Ask for quotes
Once you’ve consolidated your vacation rental search down to your top two or three rentals, emailing the owners requesting quotes for your desired dates does several things. First, correspondence with the owner will give you a good idea about their professionalism and sense of hospitality, which in turn, says a lot about the property itself. Second, requesting quotes may entitle you to discounts not otherwise promoted online. Third, communicating directly with the owner, you'll get to ask all relevant questions to the area as a whole (travel, dining, tour advice). A big advantage of choosing vacation rentals over traditional hotels is the inside knowledge your rental's owner has to offer up. Be sure to take advantage of this resource.
Instead of choosing your vacation rental in the dark, use the growth of the rental marketplace as your ally. With so many rentals out there, being methodical about your search process and generating transparency about your potential vacation homes are surefire ways to select the best options you and your family.
Matt is a Vacation Rental Marketing consultant helping both owners and renters get the most out of their vacation rental.