Scams, Scoundrels And Super Deals: Vacation Rental 101

May 27, 2014

Last weekend, I rented a large private home in Miami Beach for a group of friends. This coming weekend, I’m renting a modern cottage on 13 acres of rolling hills in upstate New York for my first anniversary. You could say I’m something of a home-renting expert.

With summer vacations coming up, I wanted to share some of my top tips for home renting. Or, if you’re not looking for getaway spots, maybe you’re considering renting out your place for the upcoming MLB All-Star weekend – or the Super Bowl. KSTP reported that one hotel was already almost booked solid for the Super Bowl, so maybe not a bad idea!

  • It’s not easy. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to book, stick to a hotel, because this is not for you. It takes time to research your options, email back and forth with owners to figure out what the final price would be, and deal with availability and signing rental agreements.
  • The extras add up. Most rentals will hit you with taxes, cleaning fees and damage/security deposits. Some even charge you for credit-card fees they may incur if you pay by plastic. Be aware that the cost located on the main rental listing is likely only the base price.
  • There are scams. I’ve heard about scams where people will copy the entire listing from one website and post it verbatim to another website, and a renter will show up to a home only to find out they never “officially” rented it – and that have nowhere to stay. Most reputable websites have guarantees in place where they’ll help if you find yourself in this situation, but you’ll still have nowhere to stay and it’s not guaranteed that you’d ever get all of your money back. I myself barely avoided getting scammed in Miami.
  • Tips to avoid scams. Number one: Use your intuition. That penthouse on Miami Beach that’s 50 percent less than anything else you’ve seen in the area? Yep, it’s too good to be true. Move on and don’t give it a second thought. Other basics: Read the reviews thoroughly. If there are no other reviews on the listing other than two posted on the same day last week that are overwhelmingly positive, it could easily have been a scammer adding reviews. And if there are no reviews? Proceed with caution (and listen to your gut!). Lastly, use a reputable website like VRBO, AirBnB or Homeaway that has a guarantee. It can provide peace of mind, and that’s a powerful thing.
  • This is not a hotel. This may seem like a no-brainer, but before you rent a home over a hotel, consider what sort of experience you’re looking for. Rental homes are usually more relaxing and private than a hotel, but you don’t have the amenities that a hotel provides, and there’s no taxi line, room service or concierge offering tips and guidance.
  • It can be AMAZING. I’ve had some of the most rewarding vacation experiences because I’ve rented homes. You can see a few of my scores below!