5 ways to avoid holiday home rental scams
Maybe you're bored of the usual hotel experience. Tired of being a tourist. Maybe you've seen flashy photos from friends who booked an entire villa for their holiday and raved about how awesome it was. But not all holiday homes are equal. If you want to avoid the trouble of having to look for a backup hotel when things go awry, read on.
1. Communicate beforehand
As these properties tend to be individual units rented out by owners, you shouldn’t take much for granted. Unlike chain hotels which offer you consistent service across their properties, different home owners might have differing expectations. Give yourself time to communicate with the owner before making your booking; do you find the owner to be rude, or fail to reply to your messages? Do they address your queries satisfactorily or do they pointedly avoid certain questions?
While the majority of property owners are sincerely trying to provide an honest and decent service, there are bad apples around. Make sure you inspect their reputation through their ratings, tenant history, and reviews. Comb through both positive and negative reviews. How they handle negative reviews will give you some insights as to how easy or pleasant your transaction might be.
2. Get visual proof of the home
Just like in real estate, it’s all about ‘location, location, location’. Where exactly is the property located? Use Google Maps to confirm the listed address and to determine if it is close to your preferred transportation links.
In addition, look for photographs taken of the property, not just uploaded by the owner but also from other users. Google Street View gives you the opportunity to take a look at the neighbourhood – if you’re likely to be returning to the property at night, you might want to get a sense of whether the area looks safe.
3. Check the listing for red flags
Sometimes, the signs are in the listing itself. Use your judgment when browsing; are there any suspicious items? Look into every detail of the listing, starting from the property description (or lack thereof). Is the renter asking you to make a booking via an external website? Consider carefully before doing so—some service providers do not provide recourse if your mode of booking or payment differs from the normal flow.
Other notable items include the submission date and price. Is the rate too good to be true? If the price is too good to be true, look through different property sites for average rental prices in neighbouring homes.
4. Protect yourself while booking online
If everything feels acceptable, then congrats, you’re a step closer to your holiday! When making your booking, be sure to check that you are booking on a credible website. URL links can be spoofed, so it’s a good practice to conduct the transaction only on official websites, and to pay using their provided payment gateways.
All these cautionary measures may make the owner think you are a fussy customer. But at the end of the day, at least you know who you are dealing with.
5. Know your holiday home rental rights
It is recommended that you rent your holiday home through a reputable holiday home rental site. The main advantage you’ll find is an unbiased community – where you’ll be able to get a thorough review of the home and its owner from previous vacationing tenants, and sometimes useful information of the neighbourhood. You also benefit from the assurance of booking with a known brand, in the event that some recourse is needed.
Review the house rules before booking, and inspect the home carefully when you arrive. Defects and existing damage should be flagged up as soon as you find them, in order to avoid any extra charges.