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Thursday, July 22, 2021

AirBnB and VRBO: How Can You Find a Great One?

Personal vacation rentals are all the rage. Here’s how to find the right one to stay at … and how to know if you should become a landlord yourself.

During the pandemic, hotels went empty while private rentals filled up. People wanted to get away from more populated areas, or they trusted the enhanced cleaning protocols that many local rentals offered. What they discovered is what many already knew: personal rentals can be a fantastic way to vacation, and a savings on hotel prices. But not every rental is up to snuff nor the perfect match for your needs. How do you find a rental you’ll love?

Should You Run a Vacation Rental?

A little extra income never hurt anyone, and having your own vacation rental can be a good way to get some. Is it right for you? 

First, check with your local community government to see if it’s legal in your area. Most allow stays of less than thirty days, but some cities are cracking down on the practice. Second, consider whether you have a room and bath with a separate entrance. While single rooms in a house can be rented, it’s usually best for long-term tenants who you know. Do you have a camper or RV with an inside toilet? Parked outside, these travel vehicles are becoming popular as low-cost housing for vacationers of all ages. Will you mind responding to inquiries? Will you clean the place yourself or hire it done? Where will sheets and towels be laundered? 

Check this blog about The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act to see if you have any compliance issues. Bring up any questions you have with the people running your listing site, such as VRBO. They handle listings across the country and can advise you on current practices. You can also reach out to your local community of hosts for suggestions based on their experience.

Surprisingly, you don’t have to be particularly social to host. Most communications can be handled with text, and basic questions are answered for tenants before they book. In fact, most hosts never see their tenants during their stay. You can also collect a damage deposit that is refunded to guests after a damage-free stay. And sites like AirBnB have the kinks worked out. See their guide on how to start hosting for tips and tricks to getting started.

People are renting out everything from a room in their home, to a teepee or yurt, or even a camper parked in their driveway. Sometimes it’s an apartment they own, a casita or even an entire house. If you’ve only ever stayed at a hotel, you’re in for a treat. The vast majority of these places provide lovely, unique stays. However, it’s a good idea to run down the list of how to find a great place to make sure you’re matched with the cottage, or camper, of your dreams.

AirBnB, VRBO and are the big three private listing companies. Many properties are listed on all three, or at least the first two. So how do you go about searching for a place and ensuring it’s not a dud? 

  1. Map out the things you want to see on your trip, and find an area nearby. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the French Quarter of New Orleans, for example, it makes sense that you’ll want to stay nearby. Being able to go out for dinner and drinks and then walk - or take a short Uber ride - home is worth paying more for. You don’t want to spend an hour or two every day traveling where you really want to be. If you want to experience Times Square, it makes sense to avoid the financial district. Even in a small town, the difference between walking to restaurants and having to drive can impact how much you enjoy your vacation.
  2. Enter the dates you want to stay. This rules out all the properties that are already booked. 
  3. Add filters for your visit. Do you need a washer and dryer? Will a pet be traveling with you? Are two bathrooms a priority? Do you want a full kitchen? Is Wi-Fi a must? Include only what you absolutely need to have on the first look so you don’t eliminate the place that lacks a washer/dryer but has a killer view off a balcony, for example. Will you be comfortable staying in someone’s spare room to save money? Do you want a whole house for a family vacation, or two master bedrooms with their own bath? Is there parking available on the property or will you have to hunt for a spot on the street? Is smoking allowed?
  4. Cast a critical eye on the photos. Don’t even consider a place lacking photos of the bathroom, or one that has five photos of the flat and 20 of nearby tourist attractions. Another red flag: multiple close-ups of individual furniture or a bouquet that are masking room size or overall attractiveness. Does the place look cluttered or comfortable? Is the furniture obviously worn
  5. Read the reviews. They should be overwhelmingly positive. Are there compliments about the owner’s helpfulness? Is the kitchen fully stocked? Is the place sparkling clean? Can you get in with a code? Is everything in working order? Is the mattress comfy? Was it quiet? Is it located next to a junkyard or jazz club? Of course, there’s always the guest who is impossible to satisfy. How does the owner handle negative reviews? If there are no reviews or if the reviews are all old, give it a pass. The only exception is for a new listing, which may be offered at a reduced cost until the owner has enough reviews to bring it up to market price. 
  6. Review the total cost. You may pay more than the average price per night if you’re renting in high season. If there is a local festival going on, expect rates to be considerably higher. Taxes, a service fee and a cleaning fee will also add to the final price. Unlike a hotel, most private rentals are only cleaned before and after your stay, so a longer stay at the same place will bring the daily price down. Be aware that some listers lower the price per day and then charge an exorbitant cleaning fee; pay attention to the total price.
  7. Check other rental sites for the same property. The same property could be cheaper on one site than another. If the owners have their own website, it’s almost certainly a bargain there because there is no fee to pay a hosting site. Some properties may actually be listed by property management outfits. Check their site as well to find the best deal. 
  8. Review the policies. Make sure that you are aware of check-in and check-out times. Do you need the code for a lock box? Are pets allowed on the furniture? Do you need to bag garbage at the end of your stay? Are children allowed? Is there an elevator to a third-floor apartment? While most private rentals provide sheets and towels, some (especially if you’re traveling internationally) do not. Will there be a crib for your grandchild?
  9. Ask questions. You have the option to ask a potential host anything at all about the property. Keep it short and simple. Most hosts also make available a list of nearby attractions. Remember that the host is not responsible for planning your vacation. He or she will rate you at the end of the stay, as well as you ranking the property. You want to be a considerate guest.

Do your homework before you commit, and pretty soon you’ll be raving about that cool hillside patio with the fire pit and hot tub outside of Taos, or the charming 20’s cottage with the vintage tub in Boston. Enjoy your travels!