Saturday, February 2, 2013

Using VRBO


VRBO.com is a website that boasts the listing of 190,000 vacation rental properties worldwide. VRBO stands for Vacation Rentals by Owner. Property owners around the world have listed their rentals on this website and all you have to do now is figure out where you want to go and search!!
VRBO represents all the usual vacation spots (Florida, Hawaii, New York, Lake Tahoe, Colorado, etc.) and all the unusual ones as well. VRBO property #33885 is an apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland. VRBO property #422665ha is a 6 Bedroom villa in Nanyuki, Kenya. VRBO property #844 is "Sheila's Cozy 2BR Cabin" in Pigeon Forge, TN advertizing for 79$ per night. You catch my drift—really any type of rental property in any location of the world, is available through VRBO.com. (Within reason—while I did find three listings in my hometown of Menlo Park, CA, there were no listings in my husband's hometown of McKeesport, PA or its environs…)


Our experience to date with VRBO has been stellar. We have rented a beach house in Aptos, CA, a three bedroom condo in South Lake Tahoe, a ski cabin in the Pinecrest Lake area and a gorgeous plantation type home in Hana, Maui. They have all been lovely properties and the process of renting these properties was lovely as well. Once you have rented a property through VRBO it is often possible to rent directly through the owner the second time. Many will keep your contact information in their personal files and inform you of changes to the property or upcoming deals. Many owners will even often discounts to repeat renters.

There are filters you can use to narrow your search to exactly the type of property you are seeking, but I find them to be a little silly, as you can't filter for things that I consider important, like properties having a dishwasher or linens provided or parking-so my recommendation is to only filter your search by location, minimum "sleeps", and dates of availability.



VRBO is easy to navigate and with little effort it is easy to find a vacation rental property that suits your needs, tastes, and budget. There are a few pitfalls a newbie can encounter, however, and here are some simple tips to avoiding them…

  1. Know where your center of activity will be and know what that place/area is called. Look for properties near that center of activity. For example, the towns of Lahaina, Kahana, Napili, and Kapalua are all listed under the heading of "West Maui." If "West Maui" is where you want to be, you better know where! If the busy night life of Lahaina is important to you, you may not want to be driving in from Kapalua each night, as Kapalua is about a 20 minute drive. Better to stay in the town of Lahaina itself, and WALK to your nightlife destinations. For this you must orient yourself to the area. Try Google maps or any guide book about your destination.
  2. Get the exact address of the potential rental and look it up on a map! Just because a property's mail routes through a certain post office does not mean the property is actually in that town. Our rental in the Pinecrest Lake area had a Long Barn, CA address; however, the property was in Cold Springs, CA—about 10 minutes closer to Dodge Ridge! Our Hana rental was listed under the "Hana" heading, but the property was actually in Nahiku, about 7 miles up the road! No big deal, but it did mean we would not be walking to AM snorkeling in Hana Bay or walking home from dinner after several Mai Tais. Incidentally, nearly all Kaanapali Beach rentals have a Lahaina address, though Lahaina is 8 miles south of Kaanapali.
  3. When a property is described as sleeping a range of people, assume it sleeps the minimum number. Find out from the owner the exact arrangement of the beds and bedrooms. Our friends are in a condo this weekend which sleeps 6-8, but that's with two twin beds and the 2 queen beds all in one open loft, which means the whole family is sleeping in one room. Our latest rental said that it slept 6-12, but boy were we surprised to see that the queen bed that was advertised was actually a futon in the master bedroom with the king size bed. Our poor friends, with whom we shared the house, were forced to share a full size bed in a bedroom with another full sized futon with their two sons! We were quite tight with nine. You can also pretty much assume that the last two spots of the maximum number are on some kind of pull out in the living room with offers no privacy and lacks much comfort. If you are sharing your rental with another family, you will need to consider the sexes and ages of your children and if it is appropriate for them to be sharing a room. Another huge consideration for occupancy is the size of the hot water heater! If your rental supports 10 sleepers but does not support 10 showers after a long cold day of skiing, what really is the point? Again, in our last rental, only six of us were able to take 5 minute showers and shower takers 5 and 6 had the water turn cold on them!!
  4. If something is unclear in the listing—ASK! ASK! ASK! VRBO owners are obligated to get back to potential rentals within 24 hours. Ask as much as you want! It is your money, who cares if you are pestering the owner? Don't assume anything from the listing. If you do not see the words, "linens provided," do not assume they will be there! Does "linens" include towels? Is bath soap provided? Is there garbage service to the unit? Is there light if you arrive in the dark? Is the TV compatible with an external hookup like a DVD player or an Ipad? Is there cell phone service at the property? Is there a pancake griddle? Is there a garbage disposal? Is there a binder in the facility which tells you what to do in case of an emergency? ASK, ASK, ASK, and ask whatever you want!
  5. Read the reviews
  6. Check out the pictures—be wary of a place without plenty of pictures!
  7. Read the fine print in the RATES section. Now this can be a pitfall! You are all ready to rent your cabin at 200$ per night, but oh, you neglected to read carefully and now because you are there on a weekend during the winter, your cabin really costs 325$! Owners will frequently list the least expensive rate first because they know it will be the first thing you see. Beware of hidden taxes! Many counties charge some kind of occupancy luxury blue moon on Monday taxes that can raise your rates upward of 10% or more!! And beware that cleaning fee! We have friends that list their rental through Lake Tahoe Accommodations and the cleaning fee is 385$! Wow! If you are there for four nights, you have just raised your rates by 100$ per night. No family of five makes $400 worth of mess in four days!
  8. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy. Some renters will let you cancel with a full refund even a few days before; some will start issuing a penalty if your cancellation is within 90 days of your arrival!
These points being made—I am a firm believer in VRBO and find it is FAR better to stay in a rental property than to get a hotel room. We have stayed in studio hotel rooms which cost only slightly less than a rental.

Can you trust VRBO? Like anything, I suppose in would be possible for scams to be set up through VRBO, but so far our experiences and the experiences of our friends have led us to the belief that VRBO can be trusted. GoFamilyGo says GO for VRBO!!
J

This is GoFamilyMom signing off for now! Be watching for a soon upcoming post featuring Northstar Village and Ski Area!


 

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