Tips for renting a vacation home

If you are looking to rent a vacation home but don’t know where to start, you are not alone. Finding the perfect vacation getaway isn’t easy, but there are ways to set yourself apart from the herd and ensure you get the residence you want without breaking your budget.

As with most endeavors, planning ahead and organizing is key. This article breaks down the process into nine easy-to-follow steps you need to take to secure the home you want cheaply.

1. Start your research early

Avoid some of the stress and excessive costs that can accompany finding a vacation home, especially during peak season and in the short term, by thinking, researching and planning for at least six months (but preferably one year) in advance. While this may sound overkill, keep in mind that vacation rentals – at least good ones – usually book quickly.

If you don’t know where to start, your first step should be figuring out where you are going and when you expect to travel. Once you’ve made these decisions, a specialist real estate agent in your area can help you find a vacation home rental. Consider contacting popular brokerage houses that have a strong presence or looking for known and respected individual agents in the area you are visiting.

Additionally, local newspapers online can be a great resource (some rentals do not go through a real estate agent), as can vacation rental websites. For example, provides rental details in all 50 states and many countries around the world. Craigslist also advertises vacation rentals.

2. Consult multiple sources

It is very important to consult a variety of sources when looking for a vacation home. By shopping and chatting with many different people, you will not only learn more about the area you are visiting; you may also find yourself a better deal. Leave your options open by talking to multiple realtors and checking multiple websites.

If you don’t live too far from your vacation destination, you might consider driving around the neighborhoods you’re looking to rent to see if there are any listings for homes for the season. While these strategies can be a lot of work, finding rentals this way can be cheaper in the long run as no brokerage fees will be involved.

Although the owner is responsible for paying these fees, the cost will generally be factored into the rental price of the home.

3. Read the entire contract

Unfortunately, people are often so happy to have landed a vacation home that they wanted and so eager to start having fun that they overlook the importance of the contract. This document should not be ignored. It explains what expenses you are liable for. It will not only describe your payment schedule, but also your liability for any damage or if additional cleaning is required.

Make sure you understand who is paying:

  • Utility bills
  • the Internet
  • Phone service
  • Cable
  • Cleaning / housework
  • Propane / gas (if outdoor grills are available)

Keep in mind that the costs involved in cooling or heating a vacation rental can be significant, so be sure to factor this into your budget if the landlord hasn’t already included them in the rent. You should also be aware of the owner’s policies regarding pets and subletting. The HomeAway vacation rental resource website has several sample contracts and invoices for you to look at so you can get an idea of ​​what to expect.

It is important to get a checklist of what is included in the rental. For example, are beach chairs and a grill part of the deal? If they are, it could save you money. If not, you’ll need to factor that cost into your budget or consider negotiating for them, we’ll talk about that in a bit.

As a general rule, before signing a vacation rental agreement, you should consider having it reviewed by a competent and licensed lawyer you trust, preferably a real estate specialist. This should definitely be done if you are unclear on any aspect of the contract. While lawyers can be expensive, spending a few hundred dollars on a contract review makes sense if it gives you comfort and lets you get the most out of your vacation.

4. You can still negotiate

Almost all of the costs of a vacation home rental are negotiable, from the amount of the deposit to the weekly or monthly rent. If the person renting the house isn’t willing to budge on either of these, see if they’ll add an extra rental day or week at a slightly lower price. If the property is not reserved and you know it, this can be a great leverage point when negotiating.

5. Don’t forget the deposit

Seasonal rentals may require a large initial security deposit, so be sure to factor that into your budget. Also, be aware of the process by which your deposit will be returned. Understand what conditions must be met (i.e. if the house needs to be clean and all rental payments made) in order for you to get your deposit back. This will prevent disputes at the end of the rental contract period.

6. Learn about housekeeping

Some rentals have last day housekeeping service, and the cost is charged to the person renting the house. Others may bring in cleaners periodically. Find out what the housekeeping schedule is and who is responsible for the bill. Also find out what condition the property must be in for your deposit to be refunded.

7. Take a picture on the first day

To make sure any existing damage is documented and that you aren’t blamed for something you didn’t do, photograph or record a tour of the property on the day you arrive. Be sure to note any problem areas.

Do the same on the last day. If there is an argument before a mediator or judge later, this documentation can be helpful. It may even convince the owner not to sue you in the first place.

8. Get a contact number

It’s good that you have the keys to your vacation home and are ready to enjoy your free time, but make sure you get the owner or owner’s phone number in case there is a problem. , such as a broken pipe or loss of electricity. .

9. Browse before you go

Before leaving, browse the premises, preferably with the owner or the owner. Make sure they don’t see any issues with the condition of the property. This can prevent unpleasant surprises or unexpected bills. It can also save you time to troubleshoot a problem if it is discovered.

The bottom line

Renting a vacation home doesn’t have to be stressful. Careful and advanced planning can make your vacation more enjoyable and help you reserve the home you want at an affordable price. With these nine steps, you should be able to make sure that your summer cabin doesn’t turn your vacation into a mess.

About Brad S. Fulton

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