By Beth Weinhouse
Smart Vacation Rentals Torch Banner
There's a bit more research involved in renting a vacation home than there is than booking a room in a big hotel chain, but the effort can be worth it for a memorable trip that includes living like the locals. By following a few expert tips you can make sure that your vacation home experience is a great one:

  • Check on reputation. A good first step to making a smart vacation rental choice is to check out the reputation of the company you're renting from by looking for its Better Business Bureau rating (, checking out consumer reviews on TripAdvisor, or simply doing a search to see if others have post about their experiences with the company. Watch for red flags and stick with companies that have good ratings and many satisfied customers. Remember: renting from individual owners can be more risky, an accredited company may be a better route for your vacation rental.
  • List your needs. Spend time in advance of searching for a rental property online thinking about your preferences: apartment or house, city center or surrounding area, beach or lake, number of bedrooms, budget, etc. This way you can compare homes that are real possibilities on a number of different sites, rather than spending time sorting through hundreds of choices that might not be a great fit.
  • Confirm the location and assets. Once you're interested in a specific property, search the address to ensure the location exists and check if there are photos and reviews online. Even legitimate properties sometimes exaggerate their assets, and an online search might expose that something described as "downtown" is actually outside the city or the "scenic lakeside view" is of a body of water far in the distance.
  • Review the rental agreement. Get a rental agreement in writing and read it thoroughly before you sign it or pay a deposit. Like many people, you might automatically check "Agree" when trying to access an interesting website, but when you're renting a vacation home you need to pay more attention. The Better Business Bureau says the agreement should be specific about the responsibilities of the owners and the renters. Make sure you're okay with the terms—will you need to was all the linens at the end of a vacation or drive to a trash collection site several miles away? Also ensure there's a local contact—an agency or manager—to get in touch with if there's a problem or something needs fixing while you're in residence.
  • Pay securely. It's a good idea to pay for your rental with a credit card or secure online service so you have recourse if there's a problem with the vacation rental. If you pay by check, debit card, or wire transfer, you likely won't have as much support should you need help securing a refund.
Taking the time to choose a vacation rental carefully means that once you arrive at your destination the only surprises you're in store for are good ones.


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