How To Rent Vacation by Owner
  • For Renters

    Useful info if you’re looking to rent a vacation home directly from the owner.

    Contacting Owners:

    Most Vacation Rental web sites consist of thousands of privately owned vacation properties available for rent directly from the homeowners and sometimes their agents. Arrangements for rent or lease are made directly with them. Each listing on the portal web sites lists a phone number and/or email address. All inquiries should be sent to the homeowner or agent. Not all homeowners have email addresses. Some have chosen not to list them. And some rely only on email to contact their potential renters.

    When e-mailing, be sure to write something in the subject line, that will alert the owner that you are asking about their home, something like “Vacation Rental Property”. And in turn, if you have a spam blocker on your e-mail account, you may want to note that in your e-mail, alerting the owner that they may have to auto-respond a confirmation. Or turn off that blocker while you’re looking for a property. Also include your phone number in your e-mail. Many owners will indeed pick up the phone when they receive your e-mail.

    Give as much detailed information as you possibly can. Give the dates you are inquiring about, if you’re flexible, note that too. List how many people, adults and children. If you have a pet that you wish to bring along, be sure to include that information too. If you have any special needs or questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

    If there’s a phone number listed for the property, call the owner, most welcome the questions that your may have. Remember, most often you will be renting someone’s second home that they bought to use themselves, the owners know the area very well and can be a very useful resource in helping you choose the right place for your next vacation.

    If I call an owner, am I obligated to rent from them?

    No, but please keep in mind that the owners generally only have one place to rent and they will be somewhat biased when answering your questions. Owners are not travel agents, they won’t know about other properties. . Before you call, be sure that their home is a place that you would like to stay. Sometimes conversations with the owner can assist you in narrowing down your choices. Please also be considerate, you’re most likely calling their home, don’t call during dinnertime or after 9pm. If you call and get an answering machine, be sure to leave your name, number (clearly and slowly), the dates you are inquiring about and an appropriate time for them to return your call. Most owners will indeed call you back.

    How will I know where I’m calling?

    Phone numbers that are not proceeded by country codes are in the United States, Canada or parts of the Caribbean, so be aware that you may be making a out of country call, you may want to check the area code on this web site to see exactly “where” you are calling.

    I have called the homeowner and have not heard back from them.

    The most common reason is that the owner’s themselves are on vacation! Dealing with homeowners will not always be as easy as contacting a rental firm. Most owners respond within 24-48 hours. Although we encourage our owners to respond whether they are booked or not, unfortunately there are some homeowners who just don’t use due diligence or a modicum of decency in returning every call they receive. Though we do our best to correct this behavior, some owners do not feel obligated to return calls for dates they know are booked. With this in mind, we feel the best strategy is to skip over homeowners who are not prompt in responding to your inquiries, and deal with the rentals looked after by folks who are considerate enough to answer your questions quickly. You’ll probably have a better vacation if you do.

    So why shouldn’t I just contact a rental firm?

    You certainly have that option. Keep in mind, renting directly from the owner can afford you many things that maybe wouldn’t be available through an agency. These owners also tend to use their properties a lot themselves, which mean more often the home will be furnished nicer, better equipped and impeccably maintained.

    Since owners generally speak with every guest who enters their property, there is a certain amount of comfort that these owners have in their guest. Along with the trust, most likely their homes will be stocked with more amenities that you would not necessarily see in the common agent rental.

    How do we know the properties really exist?

    Truthfully there is no guarantee. The best way to avoid this is to do your homework. We suggest asking homeowners for references, or a list of past renters. Website will be happy to share all comments about a specific home with you, just give us a call or email. One good indication of the relative trustworthiness of any given owner/rental is how long they’ve advertised with us (listed on their property page on our web site).

    Are the prices set or is there room for negotiations?

    Most property owners are somewhat flexible on their pricing during certain times of the year. Some even advertise discounts. If you inquiring for a week that is not usually booked, say the last week of April, then I would bet most owners would negotiate on their prices. However, don’t expect the owners to give their places away just because it’s not booked. Many owners don’t rely on off-season revenue and would choose not to rent it than risk (damages) a renter that’s asking for a price less than your cheapest deep discount motel.

    On the flip side, if you ask about a discount for July 4th (or any other peak season week) then most prices are usually firm.

    How do we handle payments?

    Since each vacation rental is individually owned and operated, the payment methods and schedules will vary. Commonly the owner would require a reservation deposit, then the balance to be paid in one or two payments. Most owners require full rent plus a deposit paid prior to the rental period. Payment methods will vary also, but most will take personal checks.

    Before you send any money (even the deposit) we recommend that you ask the owner about their cancellation policies. It’s best to have these policies in writing.

    Can I get any refunds due to weather?

    Sorry, the owners cannot control the weather, there’s really nothing we can do about that one. If you choose not to come or to checkout early due to the weather, you must understand that you forfeit your rent. Clear as that!

    What if something goes wrong while I’m there? How will it get fixed if the owner lives miles away?

    Many owners are very conscientious about their maintenance and do a lot of preventive measure to ensure that things will not go wrong. But in the unlikely event that something does break while you’re there, simply call the owner. The owner should be able to get the problem resolved quickly and professionally.

    Do I have to clean the property before I leave?

    Cleaning policies vary from owner to owner. Sometime you will have to clean yourself out and wash the linens. Other times a cleaning staff will come in and clean after you leave. Be sure to ask the owners the check-out policies for the property. Even if cleaning is provided, it’s still expected that you leave the property “broom clean”. In other words the cleaning staff generally does not do the dishes and clean up excessive messes. In either event, keep in mind that this is someone’s home.

    Is daily cleaning service available?

    Again, this varies from owner to owner. If you would like daily service, be sure to ask the owner if it can be arranged.

    Give the owners feedback.

    Owners love feed back. Whether you have a suggested item that you would have enjoyed, or if something wasn’t working properly, please let the owners know. Owners do not visit their properties every week and if you notice something, most owners would be happy to know about the problem. And of course if your accommodations were perfect, the owners love to hear that also.

    Renting by owner can be a win-win situation for both the owners and the renters.

    Happy renting from owners !

    Christine Karpinski

Christine photoFor nearly 15 years, Christine Karpinski has had one focus: the vacation rental industry. She’s an author, speaker, podcast host and expert in the field. Christine's full bio »

How to Rent by Owner

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