Having stayed in numerous vacation properties and also being a successful owner-operator of short term vacation rentals I've compiled a few tips that might ensure that your next (or first) vacation rental does not disappoint. Nothing is worse then getting to the property and being surprised that it's not what you expected and then not being to get in contact with the property manager. But there are other signs before you even decide to rent a property that could signal that the property could not be what your expecting.
Responsiveness by the operator is the key when you are looking to rent. The operator's responsiveness should be the number one thing for the operator to make you feel like your business is important. Failure to respond in a timely manner by the operator means you might look elsewhere while waiting for a response. It's also a preview for what to expect if you have an issue during your stay. If they are on VRBO look for "Premier Partner" or "Super Host" on Airbnb in the owner profile. These are the best operators of vacation properties with the best responsiveness and reviews.
These are very important and lots of information can be gleaned from the reviews. Also with rental sites like VRBO, Airbnb and other similar sites reviews can only be added by renters that have booked the property through those sites. Look for number of reviews, age and frequency of the reviews, repeat renters and comments on the cleanliness, comfort, and responsiveness. Look for consistent trends and realize that some renters will never be happy wherever they stay.
With COVID-19 this is even more important and the operator should have a good answer to how they are addressing cleaning between rentals. Scour the reviews to get the best take on this aspect. Operators may have cleaning crews who blow through the unit and miss basic stuff. Impressions from renters are important and look for trends in the reviews. Ask for current photos if those on the listing appear to be out of date.
This is very different then cleanliness. The posted pictures are key here and ask the operator how old they are if it's not apparent. Good operators are continually updating and maintaining the property and posting current pictures. Query the operator as to how the units are cleaned and maintained. For example linens wear out and if they have the same bed spread from 10 years ago it could be a flag that maybe the rest of the linens might be worn out.
Many rentals have cleaning services that are not maintenance services and it's not uncommon that light bulbs are out and minor repair needs go unnoticed until you check-in and find the tub is clogged up or the ceiling fan doesn't work. Ask how long they owned or managed and any updates they may have done. It indicates if they are active in the property and keeping it up to date. If they are active operators they will inspect the property regularly and keep up with issues.
Owner-Operator vs. Third-Party Managed
Most owner-operators are active in their rentals and care about their renters, property upkeep and most importantly repeat business. They are also local to the property and not located out of state. You can usually spot this in the reviews and in the responsiveness. That's not to say that third party managed properties will have bad service. They may manage many properties and you are just another phone call depending on the property. Some might also argue that third-party managers provide a consistent level of service (be it good or needing improvement).
From the reviews you can also see how active the operator is with the renters. There's' nothing better than an operator who's not overly intrusive and shares all the places to go and things to see that might not be in the local tourist guide. As an active owner- operator I want you to have the best stay possible and come back!
Good owner - operators are easy to communicate with, listen to their renters needs and use reviews and feedback to further improve the property. As an Owner-Operator I want you to come back and book directly with me. This saves you money and gives me peace of mind that I have good renters coming back. If the operator has a website check it out. You can often learn a lot about the operator.
Vacation rentals are not hotels and from an operator perspective last minute cancellations can be hard to deal with especially during peak times or with short notice. Also in today's COVID-19 world I believe that the good operators have been fair to their renters and provided provided full refunds, fair cancellation and / or re-booking options.
From the renter perspective the most important part of cancellations is having a clear understanding of what the cancellation and re-booking options are. You may not like them, but understand them and make an informed decision. Unfortunately some operators are over extended (mortgages) and when the cancellations came from COVID-19 they left their renters holding the bag. Consider getting travel insurance and look at the cancellation terms closely. Some can be hard to collect on.
Think about things you may need or want to do and do not assume based on the listing. WIFI should be included with all rentals. With the advent of streaming services that can be accessed anywhere signal strength and connection speed are important. Also basic kitchen items like spices can make the difference as well as an extra roll of paper towels and toilet paper. Do they provide beach chairs, beach towels, umbrella (it's Florida and it's hot!), cooler and perhaps a cart to carry them to the beach? If the property description does not mention it ask about bikes, kayaks, beach toys for kids, boogie boards and other things you can use and not pay for or have to leave behind. Kayaks for example can run $50 for half a day and for two people that's a nice dinner out.
This list is not exhaustive by any stretch and of course there is a lot that can be written about the property location, cancellation policies and local activities. The goal is to get you thinking about what's important to make your vacation rental worry free and memorable and more importantly avoid surprises along the way.
I hope this helped. Check us out at www.VacationRentalsLidoKey.com and reach out if you have questions.