While there is a growing abundance of options when it comes to booking a vacation home, many travelers still find the rental market to be a little chaotic – at least in comparison to more traditional accommodations like hotels/motels. The increasing popularity of vacation rentals as a value-packed alternative to pricier hotels has led to an abundance of options that can be overwhelming.
Here are some tips for booking your vacation rental to ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck, while protecting yourself from scams or disappointment.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #1: Check out niche listers that focus on specific destinations.
Whether you’ve rented a vacation villa before or not, you’ll want to work with a local company and representatives who know their stuff.
If you’re interested in a Santa Barbara beach house rental, a qualified representative will earn their stripes by walking you through the suitable available properties based on your unique needs and desires. For instance, if you’re bringing your three Bernese mountain dogs, they’ll recommend Santa Barbara beach rental locations that are both dog-friendly and bric-a-brac-free.
Additionally, once you arrive, you’ll want to enjoy concierge services to help you get reservations at that trendy new restaurant, or simply recommend a hike that overlooks the ocean. An anonymous operator three states away won’t be able to deliver that level of local service.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #2: Use a credit card to protect yourself and minimize risks.
You want and expect every detail of your vacation to be perfect. But unfortunately that won’t always be the case. So you need to protect yourself.
Renting with your credit card through a Santa Barbara vacation rental management company offers you that protection. If for some reason the property doesn’t meet your expectations, and the management won’t do anything to fix it, you can keep a record of the problem and dispute the charge with your credit card company.
Property owners who rent person-to-person usually insist on a cashier’s check for 50 percent of the vacation rental to reserve it, and then the other 50 percent in cash upon your arrival. If you later discover roaches scuttling through the kitchen of your vacation home, or other elements of the property that were grossly misrepresented, you will have no leverage because you will have already paid in full in cash.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #3: Get the most bang for your buck.
Dollar for dollar, a vacation rental gives you so much more than a luxury hotel. You get exponentially more space (both indoors and outdoors). You get a host of amenities from private pools to high end kitchens to top flight entertainment systems, all for your exclusive use. Unlike an anonymous hotel room off a crowded corridor, you have a serene home away from home to call your own.
But there are a host of priceless intangible benefits you get when you book your vacation rental through a professional management company. Working with a premier management company to find your ideal vacation home gives you a whole new level of service. A professional company has skin in the game. They are working to establish a good reputation and a list of return clientele, rather than just trying to make fast money.
In the-best-surprise-is-no-surprise category, unlike an absentee owner off Craigslist, a professional Santa Barbara rental company has someone who is troubleshooting issues 24/7, working hard to keep both the renters and the owners happy.
The most underused amenity is the professional staff. Once you arrive at your rental villa in Santa Barbara, they are at your beck and call. Concierge and housekeeping services are a mere button-touch away. The staff’s local Santa Barbara knowledge and connections can turn an average vacation into something amazing. There is no extra cost, and the return is priceless.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #4: Book with confidence.
There’s a HUGE difference between someone who just wants to sell you a room, and a professional vacation rental company that wants to make sure that you enjoy your ultimate Santa Barbara vacation so much that you return again and again. The key to that difference is delivering on what is promised.
Many vacation rental agencies are just big clearing-houses that list properties, sometimes all over the world. They do not usually specialize in a region and offer no other services, aside from rental matchmaking. They can’t make guarantees about the Santa Barbara beach house rental you’ve booked because their representatives have never visited them, inspected them for health and safety concerns, or even met the owners. They cannot vouch for the actual condition of the vacation rental property, the advantages/disadvantages of the location, etc.
Some agencies just want to book the beach rental and collect their fee. They may not care too much about what happens during your stay.
If you’ve never visited the Santa Barbara beach rental house you’re considering, or gotten a firsthand report from a trusted friend, you have no idea whether the photos you’ve seen on the web site are an accurate representation. They might be outdated, retouched or from an entirely different place. (It goes without saying that you should never rent a vacation rental that doesn’t offer photos!) Beware of any site that only offers view or exterior shots. If they’re not willing to show you what the vacation house rental looks like inside, you don’t want to stay there.
With a professional vacation rental company, you can be assured that the quality you see is the quality you will get.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #5: Go with the highest standards of quality.
Professional vacation rental agencies are held to higher standards than private owners. Even if an owner fervently believes that their Santa Barbara vacation rental is clean and up-to-date, their standards might not match your own. One person’s no-visible-dust-bunnies and hi-fi-system are another person’s filthy and anachronistic. A professionally managed Santa Barbara vacation house rental will also be a professionally cleaned and maintained vacation house rental.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #6: Understand the risks of booking through free listing sites like Craigslist.
Listing on a free site is, well, free. No crime in that (who doesn’t love free?), but that might point toward a general laissez-faire attitude the owner has toward his property and tenants.
The owners who are willing to pay a fee to keep their vacation houses booked and in first-class condition have already demonstrated their care and commitment to a working relationship that is beneficial to all parties. The management companies they work with are companies you can rent from worry-free.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #7: Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
The more often these vacation rentals are occupied, the happier the owners are, so if you are planning a last-minute or a long-term stay or if you are a frequent visitor, there is often room to negotiate on the price of your vacation rental. Sometimes the discount might be as much as 30 percent.
Booking a Vacation Rental Tip #8: Do your research and compare rates, amenities, and conditions before entering into a rental agreement.
When you’re trying to narrow down your choice of a Santa Barbara vacation rental, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. A smaller house on the beach will likely cost more than a larger one in the hills. Know what you’re getting from each property, and from each management company. Follow your gut and go with the company that will cheerfully show up in the middle of the night to snake the sink.
Another benefit to working with a Santa Barbara vacation rental professional management company is that it’s so easy to do a background check on them. Call or visit the Better Business Bureau or a vacation rental site like FlipKey.com. Has the firm had any reasonable complaints lodged against them? How were they resolved? Type the name of the Santa Barbara vacation rental firm and its owner into Google and you’ll get a wealth of informative opinions.
The increasing popularity of Santa Barbara vacation rentals has led to an abundance of online resources. Your best bet is to do due diligence and compare rates, amenities, reputations, views, and conditions before entering into a rental agreement. It’s your vacation and booking the right accommodations will help you ensure that your holiday will meet and exceed your expectations.
Graham Farrar is a Santa Barbara local with specialized knowledge in the popular destina