Quick Tips to Avoid Vacation Home Rental Scams
If you don't know much about me, I grew up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's main industry is tourism and nearly all of the residents work in a tourism-related field. Growing up, vacation homes were extremely common and one of the few ways visitors got to stay directly on the beach. Over the last few years, with the rise of AirBnB, VRBO, and other vacation rental sites, the instances of vacation rental fraud have increased dramatically. If you're looking to avoid a scam, here are a few tips to keep in mind during your planning process.
No Scrubs - Use Reputable Sites
When you're looking for vacation rentals, it's critical to use a reputable, well-known site. There are quite a few international sites and several others that are country specific. If you're ever concerned about a website, simply google the site name followed by "scam" and see what comes up. Sites like AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway are awesome and relatively safe. Be sure to communicate with the owner or manager of the property and ask any and all questions you have. If anyone seems dodgy or anything but forthcoming about their property, find something else. One last tip: don't look for vacation rentals on Craigslist or in the newspaper classifieds. Yes, people do it all the time, and yes, it's a terrible way to find a vacation rental. These scammy listings prey on individuals and families looking to save money. Buyer beware.
Keep Your Mind on Your Money and Your Money on Your Mind
Most importantly, any reputable vacation rental site or vacation rental listing will have a secure payment method available to you, most likely online via credit card. When you're paying for your rental home, reputable places will have you put down an initial deposit and then charge your for the remaining balance after your stay. Here are some things NOT to do:
- Don't pay for your entire stay up front
- Don't pay via PayPal if you can help it
- Don't use a debit card
- Don't wire money, pay with a check, or a money order
- Don't pay an individual. Be sure to go through a reputable site
- Don't leave the booking site to complete your booking. Once you leave the site, the terms and conditions protecting you, the buyer, no longer apply
Don't Get Catfished - Check Photos and Reviews
While you're browsing the sites, be sure to check out all the photos and reviews. Certain sites offer professional photography for listings which could make the property look amazing. As a host or homeowner, that's really important, but a helpful tip is to ask the listing owner for additional photos taken on the fly. What does it look like in that moment? Has anything fallen into disrepair? Also, be sure to find out if there is an owner or property manager locally. You never want to rent a home only to arrive and find out there's no one available to help with anything from a squeaky hinge to a water leak. And more importantly, you don't want to be blamed for a problem you didn't create. Be sure to report anything to the property manager and take pictures of any damage to the property once you arrive. Many reviews will tell the truth about a property, especially if you read reviews going back at least one year. One thing to note: some sites, like AirBnB encourage the renter to rate the property and the property manager to rate the guest. Sometimes, this enables less-than-honest reviews because both parties are worried about being rated anything less than five stars. Keep that in mind when looking at sites that encourage a mutually beneficial rating system.
Vacation rentals have opened all over the world allowing us to stay in new and exciting locales away from the traditional hotel model. Often times, vacation rentals are less expensive, especially if you want to have a single home base. Vacation rentals are also fantastic if you hope to experience what the locals do, where they go, and how they live in that particular destination. I hope this doesn't scare you away from booking vacation rentals, just be sure you're protecting yourself.