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How to Book a Vacation Rental That Won’t Be a Nightmare

We’ve all heard the horror stories of the booked rental that turned into a nightmare, leaving travelers stranded and friends upset. Below I’ll give some pointers on how not to be that guy and keep your friends/family happy with your accommodation choices. Be there hero!

As a frequent traveler, and when traveling to cities in which we don’t represent (or own) the home, I’ve had my fair share of less-than-awesome accommodations, such as:

  • The “Luxury Loft” in North Hollywood that didn’t have toilet paper. I called the host and was told he had “forgotten to buy any” along with a grumbled apology and a request for me to buy my own. I told him no worries, I would simply use his hand towels. SPOILER: He sent some toilet paper.
  • The, as we like to call it in the industry, “bachelor bed”, which consists of a hard-as-rock mattress, threadbare linens, cover-less comforter (gross), and if you’re lucky, a couple stained pillows. PS: for those not in the know, a comforter without a cover means the comforter is never, ever being washed. The same goes for coverlets, quilts and “bed in a bags”. Don’t do it unless you like sleeping amongst the shed skin of traveling strangers.
  • The Palm Springs “palace” that smelled of urine, had unlockable/broken locks on three doors and, unbeknownst to us, a gentleman who would sneak in through the back gate to clean the pool without warning. I was trying to make the best of a bad situation and figured a skinny dip would be just the recipe – that poor man got more than he had bargained for when walking into what we thought was our private yard. We rented another house to the sweet sounds of a homeowner who wanted to keep our money but couldn’t. Airbnb frowns on unsecurable homes and unannounced strangers.

Don’t make the same mistakes I have. Allow me to give you some quick and dirty pointers on how to spot a good rental, regardless of what could be less-than-honest reviews.

  1. Look for a home that is professionally managed: Yes, as a manager ourselves we know many of you romanticize the idea of renting from the sweet, elderly homeowners and the homemade croissants to follow. And we get it! We love those homeowners too. But, as it turns out, homeowners simply aren’t able to stay awake 24 hours a day, and oftentimes issues happen after bedtimes. A professional company with round-the-clock concierge services are able to do things like:
    1. Furnish you with ways to enter a home should you find yourself unable
    2. Call the proper authorities if needed
    3. Go to bat on your behalf with Airbnb (a feat in and of itself for non-professional hosts).
  2. Look for professional photos: I once dated a man who’s Father bought and sold cars. I went to the auction with him once and was told to “look at the wheels. If the wheels look good, chances are the owner took pride in their car.” The same goes for homes. If the owner is willing to pay for professional photos, chances are they take pride in their home, too. Good, quality photos aren’t cheap!
  3. REALLY SCRUTINIZE THOSE PHOTOS! I mean, take a magnifying glass to those babies. Some key things to look for:
    1. Beds: Is the bedding white? Does the comforter have a cover? Are there more than two pillows on the beds? Accent pillows? Does it look “fluffy and comfy”? Is the bedding straight and pretty for pictures?
    2. Kitchen: Does the kitchen boast high-quality extras such as mixers and espresso machines? Are the appliances of good quality? Are the non-essentials put away?
    3. Art: Sooo many people skimp on making their rental feel like a home. Typically if a homeowner has gone to the trouble of hanging (and hanging and hanging) quality, area-specific art, they are the kind of hosts who haven’t skimped elsewhere.
    4. Reviews: Yes, we all know reviews on Airbnb can be less-than-truthful, but there will oftentimes be a common theme if there are particularly disturbing aspects of a house and should be mentioned more than once.
    5. Review responses: Are the homeowners responding to their less-than-glowing reviews? If so, and if the response doesn’t sound defensive, and does an adequate job of explaining the situation, chances are the homeowner takes pride in their home, too.

Hopefully, these simple-to-follow guidelines will help you when booking your next vacation, and please let us know what you look for in the comments!

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