NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- To stretch the travel dollar, U.S. consumers are increasingly turning to vacation rentals, but they may be getting the worst of the deal if they don’t pay close attention to dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” before signing off on any deal.
A study from TripAdvisor clarifies the demand for vacation rentals. And another report from Wyndham Resorts helps point out how to close on a seaside or mountain rental.
First things first: Wyndham says that vacation rentals are now a $25 billion industry.
According to TripAdvisor, 46% of travelers say they are planning a vacation rental in 2012, compared to 40% in 2011.
Travel consumers tell TripAdvisor that it’s all about that vacation budget.
That’s especially true of “last minute” vacation rentals, where 82% of survey respondents say they would jump all over a last-minute rental if the deal were a bargain. Another 85% told researchers that if it meant saving a buck or two, they’d opt for a vacation rental over a hotel.
If you’re in a rental state of mind, here are some tips from both TripAdvisor and Wyndham on cutting the best deal:
Pay it forward; those who went before you did.
Dermot Halpin, president of vacation rentals at TripAdvisor, look for reviews and then pay it forward once you get back. “There’s no substitute for fellow travelers’ first-hand experiences, so take advantage of the wealth of information in reviews and photos before you book,” he advises. “And don’t forget to share your thoughts with the community once you’re home.”
Don’t pay a dime until you know the terms.
Halpin says one common rookie mistake is to put down money down before you know everything about the rental. “Payment requirements may differ according to the property, and a nonrefundable deposit can be part of the deal,” he says. “Make sure you understand the payment conditions before you book.”
Work with someone you trust.
According to Wyndham’s vacation rental “bill of rights,” experience counts for everything when booking a vacation rental. Look for a vacation rental company or dealer with some years in the business, and always check the Better Business Bureau before deciding to work with one.
Focus on property descriptions.
Another tenet in Wyndham’s bill of rights is “detailed and accurate” property descriptions. Don’t sell that short. If you want access to a beach, or Wi-Fi Internet, or a pool and a hot tub, always ask for a complete description -- and ask for those specifics you want that will make your trip a lifetime memory.
Check for cleanliness.
Wyndham says to make sure your property is cleaned and inspected on a regular basis. Ask how often the rental is cleaned and if there have been any citations or reports of things like a leaky roof or high crime in the neighborhood. But remember, you have to ask -- they may not volunteer that information.
If any of your hard-earned vacation dollars are earmarked for a rental, make sure you get the facts first, before you shell out a penny.
More on vacation planning and rentals:
Best cheap vacation spots
Luxury rentals for a serious budget
How to get financing for a rental property