Read these tips before you click. Credit: Colourbox
Most of us have heard the pros of staying in a rental home on vacation instead of booking a hotel: You get a lot more space for a better price, you feel like a local, it's more personal, etc. But what exactly are the rules? Can you bring your dog? Help yourself to anything in the fridge? Who washes the sheets?
We got the lowdown on everything you need to know from Jon Gray, the SVP of North American operations at HomeAway, plus tips on putting your own apartment out there for vacationers.
Tips for vacationers
Do go with a website you've heard of. "Search using a reputable site you've heard of that has a lot of listings," Gray recommends. "If you have a lot to choose from, you'll have a much easier time of making the right choice." He also advises reading the reviews before you book. That way, you know for sure you're getting what's advertised.
Don't be scared to dig through the fridge. One of the perks of vacation rentals is being able to cook your own meals. "Food rules are usually talked about ahead of time between the guest and home owner, but typically what you'll find in the fridge are staples to cook with, like vegetable oil and spices, not fresh groceries," Gray says.
Do ask if you can bring your pet. Most vacation rental sites have special sections of pet-friendly listings. "Being able to bring your pet is one of the main reasons people use vacation rentals — many of them do let you bring pets, and few hotels do," Gray tells us. "You just can't naturally assume if you can bring a pet though. You have to run it by the homeowner."
Don't worry about the washing the sheets. Unless the home owner specifies otherwise, dirty laundry is not your problem. "Some home owners may ask you to strip the beds and put the bedding in the bathtub so it's easier for the cleaner to collect, but this is something that should be addressed in a written agreement beforehand," says Gray.
Do be courteous. It's not required, but Gary says it's a good idea to put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and make sure the place looks as clean as when you found it. Remember, it's someone's home, not a hotel.
Do leave a review. If you had a good experience, leave a positive review on the vacation rental site so it will help them get additional visitors. It's more valuable than a thank you note.
Tips for renters
Do your homework. "Look and see what other properties in your neighborhood are renting for and see what amenities are important," Gray says. You can do this simply by browsing rental sites like HomeAway and Airbnb before you put your listing up.
Don't keep it a secret from your landlord. Check your lease to make sure you're allowed to rent out your home and you have the right insurance. CBiz is one company that specializes in vacation rental insurance. They can also give advice about how to include it on your taxes.
Do make sure you're on the same page. "Get everything in writing and have a good rental agreement," Gray says. This is your chance to address all the house rules, from pets to who's responsible if something breaks. "Some renters take a security deposit, which they give back to the guest afterwards," Gray offers.