How to avoid scams when renting a vacation home

xinfamousxi

Earning My Ears
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
I typically stay at Disney world but taking a bunch of first timers this time. I'm looking into rental homes and afraid of getting scammed. I found a property but still not sure about it. Is there anything I should be looking for specifically to avoid scams? I linked them below.

Vacation home

Other property by same owner

Other property

 

Luv Bunnies

DIS Veteran
Joined
Sep 3, 2006
I've rented houses several times in Florida (Orlando, Miami and Coconut Grove). My family also owns a rental in California, so I'm familiar with how the rental process should work.

First of all, stick with the well-know rental sites (VBRO, Homeaway, AirBnB). Look for a well-developed profile that includes pictures, reviews and a calendar. Look at lots of profiles to get an idea of what the rentals in the area are going for. If you see one that's way below the going rate, that can be a red flag. I also look for profiles that are well-written. I've seen some very poorly written descriptions that look like they were thrown together. Those just look sketchy to me. Also look for recent favorable reviews on the place. If the most recent reviews mention the same issues, the place might not be well-maintained.

I also think it's a good idea to correspond with the owner a few times before putting down a deposit. Ask a question and see how quickly the person responds and if their responses seem professional. We like to ask if the house has electronic locks and, if not, how we would get the key. We once stayed at a place in Coconut Grove. We arrived late since we flew in from California. The owner told us the lady across the street with the green driveway would be up and ready to give us the key. We got there close to midnight and the street was very dark. Even with the flashlights on our phones, we couldn't tell which house had a green driveway. We didn't want to just knock on a random door that late, so my sister called the owner. She didn't know the house number of the lady who had the key, but said another family around the corner had one. She called and woke them up to come to the door with the key. That was kind of weird. We decided we would prefer electronic locks where they just give you the code. We also like to ask if the house has a coffee maker and mugs. One duplex in Miami didn't have either!

The link you posted seems like a good choice. The house looks nice and the description is quite detailed and professional done. The reviews look good and there are several recent ones.
 

ashg23

Earning My Ears
Joined
Jan 1, 2016
I typically stay at Disney world but taking a bunch of first timers this time. I'm looking into rental homes and afraid of getting scammed. I found a property but still not sure about it. Is there anything I should be looking for specifically to avoid scams? I linked them below.
Other property by same owner
Great tips from above poster. I will add, I have had more success with Homeaway/VRBO than Airbnb, but there is a reason for that. Twice when I rented through Airbnb, I saw some great reviews and then I saw several “this reservation was cancelled by the host” posts. I didn’t think much of it, but what do you know, my reservation ended up being cancelled by the host just days before for maintenance issues!

I’ve had some great experiences too, especially in Orlando. I like that the owners of your selection have several properties. This is their bread and butter so they probably take it seriously and might have other options for you if there is an issue. All of the properties in that area will say “minutes from Disney” so do your own google mapping during high traffic times and look at the reviews for the reality of it.
 



  • lorenae

    I'm going to Disney World!
    Joined
    Sep 12, 2015
    My friend is a “super host” for her own property on Airbnb and she is also renting ours for us. If you do Airbnb, look for the superhosts or the ones who have many realistic reviews.

    When you look through the reviews, look for the negative ones. Some are silly- “the shampoo and conditioner were different brands!!!!” Was my friend’s negative review- but others may talk about safety or maintanence issues.

    I’ve been very happy with renting via VRBO, Homeaway, and Airbnb and never had a bad experience..
     

    mjhtvchick

    Universal Fan-atic
    Joined
    Apr 10, 2012
    @Luv Bunnies had some great tips - whenever I book on VRBO/Homeaway, I always "sort" by number of reviews, rather than review score - I also then look at how current the reviews are.

    I wouldn't hesitate to book either of these properties. I actually stayed in a townhome in that community in 2018.
     

    Penmac

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 31, 2017
    We rent at Windsor Hills. I usually go through their official rental website and I email the rental office directly to confirm that the owners are legit, or I ask for references. Agree with above poster as well about corresponding with the owner a few times before paying.
     

    ChanaC

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2014
    I just read this really interesting article on Vice about how they uncovered a huge Airbnb scam. Unfortunately there isn't much you can do to avoid it, since they cover their tracks well, but the best advice is that if the host tries to cancel on you a few hours before check in, accept the cancellation fee and be done with it.

    The TL/DR version of the article is that scammers are using fake photos and reviews to make it seem like they have a great rental, but they cancel just before check in because of a "plumbing issue" or something unexpected. They then offer people their "second rental" in the city, which is usually a bad, gross hole in the wall that is falling apart. But because people didn't cancel their reservation, they still end up paying at least some fee, because now it looks like the renter is cancelling one night into their stay. It's probably a very small minority of the properties on Airbnb, but something to be aware of.

     
  • empedocles

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2019
    I have no doubt that 99% of AirBnBs are fine, but I avoid them as their due diligence is a little questionable in my eyes.

    My former landlord had an AirBnB issue several years ago. He owned a couple of quadplexes across from his home, and was working on the yard one day when several unfamiliar people asked to get through the gate. He asked who they were and they said there were there for an AirBnB stay. One of his renters was subletting on AirBnB. That day's AirBnBers did not get to stay, and her lease was terminated shortly thereafter.

    I've successfully used Homeaway & VRBO.
     

    georgina

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    I've had success with airbnb and vrbo. A recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, there was a really nice cabin in Olympic National Park with only a couple of reviews. I contacted the owners and told them I liked the place but was hesitant because of only 2 reviews. They replied immediately that they were new to airbnb but had listed on other sites for years. Once I checked those reviews I ended up booking it on booking.com for less than the airbnb rate. Our airbnb stays in Portland and Seattle on the same trip were great. Having 3 BR and 2 BA when traveling with 5 people is wonderful.
     

    Rpsemont

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 28, 2001
    I have rented Airbnb and homeaway and also own a home listed on home away. Personally, I am more comfortable with listings that say contact OWNER as opposed to contact MANAGER. Both of the listings you have are MANAGED by the same person - who may not be the owner. (And I mean no disservice to people that want to use a manager - we used one for a couple years). When the listings are by an owner, often they will have an "about us" writeup. For my recent airbnb stay in colorado as soon as I got the address, I looked up the real estate tax rolls for the owners name and it matched the name on the airbnb site. But, if you're uncomfortable, the best thing is to try and talk to the owner or manager. In some cases, this must be done through the platform (homeaway, vrbo, or airbnb) because phone numbers are not provided until after payment and booking.
     
  • seashoreCM

    All around nice guy.
    Joined
    Aug 25, 2001
    If all payments are done by credit card (not debit card) you are a little safer.

    Also you would need a Plan B to include rejecting a substitute rental if that is inferior, in which case the goods/services are Not As Described and whover took your payment would also be liable for refunding it or being subjected to chargeback of a credit card payment.
     



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