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How to Find a Perfect Vacation Rental

Wondering how to find a vacation rental? The search for the right one requires an investment of time, but the payoff can be substantial.
Wondering how to find a vacation rental? The search for the right one requires an investment of time, but the payoff can be substantial.

Trying to find a vacation rental that is perfect for you and your family requires a commitment of time and energy, but your payoff will be great vacation memories. Do your homework and you’re almost guaranteed to find a perfect place that will provide a great return on your investment of time.

As you begin your search to find a vacation rental, keep these tips in mind:

Plan early. The most desirable rentals, which includes houses close to the water, fully outfitted with amenities and in top-notch condition, may get booked as much as a year in advance. Some guests renew their reservations for the same period year after year. Mom taught you that the early bird gets the worm. It’s especially true of vacation rentals.

Talk to the owner or property manager before making a reservation. They should contact you promptly, ideally within a few hours of your initial query. Ask a lot of questions. Is the owner businesslike? Does he or she seem genuinely interested in making your stay memorable? Do you detect pride of ownership and investment in their vacation rental business? Don’t conduct the entire transaction via email because you’ll miss the subtleties that result from a conversation.

Find out if there have been any significant structural or cosmetic changes to the home since the photos were posted online. You want to make sure that what you see is what you’re going to get.

Pay attention to the listing’s availability calendar. That’s a good indicator of the popularity of the house. I recently found a Cape Cod home listed on a major vacation rental listing site that claimed to have 25 five-star recommendations, but the calendar showed that only one week out of the next 52 had been rented. Huh? Seemed like a major disconnect to me. It could mean that the homeowner had been delinquent about updating the home’s availability calendar. Would you want to stay in a place where the homeowner can’t be bothered updating the availability calendar? What else in their vacation rental might they be neglecting?

(Photograph: Carolyn Gatto)

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