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Regularly, when summer vacation approaches, the media draw your attention, on fraud or on various problems or disappointments the holidaymakers may face.
From a dream villa… which does not exist to a hacked owner’s email address, from vacation rentals not corresponding to reality to desperately absent owners in case of problem: these are some of the disaster scenarios that may discourage holidaymakers to choose this kind of holiday. Yet a holiday villa offers many advantages and satisfies each year millions of tourists worldwide.
The media often consider the solutions once the damage is done, but often skip the simple steps that can limit the risks. Since prevention is better than cure, I think it may be helpful to recall some behaviours of common sense. They will allow you to make your choice with confidence.
Do not give in to panic: fraud remains an exception and the huge visibility offered by Internet encourages owners to offer the best conditions to their guests. They all want to avoid a bad review that could “kill” their holiday rental during several seasons.
A holiday break must be fun and only fun. Before you get carried away by your enthusiasm, just be careful and everything will be fine.
Here are my tips:
1. Cross the information found on the Internet: if the house that seems to meet all your criteria has its own website, check if it also appears on well-known holiday rentals websites, In general, the owners want to have the largest visibility and advertise their property in several websites. Some of them clearly mention for how long the owner has been a member, which is totally reassuring as to the existence of the holiday rental and its quality. Indeed, the owner cannot remove negative reviews. He may respond to them and justify himself, which might also be very instructive.
2. Contact the owner personally: in general, the major sites of holiday rentals give the owner’s telephone number and even his picture. Call him and ask him all the questions you have in mind. Of course, this does not completely rule out fraud, but a personal contact will allow you to ask a lot of very specific questions about the house and its surrounding. If you feel your interlocutor is hesitant or reluctant to answer, mistrust…
3. Ask for his address ( his home and not his holiday rental ) and check on Google if he actually lives there. You can also ask for his number of identity card or his profession. Cross this information with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. An owner who has nothing to hide will have no difficulty to provide you with this information.
4. Request an invoice related to the holiday rental: such as electricity or water, with the name of the owner.
5. Ask for more photos of the house or property than those published on the Internet: an owner should be able to send them to you.
6. Make sure that there is a rental contract, ask for it and read it carefully. If necessary, have it read by a lawyer or a real estate agency
7. Beware of owners who do not update their calendar: this procedure allows fraudsters to rent the same periods to different holidaymakers!
8. Avoid too tempting offers: have in mind the famous “too good to be true”! Compare the property to other similar properties on the market. If the difference is too big, it’s worth investigating a bit more. Scammers use this technique to seduce their victims.
9. Pay attention to the means of payment: You have now made your choice and it is time to pay. A deposit of 25-30% to secure the booking is common practice Usually, the balance has to be paid a few weeks before your arrival. Some owners will accept the balance in cash upon arrival, In case of a bank transfer, do not hesitate to pay by credit card or PayPal. Propose to pay the fees: you will be completely protected.
10. In many countries, the owner must have a specific license to rent his holiday villa or apartment. In Greece, it is called “EOT license.” This document assures that the holiday rental meets the required criteria for its category. EOT licenses mention the name of the manager and are published on the Internet.
11. To avoid any unpleasant surprise during your stay, make sure you have a local contact in case of problems. If the owner does not live in the area and the property is not managed by an agency, you MUST know who can help you if the washing machine breaks down, if you forget your keys inside the villa or if the turquoise colour of the pool water has turned to flashy green…
12. Feel free to ask any questions BEFORE you sign the contract: most of the serious owners want their customers to be fully satisfied. The famous word of mouth and some good reviews on the Internet are their best reward. Clarify in advance the services included in the rental price or not: utilities, air conditioning, cleaning, linen, pool maintenance, etc. Learn about the distances to the beach, town, shopping and entertainment. Make sure the property meets the needs of all members of your group: young children, older people or disabled persons. I always invite my future tenants to ask me questions.
13. A tour of the property: Most landlords will ask you to pay a security deposit, refunded on departure or a few days later. Suggest to the person who will welcome you to make a tour of the property with you. If this is not possible, do it yourself just after you arrive. If you detect any damage, take a picture of it and inform IMMEDIATELY the owner. This will avoid future disputes.
14. Do not hesitate to take out cancellation insurance: this investment will give you peace of mind, especially if your rental is expensive.
Well, now, you are ready to choose your dream villa!