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5 Tips for renting a vacation home

Claire is an aspiring nutritionist (and soon to be culinary student) with a serious addiction to bacon, wine, goat cheese and online shopping. She is recently married to a social media guru who loves *almost* everything she conjures up. ...

What to know before you rent

Before you click "book" on your next vacation and spend a fortune on your hotel room, why not look into renting a vacation home instead. You'll save a ton on lodging and food expenses, and you'll have the comfort and privacy of a house! Think of it as your home away from home.
Sandcastle

Unless you plan on renting a McMansion 10 times larger than your own home, you can save up to 70 percent on your vacation lodging by renting a house! Just follow these tips and tricks while researching to avoid paying too much or getting scammed. Spend your hard-earned vacation dollars on something more fun, like a new wardrobe or an upgrade to first class!

Read reviews

You wouldn't buy a new car, a new pair of pants or go out to eat without checking the reviews first, right? The same applies for renting a vacation home. The photos may be gorgeous but that doesn't mean anything if the neighbors are awful, the fridge doesn't work and the owners are rude! Before you book, check with sites like HomeAway.comTripAdvisor.com or VirtualTourist.com to see if the home you are interested in has reviews. Some of these sites also allow you to contact the reviewers, so you can talk about what they liked or didn't like. Plus, the owners are not allowed to remove negative comments so you get a real perspective.

Plan early

If you're planning a vacation, it's usually best to start researching early, especially if you plan on flying to secure the best rates. The same goes for booking a vacation home. For many destinations, especially popular tourist towns, booking early will get you the best rates, allow you time to negotiate prices and terms and lock down the more popular homes. It's also important to take the season and holiday into account. For example, if you want to rent a home in the fall in New England, you'll have to book at least six months out. The same applies for beach homes in the Caribbean during the winter. These are high-tourist seasons, so you'll need to book and pay well in advance.

Ask questions

When it comes to renting a home from a real estate office or a homeowner, no question is stupid. Alexis de Belloy, vice president of HomeAway.com, urges renters to be as specific as possible when inquiring. It's especially important to ask about what's included. Will linens and towels be included? Do you need to use a beach pass or provide beach chairs? Is all furniture and decor provided? What about a pet policy. Many owners are particular and would like to know size, breed and age. It also doesn't hurt to ask for recommendations. Where do they like to eat? Their favorite parks, beaches or sights? Best shopping? Many owners and agents will be more than happy to provide personal recs.

Sign a rental agreement

This one gets a big fat "DUH," but many renters are too excited or pre-occupied with their vacation and they forget to ask for and sign the agreement. Renting without a contract or agreement is like taking a job without a signed offer or renting an apartment without a lease. Contracts and agreements are imperative, especially for those "just in case" scenarios. If you break something by accident or something breaks while you are there, without an agreement, you could end up paying a hefty fine or be fully responsible. In addition, rental agreements make the owner accountable as well.

Plan for the unexpected

When planning any vacation, you always need to have a backup plan, just in case the unexpected comes up. Whether due to weather, natural disaster or a personal emergency, it's good to have a plan B just in case the home doesn't work out. In addition, always ask the person who rents you the home for the owner's phone number. If the sink clogs, a break-in occurs or something breaks, you need to make sure you have the proper person to contact so they can fix the situation. Also ask for a list of preferred emergency numbers, like a doctor, plumber or carpenter who is reliable and affordable.

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