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January 4, 2013

The Most Important Question to Ask When Booking a Vacation Rental

Having rented private vacation homes for over 20 years, and having owned our own for the last five, I offer one piece of advice for families looking for a vacation rental.

Ask this question:  How often do the owners use the property themselves?

Whenever possible, I only book a property that is used frequently by the owners, or is checked upon regularly by them.   That doesn't mean they shouldn't have a property manager, but they should not rely on a third party to be the sole eyes and ears on their home.

These are some of the benefits to the renter:

 - You'll likely find a fully equipped kitchen, including appliances in good condition, lots of utensils, matching dishes.   Because we frequently spend holidays at our cabin, our renters will find everything they need to prepare a complete holiday feast. 
 

(And hands on owners are also more likely to decorate their homes.  Even if we won't be using our cabin over Christmas, we'll make a special trip to decorate it for our renters.)
 
- There will probably be a well-stocked  pantry including a good variety of seasonings and staples like sugar, cooking oil, etc.

 
- There are often extras like coffee grinders, good bar ware, a mixer, toaster oven, etc.  You don't realize how useful cheese graters are until you're missing one when you need it!
 

-  Better chance of having comfortable furniture and plenty of pillows and blankets, plus nicer home d├ęcor overall and relatively new electronics.  Good quality patio furniture (including sufficient chairs)  and a working grill are a must for warm weather destinations. 


Better maintenance overall, which means less chance of an unexpected problem. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than a broken dishwasher or wonky TV or DVD player.  Property managers only fix things if they are told they are broken, and renters often don't speak up.  A hands-on owner is going to notice the little problems and fix them before they become big ones.

 -  In ski cabins, owners often have plenty of racks for hanging up wet clothes and mittens by the fire, trays for collecting snow melt off boots, and a supply of good quality firewood.  Especially important when traveling during winter is an adequate emergency supplies including batteries, lantern, and candles.

 
If the owners have kids you will probably also find plenty of games, toys, puzzles, books, and family movies.

Remember, nobody will take as good of care of a home as its owner.  So that's a good reason to book through a property management company or a professional travel advisor, so you can ask very specific questions about the care and upkeep of the property, including how often the owners are on site.