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Staying in a vacation rental home has become popular for families traveling because of various reasons. There's a multitude of great vacation home rentals, but people should be careful to make sure they avoid the scams that have popped up in recent years. Here's how to make sure you book and stay at your vacation home safely.

1. Beware of Suspicious Behavior/Super-cheap rates - Many scammers offer unbelievably cheap rental rates to entice the most people. A super low rate is probably a scam. Other suspicious behavior include bad grammar, foreign phone numbers, and lack of responsiveness from property managers.

2. Don't Send Money - Never send anyone any money. It's best to stick to credit cards and secure payment methods like Paypal.

3. Call the Owner - Talking to the owner lessens your chance of being fooled. Make sure to ask specific questions and listen carefully.

4. Read Reviews - Reviews can be very telling so take a look through them and make sure they are actually from legitimate people.

5. Book Direct - Booking directly through certified vacation rental websites and get insurance protection in case of double bookings or other property issues.

Renters Information

The first step to any search for a vacation rental is to define your needs. Where do you want to be, how long do you think you will want to be there, what specifics are you looking for, what is the time frame of your stay, and what is your budget?

Each of these topics is more than the simple question posed in the prior paragraph. And we should talk about each individually. Take some time to define your needs and prioritize them. For either a long term or vacation rental the process is similar. Be very specific, create a list; bedrooms, baths, condo, rental home, first floor, penthouse, pet friendly, handicap accessible, WiFi accessibility, etc.. With the detail of the your needs prioritize the needs in terms of necessity or want. Using filters to narrow your needs will shorten your search.

Where do you want to be? This question depends on your flexibility. Your need could be as wide open as you want to be in the Southeast, or more specifically Florida, or more specifically Tampa, Northeast Tampa, near Bruce B. Downs Street, Hunters Green subdivision, on Longwater Run Drive. Each of these more specific factors limit the area of the search and the results of the search are reduced with each degree of limitation. While your wishes may be on that specific street, to get a good representation in the area you desire search properties within a radius of your primary choice or in that particular city or suburb.

How long do you think you want to be there? A very important question. If you are searching for a long-term rental, say for a couple years you have a lot more negotiating power and more options to choose from. If you are looking for a monthly rental until you find a place to move to, your options are limited. Surprisingly vacation rentals share some common attributes here. For example if you are thinking about spending three or four weeks in Florida this coming winter you have many more options to choose from, and by the way you should be reserving now. Many subdivisions of Florida have restrictions assigned to properties, i.e. on Clearwater Beach you will find properties that can only be rented on a monthly basis while others are weekly basis only and some have daily rentals assigned within the restrictions of ownership of the property. Of course if you will be a monthly renter you can look at all these options.

When do you need your rental? If you are looking for that vacation rental in Clearwater Beach over Spring Break, good luck. These properties are usually reserved for this time period a year in advance. You could probably guess that the long-term rental property managers are their busiest right after school gets out for the summer break and just before school begins. Timing is important if you have that luxury to be flexible. If you can be in Clearwater Beach in January you can have your pick of a large number of properties, but wait until February and you will find the selection mostly gone or greatly reduced. Which speaks to planning, the further you can plan your move or vacation in advance the more options you will have.

What's your budget? The most important part of looking at budget is not just the cost but what is included in that cost. Long-term renters should investigate all the items included in a cost. It does little good to look at cost alone if one property includes utilities and another doesn't. The cost may include different amenities, insurance provisions, utilities as mentioned, as well as free rent or discounted deposits to lure renters to their property.

The best deals are always those where the renter asks all the questions they have and receive understandable answers, backed in writing, and the rental owner ask all the questions they have and receive answers that are verifiable. As a renter take a minute to put yourself in the role of the rental owner. What would you need to rent your property to an individual or family that you didn't know? Fully discussing all the expectations from both the renter and the rental owner makes for a great landlord/renter association for what ever the length of the lease happens to be.
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