Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Renting a home away from home

It's easier than ever these days to rent a vacation home, according to columnist James Gliden. His "Internet Traveler "column in the Los Angeles Times last weekend focused on how you can list your second home without an agent, on the Web.

"Renting vacation homes is, for many families, a practical, even preferred alternative to staying in hotels. Thanks to the Internet, access to information about homes away from home is available at the click of a mouse," he writes.

"That's quite a change from my youth, when summer vacation meant a rented beach house on the Central Coast of California. My parents would find a property through word of mouth or a local real estate agent and secure our week along the Rincon, a coastal area between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Two weeks ago I rekindled those memories with a visit to a Rincon beach home, this one owned by Richard Ross of Santa Barbara. Unlike my parents, I found it online."

Gliden says he used Vacation Rentals by Owner, vrbo.com, said to be one of the largest and most visited online vacation rental home Internet sites. It has thousands of listings from around the world.

He continues, " Guests can find the house on the VRBO site or beachhouse.com , another online vacation home rental service." One landlord he interviewed says he gets "about two inquiries a week this time of year for low and high season dates and as many as two a day in the spring."

I can vouch for VRBO -- I rented a condo in Colorado last summer at a great rate using the site's listings.

According to the owner Gliden interviewed, "People tend to wait until the last minute," and Gliden notes that is "a double-edged sword. Availability may be limited," but anxious owners may be willing to negotiate on price.

Gliden reports that VRBO was founded in 1995 by computer programmer Dave Clouse "to rent out a vacation condo he owned in Breckenridge, CO. The service has grown from his one listing to more than 31,000 vacation homes around the globe and is adding 30 new listings a day."Property management companies charge as much as 45%" of the rent, Clouse said. "It's hard to make it pay when you're giving away half the money."Property owners pay $148 a year for a listing on VRBO.

"The site puts renters in contact with owners and does not act as a middleman, either by charging a percent of a booking or mediating any disputes. The traveler and the property owner handle transactions directly. Previous guests can leave comments on many of the properties' ads. The property owner cannot remove the negative comments, but they can be rebutted. If a property gets several complaints about the same subject, Clouse will remove the property from the site.

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