Watch out for these 5 pitfalls of beach rentals

Real estate, Money

The next best thing to living at the beach is feeling like you live there. Many vacationers choose to shun hotels and rent a beachfront house or condo for just that reason, in the hopes of capturing an authentic seaside experience. What you envision, however, may not be what you get.

Here are 5 ways to avoid having your vacation rental be memorable for all the wrong reasons using the experiences of Daphne, who had a rough time of it on a trip to the east coast, as examples.

1) Don’t be swayed by photos.

If you are booking a beach rental online, study the photos closely. Daphne and her family rented what appeared to be a spacious, bright, three-bedroom house at Bethany Beach in Delaware. “We were stunned. The rental was in a damp, wooded area. The interior was dark and depressing. And, we were shocked to discover that two of the bedrooms were located just off the screened porch! Outside! There was no way we were going to lock our two small children into their bedrooms.”

2) Work with a rental agent.

If the description of the home that interests you is brief and the listing is vague about what it means to be “close” to amenities, ask the rental agent for more details. You are using a rental agent, right? Short-term rentals booked privately through Airbnb or a property owner satisfy many vacationers, but working with a reputable, local agent dedicated to vacation rentals provides fallback should things go wrong.

Daphne and her husband scrambled to find a new place for their family to stay, an effort buoyed with the help of an accommodating rental agent.

3) Don’t assume the listing is the full story.

Daphne admits that she will never again book a rental property online without talking to the rental agent first. “The property listing was brief,” she says. “Just one day after we reneged on our awful rental, the meager description was beefed up dramatically to describe the strange layout and how it is not ideal for families with young children.”

4) Take your time.

Even if you must find housing to fit your pre-set vacation dates, don’t let a rental’s availability, shown by the ubiquitous online booking calendar, become the deciding factor. When you are feeling pressured to book a place to stay, you’re likely to overlook some red flags, like a home that doesn’t have wifi or air conditioning.

5) Sign a contract.

Should anything unpleasant greet you at your rental, from damage to filth, your contract should help. Daphne recouped half the price of her family’s disastrous beach rental because of their contract with the rental agency, and they broke even on a far better rental. Some of this was luck, but the contract helped ensure that they were ultimately happy with their stay.