Summer vacations. Whether you opt for the beach, or a mountain getaway, or a road trip, there are now plethora of lodging options. The advent of vacation rentals has been a boon for families, people who want to travel with their pets, and large groups like wedding parties. It has also been very useful for those who are moving to a new location and have yet to find permanent housing or are in between homes. People renting out their properties isn’t a new concept, but the “short term” lease is fairly new.
The founders of AirBnB® got the idea when a design conference was in San Francisco in the fall of 2007, and all of the hotels were sold out. They rented their apartment to conference attendees and the idea for a billion-dollar business was born.
A fancy form of sub-letting, allowing strangers to “live” in your house while you’re gone for the weekend can be profitable! Imagine someone else paying your mortgage for you in one weekend! During the summer months, people attending weddings and special events have paid top dollar to have a place to stay especially if there are other events coinciding at the same time. Less business-like than the hotel environment, homes offer a relaxed atmosphere and often with more amenities for the same and even lower price; more privacy, a kitchen to cook in so you don’t have to eat out for the entire trip, maybe a patio and yard for the kids, internet and streaming services that don’t charge by the show, and maybe not having to hear the late night party of basketball players on a tournament trip. The pluses are there, certainly.
But don’t let your eyes fill up with dollar signs just yet. There IS a down-side, and one that hotels have dealt with since the beginning of time: bad guests. For some of the same reasons that vacation rentals are appealing, like low budget/high value and privacy, they can also attract people who will not take care of the property.
I run a housecleaning business, and I manage a vacation rental for friends who live out of state. During the summer we clean a number of these homes in between rentals. It’s maddening to see what people do, that perhaps they wouldn’t do in a hotel setting. Maybe it’s that the hotel has the credit card and WILL charge for damage incurred. Maybe people don’t think that the owners of the home will care? I don’t know.
There’s kind of an unspoken rule for owners and renters that each will give good reviews of the other, regardless of how things actually went. Filing a claim for damage is a lengthy process for homeowners through the official rental booking sites, and if they choose to use an “off-brand” site or something like Craigslist (which often has scammers, by the way!), they end up stuck with the cost of repairs. Much of this has led to local regulation and taxation of the short-term rental homes.
We all want to be able to travel as economically as possible, to get the biggest bang for our buck. We don’t mind splurging, it’s vacation after all, but lodging is by far and away one of the main expenses of traveling. So, based on my experience as a cleaner-upper after guests, here is my list of do’s and don’ts for staying in a vacation rental home.
Follow the Rules
Read the rules of the property. Like hotels, there are things you are and are not allowed to do. Things like smoking or vaping. Don’t…just don’t. If the rules say to lock your car up, then that’s probably a good idea (anyway!). Don’t blame the owner if someone went through your unlocked car and stole things. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad neighborhood. Thieves go to good areas of town because those folks have nice things. The rules will tell you how to enter and leave the property, where the keys are, who to contact in an emergency and so forth. Don’t call the owners every 5 minutes for information you could easily know if you had read the rules.
This is someone’s home (most of the time). Please give it the respect you would hope someone would give you. Golden Rule! These are usually in neighborhoods where other people live full time and don’t rent out their homes. Don’t be a noisy neighbor.
Some places allow you to bring your pets. But I also know that many are now NOT allowing pets because of the few boneheads who let their animals run amok. Let me just say, not every animal is “well-behaved”. Most…actually, are not. If the rules say “No Pets” then don’t bring your pets!! If you think nobody will figure out that you had your dogs with you, think again. Animals leave evidence whether you realize it or not like fur, nose-prints on the windows, and poop. But consider this, the next guest MAY be deathly allergic to dogs. Have you ever stayed somewhere in a non-smoking room, but you could tell that someone smoked in it prior to your stay? How’d you feel about that?
Keep track of your kiddos. A couple years ago, a family stayed at the place I manage. One of the kids turned on an outdoor spigot. It ran for a WEEK! Flooded the neighbor’s basement as well as theirs. Imagine the water bill….it was a nightmare.
Reasonably clean up after you and your family/friends. You don’t have to vacuum and mop, but you know, pick up and take out the trash (and dog poop), strip the beds, and do your dishes. Most places have some people or a service come in and ready the property for the next guests, even if it’s the owners doing it. But if you’re ‘shocked’ there’s a cleaning fee on your bill, I would say that hotels charge you as well, it’s just part of the price.
Every home we clean has a washer and dryer available for you to use! If you don’t want to tell the owners that you got your period, or your kid vomited in the bed, then please wash the linens yourself. We also do the laundry for the owners we clean for. Finding barf wrapped up in sheets and towels is not fun. We all have been sick unexpectedly…just please, we’re not a hospital ready to deal with that sort of thing. Utilize the laundry area and leave a little note.
Please don’t think that because you “are paying $$!” that you can justify abusing the place. Everything costs money. If the price is too high for you, then you can’t afford it. Don’t be mad at the property owners.
If you have some special needs, like requiring a high-chair or playpen, please ask at the time of your reservation if those things are available. Don’t ask the day before and expect the owners to purchase or provide you with the specialty items.
If there is a problem, by all means report it or call right away! Don’t complain after the fact and expect a discount. These places are not regulated (for the most part, for now) so to expect commercial quality for the often lower price you’re paying is unreasonable. Things do break and break down sometimes because someone else didn’t report it. Most owners are happy to see to it post haste. Be kind.
And lastly, check out on time. Don’t linger and think it’s ok. During the summer months the bookings are often back-to-back and the cleaning, laundry, and restocking has to be done before the next visitor. It can be a challenge especially for the larger houses and after numerous people. Even if you’re a tidy bunch, beds, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, kitchen and bathrooms is a lot to get done in a short amount of time.
We are all grateful for the home atmosphere when vacationing. It’s supposed to be relaxing, right? Communication is always key. Let the owners know who, what, why, and how and most will do backflips to make your experience delightful.
Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.