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5 Considerations When Paying for Your Next Vacation Rental

September 25, 2012

By all accounts, renting a vacation home is becoming the preferred way to stay for millions of travelers. Combining a more authentic experience with getting more “bang for your buck” has proven to be a value proposition that resonates and will continue to gain popularity.

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While browsing vacation homes online, it is indeed fun to imagine yourself hosting a dinner party with a few of your new friends from the neighborhood or maybe lounging by the home’s private pool. However, when it comes time to submit payment, this excitement can turn to hesitation and doubt once you contemplate questions like – What if the pictures are dated or don’t actually look like the property? Who am I sending my money to anyway?

My personal belief is that vacation homes are a far superior option than traditional hotels. However, with a business model that requires full payment in advance to reserve a property, there is certainly a level of risk the traveler must be willing to accept that is far above the norm when compared to hotels where you pay upon checkout. This risk requires the traveler to be smart and prudent when deciding which property to book.

Here are 5 things to consider when paying for your next vacation home with the hope it will reduce your reservation hesitation so you are able to “live like a local” more often.

Credit Cards
Becoming more widely accepted in the vacation rental marketplace, this is a recommended way to pay due to consumer protection laws for credit card transactions. As a consumer, if something goes wrong with your rental, you have the right to contact the company that issued your credit card and initiate a chargeback or reversal of funds. This is not a guarantee that your money will be refunded, however you will have the opportunity to submit your complaint and any supporting documentation to your credit card company. In turn, the property owner’s credit card merchant account provider will collect the same from the owner. From here, the two credit card companies will make a determination based on what the consumer protection laws allow and what they believe are the facts of the dispute. You should be prepared to be patient as this process generally takes a few weeks to settle.

PayPal
Once commonplace for vacation rentals, PayPal is becoming an increasingly rare way to pay. Property owners discovered that vacation rentals are not a type of transaction that is supported by PayPal thus burdening them with a risk they have no control over. In a similar fashion to a credit card chargeback, if you pay with PayPal (either their credit card or money transfer service) you can contact PayPal and initiate a chargeback. The difference is that because the owner is accepting payments for an unsupported service they will not be able to defend their position and will simply lose. Their entire PayPal account will be frozen and your funds will be returned. This process will again require some patience, however it is obviously good for the traveler, so if you can still find an owner that accepts this payment method you do have recourse so by all means, go for it.

DepositGuard / Airbnb
Another recommended way to pay, these services amend the traditional vacation rental payment model altogether in an effort to eliminate the traveler’s risk. The rental payment and security deposit are submitted (via credit card or electronic check) to these companies instead of directly to the owner. The owner is notified when the payment is received and the money is held in a neutral account until the day after the vacation begins. Upon arrival to the property, if something is amiss, the traveler is able to hold the release of the payment and solve the problem with the owner. If needed, these services will help mediate the dispute in real time. Upon resolution, the money is released according to the traveler and owner’s mutual agreement. These services will also help find alternate accommodations if required.

When an owner agrees to use this “trust but verify” payment model and knows funds are held until after the traveler sees the property, odds are, he will be more diligent in setting the correct expectations for the property. The difference between Airbnb and DepositGuard is that DepositGuard is a stand-alone service that can be used with any rental property and Airbnb only works with properties listed on their site.

Wire Transfer, Checks, Western Union, Money Gram, etc.
When you send payment via one of these methods, your money is gone and you have no safety net. We are too smart for that, right?

Trip Insurance & “Worry Free” Guarantees
These are not payment methods however they offer protection for unforeseen circumstances. Generally, trip insurance provides coverage for emergency medical while on vacation and trip cancellations/interruptions due to work reasons and involuntary job loss. Worry free guarantees are not as common in the vacation rental marketplace but offer protection against property misrepresentation, scams, double bookings, vacation home foreclosures and owner bankruptcies. Similar to all insurance type products, the devil is in the details. To file a claim, certain documentation has to be submitted within defined time periods and certain steps have to be taken. For example, one worry free guarantee mandates that to file a claim, the traveler must submit proof that they have already been through and lost the chargeback process with their credit card company or bank. Patience is required to try to get reimbursed but if you believe in insurance, you might want to buy one of these products on your next trip.

The world rents with Deposit Guard. Than

May 11, 2012

The world rents with Deposit Guard. Thank you to all our amazing partners and clients! http://ow.ly/aQOkx

Can you afford to trust anyone when booking a vacation home online?

February 17, 2012

Hesitating before renting online?

With more and more scams surfacing  in the online vacation rental industry it’s hard for a renter to know who to trust when booking online. The multitude of home options and special deals that are sometimes offered online make this option for renting a vacation home very appealing, but the risk of being scammed may make potential renters hesitate.

Recently the Today Show did a segment on renters in Florida getting scammed by a phony homeowner, most of them not getting their money back because they either wired the money or sent a check directly to the supposed homeowner. While a renter can go through the dozens of checklists out there to try and prevent this from happening, sometimes it is just luck of the draw.

Today: Florida Rental Scam

Some in the industry claim that using a professional rental manager could prevent these scams from occurring  – but why limit yourself to only rentals offered through a manager?  Also, renting a professional managed property does not mean you should not take extra measures to secure your vacation rental payments. There are too many risks associated with submitting payments to an unknown party and when it comes to your hard earned money for a well-deserved vacation, you want to be sure to take every measure to secure it properly.

The best way to ensure you and your money are protected is to put your trust in a third party outside of the rental transaction. By taking the uncertainty out of the rental transaction you will be sure that your money is safe and secure. This can be done by holding the rental deposit in a third party account until you arrive at your destination, eliminating any trust issues and allowing for an enjoyable, worry free vacation experience.

There’s no need to place your hard earned money in the hands of someone you don’t know, or to skip out on the multitude of amazing rental options online because of trust issues. By taking an extra step to ensure your money is protected you can benefit from online vacation rentals without hesitation or worry.

The Vacation Rental Industry Needs Therapy

January 30, 2012

A Vacation Rental Industry Needs Therapy

The vacation rental industry is in serious need of personal therapy – actually, more like an intervention.  We need to take some time to consider what can be done to ensure that the growth we have seen over the past 5 to 6 years will continue in the future.

As in most interventions, much of the vacation rental industry does not think that there is a problem. Denial and blame shifting are rampant, when personal responsibility is actually needed.

The therapy that the vacation rental industry needs is a redefinition of personal identity, industry transparency and responsibility.

Currently the rental industry is seeing growth because of great marketing, more visibility and the success of rental listing sites like HomeAway.  Also fueling this growth is the desire for options that aren’t fulfilled by hotels.

Yet, the industry’s overall lack of transparency and trust  will obviously stunt future growth for vacation rentals. The very same marketing that has helped the industry to grow through positive media is also hurting the industry through sensational news stories about rental scandals. The lack of uniformity, which has previously been a positive for customers wanting options, is now the Achilles heel

Placing the burden on renters to verify that a rental is legitimate and trustworthy doesn’t make sense when we’ve grown accustomed to easy legitimacy for hotels through their brand, online presence and customer reviews.  Now this is something that should be discussed on the therapy couch!  Why do we expect renters to trust someone they’ve never meet for a vacation rental they’ve never seen?

Think of this comparison.  You buy a six- pack of soda, knowing that one of those six would explode when opened, but you continue to take the chance that the one you pick doesn’t end up exploding in your face. Why are we putting our potential clients at risk of having a “soda” explode in their face?

Some claim that online listing sites will help their credibility, however listing sites can host scam rentals as well as legitimate ones. Potential renters may turn to friends, reviews or Better Business Bureaus for verification, but the chance that they can get information on the precise home listed is slim.

We need an intervention that will make us take the responsibility of proving our legitimacy and establishing trust with our clients, rather than forcing our clients to do the legwork themselves.

Reservation Hesitation

In this therapy session we must also diagnose a condition that our clients face when booking rentals…Reservation Hesitation.

Reservation Hesitation is the condition that has plagued the vacation rental industry because of a lack of transparency and undo burden of trust forced upon the consumer.

In a study done by DepositGuard property misrepresentation followed by blind payment methods are the top two concerns that keep people from renting online. 78% of respondents said they would rent vacation homes more often using an online service if their payment was submitted upon booking, but released to the owner only after they have arrived and personally verified the property.

Diagnosis

The vacation rental industry needs to take the responsibility of establishing trust with their clients into their own hands, thus eliminating reservation hesitation.  If our clients spent less time worrying about the legitimacy of their rental and more on actually enjoying their vacation, we can continue to see growth in our industry.

Protect Your Deposit, No Matter What

June 14, 2011

DepositGuard is best known for the service they provide in protecting deposits for both landlords and tenants in lease agreements. Less well known, but executed with as much integrity and security as their rental services, DepositGuard also provides a trusted Deposit Protection Service designed to safeguard funding for any important personal or business transaction that involves multiple parties.

DepositGuard is a neutral third-party that collects, holds, and disburses money based on instructions from all parties involved.

What We Do

We all live in an ever-changing fast-paced world. Unfortunately, the days of the handshake deal are gone. The person you are conducting business with may seem nice but the reality is that you just don’t know them and usually have no way to get to know them in the time allotted for your transaction. Until now you had no choice but to put your trust in them and hope for the best. But now, you do have a choice!

Our Deposit Protection Service is designed to secure your deposits in a neutral, third party account, and we only release funds when all participants have agreed. You can rest assured that your money is in safe hands until your business is concluded.

Types of Deposits We Protect:

• Corporate Events
• Weddings
• Construction Projects
• Business Purchases/Sales
• Real Estate Leases
• International Real Estate Purchases
• Website Domain Purchases
• Boat Slip Rentals
• Purchase of General Goods or Services
• Ecommerce

And anything else you need to make a deposit on! If you need to make or receive a deposit, we can secure it. You don’t need to hope for the best, your money is safe with us.

Find out more about DepositGuard at our website: www.dgprotect.com.

10 Tips for Landlords

June 7, 2011

Common sense advice for landlords everywhere.

1. Screen tenants.
Use a written application to get your prospective tenant’s information. Then, follow-up on that information by checking credit history, references, and background. This one falls under the heading, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!
 2. Don’t Discriminate
The Federal Fair Housing Acts prohibits a landlord from denying an applicant because of race, color, national origin, familial status, disability, or sex. A landlord may base a decision on the following factors: credit history, employment history, and income. If a landlord decides to reject an applicant because of information in a credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the landlord to provide the applicant with the name and address of the credit reporting agency.

 3. Get it in writing.
Use a written lease or month-to-month rental agreement to document the important facts of your relationship with your tenants – including:
• when and how you handle tenant complaints and
• when and how you handle repair problems,
• notice you must give to enter a tenant’s apartment
• the names of the tenants,
• the length of the tenancy,
• the amount of the security deposit,
• whether pets may live in the rental unit,
• and the amount of rent
• when rent is due,
• what form of payment is acceptable,
• whether a grace period applies, and
• whether late fees and returned check fees apply.

4. Make repairs.
It is a landlord’s duty to repair and maintain a rental property and keep it fit for occupancy. The law refers to this as an “implied warranty of habitability.” Most states require rental units to provide tenants with heating, plumbing, electricity, and gas. The failure to provide these basic features is a violation of the law. Stay on top of maintenance and repair needs and make repairs when requested. If the property is not kept in good repair, consequences can be:

• you’ll alienate good tenants
• tenants may gain the right to withhold rent, repair the problem and deduct the cost from the rent,
• sue for injuries caused by defective conditions,
• move out without needing to give notice
• inform state or local building inspectors,
• or pay the rent and sue the landlord for the difference of the rent and the real rental value of the property.

 5. Provide secure premises.
Assess your property’s security and take reasonable steps to protect it and your tenants. Often the best measures, such as proper lights and trimmed landscaping, are not that expensive.
 6. Provide notice before entering.
Every state has different guidelines on when it is permissible for a landlord to enter a rental unit, but most laws are based on the tenant’s right of privacy. Notify your tenants whenever you plan to enter their rental unit, and provide as much notice as possible, at least 24 hours or the minimum amount required by state law.
 7. Obtain insurance.
Purchase enough liability and other property insurance. A well designed insurance program can protect you from lawsuits by tenants for injuries or discrimination and from losses to your rental property caused by everything from fire and storms to burglary and vandalism.
 8. Resolve disputes.
If you have a conflict with a tenant an issue that doesn’t warrant an eviction, meet with the tenant to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If that doesn’t work, consider mediation by a neutral third party.
 9. Regularly Inspect the Property
A landlord should inspect a rental property for dangerous conditions. If a tenant sustains injuries on a rental property, the landowner may bear legal responsibility.
 10. Handle security deposits properly.
Establish a fair system of setting, collecting, holding, and returning security deposits. Inspect and document the condition of the rental unit before the tenant moves in, to avoid disputes over security deposits when the tenant moves out. For more information on how to accomplish this, visit DepositGuard’s website. DepositGuard in an innovative way of handling security deposits that eliminates disputes and miscommunications.

10 Tips for Leasing an Apartment

May 10, 2011

Here are some helpful hints for successful apartment shopping and leasing.

1. Know What You Want

Make a list of what is important to you both inside and outside the apartment:

Outside:

• location
• schools
• transportation or access to certain roads
• pool/activity center
• laundry facilities
• onsite management
• parking options
• etc.

Inside:

• number of bedrooms
• number of baths
• how much you can afford in monthly rent, utilities (A good rule of thumb is no more than 30 % of your take-home pay.)
• duration of lease
• pets
• furnished or unfurnished
• etc.

2. See What’s Available in Your Area
Once you have a list of features that you desire, you can explore the area apartments using the websites of online apartment locator services. This is an easy way to see if the features you want are available and at what cost. You can use this information to refine your wish list.

3. Be Prepared to “Sell” Yourself

While you are shopping for an apartment, the landlord is shopping for tenants. Be prepared to give your vitals to a landlord:

• your current and previous addresses and landlord phone numbers,
• your employer and length of employment,
• your current salary and other income,
• personal references

You want to look as good on paper as possible to stand out from other applicants.

4. Call a Complex Before Visiting

Before you visit a prospective apartment complex, call first to check availabilities and prices. Once you are on the property, the leasing agent may hope to impress you with features and upsell you, but on the phone it’s all about the numbers. Compare the figures you got from the complex with those you’ve gathered from online.

5. Tour the Complex and Apartment in Person

Virtual tours can be found on most apartment complexes websites and are a great initial screening tool, but there’s no substitute for visiting a complex in person to get a sense of the community and its upkeep. It is also key to walk through the actual apartment before you sign the lease or move in. Ask to see the apartment in question, not just a model.

6. Do Some Comparison Shopping

Once you have narrowed down your choices, see if similar apartments nearby are available and how much they are going for. You can call the complex office for prices or even check online for comparative information. This lets you know if you are getting a good deal, and if there is room for negotiation.

7. Inspect Your Apartment

Most people spend a lot of time looking for just the right apartment, but not enough on making sure it is up to snuff. Remember, it is much easier to get things fixed before you move in than after.

8. Keep an Inspection List

Keep a list with you during your inspection of things that are important to you:

• Safety features, including smoke detectors and locks
• Plumbing, look for leaks and water stains
• Water pressure and hot water temperature
• Appliances in working order
• Evidence of insects or rodents
• Check cell phone reception

9. Pay Attention to Your Lease
Beyond your monthly rent, look at the other details of your lease.

• Are utilities included?
• How much notice is required prior to moving?
• How much cleaning is required upon leaving to get your deposit back?
• Duration

10. Secure Your Deposit
Other provisions in the lease will detail how much money you need to pay to actually move in. Some agreements require first and last months’ rent plus a security deposit. That can be a lot of money, with no guarantee that you will ever get the deposit back. But today, there is a way to keep deposits and payments safe in a trusted 3rd-party account.

As a tenant, you can place your first and last month’s rent plus any security and pet deposits in a 3rd-party account with DepositGuard. This money is then paid out only with the approval of both tenant and landlord. No more fighting over deposits. No more worrying about the last month’s rent being conveniently “forgotten.”

To find out more about this revolutionary program, visit our website at http://www.depositguard.com