VRBO vs. Agency for Paris Apartment

Sep 12th, 2006, 01:54 PM
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Last night I took your advice and wrote to R. Smith. I am anxiously awaiting a reply.

I said nothing negative about Moos. I told him about our experience in the apartment and with the owner, and asked him to see it himself and then decide if he still wanted to list it on his site. On his site, he refers to it as 'a delighful studio'. For now, I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he hasn't seen it, and hasn't received any negative feedback.

I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts, that he is alway well aware of this thread and my true feelings. He is/was a regular poster on another board (I don't know because I no go to that particular board), but I do know that numrous Fodorites are regulars there, posting as much there as they do here. I would be very surprised if someone hadn't notified him soon as his name and site info appeared here.

I have a friend who occasionally posts here and who owns a fabulous apartment that he lists on VRBO. He never mentions that apartment on any message board, preferring to keep them entirely separate.

He hadn't been here for awhile, and happened to come across the thread asking questions about his apartment. Some of the responses were absolutely ridiculous. Not so nice posters read things into his well written and thorough listing on VRBO. IMHO, it is the best written listing for an apartment that I have ever seen.

They even called him names and made fun of how he had worded his listing. IMO, it is the best written listing for an apartment that I have ever seen. He got a rash of emails from some posters, who would then report back his answers. He is a very busy man who constantly travels with his laptop, and bless him, he took the time to politely answer every 'lookie loo' email, even though he knew who they were, and it was a complete waste of his time.

The really sad fact is that some of the ruder posters not having enough fodder with the apartment itself, tuned it into a game and stared calling him names. These idiots got very involved even though they were not the least bit interested in staying there, and probaby couldn't afford it anyway. I wanted to step in when the name calling began, but he begged me not to. He asked me several times, not to mention that I knew him and just to let it go. I honored that request.

I'm sorry that I can't give more information on the lovely apartment or give the VRBO number, he has asked me not to, and again, I will honor that request.

I mention this because it was very sad while it was going on, and to let you know ... you never know who is watching.

Nina66 is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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I can't recommend this apartment enough. You can see more photos here

The owner is a British woman, we corresponded over a number of months. We signed a contract and I made downpayment. Because she was not going to be in Paris I sent the remainder before we arrived. We were met by the building's concierge. She spoke Portuguese and French, we spoke french and english, but it worked.

It was a very comfortable home. The neighborhood is very upscale and the local stores and restaurants were very nice.

We felt very safe and a block or so from two metro lines.

The bedroom was small, but nice closets. The bed was very comfortable, better than mine here at home. The shower had a nice place to hang laundry, there was a washer. Then there was a towel warmer that quickened the process.

I could go on, but I hope the photo's help you decide.
Danna is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:37 PM
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Danna, thanks so much for the information! I'll check it out!
blh is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Danna, thanks for the info. The apartment is lovely. I enjoyed seeing your pictures - especially since we will be at Jim's too.

Nina66 is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 06:43 PM
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Hi Danna,
I'm very interested in your Paris apartment as well. It looks lovely. Like the poster above, I wish there were more pictures on vrbo but your pics of the outside were a big help. I also love your other pictures. I'm really getting that 'beginning the planning excitement' that I'm sure you're all familiar with. We expect to go late May and early June, a week in Paris and then a week or two in the countryside.

Danna, two questions: how did you know about the Jim Haynes dinners and can you tell me a bit more about the Cordon Bleu class. This is something we also might be interested in.

Were you just in Paris or did you travel elsewhere in France?

Thanks for your help.
hdm is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 09:07 PM
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hdm, do a search here on Jim Haynes and you will find out all of the info about his Sunday soirees. You can also Google him, Jim Haynes, Paris and found out more about him. I have read nothing but positive things about his delightful gatherings, open to everyone. He has them every Sunday night at his home.
They are casual events and I am looking forward to meeting him.

Nina66 is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 09:55 PM
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Hi Nina: Very funny---I guess we are on a first name basis by now. Tennis is really my daughter's middle name---I am merely her ball machine (and $ machine).

The Fodor on-line email person was able to delete the email addresses of those nice people who gave references. I'm sure that a smart person can track everyone down, including your friend who owns the VRBO and was slammed by rude posters.

Got your email---we'll get in touch! Have you heard of Michael Osmon (sp?) Guide in France?

Please keep us filled in on the continuing saga of Hovel/Hurst.

Danna--that apartment was beautiful, and very reasonable too! Beautiful pictures of what looks like a great trip! Thank you for forwarding the info.

Tennis/$ Parent
tennistraveler is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 10:13 PM
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BTW, Nina, what apartment did you decide on for this upcoming trip? If you don't want to answer to protect your privacy, I understand. Just curious if you got REALLY good references.
tennistraveler is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 09:40 AM
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Tennis, glad that you were able to delete those address - it must be a big relief for you.

I rarely if ever ask for references, which may sound dumb to most people. I figure that the owner/agency would only give the names for good references (which is good), but if there have been any problems or negative feedback, you will never get those names. It is really a no win situation - at least to me. Also you never know who your are talking to - a family member, good friend or the owner themselves.

We have written negative feedback to several agencies that we rented through. No one will ever see those negative references. I even called, a certain agency a few months later, and using a phoney name, asked for references or feedback on a property, - my name was not or negative feedback was never mentioned - 'oh, all of the feedback has been excellent!!' RIGHT.

Another agency, admitted that they had had the same complaints that I made, dirty, in need of maintenance etc... from other renters, but had the nerve to tell me that the owner refused to do anything about it! This was a fairly expensive place on the Ille St. Louis. Yet the well known agency continued to rent the place for years.

As landlords, I was given great advise from a relator - never call their present landlord, he/she may be dying to get rid of them and will say anything. Always call the previous landlord, he/she has nothing to gain by telling the truth.

I've had prospective tenants give me phoney references, including relatives, friends, wrong phone numbers and landlords that were impossible to reach, etc...

The apartment that we are renting this time is not too far from your's. It is through a friend, whose friend, the owner, only rents to people they know. We've got our fingers crossed on this one.

Also it would be impossible to track down the VRBO apartment owner that was slammed so badly here. At the time, he asked me to stay out of it, so I didn't post on that thread. A search on my name would show nothing. Also I even won't mention the city it was in.

Also, on a current thread, I said that I had mailed Michael Osman a while back and was waiting for a response.

Hopefully we will be able to spend a day with him. I've wanted to do it for quite some time, but never got around to contacting him.

If you do email him, be advised that he doesn't always responsed in a timely fashion, and it could take quite awhile to hear from him.

We'll talk.

Nina66 is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 11:27 AM
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Don't take this as 'me thinks she doth protest too much' type of post .... is that a red flag or what..

However, there is a thread that I was involved in that was very similiar to my friend's situation. In that case, I didn't know that owner, but I had corresponded with him regarding his apartment, which was not available for our entire stay. I called him from Paris, and fotunately we were able to rent it for four days after fleeing he Hovel. I didn't know that owner personally, merely from emails, and phone calls, so I have no way of knowing if he knew about the thread here.

His apartment was everything and more than he said it was. I can give great and truthful recommendations on that one.

My friend who got slammed, is a close personal friend, and DH and I felt so bad for he and his wife when it happened.


Nina66 is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 12:37 PM
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I can't remember where I learned about Jim Haynes. I probably heard about it here, or was it Anthony's site? I just don't know. It was very fun.

Le Cordon Bleu has one day classes. I would have preferred the Market class, go to the market, shop, return and cook. But my daughter had first dibs on the choice. We really cooked all day. The chef and interpreter were very enjoyable. The students and the school were interesting. You could see student's projects in storage stacks. Fascinating. Just look up their site and check out what's available during your visit. One of our fellow student's had done a Bread lesson a few weeks earlier, and other had taken the Market class.

We were also in Amsterdam with a specific trip to Keukenhof Garden. If you go to the world is round link, you can click on my name at the top and see the other travel articles. 3 from this trip, Paris, Keukenhof and Chenonceau a day trip.

Ohhh I have Paris Envy! Have a grand time.
Danna is offline  
Sep 14th, 2006, 11:20 AM
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Paris Envy... hee hee...that's funny. I'm pretty sure thats what I have too.
amwosu is offline  
Sep 14th, 2006, 08:42 PM
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I'm tired of dragging a dead horse, so hopefully this will be my last post/mention of the hovel.

It's been over three days since I wrote to Mr. Smith and I have had no response. Perhaps he is traveling without his computer or whatever.....

I am sure that he is well aware of my feelings, and the entire situation, through this thread, my trip report last year, and my posting on SlowTravel. If he chooses not to respond, that's fine, I have done all that I can. My main purpose is to keep this from happening to anyone else - although I'm sure that others have rented it since Oct. 2005.

If he does answer my email I will post here right away, otherwise, it's time for me to move on.

Thanks for the encouragement and backup.

Caveat Emptor,

Nina66 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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Nina: You did all you could do. Good thing you and your husband have a sense of humor about the whole thing!

Take care, and maybe we'll see you in Paris!

tennistraveler is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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well, that's kind of odd that he wouldn't even respond at all. That's not very good customer service and changes my opinion of him. I had noticed many posts of his on various message boards about his apts. and some other things, and generally he seemed reasonable about them, as he didn't blatantly advertise them in ad threads or anything.

He has been to Paris many times (and claims he goes often on his website or somewhere) so surely he has seen that apt. I can't imagine anyone putting an apt for rent on their own website, tacitly recommending it (he does suggest you book it with his if you need more space), and not having ever seen it. It's not far from his, either, so I'm sure he's seen it.

But, I think it's good you wrote a complaint for the record, and if you do hear anything, it would be interesting to know. But I agree it's good to warn others of your experience, otherwise no one would know about that place. It looks okay on the website (although I always thought the setup was a bit weird looking, but you never know about old Parisian buildings). Frankly, I wonder if that apartment is violating some housing standards, no ventilation or windows in rooms usually is.

So, it is time to move on but now at least you've done everything you can do, so that's good.

Even if he was going to say it wasn't so bad or he didn't know it was like that, etc., you'd think he'd at least acknowledge your complaint. This was the guy worrying in his own threads about arcane details like whether he should provide free CDs in his apt, and things like that (I said no, people should have their own and they'd got lost/broken/stolen anyway).
Christina is offline  
Sep 20th, 2006, 08:55 PM
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I would definitely recommend renting by owner. But allow me to disclose that I am the Author of How To Rent Vacation Properties by Owner.

Here are some helpful guidelines when renting directly from owners:

Contacting Owners:
Most Vacation Rental web sites consist of thousands of privately owned vacation properties available for rent directly from the homeowners and sometimes their agents. Arrangements for rent or lease are made directly with them. Each listing on the portal web sites lists a phone number and/or email address. All inquiries should be sent to the homeowner or agent. Not all homeowners have email addresses. Some have chosen not to list them. And some rely only on email to contact their potential renters.
When e-mailing, be sure to write something in the subject line, that will alert the owner that you are asking about their home, something like "Vacation Rental Property". And in turn, if you have a spam blocker on your e-mail account, you may want to note that in your e-mail, alerting the owner that they may have to auto-respond a confirmation. Or turn off that blocker while youíre looking for a property. Also include your phone number in your e-mail. Many owners will indeed pick up the phone when they receive your e-mail.
Give as much detailed information as you possibly can. Give the dates you are inquiring about, if youíre flexible, note that too. List how many people, adults and children. If you have a pet that you wish to bring along, be sure to include that information too. If you have any special needs or questions, donít hesitate to ask.
If thereís a phone number listed for the property, call the owner, most welcome the questions that your may have. Remember, most often you will be renting someoneís second home that they bought to use themselves, the owners know the area very well and can be a very useful resource in helping you choose the right place for your next vacation.
If I call an owner, am I obligated to rent from them?
No, but please keep in mind that the owners generally only have one place to rent and they will be somewhat biased when answering your questions. Owners are not travel agents, they wonít know about other properties. . Before you call, be sure that their home is a place that you would like to stay. Sometimes conversations with the owner can assist you in narrowing down your choices. Please also be considerate, youíre most likely calling their home, donít call during dinnertime or after 9pm. If you call and get an answering machine, be sure to leave your name, number (clearly and slowly), the dates you are inquiring about and an appropriate time for them to return your call. Most owners will indeed call you back.
How will I know where Iím calling?
Phone numbers that are not proceeded by country codes are in the United States, Canada or parts of the Caribbean, so be aware that you may be making a out of country call, you may want to check the area code on this web site http://www.bennetyee.org/ucsd-pages/area.html to see exactly "where" you are calling.
I have called the homeowner and have not heard back from them.
The most common reason is that the owner's themselves are on vacation! Dealing with homeowners will not always be as easy as contacting a rental firm. Most owners respond within 24-48 hours. Although we encourage our owners to respond whether they are booked or not, unfortunately there are some homeowners who just don't use due diligence or a modicum of decency in returning every call they receive. Though we do our best to correct this behavior, some owners do not feel obligated to return calls for dates they know are booked. With this in mind, we feel the best strategy is to skip over homeowners who are not prompt in responding to your inquiries, and deal with the rentals looked after by folks who are considerate enough to answer your questions quickly. You'll probably have a better vacation if you do.
So why shouldnít I just contact a rental firm?
You certainly have that option. Keep in mind, renting directly from the owner can afford you many things that maybe wouldnít be available through an agency. These owners also tend to use their properties a lot themselves, which mean more often the home will be furnished nicer, better equipped and impeccably maintained.
Since owners generally speak with every guest who enters their property, there is a certain amount of comfort that these owners have in their guest. Along with the trust, most likely their homes will be stocked with more amenities that you would not necessarily see in the common agent rental.
How do we know the properties really exist?
Truthfully there is no guarantee. The best way to avoid this is to do your homework. We suggest asking homeowners for references, or a list of past renters. Website will be happy to share all comments about a specific home with you, just give us a call or email. One good indication of the relative trustworthiness of any given owner/rental is how long they've advertised with us (listed on their property page on our web site).
Are the prices set or is there room for negotiations?
Most property owners are somewhat flexible on their pricing during certain times of the year. Some even advertise discounts. If you inquiring for a week that is not usually booked, say the last week of April, then I would bet most owners would negotiate on their prices. However, donít expect the owners to give their places away just because itís not booked. Many owners donít rely on off-season revenue and would choose not to rent it than risk (damages) a renter thatís asking for a price less than your cheapest deep discount motel.
On the flip side, if you ask about a discount for July 4th (or any other peak season week) then most prices are usually firm.
How do we handle payments?
Since each vacation rental is individually owned and operated, the payment methods and schedules will vary. Commonly the owner would require a reservation deposit, then the balance to be paid in one or two payments. Most owners require full rent plus a deposit paid prior to the rental period. Payment methods will vary also, but most will take personal checks.
Before you send any money (even the deposit) we recommend that you ask the owner about their cancellation policies. Itís best to have these policies in writing.
Can I get any refunds due to weather?
Sorry, the owners cannot control the weather, thereís really nothing we can do about that one. If you choose not to come or to checkout early due to the weather, you must understand that you forfeit your rent. Clear as that!
What if something goes wrong while Iím there? How will it get fixed if the owner lives miles away?
Many owners are very conscientious about their maintenance and do a lot of preventive measure to ensure that things will not go wrong. But in the unlikely event that something does break while youíre there, simply call the owner. The owner should be able to get the problem resolved quickly and professionally.
Do I have to clean the property before I leave?
Cleaning policies vary from owner to owner. Sometime you will have to clean yourself out and wash the linens. Other times a cleaning staff will come in and clean after you leave. Be sure to ask the owners the check-out policies for the property. Even if cleaning is provided, itís still expected that you leave the property "broom clean". In other words the cleaning staff generally does not do the dishes and clean up excessive messes. In either event, keep in mind that this is someoneís home.
Is daily cleaning service available?
Again, this varies from owner to owner. If you would like daily service, be sure to ask the owner if it can be arranged.
Give the owners feedback.
Owners love feed back. Whether you have a suggested item that you would have enjoyed, or if something wasnít working properly, please let the owners know. Owners do not visit their properties every week and if you notice something, most owners would be happy to know about the problem. And of course if your accommodations were perfect, the owners love to hear that also.
Here are some websites that I would recommend:
Renting by owner can be a win-win situation for both the owners and the renters.
Happy renting from owners !
Christine Karpinski

HowToRentByOwner is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 04:40 PM
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to celianne
what apartment did you stay in? can you email me and tell me the pros and cons. i wold really appreciate your input. my email is [email protected].
xman is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 05:45 PM
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I just emailed you.

Celiaanne is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 05:48 PM
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Cameron is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 06:41 PM
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It's been two weeks and still no response from R. Smith. He, the apartment owner Marilyn and Moos wrote me off a long time ago (probably almost a year ago) as a picky nut case, who made up those things so that I could leave the hovel at a cheap $114 night to stay in a much, much, much better place for $275 a night.

Yep, that was my plan all along and you'll never know how happy I am that I was able to make it happen!

Shame on bad landlords everywhere, and their representatives/contacts too - and the horses they rode in on!!!

Nina66 is offline  

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