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What makes you confident an apartment rental is legitimate?

What makes you confident an apartment rental is legitimate?

Apr 11th, 2005, 09:29 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 12,188
What makes you confident an apartment rental is legitimate?

I had a suggestion on another forum to book an airport hotel for our late first night in Amsterdam, and then rent an apartment for the remaining four nights, because apartments can be gotten rather cheaply compared to hotels.

I doubt I will get an apartment, because it sounds too nerveracking to me, but I want to make sure I explore this option fully and maybe I'll do it in the future.

One can google and find various apartments for rent, or go to VRBO.com and see apartments there. But how do you know you are dealing with the actual owner, and not a con man, and that the owner will actually show up to meet you and give you the keys and not just keep your wired deposit, etc.?

I know there are sometimes problems with the apartments not being as good as represented, and so forth, but that's a minor concern for me as opposed to being confident there will be an actual apartment when I arrive.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is less than confident when it comes to dealing with apartment issues.

Based on various postings, I do know to avoid yourstay.com like the plague.
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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I haven't been to Amsterdam, but I've rented in Rome and Paris.

It IS a concern, and though I've done it before (and love it), there's a certain element of just closing my eyes and jumping at some point.

But I try to get references from SlowTrav or here or tripadvisor or from friends. Then I do crazy long searches on the internet if I'm renting from an agency I've never heard of before. Admittedly those don't go so well.

To alleviate fears I try to choose an apartment from a company, not an individual. But I'd use VRBO, no question.

Good luck!
Leely is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 10:57 AM
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I just rented places in Paris and Amsterdam on VRBO. Yes, there is a slight risk involved! But I feel confident after many e-mails with the owners. Plus someone on this board has actually stayed in another VRBO owned by the same guy in Paris and had a great experience. We'll see about Amsterdam, LOL.

We owned a guest cottage on Kauai for 6 years. We rented it out on VRBO about 30-40 times. So, on the flip side of this question I was sometimes worried that our renters would be kooks or destroy the house! Never happened; our renters were always lovely, tidy, and responsible.
vivi is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 11:13 AM
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While we've never rented an apartment in Amsterdam, we have rented numerous places in the UK, Italy and Sweden. Like the previous posters said we pay attention to reviews posted online. We also pay attention to the communication from the agency or individual: Is the response prompt? Do they answer our questions? Sometimes we phone to get a feel for an owner by speaking to them. We've generally had good luck -- last summer we had a spell of hot water issues, but they were promptly addressed in both cases. We've found some of our best properties (including a beautiful apartment in York) from owners.
sprin2 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 11:34 AM
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I would add that the red flags should go up if they insist on payment by Western Union. I've heard that's a common scamming technique on ebay.
I've booked my first rental apartment in Italy, and I'm generally confident since I went with a reputable agency. I don't think I'd have gone with an independent, site-unseen.
Nutella is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 11:56 AM
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WillTravel, I just counted up the number of houses we have rented from owners since 2000 and it's 10 in France and 2 in Malta. There are a few precautions you can take to lower the risk:

- Organizations such as Holiday Rentals, VRBO, and French Connections have been around a long time. I realize that isn't a perfect guarantee and that someone could make a false listing, but we prefer using one of those networks to find a house (or apartment). The owner of the place we're renting in the Auvergne next month told us that the organization she lists with has a policy of three strikes and you're out--if three clients complain, the organization will drop the listing.

- You definitely get a feel for the owners as you e-mail back and forth, and we often find some reason to call them during the negotiations. Again, it's not perfect, but it helps.

- If you are particularly interested in a certain area, you get to know the various houses on offer in that region. As an example, we have our eye on a rental in Nyons that has been in French Connections for several years. It's a reasonably safe assumption that they're legitimate, and we'll look at renting it when we return to that area.

Having said all that, it is a leap of faith when you send off the deposit and, ultimately, the full payment in advance. We haven't been burned yet; the rental in May will be our 13th and my wife has just rented a flat in Paris for the end of August, which will be our 14th.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Apr 11th, 2005, 08:17 PM
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We did a private rental in Spain 2 years ago and we were worried, as I am sure the guy was about us. He wanted us to do a bank transfer directly into his account (we're in the US). I tried going to my bank, but we had all the info wrong and it wasn't possible so I contacted him again. Finally we both just took a leap of faith. He had faith we'd show up without a deposit and we took a leap that there was actually was such a place that would still be ehld for us. it worked out. I should also add that I've also rented places I've found through either Alistair Sawday or Karen Brown's books. Maybe it is a false feeling of security, but it helps.
julies is online now  
Apr 11th, 2005, 11:42 PM
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julies, that sounds like the ideal setup. I'm glad rentals have worked out so well for everyone in the thread.

In this case, given we would have to change from the airport hotel, I'm even less keen on the idea. But if I plan a trip in the future that involves a lengthy stay in one spot, I'll definitely look for a well-reviewed apartment and owner. For a four-night stay, the possible cost savings couldn't be justified considering the worry I might have (whether it's rational or not).
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 04:04 AM
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i have rented flats/houses in a lot of places around europe. as others have stated, it's a matter of getting a reasonable comfort level and taking some risk. you can be victim of an all out scam but it is probably more likely that you will be "scammed" in a much smaller way.

since brits tend to own a lot of homes all over the place, it is often that we rent from one of our own. this is certainly no guarantee but legally it can be easier if there is a problem. we have also rented from "locals" where we are travelling.

this can be avoided by making sure you get a very accurate description of the place including what is included and excluded from the price. much of the problems can be caused by language problems/lack of face-to-face discussion, and different cultural assumptions of what "should" be included in a rental.

do not assume anything when it comes to the rental (electricity, heat, sheets, towels, gas, cleaning and other charges). see detailed, clear pictures and if possible talk to others who have stayed. it's much better to know in advance that the place has, for example, no view, than to expect it.

you can tell a lot from the website itself. i like when the ad sounds honest - giving some negatives (like saying the bedroom is small, the parking is a 10 min walk up a steep hill, etc). if it sounds too perfect with just one or two pictures, i steer clear.

some places have been better than others but we've been surprised more times by the places being nicer than expected than the other way around. we have never felt that a place was misrepresented and we've never been all out scammed.
walkinaround is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 05:15 AM
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I'm not sure why anyone would recommend you stay at the airport in Amsterdam. It's only 15 minutes out of Amsterdam. I would go on to my hotel so I wouldn't have to change hotels.
kybourbon is online now  
Apr 12th, 2005, 05:16 AM
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I agree with walkinaround's point: " ... you can tell a lot from the website itself. i like when the ad sounds honest - giving some negatives (like saying the bedroom is small, the parking is a 10 min walk up a steep hill, etc). if it sounds too perfect with just one or two pictures, i steer clear."

I should have mentioned in my earlier point that we look very carefully at the photographs. We look for a couch in the living room so one of us can stretch out to read, and we also like a kitchen we can work in, as we usually prepare at least one meal a day at our rental.

One last point about the photographs: they're typically taken under bright lights and with a wide-angle lens. Once you get there, you realize that the house is darker and a bit smaller than you envisaged.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Apr 12th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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A couple of things I look for in the pictures. If they show a picture of the bed and it is against a side wall, I know two things. One of us will have to climb over the other to get in and out of bed, and you can bet that the bedroom is really tiny if they couldn't allow at least a foot on each side of the bed.

Also, personal matter, I hope there is a picture of the shower arrangement to know that if there is a tub, that there is a wall mount shower, and hopefully a partition or shower curtaina to make it "practical" for us.

I guess I find it hard to picture someone actually having a website with pictures of an apartment that doesn't exist. Maybe that happens, but I've sure never worried about it. On the other hand, I'd hesitate to rent any apartment where I couldn't find a single comment from someone who has stayed there.
Patrick is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 07:46 AM
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It's a fairly common scam in my city for a con man to show an apartment to numerous interested tenants, get deposits from all of them, and then disappear. So the apartment definitely exists. It's just not rentable, despite the payment. I could easily see the same thing happening on an overseas basis, and what would be your recourse?

There's also this scam reported here:

It does seem that the longer the apartment has been reported, and the more people who have dealt with a particular individual, the more likely it's legitimate.
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 07:47 AM
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patrick, i think it's not the the apartment doesn't exist, but that the scammers have lifted the pictures and descriptions from legitimate websites.
Nutella is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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ooops hit send too soon.
then they quote a price lower than the legitimate rental fee, so you are tempted to go with them instead if you are shopping around on the web.
i've never actually seen this myself, but i do remember reading somewhere on another message board of someone getting scammed this way.
Nutella is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 08:25 AM
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Just rent from a reputable agency. Yes, you might pay a little more but that's insurance. Plus you can charge it to a credit card and then dispute the charge if it's a scam.

Check out www.slowtrav.com for reviews of agencies and of individual rentals.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 12:17 AM
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I am renting an apartment in Positano through "Altra Costiera" agency based in Amamfi in May.
I am nervous because we have paid a deposit up front, but have to pay the total BEFORE we get there. Has anyone used this agency or heard of it - it looks fine on the net, but there's no address, we can pick up the key at the hotel Poseidon etc. I guess I could e-mail the Hotel Poseidon and ask them?
Amanda is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 01:32 AM
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I have booked 7 seperate apartments/villas for our trip this year in August/Sept/Oct through VRBO, Holiday-rentals, rentalfrance, holidaylettings.
I must admit I just have to trust them, and if it falls apart..my friends will kill me!
For example: we have booked property 17417 through holiday-rentals.Looks fairly rustic, lounge room a bit tired looking....but we can afford it!
The owners sent me a brochure after I'd paid a 30% deposit.
"Spending a holiday in an authentic countryside house is quite different experience to renting a luxury apartment in a country villa on a great estate...sometimes nature could be unpredicatable and less bucolic than what we wish..if the path has a few potholes, meet a barking dog, see some funny chickens or insects, or even if we see a small cobweb...."
My friends and I had a good giggle about the brochure. We're on holidays and as long as the place is clean and the bed comfortable, we'll be happy.
In the past the photos on the internet reflected the properties correctly...sometimes the real place was better!
good luck.
kimerley is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 02:04 AM
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Slowtrav.com is an excellent resource.

It is reassuring that you so often have multiple reports about a single property.

Repetition reassures. Hence my repeating of another poster's slowtrav recommendation.

Anselm: RE Auvergne: We know when but now give us Where and doing What!
tedgale is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 02:44 AM
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Hi tedgale. You were up early this morning! Here's the plan for the Auvergne: two days in Clermont-Ferrand, then two weeks in a house we've rented in Montaigut-le-Blanc, a tiny village 16 kilometres west of Issoire. We aim to make day-trips throughout the region in search of delightful scenery, delicious food, and the unique Romanesque churches of the region. We'll finish up with four days in Paris.

I'll post some notes when we get back.

AnselmAdorne is online now  

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