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crazy4trvl Jun 27th, 2008 11:47 AM

? about rental homes
We are considering renting a home for a week in Ocean City, MD with some friends. We have never done this before and we have some questions. We found a house we all agree on, but when we contacted the realtor Unit A (pictured on the website) was already booked and so we were offered Unit B - twin house. At first she claimed everything was the same in both houses, now with each conversation the bathrooms have changed, the beds have changed from 2 Queens to 2 Fulls, etc. We haven't signed an agreement yet and we're trying to figure out how to tell if this is a reputable house/realtor.

We tried googling the realtor's name and all that showed was that she is based in CA, not MD. How else can we see more details about the house (mostly we are also concerned with the neighborhood) and if tihs realtor has a good reputation?

I guess it's just first time renter's jitters. But since we are traveling with 2 toddlers we don't want to get there and have the house be a dump!

TIA for any advice!

ConnecticutJohn Jun 27th, 2008 12:00 PM

Try looking at We have rented homes about five times in and out of country and have always been satisfied. The web site is self-explanatory and has lots of information and pictures of most of the homes on the site. We are leaving for a Maine vacation in a few weeks and we found our house on that site. We also travel with children (3) and renting a home is the way to go. Good luck.

gail Jun 27th, 2008 12:01 PM

There is no way to guarantee anything. If we are using a realtor for the rental, the realtor has always been local to the property - sometimes the owner is distant, but I would also feel a little uneasy if using a realtor 3000 miles from property.

You can go to zillow or google earth and check out satellite view of area - I have done that. At least you will know if it next to a power plant.

Also, you mention conversations. Do you have anything in writing or even email? Also, a realtor or owner should be able to send you photos of both inside and outside of house - you can ask for that.

And when you do decide on a rental, find out what payment arrangements are. While we have sent full payment for a rental ahead (since that is usually what owners demand), I have always been more comfortable with an arrangement like 50% deposit and 50% payable upon arrival.

The issue of bedding and baths could be merely matter of mild confusion - lots of people and even good hotels incorrectly interchange terms queen and full - but if everything keeps changing, then walk away.

Have you tried VRBO (vacation rentals by owner) website? Getting a little late for this summer - but in current economy, who knows.

crazy4trvl Jun 27th, 2008 12:10 PM

Thanks for the replies. Just to clarify there are pictures on the website, but the inside pictures are of Unit A, while we are renting Unit B. We are supposed to be getting an email today with pictures of the inside of our rental.

She is sending us a rental agreement in the mail, which we will sign and send back with 100% payment. She said normally she wants 50% deposit and 50% on arrival, but since we are just signing the agreement now and going in July she wanted 100% up front.

I am going to look up google earth right now!

cruisin_tigger Jun 27th, 2008 12:48 PM

How are you paying - check? Can run into issues with getting your money back if there are problems. Credit card is the best.

First time renter's jitters are not necessarily a bad thing - sometimes that instinct can save you from a bad vacation.

bassharborbaby Jun 27th, 2008 01:30 PM

Check with the local Chamber of Commerce - they will offer a list of realtors as well as other lodging options, some of which will be homes. You could also ask to contact the owner directly as the realtor seems a little unclear about the property - has she seen it? Bed sizes will be crucial for week long vacation happiness. VRBO is also an excellent resource but with toddlers in tow, you might like a little more reassurance. I would also suggest trip insurance in case one of the kids gets sick and you can't go.

DebitNM Jun 27th, 2008 01:31 PM

Where did you find this unit/realtor?

I ask because there are scams galore with people claiming to be the owner or realtor who have in actuality simply gotten pictures off of legitimate sites and then try to pass them off as their's and then try to get your money.

There is no way I would send a check for 100%. I would agree to give 50% on a credit card and then the balance on arrival or within a few days of arrival.

Pictures are never reliable, any picture can be of some place else. What you see may not be what you get - I guess that is always a risk.

I would check out BBB in Calif where realtor is listed. Sounds strange to me that house is in MD and realtor in CA. No matter where owner lived, local agent would seem to make more sense.

The hairs on the back of my neck would go up on this one.

Good luck!

zztopz Jun 27th, 2008 01:31 PM

There's no reason why you couldn't do the same thing as she has done in the past. Deposit of 50% now and then 50% when you arrive. But how would she accept payment, being that she's in CA. Also, I'm familiar with O.C. What is the address? Also, you know what they say--- when it smells like a rat, it is usually one.

crazy4trvl Jun 27th, 2008 01:45 PM

This is the website for the house. You guys are confirming my thoughts on this - its better to just back out now!

dmlove Jun 27th, 2008 01:48 PM

I'm confused because the area code for the phone number on the listing is a Maryland area code, but you said the realtor is in California.

kgk52 Jun 27th, 2008 02:25 PM

While I agree that this sounds suspicious, I have rented in OC many times, and have always had to pay the complete amount 30 days before arrival. Also, do you realize that you will have to cross a very busy highway to get to the beach? I mention this because you are travelling with toddlers and that would be a turnoff for me.

DebitNM Jun 27th, 2008 02:34 PM

I googled that phone number and that house is listed on 4 different websites that all look the same - just different names.

It is a MD phone number. I am not sure where you got Calif realtor info.

Perhaps the owner listed it with some central website and they did all the other listings.

I still would never pay 100% upfront.


djkbooks Jun 27th, 2008 03:17 PM

I would definitely not rent without photos. Even then, photos could have been taken some time ago when all was brand new.

Also, the owner of A may be different than B, so units could be significantly different.

I would also be offput that it's still available at this late date.

Agree, also, that with toddlers wouldn't want to cross that highway and back to get to the beach.

ncounty Jun 27th, 2008 04:40 PM

As an owner who rents property on these websites, here are my comments:
-the website is very reputable and is essentially the same company as vrbo.
-try to find out how long they have advertised on this website. I read a thread in fodor's where the owner of the website said that if a property has more than 3 complaints they are kicked off. Vrbo has an excellent reputation and its parent company, homeaway does as well and they want to protect that. So, if it is a new listing, it doesn't have a track record but if it has been around for more than 3 years, it is more reliable.
-Most of my guests pay the entire amount up front by some cases, this is even 6 months before their rental. For those who have concerns about that, I have them pay half up front and the remainder 60 days before arrival. I only say this so you know that this is commonplace and I don't think this particular point is a red flag.
-realtor appears to be local by area code.
-I really like being able to read guest comments and this particular site doesn't have that. You might see if there are other sites where it is advertised where it might show that. For instance, if I see many repetitive positive comments, those are very believable with little likelihood of editing.

There is a trust element with renting a home. It pays to do your homework and you are trusting them with your money but then they are trusting you with their home and that you won't trash it. I've had so many guests who thank me for sharing my home with them and it really is part of the "payment" I derive from doing this; it is a joy to share the experience with those who appreciate it. Don't be afraid to ask questions....I've had requests for details on the house and more pictures and am always happy to provide it. I don't want anyone to come and have a mediocre experience in my home; it should be stellar.

crazy4trvl Jun 28th, 2008 05:16 AM

Thank you again for all your replies. I am glad that some people have said paying 100% upfront isn't too unusual.

I think part of my uncertainty is that everything is going through my friend (who I trust 100%), but since I am not talking to the renter I am hearing everything secondhand. I am also not used to just trusting someone that my vacation will be great!

I did have one other question. Is it normal for the renter's agreement to list the amenities of the house. For example, to say that there are 3 beds, 2 full baths, etc. Because at this point we only have photos and phone conversations, nothing in writing that gaurantees these things. The rental agreement is in the mail to us, so we haven't seen it yet.


ncounty Jun 28th, 2008 06:19 AM

No, the rental agreement doesn't cover those things. All those are detailed in the listing and it would be repetitive to have it in the rental agreement. The rental agreement may be as simple as outlining the address specifying the property, your name, their name, dates of rental and amount or cost. They may then specify check-in and checkout time, security deposit, and other rules particular to that property. I prefer to have a rental agreement but some, if not many, owners don't even use a rental agreement! So there is no contract in sister just rented a place through vrbo in Florida and she was concerned because there was no rental agreement. Everything went fine but there can be significant variation in how reputable owners/agents do things. I also rented from vrbo in Buenos Aires and that owner didn't use a contract either. That didn't worry me because I am also an owner in vrbo so I trusted the system. What did make me anxious was that he didn't send me a key. He insisted that someone would meet me at the apartment. I said but what if my flight is delayed etc. and how will they know exactly when I'll be there? He assured me someone would be there. Sure, enough she was there! She must have been prepared to wait several hours if I had been late! I always send my guests a key even though they don't need it because I give them a security code but I want them to have something tangible in their hand as backup. I also prefer e-mail discussions because then everything I've said is in writing and can be referred to. You have all your e-mail transactions as further "proof" in the unlikely case that there is a problem as well as the listing itself. It would be false advertising to list a 3 bedroom property and have you show up and find 2! I think things generally are as advertised. What I would focus on is whether you like the location and the place for the others have mentioned, it may be on the other side of the highway from the beach. This may mean you got a lower price as well which may offset that inconvenience.

kgk52 Jun 28th, 2008 10:51 AM

All the details you asked about have always been in my rental agreements, but I've always rented through realtors, not directly from the owner.

moondoggie Jun 28th, 2008 12:00 PM

We live in the midwest, but own a beach house in the Outer Banks of NC, which we rent out three months in the summer.

We list it with a large rental agent whose only business is this kind of property rental. We pay them 17% of the weekly rental price to advertise, approve, and and administer the lease. If anything goes wrong, they are ON SITE, available, and they fix the problem.

NO WAY would I deal with the realtor you have been describing--the property you were told you were getting appears to be different that the one she is now offering (Unit B).

RUN, do not walk, to another property/agent, as once they get your $$$ you are basically stuck.

That being said, we have used VRBO very successfully in the past, dealing directly with the owner, for rentals in Paris and Kauai. We were very comfortable both times, and if I had even a sliver of doubt (and you've got a pie-ful right now!) I would not have rented from them.

RUN, babe, and get yourself another house!

cruisin_tigger Jun 28th, 2008 06:32 PM

~~You have all your e-mail transactions as further "proof" in the unlikely case that there is a problem as well as the listing itself. It would be false advertising to list a 3 bedroom property and have you show up and find 2!~~

Exactly. Make sure you have a printout of wherever you rent. We rented a condo in Cabo that stated it had a hot tub on the balcony. However, when we got there, it was broken and we were told it had been that way for awhile and there were no plans for repair. The hot tub on the balcony was one of the selling points of our rental, so when we returned home I emailed the owner and ended up getting part of a refund because when I had booked, the hot tub was functioning as stated on the website. When I returned, I discovered it had been removed from the description.

traveljunkie28 Jun 28th, 2008 07:23 PM

Always trust your gut instinct. If you think somethings not right then most likely it probably is.

We have used a real estate agent to rent a house in Hawaii. It worked out great. For most of our rentals we use VRBO.COM and have had many successful vacations throughout the U.S and Canada.

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