If you read the news regularly, chances are you’ll often hear about scams, illegal activity and people losing money in a variety of dodgy schemes. It’s right for that to be a worry for some people. So, when it comes to wanting to book a break away and giving up your hard-earned money for some peaceful downtime, the last thing you want is for anything to go wrong or put your trip at risk.
Something we here at Holiday Rentals Australia get asked from time to time is, “how do I know the holiday rental property I’m booking is real?”. It’s a valid question from cautious holiday guests and we’re always happy to answer. To help you when booking your next holiday rental apartment or vacation home directly with the owner, through booking platforms like Airbnb or VRBO or an agency like ours, here are some good points to bear in mind.
- Look for details
- Does it look too good to be true?
- Check out all the photos
- Read the property reviews
- Ask questions
- Ask to see the property before booking
- Research the property in search engines
1. Look for details
Read any listing for the holiday apartment or home fully and see if anything seems left out? In our experience, the more information guests have about a place they are going to stay the better so, chances are, the more detailed and comprehensive the property listing, the less likely it is to be fake. Professional and competent hosts will want to provide a lot of information to guests to give them the best possible idea of what they are paying for, but anyone trying to scam you will probably not make as much effort to be convincing.
2. Does it look too good to be true?
If you see a fantastic property available to book and the price seems incredibly cheap compared to its competitors, that should make you think twice. It’s true, sometimes you can get great deals due to last-minute availability from cancelled bookings, but be sensible and put the points from this list into action to ensure you make a decision based on more than just the price. Don’t be so tempted by a great price that you put yourself at risk.
3. Check out all the photos
Very occasionally, we get guests coming to stay who are disappointed for one reason or another. They expected this or wanted that and the property doesn’t have whatever it was they thought they’d be getting. This is almost always based on an assumption by the guest which they haven’t checked in advance with us or read the property listing in sufficient detail. A genuine property listing should have lots of photos showing all aspects of the property and any amenities that are said to be available for use by guests. You should also check that all the photos match and look out for any differences between them that could indicate they could be from different properties.
4. Read the property reviews
It is rare for no one to have stayed in a property before, so look out for property reviews from previous guests. Booking platforms like Airbnb are very good for this and will show reviews from completed guests who have been there before you. Read these in detail as they will often share bits of information that you may not get from the listing itself. Alternatively, they may help confirm things mentioned in the listing so you have more evidence that the property really is in a “great location”. Occasionally a property will be brand new for holiday rentals, in which case there will be no reviews but what you may be able to see is reviews of the provider or host which will help give you some peace of mind. If there are no reviews, ask the provider why that is and pay careful attention to their reply. Someone giving you a genuine reply will go to some length to explain the situation and try to ease your worry.
5. Ask questions
If there is something mentioned in the property listing that is important to your holiday, and there aren’t photos or enough information about it, ask the provider some questions. Engaging with the holiday rental provider is always a good idea because it allows you to find out more, gauge if they reply quickly (which is always a positive sign of them not being a scammer), check they seem to know what they’re talking about and give detailed answers rather than single-word replies. As mentioned before, our experience of having seen scam listings is that they generally want to make the minimum amount of effort, so any responses you get which show a positive attitude towards customer service is a good thing. Also, bear in mind however, that the host, agency, or owner can be busy too so asking them to plan a four-day itinerary for your trip, for example, isn’t really their job and they may not want to answer that sort of question.
Great but simple questions to ask might be:
- Can you recommend somewhere for breakfast nearby?
- What’s your top recommendation for a family activity in the area?
- Where could we go for a nice picnic?
- You mentioned a fireplace in the living room in the listing, but I didn’t see any photos of it. Could you send me one please? We really want to book somewhere with a fire for the family to sit around.
6. Ask to see the property before booking
Due to location, this may not always be possible for you, but you may have a friend or relative who lives nearby who might check it out for you. For short bookings, this is usually an unnecessary step and it is not something we do as an agency because we make sure our listings are very comprehensive, have lots of photos, have a floorplan and come with lots of guest reviews to help prospective guests feel safer in making a booking. For longer bookings, this is something we have organised from time to time, but it depends on the existing bookings as to whether the property can be accessed and the availability of one of our team to be in that particular area.
7. Research the property in search engines
Doing your research before making a booking can help alert you to fake properties and scams. When you see a holiday rental home or apartment advertised, try searching the title of the listing in search engines and see what comes up. Alternatively, use the property address (ask for it if it isn’t apparent) as the search term to see if anything comes up that way.
We hope these tips have been helpful for you to help avoid any disasters in the future. Just remember, more information is always best and if it isn’t there as standard, ask. Engaging with the holiday rental accommodation provider not only establishes you as a genuine guest but can often help you get the most from your stay.