Villa Rentals: What To Know Before Renting a Villa (and How to Avoid a Travel Nightmare)

Whether it's a tropical hideaway or a Tuscan estate, a villa can be the backdrop for an unforgettable vacation, but without proper vetting and careful advance planning, a dream escape can easily become a nightmare. As industry experts, we've heard all the horror stories: You arrive at your (supposed) villa rental only to find that the entire operation was a scam, and you've wired your deposit to someone with no connection to the home they had claimed to own. (This is the most common one.) You arrive at the address you've been given via email, but the house looks nothing like the one you saw online, and it can't accommodate your whole family.  You wanted privacy, but the homeowner never leaves the property. Or you bought tickets to fly half way around the world to a resort hot spot and the homeowner has changed his mind about renting and now you have no place to stay. You request to have the pool heated before your arrival, and then get slammed with thousands of dollars in electricity fees. Your house rental is flooded two days before your arrival, and you didn't get trip insurance and don't have any way to find rooms for your family. You only looked at the house online and forgot to consider the surrounding area, so now your family feels unsafe in the neighborhood or is surrounded by loud construction next door. We've heard countless rental nightmares and stepped in to help in situations that have gone awry, and the good news is that most of these situations can be avoided. Working with Indagare (and a team that is aware of all the possible pitfalls), can help protect you from the risk of experiencing them firsthand. We can provide reliable assistance and tap into our on-the-ground network, if unexpected issues do arise before (or during) your stay, so you don't have to waste precious vacation time dealing with on-site emergencies. Here are some of the considerations we take into account and how we can help you plan your villa rental.

Contact Indagare for assistance finding the right villa for your next trip.

Know Your Priorities

Beautiful homes can be found anywhere from the Caribbean islands to the European countryside, but not all villas are created equal, and we recommend thinking seriously about your desires and dealbreakers beforehand. Is proximity to a town or a beach important for you? Is your group looking for nearby restaurants or cafés, nightlife or cultural experiences?  Are there any particular amenities—such as a swimming pool, an in-house gym or a professional chef—that you wouldn’t want to sacrifice? What local activities would you like access to? Travelers accustomed to the full range of services and amenities provided by larger properties may also want to consider villas that are connected to nearby resorts or hotels.

Related: La Dolce Vita: Tuscan Villas for Vacation Rentals

Find the Right Fit

For families, a number of considerations come into play when traveling with children. Is there a secure fence around the pool and a distinct barrier before the ocean? Is the villa equipped with a high chair? If this is a city apartment, on what floor is it located and is an elevator available? Avoid making any assumptions, and ask outright about any specific concerns to ensure that the rental is the best match for you and your travel companions. Is the property accessible for guests in wheelchairs or with mobility issues? Is it pet-friendly? Non-smoking? Air-conditioned?

Related: The Top 10: Fun Ideas for a Multigenerational Vacation

Narrow Down the Location

Location is likely the primary motive of your rental experience, but once you’ve settled on beach, mountain or vineyard, asking a few secondary questions will vastly improve your experience and help you avoid any unwanted surprises. Would you rather walk to town for coffee and groceries or stay put in peaceful seclusion? Do you prefer complete privacy or the option to socialize with other travelers? (Be sure to ask if there are other properties or residences nearby.) Finally, be sure to clarify any vague descriptive terms before booking. Consider that “oceanfront” does not guarantee a beach, just as “beachfront” does not guarantee direct access to the sand or swimmable waters. And be sure to ask about any nearby construction or noise issues, so you don’t spend your holiday listening to a thumping disco or constant drilling.

Learn the Layout

Questions about room configuration may sound obvious, but they are best answered explicitly to avoid a headache on arrival. Are the bedrooms for parents and young children on the same floor? Do all bedrooms have access through common areas (and not through other bedrooms)? A good tip is to count the number of bedrooms rather than the number of people that the villa sleeps, in order to keep foldout sofas out of the tally. Getting a floor plan is always wise. For international rentals, double-check the bed size, since the American distinctions of twin, full, queen and king are sometimes lost in translation.

Compare Your Amenity Options

With such a wide variety of villas to choose from, decide on your necessary and preferred amenities to help shorten the list of options. Would you like a full staff, or do you prefer a DIY experience? Will you require exercise equipment? How about a swimming pool and hot tub? Many villas also include housekeeping, a chef, the use of a car and other amenities—or will at least provide these services for an additional charge. Establish upfront if your staff will be living on-property or making daily visits, and if they work on holidays. Determine if an included “cook” means your housekeeper preparing simple meals or a professionally trained chef offering a full culinary experience. If you prefer to cook your own meals, ensure that the kitchen is stocked with the requisite supplies, and ask if groceries can be delivered before your arrival or if they are available nearby. Finally, find out if you’ll have a local host—be it a butler, a concierge or even the homeowner. This person can provide insider tips, arrange special experiences (like a hot-air balloon ride over Napa, a snorkel excursion in Tulum or a horse trek in José Ignacio) and, above all, will become a friendly face as you settle into your temporary home.

Contact Indagare for assistance finding the ideal villa for your next trip.

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