Vacation Rental By Owner Tips & Caveats

I have rented vacation homes a few times now, for the most part I find the owners or managers of the properties to be pretty responsive and honest. So my experience renting a house for my daughters graduation in Elmhurst, IL came as a big disappointment for me and my family.

We were planning to attend my daughters graduation with much excitement, Jennifer was the first of my 6 children to graduate with a Bachelors degree and we were are very proud and excited to share this day with her. A lot of her family planned to join the activities, her sister from Gulf Shores, Myself and Partner with another of her sisters. Her sister with the baby planned to attend and her Uncle would also be attending with his partner. In addition her Dad and his family would be traveling in from Texas, that is a large group to try to entertain in her tiny one bedroom apartment

The St. Louis Group thought it would be best to rent a house so that after the ceremony the family would have a place to hang out and visit, a place more intimate than a hotel or Restaurant. We found what we felt was the perfect house on VRBO in Lemont. Now Lemont was a nice drive away from Elmhurst but we figured this too we could make work for the comfort of being together all day.

I know not every vacation rental owner is quick to respond to requests but I was optimistic when I saw the owner was a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams.
Being a Realtor myself I knew how carefully we monitored our emails and phones to be responsive to our clients needs.

It took several days and several emails for the owner to get in touch with us the first time. Her email was very short and didn’t offer much follow up, so I replied, it took almost 5 days and several emails from me to finally get a response and a copy of the lease. The owner told me my emails had gone into her spam. Again being an aggressive sales person if I had someone inquiring into my property I probably would have been more aggressive in my follow up but ok, thankfully everyone is NOT like me.

I opened and read the lease only to be shocked that the rental rate on the lease was $470 per night NOT the $385 per night I had seen on the websites. In fact I had found this listing on 4 different sites prices from $280-$385 and listed as 2 night min stay- 3 night min stay.

Trip Advisor listing Only a 2 night min rental at $265 per night NOT TRUE apparently

Flip Key Listing again only a 2 night min rental clearly states ALL OTHER DATES except 11/16/12- 3/31/13 are only $265 per night

VRBO Listing Information at least this site says $385 (we are getting closer to the REAL price)

Home Away Listing Information again says ONLY $385

When I formulated my calculations I did it at the 3 day stay and the highest rate of $385 so I would have no surprises. WRONG she had a doozey for me. The rate was now $470.00 PER NIGHT! I guess this all was only made worse when it took days for the owner to reply not once but twice, waiting for a reply was my #1 mistake?

homeaway flip key tripadvisor vrbo

I replied and asked why the rate was so much higher, here was her response to me.

Hi Carolyn,

The rate increases a bit over the summer months and we normally don’t accept weekend rentals (this is something that we are trying out this year, but didn’t do last year) plus you have a larger party which is always taken into consideration.

I completely understand a budget, but this is also a very expensive home to maintain, so we honestly don’t make any profit in this effort, it all goes towards “paying the bills”. We’ve never had anyone arrive and feel like this wasn’t a good value for what you end up receiving.

I need to meet a minimum monthly goal, so I really can’t accept a lower rent for that particular weekend, when I already have a couple of potential guests waiting.

So I am truly sorry…. if you decide that you are going to move forward and would still like those dates, please let me know.

Thanks !!


Keller Williams Realty/Infinity

Naperville, IL

Cynthia Busse

As a Broker Manager of a Real Estate Company that closes over $250 Million Dollars in transactions each year, I read contracts and MLS property reports every day, I know to look for the small print, I am familiar with vacation rental agreements I have done this several times, I knew I had looked to make sure there was no higher rate for the date range we were requesting, other listings clearly state when the rates change and what the new rate is. Most of these listings have a caveat that says rates subject to change but $85 per night?

Having a Real Estate Attorney as a partner also has been an education for me on how to protect oneself and ones property.

I am SO Thankful I was not trying to deal with a Home Sale with her if this is how she handles a Home Rental! I am not sure what the details are on Illinois Real Estate License Law but I would think there is something amiss here.

I am not worried about her min monthly goal I am worried about the integrity of the business and the person. I am worried that I just find this out more than 5 days after my initial request via email, phone and text.

I used to work for Keller Williams, I was drawn there in fact by their

“Belief System” WI4C2TS


Or no deal


Do the right thing


Always come first


In all things


Seek first to understand


Ideas before results


Together Everyone Achieves More


Starts with honesty


Results through people

Now, as I was then, I am disappointed to find words are only words with little or no substance behind them.

Lesson learned on several fronts here. I have emailed the 4 web sites that currently host this listing information as well as the Keller Williams Office of the person I have been dealing with a description of what happened to me in the hopes that it will save another family from the frustrations I just went through.

This has not soured me on renting a home for my next rental trip. But it does make me pose the question who is holding owners accountable for their advertising and practices? VRBO? HOMEAWAY? FLIP KEY? TRIP ADVISOR? Let the buyer beware, what you see may NOT be what you get.

I posted this blog today to educate those who are using the system what can happen and how they can stand up for themselves by using social media to share information on deals that are not handled well. Those of you who have never rented a vacation home I highly recommend you try it on your next vacation, just be careful who you rent from. We rented a home in Gulf Shores not from VRBO but from an independent firm that was AMAZING and saved us a ton on wedding costs, excellent service and communication at (Meyers Real Estate)! Most times traveling this way you will pay the same if not less than a hotel and all those meals would cost.

One last WARNING, Be REALLY careful when you are renting a home that the place you are renting from is reputable, NEVER pay via Western Union, credit card payments protect you more. Listings on Craigslist are also something to be VERY careful of, as a Realtor we see many homes that are currently for sale with bogus craigslist listings to be rented. Be sure to read this article for more on this scam

I will be sure to update this blog should I get any more information from any of the parties I complained to so you know the result.

Have your own VRBO, Home Away or Flip Key vacation story? Good or bad feel free to comment and tell me about it. Know of a great company for renting vacation rentals from that hold their owners to strict regulations, let us know that too.

3 thoughts on “Vacation Rental By Owner Tips & Caveats

  1. As a realtor you know that it’s not a deal until its signed. Charging for higher seasons, shorter stays, extra people and altering rates based on demand is common for all travel now a days. Whining because you thought you found a bargain but did not , reveals your lack of business experience and selfishness.

    • Thanks for your comments Bob. Had those changes been published as they are with most vacation rental owners and services I wouldn’t, how do you put it? be ‘whining’.

      I am not sure where my inexperience lies in your eyes, in renting vacation property or in being a Real Estate Professional and I am not exactly sure what part of my informational blog you think is whining? Lastly I am not sure where you got the notion that the rental amount I thought I was signing up for was a “Deal” for it was more than our group had intended to spend and MORE than other places we had looked at, so just to make it clear we did not think for one moment we got a “Steal” or “Bargain”, we instead thought we got the right property for the right price.

      Although I appreciate your insight on my experience and or selfishness level I fear you have missed the point of this blog. A consumer can expect excellent customer service and communication it is my right to do so, a consumer can expect full disclosure of pricing, a consumer does not have to patronize a business that they feel has not been up front with them. I suggest Cyndi disclose in the future that higher rates could be charged for shorter stays and instead of showing the rental rates from $365- $385 possibly show them from $365-$500 depending on the season etc. I disagree that it is a fair, fully disclosed practice NOT to have a list of rates that encompass the true Max.

      I am not sure what business you are in Bob but lashing out at consumers who are simply stating disappointment with a product or service feels strangely like a form of censorship, I had hoped that those who agreed or disagreed with my thoughts would have shared experiences they had that were either good or bad to help educate other consumers instead of simply lamb-basting this articles author.

      Consumers today have greater access to comparable information and to complete research, I simply did mine before I contacted this owner.

      A PS to the entire story, yesterday I secured another location in an area much closer to my destination for the published price with little or no drama attached.

      Again thanks Bob for your comments I might not agree but I appreciate you have a right to your opinion, have a great day!

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