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VRBO = Very Risky Buying Option

pool-and-palms_smallerThe word is getting out more than ever about the convenience and value of vacation rentals. With this growing awareness, more and more people are searching the web for information and great deals. Vacation Rentals By Owner, better known as VRBO, has become a popular choice for many travelers, but take notice. Buyer beware! The money you might save by renting directly from an owner often comes with a catch, and that catch is service!

Vacation Rentals offer 2 distinct categories, those managed by professional property management companies and those rented out directly by the owner.

You might ask, “what is the difference?” The difference is simple but very important. Professional property management companies handle all reservations, maintenance issues, housekeeping and all the little things that might occur during a stay in a typical vacation rental. VRBO’s, however, do not offer this level of service. Although a small number of owners may be close enough to the property and have the time to be “hands-on” with their rental property, the majority of VRBO”s simply cannot handle all of the issues that might arise during a vacation.

As we all know, things do happen, and very rarely is anything absolutely perfect. Professional property management companies are staffed with experienced personnel, who know exactly how to handle issues that may arise. What happens if you rent a VRBO condo or beach home, and your air conditioner goes out in the middle of August? Yes, some owners who rent via VRBO may be able to handle this type of issue in a timely manner, but more often, guests are left to fend for themselves. Sometimes, guests may find themselves in the unfortunate situation of not being able to get in touch with an owner at all.

On the other hand, vacation rentals provided by professional property management companies have the staff and connections to handle any problems that may arise more efficiently and with less disruption to the guest’s vacation experience. These companies work closely with licensed vendors, who are able to handle any type of situation that may arise: loss of power, loss of AC, bugs, cleanliness issues, etc. With VRBO properties, these issues may not even be remedied during a guest’s stay.

Unfortunately, in today’s real estate market, foreclosure is the gritty reality for many property owners in vacation destinations. What happens if you book a VRBO property, pay a deposit or full rent down, and then that property has been forclosed on? Well, you might be in trouble. Good luck getting your money back.  A professional property management company has the ability to move your reservation to a similar property without losing any of your payments.

Be aware, but don’t be scared!


  1. Interesting!

    Everyone loves going to a vacation. It is a good activity or bonding with family and friends. It is very to check on the things you need to bring. Start with the most useful like clothes, toiletries and stuff you need. Select a vacation bag that is comfortable for your belongings and also comfortable for you to bring.

  2. Renting a home is indeed much different than renting a hotel room.
    When it comes to services, I would be inclined to agree that it is better to stay in a rental that is professionally managed as opposed to owner-managed. However, with that being said, there are 1,000s of owner-managed properties where you would be hard pressed to have a management company even come close to comparing when it comes to service.

    If your initial and only desire is to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company/property, there are many ways to go about making sure they are who they say they are.

    One of them is to ask them for references of past renters. Specifically their last three renters. If they are “unable” to or, “un-willing” to that should be a red flag.

    Hope that helps.

    For more tips and secrets on how to communicate to the vacation rental owners and agents please get my guide:
    The Vacationers Guide to Vacation Rentals.

    You can get a complimentary copy of chapter 4 here:

    Make some trails!


    Terry Gronenthal

  3. I think your article is very misleading. What you fail to mention is that most owners (like us) who have a VRBO site also have a property management company that actually handles the VRBO inquiries. Plus, I have found that my renters like the personalized service of dealing directly with the owner. It is highly beneficial to have a contact locally, and most owners do have that. Your generalization is incorrect.

  4. I TOTALLY agree with you Vicky. Most of my renters LOVE the personalized attention by renting directly through the property owners. You know exactly what you are getting and have their contact information directly if anything is needed at all during your stay. Plus no ridiculous EXTRA fees….

    Maria Kirk Owner of http://www.ShoreSummerRentals.com and http://www.VacationRentals2U.com.

  5. Mary Milbert says:

    We just had a nightmare with an owner managed VRBO. The place was misrepresented and some photos were even photo shopped. What a dump. When we declined to stay, she refused to refund our $725. However, we were then referred to another owner managed VRBO recommended by the visitor center and that experience was much better. Now our lawyer is involved. All I can say is Renter beware!

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