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Unread 3 Feb 19, 01:07 PM  
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Magnificent
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Villa checks (v1)

**Just V1: Will amend/improve this as time goes on. **

Booking and staying at a villa should be an incredibly fun experience.

The Dibb forum gives owners a great deal of insight into the level of trust (or distrust sometimes I’m afraid !) there can be when booking a villa. In the words of Ronald Reagan, I think you should ‘trust but verify’.

The main things I think you should be looking to check are:
1) The person taking your money for the rental is in fact the owner!
2) Some basic details are correct.
3) The villa is licensed for short-term rental.
4) The villa is not for sale
5) The owner is solvent – they are still paying taxes etc.
6) You can find some history of good reviews.
7) Tell-tale signs that the villa isn’t going to be great.
8) The owner is contactable
9) The villa has what you’re looking for
10) The owner can give you flexibility where you need it.

I don’t expect that I’ll have thought of everything, or everything here is correct. It may date really quickly too. Please let me know if you would like me to change or correct or add anything. If something doesn’t seem to add up with a villa, let me know and I’ll have a look at it for you.

Do as much checking as you feel comfortable with. (If you book one of my villas, you can relax as I’ve already done the work for you .) You may find after the first few items, everything is checking out, and you feel comfortable. Along the way, I’ll also try to give you a flavour of what not to worry about. Occasionally, there will be something that looks unusual – don’t jump to conclusions – ask if necessary!

1) The person taking your money is in fact the owner

This is the most important one – otherwise you’ll pay for the villa, and get nothing in return! Some may argue booking online may reduce the risk of not getting your money back, but online booking comes at a premium (unnecessary when you can do this easy task yourself) and even if you got your money back, this would take a lot of time and effort, and is not a good way to start your holiday.

For homes in Polk County go to polkpa/, click ‘Property search’ and type in the owner name. Type in owner’s surname then first name (no commas, so ‘Underwood Stuart’) and click ‘Search Records’.



You can then see all homes owned by that owner in Polk County, the villa addresses, and when they were purchased. Click on the Parcel ID for more details.



For Lake County go to lakecopropappr/, click ‘Property search’, agree to the ‘Terms of Use’ and type in the owner name. Type in owner’s surname then first name (no commas, so ‘Underwood Stuart’) and click ‘Search’.

You can then see all villas owned by that owner in Lake County and villa addresses. Click ‘View’ to see more details.



For Orange County go to ocpafl/ agree to the ‘Terms of Use’ click ‘Property searches’, ‘Record search’, agree to ‘Terms of Use’ and type in the owner name. Type in owner’s surname then first name (no commas) and click ‘Search Records’.

** Far fewer short-term rental villas in Orange county **

For Osceola County go to ira.property-appraiser/PropertySearch/, type in owner’s surname then first name (no commas), so for example Guy Michelle (disneygirl1985) and click ‘Search Cama Records’.





It may take more detective work than this, if for example:.
• a couple own the villa, you may have to try surname only.
• (for tax reasons) the owner bought the villa using a trust fund or a limited company ‘LLC’.

Warning sign: If the owner is a bank, the villa may have been repossessed, especially if ownership has recently changed hands.

2) Basic villa details are correct

Things you can discover from the public record include:

• the address matches up with the community.

• the number of bedrooms match up. Though don’t necessarily worry if they don’t. Public records are often inaccurate for all sorts of reasons. I have seen this probably around 30% of the time. (Including at one of my villas where the games room is counted as an extra bedroom.)

When you map the villa, you can check things like:
• the pool direction matches up with the description, where given.
• the pool is unoverlooked (if this matters to you), photos at awkward angles to avoid showing next door.

3) Licenced for short-term rental

To check the licenses:

myfloridalicense/wl11.asp

Again, this may take some digging as sometimes it is under the owner name, sometimes under the villa name and sometimes under the management company name. So don't worry if you can't find it.



4) Is the villa for sale?

The easiest way to check is to google the address in the format “123 Fake St, Davenport, Fl, 33896”.

It will become obvious quickly if the home is up for sale, as you will see prices (rather than estimates) for the value of the home.

A couple of things not to be put off by:

• The number of bedrooms and bathrooms may again disagree … it reflects the public record … and at the time (this is the case for us for one of our villas where we added bedrooms and a bathroom)

• The condition of the home on sales listings may be terrible – as it is before the owner bought the villa - from about 2008-2016 in particular, many homes were repossessed due to owners not covering costs and having to sell … all three of my villas were bought this way, and all three are 100% different now to when I bought them.

5) The owner is solvent and paying their property taxes

Depends on which county the villa is located:
Polk: polktaxes/propertytaxes/pay_search.aspx
Lake: lake.county-taxes/public
Osceola: osceola.county-taxes/public
Orange: octaxcol/property-tax-search/

Again, this may take some digging as sometimes it is under the owner name, sometimes under the villa name and sometimes under the management company name.

Current year may not show as paid. For the current year you can pay as late as March the following year, but get 4% off if you pay by November that year.



It is reassuring if it says something like 'no deliquent taxes' at the bottom!

6) Reviews

Easiest way is to type the name of the villa into google.

Look at lots of listings. Some sites allow the owner to import verified reviews from other sites, so it is not necessarily suspicious if the same review appears on different sites. Don’t be swayed by a single bad review (may say more about the reviewer) – but do be swayed by a pattern.

If something worries you – eg ‘the villa doesn’t have X’, rather than write the villa off check with the owner that they now have X.

If there aren’t many reviews, don’t worry! We all have to start somewhere - and that's true on any website even if we've been renting villas for a while.

7) Tell-tale signs

• The price is too good to be true. You are getting my villas ‘at cost’ – so similar-sized villas that are significantly cheaper than mine are likely making big losses. Owners renting villas cheaply either have more money than sense ... or more usually are cutting corners or will eventually find themselves in trouble (you don’t want your villa to be repossessed before you get there).

• The bedding looks dated - these are such a cheap fix – if an owner won’t invest in that, what else won’t they invest in?

• The sofas, TVs and dining tables look dated – these are the ‘visible’ things that you can check have been updated or not. Again, if they’re not investing in the things you can see, chances are they won’t be investing in things that don’t show up on the pictures.

8) The owner is contactable.

• How quickly do they reply to email?

In my case, other than Florida I don’ t have a life so often I’ll respond very quickly – within the hour.

But I do have a demanding full time job - so sometimes I can’t.

And I don't think all owners should be held to this standard. On this note, owners generally make no, little or negative money on Florida villas – so if they are of working age, they are likely to be a doing a full-time job to pay for the villa! So, other than emergencies, it may be after work before they reply.

• I would speak to the owner on the ‘phone at least once too.

• Ask questions. Every owner is different – Dibb owners are used to it but many non-Dibb owners will not give you the property address of the villa before booking for fear of you scamming them (identity fraud).

9) The villa has what you’re looking for

A while back there was a thread about the top 3 priorities guests were looking for. I tallied the top 10 features, they were:
• location/distance to Disney
• not overlooked
• pool area
• modern décor
• budget
• south pool
• size (bedrooms/bathrooms)
• lanai
• view lake/conservation
• wifi

This list (and adding your own to it) will help you decide what your priorities are. From it, you can make your own list of priorities and then if unclear check with the owner to see whether the villa has these features.

10) Flexibility

Owners can be flexible on all sorts, including but not limited to:
• start/end date
• whether you can upsize/downsize villa if the size of your party changes (if the owner has more than one villa)
• check-in and / or check-out time (if they have no booking that day)
• payment plan (mine is normally £300 upfront, balance two months before, but ask if you want something different)
• to change dates once booked (eg once flights are available)
• what’s provided – for example in one case, I didn’t have a particular item of baby equipment, but I said to the guest I’d buy one if they booked.

Some owners will be more flexible than others, so don’t be upset or surprised if an owner is unhappy to give flexibility on a particular thing. There may be valid reasons. I think I’m flexible on most things other needing a completed booking form (Florida law) and price (need to cover costs).

Generally if anything looks odd in any of the ten steps – tell the owner – they may not know. Not all owners are knowledgeable about this stuff.

So that’s how a guest can check an owner is a good, legitimate owner.
What about the other way around?

How can you be a great guest?

There is very little an owner can do in the same way to check whether a guest is going to be genuine.

Guests are typically risking one or two thousand pounds, owners are risking one or two hundred thousand pounds.

The main things as an owner am I looking for are:

Read the listing so we’re not wasting each other’s time (life’s too short!) – for example, there is no point asking for a discount if the listing says the rates are firm.

Be efficient - with a full-time job and administering around 100 bookings a year across three villas, it is very much appreciated when guests do things proactively, rather than me having to chase.

Read the booking form. Read it fully, complete and sign it – villa rental only works if owner and guest expectations are clarified and are similar – I have found where it is an effort to get guests to read/complete a booking form, the whole thing is hard work … the ease of which a guest returns a booking form is a frighteningly accurate guide to what a guest will be like.

Work with me.

• If before your stay, if you think I've forgotten to do something, let me know, don’t let resentment fester.

• If when you arrive everything’s great, tell me (shortly after their arrival once of my guests simply wrote “Everything is great, Thank you”, which was excellent guest etiquette, really puts your mind at ease as an owner) and tell others (so they’ll stay too!).

• If there’s a problem, let us know and be patient - give us a chance to fix rather than leaving a less than perfect review and it’s the first we’ve heard of it. Don’t trash our reputation … if I saw a guest had left a bad review/post, but all the owner’s other reviews were great, there is no way I would rent to that guest. I would sooner a guest trash my home than trash my reputation, physical damage would be easier to put right …

… though of course don’t trash the villa – have to say that's pretty rare in my experience.

Looking for a Dibb villa

In case it is helpful, there are four ways of looking at villas on the dibb:

1) to search by features. (Also see here for features desired by Dibb guests.)

2) to search by location

3) to make a request setting out the dates you are going as far as you can what you are looking for

4) use the Click to see my villa link along the sides of the forum.

And most of all

Have a good time. Enjoy yourself!

Don’t stress – if you’ve done even half of the checks on this thread – you will have done more than 99% of people do to make sure all is well.

So book with confidence and look forward to your holiday.

Whether for you Orlando is a once in a lifetime holiday or a lifetime of holidays, a villa stay is a terrific way to enjoy the Disney area - enjoy it!
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Edited at 09:25 AM. Reason: v1b: ways of looking for dibb villas
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 02:05 PM  
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FamilyGWales
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This is great... A useful sticky or guidebook page perhaps?

Esp as some of the info expands and updates on the current sticky advice thread.

Edited at 02:23 PM.
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 02:10 PM  
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Perfect!
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 03:09 PM  
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A very good and informative post - the villa we usually book was already booked so had to find another . It was quite stressful and I nearly gave in and booked a hotel instead (which would have cost more!). I did discount all that seemed too cheap , had dated furniture (for me dated bedding is the worse) and villas that were for sale or were reluctant to give me their full name or villa address. Sadly most of the suitable dibb villas were gone as we booked quite late - have found one that has just been purchased (so no real chance of being put up for sale yet), has just been refurbished and the owner was happy for me to have all the villa details and even allowed me to put just £5 in his account as I was so paranoid that I would transfer all the deposit into the wrong account by typing in the wrong number! Still slightly worried that I may still be scammed but just have to wait and see for that.
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 03:11 PM  
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Stardust5
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This is fabulous information and help, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to post this. I have just checked the villa we are renting in Orlando as it was booked on Home and Away this year and all looks good. Thanks once again!

Edited at 03:12 PM.
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 03:28 PM  
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Originally Posted by JLH View Post
A very good and informative post - the villa we usually book was already booked so had to find another . It was quite stressful and I nearly gave in and booked a hotel instead (which would have cost more!). I did discount all that seemed too cheap , had dated furniture (for me dated bedding is the worse) and villas that were for sale or were reluctant to give me their full name or villa address. Sadly most of the suitable dibb villas were gone as we booked quite late - have found one that has just been purchased (so no real chance of being put up for sale yet), has just been refurbished and the owner was happy for me to have all the villa details and even allowed me to put just £5 in his account as I was so paranoid that I would transfer all the deposit into the wrong account by typing in the wrong number! Still slightly worried that I may still be scammed but just have to wait and see for that.
After 15 years of owning a guest asked if they could deposit £10 first to check they had done it right and I thought what a great idea - now I suggest this to guests
Rob
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 03:40 PM  
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I agree we always check taxes etc but not everyone knows how. This should be a sticky or in the guidebook.
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Unread 3 Feb 19, 05:02 PM  
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Great post.
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