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Old 3 Feb 19, 01:07 PM  
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Villa checks

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!) there can be when booking a villa. In the words of Ronald Reagan, ‘trust but verify’.

The main things you may want 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.

Do as much checking as you feel comfortable with. You may find after the first few items, everything is checking out, and you feel comfortable. 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 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 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) 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, probably around 30% of the time.

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

• 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.

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. 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.

Ask questions. It is better to make sure everything is right before booking.

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. The top 10 features, 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
• to change dates once booked (eg once flights are available)
• what’s provided – eg baby equipment.

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.

Generally if anything looks odd – 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.

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 respectful - Villa owners are humans with feelings too. Don't expect them to lend you the keys to their homes if your approach is disrespectful. A query that just says 'Best price.' is likely to get what it deserves - no reply.

Be efficient - most owners have a full-time job so it is very much appreciated when guests do things proactively, rather than 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 – generally 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 your owner. If there's a problem - say - give the owner a chance to fix it, don't let resentment fester. If everything’s great, a simple email: “Everything is great, Thank you”, is excellent guest etiquette, and tell others (so they’ll stay too!).

Edited at 07:13 PM. Reason: v1c: prune
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Old 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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Old 3 Feb 19, 02:10 PM  
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theDIBB Guidebook
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Perfect!
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Old 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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Old 3 Feb 19, 03:11 PM  
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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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Old 3 Feb 19, 03:28 PM  
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Lisbon
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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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Old 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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Old 3 Feb 19, 05:02 PM  
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Great post.
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Old 3 Feb 19, 07:55 PM  
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A very good guide, but what checks should an owner conduct on potential renters.?
A rental agreement is a two way thing. Should we do a means test for each enquiry?

Common sense has to come into it at some stage as well as the views of previous guests.
We talk to every guest and try to keep them informed at various stages prior to their vacation. We hope to find out a bit about them and are open to them in asking any questions of us. It has worked well for 13 years for us and we hope in turn it has put our guests in a good frame of mind.
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Old 3 Feb 19, 08:14 PM  
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Brilliant post. I have rented from Dibb owners and elsewhere and this is very informative, especially for anyone considering renting for the first time.
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