June 7, 2012

Vacation Rentals

Vacation Rental Pitfalls, Resources, and To-Do’s

Real Estate
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It’s June 7th and you’re already bored. The country club’s, well, the country club. (It seemed fun last year.) Your friends are all gone, restaurants are empty. Your personal shopper at Neimans is in Capri, causing you wonder if, indeed, you do spend too much money there every year and how shoe shopping on your own can be so complicated.

What’s the cure? A last minute vacation rental.

I say this because I’ve received three emails from clients this week about last minute rentals and I’m going to lob a call into my New York go-to Mark Cohen at Brown Harris Stevens about an itty-bitty Hamptons rental for a week for myself.

So, with all this in mind, I decided to give a little guide on vacation rentals. I’ve done a lot throughout the years – in every price range, for every type of client – and, believe me, I’ve learned quite a bit. So it here goes:

First and foremost, make sure a vacation rental is really for you. Are you the type who defines “cooking” as eating McCarthy salads in bed at the Beverly Hills Hotel? Was the highlight of last year’s week in New York seeing the guy from The White Stripes in the lobby of the Mercer? Are you opposed to using the same towel to wash the right and left sides of your face? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” you may be better off spending that $75,000 a month budget on the Splendido as opposed to a vacation house that supposedly used to belong to the Ferragamo family and hasn’t been renovated since Ferragamo was considered cool.

Once you’ve decided on the rental, decide how you’re going to go about finding it. My unbiased opinion is always using a real estate agent – like I said above, MARK COHEN is my first call for any sale or lease in Manhattan or the Hamptons – but nowadays many are choosing online options. If you go the agent route, most of the below tips are covered by the agent. If you choose the DIY model, here are a some tips:

If you know anyone in the city you are renting in, pick out one or two of your favorites and ask a friend to go check them out in person. I know it sounds basic, but so often people don’t do this and end up with disaster. It may be “only two weeks” but it’s also your only two weeks of vacation, and it can be really bad if the place you’re staying isn’t good.

Secondly, always ask the landlord for a reference from a previous tenant. If they’re hesitant to give out a number or email then there just may be a reason for it. The nice thing about some sites is that they use the star system to rate landlords.

My third recommendation is basic as well, but people forget that in this age of email there’s nothing like talking directly to your landlord. You’ll immediately get a vibe over the phone you can’t get online. (Same goes for dating, folks. My friends on Match.com always fall in love via email. It’s only on the phone or in person where things don’t go so well.)

Once you’ve chosen your vacation rental, don’t forget to do additional homework. Pull together a list of questions you’ll need to ask the landlord including, but not limited to:

1. Is there wireless internet? If so, what’s the passcode?
2. Is there cell service at the house? Are some carriers better than others?
3. Is there cable or DirecTV? Make sure your channels are hooked-up. If you haven’t missed a Red Sox game since 1971 you don’t want to arrive and find no Extra Innings Package on DirecTV, for example. No bueno.
4. Is the house child-proofed?
5. Is the kitchen totally stocked? Are there linens in the bedrooms? Are there beach towels?
6. Does the landlord have an inventory list? Does he have a list of damages? You'll want to spend your first two hours of your vacation doing a photo inventory. Trust me, you may not think returning the security deposit will be an issue ... until it is.
7. Is there a housekeeper included in the lease price? If not is there someone the landlord could recommend?
8. Is there a pool or beach nearby if the house doesn’t have one?
9. Where is the nearest market? Pharmacy? Hospital? Starbucks? Barneys? (Not in order of importance, of course.)
10. Where will you pick up the keys? (People always forget to ask this then land in the destination city and ... whoops.)

For those of you who don’t want to have to deal with these things yourself – it is called "vacation" after all – I suggest asking your real estate agent to hook you up with someone like Andrea Rapke of THE ORGANIZED MOVE (who is also one of our contributing editors). Andrea and I have worked together on many clients' seamless moves but most recently collaborated on a client who leased a house in Los Angeles for $50,000 a month. When he arrived his refrigerator was stocked with exactly what he wanted, a personal chef was arranged, bottle service at the hottest clubs were reserved and, of course, his Aston was already in the driveway … all courtesy of Andrea and her superstar team.

Now that’s how to vacation.

Photo: Alex with Andrea Rapke of The Organized Move doing a photo inventory at a Beverly Hills vacation lease.


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