Booking a vacation rental property through a website like HomeAway can save you a lot of money when compared to booking a standard hotel. However, there are a few differences between booking with a recognized hotel and staying at someone’s personal home for a vacation. Though booking a stay at a person’s home can be much more comfortable than a hotel room, there are some reasons to be concerned when it comes to your safety when using a website such as HomeAway.com or VRBO.com.
In this article, we’ll help you determine if HomeAway is safe to use, and give you five tips for staying safe while using the vacation property booking service (if you choose to).
So, how safe is HomeAway?
HomeAway is as safe to use as any other booking website that allows you to book a stay at someone’s dwelling. In fact, it is perhaps safer than other websites due to their property damage protection, insurance, secure communications, fraud protection, deposit protection, and 24/7 customer service.
HomeAway offers many ways to protect your money, as well as your personal safety. As long as you use reasonable precautions, it is unlikely you will experience a safety issue. Try using these six tips to help make sure you stay safe when using HomeAway.
6 safety tips for using HomeAway
1. Do your research, and read as much as you can about the property
It is never wise to book a vacation on a whim, even if the price seems too good to be true. Oftentimes, there’s a reason a price is so low. Make sure you always take the time to view a property listing in full before booking. The website offers a breakdown of all amenities and everything included in the price of your booking, as well as reviews from previous guests.
You should always read as much as you can about a property, and even compare it to other similar properties in the area. This helps you figure out if the property is being accurately represented by the owner. It is always a good idea to do as much research as you can on a property that you like, including seeing if the property is listed on other websites, and reading as many reviews of the property as you can – especially recent reviews and poor reviews.
2. Make the property owner accountable for your safety
Researching the physical property is not enough – make sure to research your host as well. See if you can find any of their online profiles, and check to make sure that the information they provided is consistent. Be sure to ask your host as many questions as you feel are necessary to feel safe before your stay. If you see a negative review of a host or their property, ask them about it. If anything about the host seems strange to you, contact HomeAway’s customer service to report suspicious activity.
3. Always use the HomeAway website and its secure services
Never, ever, offer to pay a property owner outside of the website, and do not arrange to contact them using a method other than what is made available to you on HomeAway’s website. If a host is asking for money without using the secure payment system, it is likely their listing is a scam. There is never a valid reason for requesting payment outside of its secure server, so never agree to this.
In addition, the communication methods provided by HomeAway are for your protection and the protection of the property owners. To prevent things such as fraud or identity theft, the secure HomeAway communication system is what you should always use to contact your host. HomeAway will also provide your host with the information they need about you, so beware of giving out additional information if a host requests it. Try contacting its customer service team first to see if the host truly needs that information.
4. Purchase insurance and utilize HomeAway’s guarantees
HomeAway provides two guarantees for its guests, and offers its own brand of insurance to protect your money. It is always wise to purchase insurance for your vacations, as you never know what could happen before or during your stay. This allows you to protect yourself from problems that are caused by your host, or things that could happen that are simply out of anyone’s control (such as a natural disaster).
Also remember that you can also contact its customer service team and fill out a form to request the “Basic Rental Guarantee” or the “Book with Confidence” guarantee. See “How Reliable is Booking on HomeAway?” below for more information about these guarantees.
5. Connect with your host and be courteous
Make sure to utilize HomeAway’s secure forms of communication to make a connection with your host prior to your stay. Not only can you let them know things that could be a necessity to your stay, but you can develop a personal relationship before arriving. This helps to ensure you will be safe while staying at their property. It is likely that hosts would want to get to know you, too, so beware of hosts who refuse to answer any of your messages or make any kind of connection with you prior to your visit.
6. Let someone know where you are staying
When using a website like HomeAway, it is always wise to inform a family member or close personal friend exactly where you will be staying, and for how long. Give them as much information as you have about the property owner, and then check in with them periodically – especially when you check in.
How reliable is booking on HomeAway?
HomeAway is a reliable website to book a stay at an owner’s location, as it offers its users many guarantees to help protect their money when booking with HomeAway. The “Basic Rental Guarantee” and the “Book with Confidence Guarantee” both protect the investment of the guest in case of cancellation, fraud, and more.
Here are some of the service’s best features that ensure your booking can be made with confidence:
The “Basic Rental” Guarantee
Similar to typical traveller’s insurance offered by many websites, the “Basic Rental” guarantee gives every guest of HomeAway confidence in their booking. It protects payments, deposits, and rental fees up to $1000 for any property listed on the website. If you incur a loss of funds due to internet fraud, and are not reimbursed by the property owner or your bank (or payment provider), then you may request the “Basic Rental” guarantee.
The “Book with Confidence” Guarantee
Once your stay has been accepted by the property owner, you are eligible for the “Book with Confidence” guarantee. This entitles the user to protection from many possible issues that could go wrong before their stay. If you have reserved a stay using the HomeAway checkout, and have paid using an acceptable form of payment, you are protected from/entitled to the following:
- Your full rental payment is protected against internet fraud, phishing scams, wrongful denial of entry, and misrepresentations of the property
- 24/7 customer service to assist with any issues the guest experiences prior to, during, or after their stay
- Rebooking assistance to assist the guest with finding a suitable replacement for their stay, should it be cancelled by the owner last minute
- Security deposit protection if your deposit is wrongfully withheld from you
With this guarantee, you can feel confident that your booking will be honored, or refunded if there are any issues. HomeAway still encourages guests and owners to help each other with issues, but guarantees a refund for the guest if any of these issues occur before or during the stay.
As with any booking website, there are potential dangers associated with booking a stay at a person’s residence. But by using these tips and accessing the HomeAway guarantees, your experience should be easy, and (hopefully) without any loss of money. Now that you know about staying safe with HomeAway, check out our next tutorial: a review of HomeAway to see if it is the right booking website for you.