Is VRBO Safe and Reliable?

Now that we've introduced VRBO, you're maybe wondering: is it safe to use?  After all, you're basically using it to temporarily stay in a space that you've never been to before by paying someone that you've likely never met in your life.  Fear not; this article will tell you what VRBO can do to keep your rentals safe, as well as what you can do to avoid problems with your bookings.

How safe is VRBO?

VRBO is a fairly safe way to book a rental property to stay in while you're out of town.  It has an extensive help section with tips on how to book with confidence, decent customer service, and a few insurance policies that can help cover you in the event that something about your trip doesn't go as planned.

With that said, VRBO takes a rather hands-off approach to the booking process.  Booking is a contractual agreement between you and the property manager, and it is thus the responsibility of the owner to resolve any issues with your stay.  This may include refunding your security deposit or booking payment should your stay prove unsatisfactory.  In extreme cases, VRBO may step in if you ask them.

Top 5 tips for using VRBO safely

1. Look closely at a listing before you book.

Read the listing's specifications, including the cancellation or rebooking policies.  If there are reviews about the property, read those too.  Also look for warning signs that a listing may not be what it seems, such as poor quality pictures of the property, spelling and/or grammar mistakes in the details, or a request for personal information or use of an insecure form of payment (more on that below).

2. Contact the property manager.

If you're on the fence about a property, then try contacting the property manager and asking them some questions.  Will there be extra service fees?  What amenities are available?  What's the surrounding neighbourhood like? 

You can do so by clicking Send Email below their name on the property's information page, filling out the form, and then clicking Send Email at the bottom.  Using VRBO's internal email system keeps you secure by sending your inquiry through a custom VRBO email address instead of your personal one.  If the owner lists a telephone number, you should call and talk with them directly, too.

3. Do some deeper research.

Once you learn where a property is located, you may want to look up the property on Google Maps using Satellite View or Street View (or a similar service that has satellite or aerial photography mapping of places) so that you can compare it against the provided photos.  This lets you see if the property is being accurately represented.  You may also want to ask the owner for contact information for people who have stayed at the property before, and get their opinion on staying there.

4. Buy travel insurance.

You're going on a trip, and VRBO can't protect you from absolutely everything that will happen during it.  So it's a good idea to buy some travel insurance in case you have an unexpected injury or other emergency.  You can also buy insurance from VRBO if you think that you may need to cancel your trip; you can read about it here.

5. Use a secure payment method whenever possible.

Many property owners will allow you to pay for your bookings through the VRBO website with a major credit card, eCheck, or PayPal.  You will see a box labelled "Book with Confidence" on the property information page for properties like this, indicating that payments made toward booking these properties are covered by VRBO's "Book with Confidence Guarantee".  It is advised that you stick to booking these types of properties, and avoid ones that ask you to pay by cash, cheque, or money order.  These payment types are not covered by VRBO's guarantees, and increase the risk of you getting scammed.

How reliable is VRBO?

VRBO is decently reliable when it comes to getting a good property to rent for your vacation.  As long as you do your research and keep in contact with the property owner, you should be able to avoid many common booking pitfalls, and resolve the ones that you do have without needing to contact VRBO directly.

You can also get support, guarantees, or insurance from VRBO if you need it.  However, VRBO is somewhat hands-off in this regard, stating that it's mainly an advertising service and that booking issues should mainly be resolved between the renter and the property owner.  If you're looking for a rental company that's a little more active in enforcing fairness throughout the booking process, try Airbnb.com. Check out this What is Airbnb article to learn more.

There are also many other sites like VRBO out there. And you can use the a rental property search engine like Tripping.com to find all types of rentals!

Alright!  Now that you know a few precautions to take in order to use VRBO safely and effectively, let's go over the pros and cons of using it!

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