Saturday, July 6, 2013

Our Side of the Fence...

For those of you who are wary about booking a vacation property online through VRBO, it IS possible to have a worry free booking if you are smart.  VRBO's carefree insurance policy does not cover EVERYTHING, so make sure you read the fine print before assuming anything.  Although there are a lot of predators out there trying to phish owner's emails and scam potential renters, most victims of phishing mention that they "felt weird" or got a "bad feeling" that they ignored.  Then they wired money to.......who knows where.  (Again I stress--- NEVER wire money!)

 I found this on a website from a VRBO owner in Bellingham, Wa who described things "on our side of the fence."  I just love it because this is exactly how I feel, and probably how EVERY vacation rental owner feels:

 1) We do a little happy dance every time a new inquiry comes in from VRBO. It is by far the biggest and highest quality referrer for us.
2) We do our best to follow up immediately by phone and by email
3) We celebrate when we get a commitment to rent
4) We cry when people bail out or cancel.
5) We have never asked for a wire transfer. We deal with personal checks mostly and credit cards.
6) Trust goes both ways. We run the risk of people showing up and trashing the house or executing a charge back. We worry about this every time.
7) We are heartbroken when people don't write anything in the guestbook.

Owners, (or at least GOOD owners), CARE!  We really do.  You will be able to feel that we care, you will be able to get a hold of us, and you will receive customer service from people who LOVE their rentals, not just people who work for them. 

Happy Renting Everyone!  Hope this summer is awesome for you!

BTW--- we just returned from Maui and have fabulous new pictures of our updated d├ęcor and new panoramic views from our condos.  More like this, coming soon!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beware of Craigslist Scam

The Vacation Rental Industry is a wonderful thing

.......... and so of course the internet scammers have started to attack it. 

Someone named "Brenda" is using our Mana Kai Condo #404 in a Craigslist ad and offering it for $100/nt.  Luckily there are several scam-savy people out there who were able to find me through our rental website and let me know of the fraud.  I'm doing what I can to get the ad removed, but unfortunately there's not much I can do.  The best thing is to educate renters and be smart.  Trust, but verify!

Here are Some Tips to Avoid Vacation Rental Fraud:

1. Renting by owner is a great way to get a good deal and personalized service.  However, going through a legitimate rental site; i.e  (Vacation Rental by Owner) is the best way to go.  VRBO and the other HomeAway Connect websites have a security team and even offer rental protection plans.

2. Never NEVER wire money.  We don't allow any kind of wiring or bank transfers, but this will be the scammers preferred method of payment.  Credit cards are the safest way to go for both renters and owners since they have insurance and dispute plans.  We also take personal checks, but we require full payment a month before a stay so we can verify that a check is good.

3. Look for fishy wording in the ad or emails.  Many times the scammers don't know proper English or will try to pressure you into making a quick decision.  Here is a line directly from "Brenda's" email:
You will need to secure reservation for now if you really need it, because i do my business first come first serve and if you book it now i can reserve it for you alone.

4.  When in doubt, CALL!  I love talking to potential renters and answering questions.  It makes ME feel better about who's staying in our properties.  Scammers don't want to talk.  In fact, the "Brenda" in the Craigslist ad gives a google phone number that you can text, and states she has a hearing impairment so she can't talk on the phone.  Hmmm.......BIG RED FLAG.

5.  If it sounds too good to be true.......STOP and THINK.  It probably is.  I mean, I give good last minute deals, but $100/nt to stay in a luxury condo on Maui's best beach?   Nope.

 If you do talk to someone on the phone with an accent, that is NOT necessarily a red flag.  I mean, my father has an accent, and many people in Hawaii have accents.  Be wary about demeanor, pressure, strange email addresses, or no contract.  "Brenda" took pictures off my website and emailed them to her potential victims, so pictures and maps are not necessarily safe either.  When in doubt, ask for pictures that AREN'T already on the web.  I have many MANY pictures that I didn't post online, and most owners will too.

I want people to feel good about renting directly by owner, and as an owner I will do everything I can to make customers feel safe about the place they've chosen to rent.  Most owners, (at least good owners), will feel that way too and will do what they can to reassure you.  Go ahead and ask.  And ask.  And ask!  Don't worry too much about offending an owner--- it's better to be safe than sorry!