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Are you looking to rent a vacation home but want to avoid fees from some of the world’s top platforms? It’s true, vacation rental platforms do inflate the prices of rentals as homeowners have to pay fees to list, sometimes a percentage of the booking, and taxes. For this reason, it can be tempting to find a way to book a vacation rental directly from the owner and pay a lower price. Here’s the lowdown on vacation rentals without fees and how to rent directly from the owner, from finding lower prices to being careful of fraudulent sites:

By Natee Meepian/Shutterstock
By Natee Meepian/Shutterstock

Non-Regulated Rentals

It’s worth remembering that by renting through an owner, you’re most likely using a non-regulated platform and you really need to trust the owner before giving them your hard-earned cash. In turn, the homeowner also has to trust you, as for the vacation period, you’ll be living in their property, which they will have worked to own and to decorate. Trust is key in a direct rental situation. 

Lower Prices

The great thing about renting from an owner directly is that you can often find a much better deal. Not only will the price be lower but you can also try to haggle and negotiate directly with the owner for an even lower price. If a homeowner has made the decision to do a direct deal, it’s likely because they don’t want to pay fees themselves and are looking for an agreement that’s beneficial to both themselves and you. You might be able to find prices as much as 30 percent lower than if you tried to rent through an online platform — meaning much more money for your pocket and fun vacation activities. 

Alexander Mils
Alexander Mils


Facebook and other social media platforms can be a good way of finding vacation rentals. You’ll need to search for a particular area on Facebook, for example, Paris, and explore home rental pages in Paris. You’re likely to find a few groups listed on Facebook if it’s a major tourist destination. You’ll need to become a member of the group on Facebook and then you can watch posts from homeowners who are listing their properties, or you can post yourself, detailing what you’re looking for, and for what dates you want to travel. It’s better to message a lister privately and have a conversation about prices instead of commenting in the public feed. Be careful not to send any security deposits to the owner unless you feel confident it’s a genuine listing. Messaging privately between yourself and the owner is a great way to establish a rapport and grow trust. 

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Watch Out For Fraud

Take care! You have to be really careful when renting from non-regulated platforms and directly through the owner. To take Craigslist as an example, you can find great vacation rentals deals on the site — but there’s a risk of falling into one of the many vacation rental scams whereby fraudulent groups have stolen millions of dollars through fake listings. 

Crooks have been posting fake listings as a way to lure oblivious vacationers into their arms. One of the best-known scams is that a person creates fake listings on platforms such as Craigslist, which isn’t regulated in the same way as official home rental sites, and a hopeful vacationer tries to rent the property, without knowing that the property doesn’t even exist.

It’s an easy business — scammers just upload photos that have normally been stolen from an official home rental site, write a bit of descriptive text, set a bargain price, and then ask you for a security deposit to be directly transferred to them. What’s then happened is vacationers travel to the address given to either find that the property doesn’t exist at all, or it does exist, just that the real owners have no idea that it’s been rented. It’s a holiday nightmare. 

Christin Hume
Christin Hume

Search Engines

If you’re using a search engine like Google, you need to be careful what pages you trust, as there can also be scam sites listing properties. You may, however, have success finding a forum for the area you want to go on vacation, and as with social media, you can post in the forum and see if anyone is renting their property directly.

Ask for a Contract

Even though the rental deal is ‘off-line’ and happening between just you and an owner, it’s worth asking for an official contract. Read the contract and the small print thoroughly. A property owner should already have a standardized contract that they can send you — if they don’t send one to you one automatically, make sure you ask. If they claim not to have one, it shouldn’t take them long to research and draft a copy for you. You should insist on some form of a written contract before sending any money.

Cytonn Photography
Cytonn Photography

Rules and Regulations

It’s worth reading up on the basic rules and regulations surrounding vacation rentals. In some parts of the world, short-term rentals are illegal, and in others, there are strict rules. Homeowners may try to rent directly with vacationers in order to avoid these rules. The risk is that a vacationer could be booted out of a vacation rental mid-holiday if officials are to come to the scene after reports of an illegal vacation rental. Before accepting a vacation rental, do some research and be sure that what you’re paying for is legal. 

Service Fees

Many sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, all charge a service fee. This often gets added on to your booking, so you’ll leave paying for the actual rental, plus a service charge, plus a cleaning fee. In turn, they often charge a listing fee for homeowners, so the platforms are pocketing a hefty sum of money both ways. Some platforms offer a free-to-list model, however, there’s not as much visibility offered as if you pay to list. This is the main appeal to rent directly — avoiding the service fees and having more money in both the owner and the vacationers’ pockets.

Volkan Olmez
Volkan Olmez
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