Vacation Rental Agencies
Take a look at their websites and make contact. Their properties need not be more expensive than direct rentals from owners. In many cases absentee owners want a rental agent to care of the whole process, including arranging for additional services.
Vacation Rental Web Portals
A great idea with many success stories and some disappointments. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the area before you go for a specific property.
HomeAway has a dominant position nowadays when it comes to the medium and higher end vacation rental portals. HomeAway's various web portals have extensive property listings in the Provence: www.Holiday-Rentals.co.uk, VRBO Vacation Rentals by Owner, Homelidays, www.Abritel.fr (in French) and www.FeWo-direkt.de (in German).
For smaller and medium sized vacation rentals try vacationrentalpeople.com, a U.K. based holiday rental, which joined forces with the Travel Directory of the Times Online Edition.
Whether you involve a real estate agent or select directly from one of the internet portals, the question is how do you separate the good, the bad and the ugly?
Once you have identified a property follow this check list:
- Obtain detailed description of the vacation property, its location (near a main road, railway, airport, nightclub or other noise polluters?), its rooms and furnishings, kitchen and kitchen appliances, bathrooms (Europe's standards can be different than in the US, Canada or Australia). Don't hesitate to ask for supplementary information. How far is shopping?
- Inquire about number of beds and bed sizes. Are linen and towels provided? On smaller vacation properties most likely this is not the case.
- Inquire about washer and dryer - most smaller properties do not have dryers.
- Is phone available; if yes unrestricted or incoming calls only?
- Photos are always a good idea, if there are not enough on the website ask for additional photos being e-mailed to you.
- Who will meet you at the house and show you what's what? How is the language situation?
- Inquire about reservation requirements, i.e. deposits or down payments. Ask for a detailed breakdown of what sum has to be paid when.
- Inquire about refundable security deposit, how much, paid when, refunded when?
- Inquire about additional costs, such as electricity, water, phone, cleaning charges, garden & pool service costs. As to cleaning: It is expected that you leave the house in the same condition you found it. Remember that manual labour is expensive in Europe and cleaning services scarce especially on weekends, when most of the changeovers occur.
- What about cancellation? Do you loose all or part of the payments made? In most cases you loose your down payment, the closer you are to the start of the lease, the more you loose. Taking out travel cancellation insurance is always a good idea.
Do not pay anything before you have signed a lease contract. Seasonal rentals are subject only to the civil code (common law) in France. The rental contract can be in form of an exchange of letters or e-mails, but we recommend a formal rental contract signed or agreed upon via e-mail. The rental contract should be precise and contain at least the following:
- address of the rental property
- name and address of owner
- name and address of rentor
- name and address of rental agency
- description of the property or reference to the website, if it describes the property adequately
- any rooms or facilities which cannot be used by the rentor need to be identified
- duration of the rental, including arrival and departure times
- total rent with breakdown of down payment or deposit and due dates
- refundable security deposit, including due date and refund date
- additional costs, such as visitor's tax collected by communities
- additional service charges, if applicable, e.g. real consumption of water, electricity, gas, telephone and linen. How is it paid? Is it charged at the end against the security deposit?. In these cases ask for the meter readings at the beginning and end of the stay!
Remember - you need to be comfortable with the agent or owner and they with you.