Vacation Rentals - How do you handle reservations, deposits?

8 Replies

My daughter wants to rent a condo that's available for daily rentals, like a vacation rental or hotel.  It's listed on Trip Advisor.  The owner asked the deposit (50%) be mailed to reserve the unit, but had no paperwork to offer.  That was over email.  We looked the guy up and turns out the owner is a doctor so she called his work number (that's plastered all over the inet) to make sure it's legit.  It appears to be.  She asked they conduct the transaction through Trip Advisor via email and is awaiting his response.

For those of you that have vacation rentals, how are reservations accomplished, how do you conduct your transactions, do you have paperwork?  I'm interested in the experience of those that have rented condos or homes daily as well.


I take weekly rental reservations for a variety of vacation properties for a living. We frequently request payment prior to filling in and sending the lease, especially if it's over PayPal or by Credit Card - these are all safe transactions for everyone involved. 

If guest is paying by check we email the filled in lease (it has dates, names, contact info of guest and host, addresses, house rules, cancellation policy, disclaimers, etc) for guest to sign and mail in with the check payment. 

I suggest asking for a lease regardless of how you pay. Just so there are no mistakes - it's easy to overbook someone, forget to document a payment, etc. 

Look at how long they've been on the site (Trip Advisor, VRBO, HomeAway, etc) and look at the reviews. These sites will not allow a scammer to advertise. They also have fraud protection for the renters - but you'd have to read more about that not sure how it works.

@Carlos Flores 

We have been "hacking" our home for the last 18 months through Have you heard of it? We rent out our spare bedroom to qualified, positively reviewed travelers who are wanting to stay in a nice home instead of a hotel during their vacation. It has worked out well and we are wondering how we can take this to a larger scale so the entire mortgage is paid through these rentals. They are all short term rentals so everybody is on their best behavior and we don't ever have to deal with that roommate who always leaves dishes in the sink! Important info for you is that Airbnb takes care of all transactions and they mostly make all their income from the traveller and not the host, save for a $15-20 transaction fee. It is mind boggling how easy it is to make a booking as well. All work is done through the website or their convenient app. This could be a great option for anybody wanting to increase cash flow on a vacation rental or to increase monthly income on rented/owned personal space. Imagine having your mortgage paid for and how much extra income that would provide to purchase more properties...just another tool for the tool box on raising capital and being creative. Also meeting now almost a hundred great people from all over the world right in your living room is a great way to live life! 

Does anybody else on BP use Airbnb?

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@Maura Paler  

Only on the site for a few months and zero reviews.  That and him not having a lease is what prompted my daughter to call the owner independently from the email listed on Trip Advisor.  Sounds like the guy is just unorganized, but I'd not convinced it's all legit even though contact was made independently.

@Carlos Flores  

 We have a short term rental house in FL and we use to list it. Just this week they started to accept online bookings. Prior to this, we arranged payment on our own with the guest. We always email a booking form (rental agreement), also ask for a copy of their drivers license, and send them a PayPal invoice at the same time. This way they can review the terms of the rental BEFORE paying. However, we don't consider their reservation locked in until we have received all three things.

I am sure that different sites have different rules and each owner could probably decide for themselves the rental process.

@Mike Bargetto  I looked into Airbnb for listing my property, but it looked like the owner only gets the payment AFTER the guest checks in. Our policy is full payment with no refunds within 6 weeks prior to arrival. This is customary for the area. Is that how Airbnb operates?


Airbnb lets you set a cancellation policy that refunds 50% of the payment, if canceled within four weeks of checkin. You can see the list of airbnb ancellation policies here: