Rentini provides useful and exciting travel insights. From adventures to marketing tips for vacation rental owners, we want to help you travel as it's meant to be – easy, refreshing, & fun!

Archive for July, 2012

The Truth About Vacation Rental Scams and How to Avoid Them

Don’t let your dream become a nightmare; Rentini’s got your back!

San Antonio gorgeous estate

Make sure your dream vacation is the real deal.

The horror stories are all over the Internet. Travelers piling out of a taxi, tired and disheveled, but happy and excited because they’ve reached their destination and are about to begin the vacation they’ve been dreaming about. The door opens…to a rude awakening.

“This house?” says the shocked resident. “This house isn’t even for rent!” The dumbfounded travelers learn too late that the sizable sum of money they had paid for a vacation rental is now in the pocket of some scam artist, and they’re left scrambling to make other plans.

Vacation rentals, by their very nature, offer fertile ground for scam artists. Transactions necessarily take place long-distance, and deals are made on the basis of a description and a few photographs. Thousands of dollars may change hands before the renter arrives at the destination.

The scams are easy enough to set up. A fake email account, photos and a description swiped from a sales listing on a real estate website, a bit of creative writing- and a con artist can simply sit back and wait for the fish to bite.

Cyber-criminals are more common than ever before

The Internet is full of cyber-criminals, ready to take what is yours.

Scammers love classified ad sites like Craigslist.org and Backpages.com, where people come in search of bargains and oversight is limited or nonexistent. They frequently target high-end destination markets- South Beach, New York City, Paris- to maximize their profits, and offer tempting below-market-rate deals on stunning homes.

On the other side of the transaction, homeowners may be targeted too, by prospective “renters” who contrive deals typically involving a cashier’s check that’s written for a larger amount than the deposit for some plausible-sounding reason. The plan is changed, the homeowner refunds the overage in good faith- and a few days later the check turns out to have been a fake in the first place.

Using “phishing” techniques, scammers crack log-in info for email and such sites as Homeaway and VRBO; an unsuspecting homeowner may never realize that all the inquiries they looked forward to getting about their lovely home are being sucked through an Internet black hole to John’s Happy Acres Homestay, whereupon John promptly coerces the unknowing travelers into paying by wire transfer for a hot last-minute bargain.

Protecting yourself starts with the time-honored rule that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But not every scam rental is a glaring fake. When you’ve found a place that looks good to you, investigate before you offer any personal information- email asking for more details and photos, establish phone contact with the homeowner or agent, and see if you can verify ownership information for the address- Google Maps or MapQuest can verify that an address actually exists.

A Google search for the address may also reveal whether or not a property is listed for sale through an entirely unrelated owner and broker- real estate listings are a common source for the photos and details that scammers use to create fake ads.

Be wary of requests for payment by Western Union, money order or bank-to-bank transfer. You’re safest paying by credit card.

Here at Rentini, we have safeguards in place to help you plan your voyage or rent your property with confidence. We stay on top of the latest crime trends and work to keep our site a safe place, and we must be doing something right- not one Rentini member has been defrauded or “phished.”

Some of our safeguards include:

• Homeowners have the option of establishing a merchant account that requires a thorough credit check through a US bank.
• Rentini keeps addresses private until a guest decides to book. We recommend that both parties perform due diligence- and we’re here to answer any questions you may have about how to do so, or about our safeguards. Got a question we haven’t already answered? Feel free to contact us.
• If a homeowner has not established a merchant account, Rentini holds your rental payment until 24 hours after check-in. Unpleasantly surprised? Contract violated? Don’t worry, you’ll get your money back.
• Our social connect feature personalizes the relationship between homeowner and guest, adding transparency to your transaction that’s impossible to achieve via email or even phone. Rentini members, unlike random classified ad posters, have profiles and reputations to uphold.
• Rentini accepts only verified reviews from guests who’ve used our service and actually stayed in the home they’re reviewing. If you read it on Rentini, it’s nonfiction!

For more information on how to protect yourself online, please check the following sources:

Wired Safety
http://wiredsafety.org/

Get Safe Online
http://www.getsafeonline.org/

Photo credits, Flickr Creative commons, from top:

Luxury Homes in San Antonio, by ghhomebuying

Online Fraud, by Don Hankins

A travelers guide to Venice

Venice - an ancient seaport of historic wonderWHAT TO EXPECT:

CROWDS! How that many people pack themselves into those tiny spaces is beyond us, but remember, the nice thing about Venice is you can walk everywhere (unless you island hop in a boat) and the minute you move off the beaten path, you’re in a world of magic all your own. ARRIVE EARLY OR LATE… the middle of the day is hot, crowded, stinking, and miserable. (Go find a park and have a picnic to wait it out or, better yet, take a trip to PADOVA or VICENZA)

Don’t get me wrong, Venice is beautiful and mysterious and romantic, the trouble is finding it under the mounds of people that pile in every day. It was not a good first impression of Italy, I would have much rather gone to Florence first.
~Stella likes some personal space.

But Venice is unlike any other place on earth. Gondolas—a couple of great museums—and several quiet cafes with a nice breeze where you can sip iced coffee. But mostly Venice is simply walking around and getting to know it, and then walking some more.

WHERE YOU SHOULD GO:

LOTS OF TOURIST STUFF
Unlike London and Paris, the tourist stuff in Venice is legitimetly interesting. San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Accademia (the square over the bridge), the Domo’s palace… and if you want a whiff of the ocean try a boat to the coast and the beach.

Vitruvian Man, aka Canon of Proportions

Sometimes called “Canon of Proportions,” Leonardo Da Vinci drew this figure in 1487

THE ACCADEMIA
Here’s the place with painting that started the Renaissance, mostly Giotto and early Italians. But also wonderful paintings that show you how rich andimportant Venice was during that time. However, beware of its “modern” art section. It’s small and at the end- thankfully. Masters of art in one epoch… ridiculous sideshow in another.

PEGGY GUGGENHIEM MUSEUM

Dear Peggy lived here and collected a lot of famous artists she liked. You’ll find unusual works by many of them. There’s also an exhibition hall, but don’t expect anything too exciting. Then again, you might be surprised.

Picasso does Klee… Klee does Miro… Miro does Dali… Dali does… Picasso? This is the most bizarre collection of art I’ve ever seen.
~Isaiah  likes some consistency. Some.

Oh, who cares about any of that! This place is staffed entirely by young, attractive, intelligent foreign exchange students! Why can’t we have security guards like this back home?
~Tyson never did get that girls phone number.

Venecia

Venecia

THE CHURCHES

Palladio is one of the most endearing of the Italian architects and he built many of the best examples of his work here. Move around, take boats from island to island, and find the Palladios.

WHERE TO EAT:

Food in Venice comes in three flavors: real authentic food at reasonable prices, real authentic food at tourist prices, and tourist food. You need to get far away from the tourist hot spots (San Marco, etc.) if you want any hope of good pasta. As for the high prices, well, you don’t need to spend that long in Venice anyway. Just expect to pay a bit more for a few days. Important note: real italians don’t eat pizza.

Outside of Venice is a little easier. One of the most amazing restaurants is located in a little Pension on one of the main highways in Padova called the CAFE AT THE HOTEL VENEZIA. It’s an upscale place that really has some of the finest pasta and greatest fish dishes and you’ll find yourself going back and back. As for places to eat inside of Venice, well, just try to avoid the other Americans and you should be ok.

WHERE YOU WANT TO GO:

Murano canal, Italy

Murano canal, Italy

MURANO
In the evening, well after five, take a boat to Murano and experience what a peaceful place it can be. They blow glass during the day, but you can do without that. Just wander around, past the church, into the squares, stop for ice cream. Get the boat back at dusk (check the schedule so that you don’t miss the last one).

There was this kid, his mom was watching him from the window, and he was chasing butterflies around and she was hanging the laundry!
~Stella

The town was completely deserted, but we walked into this bar to find a bidet, and there were about thirty men sitting around playing poker! It was quite bizarre!
~Lily

PADOVA
If you find Venice full, or you just want to sleep somewhere less crowded and less expensive, try Padova. It’s less that a half-hour on the train, and a wonder all to itself. The town square fills with university students and townsfolk at night. They skate, but you can wander there as well.

Teatro Olimpico  Andrea Palladio

Teatro Olimpico Andrea Palladio

VICENZA You’ll want to go spend the day in this extraordinary town which has as many of Palladio’s buildings as any other. The town square is an architecturalwonder, and visit the TEATRO OLIMPICA which is the very first proscenium theater. And remember, Italians take siestas, which means that after noon, you simply rest, sit and drink iced tea, feel the breeze where you can find it, wander back to the train station, and return to where you are staying. You’ll thank yourself.

I fell in love with Palladio in Vicenza. Precision and fleury seem to collaborate to create the genuinely ancient atmosphere. You really loose the track of time.
~Stella

WHERE YOU WANT TO STAY:

Close to restaurants, cafes and shops, this Venice apartment overlooking Rialto and Piazza San Marco is only a few minutes walk from the Rialto Bridge and the ferry landing stage.

Cute apartment near Rialto Piazza, San Marcos, Venice

Cute apartment near Rialto Piazza, San Marcos, Venice

Photo credits from top:

City by the Sea by WTL photos

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

Venecia by Rodrigo_Soldon

Murano Canal by sonofgroucho

Teatro Olimpico by arch_ibd

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This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers

High Quality Photos Make a Difference in Booking Your Vacation Rental

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Here at Rentini, we believe,

“a quality photo could be worth a thousand bookings”…

A better picture brings more bookings

A better picture means more bookings: Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa

We are always exploring new ways to help market properties in an effort to bring homeowners more bookings. That’s why we conducted a survey of travelers regarding how they search out the right vacation rental. We found that 8 out of 10 vacation rental bookings are influenced more by images of the property versus the description of the property. People want to see what they are spending their hard earned money on. Makes sense right? Anyone can try to sell you a “Stunning 2 bedroom, 2 bath home with all the necessary commodities”, but only so many homeowners can actually show you high quality photos of how stunning each room actually is.
For example, between these two properties, where would you rather stay?

Property images
Here? or Here?

Believe it or not, those are photos of the same living room. While the first photo may make you think your looking at a small loft in Brooklyn, the latter photo clearly shows the elegance of this beautiful vacation home in the Hamptons.

Furthermore, according to research done by Trip Advisor; properties with more than 20 photos get 150% more engagement. This should be reason enough to spend the $200 (on average) for a professional photography session for your vacation rental. After all, photos last forever so you should see that cost returned to you within the first booking, and then the next, and so on.

These are reasons why we have created a contest on Pinterest to give 5 lucky homeowners a professional photography session for their homes. Pinterest is currently the fastest growing social network in the world, read more about its benefits in our social media property marketing series here.
Contest instructions and details can be found here for both homeowners and travelers.

Using Pinterest to Market Your Vacation Rental

Pinterest  is one of the newest and most hard hitting players in the social media world. Below we have listed some statistics to get you excited about the platform and why vacation rental owners should be taking advantage of our “Pin-it to win it” contest we just launched.

  • Pinterest is now the 3rd most popular social network (Experian)since it took the internet by storm in February 2012 when it reached 10.4 million users (AppData).
  • Despite it not yet getting as much traffic as Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest is retaining and engaging users as much as 2-3 times as efficiently as Twitter was at a similar time in their history (RJMetrics).
  • Daily Pinterest users have increased by more than 145% since the beginning of 2012. (Mashable)
  • As of January 2012, American users spent an average of 97.8 minutes on Pinterest. (eMarketer)
  • Over 1/5 of Facebook-connected users are on Pinterest daily (which represents more than 2 million members). (AppData)

Pretty impressive right? Now here is how you, as a vacation home owner can take advantage. Pinterest is all about simply sharing nice photos, or pinning, as it’s known on the site. By creating separate boards based on category, location etc. users organize their pins onto designated boards that can be found when users search for specific topics.

In this case we will use travel as the category. When the any user types in “travel” in the search bar, they are presented with any pin that has been labeled with “travel” or “#travel” (hashtags seem to work interchangeably on Pinterests platform). You can adjust your results to focus on specific boards that are labeled as travel, or people with travel in their name.

Pinterest travel boards

Pinterest travel boards

Travel is obviously a popular search term, as are specific vacation destinations, exotic countries and home decoration on Pinterest. Therefore, just by adding these words to a pin of your property, you can be thrown into this mix of users that are searching for their dream getaway. Not only do they just see the picture of your beautiful vacation home, but when they click it they are taken directly to your page. Pinterest acts as a bookmarklet for users so they can come back and find these places again.

This is where we got the idea for our “Pin it to win it perfect getaway” campaign. As homeowners, you simply need to pin your property once with the hashtags #Travel and #PerfectGetaway. By doing so, we have set up the traveler side of the contest to push your pins even further by having them pin your properties with similar hashtags and by creating boards that will keep them in their history forever (as long as they don’t delete them, but who would get rid of such beautiful places?).

With each post, comes a tweet with similar hashtags that are being searched for constantly. More so, they will be shared on travelers facebook pages, expanding the reach of your property infinitely (or at least to as many friends each user has; it adds up!). These are just some basics of utilizing Pinterest as a very simple way to reach more travelers. Stay tuned for more posts about similar ways to utilize Twitter, Facebook and more!

Rentini Pin-it to win it contest

Why Social Media Marketing for Vacation Rentals is Important

Major Social Networks

Social media has become an enormous part of today’s society. It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation without there being mention of a story that happened on a major site like Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. This is because of these astonishing statistics found by online travel studies done by The Social Skinny as well as Google:

  • 62% of adults are now active on some social media websites.
  • Not only are they active, but these websites account for over 22% of the time that they spend online.
  • More specifically, 85% of travelers rely on the internet to get travel information.
  • About 40% of those users were influenced to actually book their trip because of online sources, making the internet the leading source followed by word of mouth.
  • 50% of travelers who came across some travel ad, article or video started dreaming of a vacation.
  • Of those, about 70% ended up actually choosing a destination and making the trip.

Utilizing these communities that travelers are scouring everyday makes sense. Let’s be real here, who isn’t browsing the web in search of everything they want and dreaming of getaways they hope to have? That makes every one of these users a potential traveler. Everyone is captivated by the beautiful, high quality images being posted all over Pinterest, Facebook etc. Of course you can list all your great amenities on your rental page, but these visuals are what really make your property stand out against the rest. Having a properly managed social presence can act as both a marketing billboard for your vacation rental, as well as a customer service center where you can connect with travelers.

This all sounds great but you don’t have time, right? Don’t worry, no need to hire an intern! There is a reason these websites are so popular, and that is because of how simple they are to use. After setting up your pages, which should take no more than 10 minutes, posting and sharing content can be done anytime, anywhere (if you have a smartphone) and within a matter of minutes. Simple posts and photos with the proper tagging/hashtags can bring you the traffic you need to fill your rental calendar.

Follow our social marketing series to find out more on how you can promote your vacation rental through each major social network. Also get involved in our Pinterest contest where you can win a spa package or professional photo sessions for your property just for getting started with social media marketing!

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