How to Find Your Vacation Home-Away-From-Home

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Rebecca Harpster
Golden Gate Better Business Bureau

There’s nothing like the comfort of returning to your home after being away on vacation. Living in a hotel and eating out for every meal can leave you feeling out of whack. One solution for this problem is renting a house or apartment. 

Although renting a home for your next vacation is a great way to get your own space and feel more comfortable, it comes with additional risk. In 2016, consumers nationwide filed more than 1,100 complaints with Better Business Bureau (BBB) about vacation rental companies. The most common issue was an inability to get a refund, but consumers also complained about poor service and deceptive sales.

The following tips from your BBB can help you avoid problems and find a relaxing place to call home during your next trip:

  • Check BBB. Whenever you’re interacting with a new business, it’s smart to check There you can see a business’ rating, complaint history, and reviews from past customers. Make sure to do your research and keep an eye out for red flags, like unanswered complaints or major advertising issues.
  • Steer clear of rental scams. Nearly 350 rental scams were reported to BBB Scam Tracker by consumers nationwide in 2016. Around 40% of reports involved a monetary loss, and the median loss was $350! In a rental scam, you find a great place to rent while browsing the web, usually on a classifieds site. Everything is handled online, and you prepay for your vacation rental. When you arrive, you find out that the property either isn’t available or doesn’t even exist! Only rent from trustworthy companies and reputable home sharing websites (look them up on, and steer clear of properties advertised by individuals on classifieds sites. It’s also best to use a credit card because they offer more protections than debit and prepaid cards. For more tips on avoiding rental scams, visit
  • Be careful booking through a third-party site. It’s usually safer to book your rental directly through a rental company, but you may be tempted to use a third-party booking site that’s advertising the best deals. It’s important to do your research – of the 7,000 complaints about travel agents and bureaus that BBB received in 2016, more than 2,300 were against online travel agencies. Steer clear of unprofessional-looking sites, consider using a trustworthy BBB Accredited Business, and always read the contract and refund/exchange policies carefully.
  • Considering a timeshare? In a timeshare, a business subdivides individual units in to time interval ownership plans, which you can then buy. It may feel good to “own” your own vacation home, but be careful. In 2016, nearly 2,400 complaints were filed on vacation timeshare companies. The majority of complaints (54%) were about sales. Many complaints involve false advertisements and overly-aggressive sales tactics. Consumers frequently complain about attending an hours-long timeshare presentation in exchange for a “free” vacation, but in the end are charged a lot of money for the trip. Check out the company on, read the contract thoroughly, and don’t feel pressured when talking to a sales person.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams were the fourth most reported scam to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016. According to the BBB Risk Index, they’re also the tenth riskiest scam overall and second most risky for consumers 65 and older. If you receive an unsolicited email, letter, or phone call claiming that you won a free vacation, don’t believe it! You’ll never have to pay upfront to receive a free prize, and never wire money to someone you don’t know. More than 300 travel and vacation scams were also reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016, and they were the second most risky scam for service members and veterans. Many reports involve “free” trips and phony rentals. Learn more at and

If you encounter a travel, rental or prize scam make sure to report it BBB Scam Tracker at to help warn others! After your trip, let BBB know about your rental experience by writing a Customer Review on

You can reach your BBB at or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting