|Frequently Asked Questions|
Q. Does VacationsFRBO charge a service fee?
A. Absolutely not! Personally, we think charging a "service fee" is an outrage! Who in their right mind wants to pay an extra 8% to 14% on top of the rent, cleaning fee and taxes that are already being charged? Would you book a hotel room, an airplane trip, or order a product from Amazon if any of these businesses charged you an extra 8% to 14% just for doing business with them? Why should the vacation rental busines be any different?
And for what "service"? This "service fee" goes directly to the listing website; not the property owner who is doing all the work of purchasing the vacation property, paying the taxes and insurance, preparing the vacation rental, paying a listing fee to the website, welcoming the guest, addressing any issues that arise during the guest's stay, etc., etc.
At VacationsFRBO, you will find many of the exact same properties that are listed on sites that charge a service/booking fee. Help stamp out this outrageous service fee practice by contacting the owner directly through VacationsFRBO!
Q. May I call/email the owner prior to booking?
A. Yes! Most owners publish their telephone number directly on the listing. If not, you may send an inquiry requesting that the owner calls you. Unlike some of the websites that charge a "service fee", your email is never filtered to prevent direct communication with the owner.
Our mission at VacationsFRBO is to bring owners and guests together. We do not attempt to control the interaction or impose any terms and conditions on the rental process.
Q. How do I know if a listing is legitimate?
A. Unfortunately, given the prevalence of fraud on the internet in this day and age, one should probably start from a position that every transaction is potentially fraudulent, then take steps to satisfy oneself that it is indeed legitimate. Too often we hear of cases in the news where innocent people are victimized by just assuming that all is well and being too trusting. Take positive steps to establish the legitimacy of the other party and walk away from any transaction that does not pass your tests. Below are some general guidelines and ideas for establishing a satisfactory comfort level.
First of all, whenever a new listing is posted on VacationsFRBO, we take steps to establish its legitimacy. These steps are not listed here so that potential scammers do not have a checklist of what to avoid. However, despite our best efforts, there is no 100% guarantee. Please note that even the "big name" vacation rental websites issue the same caution.
One simple test is how long the owner has been posting on the VacationsFRBO website, which is posted in the Contact Owner section of every listing. An owner who has been online for years is virtually guaranteed to not be fraudulent, simply because either a fraudulent listing would have been reported or the scam artist would have moved on. This does not mean that every new listing is suspicious, however. The length of time is just one checklist consideration in the process of establishing a satisfactory comfort level.
The general advice we have for renting parties is to try to make payment via a credit card or PayPal. Electronic payment gives both parties some assurance of legitimacy and some dispute recourse.
Many owners, though, do not have a merchant account to collect by credit card, but every owner can use PayPal. Using PayPal, though, requires some setup effort, as the account needs to be verified by PayPal before an owner can receive funds. There is also a fee charged to the person who receives the money, if it is a business account.
Also, be extremely wary of a request from an owner for payment through Western Union or wired funds. In fact, our recommendation is total avoidance. Western Union has an unfortunate reputation for being used by scam artists who will try to convince you that it is safer than wiring money to a bank account. However, either option leaves a guest with zero recourse if the transaction is fraudulent. Once money is wired from your account it is gone for good.
We do recommend that renters ask the owner for references of tenants who have rented from him/her in the past, so that you can call former tenants on the phone. Satisfy yourself that they legitimately rented the unit and are not just a "front" for a scam artist. Another simple check is whether or not the owner has a free email account such as Hotmail or Yahoo as opposed to a paid account such as Xfinity or Verizon. While all free accounts are obviously not fraudulent, a paid account is an indication that an owner has established an account with an internet service provider where some level of authentication has occurred.
Another check that can be made is to "Google" the owner's phone number and the address of the property. While every phone number will not result in findings, quite often the phone number may be listed for a business or some other activity that adds credibility.
If the property address returns listings from sites like Trulia, Zillow and Redfin for the exact same property for sale, with the exact same pictures, that is virtually a sure sign that the "vacation rental" is fraudulent. Scam artists will go to these for-sale websites and copy the pictures, and usually the text descriptions verbatim. As many for-sale homes are written for prospective buyers, the wording oftentimes is not consistent with a rental property.
Another very simple method and request a guest can make of the owner is for the owner to provide the property tax ID number of the vacation rental unit and give you the county where the property is located. Usually you can find this online, but a legitimate owner will instantly know the county name, whereas a scam artist probably will not. You can then search the county auditor's website for the legal owner of the property. Another recommendation is to ask the owner for a copy of his/her driver's license (you can also offer your own as a fair trade).
Guests should insist on a written contract that is clear and contains the names, addresses and phone numbers of both parties. If you are not completely comfortable with the transaction, or it does not feel right for any reason, we recommend that you do not proceed. Better to walk away from a legitimate rental and rent another, than to give your money to a scam artist and arrive at the vacation destination with no place to stay.
Other signs that you may be getting involved in a questionable situation are if the property owner accepts your deposit, then switches units or tells you the unit is no longer available for the dates you requested. Our experience is that this just leads to further complications and you are better off terminating the agreement. Be on the alert for negative signs, like the address of the unit published on the website does not match that of the unit in the rental agreement, the owner never answers the phone at the number supplied or the phone always goes to voicemail. Keep your "common sense" radar alert.
In this day and age, one can never be too careful. While the evidence supports the fact that the overwhelming majority of vacation rentals are very positive for both the owner and the renter, there is always the potential for fraud. And always keep in mind the old adage that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Q. Why can I not search listings by availability date?
A. At VacationsFRBO we allow property owners to use ANY calendaring system that they wish to link to or import. As can be well imagined, it would be a challenge to search any and all calendars for availability dates, as every calendaring system is formatted differently.
Another issue is that by limiting search results to only dates marked available on an owner's calendar, a guest would potentially never see a property that is perhaps booked for a single day that falls within their date search window. Oftentimes guests have flexibility and can easily shift a day or a week in order to stay at that "perfect place".
Also, an owner's calendar may not always be 100% current. The property may appear available on the calendar, but the reality is that the owner had not yet updated the calendar to reflect unavailability. So what good would a search-by-date feature do in such a case? You would still have to contact the owner, only to learn that the property is actually unavailable.
There is always a possibility that some good would come from contacting the owner, though. Perhaps a stay there at some future time?!
Q. What does it cost to list my property?
A. Just $9.95 per year per listing. We like to say that VacationsFRBO listings are "practically free"! Please see Pricing for pricing terms and conditions.
Q. Does VacationsFRBO charge a commission or a percentage of the rent?
A. No - and we never will! There are no hidden fees or "nickel and dime" fees to add more pictures or change your search position. There is just one flat, annual fee of $9.95 per year.
By the way, every listing is automatically rotated through the listing order, so no property gains or loses an advantage. Plus, keep in mind, that the default listing order actually means very little, as guests who are searching can be expected to sort the listings by the number of bedrooms, price, internet availability, etc., which instantly changes the default presentation order.
Q. How can VacationsFRBO run a business by charging only $9.95 per year?
A. VacationsFRBO was started by, and continues to be operated by, four retired persons. We are in business because it keeps us challenged and because we believe that the vacation rental industry is heading down the wrong path by charging "whatever the market will bear". We are not in business to get rich or squeeze every last dollar out of vacation rental owners or guests.
Our aim is to offer an "old fashion" kind of service where owners and guests can talk to each other and where the vacation rental owner keeps 100% of the rent. We will never charge a booking fee nor prevent direct owner-to-guest communication. Lastly, rest assured that we will never agree to be bought out, so these policies are not at risk.
Q. How do I prevent emails from VacationsFRBO (including inquiries) going to my spam folder?
A. Unfortunately with the ever-increasing levels of spam being generated, many email service providers are taking a very protective position regarding blocking emails perceived to be spam. With the increasingly rigid anti-spam measures, the trend appears to be that of an email is "presumed to be guilty, until proven innocent".
Since VacationsFRBO inquiries often legitimately contain references to words like "price", "discount", "fees", "cost" and even words like "dear", "hello" and a long list of other seemingly benign words - any of these words can cause an email to be marked as spam.
What to do? Our recommendation is that you take action to "whitelist" email from VacationsFRBO with your email service provider and email client (like Outlook) if you are using an email client other than your browser. Whitelisting tells the email provider or client to not mark email as spam.
If you have worries about whitelisting email from VacationsFRBO, remember that you can always reverse your whitelisting settings. Also, you may elect to receive all inquires, but independently opt-out of receiving VacationsFRBO newsletters, for example (which we rarely send out). In this fashion, by adding all email from VacationsFRBO to your whitelist, you will be assured of not missing an inquiry from a guest wanting to rent your property.
Since we potentially send emails from different VacationsFRBO accounts, such as "firstname.lastname@example.org" and "email@example.com", we recommend whitelisting email from the entire domain by using "@vacationsfrbo.com".
Here are two easy-to-follow guides with step-by-step instructions for creating a whitelist for various email service providers and email clients:
How to whitelist an email address with Gmail, Outlook.com or Yahoo!
How to Use the Whitelist Option in Gmail
Q. Why are my pictures not sharp?
A. This is caused by uploading a picture that is too small in terms of pixels. Formerly, all VacationsFRBO pictures were displayed in a 400 pixels wide by 300 pixels high viewing window. Now, all pictures are displayed in the larger viewing window of 640 pixels by 480 pixels.
The solution is to login to your account, navigate to the Upload and Manage Pictures link, then delete the "blurry" image(s). Re-upload pictures that are at least 640 x 480 pixels in size. For optimal viewing, your pictures should be uploaded in landscape orientation. Any picture from a smartphone or digital camera will be more than large enough.
Q. Can I list my property if my city is not shown?
A. Yes, absolutely! You can add your city as part of the posting process. Simply login to your account, then select the link titled Add A New Vacation Rental Listing To This Account. You will be prompted to identify the property's location. When you arrive at the city selection, if your city is not on the list of existing cities, you may add your city to the list of cities at the bottom of the page.
Be careful to spell your city correctly, as you will not be able to automatically reverse the operation if an error is made. If an error does occur, please contact us. Any city added to the list must be a legitimate city. Any invalid city that is posted is subject to deletion.
Q. Why does Google not show the correct location of my property?
A. Normally Google does a pretty good job of locating a property based upon its address, especially in the United States. When you enter your address in the data entry form, do not enter apartment numbers or extraneous information. Enter just the building address and the street name or number. Do not enter the city name, state/province or country, as all that information has already been established.
If you have entered an accurate address for your property and Google does not display the marker in the correct location, an alternative is to enter the latitude and longitude directly. There are many ways to determine the latitude and longitude of a location, but one of the easiest-to-use tools is available at https://www.latlong.net/.
Simply zoom and navigate to the location of your property, click on its location and the latitude and longitude will be displayed in the box located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, just above the Facebook/Google/Twitter buttons. Be sure to enter your latitude and longitude numbers into the VacationsFRBO data entry form exactly as shown on the www.latlong.net screen.
Longitudes in the western hemisphere (North and South America) have negative values. Enter latitude and longitude values as decimals with 6 or 7 digits of accuracy. Do not enter latitude and longitude as degrees, minutes and seconds.
Once you have completed the data entry, verify the results on your listing's map. If the location is not correct, make sure you navigated to the correct spot on the https://www.latlong.net/ map and correctly entered the results.
Q. How do I import my calendar from VRBO?
A. Just to be clear, any calendar file that is in the iCal format, meaning a '.ics' file, may be imported into a Google calendar and displayed directly on your VacationsFRBO listing. For an example of how this would look on your listing, please refer to this listing.
To begin the process, you must first create a Google calendar (or use an already defined Google calendar). If you already have a Google account, just login, then select 'Calendar' by clicking the little square in the upper right hand corner of the google.com page. The little square has three columns and three rows of even smaller squares. If you do not have a Google account, you must create one.
Next, login to your VRBO (or other similar calendaring system that supports export of .ics files) and go to your calendar page. To the right of the month and year shown near the top of the page, you will see five squares. The middle square has a down arrow and an up arrow alongside it. Click the square containing these double arrows. Next, click the "Export Calendar" option. You will see a URL that looks something like: https://admin.vrbo.com/icalendar/d550a88xyqpb848gh88ccc1765b3s3048.ics.
Please note that when you hover your cursor over this URL, the cursor changes to a round circle with a slash through it. We suspect this is being done deliberately to give the impression that the URL cannot be copied. However, this is not the case. Simply place the cursor at the beginning of the URL and left-click to do a copy operation. Move the cursor all the way to the far right and the entire URL will be highlighted. Make sure you go to the end of the .ics portion of the URL. Right click and copy this URL, then paste it into a Word document or any text file for use in the subsequent steps.
Please note that if you are already using a Google calendar to manage your vacation rental listings, you can easily display it on your VacationsFRBO listing. You may skip the importing instructions that follow, but scroll down to the section describing how to post your calendar on VacationsFRBO.
From the main Google calendar page, navigate to the far left side of the page, then about half way down you will find a heading for "Other Calendars". Click the down arrow next to Other Calendars and select "Add by URL".
You will then be prompted to enter the URL of the .ics file you saved in the export step above. Enter the complete URL, click the "Make the calendar publicly accessible" box, then click the "Add Calendar" button. You should then be returned to the main Google calendar page where you will see the message similar to: "The calendar at https://admin.vrbo.com/icalendar/d550a88xyqpb848gh88ccc1765b3s3048.ics will be indexed by Google Calendar."
You should then see this new calendar appear below the "Other Calendars" heading. To the right of this new calendar, click the drop-down arrow and select "Calendar Settings". Give your calendar a personal name in the "Calendar Name" field. However, this merely names the calendar as you see it on your own Google calendar page. To change the title that others will see when they view your calendar, you must click the link to the right of the calendar icon (about the middle of the page) that says "Customize the color, size, and other options".
On this page, enter the title that will appear to the public when they view your calendar on your listing. You may also select other options, such as buttons and time-zone, etc. Every time you select or unselect an option, the code in the <iframe> box at the top of the page will change. When you have completed the options selection, click the "Update HTML" button at the top of the bordered box.
You are now almost done! Select and copy all the HTML source code beginning with the <iframe> tag and ending with the </iframe> tag. You will then paste this code into your VacationsFRBO data entry form in the "Google Calendar" field. Make sure that you do not also have an entry in the "Alternate Calendar" field. Only one of those fields should contain an entry, unless you are using the default VacationsFRBO calendar, in which case both of these fields should be blank.
When you are finished with the Google calendar creation & importing process, your "iframe" tag should look similar to the following:
Congratulations! Your imported calendar should now appear on your VacationsFRBO listing.
Q. How do I delete or deactivate a listing?
A. From the Admin Menu, click the link titled Deactivate or Delete This Listing.
Deactivate: Deactivating a property listing means that all the data associated with the property is retained in the VacationsFRBO.com database, but the property listing will not be displayed to potential renters. Use deactivate when the unit is no longer being used as a rental, but may possibly be offered again at some time in the future. Note that as an alternative, you may leave your property's status as active, but mark all days on the Availability Calendar as unavailable. This option lets potential renters view your property for possible future interest.
Delete: Deleting a property listing will permanently remove all data associated with the deleted property. Use delete if you no longer own the unit or there is no chance that it will ever be rented again. To delete a listing you must click both the radio button and check the confirmation checkbox.
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