Planning that summer vacation isn’t what it used to be!!  After 30 + years in the rental industry as an owner/manager and really getting to know what our guests have come to expect in a rental property, I can offer you a little insight into the process of finding a reputable owner/managed vacation rental.  First, filter down your search to owner managed/operated properties!  These properties are usually where you’ll find more insightful information from the owner themselves, rather than from a large company.  Because you are dealing with the owner, you should get great customer service!  To filter your search further:




  1. Call or email and ASK QUESTIONS!! If you get no answer, leave a message.  If the owner doesn’t call you back, this is not the place for you!!  Talking directly with the owner is a great way to get a good feel of how your vacation experience will go.
  2. Ask if the owner is independent of booking sites. Although most booking sites provide ease and anonymity, they also include booking and service fees. Many owners have their own websites, can be contacted directly and provide alternative methods of paying to avoid booking and service fees altogether.  Be sure to ask!!
  3. Get a quote in writing! All reputable owners will gladly supply an itemized quote!  If you don’t understand an item, ask!  There should be no hidden fees!!
  4. The deposit. Don’t forget to factor this into your budget. Also, be aware of the process by which your deposit will be returned. Understand what conditions must be met in order for you to get your deposit back.
  5. Research the property. Make sure the owner owns the property!  This may seem elementary, but there are scammers out there willing to take your money in return for nothing!  Is there a website where you can check ownership?  Does the property have a personal website?  Are there reviews of the property?  Is there someone available to verify they have stayed at the property before?
  6. Make sure the property is a perfect fit for you and your family. Ask about the sleeping arrangements, number of rooms and number of beds.  If a laundry is important, ask if there is a place for laundry.  What is included in the kitchen?  In the bathrooms?  Is parking included?  Does the property have internet?  How does the cleaning work?  Do I need a car?  Is there a grocery store nearby?  What amenities are available?  Is it noisy?  Is it family friendly?  Pet friendly?
  7. Find out who you’re renting from. Research the owner, not just the home. Do a little detective work.  Today’s social media makes it easier than ever to check someone out!  Just enter the name of the owner and see what information comes up!
  8. Avoid group-think. As soon as you decide to go on vacation, everyone else wants to join in on the fun! Sometimes a big house works for some, but not others! Extended families and friends may need to be broken up into smaller groups as opposed to fitting them into one house. It gives everyone more privacy and is easier on the finances, because you don’t have to argue over a large bill at the end. The owner should be able to help you find other accommodations for everyone nearby, if this happens.
  9. Review the contract. You’re not checking into a hotel; this is more like renting an apartment. If you want to review the contract in advance, ask! What are you responsible for doing?  How are special situations handled?  How are weather/environmental related disasters handled?
  10. Stay flexible. Remember, you’re renting someone’s home. Some things may go wrong. The plumbing may back up, the air conditioner/heater may stop working, you can’t access the internet or the code to the door won’t work. Will there be someone available to help you, both on and off site, if something like that happens?
  11. Ask for insider information! The owner knows the area and will be able to offer a wealth of information!!  They should be more than willing to point you in any area of interest!
  12. Get A Contact Number.  Make sure to get the owner’s phone number just in case there is a problem.  If the owner doesn’t live near the property, be sure to get a contact number of the housekeeper or maintenance person. You’ll be glad you did!

As owners, we know the process of nailing down the perfect rental can take a while, sometimes taking a couple of hours and sometimes taking a week or more with back and forth questions.  But, the reward in the end is a wonderful experience for both you and me!   By allowing us to help you find a rental property that’s ideal for you and permitting us to answer all your questions to make your experience as close to perfect and memorable as possible, you allow us to take pride in knowing you’ll have a wonderful vacation!

Are you interested in staying with us with no booking or service fees?  Contact me (Karen deBarros) for all the answers to your questions about our Ocean Villa Condo rentals in beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.  Email at or call at 800-478-0591