Online portals can help search for holiday homes


Berlin : Holidaying in Spanish fincas in Mallorca or a short break in a penthouse in London are two of the trends that continue to enjoy popularity at present.

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It’s not just families who are taking advantage of this form of independence; singles and business travellers are also opting to forego hotels and pensions.

Together with the supply of mainstream commercial holiday-homes, a growing number of private individuals are advertising their homes in newspapers and online.

Although many of the private deals on offer at the moment look very promising, Sabine Fischer of Germany’s Consumer Advice Centre in Potsdam recommends spending a little extra time examining online holiday home advertisements.

Fischer says the final price should include the cost of cleaning, electricity and VAT. It’s also important to know the address of the landlord.

You should demand a written contract including every detail before you begin your journey, says Miro Morczinek who runs the online holiday home agency

Potential holiday home renters should also be aware of the general terms and conditions that apply.

“The landlord is not liable to point out which law of jurisdiction applies,” Sabine Fischer explains.

If nothing else is agreed, the terms of contract on a holiday home rented within the EU are governed by the laws of the country where the residence is located.

It’s also essential to immediately inform the landlord of any problems that occur. Otherwise you may end up in the situation where the landlord says, “You approved that at the time of renting.”

Private holiday homes are especially attractive because there are no transaction costs involved in an online booking. The homeowner must pay any charges connected with the deal.

It’s often the case that holidaymakers and homeowners have direct contact with each other through email. “Some 99 per cent of enquiries are by email,” Morczinek says.

But it’s not just consumer advisers such as Sabine Fischer who view that method of contact sceptically. Professional holiday home agencies are wary too.

“Anyone who books a holiday home exclusively online or by email should be careful,” says Oliver Frank, president of Germany’s Association of Prefab Home Agencies (VDFA).

It’s always a good idea to ring the landlord directly and not just over a mobile telephone number. It makes sense to ask exactly where the property is located; whether it’s near a road, in a residential area or close to a shopping or entertainment district.

If you’re not sure if the property exists, then try entering the address and the name of the homeowner into an online search engine.

Some online forums can help you find out if the deal is serious or not, according to the VDFA.

One way to avoid disappointment is to choose a holiday home with more than one recommendation, according to the French portal

Everyone who rents a home through the portal is asked for feedback, according to Florent Mamelle, the portal’s manager.

“That feedback compensates for the fact that we have not seen the property ourselves,” he says.