Booking a vacation rental online? Read these tips first

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Finding a rental home for your next vacation is easier than ever, thanks to a number of online services.

Here are just a couple of the more popular digital choices, designed to connect you with the right property:

Airbnb – A premiere rental site with more than 600,000 listed properties worldwide including castles. Yes, castles. Just choose your location, trip dates and number of guests; then search.

Home Away‘s vacation rentals –  This family of rentals boasts more than 950,000 rental properties worldwide. Websites like VRBO and VacationRentals.com are easy to navigate and let you fine tune your search with filters for amenities and price.

HomeExchange.com – For those who want to swap a house with travelers from another city or country. You can browse properties in your desired city of travel or choose a destination based on who wants to stay in your city.

Although services like those mentioned above can offer money savings and convenience, they can also bring problems for consumers.

The North Alabama Better Business Bureau tells WHNT News 19 there have been 186 complaints filed in the past 3 years about Airbnb.

A recent review of some of those complaints, done in April 2014, found issues regarding “cleanliness, items in the unit not working as they should, and difficulties in receiving a refund due to an inability or unwillingness to stay in an unclean environment.”

Airbnb responded to the BBB with a statement encouraging guests to “review listings, converse with hosts and read posted reviews before booking.” The company added that, “In the rare event that something goes wrong and a customer is dissatisfied with their Airbnb experience, there are several ways to address the problem.”

The BBB also offers the following general tips for anyone looking to book a vacation home rental online:

  • Start Planning Now – Rental properties in popular locations get snatched up quickly so start your search early before all of the best properties are booked.
  • Do your Homework – If you plan on enlisting the help of a business, such as a third-party Web site or professional service, to connect you with a renter, always check them out with BBB first at bbb.org.
  • Manage Your Expectations – A home rental is not a hotel so you can’t necessarily expect the same level of professionalism, cleanliness or modernization. Some companies will guarantee that the property meets your expectations. If a guarantee isn’t being offered, consider travel insurance.
  • Take a Virtual Tour – Sometimes the pictures and descriptions of the property posted by the renter can be deceiving. Research the property on your own online and take a virtual tour of the surrounding area using Google Maps Street View. Don’t be tentative about asking plenty of questions about the property.
  • Get it all in Writing – Make sure that all of the verbal agreements are included in the rental contract including details on the deposit, rules on pets, refunds, and what is included in the cost of the rental such as utilities, Internet, etc.

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