Options for Lodging besides Hotels: Short Term Vacation Rentals

by Mike on July 3, 2012

I’ll be in Portland, Oregon later this week with a few friends and the hotel options in the downtown area aren’t too stellar.  There are a ton of independently owned hotels, which I don’t mind, but if I’m going to be paying money for a hotel room I certainly want to be earning points and stay credits.

So the choices of mainstream hotels in the downtown area boils down to: Hilton, Westin or Marriot properties.  Points redemption wise, I rather use my points in another, more expensive city than in Portland, OR.  Last year, I did a paid stay at the Marriott Portland City Center and it wasn’t anything too spectacular.  The rate was pretty decent, but borderlines whether I want to use points or come out of pocket.

Since there’s going to be several of us, I thought about other lodging options, especially since we’re going to be there for the better part of the week.

That’s when I threw out the idea of an AirBnB rental, an online service that lists vacation and short-term rentals.  I’ve stayed at an AirBnb listed property when I went to a wedding in L.A. a year ago, but I didn’t honcho that effort.  My friend did, I was merely a passenger along for the ride.

Based on that experience, I’ve decided to give AirBnB a go and lead the efforts this time.

HOW THE AIRBNB PROCESS WORKS

The first step is to sign-up for AirBnB account.  If you have a Facebook account, you can log in with that.  If you use your Facebook account, AirBnB will use your current FB photo as your AirBnB profile photo, so if you have a wild picture in your profile, it wouldn’t be so enticing to the property owner.  Though, the property owner can’t see you’re FB profile, it does list the number of “friends” you have on FB.  Perhaps this is done as way to deem how credible your FB account it, i.e. an account with a lot of friends looks more mature versus an account that’s has just been created.

After you’re profile is setup, you’ll need to confirm you profile by verifying your mobile number.  You’ll also have the option to receive text updates.  I did this feature and found it useful when the property owner accepted my reservation or if there were other urgent matters(read next section).

After creating a profile, I searched the property listings in the downtown Portland area.  The prices depended upon the length of the stay, but also the number of guests.  I found a well-suited property for our needs and submitted a reservation request.

Once your reservation is accepted, AirBnB will charge your credit card for the full amount.  This may deter people, but each property does have its own cancellation policy.  The property I was accepted to has a “moderate” cancellation policy, which means, I can cancel 5 days prior to arrival, but the AirBnB service fee($72) is non-refundable.  The $72 is not uniform for all properties; AirBnB charges a different service charge for each property.

THE PROBLEM I ENCOUNTERED

After finding a suitable property, I submitted a reservation request, which the property owner accepted.  However, after a few weeks, the property owner contacted me to tell me he has to cancel our request because he double booked us.  Apparently the property owner advertises his property on multiple channels and accepted my reservation while accepting another parties reservation from another listing service, hence the double booking.

Ok, so mistakes happen.

We just need a solution.

Normally, AirBnB acts a mediator between the property owner and the renter.  AirBnB left this in our hand because if the property owner cancels, he’s penalized a fee,(I don’t know what the exact amount is) which is AirBnB’s way of discouraging property owners to cancel.  So, I was at the mercy of the property owner to find a solution.  Keep in mind that I made this request several months ago for this upcoming trip, so I had time.

I offered some possible solutions.

Since we were double booked only for one night, I suggested putting us up in a hotel room for one night at his expense.  The property owner was lukewarm about this idea – not enthusiastic nor against it.  He had to converse with his partner on this one.

A few days later, we talked over the phone and hinted that he wanted to just cancel our reservations since there was plenty of time to search for another property, but I made the argument that other properties were slightly more expensive(not too much of a deterrent, but it’s more of the principle).   I countered that if he made up the difference of an alternative AirBnB property and his property, I would accept that as a reasonable solution given the inconvenience.

The property owner wouldn’t do the entire difference.  I countered again with, “how about half?”

He was slightly hesitant, but I mentioned that if he just paid half, “I’ll be out of your hair and walk away from your mistake.”

He gave in and agreed.

The property request was cancelled and the property owner paid half of the difference via Pay Pal.

To my surprise, AirBnB credited my account $50, which made up the difference between the two properties.  In the end there was no difference in cost and I think I secured a better property.  It sounds cool on the listing, but time will tell when I actually show up.

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