5 Things to Know About Renting Homes for Vacation

Pro tip: Research not just the home, but its owner too.

Too many hotel stays can feel redundant and impersonal — not that we have anything against fine hotels, we assure you — but renting homes for vacations ensures that you have the chance to have an individualized experience instead of one that feels like a scene from Groundhog Day. Renting homes for travel brings about a different sort of playing field with less predictability — and that can be a great thing. But extra unknowns mean it helps to go into it armed with tips. Such as...

1.  Formulate a vacation equation.

University of Texas researchers came up with a vacation equation for HomeAway users who want to have a truly memorable trip. Among the key numerics: If you're happy and excited about the trip before you take it, you are 73 percent more likely to remember it later. Professors also found that you don't have to break the bank in order for it to be a good getaway. It should be easier to be excited about a unique vacation opportunity instead of one for which you see the inside of what feels like the same hotel room over and over. So enjoy a little of the mystery that comes with renting a private home. That said...

2.  Feedback is your friend.

You might not necessarily think to read all the feedback on a vacation rental, as you would for a hotel for example, but fail to do so at your possible peril. Even if what you read is positive, there might be some nuance that you detect that may indicate that it's not the perfect rental for you. Big companies like Airbnb have review content policies that are enforced, so you don't have to worry about phony content.

3.  Don't stalk, but do dig.

Google away when it comes to finding out a little bit more about the owners of your potential rental beyond what they're sharing on a rental site. "Research the owner, not just the home," one host advised Frommer's, cautioning about people who might seem too reclusive online. Don't go overboard with worry, but do listen to your gut if you find anything too odd.

4.  Consider a swap.

The barter system is alive and well in this world. Sites like HomeExchange facilitate swapping homes across the world and if you're comfortable trading your personal space, you can check out more than 65,000 listings in 150 countries there alone.

5.  Look to real estate agencies — not just traditional vacation rental sites.

Mauricio Umansky, husband of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Kyle Richards is a high-profile real estate agent in Southern California who usually has some idyllic and exotic homes available for vacation rental. His current listings include two rentals in sexy St. Barths and an over-the-top party mansion closer to home; both prices are available upon request, which means they ain't cheap.

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