How to Get a Cheap Vacation House!

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Last Spring my family rented a house at the beach. We scored an AMAZING deal on our rental house and I thought I would share with all of you how we did it. After everything was said and done, we got our house which is on the water for only $604 for 10 days including taxes and everything. That is $60 a night, you can barely get a hotel that cheap!

Considering we have two families going, we ended up only paying $300 for the entire 10 days!!!

First off, we found an amazing site called VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). It is a HUGE listing site for rental homes that are listed by owner. These are mainly individuals, not real estate companies, so you can correspond directly with the owner.

Second we started negotiating on properties that we thought would work for us. I really only had three requirements: WIFI, pet friendly, and on the water. We were searching anywhere between Tallahassee and Pensacola. The more flexible you are the better deal you can get. We just wanted the beach, we didn’t care where!

I found about 10 properties and started emailing owners offering their Winter rates, which are normally 30%-40% cheaper than the Spring rates. You can see on the site by the calendar if the property is rented for the time you want. Pay special attention to those that have been unrented for a while. Those property owners are probably more willing to deal.

I was amazed that almost half of the houses we inquired about actually accepted our lower offers. In some cases I was offering HALF of what the current rate was. If you feel like you are insulting them, you need to think about it this way – some rental income is better than no income! With the economy the way it is, these vacation rental owners are really willing to deal right now rather than have the house sit empty.

Determine what your budget is and then start a little under it and just start asking, it never hurts to ask! There are a few other things you can negotiate on too…

  • Cleaning fees, if you do it yourself you could save up to $150
  • Deposits, some houses may waive the deposit
  • Linens, bring your own and save up to another $100
  • Pet fees, negotiate lower pets fees

Our house was supposed to be $1000 for 7 days plus $250 deposit, $100 linen fee, $140 cleaning fee, $100 pet fee, plus taxes. Because we booked last minute (2 weeks before) I was able to talk him into $550 for 10 days, no deposit, no cleaning fee (we are doing it), no linen fee (brought our own), and no pet fee. Taxes were $54 so our grand total was only $604 for everything. By negotiating a little I saved all of us over $1000 on our 10 day vacation!!!!

We got the extra days because the last renters were leaving Thursday night and the next weren’t coming until Monday, so he let us have the extra three days for only $50.00 more. You can negotiate anything, just keep pushing for what you want. Just remember you get more bees with honey….Be super sweet!!

I would definitely allow about a week for responses and to find the right place. It does take a little work but if you spend a little time you can afford that great vacation you just gotta be a little flexible and start dealing!

Also make sure to get a contract BEFORE sending money. If possible use Paypal. Remember these are individuals, make sure to cover your booty! Ours was great and went above and beyond, but you never know!

Click here to start searching for vacation homes!

If you have a vacation home that you rent out, you might want to check out VRBO. As a renter I was super impressed with them!

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13 Comments

  1. Stephanie on March 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Wow! That is great. I’ve used VRBO on 2 separate occasions and found great properties but never tried negotiating. I’ll have to try that sometime. Hope you have fun at the beach!



  2. Swap Savers on March 28, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Great job saving money and great advice!

    You can save SO much money by negotiating and people don’t do this as much as they could. I have negotiate every chance I get, everywhere–Babies R Us, Cable Company, furniture stores, service people (i.e. plumbers), cars, etc. In my opinion you should try–the worst that can happen is the person says sorry I can’t negotiate–the best is you save money!



  3. Jennifer on March 28, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    We’ve had great success with VRBO too. Even without negotiating great deals are to be had.



  4. Jen from Germany on March 29, 2010 at 2:03 am

    We used them about 1 1/2 weeks ago in Prague, Czech Republic. We got an amazing deal on a 2 bedroom apartment. We are definitely big fans of VRBO!



  5. Nicole on March 31, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    This is awesome, thanks for the tips! Anyway that you might be able to post an example of the emails that you sent with your great negotiating skills? 🙂



    • SwagGrabber Sheri on March 31, 2010 at 3:46 pm

      HA HA it was mostly on the phone. Mainly I sent emails asking if they would be willing to rent their vacation house for $xx amount saying that is what we are prepared to spend. People seem more willing to negotiate on weekly rates. Normally I chose the winter rates so I wouldn’t insult them, which were usually atleast 30-40% less than spring rates. I was floored when some houses that were regularly $1900 were willing to rent for $900. These were mansions!!!! Of course we didn’t go that route since that is way more than we planned to spend and we really wanted to show our boy the “rustic” side of Florida. We wanted a beach house like the ones we grew up in. Nothing fancy, just functional, and fun!

      On the phone just make sure to act like you have many other options, which you do, but be nice. Just ask “can we clean the house ourselves”, if there is a cleaning fee. Ask if you can “bring your own linens” if there is a linen fee. These things can save you a ton! Also ask if they can reduce the amount of deposits. Some are willing to, just to rent it. I got lucky my guy was REALLY wanting to rent it quick to make sure it didn’t sit empty so he pretty much let me have anything I wanted…lol.

      It will take work to find a deal like we got. Honestly it took about a week of emailing to find the right one. Of course not all day but it did take several hours of emailing and talking on the phone to get the right deal, but considering how much we saved….totally worth it!



  6. Milissa on February 23, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you so much for this information. It is so amazing how God works in mysterious ways. I was just sitting down this evening contemplating a family vacation and realizing that we likely were not going to be able to travel because of loss of employment for my husband and change of employment for me. We have had a difficult year and really could use some quiet family time. You all are answers to my prayers!!!!! Thank you for your advice. Anything else that you can think of would be sooooo helpful.



  7. Anna on February 24, 2011 at 12:05 am

    My family, like yours, was able to get a great deal by negotiating through VRBO last year. However, we have not been successful at all this year when trying to use the same tactics. We have contacted 5 homeowners in the past week or two and none of them were willing to come down more than $100 (a week) from their listed price. I think many owners are hoping that they will be able to recoup some money this year since the past couple of years have been difficult for many beach home owners (due to the down economy and the oil spill). Maybe as the summer vacation season approaches things will get better, but I have not seen the willingness to negotiate this year like I have in the past couple of years.



  8. Jen from Germany on February 24, 2011 at 4:04 am

    VRBO is all over the world and we have used it here in Europe. Great deals and there is nothing like truly staying where “real” people live. It is so nice to have a place that isn’t just two beds and a small bath! Thanks for sharing.



  9. Curls on February 24, 2011 at 9:17 am

    We’ve been using VRBO for the past few years. It’s works out great now that our kids are teens. We have more space to spread out and privacy. We always look for a rental with a pool table to help keep them enterained. There are always multiple TVs and we bring an assortment of DVDs. Big savings on food!! Stock the frdge with snacks and beverages. We eat breakfast “at home” and pack lunches for our hikes and bike rides. For dinner, we eat out a couple of times (it is vacation), bring home take out (save on drinks and tips) or cook a cheap pasta dish. Lots of opportunity to use your “frugal” habits!! TIP: Buy an Entertainment Book for that area and save on food and activities!!



  10. Trish on February 24, 2011 at 9:22 am

    We, too, have used VRBO on many occasions and saved greatly. And I agree with using their winter rates as a starting point…at least you know how low they are willing to go. We rented a place in the Destin area last Spring (late Spring) for a fraction of the cost…and it was at a nice resort with multiple pools, etc. We booked it 10 days before the trip…that’s the key. It’s a gamble, but worth it. We are having a difficult time this year as well, as Anna mentioned. First – we are starting much earlier this year. Second – the oil spill issue is absent. Most of the owners that have responded have said, “thanks for your offer, but we aren’t willing to negotiate outside of 30 days.” Another thing that can be reduced = beach service. Tell the owner that you’ll carry your own beach chairs and umbrella to the beach. A lot of places down there charge for beach service, or it’s absorbed in the cost. Lastly, not all of the owners are “Bob and Sue from Georgia.” A lot of rental agencies use VRBO, too.



  11. KRISTEN on February 24, 2011 at 11:58 am

    These are great tips. i have used VRBO on multiple occations, and I hadn’t even considrerd this as an option.

    THANK YOU!