Are Vacation Rentals on Sale This Year?

I have been looking at vacation rental sites for the last few months, deciding which ones to list on Slow Europe, and have noticed that some agencies are now offering discount prices. I have also been talking to agencies and owners, booking our summer trip, and some have offered discounts when I asked. * I am keeping this post on the top of the blog home page as we add new information about discounts.

Create Your Own Sale – Ask For a Discount

In my years of booking vacation rentals I have found only a few situations where you can expect a discount:

  • If you are staying for more than a week. If the agency/owner does not offer you weekly cleaning they are saving money when you stay longer (unless the cleaning fee is extra) because they do not have to do the changeover day cleaning.
  • If you are staying for more than a week and it is the low season. Many vacation rentals do not rent out much during the low season, especially countryside rentals. If you want to spend a month or two somewhere in Europe in the winter, you can usually get a discount on the already discounted off-season price.
  • If are booking a larger vacation rental than your group needs. If there are two of you staying in a two-bedroom vacation rental ask for a discount since you will use less utilities and sheets/towels than a group of four.
  • If you are booking at the last minute. With vacation rentals this is up to two months ahead. Most people book vacation rentals six months to a year ahead, so if a place is available two months before it is not likely to get booked.

In these troubled economic times, when many Americans are cutting back on European travel, it does not hurt to ask for a discount.

Vacation Rental in Levanto, Italy
Vacation Rental in Levanto, Italy

For our recent trip I asked for a discount for cottages in England and was offered a discount from an owner (if renting for 3 or more weeks) but not from the agencies I talked to. In general, England is not on sale this summer because the Brits are vacationing at home, so cottages are booked. For our apartment in Paris two agencies offered me a discount for a one week rental because I was booking at the last minute. Another agency would not offer any discount.

On our two month stay in the Cotswolds last winter, I negotiated a 20% discount with the owner on her already discounted off-season rate.

Some of the Vacation Rental Sales I Found

  • Doorways is offering 10% – 25% discounts on select villas and apartments in Italy (a few on sale for Spain and France).
  • Haven in Paris is offering last minute discounts of 5% – 15% but most are very last minute – for bookings in the next few weeks. But ask if they have any specials for the weeks you are booking. Context travel has a great article about this agency on their blog – Your Own Haven in Paris.
  • Helpful Holidays has special offers of 25% off on some of their Southwest England cottages. England is very affordable this year, even without discounts, because the pound is low against the dollar. A cottage that costs £500/week was $1000/week last summer and is $700/week this summer – about a 30% discount.
  • Interhome, with vacation rentals in most European countries, is offering good discounts:
    – 33% last minute discount on many vacation rentals when booked 10 nights or less before arrival and for a stay of 1 week – Last Minute Special Offers – Vacation Home Rentals Interhome.
    – Interhome USA/ResortQuest offers a 10% discount and waves the booking fee of $30 for all reservations booked between Apr 8 and Sept 30, 2009.
    – Last February Interhome reduced prices due to the favorable exchange rate of USD versus Euro. The rentals are about 25% cheaper than last summer.
  • Paris Perfect is offering a discount on some of their Paris apartments. Discount prices are noted on the price list.
  • Rentvillas is offering a 10% discount on over 1000 of their villas in Europe (Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Portugal) for bookings made in March. Some villas are discounted 30%. The sale is not noted on their homepage but is shown in the price list for individual properties. I get their newsletter and they sent out an announcement today. They also offer a “best price guarantee” which I do not see on their site but was announced in a newsletter. If you book a vacation rental but find a better price with another agency or with the owner, they will meet the price – but only if you notify them within 24 hours of booking. Rentvillas has a lot of listings and have been in business since 1984 – the original owner Suzanne Pidduck still runs the company – but their prices can be a bit high IMO, especially if looking for a place for two people.

These are just a few of the websites offering discounts. If you have any other examples, please post them in the comments.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

18 thoughts on “Are Vacation Rentals on Sale This Year?”

  1. We were giving the discounts you are talking about since start of business, i.e. long before the credit crunch started. I guess these days rental sites use discounts as a marketing tools – but they aren’t doing anything new to them.

    You wanted other examples… well, at Holiday Velvet we usually offer discounts for long stays (i.e. longer than 1 week) and also for last minute bookings. Moreover, with most of our apartments (and all the ones in Rome) the price per night is based on the number of people sharing, so you could book a 5 bedroom place but if you are only 2 people you pay the price for 2.

    What has changed since the start of the downturn is that everyone is asking for the discounts!

    PS: nice blog, all the best.

    http://www.holiday-velvet.com

  2. We do live in difficult economic times, so who could disagree with Pauline’s advice. I remember trying to book a Villa on Crete a few years back. I found the Villa I wanted listed on two Agent’s websites with two different prices and I managed to cut the price down quite a bit by playing one against the other. I was very pleased with myself. Now I am a Vacation Home owner, at Basse Copette in Normandy, France, and I now know who got the raw end of that deal – the owner, certainly not the agent I eventually booked through.

    By all means search out bargains, and obviously you want to get a good price. But as a Vacation Home owner renting direct to the public I would warn against being too mercenary about it. We also have to feed the cat! We Home Owners are also feeling the pinch. And many, if not most of us have already cut prices to ensure we get the fewer people renting nowadays staying at our place.

    The issues are not always as clear cut as they might seem. Take staying at a single property for more than one week for example. Pauline is quite right, if you stay for two weeks we ‘save’ on not having a changeover day. But we don’t save enormous amounts – I probably save 15Euros – as I do all the cleaning myself. So if I am not doing a changeover I am not earning money. But I would bet my last Euro that most holiday home owners who care about our guests do something that makes up for it. I always offer a change of linen, towels and the like. I also bake a local Normandy tart of one sort or another and give it to my guests on that day. So I would like to think I make up for any saving on the changeover in other ways an Agent definitely wont.

    By all means try for discounts if you think its a legitimate request. But remember Vacation Home Owners are people too. I have once or twice turned down a booking just because of the rude and insensitive manner of the discount request.

  3. You are spot-on with this advice. Rental agencies are less likely to offer discounts since they are protecting their commission as well as the owners interests. However there are huge benefits with booking from an agency particularly in this economy, as reputable agencies have consumer protection in place that will cover renters money in the case of foreclosure.
    In Ontario, it’s a similar case as the UK; more people are staying put this year and our bookings are up dramatically on last year for the high season, however it does not hurt to ask for discounts in the low and shoulder seasons.

  4. Be careful how you ask for a discount! A number of owners on a well known vacation rental forum say that they will only consider discounts if they are asked for ‘with charm’! If you baldly ask for ‘best price’, these particular owners will refuse.

    We are used to trying to book vacation rentals ourselves and know what a stressful task this can be. We do not insist on guests asking charmingly if they want a discount – just ask. We consider each request as it comes. Within 4 weeks of arrival, we are offering automatic ‘last minute’ prices year – recognising the problems of the economic situation is an essential requirement this year and maybe for some time to come.

  5. Interesting point Margaret, that some owners will only offer a discount if you ask nicely. I guess if they don’t like a person by email, they don’t necessarily want them staying in their rental.

    I had the reverse situation. I was emailing an agency in Paris and finally decided their prices, even on sale, were out of my range. The woman I was emailing me asked me what my range was, so I told her what I had seen other apartments renting for. This email was responded to by a different person who first lectured me on the price of things in Paris (a coke costs $15), then told me there are agencies that are more expensive than theirs, then offered me a 200 square foot studio apartment that was in my budget. Needless to say, I did not book with them. They asked what my range was – otherwise I would not have continued the email discussion.

  6. Thanks for posting Thomas! I do not recommend that people insist on a discount, I just thought that in times like we have now, it doesn’t hurt to ask, since many agencies and owners are now offering discounts.

    Normally I assume the agency/owner has priced appropriately and only ask for a discount if staying for longer than a week. And I am not offended if they say there is no discount – after all they know how their bookings come in and may know that they will be fully booked.

    Many travelers are used to getting travel discounts. Look at all the discount sites there are for flights and hotels. They spend days searching for the best airfare, so when it comes time to searching for vacation rentals, they may still be in that mindset. I would not be too harsh on people asking for a discount – “just say no”. 🙂

  7. I have been thinking more about this and am dismayed that some owners say no to a discount if they don’t like the way you ask, but say yes if they do. Things “said” online or in email can be interpreted as being rude, even if not intended that way. For me a downside of booking with an owner is this type of arbitrariness. Because the owner detects a “tone” in your email, you start off on a bad foot before you arrive. An agency will have a policy of when they can give discounts.

    I have had reports of owners of vacation rentals in Europe who have one price for Germans (who will not pay high prices) and a higher price for Americans.

  8. Another thing I noticed, if you’re willing to play a little Russian Roulette is that they offer more/deeper discounts the closer you get to the rental period. For example, almost every agency I looked at in January had discounts for February and March but not past there (now granted, slow season and all) but this could be a time when planning a last minute trip won’t be so expensive. My guess, as we approach the busier summer season, as rentals go empty, we’ll see more and deeper discounts.

    I have to also say, on principle this also annoys me. I’ve always felt it should be the early bird who gets the deeper discount, after all, the owner/agency gets to hold my money longer but oh well….

  9. Vanessa (Holiday Velvet), your first comment went into my spam list. I don’t know why. I never check that folder, but looked and saw both your comments. Sorry – they are published now.

  10. I have noticed that too Kim – sales for rentals in the next two months.

    I think the theory is that if you book way ahead, you want to do the vacation, so you are going to book something. These last minute sales are probably to encourage people who make a last minute decision to do a trip based on a sale price. I remember when airlines offered sales the further out you booked, but now it seems like they have changed their strategy too.

  11. I got an email today from AutoEurope promoting Parker Villas and offering many May 2009 rentals at 5% – 55% savings. AutoEurope is offering discounts on car rentals in Italy too.

  12. The agency Interhome, with vacation rentals in most European countries, is offering good discounts:

    – 33% last minute discount on many vacation rentals when booked 10 nights or less before arrival and for a stay of 1 week – Last Minute Special Offers – Vacation Home Rentals Interhome.

    – Interhome USA/ResortQuest offers a 10% discount and waves the booking fee of $30 for all reservations booked between Apr 8 and Sept 30, 2009.

    – Last February Interhome reduced prices due to the favorable exchange rate of USD versus Euro. The rentals are about 25% cheaper than last summer.

  13. I own a house in Abruzzo that I rent out. It is priced in US dollars and already a bargain compared to comparable dwellings. That said, I too, have been approached several times about giving discounts to people this summer and fall. I have offered discounts to people but in order to do so I want to be sure that this is 100% reliable booking with no other glitches. So I have asked for the $ up front, nonrefundable, and to include all fees (cleaning, utilities, etc etc). Seems equitable to me on both sides.

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