My family discovered vrbo a few years ago. You’re likely familiar with the site (started in 2006- and part of the Home Away corporation) where homeowners list their property on this platform and travelers can search what’s available in the area they plan to travel to. My family found a fantastic condo in Hawaii that was considerably better than a hotel room- in fact (with 6 people) we would’ve likely had to get two hotel rooms which would’ve been completely out of our budget! Traveling for business, we’ve rented houses a few times. It’s so nice to be in a home during travel- one of those business trips, I found a three bedroom home and had a couple friends join us!
When I’ve mentioned vrbo, a number of people have said, “Oh is that like Air B&B?” Yes. Air B&B began in 2007 when 3 college kids saw an opportunity to make some cash and threw three air mattresses on their living room floor and made the guests breakfast in the morning. Same concept in some ways- only with vrbo, you’re completely independent.
My parents ran a Bed and Breakfast for something like 20 years in Bozeman, MT. Omgoodness what an experience. My mom had this vision of leaving the city life and opening a B&B. After getting a vhs taped walk-through of a home in Bozeman (a place they had visited on a ski trip), they sold their home, bought this other place and moved to Montana. I- 18 at the time- was shocked at how irresponsible this was! I was in college wth a job and a boyfriend, so when asked to join them in the move, leaving San Diego (for frigid Montana) wasn’t even on the table in my mind.
So… through the course of travel, I’ve stayed at a variety of different types of facilities from high-end hotels, to Bed & Breakfasts of varying degrees of elegance (including leopard duct tape in lieu of crown moulding- I kid you not), and camping of course. We love to see different types of accommodations and using VRBO has been very successful for us… mostly.
We bought an absolutely gorgeous home in a high-end neighborhood, which begs the assumption of loads and loads of cash, which is hilarious because 1) we are definitely NOT in that boat, but 2) we’ve learned that a lot of others who live in our neighborhood are in the same boat. That whole topic certainly begs another blog draft, but I do have a totally separate point to make.
Our house is gorgeous on the outside, but that was not so much the case inside. Beautiful space, but really not really well cared for and very very dated. When the house was built in 1995, it was decorated with the style of about 1985– lots of wallpaper (floral, of course) and covering all walls and even some ceilings, red (more magenta) and emerald green carpets (even in the bathroom), lots of settling, water damage, major slab damage in basement and on patio, and the floors. The hardwood floors were in horrible condition.
When we finally had the money saved to refinish the hardwood floors, we got on the schedule for the most reputable company to do the work. After almost 6 months, it was finally our turn!
I called all of the hotels in our town, but none of them would take our dogs (not even with a pet deposit). We thought about boarding them, but since I’m on vacation from work, I didn’t think it was right to board the dogs while I’m free to care for them all day long. We considered taking our camper to a nearby campground, but I wasn’t really big on that idea due to the expected high temperatures. I found a couple interesting properties on vrbo. Upon looking further, though, I realized that pets weren’t an option at those either… but there was this one.
The photos looked really nice. Although my husband and I don’t golf, we really liked the location, which was right on the 9th fairway of the local country club. We have friends down the street and are familiar with the area. It would also reduce the 30-minute drive my husband makes to work in the morning to under 10 minutes! Yay!
I made an inquiry and got a quick response from the owner fairly quickly. Because she had renters leaving the morning I would need the property, she was hesitant that there wouldn’t be time for the cleaning lady to come by and get the place ready for us– mostly bedding and dishes. I told her that I was more than willing to take care of the sheets and the dishes. She waived our cleaning fee for that and even reduced the pet fee, so it was a deal and I paid for our rental.
When I packed things from our house, I grabbed our golf clubs hoping to pop over and do half a round or just mess around on the green. I was pretty excited- both to get the floors finished and to have this little getaway for a few days! As I approached the home, I got a bad feeling when I saw there was one house that was completely ignored (in terms of yard maintenance). Of course, that was it! I was in a bit of shock, but the real shock came when I walked in the front door. Oh wow! The photos on the vrbo listing LIED! The fun wall color looked like… mmmmm well, the wall color was the least of my concerns. The wood paneling, the kitchen, the bedrooms, and more… blechhhh! I took my dogs outside to explore and the backyard was even more atrocious than the front yard. What an embarrassment! All of the homes on the golf course have gorgeous lawns that are obviously regularly maintained, but THIS house… omgosh. I was embarrassed that people on the course (and neighbors) saw me in the yard and probably wondered if I owned the place (and was responsible for how shabby it looked). OMGOSH! One of my first thoughts (after the initial shock of the property’s lack of curb appeal) was… wow! What a transformation this house could be– with about $150k or more to do it!
Within about 10 minutes of my arrival, there was a passerby on my doorstep, “Are you listing this house for sale?” I told her I was not. “Are you the homeowner?” Again, I told her I wasn’t. She was puzzled (and I was getting a little uncomfortable with her inquiry, but she continued, “So what are you doing here, then?” LOL If my husband had been eavesdropping on the conversation, he’d have been upset that I was divulging such information to a stranger (and the fact that he wasn’t home and then I told him about it, he was a little ticked). I explained to the lady that I was renting the home. She shared that she lived down the street and had some friends who’s been watching this house for… waiting for it to be listed for sale.
Well… being just a few minutes away from my husband’s office, I suggested he pop down during lunch (something he’s not able to do considering the distance to our house) to check it out. He thought that was a great idea. Ha! Until he walked in the door. Omgosh! He seriously said, “Babe. We need to call our vet to board the dogs. Let’s get a hotel.” I told him we had pre-paid for this place and that we’re not too good to stay here. He had a look on his face like… ummmm… did you see the mattress pads and the build up on dirt in the corners? We walked over to the view out the back windows and I said, “Babe. It’ll be great!”
He went back to work and I unpacked the ice chest and non-perishables I had brought and bought. We drink a lot of smoothies, so I brought quite a bit of fresh and frozen fruit. When I opened the freezer, I noticed the drawer didn’t open easily. I yanked a little more and it wouldn’t budge. Upon closer look, I realized that there was a problem. The ice maker had basically a frozen ice loaf in it! Oh no! I could just imagine what would be involved in remedying that problem. What a mess that’s going to be for someone at some point– not me and not now, but… what a headache! Ugh! I decided to keep that frozen stuff in the ice chest and move on to the fridge. When I finished that up, overlooking the plywood cabinets, I went down to the dungeon (I would say basement, but I seriously was frightened down there, so dungeon is definitely more fitting) to change the laundry.
It was super kind of the homeowner to allow us to negotiate on the cleaning so we would have a place for the first night of our floor refinishing, but when it was all said and done, I did 5 loads of laundry! WHAT?!? Yep. I could hardly believe it, but towels, sheets, etc… wow… it was a lot!
Now it was time to make the beds. Even though we would only need one (we worked it out so our kids would all be away for the time we would need the rental- unsure if we would have room. There were three bedrooms with mattresses from like… idk 1970 or something (which is funny because that’s my age and I’m sort of saying that’s old, but anyway… people should change their mattresses more frequently than every 40 years [probably]). Each mattress had a 3″ thick foam pad on top. I don’t mean those feather topper thingies you get at Costco, but literally a foam pad… like the thing you would make a cushion for a bench seat out of (if you had one of those in your house). That foam… wuddn new. It was more brown than the natural goldish yellow. Anyway, still gross, but thankfully no pee stains (that I could see).
This whole ordeal definitely had my stress level piqued, but I really needed to relax and try to focus so I could get a couple things done. So I dug through my purse and found an AdvoCare Oasis and mixed that with the Spark I had just unpacked in the kitchen.
There wasn’t an actual dining room, but the table was positioned in such a gorgeous spot overlooking the golf course. Kind of classy to have room for 8 chairs, but have 7 and include three different styles! Ha! Attempt at eclectic not quite on the mark.
In the evening, when my husband was home, we were out on the back lawn with the dogs… lovely.
Very quickly, we noticed the neighbors had a pug! There’s definitely something about people having the same breed of pets… we just… click (usually). So we got engaged in conversation with these people. It was funny how skeptical of us they seemed to be. Wellllllllll… that mystery was quickly solved.
Apparently this vacation rental (which really makes it sound nice, but it’s not) is the quintessential party house. It’s rented out every single weekend and a good number of week nights and every single guest (and their guests) is (are) completely out of control. They figured we were like that too, so were a bit reluctant to be super friendly (at first). They caught our spirit and quickly ascertained that we were genuine, God-loving, locals who are low-key people just gettin’ their floors done. SOOOOO… they came down off of their deck and we really enjoyed getting to know them. Apparently, this block is pug alley with their pug, two next to them, and three in the house across the street. Omgoodness. If we didn’t absolutely LOVE where we live, this would be a fun place for us to move so our dogs could have a bunch of friends! (LOL I know that’s weird… so nevermind.)
So… where’s the power. It’s all in the photos! Of course, we know that based on what we’ve seen in magazines. Re-touching is a way of life in that industry. It’s been 3 years since I closed shop for my portrait photography business and while it was the rare occasion that I would change how someone looked (e.g., remove a pimple or soften a double-chin), I edit most of the photos I take for soft edges and more vibrant color. I get it. I believe that editing makes the images more powerful in many ways. However, when selling a product (I was never a commercial/industry photographer), I think any kind of editing is nothing short of dishonest. It gives me a gross feeling to learn that something I THINK is a certain way, is really not that at all. As is the case with this ‘vacation rental.’ I was interested in this property for multiple reasons, but the photos were a big part of it. It didn’t look too bad, but then again… upon closer examination, I was definitely duped. Live and learn and never underestimate the power of creative photography!
We will continue to use VRBO, but I would probably have to call this one an overall 4 on a scale of 1-10. Based on this post (and the photos below), I’d be interested to get your input as well.