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After several friendly email exchanges, during which I revealed a bit about us as travelers (intended to put the owner's mind at ease), the owner agreed to rent to us and asked me to send the total amount ASAP via snail-mail, in "international money order/gram," as they are in Canada and I am in the US. The rationale offered was that credit cards and services such as PayPal charge a (in my estimation, small) percentage to the guest, and the trouble to go to WalMart to get this money gram would be worth the savings.
I hesitate to send cash this way without a rental agreement or something in writing that covers me as a renter. I realize that our travel plans are in the next 30 days, but I am left feeling uncomfortable. There is no phone number on the listing.
I have emailed this to the owner and await a response.
Any other tips? Other suggestions for how to proceed once the owner responds?
You're smart to hesitate to send a payment without a rental agreement.
You should have an agreement to review before making any paments, whether credit card, paypal, personal check or bank check. What are the terms of the rental?
On reviewing and signing the agreement, payment may be sent. Whatever method is agreed to for payment, always review the rental agreement beforehand.
If the owner does not send an agreement I would recommend not renting this property.
first you need to see, agree to and sign a rental agreement. Get the owner's phone number and talk to him/her. Then (if you still want to go through with it) go to your bank and get a US cashier's check which you tell the owner is the US equivalent of a money order. He/she will take it to their bank and cash it. Now for getting it there.... cashiers checks are not well traceable, so you want to send it by some method where the recipient has to sign for it so you have proof of delivery at the other end. You also are just one month away.... sending it US registered mail will take too long. Sending it Fedex or UPS will be pricey. I guess you could do a wire transfer, but those have gotten a bad rap lately with scams. Or if they live locally you could pay cash on arrival (but they may not want to hold the dates without money for that long). Also for the record, credit cards or PayPal will charge the owner a fee (being international, probably about 4% depending on their merchant agreement).
Are there any other places in the vicinity that look decent, have availability, the price is right AND they take credit card or PayPal?
As an owner I wouldn't want to hold dates a month out, waiting for a cashier's check to arrive, what if it ends up being forged or never arrives? Ask for a phone number and call them for clarification. And GET A RENTAL AGREEMENT. And have a great holiday!
Thank you both for your thoughtful responses. The owner has sent the rental agreement, and it is very, very basic. It lists my requested dates, the address of the property, the price (and the breakdown thereof), but that is about it. All of our names are on it, as is their home address and phone number (in Canada). It actually looks more like a receipt than a rental agreement.
In the accompanying email, she mentions that she has never had anybody ask for this before paying, until this week. She says they have been renting for 8 years and never come across this request.
I so very much want to trust this owner -- I think she is very trusting to agree to reserve her place for me a month in advance without having cash-in-hand (as you point out). But I also think I should find a place that has payment options that make me more comfortable. And yes, there are TONS of places at that price-point in that area. It's Orlando!
Thanks again for assisting me with this situation.
This owner has very likely been renting their property successfully without a written agreement. There are some owners, and renters, that are comfortable with what I would term a "casual" agreement. If both parties are satisfied, I suppose it works.
But it's not clear to me how a rental works without written terms when anything out of the ordinary arises. And reading through this forum will provide many instances of unexpected issues for owner and renter.
As an owner, I want my guests to be fully informed about all aspects of renting my property. As a traveler, I want to know the provisions/amenities of the the property and the expectations the owner has of their guests. How does this owner convey this information?
Is there a cancellation policy? Is a security deposit required? How is it returned? Under what condition is it charge? Is there a local contact in case of a question about or problem with the property on arrival?
What is included in the rental? Linens? Parking pass? Pool privileges? How is all of the day-to-day information conveyed?
There may be an on site management company handling the day-to-day responsiblities of the property and that may be why the owner does not feel a written agreement is necessary.
If you can find another property that suits your needs AND provides a more structured transaction, I think it wll offer you more protection. But, if you are set on this property, ,it is likely to be fine, until it isn't . . . . Consider purchases made on cordial, perhaps friendly terms with the seller, which become adversarial when the product is damaged or fails (I just had a long and painful negotation over a washing machine. Very painful.) Without a written agreement there isn't any recourse (it's challenging with a written agreement . . . ).
In all my traveling, throughout the US and Europe, I have never come across an owner that does not offer a rental agreement. In every instance the owner sent me a copy of the agreement so I could consider the terms before making a decision about renting. In my opinon, as with any other purchase, the buyer should be fully informed of the terms.
All the best working this out.