This past week I was faced with a vacation rental booking dilemma that was tough to deal with.

The History. I received an inquiry about a month ago from a woman looking to rent my cabin in January. She had specific dates in mind. I spoke with her and she seemed genuinely interested but had to check with the others in her party before booking it. But she never called back. This is pretty common, so I thought nothing of it.

A couple of days ago I heard from her again, she told me that she had ended up in the hospital. Now, thankfully fully recovered, she said that she needed a vacation more than ever. She still needed to finalize everything with the other members of her party. She then called back two more times asking various questions but still had not committed. Having spoken with her many times, I gave her an option that I don't usually give: I explained that I could give her “first right of refusal” if any one else inquired about those dates, but am unable to “hold” dates until I have full confirmation of the booking. Seemed fair.

Lo and behold the next day I get a phone call and an email from a different renter looking for which dates? Of course the same exact dates as the lady that I have had numerous conversations with. She wanted to book and pay in full on the spot.

The Dilemma. Do I allow the “new” renter to book on the spot? Or do I tell her that I have someone else who wants those dates and have her wait? Do I go with “courteous business” practices and call the first renter to give her “first right of refusal” which may or may not result in a booking? Or do I just book the sure thing? What if I give the first renter the “first right of refusal” and she does not book and the second renter then finds another property to book and then neither of them books it?

The Solution. Since I told the first renter that I would give her “first right of refusal,” I felt obligated to at least call and give her the chance to book or refuse. I explained this to the second caller (renter) and she said that she absolutely understood. But she did laugh and say, “It just reassures me that you are the person who I would like to rent from—makes me respect you more.” So I asked her what time is appropriate to call back, and she said she would wait up all night for a call from me. Out of the hundreds of cabins she looked at, mine was her number one choice. I thanked her for being so understanding and told her if I had not heard from the other renter within 3-4 hrs I would call her back.

So I called the first renter and of course could not get ahold of her. I left her a message on her answering machine. In the meantime I looked up to see what if any other cabins still had availability. Many of the cabins I looked at were booked. This made me feel much worse about having to “decide” between renters. But I did finally find one cabin that had those dates open. I double checked with the other owner to be certain her on-line calendar was correct. She assured me it was.

So in the end I called back the second renter and took her reservation. I still have not heard back from the first renter but if she does contact me, at least I have another cabin that I can refer her to if she does indeed make the decision to rent. While some owners might think this is a bit excessive, out-of-my-way to assist, I feel it's very important for the vacation rental industry in general. While our main motivation is always to rent “my home” first, I am more than willing to go that extra mile to assist whenever I can.

Happy Renting By Owner!