There are many advantages of booking your holiday cottage directly with the owner. Not only is there a huge selection of properties to choose from, but it is also likely to be considerably cheaper than booking a cottage through a third party. In addition, you have a direct line of communication with the property owner allowing you to ensure that the property meets your personal requirements. As the majority of properties advertised on Independent Cottages are privately owned and managed, your enquiry will be sent directly to the owner who will then liaise with you to answer any questions you may have and process your booking should you decide to make one.
Booking directly with the owner should be a straight forward process, but just like purchasing any product online, you need to exercise a degree of caution. We have put together a few useful tips to help you along the way.
Finding a suitable holiday home
You have a great selection of holiday homes to choose from so it is worth investing the time in doing some thorough research before making your booking. Some of the properties on our site have been assessed by the Tourist Board, whilst others have not. Either way, like many other holiday rental listing sites, we do not personally inspect or visit advertised properties so we recommend you finding out as much as possible about the property, the area in which it is located and the owner before booking. Look closely at the photos. Most owners will have a few internal shots so if there are only 1 or 2, ask to see more. Many owners also have their own website where you will find additional information, photos and reviews or photos of the guest book comments. You could also look at third party review sites to see what others have said about the property.
Contacting the Owner
Once you have found a holiday house you like the look of, you are able to contact the owner directly via phone or by emailing an enquiry. Phone numbers and enquiry forms are available on each advert on Independent Cottages via the ‘enquire/book’ button. You will only have a couple of mandatory fields to complete and there is also space for you to ask the owner questions. One of the benefits of booking directly is your questions will be answered first hand. Don’t forget, if you are phoning an owner it is likely it will be at their home, so if they don’t answer leave them a message. The majority of owners will respond to emails quickly (within 24 hours), but at times, if for example an owner is away themselves, a response may be a little slower.
The Booking Process
Many owners will have an online booking process, accessible from the advert on Independent Cottages or their own website. For those who don’t, it is likely that they will take some details from you such as your name, address, contact numbers and group details. At Independent Cottages, we do not allow owners to self-register. Before they are listed we go through a verification process, and any changes to their contact details once listed, have to be made through us so we can make security checks before updating. However, caution is always advisable when handing over money to someone you haven’t met. We therefore recommend that before you provide any details or payment, you pick up the phone and speak to the owner directly. This will allow you to check that the person you are in email communication with, is indeed the property owner. It will also give you some insight into the sort of person you are dealing with. Always make sure you use the phone number listed in the advert on our website and not one given to you in an email.
We go to best endeavours to get to know our owners and ensure they are bonafide property owners/managers. However, if you wanted to conduct your own checks for peace of mind before booking, here are a few tips:
- Ask some questions about the area where the cottage is located that only the owner is likely to know such as names of local pubs, attractions and beaches.
- See how long they have been advertising. All adverts on Independent Cottages show the date that the owner joined near the bottom above the calendar.
- Ask for the cottage postcode and check it exists on Google maps. You could also make sure the property looks similar to the one on Street View if available.
- Do a little research about the owner and property on the internet. You could see if they advertise elsewhere to check that contact and property details are the same. You might find reviews about the property if it is also advertised through an OTA (Online Travel Agent). This will all help to build up an overall picture of the property and instil confidence in its legitimacy. There could of course be small discrepancies due to details not being updated, but if there are major inconsistencies then this should ring alarm bells!
- If you are concerned, contact the advertising website directly for clarification. We are always happy to be contacted about properties advertised on Independent Cottages.
It is worth noting that cottage owners are also at risk of being scammed so they may be reluctant to pass over personal information until they are confident of the booking and the person they are dealing with.
Owners handle bookings in different ways. Many take online bookings and some will request that you complete a booking form and sign their rental agreement. It is important, before you make a booking, that you understand and agree to the owners terms and conditions including cancellation policy, payment terms, restrictions and complaints procedure etc. Owners/managers advertising on Independent Cottages manage their own advertising, bookings and the day to day running of the property. Should you make a booking, the contractual agreement is between yourself (the holidaymaker) and the owner/manager, so it is important you are happy with their terms and conditions and cancellation policy before booking.
At the point of booking, most owners will require a deposit to secure the booking. This could be a set value of say £100 per week or a percentage of the overall cost. Full payment is normally due 6 – 8 weeks prior to arrival to protect the owner against ‘no shows’. Owners may also require a separate returnable security deposit to protect against breakages, damage and excessive cleaning.
Payment may be requested via credit card, bank transfer, Paypal or cheque. In very rare circumstances owners might accept cash on arrival. Making payment by credit card is the most secure method for purchasing any products or services online as any purchase over £100 is likely to be protected by the credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Therefore, even if you just pay the cottage deposit by credit card (providing it is over £100!), you should get payment protection. However, it is worth mentioning that many owners are individuals and not companies and not all holiday cottage owners accept card payments. If you are asked to make a bank transfer make sure you phone the owner directly, and always phone the number listed on the advert (not one given to you in an email) to double check the bank details you have been given are correct. You could also initially just make a nominal payment to ensure the owner receives it safely before making full payment.
Should an ‘owner’ ever offer a discount to incentivise you to pay the full balance quickly, be extremely wary, especially if the price seems too cheap or an owner asks you to pay someone else such as their accountant or an account in a different name or foreign bank account. It is also worth noting that should you make a credit card payment via an intermediary such as Paypal, it is unlikely that you will be covered by Section 75 (see exemptions to Section 75) or Paypal’s “Buyer Protection Scheme” as it does not cover “services” transactions or “real estate”.
Take out holiday insurance
At the point of booking a holiday cottage, we strongly recommend you take out holiday insurance for protection against the need to cancel for unforeseen circumstances. You may find this Which? article of interest. There are many companies offering travel insurance and we recommend you check the policy to ensure that the level of cover meets your personal requirements.
Once full payment has been made for the holiday, owners will normally send you details with all the necessary information for your arrival. Some owners will be available to meet you but others may not live near their property and will therefore either arrange a representative to greet you, send you a set of keys beforehand or leave the key in a key safe/safe place. Before you set off on your holiday, ensure you have arrival details including the cottage address and directions of exactly where it is. Don’t rely on a postcode and satnav. You will also need to know exactly where to find the key, if applicable what the key safe code is, and how to contact the owner. If the owner is meeting you, make sure you know what time they are expecting you and try to let them know if you are delayed.
Problems during your stay
Contact details for the owner, or their representative, should be issued to you and left in the holiday cottage. In the event of there being a problem you should contact the owner or representative immediately. Most problems can be resolved quickly and prompt notification will provide the owner with the opportunity of resolving any issues so you can enjoy the rest of your holiday.
Booking directly with the owner offers a fantastic choice of holiday homes, a high level of flexibility and the opportunity to speak to and negotiate the rates with the owner directly. Not to mention the hundreds of pounds you are likely to save by cutting out the middle man! We hope the above information will help ensure the booking process is secure and straight forward. Happy holiday home hunting!