Not a hotel lover? Try a vacation rental

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“Eew, this isn’t anything like what I expected!” Although vacation rentals don’t generate a lot of complaints, I’m pretty sure the number one complaint is disappointment on arrival at a previously unseen rental.

The big online vacation rental “marketplaces” such as FlipKey and VRBO do as much as they can to assure that rental owners are, as FlipKey puts it, “nice and trusted people,” and they vet renter reviews and complaints to weed out bad actors.

Still, they’re essentially billboards, with no way to check individually on as many as a million separate posted rentals. And less organized websites such as Craigslist provide almost no cover for renters.

Over the years I’ve used several such marketplace websites with no problems. But if you’re looking for an extra level of certainty, you might well turn to a “curated” rental agency that posts only rentals that staff or associates have examined personally.

Most curated vacation rental agencies specialize geographically. I’ve used such disparate outfits as Oregon Coast Vacation Rentals, At Home in France, and Vacanza Bella to find rentals that I would be reasonably sure were described accurately and honestly.

And I know of literally dozens of similar agencies around the world. While London, Tuscany and Provence may get a bit more than their share of curated agencies, you can find one almost anywhere.

New: rentals for seniors

But instead of a geographical focus, Scertified.com, a new rental agency, specializes in rentals for senior travelers — to my knowledge, the first to do so. According to their CEO, “We inspect up to 60 senior-centric features in and around every apartment we offer. Our hand-cranked algorithm assesses noise levels in bedrooms, graffiti in the neighborhood, local crime rates, building security, property management and dozens of other features.”

Obviously, you don’t have to be of a certain age to use Scertified; even some younger travelers might well like to stay in senior-friendly facilities.

So far, rental listings on the site are limited to a few units in 17 cities — including 11 important visitor destinations in the United States plus Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Paris and Rome. So far, there’s little in the countryside, but, as I said, it’s a new idea.

Property searches are straightforward, with excellent detail about the rental and its neighborhood. I would hope, however, that the search engine will incorporate filters for some of the most critical features, such as availability of an elevator, for seniors, and availability of free Wi-Fi for just about everybody.

Although I qualify as a senior, I haven’t personally used Scertified and can’t vouch for it on the basis of experience. But the idea seems like a good one.

Surprisingly, the big marketplace websites haven’t done much with either age- or interest-based filters. If you Google “vacation homes for golf,” you find postings for individual resorts or general “vacation rentals” responses, but the only one I found with a golf filter for listings was VacationHomes.com, which provides for quite a few filters, including “golf.”

Also, PerfectPlaces filtered for “tennis,” along with several other interest categories. But I didn’t find any marketplace that specifically filters for seniors or senior-friendly features.

Working with an agency

Some curated vacation rental websites offer another advantage. Unlike the marketplace websites, many specialized sites act as actual agencies: Your deal is with the online agency, not the individual property owner/manager. If you have any problems related to payment terms, you settle them with a local agency, not a possibly anonymous owner in some foreign country.

Not all geographically focused agencies are curated. I recently received a press release from a new outfit that mounts a series of separate websites for rental cabins in narrowly focused rustic regions: RentWisconsinCabins, RentMichiganCabins, RertMinnesotaCabins, RentMontanaCabins, RentNewYorkCabins and RentTennesseeCabins.

The basic pitch is to renters: Avoid the big guys’ fees. But, obviously, that pitch may draw in some properties that you won’t find on the giant websites. Give them a look if you’re interested in those areas.

Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.

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