Just this past week I received calls from two families that had thought they had their Martha’s Vineyard vacation home rentals secured with the first payment into the owner and a signed lease back from him via HomeAway.
They were able to work a particularly nice rate, in a great location and in a great house, last fall. Come to find out, this house was already booked through our agency for their time frame and the owner’s account on HomeAway had been hacked. The tenant had email communications with what they thought was the owner and paid the first payment via wire transfer to the “owner’s accountant” in Texas and received a bogus lease. The real owner of the house was not aware of the security breach and there is no telling how many other families this may have happened to. HomeAway, to date, is taking no responsibility for the breach and claims that it was the property owner’s email that was hacked into. I feel an obligation to share this situation and hope that anyone utilizing these venues will have an awareness of the risk involved.
There has been a recent trend towards rentals by owners on a number of websites such as HomeAway, Flipkey and Cyberrentals, etc. Many of these options have merged and grown as well. This provides a tremendous ability to market and dominate the search engine optimization. The vacation rental business has been around for many years here on Martha’s Vineyard. We tend to think of ourselves as a small community and I’m sure there have been word of mouth rentals taking place since the beginning.
I’ve often wondered why a tenant would choose to do this work themselves, especially if they are not familiar with the island. One may think they will save money by going direct or maybe feel they can work a deal. I’m not sure that there is adequate risk awareness concerning many of these online transactions.
As a rental agent on the island, I take great pride in trying to match each of my tenant inquiries with the best rental possible. Sandpiper Rentals provides professional service to our tenants and owners in an ethical manner. We are members of the Board of REALTORS and have taken an oath to abide by the Code of Ethics.
I think I will add this situation to the list of why you should use a qualified agency for your vacation rental needs!
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