Years ago I took a few classes when I was thinking about getting a real estate license.
About the only thing I remember from those classes was the Latin concept of “caveat emptor” or in English, buyer beware. Never before has that been at the forefront of my thoughts as it has since my recent vacation experience in the Yucatan. We stayed close to Progreso, about 45 minutes outside of Merida, the state capital.
I have been traveling in Mexico for over 25 years. I have stayed in friends homes, palatial estates, small and large hotels and five star resorts. I’ve rented places in a host of states, both on the coasts and in the heartlands. I thought I had seen most of the good and the bad when it comes to renting.
Was I mistaken.
This year I learned a lot. Many people when looking for a vacation rental use one of the many online rental services available, think HomeAway, FlipKey or VRBO. I used FlipKey this time. Let me give you a few caveats that will help make sure you have a wonderful time on your next Mexican adventure.
First off, renting a house or villa is a great way to get more square footage at a great price. Simply put, most people will never be able to afford a 3000 – 5000 sq. ft. hotel suite, complete with private pool for a week. Renting a house is an affordable way to make that happen. For a fraction of the cost of a hotel, you’ll get lots of space, many times with bathrooms in every bedroom, great views and well appointed living spaces.
What you’ll give up is a host of restaurants within a few steps of your front door. You’ll also have to hire a cook, or do your own. But this is a great option if those are not negatives for you. Besides, you’ll also have lots of privacy, and sometimes you’ll even be right on your own private beach.
But here’s where the caveat emptor part comes in. Sometimes things are not as they seem to be.
Often times when you rent online, you are dealing with individuals. Other times you are dealing with a company and companies, particularly in Mexico, can have arcane policies. On my recent rental I was changed from my rented location on the day before my arrival, based on the claim that they were not sure I was showing up.
What I was told from the local rental agent was that since I had never forwarded my flight info, even though they were not picking me up, they could not be sure I was coming, so they changed my rental. They did however have multiple emails from me confirming my arrival time at the rental. I learned in my discussions with the agent that the owner had a chance to rent his place for three weeks, instead of my one week, and that prompted the change.
My advice? Get as many names as possible from the people you are considering using as your rental agent, and do your research. You will not uncover everything, but you’ll generally be able to get a “feel” for the folks you are dealing with.
Next, get as many pictures from your agent as possible of the place you are renting. Let’s face it, rental agents are smart and want to portray their properties in the best light. That means the pics online are the best of the best. By asking for more, you increase the odds of getting a truer sense of the place you are renting.
Be realistic. You generally get what you pay for. Period. Yes, there are times when you get that perfect deal, but don’t go in expecting that. If someone is renting you a 10 bedroom palace for $400.00 a night, don’t expect the Taj Mahal.
Here’s how a friend of mine described our most recent rental. Dave, he said, it’s like we ordered a pizza. And based on our past experiences, we expected the mega meat, double sausage, stuffed crust with extra pepperoni pie. And what we got was cheese.
Here’s what I mean.
We got a great price for our rental, even after it was changed from the one I rented. It was right on the beach and had the right number of bedrooms and baths. It was spacious and had a wonderful outdoor patio.
But there were issues. The promised internet was not delivered until mid week. We had to pay extra for our garbage to be removed, there was little, or often no, hot water, [a single 30 gallon unit simply cannot supply a five bedroom home] and the rental company did not seem interested in resolving issues. At one point they suggested by text that I climb into a second story window to fix a broken door lock. Two days later they arrived to fix that broken lock.
The kitchen was not as well appointed as other rentals I have had in Mexico. If you wanted cereal for breakfast, you were in trouble as there were no bowls in the house. For a house for 10 people, we could have used a few more pots and pans to prepare meals.
Was any of this enough to ruin my week? Not at all, but based on past experiences, it sure left a sour taste in my mouth. Will it stop me from using private rentals in the future? Not at all. In fact I am already looking for a nice place for my annual family and friends vacation next year.
One thing is sure though… I’m gonna do a little more research, remember caveat emptor and make sure the pizza I order is the deluxe version from the start. Clearly, I want more than just cheese, and so will you if you are looking for a luxury getaway south of the border, down Mexico way!
[I shared this with our rental agent and he said he was “OK” with the review. He did offer a refund for the internet we never received. We are not trying to “slam” anyone with this review, but we do want people to have a good experience when the visit Mexico, and honest informative reviews can help make that happen. If you want specifics on who we I used, or have questions about my experience, please email us directly.]