Rental Sweet Rental
So we did lots of it for you.
Read on for advice on finding a lake home you’ll love.
Keith Johnson’s family vacation ended up as a wonderful memory, but it began as a business transaction — and he didn’t close the deal until he’d done his due diligence.
Johnson, who is from Weston, Conn., was planning a family reunion near Cedar Point Amusement Park last summer. After considering several options, looking at photos and asking questions, he rented a large house with its own Lake Erie beach. The newly remodeled home was jampacked with extra touches, such as luxurious linens, televisions in every room, a gourmet kitchen and plenty of lawn games for entertainment. The water-loving family also had a canoe and kayak at its disposal.
“We had a great experience,” says Johnson. “It was a beautiful setting, and the kids had a lot to do.”
Tina Erwin’s vacation, on the other hand, wasn’t as successful. She and her extended family rented a cottage on South Bass Island in Ohio and found it less than clean. “I finished giving my daughter a bath, and she was running all over the house,” says Erwin, who is from Avon, Ohio. “Her feet were black. The carpet was completely filthy. It was absolutely disgusting.”
Erwin says she’s open to the idea of renting a vacation home again, but she’d do a lot more research.
And that is exactly the point. Finding a great vacation rental isn’t a matter of luck. It’s the result of doing your homework and knowing what to ask (see “The Questions to Ask,” page 36). It’s also a question of expectations. What are you willing to pay for? And what should you get for the money you spend?
When Kathleen Osborne was planning her vacation, she knew she wanted a quick getaway for her family of five, but she didn’t want to pay a fortune. What she did want was a beach — very close by. She ended up in a two-bedroom cabin a short walk from Gem Beach on Catawba near Port Clinton, Ohio, that cost $450 for the week. Her three children (then ages 5, 7 and 9) spent all day on the beach, then learned Texas hold’em from their dad at night in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “It was nothing fancy,” Osborne says. “But a nice place to go.”
The cabin didn’t have a washer and dryer, necessitating a few trips to the laundromat down the road to wash beach towels but, because she knew that before she arrived, Osborne was prepared for it. It ended up being an inexpensive but memorable vacation.
Johnson, because he was hosting a family reunion, was looking for much more than that. He found the home through the popular Web site VRBO.com, which is owned by HomeAway.com. Each listing usually includes a description of the property, several photos, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the owner’s rental policies and other unique selling points.
“I look for a really accurate description of the property,” says Johnson. “And I like to see pictures and a map; I want to know how far my family will have to walk to get somewhere and what the views will be.”
Once he narrows down his options to two or three, Johnson speaks directly with the owner, something that isn’t always possible when working with a rental agency. “You can tell if they have a passion for it,” he says.
In Johnson’s case, the owner inundated him with extra photos and other materials. “She told me all the good things and the things they were still working on,” he says. “We were pretty well-prepared going in.”
“It all goes back to the basic principles that your mom told you: Don’t assume anything,” says Christine Karpinski, the director of owner community for HomeAway.com. “If there’s something that is important to you, ask before you solidify that reservation. If a picture shows a rocking chair, double-check that the rocking chair is there.”
As for Erwin, she might be back on the lake this summer, but there’s one thing she knows for sure: “I don’t think I’d rent a place with carpet ever again.”
10 Great Houses Still Available
The best places are booked years in advance, right? Not always. We scoured the lake on your behalf and found 10 amazing properties that, at press time, were still available. Even better, several of the homeowners offered to reserve a week or two for the first Lake Erie Living reader interested in renting their property at its regular price. The homes will be held until April 15.
|The Lake House at Cedar Point |
Cost: $3,500 a week
Contact: Lauren Krueger, 216-513-9220
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 220710)
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding the week of June 19-26.
Details: This new home sits on the Cedar Point Chaussee, a narrow strip of land with the Sandusky Bay on one side and Lake Erie on the other. Includes a kayak, canoe and Hobie Cat. Sleeps nine to 12.
|Newer Home with Private Beach |
Colchester, Ontario (20 miles south of Windsor)
Cost: $950 a week in June, $1,450 a week in July and August
Contact: Jim Kremidas, 734-944-1605
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 191468)
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding a week in June.
Details: This immaculate home is fully stocked with the comforts of home. The private beach has a gently sloping sandy bottom. Sleeps nine.
|Summer Hill Cottage |
Cost: $1,850 a week
Contact: Tom Nelson, 330-720-5571
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding a week in summer.
Details: This lakefront cottage boasts chocolate chip cookies, beach towels in the summer and firewood on crisp fall days. Sleeps seven.
|Luxury Lakefront Log Home |
Cost: $3,000 a week in summer, $3,500 for a holiday week
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 250008)
Details: Who needs the nightlife of Put-in-Bay when you have your own bar, two decks, a grill and enough space for four couples to share? Pass the time watching planes take off or land at the adjacent airport or just enjoy the lakefront location. Sleeps eight.
|Alma Villa |
Port Stanley, Ontario
Cost: $3,500 a week
Contact: E-mail inquiries only to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See it: At cottagesincanada.com by clicking on “Ontario,” then “South.”
Details: Beautifully restored in 2006, this historic manor is located in one of Canada’s beach towns, Port Stanley. Guests enjoy watching the harbor from the decks that span the entire length of the house. Sleeps 12.
|Historic Lakefront Cottage |
East Springfield, Pa.
Cost: $1,250 a week, $1,500 for a holiday week
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 243536)
Details: This updated home, originally a Sears kit house, sits on five acres bordered by Lake Erie, Raccoon Park and a wildlife reserve, making it a great getaway for outdoor lovers. Guests love roasting marshmallows over an open flame on the private beach, accessed by a footpath from the property. Sleeps six.
|Benson Ford Freighter House |
Cost: $4,500 a week or $3,000 a weekend
Contact: Emily Kasper, 419-366-9330
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding the last two weeks in June.
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 219370)
Details: Featured on HGTV’s Extreme Homes, the Benson Ford Freighter is the most talked-about vacation home on the lake. Jutting out of a cliff on South Bass Island, the former freighter has 7,000 square feet of living space. Sleeps 12.
|Palermo Vineyard Estate |
Cost: $4,000 a week
Contact: Rea Palermo, 814-838-1922
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 166598)
Details: Staying at this 20-acre estate, set in the midst of a lakefront vineyard, has been described as an idyllic experience. Perfect for large family gatherings — think bonfire on the beach. Sleeps 10 to 20.
|White Sails |
North East, Pa.
Cost: $165 a night
Contact: Leonidas and Gary Vogiatzis, 814-725-1485
See it: At vrbo.com (search for No. 241884)
Details: If you time your stay right, you can pluck fresh fruit from trees on this lakefront property or watch the bald eagles soaring overhead. Sleeps four.
|The Owl House |
Cost: $2,390 per week
Contact: Sotheby’s International Realty, 877-798-1123
See it: At streetsothebysrealty.com (search for property 116 W. Second St.)
Details: Situated right on Central Park, this Victorian cottage is within site of the lake, shuffleboard courts, the playground, the gazebo and the stores and restaurants of the village. Sleeps 10.
How to Find Your Vacation Home
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