Words by Georgina Porteous.
Every season, we hear from disappointed holidaymakers looking for last-minute accommodation after discovering their villa booking was a scam, or they had been mislead about the accommodation details. Sometimes they have discovered this before coming to the island, often it’s not until they’ve arrived in Ibiza with their family or friends in tow, before they find they’ve been conned and left with no where to stay and down money in the process.
The ease of searching and booking accommodation online is great on one hand, however there are plenty of fraudsters out there looking to take advantage of unsuspecting holidaymakers. Thankfully, with a few simple checks you can weed out the fakes.
Booking with an established villa agency such as Ibiza Summer Villas or a tour operator such as Thompson, provides holidaymakers with more protection than booking direct with a homeowner, as the agency/tour operator has to take responsibility for the booking and guarantee you don’t lose money.
There are many good villa options advertised through listing sites such as Holiday Lettings and Airbnb. Keep in mind though these are simply advertising services where you are booking directly with an owner. Be more vigilant with these sites as although you may pay slightly less, there is a higher risk of fraud and disputes may be trickier to resolve. Keep in mind these below tips when searching for your Ibiza villa rental.
Check how long the villa has been listed. Most listing sites will show the joining date of the advertiser. The longer a villa has been listed, the more confidence you can have it’s genuine.
Read reviews from past guests on either the listing site or on TripAdvisor. Good reviews can be faked, so be wary of listings with only sterling 5 star reviews. A good sign is a property with consistent reviews, made over time.
Ask for the properties address so you can check the location on Google maps. If they won’t give the address until you’ve paid, be very wary of this. Don’t fall for the ‘we don’t give our address due to past problems line. With the address, you may be able to use Google ‘Street View’ to zoom in and see the property yourself and check it actually exists and that it matches the photos and location description.
Are the villa photos of good quality? Do they have a watermark that matches the villa name or advertiser? Often, fake listings use photos that have been downloaded from other legitimate listings, so the quality won’t be very good.
Call the phone number listed. If the number has been disconnected or is never answered, this is a big red flag. If the number is answered, ask plenty of questions. You should be able to quickly ascertain whether they’re legitimate or not based on their knowledge of the property and the area.
Look for names mentioned in the reviews, and whether they match the owner or agents name on the advert. You can also try searching the owner or agencies name or the property name on either the TripAdvisor forums or simply in Google search to see if anything suspicious comes up.
When booking with an agency, don’t be afraid to ask for proof of company registration or ID. When we have clients concerned about our legitimacy, we have no problem in providing our company registration papers.
The Payment Process:
When booking through a rental-listing site, keep all communication within the sites email system and ensure you follow the websites payment policy to the letter. Otherwise, if things go wrong you may not be protected.
Insist on a signed rental agreement. This should lay out the terms of the rental, including the dates, check in and check out times, the payment and cancellation policy and include details of the property. Ensure you have read and understood it thoroughly and are happy with the terms before you make any payment.
When booking, you’ll be asked for a booking deposit. This usually ranges from 30% – 50% of the total rental cost. Avoid paying by cash or wire transfer as these methods are untraceable if a problem arises. Paying with credit card offers the most protection against fraud or wrongful charges. If owners don’t offer a credit card payment option, pay using an online money transfer service such as PayPal.
If you’re a regular visitor to Ibiza, which many of our clients are, arrange to view a few options whilst on the island, in preparation for your next stay. Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, however when booking a vacation rental for several thousand euros, viewing it in person beforehand provides great peace of mind. Alternatively, do you know someone in Ibiza? Ask them to check it out for you.
Do not book your flights until you have preliminary booked a villa. During peak season, most villas in Ibiza operate on a Saturday-to-Saturday basis with little flexibility. Midweek flights may limit your villa choices.
The Bottom line:
If there is something you’re uneasy about, whether it’s the advert, the owner or the payment process, or if a deal seems too good to be true, don’t book it. There are so many other beautiful villa rentals in Ibiza to choose from, advertised by honest owners and agents.