Firstly don’t get fooled by a single picture – especially if it’s tiny and difficult to see – or the lovely descriptive prose which may not resemble reality. All villas can look stunningly beautiful when painted gleaming white, but avoid booking one that does not show sufficient interior pictures. And look closely into each picture – does the bedroom show a headboard, or is it just pillows against the wall? This could indicate lack of preparation by the owner or lack of expenditure on the villa generally.
Clarify if the pictures are current. Was that fantastic view taken from the roof of the building or before some building plot was developed next door? It’s not much fun if your sea view is only from the top floor toilet. It does happen.
Ask if you have sun on your terrace. Or will you be in shade from 1pm onwards? Find out about the villa’s position and orientation so you know that you do not have go to the beach in order to catch some rays.
A private villa owner may oversell his pride and joy. Think about the things that can make a big difference to your vacation. Would you think to ask an owner if the kitchen china is really just inexpensive acrylic or is it a proper unmixed china set? How can you tell if the sofa suite is cheap and not so comfortable or of superior quality? What is the type of linen and towels used, could it be bobbly winceyette sheets for summer use?
Look for an unbiased grading or rating – it’ll save you asking awkward or embarrassing questions about your villa vacation. It’s best to seek out those who show gradings that indicate the quality grade of kitchen equipment and soft furnishings (including beds and sofas), say, separately.
Ask what service backup do you have if something goes wrong. Ensure that your chosen villa has professional support in case you experience a problem that cannot be rectified quickly. Is for example a knowledgeable local person on hand seven days a week to resolve maintenance issues efficiently?
What happens if the villa becomes unavailable due to the owner taking a double booking (it happens)? Or if there is a problem with the pool, a new building next door, or something not repairable quickly. A private owner may have problems relocating you, while a firm has more options to give you alternative accommodation should something go wrong.
Is privacy important to you? Be aware that many new villas are on very small plots and though are detached, you will be close to your neighbour. So check if the details are specific about this. And, if closeness to shops and supermarkets is important, then do ask.
Private owners may also wish to get a high rate of return on their investment when they rent them out to vacationmakers – or simply believe that their villa just has to be worth more than the market around them. So rates could be unjustifiably higher when compared to similar villas in the same areas.
When thinking about booking a villa vacation through an agency, be certain who you are dealing with. Ask if the agency has a direct contract with the owner and is not sub-contracted. This ensures that you only liaise with one party, as sub-contracted parties are not in full management control of the villa, resulting possibly in delays of damage deposit repayments.
Check the small print carefully for extra charges. These can include surcharges for credit card use, damage charges even if no damage occurs, and unfair administrative fees charged per person or for simple changes to a booking.
Using a credit card such as Mastercard and Visa (not a charge card such as Amex, Diners Club or Switch or a business card) gives you, providing the payment exceeds £100 (payment amounts and cover may vary from country to country), full consumer credit card protection. So if the villa was fictitious, or the owner or agency was not what it seemed, you can get a full refund from the credit card firm.