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4 Tips for Selecting Your Perfect London Vacation Rental

1. Spoilt for Choice.

Searching for a London vacation apartment or house, you will find yourself spoilt for choice. Or perhaps just downright bewildered. London has over 50,000 vacation homes, all vying for your business. You can spend literally several full days surfing the many home rental sites, and still be no closer to finding your perfect London vacation home. So the first step is to decide what’s important to you, to help filter the myriad options. I’m not referring to the “advanced search” options on the search bar (hot tub, wifi, access to mountains/beach), but instead to your broader criteria for your stay, which probably won’t be “filterable”, for example, what kind of home do you want to stay in? A modern apartment in a recently developed block? A converted Victorian terraced home? A white stuccoed palace on Eaton Square? Do you need easy access (every website has a different definition, beware), for example you can handle a couple of steps but not more than 6? Do you need to be close to a park for exercise? What kind of neighbourhood do you want? What type of experience do you want from your vacation? Once you’ve developed a list of your search criteria, develop a shortlist of homes which tick the boxes and ignore all the others. The fact is, website search functions can’t really compute these kind of complex and specific criteria requirements, so it’s best to get on the phone to ask the agent/owner the questions directly. At Ivy Lettings, we encourage all our enquirers to call us up. You’ll speak to one of our enquiries team members right away - they’ll listen to your requirements (in our time we’ve heard some pretty leftfield/specific ones!) and propose some suitable properties to you. We have over 100 properties to choose from so it’s pretty rare that we can’t help!

2. Be Central. Be in "the Zone”.

“Central” is a subjective concept, and London is a sprawling metropolis. Even the definition of “London” is nowadays pretty elastic, and all the more so when it comes to hosts pushing their London apartments on Airbnb etc. So my next tip in searching for your perfect London holiday apartment would be to instantly eliminate all the options outside the outer half of Zone 2 on a London tube map (let’s call everything within this area "the Zone”). This may seem drastic and sweeping but it will help your search and you will still be left with plenty of options. My reasoning here is that when you come to London on vacation, you shouldn’t need to commute into the city centre. Commuting, for many of our clients, is one of the precise elements of daily life that our clients want a break from when they come here on holiday. At the same time, be smart. Once you’re in the Zone, unless you need to be particularly close to somewhere you are visiting every day of your trip (for example if you’re lecturing at university or having hospital treatment) it doesn’t matter too much where you are, and it’ll serve you to be flexible. I have in mind one particular request that we hear time and again from enquirers, and that is that they want to be “near the sights”. Now of course you come to London to visit our key landmarks, and a trip to the city is not complete without seeing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace, and so on, but the “key” / “marquee(?)” sites in this city are pretty spread out. From Borough Market to Kensington Palace, the V&A to St Paul’s Cathedral - they are everywhere (but all within the Zone), so it simply is not possible to be situated near all "the sights". Also, keep in mind that, majestic as Big Ben is, you’ll only want to visit it once on your trip, so don’t get hung up on a need to be within 5 minutes walk of it. At Ivy Lettings, one of the criteria for homes wishing to list with us is that they are located within “the Zone”, and you can travel from the majority of our homes to Westminster Station (pursuing the example of Big Ben etc) in under 25 minutes door to door, and in many cases, a much shorter time still.

3. Photos.

In the same way that eyes are the window to the soul, then photos offer an insight into more than just the physical set up of a rental property. Sloppily taken images, showing unmade beds, messy kitchens and cluttered living spaces, apart from being a major turn off to prospective guests, strongly indicate that the host in question won't really care about the experience you have. And at Ivy Lettings, we constantly stress that the rental unit itself, its specification, location, size and layout, is only half the equation. The other half is the service you receive: how will the home be prepared and cleaned for your arrival, what quality bed linen, towels etc will be provided, how will communications and management of your stay be handled. And in an age when anyone can list their home on the internet and pretty much everyone does, this side of the equation is crucial. Professional management properly executed is worth every penny.

4. Be Streetwise.

Almost once a week we receive enquiries from travellers who have pitched up to the doorstep of their supposed dream London vacation rental, only to find they have been scammed. We do our best to help them and very often we can, and whilst it represents business to us, it still makes me upset, because this kind of activity is appalling for the industry, deters many travellers and makes others extremely, and understandably, suspicious and wary of handing over money to book their London vacation home. Seven years after we started business and with over 10,000 bookings under our belt and we still get asked (though less frequently than when were younger) if we are a legitimate business, and how can we prove this. It’s a strange, and often quite frustrating conversation to have, but we understand why clients are nervous. Scammers can be cunning and their scams pretty sophisticated, so travellers do need to be wary, but following a few basic rules should see you straight. Be wary of (i) poorly written English (ii) insistence that you only communicate via one specific means (email or phone) - you should be able to converse with your agent/host however you like, and I’d encourage you to do both anyway (iii) requirements to wire funds via Western Union or other suspicious payment arrangements, and finally (iv) absurdly good deals - if an option looks too good to be true, as they say, it probably is. Trust your instinct.

I hope these help. If you’d like our help in searching for your perfect London vacation rental, please don’t hesitate to contact our Enquiries Team on +44 20 7349 7016 or [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!

October 2016.

Guy van der Westhuizen is Managing Director of Ivy Lettings, a professional managers of London vacation rentals and short stay homes. For more information, please visit www.ivylettings.com