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The 5 Best Tips to Choose a Vacation Rental Property on Eleuthera

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - January 21, 2021

5 tips to choose a vacation rental

5 Tips to Choose a Vacation Rental Property

This is the third and final blog offering the 5 best tips to choose a vacation rental property on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. It will focus on what I consider one of the most significant factors in the quality of your overall vacation – HOUSE SELECTION! Click on this link to read the first blog in this series that discusses the 3 secrets for choosing the best island LOCATION for your vacation rental. Click on this link to read the second blog in the series that explains the importance of TRAVEL TIME as it relates to selecting a property on the islands.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your selection to the right location, it’s time to pick the right house. With over 1,000 choices across the island chain you probably still have to choose a vacation rental from amongst 50 to 100 houses even after you’ve selected where on the island to stay. So, how do you go about it?

I’ve been arranging group travel for more than twenty years and I can tell you that picking a good vacation rental comes down to more than just picking a unique house. You really have to consider who you’re traveling with and what is important to them. If you ask them what they want you might be surprised at some of the things they find important or even critical.

I once had a friend traveling with my group who insisted on having his own bathroom. It really became a stumbling block as he refused to travel with us if that requirement was not met. To resolve the issue I had to make sure that at least one of the bedrooms had an ensuite bathroom. To be fair with the rest of the group we now had to look for a house that provided an ensuite bathroom for everyone so that there was no favoritism towards one individual. It’s really tricky trying to satisfy everyone’s requirements, which is why it’s important to prioritize. Let’s explore how to do that by looking at the factors involved.

Tip 1 Pick a Property Type

The first thing to consider is the type of property you want to rent. On Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells most of the private residences fall into one of four buckets – Apartment, Cottage, House or Villa. The designations are mostly related to size, however, owners do use those titles a bit loosely depending on what they consider their property to be.

A cottage is usually a smaller house that only has one bedroom. A villa designates a house that is considered more upscale. A house is somewhere in the middle of the two. All of them are houses yet the term describing the property type is selected by each owner and doesn’t necessarily follow any hard and fast rule. The only designation that seems consistent is apartment, which means it is a room or group of rooms in a building with other similar spaces within it.

Tip 2 Prioritize Needs / Satisfy Wants

When searching for a property it is quite normal to begin one’s search by looking for certain features. In my opinion, the most important thing to get right is the number of bedrooms and the proper bedroom configuration. There’s nothing worse than showing up at your vacation rental only to find that couples have to sleep in separate twin beds, or worse, a set of bunks! Pay close attention to how the bedrooms are laid out. Ensure that twin beds can be joined together to form a king if that is needed for traveling couples. Makes sure there are enough physical beds for everyone in your party or that folks don’t mind sleeping on sofabeds, air mattresses or cots if those options are available.

bahamas castaway eleuthera

This is a great kids room, but is probably not suitable for adults.

The number of bathrooms and how they are arranged matters, too. It’s always nice to have ensuite bathrooms with each bedroom, but that’s not always possible. Most houses come with showers, but not all of them have tubs so verify that if it’s important to you.

After you’ve got the bedrooms and bathrooms worked out then  consider other essential needs such as the common rooms – kitchen, living room, dining room, media room, office, etc. You’ll want to know if the house has central air conditioning and reliable Internet. On the Bahamian islands, broadcast TV service can sometimes be hard to obtain except within the settlements. While it’s more common to have DVDs, Netflix and a video library, it’s uncertain whether you’ll get regular cable or satellite TV service. If that’s important to you make sure you clarify with the homeowner and know what would happen if the service is interrupted, which can happen.

After you’ve checked off all of your needs you should start considering wants, those exciting items that maybe you don’t have at home, but would like to have on vacation such as a private pool (maybe even infinity edge!), watersports equipment such as kayaks, canoes, SUP, snorkel gear, and fishing gear, and an outdoor grill (make sure to ask if it’s propane or charcoal).

choose a vacation rental

Cupid’s Way has an awesome seaside pool!

Make sure the house is stocked with the basic things you need in the kitchen and bathroom such as blender, coffee maker, toaster, oven, stove, microwave, cooking accessories, utensils, dishwasher, washer and dryer, towels, beach towels, iron and ironing board, hair dryers, etc. Most vacation rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells will have many if not all of those items standard, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

Privacy is a relative term on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. By most people’s standards these islands are very private and the rental homes offer high degrees of privacy. I’ve had visitors comment that sometimes they actually feel less safe because the homes are so secluded that they feel isolated. So, how much privacy is enough for you? Do you want a house without any other houses within eyeshot or one where the nearest neighboring property is several miles away? Is being in a small residential community where you might encounter other people too secluded or too populous? Are you looking to meet other people while on vacation? Remember, too, that a homeowner’s description of the level of privacy their home has may not match your expectations. I find that most homes on Eleuthera fall into one of three categories – semi-private, private and secluded. Semi-private is when there are other homes in the area and you are likely to encounter other visitors or locals. Private is when a house sits on it’s own large lot with enough acreage that you won’t see anyone else on your rental property unless they are visiting on purpose. Secluded is when there are no other homes or souls for miles and the likelihood of encountering someone else is slim.

choose a vacation rental

Getaway in Current settlement is a very secluded rental property.

The quality of the home is also a very subjective term, but one that factors greatly into the selection process. The age of the home matters as does its upkeep. It’s often hard to judge the quality of a property simply from pictures although the rental rate can give you a clue about whether the owner considers their property to be of superior quality. Good questions to ask include how often the owner uses the property themselves since this might indicate the amount of attention, or lack thereof, the home receives. Reviews can also be very helpful in determining quality. If past guests  complained about the quality of furnishings, appliances and appearance then that might be a red flag if those items haven’t been addressed.

Finally, things like a house generator or reverse osmosis water system can be extremely important nice-to-haves. Electric outages are not uncommon and most house water is rain water that is pumped from a holding tank below the house called a cistern. Cistern water is fine for flushing, showering and cooking, but is not very good to drink.

white house harbour island

The White House on Harbour Island has both a generator and reverse osmosis system.

Tip 3 Consider Fees in Budget

You’ve probably considered a suitable budget for your trip, but there can be additional costs that add up quickly. Some houses charge a Value Added Tax (VAT). Oftentimes there is a reservation fee to cover payment processing costs. Homeowners will sometimes charge for excess utility usage for things like electricity and water, costs that can be quite high on a remote island. Cleaning fees can sometimes be separate and you need to know what type of regular cleaning services, if any, are included. Be aware that most vacation rentals are only cleaned once before a party arrives. If you want additional cleaning during your stay it usually comes with a fee. Large Online Travel Agencies, such as VRBO and AirBnB, charge a fee of as much as 20% of the price of the rental for using their service as do rental agents and realtors.

If you want any additional services such as massage, cooking, or house stocking these must be added on, too. Don’t forget to ask about security deposits. Some owners have a fully refundable security deposit that could range from $200 to $1,000 depending on the house. That money is usually held by the owner and is returned in full unless there is damage, excess cleaning or above normal utility usage at which point some or all of your deposit may be held to cover such costs. Make sure you are clear on what conditions would cause a security deposit to not be returned because you’ll usually have little or no recourse. Some owners have security deposits where a portion of it is non-refundable. This is akin to an insurance policy held by a 3rd party that retains a portion of the deposit as a fee in order to handle any claims.

Finally, you’ll want to factor in trip insurance and understand what is or isn’t covered and under what conditions. Trip insurers won’t automatically reimburse you for a canceled trip unless it’s because of a serious illness or severe weather event, in general. Many insurers won’t reimburse you for a trip that is canceled due to failing a Covid-19 test. The Bahamas, as of this writing, requires all visitors to have proof of a negative Covid test within 5 days of arrival. You are also subject to a re-test on island 5 days after arriving as well as having to take a daily email screening survey. There is a cost for the re-test.

Tip 4 Special Considerations – Seniors, Children & Handicapped Needs Come First

When traveling with seniors, children or anyone who is handicapped you need to put their requirements over yours. With seniors, mobility is probably your greatest consideration. While many homes are built all on one level some have stairs both inside and out. Additionally, if you choose a vacation rental that has water access then you need to be aware of any steps to get into and out of the water. Ironshore, a sharp fossilized coral that is found on many properties, is a severe hazard for seniors if they happen to fall on it.

With children you need to consider the height of the property and whether there is suitable railing to protect from dangerous falls. Some properties include cribs, high chairs, pack and plays and children’s toys to keep them occupied, which are nice things to not have to bring or buy on the island. The water entry and ironshore issues are relevant to children, too.

There are very few houses that are fully handicap accessible on Eleuthera. If you require a wheelchair it’s imperative that you find a house that has ramps and handicap accessible toilets. The islands only have health clinics and no emergency medical services. If you have an issue requiring medical attention, then Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells may not be the best choices for you as you would have to be airlifted to Nassau in the case of an emergency.

Tip 5 Don’t Forget About Safety

Our trio of islands is considerably safer than almost anywhere else on Earth. Violent crime is so rare that it’s almost not worth mentioning. However, poor economic conditions have contributed to an increase in petty theft over the years. Twenty years ago I never would have dreamed of locking my doors at night, but times have changed. There have been enough reported instances of petty theft that it’s just common sense to protect your valuables. To limit opportunities, lock doors at night or when you are out. Keep valuables in a safe if one is provided. Don’t leave cash or other valuables in your vehicle or out in the open. Finding a house that has additional security features is an added bonus. Safes, hotel locks, deadbolts and exterior lighting are nice to have when you choose a vacation rental.

Conclusion

I probably made this more complicated than it needs to be, but there ARE a lot of factors that go into how you choose a vacation rental. While location and travel times are still the most essential considerations, especially on Eleuthera where things are very spread out, which house to select comes down to a myriad of personal choices and priorities. We’ve discussed the type of property, wants and needs, costs and fees, special needs and safety. If you are having a hard time boiling all that down then make a list. Number all the factors that are a priority and then search accordingly.

Good luck finding the vacation property of your dream. With a little patience and a bit of knowledge from these blogs I hope it is now easier to find what you are looking for!

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eleutheradirect lodging and house rental

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3 of the best Eleuthera Lodging House Rental options

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - January 7, 2021

indigo seas rainbow bay eleuthera bahamas lodging house rental

Eleuthera Lodging House Rental Tips

When visiting Eleuthera you have several lodging options. Unlike many major tourist destinations the lodging choice of preference on Eleuthera is a house rental. While there are several small boutique hotels, motels and condo style resorts, there are just a few of them compared to the number of houses available for rent and they tend to be either high end or budget oriented limiting their appeal to many Eleuthera vacationers.

Most visitors choose house rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells due to their superior locations, abundance of amenities, added space and comfort, privacy and attractive pricing. Simply by cooking several meals at your house rental you will save enough money to do fun things on vacation or splurge a little more when you do eat out. The small resorts up and down the island are considered a good choice for those who prefer to vacation in a more social setting. You won’t find any large hotels nor household brands such as Hilton or Wyndham although one of the boutique resorts is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.

Read on to see various lodging and house rental options or read this blog first, which will give you some ideas on how to pick your lodging on Eleuthera.

lodging house rental

1. Vacation Rentals by Owner

Renting a house directly from its owner is the easiest and most affordable way to book a house rental on Eleuthera. There are several websites that aggregate house rentals together so that you can easily search, compare and reserve them while still working directly with the property owner. Alternately, you can search for properties individually. If the owner has their own website then you can contact them directly via their website, but, if they don’t, then they are likely listed on one of the aggregation sites. However, the aggregators differ significantly in terms of fees and services offered.

a) EleutheraDirect.com – is the only owner direct aggregator exclusively dedicated to house rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. They have a growing inventory of properties plus a number of distinct advantages such as having no AirBnB or VRBO service fees. This alone will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars on your vacation.

They offer all of the great search capabilities that you expect from a high quality website while also offering some Eleuthera specific search capabilities like searching based on Atlantic (eastern) versus the Caribbean (western) side of the island or by local settlement. Additionally, your communications with the owner are not moderated or filtered like on VRBO and AirBnB. EleutheraDirect.com is an excellent choice for finding the lowest rate with the best search features while also benefiting from unmoderated communication with the property owner.

Here are some more tips on how to choose a house rental on Eleuthera.

eleutheradirect lodging and house rental

b) VRBO, AirBnB, & TripAdvisor – these large brand name online travel agencies (OTAs) have fallen more and more out of favor with savvy renters who realize how much VRBO fees for renters negatively impact the quality of their vacation without providing any real value. Many, many years ago the ‘original’ VRBO set the world on fire by offering a very easy way to find quality vacation homes while only charging homeowners a small advertising fee, but that has all changed.

Now, these companies still charge homeowners a hefty fee to advertise on their platforms while simultaneously charging renters anywhere from 3% to as much as 20% commission to use their software to make a booking. Additionally, they monitor and filter all communication between the homeowner and renter until after the booking has been concluded making it difficult to exchange information.

They have further eroded the trust of homeowners by imposing strict hotel-like policies that make it very difficult to manage their rental businesses. As a result, the #bookdirect movement is occurring and many homeowners are moving away from these platforms as they simply offer no value. Their only real value to a renter is the choice they offer by having a large number of properties in inventory. Once that advantage goes away there will be little use for their service.

c) Owner direct websites – are still a great way to find a property you love, communicate directly with an owner, and save money by not paying any commissions or booking fees. The only real negative with this method of house renting is that you have to spend time finding each individual owner. Not all have their own websites and many of the websites aren’t well organized. Still, if saving money by booking direct will let you have a better vacation, then consider this. Use the OTA websites to find the house you like and then do a Google search to find the homeowner’s own website. You can then book direct and avoid the VRBO service fee.

Note: Eleutheradirect.com provides direct links to owner websites and videos if the owner provides them.

2. Boutique Resorts and Small Motels

Eleuthera, Bahamas does not have anything that would qualify as a traditional American, Canadian or European hotel. Instead, it has a handful of small motels, boutique resorts and one glamping resort. Below are most of what is available on Eleuthera listed more or less in order from north to south.

a) The Other Side – is a  beautiful solar powered ‘glamping’ site situated along Cistern Cay Beach. You’ll find nothing but palms, tents, shacks and a salad garden. The property is within short proximity of all the raw beauty of Eleuthera as well as the neighboring Family Island of Harbour Island, which has one of the longest and widest pink sand beaches in the world. It is best described as home meets safari with a few conventional hotel amenities. Rates range from $550 to $750 per night.

b) The Cove Eleuthera – is the highest end luxury resort that can be found on Eleuthera boasting 55 rooms, suites and villas. It features two private white sand beaches, a spa and fitness center, oceanfront dining and an open-air sunset bar. The price for a suite starts at $859 per night.

c) The Sunset Cove & Rainbow Room – formerly known as The Rainbow Inn, this property consists of a series of 11 affordable suites and cottages plus an on premise restaurant, bar and pool with prices ranging from $85 to $222 per night. Each of the 7 luxury suites and 4 classic beach cottages has its own unique design.

d) Sky Beach Club – is an intimate collection of seven oceanview accommodations including 7 villas and 4 poolside bungalows. It features its own restaurant and swim up pool bar and is just steps from one of the best beaches on the island – Hut Pointe Beach. Prices for a 2 person bungalow start at $235 per night and go up to $800 per night for a 4 bedroom villa in non-holiday season.

e) Hut Pointe Inn – is a family owned, eco-friendly, all-suite inn located directly on Queen’s Highway across from Hut Pointe in the settlement of Governors Harbour. Rates for a 2 bedroom suite with kitchen start around $255 per night.

f) French Leave Resort– is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. This lodging option is located a short walk from downtown Governor’s Harbour with views overlooking the Bight of Exuma and nearby Cupid’s Cay. There are 20 Bahamian villas, either one or two bedroom units, plus 1648 Bar & Grill, pool, fitness center, spa and a small marina. Rates start just below $500 per night, but are mostly in the $900 per night range. It also has one 4 bedroom house rental for $2,600 per night.

g) Squires Estate – is a collection of restored nineteenth-century rental houses perched on a hillside overlooking Governor’s Harbour and the Bight of Exuma. The Estate offers a wide range of accommodations including grand homes, romantic cottages, hillside pools and harbour views. Prices range from $145 per night for a small cottage to $650 per night for a large rental house.

h) Pineapple Fields – is a grouping of 32 one and two bedroom condos located just across the street from one of the more popular restaurants on the island, Tippy’s, and it’s beautiful pink sand beach. Rates start at $219 per night for a one bedroom in low season and go up to $439 for a two bedroom in high season.

i) La Bougainvillea – is a boutique hotel & restaurant located on a very secluded 50 acre estate. It is located between the settlements of North Palmetto Point and Governor’s Harbour, but closer to the former. It’s private pool overlooks one of the prettiest beaches on the island. It has 6 rooms, 1 cottage and 1 six bedroom rental house with prices ranging from $250 to $1,250 per night.

j) Unique Village Resort – this quaint beachfront resort is comprised of 14 units – 10 hotel rooms, 2 two-bedroom villas and 2 one-bedroom apartments. It has a delightful pool, oceanside restaurant and bar with authentic Bahamian cooking, and outstanding elevated Atlantic Ocean views. Prices start at just $110 per night.

lodging eleuthera

Unique Village Resort in North Palmetto Point, Eleuthera, Bahamas

k) Northside Inn – if you want to stay closer to a dive shop then look no further than Northside Inn, perched on a private hillside on the Atlantic Ocean just outside of the main downtown area of the Rock Sound settlement. It has 3 stand alone cottages with a total of 5 rooms directly on the Atlantic Ocean and its own private beach. Run by Rose Gibson, you’re sure to enjoy the sandy floored bar and restaurant right next to the cottages. Many consider this the best restaurant on the island. Rates are $110 and $120 per night based on season.

lodging house rental

Red Pond Beach is just 1/2 mile north of Northside Inn in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas

l) Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina – is a modern condo development & marina located on the very southwestern tip of Eleuthera. It has condo rentals, a very nice marina, if you happen to come by boat, a pool next to Harbour Pointe restaurant, and a nearby bar called Barracuda’s that has nightly happy hours. Rates start at $265 for cottages and $399 for villas. The marina has 47 slips that accommodate vessels up to 200′ in length. The resort has 14 two-bedroom villas and 18 one-bedroom cottages.

3. Home Rental Agency / Realtor

There are several agencies and realtors that offer private vacation homes for rent. This is a good choice if you aren’t sure what you are looking for and need some hands-on assistance from someone with more knowledge of the island. They are commission based and either charge owners 10-20% for their service or simply add their commission to the homeowner’s standard rates. It’s best to find out how they earn their commission as you might be able to book directly with the owner and avoid that additional fee. Below is a list of some of the local realtors and agencies.

a) Sotheby’s/Damianos International Real Estate – offers transformative experiences through a global network of exceptional agents.

b) HG Christie’s –  claims to be the largest full-service real estate agency specializing in luxury homes and condos, vacation homes, beachfront properties, development properties and private Islands, as well as a full selection of rental properties throughout the Bahamas.

c) Eleuthera Vacation Rentals – based in Florida, EVR has been renting private vacation house rentals on Eleuthera since 2009. They represent over 100 beach houses, beach cottages, and beach estates.

d) Island Real Estate – is one of several realtors who specialize in vacation rental properties and property sales exclusively on Harbour Island.

e) Spanish Wells Realty, Ltd. – is one of the more notable providers of lodging and real estate on Spanish Wells.

Summary

You have three basic types of lodging on Eleuthera – house rentals, boutique resorts and inexpensive motels. House rentals are preferred by most travelers. If you choose to rent a house you’ll need to narrow your lodging selections. There are several ways to find and reserve a private house rental – aggregators, owner direct website, or realtor/agency.

Aggregators and OTAs such as Eleutheradirect.com, AirBnB and VRBO offer many lodging choices, but only Eleutheradirect.com has zero renter fees while also improving direct renter to owner communication by not filtering or masking parts of your message.

Owner direct websites are a good booking option especially if you can find the name of the house on one of the OTA websites to help shortcut searching for them directly. However, you have to invest time searching and comparing each individual home through independent websites, which can be time consuming.

Commission based realtors and agencies can be very effective if you need some extra hand holding. Just make sure they are not passing on the cost of their service to you, the renter, and that they have recent first hand knowledge of the property you are renting. Realtors and agents will have some knowledge of the property you are renting, but nobody knows their home as well as its owner.

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Click to see Indigo Seas in Rainbow Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas. This is the property featured in our cover image for this article.

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