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Renting Holiday Villas in France and Spain… some great tips to help you make the right choice!

Are you considering self-catering accommodation in Europe,  instead of hotels and B&B’s? Villas, farmhouses and apartments can be a great option, especially for a family or a group of friends, but it can also be confusing looking at the myriad of options there is out there. Here’s some tips you may find useful!


There is absolutely nothing wrong with companies like Air BnB etc and I have rented quite a few fantastic little places for myself and family through them. However you can also get a very reliable and consistent standard with local holiday rental companies… ie companies that are located in the region you’re searching in, or specialise in just one or two regions. These are management companies that have vetted the properties before putting them on their books, keep a close check on maintenance and cleanliness, and provide good customer service – because if they don’t, the owners as well as the clients will be on to them!

I’m not talking about those holiday rental companies, travel companies or sites that offer numerous countries and regions – that’s pretty much what Air BnB does. I’m referring to very local companies, as defined above! They usually have a hand-picked, limited selection of properties that they manage.

Here are just a few local/regional companies that I have used this year for myself and/or clients, whose properties were fabulous and the managers great to deal with. There will be hundreds more throughout Europe of course… good luck with your searching!


Southwest France:


San Sebastián, Spain:

Andalucia/Costa del Sol, Spain:


If you are looking more generally for a place to stay, putting in your criteria and checking out what comes up in a Google search, keep these tips in mind.

  1. One confusing thing can be that some properties are listed with multiple agents, including Air BnB as well as numerous holiday rental companies. Not only that, each site may call the villa or farmhouse or whatever by a different name! And also charge a different rate for the same dates.
  2. So the temptation is to go with the site offering the cheapest rates, right? And there’s nothing wrong with that EXCEPT that you should make 100% certain that the Terms and Conditions are the same. An example might be that one site is cheaper but the rate is 100% non-refundable. You need to be certain you’re okay with that – if not, go with a site that is offering the same property but with more flexible terms, even if it’s a little more expensive. 
  3. Also, if a company is really prompt with their replies to you, good at communicating and informative, then definitely consider doing your booking through them. If a company is slow with communication, doesn’t answer specific questions etc., I find that a bit of a red flag. It’s an indication of professional they are in their business practice.
  4. It can pay to dig a little deeper and try and find the actual owner. Some owners only list with one rental company. Others list with multiple companies. Some have their own website, but also list with other sites to maximise their exposure. If you can do some Googling and work out who the actual owner is, go straight to them (remembering that this search is not always simple, given the aforementioned habit of calling different properties by different names!). Not only will the owner be pleased to avoid the cut they have to give the other site or agency, it’s much easier to deal with an owner direct rather than having to direct all your questions and messages through a third party.
  5. As a general rule, if the photos are unclear, the property may be a little dated or run-down. If they only hone in on say, a lamp in a bedroom, without showing the whole room, or a shelf in a bathroom without showing the shower or bath, that’s a bit of a give-away! Ditto for photos not taken in a good light so that you can’t see any flaws, damage etc. In my experience, the more professional the photos, the more professional the owner or agency!
  6. After your stay, chase up the security deposit immediately. It’s normal for an agency or owner to ask for a deposit, but sometimes they can be a little tardy in refunding and if you don’t chase it straight away, it can get put aside until they catch up on their accounting. Of course, this shouldn’t happen, but sadly it does. I am still chasing a deposit on a property we rented in June, which is so disappointing given that we loved the place and would have rented it again. But to me, this is a total red flag and the fact that the rental company has been so slack puts me off doing so!
  7. A lot of agencies and owners these days offer extra services, such as chefs, local guides, spa treatments etc. Booking these services through them can be cheaper and easier than searching and booking for yourself, and they often have a short-cut to the best local people.
  8. Very few places are absolutely perfect. You can search for hours looking for exactly the right place, and become very frustrated. Make a list of criteria prioritising the most important features you’re looking for, ie “must haves”, and a secondary list with “nice-to-haves”. Make a list of potential places as you go and save favourites. It can all become very overwhelming, but good lists can keep it manageable!

Having your own place can be a huge amount of fun, either on your own or with a group, and feels like a more “local” experience. I especially enjoy having a chef come in to do some of the meals! Your own villa or apartment can also be a perfect base for a special birthday celebration or anniversary week… and you don’t have to worry about when the bar or restaurant closes!

I love staying privately, self-catering with family and/or friends, in some beautiful European location, as much as staying in the most beautiful 5-star hotel!


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