Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Review 2669: Owner, VRBO 109350
3bed/3bath house in Winter Park, Florida
March 2007, 5 days
This house is listed twice on VRBO as property #106167 and #109350. I picked the house on Lake Sharp Drive, Winter Park, Orlando because it is has a great setting on a lake, is close to shops and restaurants and although far enough away from Disney to be out of the main tourist area, it is close enough to visit the parks. It turned out to be in a well established and quiet residential area, with no passing traffic or noise, other than the birds on the lake.
There was no where to shop within reasonable walking distance but five minutes drive away in all directions were supermarkets, shops and restaurants.
This was my 11th rental through the VRBO website, all of which had been positive experiences. This one was definitely not the same as the rest. The villas we have rented have been immaculately clean and well equipped. Unfortunately, this house was horribly dirty and untidy. The refrigerator was stomach churning with old food left in it and all the shelves brown and sticky from spills that hadn't been wiped up.
The bed that my daughter was due to sleep in had not had the sheets changed and we found an old Bandaid in it when we pulled the covers back. Holes had been punched through walls for a rewiring job; the fallen plaster had not been cleared up and the holes had been 'repaired' by stuffing tissues in them. Floors were sticky; the oven hadn't been cleaned; there was a strong whiff of cat pee in the dining area; the toilet in the master bathroom smelt. You get the idea? Everywhere we looked there was a problem with a lack of basic housekeeping. It was not what we needed to find at 2am after more than 24 hours of traveling.
We couldn't get hold of the owner the next morning, so we went out and bought cleaning materials and spent the day trying to make the house habitable. We also felt we had to buy our own towels and thought about buying sheets because even after washing the ones in the house, they were stained. It took my wife and I two hours to sort out the fridge and a lot longer to vacuum the house, wash the tiled floors and clean the bathrooms. Even after all our work, my daughter didn't want to use her bedroom and we all shared the one bathroom that we could make clean enough to be comfortable in.
When we did speak to the owner, he didn't show up to do the work he promised and after three days of seeing my family get increasingly unhappy, I made the decision to find somewhere else to stay. We walked away from the $215 per night plus tax that we had paid in advance and although I hate to waste money, it was definitely the right decision.
The garden looked great in the photo with a pool outside the house, the garden running down to the lake and a walkway out onto the dock. The garden was well maintained and attractive. Unfortunately things outside mirrored the inside of the house. The pool had sprung a leak and the sides of the pool and hot tub had turned green with algae growing on them. The barbecue had some uneaten chicken left on it and didn't appear to have ever been cleaned. The garden furniture was encrusted with dirt and bird droppings. The kayak, which had been an advertised feature was upside down in the mud at the edge of the lake with grass growing through the bottom of it. It could be great but just needs some work done to get it into shape.
I think that I have said enough about the standard of cleanliness. The internal decor was dated, with the appliances and the fitted cupboards being old. The colour scheme of greens, browns, blues and purples made the house a little dark and it really needed to be redecorated throughout.
I am currently working in Russia and so enjoy being able to watch English language TV when I am on holiday. This house came with loads of TVs, including two high definition TVs, and a decent cable package. There was also a computer with Internet access. The house comes with a pool table, which had a good table tennis table on top of it. There was also a Foosball table but that turned out to be so sticky it couldn't really be used. The VRBO page said that telephone calls would be provided for free but the owner had disconnected the phones, saying that we would be disturbed because so many calls came in. We accepted that and ended up buying a cheap mobile phone to use.
One of the bedrooms had been locked and used for the owner to store his belongings in. This was a problem for us as we were expecting some friends from Texas to stay with us for a couple of days and the only option would have been to put them on a sofa-bed. There were three bathrooms; one with a shower, one with a bath and the master bedroom had both a shower and jacuzzi bath.
We found the kitchen to be a nightmare because of all the dirt and would not have wanted to do much cooking in it, although there were plenty of pots and pans.
Problems or Bonuses
The condition of the house was a very unpleasant surprise.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The unreliable and somewhat erratic behaviour of the owner was in contrast to the professional approach that we have been used to with our other rentals. In future, we will probably only rent homes which use a property management company. This was the first time we have rented a house which is entirely maintained by the owner and we wont do it again.
The house cost $215 / night plus tax.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I have never written a review before and am only doing so this time, in case somebody reads it who might be considering renting this property. If it helps them avoid the sickening disappointment that we had, it will have been a worthwhile use of my time. I wouldn't go near it again.
Things to do in this area
All the usual shops and an eclectic mix of restaurants, with options to the big chains provided by lots of smaller restaurants, including a good Thai called Thia Villa.
Disney parks are about 40 minutes drive away.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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