Bayer recommends making a list of criteria that a vacation home rental must absolutely have. "A dishwasher and two bedrooms may be vital, a hot tub not so much, so list what are must-haves, followed (by) would be nice to have. Then you can check through home listings," she says.
Beware of online descriptions that are too good to be true on websites such as Craigslist.
"There have been many scams where renters drive to places that don't exist or are not at all what the listing described," Bayer says.
She recommends going for houses with their own websites or a Facebook page with photos. "Good vacation homeowners are now using social media because it's a good way of becoming more real to prospective renters," Bayer says.
Never book a home -- and don't send a deposit -- without first talking to the owner or the vacation rental agent listing the house.
Ask questions such as: "What cable channels does the home have?" and "Does it have an Internet connection?" Find out if you need to bring your own linens, dishwashing detergent, food condiments and other items.
"Consider it like you're staying at a friend's house, what would you ask before you got there," Bayer says. "Can you just arrive and settle in, or do you need to stock up at the supermarket first?"