21 questions to ask before you rent a villa
The global international vacation rental market is on track to generate $170 billion in revenues next year… many people have strong opinions about villa rentals. To help those of you who haven’t rented a luxury villa before and perhaps any of you who have done it, but weren’t thrilled, we have answered 21 questions about villas rentals.
Having stayed several times in villas, one thing that we can tell you that is true is that they are not created equal, so if you are apprehensive based on a prior experience or just don’t think you think you will like it, we would encourage you to at least scan this report.
1. What are the price ranges of the villas?
In the luxury segment, in Saint Barthélemy, it generally ranges between $2,000 and $20,000 per night, but this varies by area, style, size and of course season.
2. How is the price determined and are there length of stay requirements?
Price is determined on the size of the villa – the number of bedrooms, the common areas and outdoor decks - and location – ocean view or beachfront, or none of them. The beachfront villas tend to be more expensive than ocean view when comparing number of bedrooms. For example, a four bedroom beachfront villa will be approximately $1,000 per night more than a four bedroom ocean view villa. In terms of minimum stay requirements, it’s usually seven nights, however the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is usually more ten nights, and Thanksgiving or Spring Break are also seven nights. However some owners are more flexible.
3. What is included and what type of services do I get?
A lot , particularly compared to most luxury hotels where you usually get your room or suite, and maybe a fruit basket when you check in. In many villas you get a personal butler and private chef for breakfast and lunch, both of whom are dedicated to you. You can have your chef cook dinner as well, if you want. There is also a team to help pre-arrival planning and concierge staff, you get daily housekeeping services, your concierge can coordinate offsite activity and in-residence spa services. In the case of Saint Barthélemy, the villas we represent offer access and booking to the restaurants, bars, spa available on the island.
4. What costs are additional?
Food and beverage are extra, but you are charged on the costs of what we pay plus a 5% currency buffer, so if you order a dozen lobsters, you pay the cost of buying the lobsters. Rental cars or car service, spa services, golf, and fishing, yacht charters can all be arranged for cost plus a service fee.
5. What are some of the advantages of a villa versus a hotel and vice versa?
This can vary quite a bit depending on hotels and villas, because they are each different, but in general villas provide far more privacy than a hotel. There’s no running for lounge chairs at the pool as most of the villas we represent have full private pools. You can have a private full time staff on hand to cater to your every need, so you aren’t waiting to call somebody who then has to get back to you. There’s far more space to relax as you don't just have hotel room or suite available, but anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000 square feet of space.
Also, as mentioned, the cost of eating and drinking are much less than a top resort. So you won't be paying $30 for one margarita.
In terms of the villas we can offer in Saint Barthélemy (or in Saint Tropez or Ramatuelle, etc…), they are each individually owned.
While not all villas have as many amenities – and this is something you should definitely ask about, some can offer a yoga pavilion, Pilates studio, full gym with free weights, machine weight equipment, cardio equipment, private yoga lessons or massage, a 20 lap pool, or even a tennis court...a few have more than one pool!
In terms of dining, menus can be tailored to guests likes and there are no set menus. Whatever you want our butlers and chefs accommodate. Or you can order from restaurants, or shop your preferred pizza and top French wines from excellent local stores..
6. How far in advance do I need to book the villa, and how do payments work? Are there cancellation fees and deadlines?
Due to high demand (many people for book for the next year when leaving!) you generally need to book as soon as possible prior to arrival, if you want to have some choice, and need to paya deposit of 30% via a wire transfer. Full payment has to reach us 60days before arrival. That said, as each villa is different, booking in advance makes much more sense since you are going to have the widest selection of what’s available. It’s not unusual for customers to book their next stay while they are still in the villa, as they want to make sure they can get that same villa again on the dates they want. Generally your deposit is refundable until 60 days prior to arrival. The balance is due 60 days prior to arrival and at this point the stay is non-refundable, unless an acceptable third party you recommend can come in your place.
7. How do I find the villa? How do we get access?
Most of the time our staff arranges transportation from the airport to the villa. In this case the driver will take guests directly to the villa. If a guest is driving themselves, we can provide directions and their names will be recorded for access. Guests are met by one of our staff, or by the villa manager when they arrive at the villa. They will receive the keys to the villa and will be provided an orientation of the villa.
8. What if something needs to be fixed? What if we need something after hours?
Again, this varies by location and the manager of each villa. In most cases, there is a 24 hour maintenance staff who can manage most repairs eventually needed.
9. Should I get travel insurance? What if something gets damaged while we are there?
Yes always a good idea. For any damage over normal wear and tear, the guest is responsible to pay for the repair or replacement. We collect a credit card or cash deposit (against receipt) upon arrival, which is used as a guarantee from the guest and if there was no damage, it is refunded within 10 days after departure. While we inspect every home before you arrive, it’s always good to take a look yourself and let us know right away if something looks off.
10. Will it be too crowded if all the bedrooms are taken?
We generally have a two person per bedroom policy so it never feels too crowded. The villas are all built with the expectation there will be a full house so you will find ample places for dining as well as relaxing by the pool and other main areas of the villa. Between balconies, terraces, the pool area and interior space, there are lots of areas to get a bit of private space.
11. How do villas work if you have small children? Are there minimum age limits? Will you provide safety gates?
Most villas do not have a minimum age policy and the nature of villa rentals means most are kid friendly as the highest percentage of rentals are families, and in fact, many of the villa owners have children or grandchildren. There are a few that restrict kids under 12 but this is the exception rather than the rule. Usually can be provided cribs, high chairs, and so forth. A pool will always come with a security system with an alarm if a kid fells into it when the system is on. However, kids always have lots of activities, in and out of the villa.
12. Can we invite friends back to the villa? What type of security is there?
It depends on the villa and homeowner. Some are fine with this but some prefer to keep to the number of guests booked. This is something you should discuss during the selection process. Some owners do not accept private parties with gustes hels in their villa. The more you can tell us about what type of experience you want, the easier it is for us to match you to the best villa. And yes, security is an issue when you rent a villa. You can go anywhere on the property and feel completely safe.Saint Barthélemy has a very high reputation on this.
13. How do I know there will be good Wifi?
Again, this is something that can be hit and miss when you rent villas, so something you should ask about when your have narrowed down your choices. Usually WiFi is excellent in all of our villas so there are never any issues. We also have excellent television and cable channel service with the major US networks, movie channels and sports channels so guests can watch all of the big games.
14. Who will know I am staying there? Can I find out the name of the owner? Will the owner know who I am? How can I be sure my name won’t be released or publicized?
Only our staff will know, and we are happy to sign NDA’s if the guest requires. We can provide the name of the owner if the guest requires it, if the owner agrees The owner will not know most of the time. There are a few owners who want to know, however these are very discreet people and their privacy is as important to them as the guests. We will always let the guest know if it is one of the very few owners who want this information so the guest can decide if they want to book this particular villa. We have had some of the most well know people in the world, from financial companies, to tech giants to athletes and entertainers and we have an excellent track record of maintaining their privacy. We have been renting villas for 15 years in Saint Barthélemy and never had an issue related to the privacy of the guests in that time.
15. Who will have access to the villa while we are staying there?
Only the staff who work at the villa – your villa manager and chef, the housekeepers we employ or maintenance staff if required.And of course the services you required.
16. In addition to the villa, are there any other facilities we will have access to?
Again, this is a great question because in many cases, it’s just the villa. But some include private access to a tennis court or even a beach.
17. If we want to dine at local restaurants or arrange sightseeing, how do we do that?
We send pre-arrival forms with the rental agreement when a reservation is confirmed. Our concierge staff will work with the guests to make sure, if needed, groceries are purchased, transportation is arranged, spa reservations made as well as numerous other activities. Changes or new requests can always be taken care of, depending on availability, during the stay.
18. Can I see a sample rental agreement?
Yes, you can of course request a standard agreement to review.
19. Who should we tip, and what type of tips are expected?
Any gratuity is at your discretion if you wish to express special satisfaction. We do add on an administration and service charge of ten per cent on the rental fee itself. However, the employees work very hard to ensure an exceptional experience so gratuities are very much appreciated.
20. What if we want to buy the villa?
As we also offer a fully Licensed transaction service, we can always meet the guests to answer any questions about sales. Due to the French law though it will be necessary to sign a specific search mandate. There are always fantastic real estate options available for those guests wanting to have a second home in Saint Barthélemy, and in fact, every year we have several customers who end up buying because they like either the villa or the island so much.
21. What if our party is too big for one villa? Also, how well do villas work for weddings, celebrations or even an executive retreat?
As there are around 600 different villas available for rental on the island, we are an excellent venue for high-end corporate retreats and events as well as weddings. Most villas have a limit of 20 people for events, however some of our larger villas can accommodate up to 100 and we can arrange everything you need for your meeting or event. In fact, villas can be an amazing venue for weddings because of the privacy, and the fact that everything happens on your schedule, and the same for meetings.