According to Skift, the vacation rental market is on track to generate $170 billion in revenues, which if it were a company would rank in Fortune 500’s top 10.
With COVID-19, villa rentals are seeing a surge in first-time renters looking for safer travel options. To help, I have asked Sean Emmerton, the CEO of Elegant Mexico to answer 21 questions about villas rentals – know before you buy type things.
As background, Sean Emmerton began working in Los Cabos in 1995 with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. He was the first employee of Las Ventanas al Paraiso. In 1998, he was contracted by the local hotel association and state government there to develop the first tourism board for the destination. He then created and began renting villas at Del Mar in 2000, so he brings over a quarter-century of market knowledge
1. What’s the price range for villas in Los Cabos?
In the luxury segment, in Los Cabos, it generally ranges between $2,500 and $25,000 per night, but this varies by destination 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 – and location – ocean view or beachfront. The beachfront villas tend to be more expensive than ocean view when comparing the 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 three nights, however, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is usually seven nights, and Thanksgiving or Spring Break is five nights.
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. 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 with pre-arrival planning and concierge staff, you get daily housekeeping services, your own golf cart and the concierge will coordinate offsite activity and in-residence spa services. In the case of Los Cabos, the villas we represent offer access to the restaurants, bars, spa, and golf course at the neighboring One&Only Palmilla and the exclusive Villas Del Mar and Espiritu Del Mar amenities, including the Club Ninety-Six beach club and kids club, Club Espiritu fitness club, and spa, all just minutes away via golf cart ride. The villas are all in 24-hour gated security and there is an onsite emergency medical response. However, these are all the types of things you should ask about as villas can often be just a private home on a public road.
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. We don’t mark things up the way hotels do, so you can get the same offsite experiences often for 30% or even 50% less than if you booked via a hotel you are staying at. For what luxury resorts charge for a room service breakfast, you probably cover your food costs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well in a villa, so you get a lot of value without sacrificing quality.
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 all the villas we represent have full private pools. You have 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 a hotel room or suite available, but anywhere from 3,500 to 25,000 square feet of combined indoor/outdoor living space. When we say villa, they are truly ultra high-end luxury residences built to the same standards you would build your own home.
Also, as mentioned, the cost of eating and drinking much less than a top resort. You for the cost plus a small 5% markup to cover currency fluctuations so you won’t be paying $30 for one margarita.
In terms of the villas we have in Los Cabos, they are each individually owned within a gated community with its own private club which is never very busy. It has a great swimming beach and has pools, poolside service, several restaurants, a beach activity desk, a kids club, and even In-residence food delivery. You have the option of enjoying total privacy in your villa or meeting other guests and homeowners in a more social setting at the clubs.
While not all villas have as many amenities – and this is something you should definitely ask about, Club Espiritu for example offers a yoga pavilion, Pilates studio, full gym with free weights, machine weight equipment, cardio equipment, private and group classes, a 25-meter lap pool, tennis court, park with basketball court, mini soccer pitch and fun areas for young kids.
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. We do not add a 15% resort and service fee to our rates. The high-end resorts In Cabo all add this, which can add up very quickly.
6. How far in advance do I need to book the villa, and how do payments work? Are there cancellation fees and deadlines?
You generally need to book at least two days prior to arrival and need to pay via a wire transfer. 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, a 50% deposit is required to make a reservation and it 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. Christmas and New Year is 90-day cancellation and the initial 50% deposit is non-refundable. However, due to COVID-19, we are more flexible with cancelations and will offer a full refund for any travel disrupted due to a travel-related restriction that prevents the guest from taking the trip. Guests should check to make sure they understand this provision fully.
7. How do I find the villa? How do we get access?
Most of the time our concierge 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 at the security gate for access. Guests are met by one of our concierge staff, butler, and chef when they arrive at the villa. They will receive the keys to the villa and golf cart and will be provided an orientation of the villa. This, however, isn’t universal and something you should ask about with each villa rental.
8. What if something needs to be fixed? What if we need something after hours?
Again, this varies by location and the management company. In our case, we have 24-hour maintenance staff who can manage any repairs needed. My background was in luxury resorts, so what we have done in Los Cabos is to provide all of the same services you would expect at a 5-star luxury resort, but with all the advantages of the villa experience. Many of our guests who have less than stellar experiences with previous villa rental comment that we really provide hotel-level services, so when renting, definitely ask the provider if it is round-the-clock and weekend maintenance. It’s not always the case.
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 upon arrival, which is used on the guest registration form. 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. Certain villas do require a security deposit equal to one night of the stay, but this is typically sent back within 48 hours of the departure and we have yet to have an owner retain any of it.
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. We can provide safety gates, car seats, cribs, high chairs, and so forth. In our case, you also have access to an excellent kids club at Club 96 and Club Espiritu, the latter which is seasonal from November to May. However, kids always have lots of activities.
12. Can we invite friends back to the villa? What type of security is there?
It depends on the villa and the 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 with the company you are working with. 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. Fortunately for us, all of our Los Cabos properties are in a 24-hour gated security community with CCTV cameras. The security was set up by an ex-Navy SEAL so it is really excellent. You can go anywhere on the property and feel completely safe.
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 you have narrowed down your choices. In our case 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. 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 18 years in Los Cabos and have not 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 private butler and chef, the housekeepers we employ, or maintenance staff if 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. As discussed earlier, for our villas in Los Cabos you get all of the facilities from basketball and tennis courts, to our beach club, health center, and also the facilities at One&Only.
17. If we want to dine at local restaurants or arrange tee-times or 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 groceries are purchased, transportation is arranged, golf tee times booked, spa reservations made as well as numerous other activities. For any additions to the itinerary or changes, the butler can facility all new requests or changes and our concierge staff is available to provide another layer of assistance if needed.
18. Can I see a sample rental agreement?
Yes, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to share a standard agreement.
19. Who should we tip, and what type of tips are expected?
The average tip is 8-to-10% of the nightly rate. We do not add on a service charge or resort fee and gratuities are optional. However, the employees work very hard to ensure an exceptional experience so gratuities are very much appreciated.
Gratuities can be added to the final bill and can be paid by credit card so guests don’t have to worry about carrying too much cash around.
20. What if we want to buy the villa?
We can refer guests to a real estate professional to help answer any questions about sales. There are always fantastic real estate options available for those guests wanting to have a second home in Cabo, and in fact, every year we have several customers who end up buying because they like either the villa or the community 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 we have 28 villas in the same development, 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, not the hotel, and the same for meetings.