Top Terminology for Snowbird Rentals

An example of a gulf front private home in Miramar Beach, NW Florida with full unobstructed views and two reserved off-street parking spaces
An example of a gulf front private home in Miramar Beach, NW Florida with full unobstructed views and two reserved off-street parking spaces

Top Terminology for Snowbird Rentals 

100 Terms to Know Before Renting a Vacation or Snowbird Residence

As a long term member, and more recently a business owner who participates in social media groups for the vacation rental market, I repeatedly witness all kinds of online "arguments" about rental terminology. "It's not an ocean, it's THE GULF!" which is understandably significant in both price and technicalities. Another budget-buster relates to posts along the line of, "In search of BEACHFRONT property only" for a specific amount of money or desirable dates. Beachfront, ocean/gulf front and ocean/gulf view are quite different, which is why it's very important to make sure you and the administrators of your prospective new place are in sync with the intended meaning vs. reality. It's because of these online terminology discussions that inspired me to write about what I consider to be the top 100+ terms for snowbird and vacation rentals.

Details about deeded and private access points are very important to understand prior to choosing your rental

Domestic and international snowbirds tend to rent vs. buy their southern abode as well as move around fairly often. Canadian and other international snowbirds may not be as familiar with the United States' rental definitions or customs and they can also vary from state to state. Florida is the most popular destination for all snowbirds and amongst other things, has it's own unique way of addressing the beaches. As an example, a quick way to start a heated discussion is to mention Florida's "private beaches."

Like it or not, private beaches are fairly common in many areas of Florida and other states and that means you may rent a property with a direct view of the water and have no way to access the water or beach without walking or driving to a public access point. Once on the beach, private beaches typically restrict visitors to the wet sand along the coastline. How will you know if you're on a private beach? There will be plenty of signs posted both in the sand as well as at the gates or access points. Trespassing can result in being asked to leave or worse, so it's best to fully understand the set-up and ask the right questions before renting a place.

Deeded access is another term that is key to beaches -- your rental may include deeded access to a lake, bay or beach, but you will want to clarify how far it is to reach the deeded access point as well as parking options.

Test your rental term knowledge and have fun with quizzing yourself, friends and family. As much as I thought I already knew about the most common terms, I learned nuances such as a park model is legally classified as an RV; beach front, ocean/gulf front and ocean/gulf view are totally different and every state and local region has their own restrictions. Knowing what the rental terms actually mean can alleviate confusion and disappointment prior to choosing a property. For your convenience I've created a list of 100 helpful definitions and terminology. As always, do your own thorough research and ask a lot of questions. 


100 Definitions Related to Short Term Vacation or Snowbird Rentals

Accessible Vacation Rental - Accessible to guests with physical disabilities or impairments
Alternative accommodation - Any non-hotel property
Amenities – Attractive and desirable additions to a place that exceed one’s basic needs
Amenity Fee - Additional fee for amenities such as wifi, a pool, club house, fitness center, golf course, etc.
Apartment - A space within a building that is available for rent, but is owned by another entity.
Availability Calendar – Potential guests can see the dates that accommodations are still available and what has already been reserved.
Availablility Nights - The total number of nights available in exchange for a specific contracted rate.
Back to back booking - Consecutively booked immediately after the other
Balcony - A structural platform located off the ground that extends from the exterior of a building and is enclosed by a railing or half wall
Beach - A sandy or pebbly coastal shore, especially by the ocean or gulf between high and low water marks.
Beach Front – Situated near or on the area where the land meets the sand with direct and/or panoramic views and no cliffs, roads or rocky areas in-between the unit and sandy beach. You may be able to walk directly from the unit a short distance to the sand or there may be a short pathway that leads to the beach.
Best Available Rate (BAR) – Guests are assured the rate is the lowest available for each night of a multi-night stay to avoid confusion or to eliminate the need to continue to try source a lower rate.
Best Available Rate Guarantee  - Guests are guaranteed the rate is the lowest available for each night of a multi-night stay to avoid confusion or to eliminate the need to continue to try source a lower rate.
Blocked View/s – No view due to an obstruction such as a wall, building or other type of structure
Book Direct: The most direct method to reserve a property instead of paying a fee to a third party booking site or distribution channel
Booking Confirmation - Written notification issued by the agent, owner or property manager to confirm the price, dates and other key details of the reservation.
Booking Fee – An extra charge for booking a reservation
Breed Restrictions - Rental policies that disqualify a specific breed of dog that are high risk and/or not covered by insurance.
Cancellation Fee - The amount of money due for cancelling a reservation after the cancellation deadline
Cancellation Policy – The policies and terms relating to cancelling reservations
Changeover Days - Specific days of the week when bookings start and end
Check In - The earliest time allowed to check into the property
Check Out -  The latest time allowed to check out of the property
Closed to Arrival (CTA) - A tool that makes certain dates not available for check –in
Coastal Dune - A landform of sand created by wind- or water-driven sand, many coastal dunes are restricted from humans walking on them or disturbing them.
Condo/Condominum – A residential complex of housing with separate individually owned units. The interior from the walls/ceiling/floor inward are controlled and maintained by the property owner and the exterior, including the land and amenities are owned and maintained by the Homeowner’s Association (HOA), of which all condo owners in the building or community are members.
Condo-Hotel / Condotel / Hotel Condo / Contel - A condominium building with shared amenities that is operated like a hotel, offering short term rentals and maintains a front desk. Legally, it is a condominium, yet owners can leverage marketing and management by a hotel chain.
Custom fees: Any fee that is unique to a property such as pool access fees
Damage Waiver Fee: Non-refundable, typical nominal fee that covers accidental property damage caused by the guest
Damage/Breakage/Security Deposit Fee - Refundable fee added to the overall bill, typically $200 to $300 or 10% of the rental amount that covers accidental property damage caused by the guest
Deck - A flat structure that is usually connected to a building and constructed of wood or plastic composite materials, often elevated from the ground.
Deeded Access - An easement that allows property owners access to a beach, bay, lake or other desirable feature. It may be neighborhoods or sub divisions adjacent to or near a beach or other feature who have an agreement with the local government granting deeded access. Deeded access might not necessarily be closest to the property, but it typically is not too far away.
Down Payment – A portion of a charge paid initially with the balance to be paid later
Duplex -  A low density multi-unit residential structure or dwelling that share at least one common wall. The floor plans may or may not be the same in each unit.
End Unit - A unit on either end of the building, it is more desirable because it shares just one wall instead of two or more and may have windows on three sides vs. two sides.
Front Row – A residential dwelling situated closest to the shoreline, or first row compared to second and third, etc.
Gated Community – A residential community with restricted geographical boundaries and gates to control access to the area. Access points may be staffed or utilize an entry code.
Ground Floor – The ground level floor of a building, which may or may not have a view
Guest Fee - An additional fee not included in the rate such as pet fee, cleaning fee, hot tub fee,  club house fee, parking, etc
Gulf -  Part of an ocean or sea that extends into the land, a gulf can be expansive, such as the Gulf of Mexico, or much smaller
Gulf Front /Ocean Front- A direct and/or panoramic coastline view of the ocean or gulf, but not immediately connected to the sand, such as a road or cliff between the unit and the beach
Gulf of Mexico – Both an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, there are seven southern US states that access the Gulf of Mexico: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The area is also known as the “Third Coast” with the Atlantic and Pacific being the first two.
Homeowners Association (HOA) – An HOA is a legal organization of homeowners who collectively pay fees to govern and maintain all properties, amenities and common areas within the association.
House Rules - Rules and policies clearly stated by the host for guests and their pets and visitors
Installments - Fees broken into smaller partial payments
Key Drop Box - A publicly accessible, yet secure location to pick up or drop off keys
Keyless Entry - Electronic lock that does not require an access card or traditional key for access to the property
Lodging Tax -  A hotel or lodging tax is charged to travelers when they rent accommodations for 30 days or less in a hotel, inn, vacation home, motel, or other type of lodging.
Long Term Rental – Typically a residential lease for six months or longer
Low/Off-Peak Season -  The least popular time of year to travel to an area, also known as off-peak
Maximum Occupancy - The maximum number of persons legally allowed to stay at a property
Minimum Stay - The lowest number of nights an owner or host will accept a reservation
Mobile/Manufactured Home - Built to HUD construction standards, manufactured or mobile homes are constructed in a factory and are designed to be moved to their destination on a trailer chassis. Mobile homes are sometimes placed in a mobile home park or on leased land where the owner rents a space or leases the land.
Monthly Rental – A unit that is rented by the month, usually from the first to last day of each calendar month
Mountain - A large natural elevation rising abruptly from the surrounding level; such as a large steep hill or mountain range
Multi-Unit - Two or more housing units that may or may not be identical
No Show - A guest who does not show up and provides no explanation
Non-Refundable Rates - A lower rate in lieu of certain conditions, such as non-refundable or non-cancellable
Occupancy -  Residing in or on something
Ocean - A very large expanse of sea that is divided geographically, such as the Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean
Ocean/Gulf Front - A direct and/or panoramic coastline view of the ocean or gulf, but not immediately connected to the sand, such as a road or cliff between the unit and the beach
Ocean/Gulf View – A non-direct view of the ocean or gulf from a particular angle that may or may not be a fair distance from the water
Open Container/s - Any alcoholic beverage that has been opened and has a broken seal or a portion of the contents removed.
Outdoor Amenities - The desirable, useful exterior amenities of a property such as BBQ grill, outdoor shower/s, playground, dog park area, pool, tennis court, beach area, etc.
Owner’s Closet - A locked closet or interior room that contains housekeeping or personal effects of the owner or host
Park Model – A smaller mobile home designed for seasonal occupancy and less mobile than an RV, yet is classified as an RV.
Parking Fee - A fee to park a non-oversized vehicle or other boat or vehicle on the property
Parking Permit – A temporary or permanent sign or tag displayed in the vehicle to show it is permitted to park on the property
Parking Restrictions - This is a limitation or restriction of the visitor’s access to parking on the property due to multiple vehicles, oversized or commercial vehicles, RV’s, golf carts, etc. Restrictions may also apply to where a vehicle may be parked.
Partial View – A view of at least a sliver of the feature such as an ocean, coastline, water or mountain
Patio – A paved area located adjacent to a residential dwelling, typically made of concrete or stone or tile pavers
Peak/High Season - The most popular time of year to travel to an area
Pet Fee – An additional non-refundable fee for cleaning or other potential pet-related damage to the property
Pet friendly - Properties that allows pets, typically dogs, to stay, although there may be limitations such as age, weight or number of dogs, breed restrictions and/or additional fees
Price-Per-Guest  - Pricing based on the number of guests
Pricing Structures - Different rental prices based on the rental season or time of year
Private Beach – Private beaches are owned by a property owner or entity with restricted access to the public. The dry part of a private sandy beach is private and the wet area is public and open to anyone.
Private Home/Residence – A private home/residence that is not part of a commercial establishment
Property Description – A written description of real estate that describes the details and features of a home for sale or lease.
Public Beach – Public beaches are owned by the government and generally do not restrict access to the public, although there are typically specific rules about open containers, dogs, open fires, fireworks, weddings and more.
Rack Rate - The listed or advertised price for a room or property per night, it is the maximum rate.
Recreational Vehicle (RV) – A recreational vehicle that is designed to be mobile, with hookups that can easily be disconnected.
Rental Agreement/Contract – A contract between and owner or property manager and a tenant who wishes to  use and occupy the property for a specific period of time as well as other terms and details related to the transaction such as cost, policies and procedures.
Remodel – To change the shape or form of something, such as a building, by demolition and construction.
Renovation – The process of cosmetic work renewing, repairing, updating or restoring to good condition.
Repeat Guests – Guests who return to the same property are considered valuable and are typically welcomed back.
Reservation Deposit – Nonrefundable money that is pre-paid to make a reservation and applied to the total bill.
Resort - A tourist destination that is usually in a scenic location for vacations, holidays, relaxation or recreation, or which is frequented for a particular purpose such as a spa, golf or wellness retreat.
Resort Fee – An additional fee that is charged to pay for a range of amenities, such as pool use, gym access, towel services, Wi-Fi, newspapers, shuttle service, daily parking, etc.
Row House - Similar houses in architectural style that are joined by side walls, also known as townhouses
Sales Tax - A consumption tax on the sale of goods and services, it is paid by the guest at the time of the sale, collected by the agent and paid to the government.
Service Fee – An extra charge assessed for a specific service
Short Term Rental – Typically a residential lease for 90 days or less
Shoulder Season – the period of time between peak and off peak season
Side View – A non-direct view from the side to see the feature such as an ocean, coastline, water or mountain
Single Family Home - A very low density, detached residential structure or dwelling site-built on its own land for the private use of the owner. Also known as R1, which means it’s zoned residential with one unit per lot.
Smart Lock - Bluetooth or wi-fi keyless locks
SNAD - Acronym for “significantly not as described”
Time Share - A timeshare is a legal arrangement for many people to share ownership of a property, such as a vacation property or condo within a resort area. Each buyer usually purchases a certain period of time to stay at the property, which may or may not be in the same unit each time.
Townhome/Townhouse - A narrow, non-freestanding row house connected on the sides, typically three or more floors tall. The owner possesses the land on which it is situated including the yard, patio or deck and the interior and exterior of the unit.
Trip/Travel Insurance – A separate insurance policy paid for by the traveler to protect the traveler from potential financial losses due to specific conditions. Coverage varies by policy for risks ranging from minor inconveniences such as missed airline connections or more serious issues including injuries or major illness.
Vacation Rental – Accommodations, typically located in a desirable area, that can be rented on a short term basis.
Value-Added Items - Amenities such as cribs, roll-away beds, high chairs, fire pits, BBQ grills, hot tubs, etc. that provide an extra value to guests
Walkability – A measure of characteristics that make an area easy to navigate by walking
Weekly Rental – A unit that is rented by the week, usually from Saturday to Saturday


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