Believe it or not, choosing Crete holidays does not necessarily mean staying in a hotel or buying a package holiday from a tour operator. Nowadays it is possible to rent villas even if you are just a couple. Even more so when you have a family, or you need to consider solutions for more than the typical number of people. And save big. Many travelers think that staying in a villa in Crete will drain their wallets. But there might be something you can do about it and end up in a beautiful house instead of staying in hotels crammed with other people, saving some of your precious cash for other things. Especially now, where the pandemic is still big news, and you want the safest possible options for you and your loved ones.
Why am I writing this? I was reading an article the other day in a newspaper about traveling in Greece from abroad for holidays and some of the statistics blew me away. The vast majority of travelers still choose hotels and packaged holidays: almost 80% of them ignore the existence of villa renting as a vacation solution or rejects it as too expensive for their holiday budget. So, I wanted to shed some light on this matter using my experience as a Property Manager. People like me cover a big knowledge gap for Crete villa owners; we fill their shoes in more than one challenging areas, on their daily routine with their Cretan villa. We coordinate reservations coming from platforms and we find new renters outside rental platforms, helping Crete villa owners increase their bookings and revenue. We do the communication part with the renters on their behalf, ensuring everything is settled by the time they arrive. This is a lot of work. Our job is difficult; it covers many specialties including Management Sales CRM Finance Law Communications Marketing and Digital Advertising. Some of the most skilled of us are also experts in web design site development and search engine optimization. The more skills we have, the better property managers we become.
The different types of Crete holidays.
Coming to Crete for your holidays can be a wonderful experience. More than 5 million people per year visit Crete for holidays; the island has a season that starts in April and ends in November. It is a favorite destination for Greek people too. For those travelers coming from abroad, the vast majority arrives by plane. Most people will book a hotel stay alone or as part of a holiday package that includes all expenses like plane ticket ferries car rentals food etc. This is an old type of holiday that takes me back to the 80s. My own experience indicates that it is still strong especially from travelers coming from Northern Europe or overseas from countries like the US.
Although cheaper and hassle-free, this choice of a holiday comes with some negatives. You will be staying usually at a big hotel with many other people; some hotels are 5-star or 6-star, but you are still feeling that you are treated as a member of a herd. If you are in an all-inclusive package, you will be eating self-service or a-la-carte drinking non-brand alcohol and soft drinks. You can always choose premium brands, but you will have to pay extra. If you stay on the premises everything happens in masses: you will be staying in a small holiday community at best, with other people doing the same things that you do.
In the past decade, there has been a significant change with the advent of the booking platforms like booking.com and Expedia. People started to create their own holidays. During the past ten years, people choose their hotel and book their plane tickets in a non-packaged holiday form and just come here. It is a more independent type of holiday; you have a vast selection of hotels to choose from. You have a wider choice of flights. The cost is slightly higher than a holiday package, but you can escape the crowds and all this ‘fast food holidays’ style to a great extent. Greek people usually choose this type of holiday.
During the past five or six years, we see that the travel market has been completely overturned by Airbnb-type platforms. So there is more granularity in terms of choosing a place to stay, and as a traveler, you can find some cheap and wonderful places to stay.
The short-term vacation rental era is now at full speed but still, many travelers do not change their habits and still select package holidays and tour operators. For those who prefer to choose Airbnb-type accommodation, they enjoy the most of holiday independence. The only constraint that prevents them from staying in a villa for their holidays is usually related o budget limitations; other than that, there are plenty of villas for rent to go around.
Villa types in Crete and how they can affect your rental costs.
Right, you may find this a bit hard to understand but we want to show you how villa rentals here work, and this will also show the logic behind how to save money on your booking.
There are three types of villas in Crete to rent:
- Those that are illegal, or at minimum, not legally registered in any way.
- Those that belong to private owners (ordinary citizens not companies), and registered to the Tax Office as such having their own registration number starting with the 3 letters: ‘AMA’
- Those that are licensed by the Greek Board of Tourism and registered to the Tax Office as properties connected to a Legal Entity (a company). They too have their own registration number starting with the 4 letters ‘MHTE’ (‘mietai’).
You do not want to stay at the illegal ones; it is exceedingly rare to find illegally built villas; still, there are areas in Crete where they build villas temporarily without a construction permit and on land plots that have a foggy ownership status, or with specs that differs from those outlined in the construction plan. Most of those start as illegal and go legal very quickly. Such properties become useful for renting and ‘emerge’ for a short period mostly when the booking capacity on the island reaches 100% on the busy season (July-August) only to disappear by the end of the high season. Illegal properties do not have registration numbers.
The difference between privately owned and company owned villas.
Private villa owners do not have VAT on their rental price, so they have a competitive advantage compared to villa owners running a villa rental company. But they pay higher taxes, without having any tax benefits and discounts. Villa owners who run a villa rental company are obliged to add a 13% VAT on the rental price; most of the times, the VAT is concealed by the vacation rental platforms to level the playing field. They pay lower taxes (starting from 20%) compared to the private owners (who pay anything between 35%-45%). They can also deduct expenses from their Tax (like rental platform commissions, property manager fees, other operating fees like electricity water gardening personnel etc.). They can also deduct the mentioned expenses’ VAT from the total VAT paid to the Tax Office every yearly quarter. Thus, leaving little Tax and VAT to pay in the end for the villa business!
If you want to save money on your booking costs, it makes sense to go after the private owners. The other type of owners, the ones with a company usually do not have any reason to give you a discount. Or do they? read on and you will see what we mean.
Of course, private villa owners will happily take a straight booking from you bypassing the rental platforms because in their prices, they have a calculated margin big enough to pay their commissions and fees for vacation rental platforms. Not to mention the margin that some owners have for discounts.
You can achieve a rental cost reduction starting at 10% depending on the season you are after, but we would say with the highest confidence that on average a 10%-40% is feasible no matter the season you are after. Try this with a hotel and see what you will get! But remember: the total number of nights to be booked is a significant bargaining chip.
The mentioned discounts apply to all cases where the rental price of the villa seen on the villa’s website (if any) is roughly the same with the rental price on the rental platforms. If the rental price on the villa’s website is lower – compared to the rental price seen in the platforms – you will have less of an opportunity for a discount, but you still have good chances to reduce the cost.
How to find cheaper villas in Crete
If you decide to give it a try and go after a good discount for a villa you must spend some time in conducting a thorough research and you also must make some calls.
The first rule of the game is this: in normal times the further away you are booking from July and August, the better your chances in striking an exceptionally good discount. Usually, the prices for a villa in Crete are divided into three zones; the first price zone is for the months of July and August, the more expensive zone, as this is high season. The second is for the months of June and September, the mid-season. And the third is for May and October, the low season.
The second rule is to start your research as early as possible. Do not leave it for last minute because you will want to have ample time for research and to finalize your decision on which villa in Crete to choose out of those you have short listed. On the other hand, do leave it for last minute if special circumstances are in effect, for instance, travel uncertainty due to a pandemic – in this case you will have a large inventory to choose from, and plenty of opportunities for a booking in the high season: you should be able to grab a last-minute discount on a great villa without too much difficulty.
So, grab a coffee and look for your favorite villas in Crete by going to your favorite rental platform. When you select those that you like, save them to your favorites. Mark at least a dozen. And then start looking for the following signs:
- They are on the rental business for at least 3 years.
- They have a registration number (AMA or MHTE)
- They are listed on your favorite rental platforms but also have their own website
- They offer a discount on the rental platform or on their website. Or both.
You should not have any trouble in finding many opportunities.
So, contact the owner or representative directly. Find the site of the villa, or the Facebook page of the villa or the Google My Business page, and send them a direct message, or even better, call them directly and talk to them. Usually, the owners of the villas will get paid by the rental platforms at least a week after you check-in; the quicker they get paid by you, the better your chances in making a deal with them.
You will pay less because of the existing discount and by bypassing the rental platform and saving on commissions by contacting the owner directly. If the owner runs a website for the villa with a rental price lower than the price on the rental platform, chances are that you will save just the commission, plus whatever extra discount the owner is willing to offer you because of the season and because of the total number of nights that you are willing to book. The more nights, the better off you will be.
Similarly, for this category, except that there is also a possibility that you may save an additional 13% by escaping VAT, but this is more difficult because it means that the owner will have less to deduct from their tax, and they are also breaking the tax rules.
Your bargaining chips.
You have three aces in your hand: one is the number of nights you are willing to stay; the second is the method you are willing to pay. And third is the time of the year that you are coming to stay.
If your stay is for a week or less, you have less possibility for a discount compared to a two or three-week stay. If you ask to pay a small deposit – the equivalent of two nights stay – upon booking, by bank transfer, and the remaining balance paid at check-in in cash, you strengthen your position further. The owners will usually accept the offer because of the convenience of cash, and the opportunity of keeping some of the rental cost off the books. You can bargain for an additional small discount for a long booking in the mid-season or the low season. But you will have less possibilities for a discount in the high season.