By LINDA LACINA
Not Bad: Rental Aggregators
Hunting for a summer rental used to mean hours spent combing through listings. Now, vacation-rental search engines promise to streamline that process by scanning several of the Web's top rental sites. Otalo, for instance, allows vacationers to check listings in 164 countries. Competitor Dwellable scans fewer sites, but offers an iPad app that lets vacationers browse photos of potential rentals.
Getting Fancy Now: Vetted Rentals
While aggregators can't promise that the gorgeous house in the photo isn't actually a termite-ridden shack, some rental sites will vouch for their listings. Jetsetter, for one, says its staffers have visited each of its 300 high-end properties (think a 10-room lodge in Telluride, Colo., starting at $4,900 a night), all of which come with concierge services like housecleaning or a personal chef. The site also offers a travel-planning service that can work out the details of the trip.
Life-Changing: Your Own Town
But why settle for a house when you could take over a whole village? Xnet, an event-marketing company in Liechtenstein, can arrange a town rental in Austria, Germany or Switzerland. Vacationers can change the names of the streets or even introduce their own currency. Rentals are typically recommended for groups of at least 150 and can take six months to plan. The deal includes meals, planning and lodging -- with rates starting around $65,000 a night.