If you’re staying for a week or want to invite friends, consider a house. Again, pick a house that has reviews and email the owner. Make up a question if you have to; you want to see how responsive and helpful the owner is. Location is critical so make sure you see where the house is in relation to what you’re interested in seeing and doing. Check it out on google maps and google earth to see what the neighborhood looks like. I once read a review of a house I was going to rent on Trip Advisor. I sent a pm (private message) to the reviewer who had stayed there within the last year asking specific questions about the house like were the utensils in good shape, was there an adequate grocery store nearby etc. I received a lengthy, helpful email. Ironically, two years later I posted some questions about a city in a different country that the reviewer and her husband were about to visit so she emailed me for information about the area where I was renting. Our trips coincided by a day and we tried to meet in person but their flights were delayed so it didn’t work out. The point is people are extremely helpful when you use sites like TA.
Book early. If you are interested in renting in a warm location during winter months and you want an inexpensive place, book at least 9 months in advance. Be prepared to send a significant deposit at this time too. You may also have some sort of deposit for utilities. I have never had an owner not refund this if I didn’t use the entire amount.
The only issue I’ve had with apartment and house rentals is the beginning walk through. Three times I’ve had owners who were away themselves on vacation who’ve had neighbors fill in with less than perfect results. In a Florence apartment the owner had her brother show my friend and me the place. He didn’t speak a single word of English so pantomime was fine for most aspects but what he failed to tell us was what to do with the garbage. I don’t want to tell you how many bottles of wine we had piled up in a corner at the end of the week. I’m guessing they’re still talking about us. Even when an English speaking manager shows up, you may be too jet lagged to pay attention or ask the right questions. So, come with your property description and ask to see everything listed. I’ll confess right here that I didn’t know about a second bathroom one time because I thought it was the cleaning supply closet and didn’t open the door. While you don’t get daily maid service, you will get weekly cleaning and in some countries like Nicaragua, you may get a maid 3 days a week.