Vacation rentals: Where the deals are

July 14, 2011

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — In this oceanfront enclave where former President George H.W. Bush spends his summers, interest in vacation rentals is climbing thanks to the deals to be had for the first time in recent memory.

Vacation rentals are in vogue right now and make for an appealing option for a family getaway in destinations from Carmel, California to Key West, Florida to Kennebunkport.

Kathy Baker, rental manager for Kennebunk Beach Realty, said there are more people  interested in weekly rentals than there have been in years. But economic pressures also mean there are fewer families renting for two weeks or a month at a time, she says, which has created the opportunity for more people to vacation that way — a week at a time.

Amy Caputa decided this was the right year for her family to rent a Cape Cod vacation home. She and her family will share the $3,300 a week rental in Harwichport with her sister’s brood.

“I’ve always wanted to do a Cape vacation and pulled the trigger this year,” she said.

The decision to rent a house for a beach vacation seemed obvious compared to, say, going to a hotel — particularly with three boys and extended family in tow.

“I like having a kitchen, where I can prepare my obnoxiously healthy vegetarian food, and as an obsessive laundry do-er, I need a washer and dryer available to me at all times,” Caputa says.

That’s a huge plus for families coming home from the sandy beaches every day.

Baker says one thing that some renters have figured out this year is that the listed price of the rental, which was once a given, is now in play when there are available weeks.

“People are negotiating on rental prices, which they’ve never done before,” she says. “Now they’re asking us, ‘Will you go to the owner and see if they’ll take this amount of money’.”

Baker says she will ask and some of the owners — depending on the offer — have agreed to accept less than the listing price, something that had previously been unheard of.

Rentals in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport start at about $1,300 a week and go up to $12,500 a week for “The Stone House,” an iconic historic oceanfront home perched on a cliff. While some properties are more difficult to rent, and a present a potentially opportunity for vacationers, luxury homes in that $10,000 and up range tend to get gobbled up, Baker said.

“They are easier to rent. You’re always going to have that clientele. They have the money and they want a certain property,” she says. “We are surprised with the economy the way it is that people are renting the ones that are $10,000 a week or higher.”

The Stone House has two available weeks this summer, largely because they are in late August, right near the end of the vacation season.

Nationwide, interest in vacation properties is soaring, according to the folks at TripAdvisor.com. The popular travel reviews site said they have seen an 80 percent jump in inquiries about vacation rentals in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period a year earlier.

(Check out TripAdvisor’s list of the most opulent vacation rentals, including three that rent for more than $100,000 a week.)

“The mainstream of American travelers are just now discovering what Europeans have known for many years — vacation rentals are a great way to travel, especially for families or large groups that want more elbow room for the dollar and all the conveniences of home,” says Hank Hudepohl, director of vacation rentals at TripAdvisor.

“The vacation rental marketplace continues to show strong growth both in terms of inventory and travelers. What was once a regionally focused industry, almost secretive about property availability, has been changed forever by virtue of Internet marketing and access.”

The Vacation Rental Managers Association and NAVIS Research said they’ve measured a 9 percent increase this summer over last in people staying in professionally-managed vacation properties.

Dealing with a rental property is different than booking a hotel since you’re largely dealing with checks rather than credit cards and don’t have the same level of fraud protection. Particularly on the higher end rentals, it adds some peace of mind to go through a reputable agency — or deal directly with an owner with an established track record.

Also, be aware that for some of the luxury properties, particularly those with historic value, renters may also be asked to carry additional liability insurance.

To find a rental, look at real estate sites in the community you’re interested in or check out the VRMA’s site for their list of properties. Some vacation rental owners say that they feel more comfortable renting themselves and prefer putting their properties on sites including VRBO.com, flipkey.com and homeaway.com. When renting any vacation property, understand exactly what you’re getting.

3 comments

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Very useful article regarding deals on vacation rental. I have used vrbo.com previously. It’s a pretty good site. Recently, I have come across another side which focuses on lake based travel. If some one is traveling to a lake, LakeLocate.com is a good resource for finding rental properties and more …

Posted by fandiK | Report as abusive

Well, I do agree with the writer, vacation rentals is the perfect way for families to escape from the 5 star hotels. Keep your privacy do what you like be like your home. I am a property manager promoting some very nice properties in Crete, Greece and I can assure you that people like more and more this kind of holidays. If you plan to visit Greece just check our website as well, it offers nice vacation rental options for all kind of budgets. Check our website on www.chania-vacation.com

Posted by Giroin | Report as abusive

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KB Homes

Posted by Helen22 | Report as abusive