Don't despair if you've left it late to rent a vacation home, even in popular summer resort areas that normally require people to make their arrangements months in advance and that were especially thronged during the pandemic.
In the Northeast, bookings in destinations such as Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts have fallen sharply this summer compared with 2022, giving vacationers more properties to choose from. In May, demand was down 19% from last year, according to WeNeedaVacation, a vacation rental site that focuses on the region. Vacation rental bookings for Martha's Vineyard for the summer season were down 13.6% compared to the same period in 2022.
For homeowners looking to rent their places, the market is trickier.
"We are cautioning owners to monitor their own demand and price accordingly, and to not solely base their pricing on the pandemic years, which were unprecedented for our industry," Samantha Williams, director of client services for WeNeedaVacation told CBS MoneyWatch. "As the world has opened up, vacationers are likely to have more options and can afford to be more cost-conscious."
Softening demand for vacation homes in the U.S. stems in part from Americans feeling more comfortable going overseas than when pandemic restrictions made international travel onerous and potentially risky.
"A lot of markets experienced an abnormal bump in occupancy or average daily rates during the pandemic, when people couldn't fly or didn't feel as comfortable getting on a plane, or wanted a vacation home instead of a hotel. Now we are returning to normal," said Josh Viner, a regional director of Vacasa, a platform that manages 42,000 vacation rentals across North America and in places like Belize and Costa Rica. "This year isn't doom and gloom — it's really going back to what it was like in 2019."
As a result, some homeowners wishing to rent out their homes are.
"People are also recognizing their pricing from a few years ago might have been a bit high, so they are adjusting prices down to find guests to come back," Viner said.
"Let's travel again"
This dynamic is evident in The Hamptons on Long Island, a perennially popular summer destination for wealthier New York City residents.
"We started out the season super slow," Mala Sander, a real estate agent with Corcoran, told CBS MoneyWatch. "What happened was people who had homes here decided, 'Let's travel again,'" she said.
That resulted in more vacation homes on the market. Misty Belles of luxury travel advisory Virtuoso said domestic travel among the firm's clients is down 12% this year compared to last summer, as more Americans head overseas.
"During the pandemic, domestic travel was so, so high, and then as things have opened up we've seen people who typically would have gone away for their summer travel returning back to those patterns," she said.
How to find a deal
If you're looking for place, don't expect any deals on the best properties right on the beach. But for renters willing to be flexible, here are some tips for finding a last-minute vacation rental. The relatively soft rental market makes booking a house for a week or two without overspending a reality for more families.
Be flexible. Renters with flexible criteria can likely negotiate up to a 15% discount on a vacation property this season.
"I think there is a little bit of wiggle room. If a renter is open to a home's location and configuration, they can probably get a good house at a decent rate," Sander said.
Vacation during the week. Similar to hotels, rental companies rely on dynamic pricing models to adjust nightly rates based on demand. To save money and avoid paying premium prices for weekend stays, consider booking a rental from Monday to Friday or Sunday to Thursday.
"That's something people often overlook when they look at going somewhere a week," said Viner of Vacasa.
Also be aware high-interest events, like a Taylor Swift concert, taking place in a given destination that could drive up prices and book a different time.
Go someplace hot. High temperatures can mean lower prices in places such as Virginia Beach, Virginia; Orlando, Florida; the Big Island or Kauai in Hawaii; parts of Southern California; and parts of Florida, according to Viner.
"For people who are comfortable with some of those high temperatures, there are really good deals to be had," he said.
Bring your walking shoes. If you're yearning for a beach vacation but are willing to stay inland a bit, you'll have more alternatives as well.
"You can save money if you're willing to stay on the other side of the road or a short walk away. A five-minute walk can save big dollars," Viner said.
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