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Summer bookings started slowly at the 95-unit oceanfront Star of the Sea Condominium in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Then in February, after Americans began getting vaccinated against COVID-19, “the phones started ringing off the hook” and online reservations poured in, says rental manager Mary Donahue.
"People have been cooped up. They said, ‘I got my shot and I want to sit on a balcony and look at the ocean,'” she says. By the end of April, only its studio rentals weren’t almost fully booked for June, July and August.
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Rentals also are going fast at popular beach destinations from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and the Jersey Shore to North Carolina's Outer Banks, to Wisconsin's Door County and Oregon's Pacific coast. Cape Cod has seen a more than 30 percent increase in demand compared with the pre-pandemic summer of 2019, says online rental giant VRBO.
A recent VRBO search of rentals for the last week in July, for example, finds only 3 percent of properties available in both Traverse City, Michigan, and Cannon Beach, Oregon, and only 1 percent available in the Yellowstone National Park area and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
On Maui, “this is the most incredible rental time we have seen in more than 20 years — it's nuts,” says Cindy Vinson of Eagle Creek, California, who has been letting out her three-bedroom beachfront condo in Kahana for two decades. It costs $680 a night — up $40 from last year — and she is booked through summer 2022. Another of her rentals, on the California side of Lake Tahoe, also is in an area where demand is “totally insane … even in the traditional shoulder seasons,” she says.
Many rental agencies don't raise their rents with demand — what's known as dynamic pricing. Doug Brindley, who runs a rental agency, Brindley Beach Vacations, based in Corolla on the Outer Banks, says their prices have remained the same despite surging demand that's left their homes completely booked through September. But he adds that others in the area have raised rents as much as 10 percent. On Cape Cod, prices are 9 percent higher than last year, according to Annie Blatz, sales manager for three branches of Kinlin Grover Vacation Rentals, the largest rental agency on the cape.
Andrew Torcivia, owner of Lundquist Realty & Vacation Rentals of Door County, says some owners are holding the line on rates for the 105 rental properties his firm represents, but overall, “prices are definitely up. Cottages might cost $100 or so more per week, while large homes can go for a few hundred more.” The trend toward higher pricing started last year, he notes, as renters looked to escape being stuck at home.