There’s never been a better time to be a part of the vacation-home rental market on the Shore
Photography by Krista Valliant
As the 2021 vacation season arrives across the Eastern Shore, there’s more than summerlike temperatures to greet visitors as they descend upon the region. A red-hot real estate market, slowed only by a lack of inventory, and a sweltering vacation-home rental landscape are two industries that have thrived despite mandates and shutdowns related to COVID-19.
Locally, homeowners are placing their properties in rental programs to capitalize upon demand, originally made popular by supersites like Airbnb and VRBO, and earning significant returns in the process. Likewise, investors are acquiring finer properties along the coast and instantly renting them — often banking three-times their monthly mortgages every 30 days. According to analytics from Alltherooms.com, there are approximately 2,300 vacation-rentable homes in Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Ocean View. The site expects this number to grow by 13% in 2021 — and with nightly rentals averaging $425-$750 in mid-July, it’s easy to see why.
Rehoboth-based Seachange Vacation Rentals, aligned with Keller Williams Realty, just had its best year ever, recording a 92% occupancy rate for its homeowners during what was originally projected to be an “off year.” The boutique vacation-rental management company, which prides itself on bringing focus to a fragmented beach rental market, possesses a proprietary real estate/hospitality formula that continues to produce growth for the company, and its homeowners, year over year. While the company wouldn’t divulge any trade secrets, Seachange owner Andy Meddick offered some advice to first-time owners and seasoned vacation-home renters looking to increase their bottom lines this season.
Brand-new properties like this one, located on Columbia Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, feature top-of-the-line comforts and rent from $700 per night. It is also completely booked through February 1, 2022, according to Seachange’s website.
“It’s completely understandable, if you’re a first-time owner of a rental property, to want to deck out your space with every beachy accessory you can lay your hands on,” says Meddick, “but resist the temptation. It’s the location itself — particularly its proximity to the ocean — that brings the beach vibe and drives the rental rates, not an endless procession of shells, bells, and crab-shaped candy dishes. A balanced decor scheme will appeal to more potential renters and leave the space less cluttered.” Meddick also stresses that the decor scheme should skew toward the modern: “Second-hand furnishings aren’t as popular with renters as you might think.”
Also important is knowing the demography of the renter you’re targeting. “Your furniture, furnishings, bedding, bed choices and overall color palette should vary accordingly, based on whether you’re trying to attract families with young kids or older, more relaxed and established couples,” he says. “And don’t forget the amenities! Try to select a community that offers proximity and access to pools, tennis, pickleball, et cetera, as incentives like these will often make a renter pick your property over another.”
Lastly, Meddick emphasizes the importance of using your first year as a vacation-property owner to set the tone and establish a solid foundation for future seasons of successful rentals. “The first year, set realistic expectations for yourself and your renters — don’t overreach or underserve. What you are ultimately striving for at this stage is to collect as many five-star reviews as you can, as these can practically market your property for you,” advises Meddick. “Besides, you’re also increasing the likelihood that you’ll cultivate a roster of eager repeat guests, which is a great position to be in.”
For Seasoned Owners
As an experienced vacation-property owner, you’ve been to the rodeo and have a better idea of how the process works and what to expect. It’s prudent, then, says Meddick, to focus on aligning yourself with the right rental-property management company for your goals and needs. “Is your rental company maximizing your income? Because properties that book too fast do so because are they are underpriced, which leaves money on the table — money that should be yours,” Meddick says.
He goes on to underscore the need for owners to ask questions of their rental-property managers, suggesting that if the company is vague or seems irritated by the process, it is probably not the right company for you. “Ask them what they are doing to help stockpile five-star reviews for you, and make sure the company publishes them online,” suggests Meddick. “Also, find out if your management company uses OTAs [outside travel agencies] to help drive traffic to your property. If they’re not using the internet and OTAs to maximize your exposure, they’re squandering valuable marketing tools.”
Finally, skilled rental-property managers are experts at what they do. Therefore, do not hesitate to solicit feedback from them about what you can do to increase your property’s income. Seachange Vacation Rentals provides all these services and many more, which is a key reason, says Meddick, that his company is consistently able to get its clients more income for their property rentals.
Vacation Property Checklist
Top 10 things owners should do with their homes in 2021:
1. Keyless entry
2. COVID cleaning standards
3. Pools, hot tubs, amenities, etc.
4. Great linen programs
5. Highest-speed internet available
6. Create great outdoor spaces
7. Welcome dogs into your properties
8. Invest 10% of your rental income to improve your property
9. Remove carpeting
10. Partner with a management company that truly works for you!