Summer-long rentals a rarity

06/03/2010 12:00 AM |

Marta Lopez of Southold vacuums Friday morning in preparation for a week-long rental of the three-bedroom waterview home in Southold. Local realtors say there’s added work involved in managing short-term rentals, but the long-term rewards may be worth it.

Time was when a summer rental meant Memorial Day through Labor Day. But experts now say a long, hot, leisurely summer by the water is becoming a bit of a rarity.

“People are asking for shorter time periods,” said realtor Marie Beninati of Beninati Associates in Southold. “This has been a trend for some time and we listened to what clients wanted. We offer monthly, two-week and even weekly rentals. It’s flexible.”

A quick look at the summer rentals still available on confirms that many properties are indeed being offered for shorter stays as well as the traditional full season. Prices, too, run the gamut, from an eye-popping $150,000 for the season for an East Marion mansion on the Sound (which can also be yours from August to Labor Day for just $75,000) to a vintage summer cottage in Cutchogue available for $1,500 per week.

John Nickles Sr. of Lewis and Nickles Real Estate in Southold agreed that the summer rental market is trending away from the traditional full-season, but said that price is not the driving factor. He believes that fundamental changes in domestic life and time pressure are shaping the summer rental arena.

“People used to come out for the whole season,” he observed. “You had the husband coming out at weekends and a wife who was a homemaker who decamped to the shore for the summer. Now both spouses are working and they both have less time to spend,” he said.

Mr. Nickles added that he believes having less time to spend on a single vacation leads to a desire for variety over the course of a year. “They want to spend a couple of weeks on the North Fork, a couple in the islands and a couple skiing,” he said.

Although Mr. Nickles doesn’t blame money for the trend to shorter-term rentals, he said he does think a renter’s choice of destination may be determined by cold hard cash. “Some people may come out to the North Fork when they discover they can’t afford the Hamptons. I saw one rental out there was going for $500,000 for two weeks!” he said.

Cara Wells of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s said people looking for a reasonably priced short-term rental can definitely find something on the North Fork. She has several of those coveted two-week rentals, as well as some one-week rentals, available for clients. “We had two horrible months that slowed everything down,” she said. “We were dealing with things like propane tanks afloat” because of all the rain. “But then there was a lot of action in the three-week period up to Memorial Day. Waterfront and homes with pools are basically gone but there is inventory still available.”

Ms. Beninati said she believes more people are thinking of renting out their homes these days, which has contributed to a wider variety of rentals to choose from. She cautions, though, that renting out your home means work, and those desirable short rental periods mean even more work, whether you manage the rental yourself or have a realty company handle it for you.

Mr. Nickles agreed. “The logistics are more complicated,” he said. “Most rentals are from Saturday to Saturday as a general rule and that means a short window of time for the landlord to make sure everything is clean for the next tenants.”

And with many prospective tenants having so many rentals to choose from, an aspiring landlord has to make sure that everything is perfect to close a deal.

“You have to stage the home just as you would to sell it,” said Ms. Beninati. “Remove clutter, keep the dà cor neutral and invest in good quality linens.”

For Mr. Nickles, the key to success in renting out your home is a combination of showmanship and correct pricing. “People spend on average only five to six hours looking for a rental, so you need to make sure the pricing is attractive,” he said.

While there’s a great deal of work for brokers and agents as well as owners in the rental market, he said there’s a long-term upside to that investment of time and effort.

“Some people in my business are not keen on managing rentals,” he said, “but this year’s summer renter could be next year’s buyer. I look upon the summer rental business as security for the future.”