Real Estate

Off-season rentals: The best-kept real estate secret on the North Fork

What’s the best kept secret that visitors to the North Fork might like to know?
According to local real estate experts, it’s the off-season.
“Fall and early spring are just wonderful out here,” said Jill Dunbar of Century21 Agawam Albertson. “And after Labor Day a house rental is much, much cheaper.”
By way of illustration, Ms. Dunbar has a three bedroom, two-bath listing in Orient for $1,200 per month and a water view first floor apartment in the West Dublin section of Greenport with a monthly off-season rent of $1,550.
Winter renters should bear in mind, though, that the utility bill is likely to be higher than in summer.
“Sometimes there’s a standard rate and sometimes it’s the whole utility bill,” advised Ms. Dunbar. “But even so, winter rentals are a real bargain.”
Apart from reasonable rents and sunny fall and spring weather, some winter renters do have pragmatic reasons for taking an off-season rental, said Marie Beninati of Beninati Associates.
“Someone may be renovating a house and need temporary accommodation,” she said. “Or they may be selling and need a stopgap while they look for a new property to buy.”
Ms. Beninati says that while winter rentals are a little unusual in her experience, there are plenty of pluses for owners who perhaps haven’t considered renting out their summer homes in the winter.
“On the positive side, the house is being lived in, which is a good thing during the winter,” she said. “You could look at winter renters almost like caretakers in a way. If the pipes freeze, they’ll be on the spot to alert you.”
Tom McCarthy of Thomas J. McCarthy Real Estate in Southold agrees that house renovations often take place in the off-season and that sparks an interest in winter rentals.
“For those customers, there’s some good inventory out here at a very reasonable price,” said Mr. McCarthy. “As an example, we’re currently offering a three-bedroom cottage on the water in Southold for $1,000 a month.”
Shorter rental periods also are available in the off-season – but at a premium. “There’s more work involved for the broker,” Mr. McCarthy added. “That said, we just rented a house for the month of October.”
Shorter-term rentals “are definitely hard work for us,” said Ms. Dunbar. “I have a customer who takes an October rental every year, though. That individual just loves October because it’s still warm and lively out here.”
For the most part, Ms. Dunbar finds that winter renters are in some kind of transition, either selling, looking to buy, perhaps divorcing or simply experimenting.
Ms. Beninati has noticed that some winter renters tend to be somewhat introspective.
“They’re obviously not here for the boating and swimming,” she said. “Having said that, the development of the North Fork over the last few years means that there is a lively social scene in the off-season for those who want it. The restaurants and wineries are open. Business owners out here are always looking for business and will stay open if the customers are there.”
Lately Mr. McCarthy has had more owners calling for help in renting out their properties over the winter.
“These are people who don’t normally rent and they’re wanting to rent the house out for the whole off-season where possible,” he said. “I think people are looking to maximize their home’s potential, maybe more than in previous years.”
For those considering a short-term winter rental, Mr. McCarthy suggests looking online and dealing directly with the owner. Those sites include Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO).
A quick look at VRBO yields a range of properties, prices and both long and short-term rental availability.
Ms. Beninati also suggested a winter rental might be a great way for city apartment dwellers to spend the holidays.
“Celebrating in a house with a blazing fire in the hearth might be a nice change,” she said. “Who knows, once people realize the potential out here in the off-season, maybe we’ll create a new market segment.”