Jersey Media Network, a company based in Atlantic Highlands, NJ that owns ShoreVacations.com (Jersey Shore’s largest vacation rentals website), conducted a survey about the 2010 summer rental season at the Jersey Shore. It used web traffic stats as well as discussions with individual property owners. In the first installment of this analysis, we discussed the year-to-year trends.
A major shift in the vacation rental business is the switch from traditional realty to exclusive online advertising. This requires a lot more time and work from the owners, but if they can afford it, it can be much more profitable. An owner from Lavallette tells us his story: “Our family has owned a bay front Jersey Shore summer rental home for 54 years. Until recently we listed it with a local rental agency (which now charges 12% commission and requires an exclusive listing which even prohibits the homeowner from renting any weeks privately). It wasn’t unusual to have several weeks sit vacant. Prior to driving to Florida in January, 2010, we decided to try a listing on ShoreVacations.com. To our pleasant surprise we immediately began receiving phone inquiries and upon arrival in Florida we also found several email inquiries waiting. We were delighted to be booking summer weeks during January from a sunny Florida beach via cell phone and email rather than wondering until July or August if all weeks would rent, Because the ShoreVacations.com web site vastly broadened the scope of our advertising, by April our house was fully booked between June and Labor Day. Furthermore, we liked being able to speak with (interview) or meet prospective tenants prior to signing a lease. By Labor Day, the website showed that our ad had been viewed over 9,800 times. All in all, 2010 was a profitable season with fewer hassles than many past seasons when we paid realty commissions and had problems and vacancies.”
Many other owners are discovering the benefits of “renting by owner” as a more efficient way to find renters and to improve rental cash flow. An active owner can do a much better job finding and screening renters, and this comes at great cost savings compared to using a traditional realtor. Although there are a few national rental websites like VRBO or Homeaway, landlords can usually get better results with a local website or Craigslist. Craigslist is a free advertising platform, but lately it has become a major target for scammers, so great attention is required when dealing with renters. A regional website (like www.ShoreVacations.com) can be a better choice.
In the first part of this article, a Seaside Heights owner was complaining about the late start to the season, with a slower July and good August. Same thing happened to Knute, owner of The Sandcastle Cottages in Belmar: “Because of the high unemployment rate, a lot of our prospective guests did not have jobs. No jobs, no money & therefore no vacation. Though by summer’s end we had a good rental season, it was very slow getting started.” Mike McNally from North Wildwood echoes the same opinion, but sounds more optimistic about next year: “Renter interest started slowly, but by mid July and August, there was quite a bit of action. Interestingly, there were a lot of inquiries about lining up a rental for 2011.”
Tina Montone, who owns Escape by the Sea in Seaside Park, has a similar complaint. Although the season was not as good as before the recession, she is happy with this year’s renters, but says: “The only thing that was a surprise is that we didn’t have anyone interested at all during the month of July!” She also appreciates the convenience of advertising her rental house online: “We thank you for creating this website and we have truly enjoyed being a part of the Jersey Shore Vacations group! We love it and we are so happy that there is a great site like yours to help property owners obtain quality guests, and to help vacationers with their summer travel needs. It’s important for everyone.”
Like most Americans, vacation home owners are optimistic (or actually, hopeful) about 2011. An owner from Point Pleasant expresses her hopes, while reflecting on the beauty of her town, as well as everyone’s hardships: “Point Pleasant Beach has been my home away from home for over 40 years. The town is delightful, the stores are magnetic. You want to shop and explore every nook and corner. The restaurants in the area are just wonderful. You have home cooking, and Italian as well as Spanish and Japanese cuisine to satisfy your appetite. Of course there is nothing more satisfying than going on the boardwalk for all those delicious desserts served in various little spots as you walk along towards the rides. Our bungalow is so close to Jenkinson’s that you blink and you’re there. I certainly hope next season will be more productive. This past season was very slow. It was a sad reflection of our economy and the struggle all Americans are having financially. I hope that next season will be a better one for all concerned.”