A day trip to the beach isn’t going to do it this summer: you want to wake up to the crash of the waves and spend an entire week playing in the sand. For some vacationers, staying at a beach house is an annual ritual. But for those who aren’t lucky enough to own a second home, scrolling through vacation rental sites for beach houses available during the peak of summer can be overwhelming.
To make it a little bit easier, here are eight tips on how to find the perfect beach house for your vacation courtesy of Natalia Sutin, who serves as VP of Revenue Management for newly merged vacation rental management companies TurnKey and Vacasa.
Decide if Waterfront Is Worth It
Before you book, you’ll need to think about whether it makes sense to pay more for the convenience of walking to the beach (either a few blocks or just a few steps!). “The amenity filters for waterfront and ocean view vacation rentals are the most popular on Vacasa.com, according to our 2021 Vacation Rental Search Report, so properties right on the sand will commonly have a higher nightly rate than a similar property that’s located even a few blocks away,” says Sutin.
It’s just a matter of your vacation priorities. “Many guests want to pay for that access and see value in convenience, but if budget is your primary concern, then it’s probably worth it to make the walk or drive to the beach,” she says.
The Bigger the Group, the Sooner You’ll Need to Book
Booking a vacation house far in advance will always give you more options, but it’s especially important if you want to get a house with 20 of your best friends. “Larger vacation rentals tend to book up quickest, whereas smaller homes that are well suited for last-minute family getaways will more often be available closer to an arrival date,” Sutin explains. “And that makes sense when you consider all the advance planning that goes into a large group trip.”
According to the company’s 2021 Vacation Rental Search Report, the median booking window was 35 to 40 days. So if you’re looking for a larger home in particular, you’ll want to get ahead of that curve and look at least a couple months in advance.
Consider Newbie Houses for a Good Deal
One lesser-known way to save a few bucks is to search for recently listed vacation rentals that are new to a vacation rental platform. “The rentals that are just starting to book up their calendars—and to amass guest reviews—often command a lower price than the vacation rentals that book up every season,” Sutin says.
But without a lot of reviews, you’ll need to do more vetting. “Be sure the booking site has high-quality photography though, or even 3-D tours like Vacasa.com offers, so you get a true sense of the property,” Sutin says.
Expand Your Search for Holidays
Have your heart set on catching a wave on Memorial Day weekend or the Fourth of July? It’s crucial to plan ahead and it’s even better to consider multiple beach towns. “Be somewhat flexible with your location when you aren’t flexible with your dates,” Sutin says. “Looking up-and-down the Oregon Coast rather than specifically in Lincoln City, or checking for homes in South Carolina’s North Myrtle Beach instead of Myrtle Beach itself can significantly expand your vacation rental options.
Flexibility With Vacation Dates Helps Too
To get an affordable rate for a short trip, consider checking in on a weekday, instead of the typical Friday through Sunday jaunt. “If you’re going to take a couple days off anyway, you may be able to get a better rate staying Saturday through Tuesday, say, rather than Thursday through Sunday,” she says.
Use the Amenity Filters
Can’t imagine a vacation without your dog? Dreaming of a beach house with a hot tub or private pool? Or just trying to find a beach house that’s not a behemoth? Sutin stresses that using amenity filters, which allow you to search based on the number of rooms and home type, can help narrow down the results and save a lot of time in the process.
Consider Condo Destinations
If it’s just you and your immediate family (or a friend or two), it can feel like every beach house has 10 bedrooms as you scroll through listings. If that’s the case, you might want to switch destinations entirely.
“While there are beach markets where larger homes dot most of the coastline—like Outer Banks, North Carolina, for one—there are plenty of beach markets with a wide selection of condos perfect for smaller groups and families,” Sutin says. “Ocean City, Maryland has an abundance of vacation rental condos, and Hilton Head in South Carolina is another getaway that may surprise you with a good mix of vacation homes and condos available.” Listings in a condo building have their own perks: these are often waterfront buildings, which means you’ll have a beautiful ocean view, and there can be shared amenities like pools as well.
Don’t Fall for a Scam Listing
One important piece of advice: Sutin stresses that you should always make sure you are booking through a reputable website before you shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to rent a beach house. “Avoid forums like Craigslist that don’t offer the same ability to verify listings,” she says.
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