By Kristi Palma
Rental properties on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard are booking quickly for this summer, but vacationers can still reserve a property.
Blake Decker, CEO of high-end vacation rental company Pretty Picky Properties, which manages 170 properties across 10 Cape Cod towns, said he’s about 85 percent full right now. He expects to sell out for peak season — between late June and late August — for the second year in a row.
“We as a company have never seen this demand for our services,” Decker said.
Before the pandemic, he’d be about 60 to 70 percent booked this time of year, he said, and never quite sell out.
“You’d have some holes in the season here and there,” Decker said. “So the 100 percent thing is a new phenomenon for me. I’ve been doing this since 2006 and I’ve never seen the 100 percent number that we saw last year.”
Other booking platforms, including Vrbo and WeNeedaVacation.com, are seeing similar demand.
Eager vacationers can still snag a Cape rental with a little patience and know-how, the experts said. Here are their tips for booking a Cape Cod rental for this summer.
Online rental marketplace Vrbo said less than 20 percent of vacation homes are currently available on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard for the month of July.
“Book as early as possible,” Alison Kwong, of Vrbo, said in an email. “This may be a no-brainer, but don’t further delay making summer vacation plans. Start planning now before vacation home availability becomes even more scarce — this will help ensure you have the best selection of properties and price points to choose from.”
Liz DeBold Fusco at Airbnb agreed, saying in an email that booking early will “ensure that you can find the listing you want, wherever you want to go.”
The website WeNeedaVacation.com, which offers more than 4,000 listings ranging from modest to luxurious on the Cape, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, is seeing a similar trend. Vacationers have been booking summer getaways earlier and earlier, according to Jennie Sparrow, senior marketing manager. The platform currently has 26 percent availability between late June and Labor Day and 17 to 21 percent availability for peak summer weeks in late July and early August, Sparrow said.
“This is the third year in a row that our site has been breaking records,” Sparrow said. “It has exceeded anything that we’ve seen in our 25-year history.”
“My advice to folks looking for their vacation spots this summer is to find a human to talk to,” Decker said. “Find a local agency that can talk to you and work with you. Finding some local knowledge would be a huge help.”
Decker said folks can find local businesses with vacation rentals through the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
“For even more options, each town on the Cape has a local chamber of commerce to which most agencies belong,” according to Decker.
He recommended calling the town’s chamber or checking out its website for a list of agencies to contact.
Potential renters should not give up hope, the experts said.
“We are seeing a very high number of new rental properties coming online.” said Decker, of Pretty Picky Properties.
Kwong said Vrbo has tools and filters that help travelers narrow down their search.
“For example, Vrbo offers a tool to help families looking for properties in popular destinations with low vacation home availability,” Kwong said. “Searches for properties in these vacation spots will include a carousel of additional properties available if travelers were to shift their stay dates by a day or week.”
“It’s never too late,” Sparrow said. “We are always having new listings, like 20 to 30 a week. So just keep checking back.”
Those eyeing late summer getaways may be in luck: The last week of August has the most availability right now, at between 32 and 49 percent, Sparrow said.
Flexibility is key, the travel industry pros said.
Consider visiting the region during the shoulder season in late spring or early fall, which is “still a gorgeous time to come,” Sparrow said.
The competition for Cape rentals is “less fierce” in late August and September, according to Kwong, when availability “drastically improves.”
“Additionally, try an undated search on Vrbo — doing so will yield a wider selection of vacation homes in a destination — to first find the ideal vacation home and then check the calendar to book the property when it’s available,” Kwong said.
“Try to be as flexible as you can with your travel dates and location requests,” Sparrow said. “If you love Wellfleet, consider staying in Eastham or Truro, or in another surrounding area that may have availability.”
There are many “cool and quirky” areas of the Cape, Decker said, so it’s worth giving a new destination a try.
Those seeking waterfront rentals may have more options than they think.
“There’s a lot of beautiful fresh water properties as well that deserve a chance,” Sparrow said. “[You can] hang out on the water, have a dock that you can swim off of. Fresh water properties are just as beautiful.”
Airbnb users can discover more rental options with “flexible dates” searches using duration of stay rather than exact dates, DeBold Fusco said, and “flexible destinations” searches of unique listings (think boats, A-frames, and private islands).
When using online rental marketplaces, be aware of scams, which are rare but happen, DeBold Fusco said.
Users should never pay for the total cost of the reservation off of the Airbnb platform, Fusco said, and all such requests should be reported to the company.
“Staying on the Airbnb platform throughout the entire process — from communication to booking — protects our community from offline scams,” she said.
Other red flags, according to Vrbo, include incorrect or strange URLs, a request for banking information, misspelled words or bad grammar, and low resolution images. Also, make sure the website uses encryption to keep your payment information safe.
Those with budget concerns can split the cost of a larger house with several families, Sparrow said.
“Consider coming with really close friends or family and staying in a larger home together, one that seems like it’s out of your budget,” Sparrow said. “If it’s enough bedrooms that you can combine families, that usually takes the sting out of it.”
Cost will be a challenge this year, Decker said.
“It’s going to be a tough year to find a deal on the Cape, especially for this year,” Decker said. “You may have to dig a little deeper into your wallet than you’d like to.”
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