From the WNAV Office

2021 Mid-Season Report

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
5/5 - (3 votes)

Another exceptional rental season

As most of you remember only too well, 2019 was the season of the new lodging tax, creating pandemonium and fears that vacationers would revolt and never return to the Cape and Islands. Rental homeowners survived that astonishingly well, albeit with major adjustments and having to exercise restraint from raising their rates to compensate.

And then last year, we were hit with the pandemic, causing us to wonder if we would be shut down for the entire season. But when the ban was lifted, there was unprecedented demand from vacationers looking for safe getaways.

This year, whether we’re ready for a return to “normal” or not, the floodgates opened, and the traffic on our site, as well as on the roads, has reached historic proportions.

Lower inventory

Not only is demand exceptionally high, but the inventory of available homes is reduced. Some homeowners chose to withdraw their homes from the rental market due to the lodging tax and the added burdens of preparing a home during the pandemic. Others chose to use their rental homes themselves if they are still able to work remotely. And many vacationers are similarly able to take more than a week’s vacation this year.

Strong inquiries and bookings for this season started early last fall and have continued at extraordinary levels. The most popular weeks continued to be the last 2 in July and the first 2-3 weeks in August, but quickly the normally less-popular weeks in the early and late summer also filled in.

Here’s a look at the current availability throughout the 2021 summer season:

Keep in mind that the data includes weeks on calendars that have not been updated, as well as brand new listings that have just been activated within the past week or two (usually for homes that were just purchased).

As the graph indicates, every week but the August 21st one offers less than 5% availability – and that week’s availability will also likely end up under 5%. The last week of the summer season continues to be more difficult to rent as schools, pre-season sports, and orientations all begin by then.

How are homeowners feeling?

Unless your home was way overpriced, you’re probably quite pleased with your marketing results this year. Many of you have finally been able to raise your rates this season, and guest reviews have been glowing.

Speaking of guest reviews…

The number of guest reviews received by homes on our site are up an astonishing 38% over last year so far. So, if you haven’t gotten any yet this season, your competition has. Be sure to ask every guest immediately after their departure. (Read more about Soliciting guest reviews.)

Although the vast majority of the reviews are 4 or 5 stars, we have received some complaints and negative reviews, too. Here are some reasons why:

The bad weather throughout most of July caused mustiness and mildew issues as well as unhappy guests stuck inside for days at a time. This is especially the case with homes that are not air conditioned.

Many vacationers had to settle for homes that weren’t what they were looking for, due to the lack of inventory later in the booking season.

Prices are higher, and so are vacationers’ expectations. And some may have buyer’s remorse, when in desperation, they had to stretch financially out of their comfort zones.

How can you avoid a negative review?

There’s nothing you can do about the weather, rental market conditions, or your guests’ financial worries! But there are a number of things you can do to avoid a negative review. (Read our tips about how to acquire positive reviews and prevent negative ones.)

Those dreaded double bookings!

We’ve also heard of a few instances of double bookings, perhaps due to how frenetic the booking season has been. They create misery for all involved. What can you do to avoid this disaster?

  • Use a good booking management system. If you use our free Booking Management feature, it’s practically impossible to double book anyone.
  • Systematically communicate with your guests. Set up communication reminders in your booking management system. If the booking is early in the booking season, check in with those guests a couple of months later. At a minimum, check in with every guest after their second deposit was received, a couple of weeks prior to their arrival, and even again 24-48 hours prior to their arrival.

Vacationers are already looking towards 2022

Many homeowners are already reporting bookings for NEXT year. Given the strong demand and low inventory this year, it’s not surprising. We’ve actually extended the booking calendar out through the spring of 2023, in part due to the reemergence of weddings and family reunions on the Cape and Islands. And many people really like to plan ahead.

We strongly urge you to enter your pricing and availability for next year as your listing is unlikely to appear in searches without it. Even if you are uncertain which of your 2021 guests will be returning next year, open your calendar but give them the right of first refusal when you get an inquiry. If you’re quite certain they will be returning, mark “their” week as booked but open the rest of the season. Many of our homeowners are so solicitous of their repeat guests that they hurt themselves in the process. Read more about the importance of entering pricing and availability for next year.

Additional tips for the remainder of the season

  • Manage expectations. Warn your guests about possible new mask mandates, delays, super busy restaurants, etc. Share our video with them about Vacationing Responsibly .
  • Provide them with helpful information to make their stay more enjoyable.
  • Respond immediately to any questions, requests, or complaints. Along with fixing the problem, you might do something special for your guests to make up for their inconvenience.

About the author

Elizabeth Weedon

Elizabeth Weedon - Although I’ve worked for since 2008, I’ve been a loyal homeowner on the site since early 1998, just a few months after the website was launched by the Talmadges. I grew up summering on the Vineyard and managed my family's rental home there since the mid-1980’s. I’m passionately devoted to the Vineyard – and to WeNeedaVacation, which I credit with enabling me to hold onto the special property that has been in our family for nearly a century. An enthusiastic member of the WNAV Homeowner Support Team, I endeavor to keep my finger on the pulse of the Cape and Islands vacation rental industry so that I can provide homeowners advice about how to ensure their booking success with us. With owner Joan Talmadge, I am also responsible for editing and writing much of the text on our website, our monthly newsletters, and Homeowner Blog posts.