Early Booking Trends
Every year by the end of January, we assess the trends and gain insight into the rental season ahead. To date, 2024 vacation rental bookings on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket continue to show significant growth from the pre-pandemic years, even as they fall short of last year due to greater inventory and slightly less demand this year.
Vacationer demand (inquiries) is similar to these booking numbers, with a 20% increase in January vs 2019 yet a 19% decrease vs 2023.
It’s worth noting the recent trend of bookings occurring earlier than in the past. Since the start of the pandemic, vacationers have been planning their summer trips as early as the previous fall rather than wait until after the Holidays as they used to. Thus, our overall booking numbers represent the high demand not just from January but since the end of last summer.
Current inventory of available homes
Here’s a current look at the percentage of homes with availability during each of the 10 weeks of summer. On average, the 10 weeks are about 4-9% more available compared to the same time last year. One reason for the increase in availability is that the inventory is at a record high at 8% greater than 2023.
Why vacationers return to our site
The growing vacation rental industry overall has continually brought new vacationers to the vacation rental home sector, especially during the pandemic. But one constant on the WeNeedaVacation platform has always been the valued vacationers who return to our site year after year.
Last year, more than 40% of vacationers inquiring about vacation rentals on WeNeedaVacation were repeat users. Vacationers most likely to be well-suited for our homes are those familiar with both our platform and renting from Cape and Island owners in general.
Based on a recent vacationer survey with over 2,000 responses, here are the top four reasons vacationers choose to use the WeNeedaVacation platform:
- I save money because the site charges no booking fees.
- It’s a local and trustworthy site.
- It allows me the ability to easily communicate directly with the owner or manager before booking.
- The search allows me to easily find a rental that is a good fit.
Vacationers these days are willing to pay more, but, in turn, they have higher expectations than ever before. (For more information, read our recent post, “Who is Today’s Vacationer?”)
Be sure your listing is transparent. Make it abundantly clear what’s included in your rental and what’s not. If you charge less because you don’t offer a 5-star experience, be very clear about why you are charging less. Don’t hide any additional fees. Vacationers are unhappy if they see fees on their lease that had not been previously revealed.
Given that cost is always a major factor for anyone planning a vacation, there has recently been greater focus on price transparency in the vacation rental industry. Vacationers want to know in advance the additional fees that will be added to the rental price (e.g., cleaning, linen, and pet fees). This enables them to easily compare the cost of properties. Be sure to add these fees to your calendar page. More info.
Prices over the past few years have risen at record rates. Instead of the typical 1-3% average increase, we’ve seen increases of 4-10% or more on average. Is this sustainable?
Here’s a look at how rental rates for the Cape and Islands have dramatically increased since 2017.
Initially, much of the increase could be attributed to the record demand in vacation rentals during the pandemic. In addition, inflation, particularly energy and labor costs, have compelled homeowners to raise their rates to cover their higher expenses.
But with a softening market, it’s important to reassess your pricing every year. Do you feel you might be reaching a tipping point, risking your ability to fully book your home for the season?
Our recommendation: Be conservative with your pricing
The question is, will the higher rates – and greater inventory — impact bookings this year? Frankly, we are somewhat surprised to see that the rate increase has not returned to the more normal 2-3% but continues to rise, and we’re concerned that some owners may struggle to fully book their homes this summer.
Our recommendation is to be conservative. If you are not getting the inquiries and bookings you enjoyed at this point last year, don’t wait too long to adjust your prices.
If your rental property is on the Vineyard or Nantucket, and as the season draws near, the number of vacationers seeking a home will wane due to the ferry situation. Thus, it’s more important than ever for you to fill your home early, or you may risk not being able to fill it completely.
And, of course, don’t just raise your rates because others are doing so, or your expenses have risen. It’s vital to research how your property compares to similar homes in your location. How much competition is there? Do they offer more amenities than you? Are they nearer the beach? Check their calendars – if they have a lot of availability, it’s possible that their pricing is too high.
As always, if you are still uncertain, reach out to us, and we will look over your listing with you.
Be sure to read our previous post for more in-depth advice about how to price your home for the 2024 rental season.