Managing Your Vacation Rental

Why certain summer weeks go like hotcakes one year and fall flat the next

Written by Joan Talmadge
4.9/5 - (19 votes)

Two Empty Adirondack chairs on deckYesterday, July 9, I received an email from a homeowner concerned that she hadn’t rented her home for the July 6 week, so it is sitting empty all this week.

After commiserating with her, I proceeded to do a little investigative searching on our site.  I selected a specific region of the Cape and conducted a search for rentals still showing this week as open.  There were many — in fact, there were more than five times as many listings with availability for this week than for the week of August 3.

Why was this, I wondered

My theory is that because July 4 fell on a Thursday this year, many folks had a 4-day weekend and thus planned to take their week-long vacation at another, later time during the summer.  Traditionally, the second hardest week of the summer to book is the week that contains the 4th of July.  This year, however, because of the 4-day weekend phenomenon, this week immediately following the holiday week seems to have suffered.

Which is the hardest week of the summer to rent?

Why, it’s the last week of August.  Kids are getting ready to return to school, so demand plummets and inventory is way up.  As of today, there seem to be more than 11 times as many available rentals for the last week of August as there are for the first week of August.

What do we recommend to our homeowners?

Stock graph with upward trend, symbolized with a penny“Tier” your pricing. In other words, offer the more difficult weeks to rent at a slight discount. If you have the last week of August booked, good for you. If not, you should consider lowering the price – now, before it’s too late.  In fact, many owners set the price for that week lower than the other summer weeks from the get go.  And check your pricing for the last Saturday in August. Have you entered your high, early-August price there, despite the significant drop in vacationer interest after Labor Day?

If you have lowered your price, be sure to let vacationers know! You can post an Owner Special highlighting a discount, and, as of a month prior to the available week, you can post a Last-minute Availability Alert.  And, by all means, keep your calendar date stamp current so that vacationers will know that they can trust your calendar’s accuracy. For more information on these, see the Help  & Support Page.

Do you have any other ideas for promoting those difficult-to-book weeks?

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About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends. Email Joan


  • […] And keep in mind that the last two weeks of August are also considerably more difficult to rent than the first 2-3 weeks of August!  If you have either of those open now, don’t wait until the last minute to use any of the suggestions above to entice vacationers to choose your home over the myriad of others that are also available then. Read more about “tiering” your pricing to fill less popular weeks. […]

  • One way I find to attract renters to the last week in August – that includes Labor Day- is to offer the Sunday night ‘free’. It also helps to have lots of ‘baby’ items in the house like a high chair and crib to attract families whose kids are not in school yet.

  • Our house was empty the week of July 15-22. (we rent Mon-Mon). I considered dropping the price, but I felt awkward doing that in case current reserved renters would see that and feel gypped. Has anyone had experience with that? It actually worked out this year because our house was rented the previous week through a realtor, and we had the renters from hell. It took the cleaners a full day and my friends who were staying in my house next door, ( we had gone home), parts of several days to be sure that it was ready for the next family. We have a loose agreement that we will only rent to families, and it will become a firm rule. The renters involved were a group of sailors participating in a Regatta on MV. Never again. Also considering dropping the realtor involvement. I want to talk with the renter thinking that the personal side of it helps in the care of my home.
    I am fully booked till September 9th this year, other than that one week.

    • We never use a broker. I do all the rentals myself. Brokers never seem to get back to us and fewer renters are using them these days – thanks to sites like this.

      I would never rent to a Regatta crowd but have rented to several young couple and once to 3 young women in their mid-20s who were on MV for a wedding. It really totally depends on the individual…and doing your own screening is invaluable.

  • Great theory! It is so crucial to increase marketing efforts and adjust to high/low seasons and you’ve provided some really useful research here.

    A solution to filling gaps in your availability calendars is to enable dynamic pricing. That way you can determine high/low seasons, public holidays, group discounts and set prices in advance accordingly. We wrote an article that might be of interest on why dynamic pricing will maximize bookings:

  • I’ve always had a hard time renting the wk around July 4th. It’s just too early for most people – and they know the water on the Cape and Islands is still a bit chilly. That’s become our family’s time to use the house and it’s worked out very well. Aug – that’s a different story. I get a zillion requests for the 2nd and 3rd wk of Aug. My theory is that many families have kids in camps and they all seem to end around then…hence it’s family vacation time. We luckily have a family who has rented the last 2 wks of Aug for the past few years. Their kids go to private school….and privates tend to start after Labor Day. I usually throw in and extra day and let them leave on Labor Day.

    Sept – interesting that we are totally booked all summer…and still getting requests for August…but we have no one renting for Sept. Yikes!

  • When we bought in 2009, the week after the 4th was booked by previous owners. For the next 2 years it was empty. Cut the price, now has been booked by the same folks last year and this year (and next). Anecdotally, have heard the week after the 4th has been tough to book for many….