It has nothing to do with climate change, but we notice a sea change on Cape Cod this spring – at least in the private home rental market. There are just way too many prime weeks still open at this point in the booking season. We think it’s because there are just way more properties in play this year than ever before for rental guests to choose from.
We can’t quote any market-wide statistics to support that statement. All we can do is give you our perspective as the rentals manager for just over 120 select properties in the Lower Cape area – 15-20 or so of which were not available for rental last summer.
True, many of our new listings have come into the market very late in the booking season, several of those with no previous rental guests to tap into and no decent summer-time photos to entice rental prospects. So it’s fair to expect a few holes in the booking calendar.
But even properties we’ve represented for many years are currently looking at one, two or even more open prime summer weeks. Unprecedented — and it’s half-past May! We know it’s not for lack of aggressive marketing on our part. We advertise our listings on every popular online advertising portal there is, and we’re in social media channels every single day, sometimes twice a day.
So what’s going on?
The only explanation we can offer is that supply is way up, while demand has not grown in proportion. This could be a 2017 one-and-done phenomenon, not a long term trend, so let’s not get too upset. Instead, let’s do something about it.
So what’s an owner to do?
Chatham: We have a problem.
As usual, the first step is to acknowledge the situation.
Whether it’ a fluke or a trend only time will tell. But right now, it’s real, and you have to deal.
Used to be, if you owned a beachfront property in good condition on the Lower Cape, you could rent it from bed, typically raising your rates each year by as much as $500 to $1,000 or more per week. You had what the market wanted and couldn’t find enough of, so you got to call the tune.
Not this year. So now what?
Well, when the going gets tough, the wise get competitive.
Offer more competitive rates.
Shop the competition. Take a hard look around the web to find other properties that favorably compare to yours in location and quality of accommodations. Then set your rates just a little lower than theirs.
And let’s remember those rates you set last November may have been right for the market at the time. But now it’s May and you’ve got open weeks. Significantly discount your open weeks today!
Be sure to flag your rate adjustments in your advertising.
You have urgent, good news!
Remember to say that the rates shown reflect the adjustment, so you don’t have people expecting the “25% adjustment” to be additionally applied to the rates they see online.
Also be sure to say the adjustment is for “remaining open weeks only,” which should make it clear to your already-booked guests that the deal they got when they booked remains as is. If you bought a car last week and this week that model is on sale for $1,500 less, do you expect the dealer to credit you the $1,500? Not happening.
Nope, guests who booked whenever they did got the week or weeks they preferred. They could have waited, hoping for a late season discount. But they could easily have lost the rental term they want or need to have.
Offer more perceived value.
In a more competitive market, you need prospective guests to look at your property and see more bang for their buck than they can find at another house up the road.
Here are a few things you might consider to help you survive and thrive in the current, more competitive market:
- Consider including linens at your property. Maybe even bed making. We offer both to our homeowners, and many take advantage of these added-value services, distinguishing their homes from the vast majority on the Cape.
- Consider pets. You’d be amazed by how many families really want Snoopy to be part of their summer vacation. They’ll even pay an extra pet fee or added security deposit for the privilege.
- Add coastal accents in your decorating– colors such as teal, coral, blues, greens. Lighten and brighten interiors wherever you can. Don’t be bland, add some color – without creating a carnival.
- Upgrade the beds. If they’re older than eight years, they’re too old. And if you have doubles, replace them with queens. You’ll appeal to far more guest groups.
- Buy new beach chairs. Those torn, rusty old ones in the garage have got to go!
- Provide a clean cooler for guests to use on the beach. They may never use it, but your thoughtfulness will be appreciated and remembered.
- Offer kayaks and/or bikes and tell your guests so they don’t have to lug their own from home. Be sure to check with your insurance agent about your liability coverage.
- Provide quality kitchen equipment – no mismatched dishes or flatware with spoons so old they bend when you try to serve up the Ben & Jerry’s. And if the non-stick pans are no longer non-stick, toss ‘em and replace ‘em.
- Get rid of clutter. Guests would rather have more space for their own stuff than work around way too many Christmas Tree Shop tchotchkes and photos of your Uncle Phil in his Army Air Corps uniform, circa 1943.
- Comfy, newer lounge seating. Don’t use second hand furniture from your primary home because it’s “good enough for the Cape rental.” And have enough lounge seating for the number of guests you allow. Same goes for dining area chairs.
- Provide an inviting, comfortable outdoor living space on your deck, porch or patio. And make sure that gas grill is still user friendly and properly cleaned each turnover day.
- Upgrade all TVs to HD flat screens. Old tube TVs just don’t cut it, and when guest prospects see them in your property photos, you just sent a message of neglect, moving your property down a notch or two on their consideration list. Another nice added value: offer Netlix and/or a streaming TV option such as Apple TV. It’ll move you higher up that list.