Real estate professionals see the end of the pandemic surge as vacation rentals stabilize

Vacation rentals have been slow this year, but real estate professionals noticed a pick-up in April among those looking for vacation spots on the island.

Yet the market is different from its peak. But there are signs of a comeback. About six weeks ago, Angelo Piccozzi of Dering Harbor Real Estate said seasonal rentals were picking up.

Melina Wein of Mr. Wein Realty had a strong run of rentals in the fourth quarter of last year, but describes the vacation rental market today as “patchy.” She didn’t give up, noting that Shelter Island is growing in popularity with people who want to avoid traffic in the Hamptons and are drawn to what they’ve heard about a place accessible only by ferry.

Nonetheless, she said the vacation rental market was not a “gangbuster”.

Part of the problem, she speculated, is that prices have not stabilized at pre-pandemic levels. Many landlords are still looking for rents as high as they were at the height of the pandemic. With the reduction in COVID-19 cases, the circumstances have changed, she said. Inflation has affected some people’s decisions to book vacation rentals, and Ms. Wein also wonders how much of the Airbnb online marketplace is affecting business agents once saw.

She is not alone in her speculations. Independent broker Susan Cincotta describes it as “back to its normal swings”. Following the pandemic-fueled surge that has led to soaring prices, renters are now looking for pre-pandemic reasonable prices for well-maintained properties with popular amenities, she said. Additionally, some of those who rented during the pandemic bought homes on the Island. Some haven’t made the money they made before the pandemic and can’t afford the vacations they’ve booked in the past.

Another factor is homeowners who rented out their homes during the pandemic but are deciding this year to use their homes themselves, Saunders’ Penelope Moore said. People looking for summer rentals want pools, beachfront views and yet often book for two weeks, rather than a month or the entire summer season, Ms Moore said. She doesn’t see year-round rentals as a good alternative if landlords are looking to get the higher prices that many can get for a vacation rental.

Add to that a greater sense of freedom resulting from the drop in the number of COVID-19 allowing people to travel to Europe or the United States instead of opting for a beach holiday on the island, said Ms. Moore.

She also wonders about the impact of the return of two large hotels to the market this summer. The Pridwin and the Chequit have both undergone extensive renovations and could be popular with holidaymakers who prefer this option to renting a house.

Janalyn Travis-Messer of Griffing & Collins Real Estate said all prices are affected in the real estate market now that “the COVID breakout is no longer happening.” This is reflected in the Community Preservation Fund’s revenue which has skyrocketed for two years but has started to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Marika Kaasik of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s agrees the market is not what it was at the height of the pandemic. She also sees the trend of more renters looking for two-week stays instead of booking for a month or the season.

“It’s definitely not as crazy” as it was in the previous two summers, Ms Kaasik said. Soaring gasoline prices could also play a role in family vacation decisions.

“Yeah, it’s been a slower start all around,” Compass agent Julia Weisenberg said. People take longer to make decisions about their summer vacation. There is a feeling of instability with families trying to decide whether or not to make plans for the summer. It has had regular tenants working with smaller budgets than in the past. But she’s optimistic that as the weather gets warmer, people will start to realize they want to get away.

“It’s picking up a bit,” said Douglas Elliman sales manager Carol Szynka. There are an abundance of rentals available, she says. Ms Szynka also speculates that those who were originally tenants but bought houses on the island during the pandemic will bring friends to the island who will become the next group of tenants.

Art Williams, who splits his time with publishing and real estate projects, said he was less active in real estate but still had a finger on the pulse of the industry. He thinks there are more rental opportunities on the island, but plenty of alternatives for visitors to consider when booking. He sees the year-round rental market as a real problem with insufficient supply to meet demand.

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