Study: Interest in Vacation Rentals Remains Strong During Recession


We've been reporting a lot about vacation rentals over the past few weeks as we inquire about how agents can take advantage of this niche market. But it seems travel agents aren't the only ones able to take advantage. According to a new report by HomeAway, Inc., a leading online vacation rental marketplace, the business is boosting the homeowners during the recession.

Second home owners who rent their homes to travelers, on average, generate more than $35,000 in rental income each year, according to the quarterly "HomeAway Vacation Rental Marketplace Report." On average, second home owners are renting their properties to travelers 20 weeks a year, and 38 percent of owners generate enough rental income to cover 75 to 100 percent of their mortgage. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of owners earn enough to cover at least 50 percent of their mortgage.

"Owning a vacation property is not just for older Americans or the affluent," says Tom Kelly, real estate expert and author of "How a Second Home Can Be Your Best Investment." "Many owners are discovering they can offset the costs of the home by renting to travelers when they're not using it themselves, and they're having good success lining up renters by marketing their homes online."

Several markets around the country have seen significant increases in new vacation rental listings. For the fourth consecutive quarter, both New Orleans and Austin, TX, appear in the top 10 destinations with the largest increase in new listings. Sunset Beach, NC, retains its top position from the last quarter, and Telluride, CO., drops a spot from second to third.

Top Markets with Largest Increase in New Vacation Rental Listings

1. Sunset Beach, NC
2. Austin, TX
3. Telluride, CO
4. New Orleans
5. Sevierville, TN
6. Jackson Hole, WY
7. West Hollywood, CA
8. Truckee, CA
9. Whitefish, MT
10. Eden, UT

Despite the sluggish economy, second home owners in these markets and throughout the country find that travelers are continuing to book stays, due in large part to the value afforded by a vacation home compared with a traditional hotel. Approximately 62 percent of second home owners report their bookings for this summer are about the same or higher than last summer. Meanwhile, 77 percent of travelers say they would choose a vacation rental over a hotel because of the home-like experience.

Whether looking to buy a vacation home or just rent one for a personal vacation, finding the right destination is important. Miami and New York, again, rank in the top five most popular destinations to rent a vacation home this summer, based on traveler inquiries made on between February and April. The top five most popular summer travel destinations include:

1. Orlando
2. New York
3. Cape Cod, MA
4. Miami
5. Myrtle Beach, SC

However, when it comes to the fastest growing destinations among travelers, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood reappear as emerging hot spots, growing 119 percent and 130 percent respectively— compared to the same time last year in which they had already grown by 239 percent and 196 percent.

Top 10 Destinations with the Largest Percent Increase in Traveler Interest

1. Telluride, CO (270 percent)
2. Marina del Rey, CA (267 percent)
3. New Orleans (220 percent)
4. West Hollywood, Calif. (130 percent)
5. Boca Raton, FL. (129 percent)
6. Cambridge, MD. (128 percent)
7. South Yarmouth, MA (121 percent)
8. Beverly Hills, CA (119%)
9. Windham, NY (108 percent)
10. Flagstaff, AZ (107 percent)

Deals and Discounts On Top of Value Provided by Vacation Rentals

While fewer vacation home owners are offering deals or discounts this summer (55 percent) compared with last summer (66 percent), there are still plenty of deals to be had. Of those owners who are offering deals this summer:

*    43 percent plan to offer a specific percentage off the rental rate
*    44 percent plan to offer a specific dollar amount off the rental rate
*    31 percent plan to offer a free night with the purchase of a specific number of nights
*    24 percent plan to offer free cleaning services
*    11 percent plan to offer complimentary products or services, such as free tickets to a theme park
*    10 percent do not plan to require a minimum-night stay

Data for the HomeAway Vacation Rental Marketplace Report was collected via surveys that poll travelers and homeowners on vacation rental-related issues. Traveler results are based on 1,927 responses collected between April 23 and May 6. Owner results are based on 235 responses between April 20 and May 6. Smith Travel Research was also utilized for hotel data about specific markets.

What's your opinion on this trend? Is the rise in second homeowners seeking to rent their properties an opportunity for agents to make more sales? Post a comment below. Vote in our poll to the right. Particiate in the discussion thread at AgentNation. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. We want to hear from you.