One of the joys of a beach vacation can be renting a furnished house—one with plenty of space to accommodate extended families or groups of friends, a backyard or deck, and a kitchen where you can boil up some lobsters. You might be surprised to learn that realtors book some houses up to a year in advance. The winter months are the best time to start researching and picking the perfect beach hideaway.
But if you’re still debating a beach rental for this summer, have hope. While you might not snag a spot on the hottest strip, you’re sure to find a great deal somewhere in your region of choice. Here are some tips on making arrangements:
Most realtors deal with a particular town or area, so narrow your search before you start asking about houses. Will you stay put, or do you want a central location that lets you explore other nearby beaches and towns easily? Perhaps you’d like to be in an area usually frequented by families.
How many bedrooms (with how many beds) and how many bathrooms? Is there a washer and dryer? Telephone? Television? What about a yard or a deck? How close to the beach is close enough for you? Is a water view important? Or a quiet street where the children can play? Do you want to be close to a supermarket and other stores, or are you willing to drive a bit?
Most summer house rentals run weekly, from Saturday to Saturday—you can move in on Saturday afternoon, and you must be out the following Saturday morning. However, there may be some flexibility outside the peak summer season of July 4 through Labor Day. Note that summer rental prices can vary, even from week to week, depending on the most popular times; early to mid-June and mid- to late-September prices may be a bit lower.
Caravanning with friends? You’ll want to know if there’s more than one parking space available. Are linens included? Are cleaning services included in the rental fee? Inquire about using the phone; some owners restrict their tenants to local calls, while others ask for a deposit to cover the phone bill. If you want anything special—a crib, bicycles, a barbecue grill, air-conditioning—be sure to ask. Don’t assume anything—read the fine print!
Many realtors post property listings—with photos—on their Web sites, and a growing number of property owners handle their own rentals via the Internet. If you can’t visit properties in person, be sure to ask the realtor or owner for pictures of the house, either by post or by e-mail. What is described as cozy may turn out to be cramped, and old-fashioned may sometimes be run-down; photos will help avoid misunderstandings. If you’re renting directly from the owner, you’ll often get a better sense of a home’s feeling by speaking over the phone directly with the owner. Ask for references.
Every rental agreement is different—you’ll want to know what to do in the event that you must cancel your trip. Does your rental company offer refunds for inclement weather, like hurricanes? If not, you many want to purchase travel insurance from your insurance company.
Many towns with resident-only beaches or ponds will sell you a weekly beach permit if you present a copy of your lease at the town hall or the town recreation department.
Many would-be renters look to the experts on our travel talk forums for inside scoops on where and when to start looking for a summer rental spot:
— Katie Hamlin