Home, Sweet Rental

062106_beachrentalfinal.jpgOne 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:

  • Decide where you’d like to be
  • 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.

  • Know what you’ll need
  • 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?

  • Pick a date
  • 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.

  • Ask what’s included
  • 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!

  • Use the Internet
  • 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.

  • Read the fine print
  • 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.

  • Don’t forget the beach permits
  • 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:

  • “We are planning on going to the Outer Banks in August. We will be renting a home for a week and would like recommended areas as well as recommended rental companies…”(more)
  • My husband and I and our teacup poodle are looking to spend a quiet and relaxing March week in any facility with a hot tub, a fireplace, and an ocean view for under $1,000…”(more)
  • “I’ve never rented short term before and don’t know how to go about setting up the best vacation for my family. I’d hate to commit to a vacation and then discover a problem or situation that could have been avoided had I known better…”(more)
  • “None of us have ever been to Cape Cod before and are completely unfamiliar with the character of any of the towns. Does anyone have a suggestion as to where to start looking? I’d prefer warmer waters so it sounds like I should be looking at towns along the Sound…” (more)
  • — Katie Hamlin