February 11, 2015 - Snowbanks aren't the only things rising on Cape Cod and the Islands these days. WeNeedaVacation.com is reporting significant increases for early bookings of Cape and Islands vacation homes versus the same time last year.
This significant show of early consumer appetite reflects recent national economic reports, which are the most positive they've been in many years. Furthermore, for the first time since the recent recession, bookings of less expensive homes have risen the most, indicating that the economic recovery is being enjoyed by a wider economic range than previously.
For the high season summer weeks alone, bookings rose 8% on Cape Cod, 22.4% on Martha's Vineyard, and 11.9% on Nantucket. And the "shoulder" spring and fall seasons have posted even more dramatic increases: spring bookings up an astonishing 46.4% for the three regions combined and fall bookings up 33.8%.
WeNeedaVacation.com co-owners Jeff and Joan Talmadge are pleased about the early jump out of the starting gate, but they caution that it's still too early to predict that vacationer demand will continue at this rate throughout the remainder of the season. "Booking trends vary from year to year," reports Jeff, "sometimes starting slow and picking up speed as the actual rental season approaches, and sometimes maintaining a more consistent rate from early booking times to late. This year, things are clearly off to a running start."
Which rental homes are faring the best? Although bookings are strong across all segments, smaller or more modest homes this year are reporting the most robust booking gains. And those are usually the hardest hit in difficult times. The strength in the lower end of the vacation rental market also correlates to the improving financial strength at the lower end of the national economy.
Pricing: In addition to booking numbers, the website also typically looks at weekly pricing of their vacation rental properties because it's an indicator of confidence on the part of the homeowner/supplier vs. the vacationer/consumer. Homeowners have raised their weekly prices this year 2% on the Cape, 2.1% on the Vineyard, and 5% on Nantucket. Although rate increases of around 2% per year are fairly common, it's important to note that rates last year jumped the highest in the company's 17-year history, as reported in their 2014 Vacation Rental Pricing Report. Thus, raising rental rates even an average amount this year indicates continued confidence on the part of homeowners.
Conclusion: Although it's too early to predict how robust vacation rental bookings will emerge by the end of the year, the season is certainly starting out strong. This indicates that vacationers are feeling financially confident and are anxious to reserve their ideal vacation homes as soon as possible. Early bookings are advantageous to homeowners, of course, as they are much more likely to get their initial asking price than in later bookings which might require some discounting.
Courtney Blankenship of Cape Cod Associates Real Estate, who lists multiple Harwich properties on the website, reports, "We are thrilled with the way this booking season has started off! People seem to be excited to come back to the Cape and eager to have the best selection of properties to choose from and have been calling earlier. Renters seem to have a very definite idea of what they are looking for in a property, more so than in past years."
For vacationers who haven't yet booked their Cape or Islands rental home, the inventory of available homes on the website is still high, and new listings are being activated every day, with 500 new listings expected to be added by Memorial Day.