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The 2022 Short-Term Rental Market on the Cape & Islands

Elizabeth Weedon | 2/23/2022

Is it too early to put COVID in the rear mirror? For the short-term rental (STR) market on the Cape and Islands, no. In fact, the pandemic has ignited a fervor of historic proportions for the regional STR industry.

A look at the numbers

For the third year in a row, short-term vacation rentals on the Cape and Islands have broken records on our WeNeedaVacation site—by a lot. Recent vacation bookings, inquiries, traffic, and new site users have exceeded those of any in our nearly 25-year history.

Vacationer traffic: The number of vacationers using our site continues to grow significantly—up as much as 40% for the last 3 months of 2021 vs the same time in 2020.

Summer bookings alone are 20% above last year’s early bookings (and 127% above 2020), while spring bookings are up 24%, and bookings for the fall so far are up 48%.


The pandemic drove up demand for STR’s nationwide. The independence and privacy they allow provided a safer alternative to hotels and inns. And they offer a greater value to families or “safe pods” of people to shelter in place together and eat in—while enjoying a change of venue and a vacation, too.

Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket enjoy the added benefits of being located strategically within easy proximity of huge Northeast populations, avoiding the need for flying, international travel concerns, etc. The Cape and Islands also offer so much natural beauty, access to nature, and the ability to be outdoors and away from crowds.

What are some of the impacts of the pandemic?

The ability to work remotely due to the pandemic enabled many second-home owners to spend more time in their rental homes. This reduced their availability or even removed them altogether from the rental market.

As the inventory of available homes was reduced, the pandemic also led to a spike in demand. “Vacationers,” too, can work remotely, enabling them to stay for longer periods, scarfing up more of the available rentals. Remote learning further enabled even school-aged kids and college students to live remotely, adding to the summer season itself expanding well into the spring and the fall like never before.

And for the 2022 rental season, mask mandates are lifting, signaling the return of many cancelled events that normally attract thousands of visitors. Travelers this year have more confidence in booking trips to this nearby region, while still feeling wary of international travel.

As inventory shrank and demand rose, two results ensued: earlier bookings and higher prices. Vacationers had difficulty finding last-minute rentals that met their needs during the first year of the pandemic. So, in the two years since then, early bookings (October-December) have soared.

“I know it’s really late in the game, but I wanted to reach out to you to see what homes you have available for a weekly rental Aug 13 – Aug 20. I was late last year, too, (mid-March), but there seem to be even fewer options this year.” —Vacationer searching for a Vineyard rental on February 10, 2022

In the past, a “late booking” referred to one made in May or even June. Now, vacationers feel that mid-February is late.

Are the changes here to stay?

Naturally, homeowners will be returning to offices and students to their classrooms, increasing inventory once again. Vacationers will also feel more comfortable travelling to international destinations again.

In the meantime, however, the pandemic introduced many new people both to staying in an STR and to the Cape and Islands as a destination. Even when international travel resumes at pre-pandemic levels, many folks are now sold on the beauty and advantages of renting a home in this region. Consequently, we do not see a return to the lower pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if ever.

Some advice for vacationers

Rest assured, it’s never too late. Even into the summer itself, there is always last-minute availability due to recent home purchases and cancellations.

But here’s our advice for finding a great rental:

    • Book as early as possible.
    • Be as flexible as you can with your travel dates and location requirements.
    • Avoid the most popular weeks (last 2 weeks of July and the first 2-3 weeks of August).
    • Consider a fresh waterfront property in lieu of beachfront or proximity to salt water.
    • Use a reputable site like WeNeedaVacation, which allows you to book directly with the owner or manager, saving you a significant amount of money, too.
    • Vacation with close friends or extended family to save money and have more fun while at the property (dining in, barbecuing, hosting clambakes, playing indoor and outdoor games, etc.)

Helpful resources:

The advantages of vacationing in a vacation rental home

Family Vacations with Pets