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The Summer Rental Market Is Going Nuts as People Book Vacation Homes for as Long as Possible

"What a rare moment in history—if you had the money, why wouldn’t you?”

Coronavirus 2020

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With summer camps in question, social distancing still highly encouraged, and cabin fever off the charts, families are ditching their one-week vacation plans and trying to lock down rentals for a longer haul.

A home away from home for an extended vacation, a work-cation, or just a sorely-needed change of scenery—summer aspirations are practically universal this year. There’s a requirement: The rental has to be within driving distance.  

“In general people are seeing it as a unique opportunity,” says Arlington resident Jorge Herrada, who owns and rents out a vacation home in the Outer Banks.

After experiencing a slew of rental cancellations earlier in the year, Herrada says his bookings surged again this month when the Outer Banks announced they were reopening to the public. He quickly had a family book for a three-week stay. “The kids are all going to school remotely, [the father] can telework… There’s flexibility we’ve never had,” Herrada says. “What a rare moment in history—if you had the money, why wouldn’t you?”

He’s hearing similar stories from families who have cancelled trips overseas, “driving significant demand to drive-to destinations,” he says, and of families with time to kill now that kids’ schedules are in flux. “I had one guy from Boston call me to say that his daughter’s seven week summer camp in Maine was cancelled… They were interested in booking my house as a result.” 

Ron Clarke, who heads Long & Foster’s Vacation Rentals Division, says Washingtonians are particularly interested in Avalon and Stone Harbor in New Jersey, Bethany Beach, and Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.  “Anything on the beach or water and with less housing density appeals to travelers. If you can work from home, why not work from a waterfront location?”

Access to water, along with privacy, are at the top of renters’ wish lists, says Clarke. But since these “vacations” are less about time off and more about time away, trusty internet access is also a must-have amenity. “They’re concerned about the quality and speed of Internet access,” says Clarke. 

Also, pools. “Every single request we have received… has wanted a swimming pool,” says Christie-Anne Weiss, senior vice president and global advisor at TTR Sotheby’s Realty. “And every property that’s for sale with a pool has sold,” she says.  

Weiss actually began seeing a spike in the request for short-term rentals on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Virginia Hunt Country months ago, towards the start of the shelter-in-place order. “I have never seen anything like it,” she says. “For our part, in my whole career I have never had so many people reaching out to me via friends and friends of friends asking for short-term rentals in the Virginia Hunt Country.” She recalls one family calling in March before jetting off to a further-from-home secondary residence to ask if she “could pull a rabbit out of a hat” and find them something that very day so they could stay a little closer to the DC area instead. Weiss happened to know of a good fit, and the family opted for a six-month rental. “They are so happy.” 

Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.