As pandemic-initiated work-from-home policies continue, people are taking the opportunity to get out of the house for longer stays in vacation rentals while mixing work and play.
For two luxury agents in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where vacation rentals must have 30-day minimum bookings — a policy dating back to the early ’90s — the trend has been a nice boost to their business, which was otherwise relegated to a more niche crowd.
“You have a couple of groups [renting longer term],” Tim Allen, team leader of Tim Allen Properties at Coldwell Banker, told Inman.
“You’ve got a younger group that’s involved in the tech world that have done very well and have families, so we’ve seen that as a newer renter pool. But then we also rent to older folks, grandparents, and they’ll rent a house and they’ll love it because they’ll be here for [at least] a month and then they’ll cycle through their family that will come visit them.”
Allen’s rental properties are ultra high-end homes, several of which are upwards of 4,000 square feet. Most have stunning oceanside views and large lots — a number include multiple acres — all features which have become incredibly valuable to guests continuing to seek peace and refuge from the variables of pandemic life.
Allen estimates demand for his luxury rentals has doubled in the last year or so as people continue to experiment with where and for how long they can work remotely while also optimizing time with family.
“People realize that ‘Hey, everyone’s working remotely,’ [and it] allows these people the freedom to come to places like this,” Allen said. “And when you have a longer period, you can really organize — ‘Ok where’s my workspace? Where’s my play space?’ — and set things up so that it’s really comfortable.”
Jack Britton, managing partner of real estate sales and leasing company San Carlos Agency, deals with rentals that aren’t quite so ultra high-end, but says he’s seen the same surge in demand for longer vacation rentals from new demographics.
“We started seeing a massive influx and massive demand from Bay Area folks, from people from L.A., younger in age who wanted to shelter down here in our area,” Britton said. “So we’ve enjoyed basically maximum or almost maximum occupancy rates since the very first COVID rollback in June of 2020.”
Previously, Britton said the company avoided using platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo because the demographic using those sites weren’t looking for 30 day-plus stays. But now, demand for long-term vacation rentals has become so widespread that he said it finally made sense for San Carlos Agency to adopt those platforms.
“[Airbnb and Vrbo] just weren’t that effective,” Britton said. “Now we’ve started using those because we’re seeing more demand for extended stays and Airbnb’s even changed their platform to [highlight] extended stay rentals. And I think that’s all due to COVID and it’s all due to the fact that people can work remotely.”
“It’s been a nice little nugget for what we’ve been dealing with here in our market for so long with these crazy 30-day minimums,” he added.
Vrbo’s 2022 Trend Report also reflects the continued trend of longer vacation home stays rising in popularity across all price points. The company said it’s seen a 68 percent increase in demand for 21- to 30-day stays on Vrbo. In addition, 59 percent of the company’s survey respondents said they’re now more likely to take a two-week vacation compared to pre-pandemic, and 30 percent said they’re more likely to take a sabbatical.
Both agents said they’re currently completely booked for the summer of 2022 (which isn’t unusual since summers typically book a year in advance, pandemic or not), and their off-season bookings are also well above averages of years past.
“Basically, the pandemic has changed our market to where we’re still seeing higher-than-normal demand in non-peak months,” Britton said.
Allen said that he’s also had guests who take advantage of better rates in the off season extend their stays by months at a time if they’re able.
“[One couple] came out to rent [a property] for a month, then they extended for another half a month, then they extended for another month,” Allen said. “They get a feel for the area and then they decide, ‘Well, let’s stay a little longer.’ Then they start looking to maybe buy, but they have time and a place to stay while they do that.”
A recent report from short-term rental analytics company Airdna also showed just how much short-term rental demand has grown in destination and resort markets during what might have traditionally been viewed as the off season.
Pre-pandemic, bookings made during July and August made up 87 percent of the typical destination market short-term rental’s annual profits. But bookings have increased so dramatically throughout other months between March through September, that as of 2021, July and August bookings only made up 28 percent of the typical destination market short-term rental’s total annual profits.
Allen said he’s taken the trend as an opportunity to build relationships and cultivate new clients into old regulars.
“You try and build a relationship and do the right things and get these properties in great shape and get the right folks that come and love it — and then they start becoming your regulars,” he said.