Memorial Day, the official start of summer, is upon us. Have you made your vacation plans yet?
With gas prices at $4 a gallon now, perhaps this isn’t the year to take a gas-guzzling cross-country adventure to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. And with airline fares and surcharges skyrocketing – and the U.S. dollar weak overseas – perhaps this also isn’t the year to take that dream vacation toParis.
So what’s left to do? If staying home in your backyard and lamenting the mortgage crisis and the rising prices of food sounds too depressing, take heart. You still have time to plan a closer-to-home vacation that won’t necessarily break the bank.
For many tri-state residents, renting a beach or country house in the Hamptons, on the North Fork or on Fire Island is a prized vacation tradition.
This year, the vacation rental market on the East End is particularly strong, says Paul Brennan, executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
As is often the case when the real-estate market sees a surge in home inventory and a decline in sales, the rental market experiences an upswing, he notes. Brennan estimates that sales in his Bridgehampton office are down about 10 to 15 percent over last year, but summer rentals have shot up a whopping 25 percent.
The South Fork has long been a playground for the rich and famous (and those aspiring to copy the lifestyle) where full-season rentals (starting on Memorial Day and lasting through Labor Day) get snatched up in the winter and early spring.
Seasonal rental prices start at about $18,000 for a one-bedroom condo in Westhampton Beach and climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a McMansion in East Hampton and other tony locales. This year, two mega-mansions in Sagaponack and Southampton made headlines when they rented for $1 million each.
According to Judi Desiderio, chief executive of Town & Country Real Estate, many high-end homeowners on the East End are not willing to risk renting their homes – their single greatest investments – for less than one-month periods.
Prudential’s Brennan agrees, but says vacationers are still able to find plenty of homes in all price ranges available for short-term rental.
“Some owners actually prefer renting their home for only a week or two,” Brennan explains. “If you rent a home for fewer than 14 days, you don’t have to report any rental income to the IRS. So homeowners can go away on their own vacation – or rent their house for a big event like the Hampton Classic Horse Show – and enjoy a big tax advantage.”
Prudential’s current two-week listings include a four-bedroom house with pool near the beach in Wainscott for $10,000. And if you have $50,000 to spare, you can call a historic Brittany-style chateau on Southampton’s fabled Meadow Lane your home this summer.
While those prices may seem high, Brennan points out it’s not unusual for resorts and B&Bs fromSouthampton to Montauk to charge upward of $500 or more a night for a room during the high season. And that can really add up if you stay for a week or more, especially if you’re eating out at high-priced restaurants every night.
A rental can actually be a bargain, Brennan says, when you consider that you have the use of a spacious, fully equipped house where you can cook, do laundry, and entertain family and friends by your own private pool or beach area.
When it comes to selecting a rental in the Hamptons, Brennan cautions vacationers to “pick a location where you want your life to revolve for those two weeks. With summer traffic, you can’t rent a place in Westhampton and realistically expect to drive to Montauk to go fishing every day.”
A 32-mile-long barrier beach sandwiched between the Great South Bay and Atlantic Ocean, Fire Island is the perfect summer destination for singles and families, says Joanie Woletsky, an associate broker with Fire Island Sales and Rentals.
Getting to the laid-back towns of Ocean Bay Park, Seaview and Ocean Beach is as simple as taking a 30-minute ferry ride from Bay Shore, she says, but vacationers will need to leave their cars behind since vehicles are not allowed on the island from May to September. In the summertime, bikes, legs and Red Flyer wagons are the transportation modes of choice.
Unlike the Hamptons, homeowners on Fire Island are amenable to renting on a weekly basis. Although many primo rentals are already booked this summer, a number of homes are still available for dates in June through August.
According to Woletsky, weekly rentals start at $3,000 for a small cottage in the middle of the island with no water views and jump to $15,000 for a seven-bedroom house with a pool and roof deck with bay and ocean views. Generally, water-view homes rent for $7,000 and up.
North Fork, Shelter Island
Once one of Long Island’s unsung treasures, the North Fork has become a fully discovered vacation destination that draws more and more visitors each year. Spanning from Riverhead to Greenport, theNorth Fork is also experiencing a strong rental market this year.
“It’s a great place to rent because you have everything you could possibly want here – wineries, kayaking, fishing, boating, movies, shopping, great food – it’s a mini Napa Valley, only better,” notesSheri Winter Clarry, a senior vice president with Corcoran Real Estate.
Although longer seasonal rentals are more the norm on the North Fork, Clarry says short-term listings do pop up, such as the listing she has for a charming circa 1890 two-bedroom Greenport home overlooking Sterling Harbor that’s available in August for $5,200 a week.
Shelter Island, a short ferry ride from Greenport on the North Fork and Sag Harbor from the South Fork, is another vacation paradise loaded with old-fashioned charm, says Paul Whitman, a sales associate with Century 21 Agawam Albertson in Greenport.
Whitman has a two-week listing available in July for $8,500. For that price, you get a three-bedroom post-and-beam house located in the Hay Beach area with central air-conditioning, heated pool and amenities including DirecTV and Wi-Fi.
Hey, with choices like these, who needs Paris anyway?