Successful Summer: Vacation Rental Owners Report High Occupancy for Summer Season; Set Sights on Year-End Holidays

Vacation rental owners report a better than expected summer travel season, with strong bookings and rental revenue, according to HomeAway, Inc. – the world’s largest online marketplace for vacation rentals. The latest “HomeAway® Vacation Rental Marketplace Report” finds 84 percent of owners say their rental business during the summer was about what they expected or better.

More than two thirds of owners (68 percent) with vacation rental properties in areas where summer is the peak season(1) report occupancy rates of 76 percent or higher this summer.  These owners also report an average weekly rental rate of$1,685 or $241 per night, to book an entire home.  By comparison, Smith Travel Research, Inc. – a hotel industry research firm – reported the average occupancy rate for U.S. hotels from June to August was approximately 68 percent with an average rate of$101.99 per room. In addition, for owners with vacation rentals in destinations where summer is not the peak season, more than half of owners (55 percent) with properties considered in “shoulder season” and 18 percent with off-season rentals report occupancy rates of 50 percent or higher.

Owning a Vacation Home:  A Love Affair from the Beginning

While owners witnessed strong bookings this summer, the love they have for their properties began before ever renting their home.  According to the report, 62 percent of owners report “it was love at first sight” when describing when they fell in love with their vacation home.  Fifteen percent fell in love “when they got to know ‘her’ better,” after staying in the home for some time and 10 percent say the love came “when she got a job” and started producing rental revenue.

Owners also pour a lot of care into their vacation rental properties.  More than half (56 percent) spent more money on improvements – everything from interior and exterior painting to new furniture and appliances – to their vacation home in the past 12 months than they did on improvements to their primary residence.

Winter 2010/2011:  Likely to Be a Jolly Holiday for Some

Looking ahead to the remainder of the year, nearly a quarter of vacation rental owners’ (24 percent) bookings for the last four months of 2011 are higher than the same time last year, up from 16 percent in 2010.  Approximately 44 percent of owners say bookings for the end of this year are about the same as last year.

Forty-one percent of those owners who report higher bookings this year are raising their rental rates; 52 percent are keeping them the same as last year.

As the key year-end holiday travel season draws closer, 37 percent of vacation rental owners “have no idea yet what Santa will bring” in terms of rental business, but 22 percent say “it’s going to be a jolly holiday.” According to the report, when vacation rental owners were asked to share their outlook for the year-end holiday rental season:

  • 37% have no idea what Santa will bring
  • 22% believe it’s going to be a jolly holiday
  • 19% say it looks like the same old thing under the tree
  • 13% say with the end of summer, my year is over
  • 9% believe there will be a lump of coal in their stocking

Sharing the Love with Travelers:  Owners Open up Their Homes

Most owners originally purchased their vacation home for personal use (35 percent) or as a long-term investment (22 percent). Upon purchase, 66 percent of owners are choosing to rent to travelers to cover some or all of their expenses.

While vacation home owners are turning their homes into vacation rentals to help offset ownership costs, very few owners (9 percent) say they just rent their home out without thinking about the house during the rental season.  Instead, most (67 percentsay they like to be a good neighbor, checking in regularly to see how renters have treated the home, and 24 percent say they check-in occasionally.

According to the HomeAway report, the historic river town of Galena, Ill., had the largest increase in people listing their vacation home for rent on HomeAway.com during the second quarter of 2011, putting the city in the top two markets with the largest increase in new vacation rental listings for the past three quarters. Mesquite, Nev.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; and St. George, Utah, also ranked among the top 10 markets with the largest increase in new vacation rental listings for the first time. The top 10 new listing markets during the second quarter of 2011 are:

  1. Galena, Ill.
  2. Mesquite, Nev.
  3. Colorado Springs, Colo.
  4. Charleston, S.C.
  5. San Clemente, Calif.
  6. Rockport, Texas
  7. Hollywood, Calif.
  8. Bradenton, Fla.
  9. Amelia Island, Fla.
  10. St. George, Utah

Emerging Travel Destinations Present Opportunity for Those Looking to Buy

For those who haven’t taken the plunge and are looking to buy with the intent to rent, they might consider Venice, Fla., which saw a 367 percent increase in inquiries from travelers looking to rent vacation homes on HomeAway.com during the second quarter of 2011.

The top 10 markets where traveler demand is on the rise, based on a year-over-year analysis (Q2 2010 vs. Q2 2011) of inquiries from travelers looking to rent a vacation home, include:

  1. Venice, Fla. (up 367%)
  2. Fort Morgan, Ala. (up 347%)
  3. Indio, Calif. (up 337%)
  4. Miramar Beach, Fla. (up 313%)
  5. Port Aransas, Texas (up 281%)
  6. Carillon Beach, Fla. (up 265%)
  7. Charlottesville, Va. (up 260%)
  8. Sonoma, Calif. (up 237%)
  9. Rockport, Texas (up 226%)
  10. Sunnyside, Fla. (up 223%)

About the HomeAway Vacation Rental Marketplace Report

Data for the HomeAway Vacation Rental Marketplace Report was collected via surveys that polled HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com customers who own vacation rentals. Based on HomeAway, Inc. internal customer satisfaction research, owner results are based on 490 responses received between Aug. 26 and Sept. 11, 2011.  Market trends were based on a combination of in-depth research of renter and traveler information from the HomeAway, Inc. database.

About HomeAway, Inc.

HomeAway, Inc., based in Austin, Texas, is the worldwide leader in online vacation rentals, with sites representing more than 625,000 paid vacation rental home listings throughout more than 145 countries. HomeAway offers an extensive selection of vacation homes that provide travelers with memorable experiences and benefits, including more room to relax and added privacy, for less than the cost of traditional hotel accommodations. The company also makes it easy for vacation rental owners and property managers to advertise their properties and manage bookings online. The HomeAway portfolio includes the leading vacation rental websites HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com in the United States; HomeAway.co.uk and OwnersDirect.co.uk in the United Kingdom; HomeAway.de in Germany; Abritel.fr and Homelidays.com in France; HomeAway.es in Spain; AlugueTemporada.com.br in Brazil; and HomeAway.com.au in Australia.

In addition, HomeAway operates BedandBreakfast.com, the most comprehensive global site for finding bed-and-breakfast properties, providing travelers with another source for unique lodging alternatives to chain hotels. For more information about HomeAway, please visit www.HomeAway.com.

(1) Vacation rental owners were asked whether they consider summer to be their peak season, a shoulder season or an off season.