- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2007

Beach real estate agents are seeing an interesting trend developing in the summer rental market this year: spontaneity.

Taking advantage of a glut of condos and rental houses along the East Coast, more vacationers are booking short-term beach rentals at the last minute.

“Nowadays, the trends have changed; people are busy and prefer to book extended-weekend vacations rather than take entire months off,” said Carol Everhart, chief executive officer and president of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce in Delaware.

Jim Waggoner, vice president of resort rentals for Long & Foster Inc., acknowledged the trend, saying that more and more people are looking for what he calls a “miniweek” vacation.

“With over 2,600 condo units in Ocean City and even more in Delaware, we have enough properties to accommodate the miniweek vacationer,” Mr. Waggoner said.

He said that the increased development of condominiums and rental houses has made it easier for people to stay shorter and reserve later.

“This trend has changed our business model to some degree, because we always used to take reservations ahead of time, and now we have to book on short notice,” Mr. Waggoner said.

Before the development boom hit costal towns on the East Coast, it was a near-necessity for vacationers to reserve their rentals weeks or even months ahead of time.

“There has been a considerable amount of development [throughout East Coast beaches], and as a result, there are more rentals to pick from,” Mrs. Everhart said.

“With all these rental properties on the market, people are booking them for the weekend or the week,” she said. “It’s funny, people are renting them almost like a hotel room.”

Even Ocean City, which was already highly developed, has seen increased development that brought more modern units to market.

“We have a huge inventory in Ocean City,” said Ron Edelmann, vice president of the Costal Association of Realtors. “It would take us 2 years to sell our inventory if they are sold at the current rate,” he said.

That’s bad news for sellers, but great news for vacationers looking for a short-term getaway.

“There are a lot of people calling in at the last minute for a weekend rental,” said Shannon McKay, a real estate agent at Resort Rentals LLC in Berlin, Md.

“Usually, we book weekly rentals from Saturday to Saturday, but we are accommodating people who just want to come for the weekend,” she said.

Kathy Frierson, an agent at Seibert Realty in Virginia Beach, said her company’s Web site often has specials for those looking to book on short notice.

She said that owners will sometimes knock 20 percent off their rental price for vacationers who can book right away.

With the average rental price of $2,500 a week for a three-bedroom condominium in Virginia Beach, last-minute discounts make spontaneity much more attractive.

“But if vacationers want an oceanfront rental for August, they need to book it now,” Mrs. Frierson said. “The ones that will be open on short notice will be farther back from the beaches.”

Mrs. Frierson said that the peak time for vacation rentals is the week of Aug. 4, and out of their 440 units, there are still 37 available.

With Maryland and Delaware beaches expecting more than 350,000 drivers to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge this weekend alone, real estate agents are expecting a busy summer.

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