There aren’t too many homes selling on Long Island amid the coronavirus slump. But luxury summer rentals are going gangbusters.
What began as a busy year for seasonal bookings has turned into an unprecedented boom for Hamptons vacation rentals — fueled by an exodus of Manhattanites fleeing the virus-wracked city to the sprawling mansions and pristine beaches of the East End.
In mid-March, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City schools would be closed through at least April 20, many people booked March and April stays, says Bryan Fedner, co-founder of StayMarquis, an online home rental service representing 550 predominantly Hamptons properties. For the March 14-15 weekend alone, StayMarquis picked up 105 rentals, compared with only six for all of March the year before.
“We saw an unbelievable uptick of demand for immediate occupancy — people just looking to get out to the Hamptons and really seeking a safe haven from New York City,” says Fedner. Many booked open-ended rentals and asked for a right to match any other offers to extend their stays. Renters were asking for a “right of first refusal,” meaning that if the owner received other offers for dates outside of the renter’s original term, the owner would have to alert the renter and give them the chance to match those offers, in the event they wanted to extend.
For the month of March, Airbnb and VRBO, the two major online vacation rental companies, had 2,164 bookings in the Hamptons this year, a 98% increase in bookings over last year. For April, their combined 1,314 bookings represented a 35% increase over 2019.
“The Hamptons rental market is off the charts this year,” says Gary DePersia, an associate broker for the Corcoran Group.
From early to mid-March, when schools were closed and people were asked to shelter in place, DePersia notes, “people said, ‘Well I have to get out of the city.’ People started renting houses.”
Many of DePersia’s clients arranged short-term rentals — from one to two months — in March, April and May.
“I had a couple of situations where people actually got into their summer house a little earlier than they initially were going to,” DePersia says. “They worked out a deal for a ‘prequel,’ as opposed to a ‘sequel’ when you extend the listing into, say, September, October.”
What’s more, many are booking up the full season. In the previous five seasons since its inception, StayMarquis typically had bookings at various times throughout the summer. This year, it is experiencing a demand for full-summer rentals.
Traditionally, there were reasons to stay back home until July, such as school graduations, weddings and other celebrations. All that changed with the coronavirus outbreak this year.
“We saw an amazing stampede to rent houses out here for the full season,” DePersia says, adding that the trend for more than decade has been renting for part, not all of the summer.
“When I started 25 years ago, Memorial Day to Labor Day was the norm for rentals,” says DePersia. About 75% of his rental business back then was for the full summer, he says. “Then you had some July, July to Labor Day, and some August people. When we had the downturn in 2008, people wanted the same quality house, but they didn’t want to spend as much money, so we didn’t have a lot of Memorial Day-to-Labor Day rentals.”
Last year, DePersia started to see a significant increase in full-season rentals. This year, he’s done mostly full-season deals, many of them starting May 1. That created a bit of a conundrum for Hamptons homeowners who also wanted to shelter in place in their vacation homes, he says.
Some Hamptons homeowners, in fact, have taken their homes off the rental market to keep them for their own use, DePersia notes.
Normally, an owner would rent his house, because he had other things to do for the summer.
“This year he’s not going to Europe and probably, his kids are not going to be in camp,” says DePersia. “So, not only did you have to find a rental for his house. You needed to find a rental for him at a price that made sense. So, I’ve been doing a lot of that also.”
Family rentals in the Hamptons are big this year, as opposed to groups of friends who would vacation together in the past, Fedner notes.
And they’re often staycationers. StayMarquis has experienced several cancellations by people from out of state who had to change their travel plans due to the pandemic.
“A lot of people are just taking the wait-and-see approach to see how long this quarantine is going to last for and when the shelter-in-place restriction gets lifted,” says Fedner. “It’s likely going to be that a lot of people decide to make their travel arrangements much closer to their check-in date.”
Founded in 2016 with 15 homes, StayMarquis has gradually added properties to its roster, plus a rental management component that, Fedner says, “was basically all the on-the-ground services associated with a vacation rental.”
These services include readying the house for guests’ arrival, greeting guests and walking them through the home, serving as the point of contact during their stay and afterward, doing a home inspection and thorough cleaning.
The online market gives renters flexibility, with dates — you don’t have to start on the first of the month — and offers à la carte concierge services that this year are tending more toward grocery deliveries and setting up workstations in the homes.
As part of its services, StayMarquis has always cleaned properties before guests arrive. But this year, it has upped its game.
“We have our teams going in using proper disinfectant, using proper micro-fiber materials,” Fedner says. “We have HEPA filters for our vacuums, which is much better for capturing a much larger percentage of germs.”
StayMarquis now also offers a process called “fogging.”
“It’s basically a full disinfection of the house using this machine,” Fedner says. “It basically looks like fog and it’s a four-hour process.”
PRICES GOING UP
Erica Grossman, a real estate broker for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who’s been renting properties in the Hamptons for the past 14 years, concurs that the rental market, which usually begins with Memorial Day, kicked off earlier this year than in years past.
Historically, Grossman says, June is the least costly month, rates increase in July and August is the most expensive.
“This year, June pricing kicked in for April and May. Also, typically, rental pricing is somewhat negotiable off-ask. Most deals now are non-negotiable,” says Grossman. “The rental market has changed due to COVID-19: It has driven up pricing earlier for nontraditional summer months and generated higher demand, and therefore higher pricing, for the season.”
A pandemic, it seems, can turn into a windfall for vacation homeowners.
“The rental market is extremely strong, and especially for drive-time destinations, where you don’t need to jump on a train and a plane,” Fedner says.
FIVE RENTALS ON THE MARKET
Here are a few Hamptons listings that are still available for rent this summer:
Asking price/terms: Aug. 1 — Sept. 3: $175,000; any two-week period in Aug.: $125,000
Features: Perched on a bluff and designed to maximize ocean views, this 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath home sits on 1.1 acres, with a pool and deck patio overlooking the Atlantic. Owned by acclaimed interior designer Vicente Wolf, the house features Wolf’s distinctive aesthetics, with stone floors, sunlit rooms, and both grand and intimate spaces.
Listing agent: Gary DePersia, The Corcoran Group
Community: East Hampton
Asking price/terms: July 1 — Aug. 31: $69,359 ; July 1-31: $33,238. (Prices based on two guests; other dates and number of guests are available.)
Features: Known as “The Antler House,” this unique home was designed by renowned architect Andrew Geller and renovated last year. The three-story, 3 bedroom, two bath house has knotty pine wood floors and ceiling, loft space with bedroom, a wood burning stove, and large elevated deck.
Listing agent: StayMarquis.com
Asking price/terms: Aug. 1 — 31: $136,522; Aug. 1-15: $70,352 (Prices based on two guests; other dates available in August.)
Features: Walk to the ocean from this seven-bedroom, 7½-bath traditional home. A light-filled 8,000-square-foot house with two master suites, two second-floor balconies, sunroom, home theater and game room The one-acre property has a pool and hot tub.
Listing agent: StayMarquis.com
Asking price/terms: Memorial Day to Labor Day: $595,000
Features: A waterfront 9,800-square-foot shingle style home with seven bedrooms, 8½ baths, gym and game room. A second-floor balcony overlooks the pool and Heady Creek. Situated on 2.3 acres, the property has a Har-Tru tennis court with water views.
Listing agent: Erica Grossman and Michaela Keszler, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Asking price/terms: May 25 — Sept. 30: $650,000; July 1-30: $325,000; Aug. 1 — Sept. 3: $375,000; July 1 — Sept. 3: $595,000
Features: “Boxwoods,” an 11,000-square-foot home with seven bedrooms, 10½ baths has guest quarters, a lower level recreation area with a tiered home theater, billiard table, exercise room, and massage room. The 2.25 acre property includes a pool, hot tub, pool house, outdoor shower and tennis court.
Listing agent: Gary DePersia, Corcoran Group