The Outer Banks house rentals booking season usually kicks off around Thanksgiving and runs strong through March 1 for the coming season. Typically, if you had not booked the Outer Banks rental property you had your heart set on by the end of January at the latest, it probably meant you missed it.
That was certainly the case until the 2009 season. As we all remember, after the economic crash in October, January and February were a time of corporate retrenchment. Everyone feared for their jobs. As a result, the typical January and February Outer Banks house rentals booking season was pushed to the right. Until the dust settled, about April, no one was planning a vacation.
Thanksgiving is here, and Outer Banks Revealed was fortunate to get a perspective of the coming Outer Banks House Rentals Season from a few of the experts – representatives from a couple Outer Banks Rental Companies.
Outer Banks Revealed: Tell us a little about you and your company. What towns on the Outer Banks do you cover, years in business, number of Outer Banks house rentals in your program?
Scott Leggat: Outer Beaches Realty has been in business for over 25 years. We represent over 550 rental cottages on Hatteras Island. We also have a real estate sales staff of 10.
Sara Kristof: Paramount Destinations started in 2007 and in 2010 we will manage 40-50 premier homes from Corolla to Southern Shores.
Adam Norko: Seaside Vacations has been family owned and operated since 1990. We will celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2010. Seaside Vacations is a full-service property management and vacation rental home company committed to providing excellence in vacation rental management to each of our guests and owners. Seaside Vacations offers guests a wide variety of Outer Banks house rentals in Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. From cozy condominiums to large private homes, guests can choose from nearly 300 Outer Banks vacation rentals – each with their own special features; luxurious living to simple seaside comfort.
Outer Banks Revealed: For most rental companies and homeowners, the 2009 Outer Banks Rental year was a challenge compared to previous years. What was your experience? What were the contributing factors that caused 2009 to be difficult?
Sara Kristof: The overriding obstacle in 2009 was the economy. In our experience guests were hesitant to book early, in most cases asked for a discount and waited until the last minute to book their vacation in the hopes of getting a better deal. Many guests downsized the type of home they rented but in the end we found that many people still took their vacation on the Outer Banks.
Adam Norko: 2009 has definitely been a challenge, with the economy being the main catalyst for changes we have seen. The first quarter of 2009 presented a pretty dismal outlook for the year, but luckily the economy showed signs of improvement starting in March. As a result of the economic "improvements," the latter part of 2009 showed some positive progress, but consumer trends were a limiting factor. Discounts were widely used and expected by guests and shorter stays became more prevalent.
Scott Leggat: 2009 was definitely a challenging year. Outer Banks house rentals were very soft through most of the spring season and early on, the summer wasn’t shaping up well. Two major factors contributed to this down market. Certainly the general economy was the most influential factor. More than anything else renters were reluctant to commit very far in advance for any large expenditures. We also found that many of our traditional clientele were looking to cut back until they were more certain about how the economy would affect them personally. Also, many potential guests followed a strategy of holding out until the last minute to get the best possible deal they could find.
Outer Banks Revealed: What did you do and what did you advise homeowners in order to weather 2009?
Adam Norko: Unfortunately, discounting became a widely used practice, locally and nationally. In addition, payment plans were created to spread guests' payments over a few weeks or months. From a homeowners perspective, we advised a renewed scrutiny on the properties. Outer Banks house rentals need to be attractive to guests, and this includes the look and feel of the home, amenities offered and the listings on the web. Maintenance and upgrades are crucial, especially in a highly competitive environment, and guests need to know their needs will be met. As an example, WiFi is becoming pretty standard, almost an expectation, in hotels, yet a large percentage of vacation rentals don’t offer this amenity.
From a company perspective, we made strong strides towards setting ourselves and our homes apart in the market. We implemented guest programs new to the Outer Banks market. All Seaside Vacations guests have access to Club Seaside: A full calendar of complimentary events that give guests the opportunity to experience the local culture. In 2009 the events consisted of professional golf and tennis clinics, wine tasting, yoga, surf lessons, and circuit training.
In addition, every Seaside Vacations guest has complimentary access to Kilmarlic Health & Racquet Club and guest rates at Kilmarlic Golf Club.
Scott Leggat: In order to attract guests we looked at what their apprehensions were for booking now. Obviously, the most important factor was their personal financial apprehensions and uncertainty about the general economy. We addressed this by crafting easy, no-interest payment plans. We also upped our game with more promotions and more efficient marketing campaigns. We placed a special emphasis on reaching out to past guests and offered them special promotions not advertised to the general public.
Sara Kristof: In the face of this our company became much more flexible. We often acted as the negotiator between rental guests and owners. In the spring we encouraged homeowners to come up with a discounting game plan which defined their bottom line so that we could eliminate the back and forth between guests and Owners.
Outer Banks Revealed: What do you foresee for the 2010 season? Are there lingering effects from 2009? Will things get back to "normal" or is 2009 the new normal? What do you look for to determine if you will have a strong or weak vacation season?
Scott Leggat: We are optimistic about the 2010 season. Our advanced year bookings are up significantly compared to 2009. Property management companies will have to retain the lessons learned in to 2009 and continue to be more creative and aggressive with their marketing efforts.
Sara Kristof: We see improvement for 2010. We have seen a strong number of advance reservations and are encouraged by the number of inquires we are receiving now for next summer. One of the lingering effects of 2009 will be the guests' tendency to ask for discount. It is hard to predict the future but I think that 2010 will be stronger vacation season than 2009 but will not fully regain its former strength until the economy makes a full recovery.
Adam Norko: Based on the 2009 experience, the economy clearly has a major impact on buying/vacationing decisions. The 2010 economic situation will be the major driving force behind a strong or weak vacation season. Hopefully the economy continues to improve. However, it does seem that some guest trends may be becoming entrenched; the best example being shorter stays.
Outer Banks Revealed: What programs or advice have you provided homeowners to create a better 2010?
Sara Kristof: We have encouraged Homeowners to set their rental rates competitively and as always to continue to make repairs and upgrades to keep their home in top shape so that it is attractive to rental guests.
Adam Norko: Seaside Vacations will continue to offer guests access to Club Seaside, Kilmarlic Health & Racquet Club and guest rates at Kilmarlic Golf Club. In addition, payment plans will continue to be an option for Seaside Vacations guests in 2010, and competitive pricing is always crucial
Scott Leggat: Home owners need to keep in mind how competitive the vacation rental market is. Consumers are looking at price, amenities, and condition of the homes they are considering. In the end they are going to make the best deal they can find.
Outer Banks Revealed: Why should the Outer Banks vacationer work with you to find the perfect rental house? What new programs have you put in place to entice the Outer Banks vacationer to choose your program? What makes the client experience different from the other rental companies on the OBX and make you stand out?
Adam Norko: Customer service is a top priority at Seaside Vacations. Vacationers stay with Seaside year after year because they know we’re passionate about quality. From our Perfect Vacation Promise to our Clean House Guarantee, our knowledgeable team offers professional service. With 20 years of experience on the Outer Banks, it’s our dedication to quality that has earned Seaside Vacations the trust and loyalty of customers who turn to us, time and time again.
In addition, Seaside Vacations will continue to offer guests access to Club Seaside, Kilmarlic Health & Racquet Club and guest rates at Kilmarlic Golf Club.
Scott Leggat: Outer Beaches is a good choice for someone considering a vacation on the Outer Banks for the following reasons:
Sara Kristof: Our customer service sets us apart. Our entire staff is intimately familiar with all of our homes and community so we are able to provide real guidance to our guests as they search for the right vacation home for their family. We offer outstanding services such as our seamless check in / check out process which allows guest to eliminate the stop at the office to check and allows them to proceed directly to their vacation home upon their arrival. We employ top notch housekeepers and a rigorous inspection process so that upon arrival our homes are in prime condition. As a company standard all of our homes come with ready made beds with freshly laundered sheets and towel sets. We offer a Signature Concierge Program to help streamline the vacation planning process for our guests and offer services such as pantry stocking, equipment rentals, in house massage, personal chef services, newspaper delivery and beach portraits. We are a dynamic company that has the ability to respond our guests needs quickly so that they feel they have someone they can trust and turn to when they are on vacation. Our success is measured by the high level of repeat guests who come back to Paramount Destinations to vacation.
Outer Banks Revealed would like to thank all of the participants for taking the time to respond to our roundtable. Hopefully this information will help vacationers and homeowners alike when they make their Summer 2010 Outer Banks House Rentals Plans.