For the past few weeks I’ve gotten a number of calls or emails asking about summer rentals. This time year, when winter has turned to spring (at least down in the city), its not unusual to get a few calls from folks looking for a summer rental. This year, the number of calls seems much greater. (Of course, it could be that against a backdrop of a smaller volume of calls about buying a summer place, the calls about renting could just seem much greater.) No, I really think it is greater.
The increase in rental interest is another sign of the uncertain sales market. Some callers start out saying, "We’re thinking about buying a second home, but would like to rent for a season to try the area out before we decide to buy," while others are more direct, "We’d like to rent for this summer because we’re just not comfortable buying anything right now." The bottom line is that the interest in having a place for the summer is there, but the interest in making a long term financial commitment isn’t. A short term rental is the equivilent, risk wise, of short term lending.
The problem is that we don’t have a large inventory of available rentals, and no real organized way to access them. Some brokers here do handle a few rentals, but you have to go from broker to broker to find out about them. There’s no clearinghouse, and no large property management companies handling them like you have in the Hamptons or at the Jersey shore. We have only one small property management company to my knowledge that focuses on rentals — Red Cottage Rentals at http://web.mac.com/grimesproperties/Grimes_Properties/Home.html, and they only have about a dozen most non-lakefront properties. There’s no single source, for example, for someone looking for a lakefront rental.
Rental demand is definitely there, and every summer it outstrips supply. One result we may see this summer is that owners who have been unable to sell their homes, or think the market may be better in a year, may decide to rent for the short term. That could keep sales inventory down at least through the summer. But 3 months of a summer rental typically doesn’t come close to covering the annual carrying costs of a house here, and faced with carrying a house over the winter until another summer rental season, many of those reluctant landlords may put their houses on the sales market in the fall.