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The New York Times

Wiggle Room for Summer Rentals

By: Julia Lawlor
Published: 5/2/2008Source: The New York Times

THE faintest glimmer of an economic slowdown is on the horizon this summer in some of the most popular vacation spots within a two-hour drive of New York. Rental agents from the Jersey Shore to the Hamptons to the Hudson Valley report that prices for summer rentals have remained about the same as last year but that many people are booking late, hoping for bargains to materialize.


As usual, there are pockets of the rental market that remain impervious to the shifting economic winds. Higher-priced properties in desirable locations - newly renovated oceanfront condos at the Jersey Shore, houses in the village of Rhinebeck, amenity-laden retreats in the Hamptons (putting greens and wine tasting rooms, anyone?) - are already gone.


But in the low- to mid-priced categories, there are still a lot of choices. Inventories have been bolstered in part by owners who have put up for rent houses that have been languishing on the for-sale market. And, although second-home sales are down, a record number of vacation home buyers last year purchased with the intention of renting their homes out. According to the National Association of Realtors, 25 percent of last year's second-home buyers said they intended to put their properties on the rental market, up from 18 percent in 2006.


On, the number of properties listed for rent in the Hamptons, the Jersey Shore, the Catskills and the Hudson Valley was up an average of 23 percent in the first quarter from the comparable period of 2007, according to Justin Halloran, vice president and managing director of United States business at HomeAway, the world's largest vacation-rental Web site. But, Mr. Halloran said, e-mail inquiries to owners in these four areas jumped an average of 42 percent from last year, indicating that it was not necessarily a renters' market. "The demand is still outstripping the supply," he said. "We know that people, even in a down economy, still take a vacation."


But they might not be taking the same kinds of vacations they did in boom times. Many are renting for shorter periods, or are cutting costs by sharing a house with another family. Some are procrastinating with a purpose - the longer they wait, the lower prices might go.


"People are being cautious," said Suzanne Aasbo, an agent at Coldwell Banker Prestigious Properties in Westhampton Beach. "The stock market has been an issue. Sales are off, so, theoretically, we should have a stronger rental market. But people are booking late, the same as last year."


Here, with 25 days to go to Memorial Day, is a look at the state of vacation rentals near New York.




For many, part of the Hamptons allure is in breathing the same salty, rarefied air as titans of industry and boldface celebrity names. If that's what you're after, it's best to book an oceanfront spread ($350,000 and up for the season, according to Sheila Smith, a vice president at the Corcoran Group). But hurry because Ms. Smith said that most high-end rentals in Southampton and East Hampton were snapped up by the end of January and that prices in this category have increased over last year. Recession worries? Ms. Smith said a five- or six- bedroom house with a pool and perhaps a tennis court - but not on the water - would set you back only about $125,000 to $185,000 for the season. Rick Hoffman, a Corcoran vice president, said that was the same price range as 2007.


In Southampton or East Hampton, a small home for the season would start at $15,000, without a pool. A three- or four-bedroom with a pool, $30,000 to $35,000. In the middle range, a five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath house with a heated pool in East Hampton rented for $70,000 from July 15 through Labor Day, according to Charles Manger, vice president and executive director for eastern Long Island for Brown Harris Stevens.


The big news in Sag Harbor this year is a record-breaking summer rental for the village - a renovated, 8,200-square-foot 1910 house on a bay beach has rented for $395,000 for the season, eclipsing the previous high of $200,000. It has seven bedrooms, seven-and-a-half bathrooms, a heated pool, a putting green, a screening room, a sauna and steam room, a gym, a billiards room, a wine- tasting room and an outdoor kitchen with a refrigerator, a dishwasher, a grill and a fireplace. "And it's not even south of the highway," said Tara Newman, a broker for Corcoran.


Then there is the Hamptons' version of the starter rental: a perfectly nice place in Hampton Bays that is just a 15-minute-or-so drive to the action in Southampton and can be much easier on the wallet. Ingrid Carozzi, 37, a freelance designer from the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn, and her husband, Sean Murphy, 31, a trader on Wall Street, have rented a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Hampton Bays with a hot tub for July and August for $18,000. They were able to get $2,000 off the asking price and are sharing expenses with another couple. Normally, they visit family in Ireland, Sweden and Italy each summer, but this year they'll skip Italy. "We wanted to stay in the U.S. longer, because the dollar is so weak," Ms. Carozzi said.


Emily Demone, an associate broker for Corcoran who works mostly in Southampton and Water Mill, said she had noticed more people were opting to rent just for August than had in previous years, and they were in no hurry to get out their checkbooks. "They are all looking for the fire sale that will emerge in May so they can get a good deal in August," she said. "There will be things left, but they will forfeit getting homes close to the villages. Those are the first to go."


Geoffry Wong, 39, a former derivatives trader for Goldman Sachs who lives in Manhattan, is asking $80,000 for the season to rent out his five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom home with a pool, a tennis court, volleyball and boccie courts a mile from the bay in Southampton. So far, with the price the same as last year's, he has had more than double the number of people looking than in each of the previous two years, but no bites. In fact, he has had people back out at the last minute four separate times. He is now open to renting just by the month ($15,000 for June, $30,000 for July and $35,000 for August) but said he won't drop his rates by much. "I'm not that worried, " he said. "I think I'll rent it, and if not, I'll just hang out there myself."


Mary Ellen McGuire, an associate broker for Brown Harris in East Hampton, is also noticing reluctance on the part of renters to commit. "In previous years people would come out just once and rent a house," she said. "Now they'll come out at least two or three times, thinking they can get a deal. But they're not necessarily getting one."


Mr. Hoffman said Corcoran agents had seen an increase in the number of Europeans renting in the Hamptons, primarily because of the weak dollar. He said that traffic on the firm's Web site was especially strong from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Mr. Manger, however, said Brown Harris had about the same number of European renters as last year.




Like the Hamptons, the first properties to be rented at the Jersey Shore have been newer, higher-priced homes on the water. What are left are mid- to low-priced properties farther from the ocean. In Spring Lake the season is getting off to a slow start.


Maureen Machirella, an agent with Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate, blamed the sagging economy for a slowdown in rentals this year. "Things are quieter than last year," she said. Seasonal rents range from a low of $12,000 for a small garage apartment or carriage house to $25,000 for a small house six blocks from the beach to $60,000 or $70,000 for oceanfront properties.


But in some locations, if you're looking to book the most popular two-week period of the season - the last week of July and the first week of August - you could be too late.


"That time frame is long gone," said Lee Childers, owner of Childers Sotheby's International Realty, which covers the northern Ocean County towns of Point Pleasant, Bay Head, Normandy Beach, Lavallette and Seaside Park. Prices range from a low of $900 a week for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow in Lavallette with an outdoor, but no indoor, shower to $100,000 for the season for a large seven-bedroom house on the ocean in Bay Head or Mantoloking. An average rental in Point Pleasant is $2,500 a week for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in walking distance of the beach, he said.


"So many people call for those two weeks," Mr. Childers said. "They want a four-bedroom home on an ocean block with central air, and `By the way, can I bring my two little dogs?' which turn out to be Doberman pinschers."


Melissa Venditti, 43, of Middletown, N.J., started looking in January for an oceanfront house to rent for two weeks in Normandy Beach or Mantoloking. Last year, she and her husband, Anthony, 43, a hedge fund manager, paid $15,000 a week for a six-bedroom oceanfront house in Bay Head. This year, because they're also planning a trip to Italy with their three children, they wanted to spend about $7,500 a week for a smaller oceanfront house. But so far, no luck: "I thought I'd have an easier time this year," Ms. Venditti said. "I thought more people would rent out their houses to make some money." She's now willing to go as high as $10,000 a week, or take a house that's not on the water, but still on a beach block.


On Long Beach Island, Ed Kohlmeir, a broker at Newbern Realty in Beach Haven Terrace, said there was a brisk business in upper- and lower-end rentals, "but the middle is struggling." Prices are the same as last year, he said, though more renters are seeking bargains. Rental prices start at $800 a week for a small two-bedroom apartment. Single-family homes a block from the beach might rent for $1,500 a week for an older three-bedroom ranch-style house to $6,000 a week for a new property with a pool. Oceanfront duplex apartments range from $2,400 to $3,500 a week. A five-bedroom, three-bathroom unit with a whirlpool tub and rooftop deck on the ocean is $8,000 a week.


Michael Monihan, the owner of Monihan Realty in Ocean City, said the market was surprisingly strong on the barrier island south of Atlantic City. "This year we've been consistently ahead of last year," he said. "With the economy off and gas so high, the theory is that the Jersey Shore will do better because we're a tank-full or less away from a third of the country's population." Much of the historic resort's rental housing is duplexes on small lots. Prices start at $500 a week for an older two-bedroom ground-floor apartment to $4,500 to $12,000 a week for beachfront units with four or more bedrooms.


Just north of the Wildwoods in Avalon and Stone Harbor, the rental market is still strong, said Bob Scully, a broker for Ferguson Dechert Real Estate. "Our rental leases are up 8 percent from last year," he said. The average rental, he said, is $5,000 a week for a four- or five-bedroom house. On the low end, a one-bedroom condo on a beach block in Avalon with access to a pool is $1,450 a week. A two-bedroom ranch a few blocks from the beach in Avalon is $1,815 a week. On the high end, there is just one week left open this summer on a six-bedroom house with a pool on a large oceanfront lot in Avalon. Cost: $25,000 a week.




The rolling green hills of New York's Dutchess and Columbia Counties east of the Hudson River and the mountainous terrain to the west in the Catskills make these areas attractive to city dwellers. This year there is even a scarcity of certain types of properties.


Ann Dyal, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Currier & Lazier Realtors, said she had a waiting list of people looking for a summer rental in Rhinebeck, a Dutchess County village of quaint, tree-lined streets with chic restaurants, galleries and antiques stores. "If I had 10 houses in my pocket, I could have rented them all," she said. "We have more demand than in the past, because a lot of New Yorkers who usually go to the Hamptons are exploring here because it's a better commute, it's not as crowded, and it's less expensive."


She said average rentals are $10,000 to $15,000 for the season, and the number of rentals is up about 5 percent from a year ago. A small house well outside town would start at $3,300 a month, or $10,000 for the season, with a large home going for $10,000 a month.


In Millbrook, an upscale Dutchess County community with horse farms and large estates, demand for rentals is up from last year, said Heather Croner of Heather Croner Real Estate Sotheby's International, as are prices. Although there are some small houses that go for $15,000 for the season, she said, "We don't have many like that." More typical is a 60-acre Georgian-style estate with four bedrooms, a library, multiple fireplaces, a caretaker's house, terraced gardens and a heated swimming pool currently for rent at $75,000 for the season.


Bargain-hunters will fare much better farther north in Columbia County, where Audrey G. Schoenfeld, broker and co-owner of Schoenfeld, French & Lull in Chatham, said $1,200 to $1,500 a month will get you a small two- or three-bedroom house with one or two bathrooms. A slightly bigger home with a pond or a pool will run $3,500 to $5,000 a month, she said.


Rental prices are holding steady compared with last year, she said. Popular areas to rent in Columbia County are around three lakes - Kinderhook, Copake and Queechy - and in places like Chatham, Spencertown, Austerlitz, Canaan and New Lebanon that are close to Tanglewood and the summer theaters just across the border in the Massachusetts Berkshires.


In the Catskills, with its abundant hiking trails and fly-fishing streams, landing a bargain is relatively easy. Mary Collins, owner of Mary Collins Real Estate in High Falls, N.Y., said it's possible to get a small cottage for as little as $750 a month, or $2,500 to $3,000 for the season. "It would be something in the woods, not renovated, no special amenities," she said.


In the eastern portion of Ulster County around Woodstock, prices are higher. They range from $2,500 a month for a small two-bedroom house to $5,000 a month for a larger home without a pool. A four-bedroom, three-bathroom home on 13 acres near the village of Woodstock is on the market for $10,000 a month.


Annette Sievert, owner of, said she had had 10 percent more rental leases signed so far this year than last, and although prices are about the same as last year, they have risen 10 to 20 percent in four years. "It's getting hard to find something close to water," she said. Three rental houses on Perch Lake in Andes, for instance, were rented for the summer by February. There is also a shortage of rental houses in downtowns like Margaretville. Her least expensive property is a two-bedroom log cabin with a fireplace on eight acres at $1,200 a month in Roxbury; the most expensive is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom renovated farmhouse on 55 acres in New Kingston with two ponds at $6,000 a month.


This is the 10th summer that Gerard Jacobs, 50, a freelance hairstylist who lives in Greenwich Village, has rented in the Catskills. He found a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with mountain views in Highmount for $7,500 for the season, $2,500 more than he paid last year. "Prices are up," he said, "but there are much nicer houses coming onto the market." He much prefers hiking and prowling the area's farmers' markets to hanging out in the Hamptons. "This is quiet," he said, "instead of party-central like Fire Island or traffic-central like the Hamptons. And you get way more bang for your buck."