Real estate pros see the end of the pandemic surge as seasonal rents level off

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Seasonal rentals have been slow this year, but real estate pros have noted a surge in April among those seeking vacation spots on the island.

Still, the market is different from its heyday. But there are signs of a comeback. Angelo Piccozzi of Dering Harbor Real Estate said about six weeks ago that seasonal rents are picking up again.

Melina Wein of M. Wein Realty had a good rental run in the fourth quarter of last year, but today describes the seasonal rental market as “spotty”. She hasn’t given up, noting that Shelter Island is becoming increasingly popular with people who want to avoid the traffic in the Hamptons and are drawn to what they’ve heard about a place only accessible by ferry.

Still, she said the seasonal rental market isn’t a “gangbuster.”

Part of the problem, she speculated, is that prices have not settled to pre-pandemic levels. Many property owners are still aiming for rents as high as they were at the height of the pandemic. Circumstances have changed as COVID-19 cases have been curtailed, she said. Inflation has influenced some’s decision to book seasonal rentals, and Ms Wein also wonders how much the online Airbnb market is affecting the business agents once saw.

She is not alone in her speculation. Independent broker Susan Cincotta describes it as “returning to its normal swings”. After the pandemic-related spike that caused prices to rise, renters are now looking for reasonable pre-pandemic prices for well-maintained properties with popular amenities, she said. Additionally, some of those who rented during the pandemic bought homes on the island. Some aren’t making the money they were making before the pandemic and can’t afford the vacations they’ve booked in the past.

Another factor is homeowners who rented their homes during the pandemic but are choosing to occupy their homes this year, said Penelope Moore of Saunders. People looking for summer rentals want pools, water views, yet often book for two weeks rather than a month or the entire summer season, Ms Moore said. She doesn’t see year-round rentals as a good alternative when property owners are trying to fetch the higher prices that many can fetch for a seasonal rental.

Adding to this is a greater sense of freedom stemming from lower COVID-19 numbers, which are allowing people to travel to Europe or the United States rather than opting for a beach holiday on the island, Ms Moore said.

She also wonders about the impact if two big hotels return to the market this summer. Both the Pridwin and Chequit have undergone major refurbishments and could be popular with holidaymakers who prefer this option to renting a house.

Griffing & Collins Real Estate’s Janalyn Travis-Messer said all prices in the real estate market have been affected now that the “COVID flight is no longer happening”. That’s reflected in the Community Preservation Fund’s revenue, which has skyrocketed for two years but is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Daniel Gale Sotheby’s Marika Kaasik agrees the market is not what it was at the height of the pandemic. She also sees a trend of more renters looking for two-week stays rather than booking for a month or the season.

“It’s definitely not as crazy” as the previous two summers, Ms Kaasik said. Rising gas prices could also play a role in family decisions about vacations.

“Yes, it was a slower start overall,” said Compass agent Julia Weisenberg. People are taking longer to make decisions about their summer vacations. There’s a sense of instability among families trying to decide whether or not to make plans for the summer. She had a few regular tenants who were working on smaller budgets than in the past. But she’s optimistic that as the weather warms up, people will realize they want to leave.

“It pulls a little bit,” said Carol Szynka, Douglas Elliman’s director of sales. There’s an abundance of rental properties, she said. Ms Szynka also speculates that those who were originally renters but bought homes on the island during the pandemic will bring friends to the island who will become the next batch of renters.

Art Williams, who splits his time between publishing and real estate activities, said he’s less active in real estate but still has a finger on the pulse of the industry. He believes there are more rental options on the island, but plenty of alternatives for visitors to consider when making their bookings. He sees the year-round rental market as a real problem with insufficient supply to meet demand.

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