Condo and home rental market booming at Delmarva beaches

The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the economies of the area and the nation, but for people who rent houses and condominiums at the Delmarva beaches, the desire for social distancing led to an uptick in bookings.

“I feel like people are very anxious to be coming to the beach,” said Kim Looney, with Century 21 New Horizon in Ocean City, Maryland.

She said while business was down at the start of the pandemic last year, once they were allowed to rent properties, the calls started coming in and the phones have not stopped ringing since. As for this summer, Looney said, people who haven’t already booked will have a tough time finding something.

“It’s booked up so fast,” Looney said.

In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, a similar story is playing out, said Heather Knowles, rental manager for RE/MAX Realty Group.



The 2021 summer season is an extended one, Knowles said — people have been booking stays that began as early as March and April and as late as September and October. She said they’re also booking longer stays, including some for the entire season.

“Everybody just kind of didn’t do vacation last year and they’re sick of it, so they are spending a little bit more money,” Knowles said.

In Ocean City, Looney said, there was a flood of cancellations during the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in the middle of last year, but things turned around quickly — they began booking stays last October for the 2021 beach season.

“It’s going to be a fabulous summer for vacation rentals, for sure.” Looney said.

Looney said while most of her rentals are for typical one- to two-week stays, someone did book a five-week stay, which is out of the ordinary.

In Rehoboth Beach, Knowles said, revenue is up 170% this year over last year, with occupancy rates up 62%. While stay-at-home orders factored into last year’s numbers a bit, she said, owners of the homes also chose to spend the season at the beach, so their homes were taken off the rental market.

“They were able to come down with family and they enjoyed it so much that they decided not to rent,” Knowles said.

It’s a hot market for sellers as well, Knowles said, and that’s causing issues too. “A lot of owners have listed and sold their units, and the new buyers are not at this point, listing them for rent,” Knowles said.

Looney said her company didn’t see as big of an impact from such owners. So far this year, her company’s revenue is up around 25% compared to last year.

Both Knowles and Looney said while COVID-19 restrictions are easing, they’re still offering more cleaning services between renters. From cleaning crews wearing personal protective equipment to air cleaning treatments at additional cost, there are far more cleaning solutions available to those who rent. Both said the extra steps are expected to remain through the 2021 season.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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