Home rentals

Vacation home rentals rise in Wilmington area despite higher service fees

As more and more tourists continue to visit Topsail Island for the beach and relaxation, owners like Renee Matusic are giving them a place to stay, overlooking the ocean waves crashing against the shore. .

For owners like Matusic, who lives in West Virginia, maintenance is costly. One bill is $15,000 for flood insurance. So, while being seven hours away, she wants to leave her investment in the family home in good hands.

“I wouldn’t say anyone who owns property there is a zillionaire,” she said. “We just hope at some point to pay these monsters off. And then we might make some money from them. But in the meantime, we’re still paying our mortgages and our expenses.”

She relies on Vacasa to manage the property. The Portland, Oregon-based company is setting up shop in the Topsail area and on the island shared by cities in Pender and Onslow counties. She acquired vacation rentals from Treasure Realty, a real estate company with offices in Surf City and Sneads Ferry. It is known as the best full-service vacation rental management company in North America. Vacasa manages more than 35,000 homes in 35 US states, Canada, Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica. More than 3 million customers register each year.

“We’re really happy with them,” she said. “I have a great management team, who literally, I feel go above and beyond for our home.” Matusic said he worked with Vacasa last year after purchasing TurnKey vacation rentals. “I managed to keep the house booked.”

But some people who enjoyed Topsail Island last summer question the higher costs of changing social media posts. A few include cleaning and booking fees. With rising costs in the economy, many professionals have said this is something that comes with the territory.

Rising costs also rival rising rental properties available in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties, which respond to increased demand that accelerated in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel bad for my management team because I feel like they’re being raked,” Matusic said. “A lot of people on these pages aren’t landlords. They’re people who want to rent and they’re angry because prices have gone up. Well, guess what? Went to the grocery store? Everything went up. Gasoline increased.”

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Vacasa charges him almost 20% and charges tenants an additional fee. Matusic can’t speak for other owners, but the overall cost hasn’t increased much. According to one listing, the cost of a home in North Topsail Beach is over $500 per night. She added that the booking fees and state taxes are too high, but that’s about the same as other rental companies. For a week in June, the booking fee is nearly $800, which goes to offset online marketing and SEO costs.

The concept of dynamic pricing with companies setting prices based on demand is another factor, especially with people booking early. But Matusic stressed that this does not apply to everything.

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“They are thinking about airlines,” she said. “If you buy a last-minute ticket, that’s three times what it would be if you booked it four months in advance. Dynamic pricing with houses is the opposite.”

A weekly rate of $6,000 for a peak period in the summer can drop to $4,000 in the spring, according to Matusic’s experiences and research.

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“They are ultimately trying to make the most money for the owner and the business,” he said.

When it comes to quality, Matusic referenced the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”

“You want a nice experience,” she said. “And guess what, I want a management company that expects that, so they’re gonna charge a little more. I tell people on social media, if they don’t like it, go to Myrtle Beach because you I’m going to get a third of what you’re going to pay for my five-bedroom oceanfront home.”

Rate changes

Dara Cook, Vacasa’s general manager for Topsail Island, said the guest fee for a property depends on the amenities and size of a vacation rental and is displayed before a guest confirms their reservation. An example was properties with hot tubs having fees than homes without one to account for upkeep and upkeep between guest uses.

“As a full-service property management company, Vacasa manages all operations and has first-hand knowledge of the labor and costs associated with home care,” Cook said.

On pricing, Cook added that one of the many ways Vacasa helps maximize rental income for our owners is through our dynamic pricing technology, which adjusts nightly rates based on demand.

“With this strategy, we can assess when peak prices are justified – for example, for a holiday or a popular summer weekend – and when to adjust to weakening demand in order to keep bookings at come,” Cook said.

When Vacasa took over the management of Treasure Realty’s vacation rental division, Cook said a majority of local employees and teams were busy welcoming new and returning customers to Topsail.

“While we understand that there may be long-time Treasure Realty customers who adjust to a dynamic pricing model or higher travel costs in general (airfare, gas, etc.) over the past year, people continue to book their beach trips here and we remain committed to providing an exceptional and valuable guest experience for everyone,” said Cook.

A growing industry

According to AirDNA, the supply of short-term rentals in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties is increasing. According to the data, the total number of available ads increased from 6,506 in September 2019 to 8,974 in September this year, an increase of 38%.

Madeleine Parkin, AirDNA’s public relations specialist, said many users of short-term rentals chose them over hotels and motels during the pandemic because they were perceived as safer, offering privacy and more. of amenities while most hotel amenities were closed, offering services such as buffet breakfast, swimming pool, bar, etc.

“In some locations, especially coastal, mountain or lake destinations, and smaller towns or rural areas, short-term rentals are a good option where there is little competition from hotels, which tend to be more prevalent in urban areas,” Parkin said.

In two years, the highest percentage was in Pender, which saw a 102% increase (97 ads available last month); followed by New Hanover at 42% (4,168); and Brunswick at 34% (4,709). It was noted by AirDNA that an available unit is defined as any property with at least one day booked or available within months. Naturally, changes occur between high and low season when owners prefer to use their own property.

“Demand (booked nights) is also up in all three counties, while average rates are up in New Hanover and Brunswick, but down in Pender County, where it appears rates were already high before the pandemic, and declined somewhat during, possibly due to lower demand,” Parkin said. “However, they are picking up this year as inflation hits.”

Tourism officials are seeing increases firsthand.

Connie Nelson, director of communications for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, said five-year gross home sales for vacation rentals increased 297% due to increased rental agency inventory, as well as than AirBnB and VRBO; statement of rental and room occupancy tax; and accommodation prices.

“During COVID, there has been an increased demand for vacation rentals,” she said. “It has been a plus for our destination to be able to offer vacation rentals as an option for travelers looking for this type of accommodation.”

Tammy Proctor, director of tourism for Pender County, added that COVID has resulted in an influx of people who want to rent homes where they have control over contact with people outside the family circle.

“They wanted homes with the internet where they could work, and the kids could go to school virtually and then have the beach as their backyard for outdoor recreation,” Proctor said. “What’s consistent and unchanged are the generational visitors we see – grandparents, children and grandchildren – enjoying vacations together in a beach rental.”

In Brunswick, Mitzi York, executive director of the county’s tourism development authority, said vacation rentals have historically been the largest accommodation segment. In recent years this has changed with more people booking online instead of through local landlords.

“People like to have their privacy,” she said of the perks. For a week, you own this house.”

But for returning visitors, they’ll likely have to pay a bit more than before, including things like cleaning fees.

“We’ve seen comments in the press and on social media where customers have been shocked by the high cleaning fees, but overall cleaning fees in the US have only increased by 8, 9% year-over-year, despite obvious increases in labor costs and general inflation affecting the bottom line for cleaning staff,” Parkin said of the situation. cleaning fees were seen in properties with five or more bedrooms (11.7% vs. last year), which require significantly more work to clean, followed by one bedroom and studios (11%), many of whom have not charged a cleaning fee before.”

For Matusic on Topsail Island, it’s nearly $500. Prices and breakdowns are different for rental companies, which may combine service and insurance under one item.

“If you’re on social media, these people who clean houses for Vacasa say, ‘Wow, I’m not getting $470 to clean this house, so clearly they’re ripping us off,'” she said. “But that’s not the case. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding.”

Journalist Chase Jordan can be reached at [email protected]