After soaring to new heights in the wake of the pandemic, vacation rental prices on the Vineyard are seeing a downturn in response to a larger number of vacancies this season. While top-end homes appear to be immune from the booking slump, some mid-market homeowners are scrambling to fill open weeks ahead of Memorial Day.

Increased supply in the market has been a factor, Island real estate agents say. Currently, the Vineyard has about 3,800 rentals, up from about 2,500 in 2022, according to the state. 

Several companies representing properties on the Vineyard said they have been advising clients to consider lowering weekly rentals as the market starts to settle back to pre-pandemic levels.

Peak summer is booked, but the shoulder seasons have openings. — Ray Ewing

“I think homeowners are realizing they can’t command the kind of prices they were getting in the pandemic,” said Joan Talmadge, co-owner of regional rental company 

Ms. Talmadge said her company’s average weekly rental prices on the Vineyard grew by 66 per cent over the last six years — a steeper increase than on both the Cape and Nantucket. 

Charts from WeNeedAVacation show the average weekly price of a three-bedroom home rental on the Vineyard going for just under $6,000 a week in 2023, up from under $4,000 in 2019. But bookings for the company in 2024 have declined slightly compared to last year, down 4.4 per cent overall. Spring saw the largest drop at almost 11 per cent. 

Other rental companies reported similar dips, though all said that the season was about on par or slightly above 2019. 

“The market is resettling back to 2019, to pre-Covid levels,” said Wendy Harman, the founder of Point B Realty.

The increase in the number of rentals has saturated the market, leaving more vacancies than in the red-hot early pandemic years, she added. 

“The supply and demand is just off,” Ms. Harman said. “There’s more supply than there is demand.”

High summer is still fully booked, with agents reporting no vacancies in August. But earlier in the summer and the fall still has more availability than in recent years. 

“Basically, we suggest they lower their rates,” said Karen Overtoom, owner of Karen Overtoom Real Estate. “That has helped fill them.”

Other trends are also emerging. 

High-end rentals with pools and other amenities seem to be immune from the booking slump. — Ray Ewing

With Steamship Authority vehicle reservations during peak weekends hard to come by, some owners are shifting away from the usual weekly minimum stay, or moving the traditional weekend turnover day. 

The Steamship Authority reported 25,020 vehicle reservations on the Vineyard route during opening day in February, up from both 2022 and 2023. 

“We’re seeing more owners going to Fridays and Mondays,” said Ms. Harman. “Some of those folks are being creative and thinking outside the box.” 

Several companies noted that even though the overall number of leases signed for the season have gone down, the total rental income is about the same as last year. Agents said it appears higher-end properties and rentals with sought after amenities such as pools and central air are still booking up — at times for longer stays.

For instance, Point B reported a 15 per cent increase in rents collected in the first quarter of 2024 over the same period last year, but the number of transactions was down 15 per cent.

“I would say high-end properties don’t have issues to rent,” said Larysa Trafas, a vacation rental specialist at Seacoast Properties. “The middle class struggles.... We have fewer bookings but the dollar amount is almost the same as last year.” 

Rental companies emphasized that they didn’t think it was going to be a bad year, but they did feel there would be a shift away from the historic highs from the pandemic years.

“The trends that are shaping the short-term rental market in 2024 have brought both challenges and opportunities and the next two months will be key periods as we work to book open dates,” Ms. Harman said.