THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Going to Greater Lengths

Email|Print| Text size + By Lisa Kalis
April 1, 2005

FOR his vacation last August, Michael Kuperman of Brooklyn wanted to rent a cottage by the beach for a week. He quickly ruled out the Hamptons - "too crazy and chi-chi," he said. Martha's Vineyard seemed too crowded, and so did the Jersey Shore. He finally settled on Wellfleet, toward the tip of Cape Cod.

He acknowledged that the five-hour drive from home was a little long for him and his wife, then five months pregnant. And once they got there, the town didn't have many restaurants, requiring a 20-minute drive for dinner several nights during their stay. But in the end, he said, it was worth it. "We were willing to go the extra distance for the right atmosphere," said Mr. Kuperman, a 31-year-old technology manager, who enjoyed the scenic beaches and the secluded pond swimming.

With the rental season starting to heat up, more people may find themselves going to greater lengths to get to summer rentals this year. They will be driving farther, or going to out-of-the-way towns they would once have passed up. In part, it's an issue of supply and demand: domestic travel is expected to be up 5 percent this year from two years ago, meaning there is more competition for places. But with the rise of Web-based booking, rentals are also easier to research and book directly online, meaning people can scout around without putting in a long midwinter trip.

Rental agents in a number of vacation hot spots are already seeing business pick up. Richard Swift, a broker with Corcoran in East Hampton, N.Y., said that this summer already looks better than the last three, and many of the high-end houses, going for $100,000 to $300,000 for the season, were taken by January. "The owners are definitely happy," he said.

In Aspen, Colo., where the ski season still has nearly two weeks to run, summer rentals are already booking. "It started very early this year," said Eileen Tucker, director of sales and marketing for the Aspen agency Frias Properties."There is going to be some good rental activity this summer," predicted Michael Sarka, executive director of the Vacation Rental Managers Association in Santa Cruz, Calif. In a survey of almost 200 companies, rental managers expect revenue from rental units to increase 10.5 percent this year versus 2004, while inventory is only expected to rise 7.5 percent. Two-thirds of those companies said that they planned to raise prices this year - an average 3.45 percent.

That may have more people going farther for bargains - from New Yorkers looking for a season-long rental on Long Island to families who want two weeks on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Renters also seem to be more adventurous. "There's a solid core of repeat business," Mr. Sarka said. "At the same time, there's a new vacation renter. They travel to different locations and don't do the traditional trip to the same place."

Where to go when well-known spots become overpriced or overcrowded? Here are six popular summer standbys and nearby alternatives around the country, from east to west:

THE STANDBY Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Mass.

THE ALTERNATIVE The Outer Cape.

THE DOWNSIDE Spending yet another hour on traffic-clogged Route 6.

Mr. Kuperman isn't the only renter who has discovered the Outer Cape recently. On Weneedavacation.com, a rental-by-owner site with more than 2,200 properties on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, searches for rentals on the stretch of the Cape from Eastham to Provincetown now account for 20 percent of all area traffic compared with 14 percent in 2000. The reason, Jeff Talmadge, the Web site's owner, said: "The islands have become too expensive and people are moving down the food chain."

"We're quite a bit ahead of last year," said Terry Gips, an agent at Cape Cod Realty in Wellfleet, with 300 properties in the area that rent from $800 to $6,000 a week. "We have had a few more people who said, 'We normally rent on Nantucket, but we're looking on the Outer Cape this year.' "

At least the prices are easier. On the Vineyard, weekly rates average about $6,000 and range from $1,200 to $75,000, said Deb Davis a sales agent at Barbara B. Nevin Real Estate in Edgartown.

In particular, Eastham, with a population of 5,000, has become more popular, said Mr. Talmadge. It's not for the town - which consists of a couple of restaurants on the highway and a quaint shop or two. The real attractions are Nauset Light Beach and Coast Guard Beach, both part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Cottages in Eastham tend to be smaller, so the town is less expensive, Ms. Gips said.

Still, those looking for anything like the hubbub at the Black Dog Tavern on the Vineyard may want to keep looking. "It definitely wasn't a scene," Mr. Kuperman said of the Outer Cape. "For some people, it may be too quiet."

THE STANDBY East Hampton, N.Y.

THE ALTERNATIVE Hampton Bays, N.Y.

THE DOWNSIDE On the off chance that you get a reservation, you're 20 miles from Nick & Toni's.

Nothing, it seems - not the traffic, the summer rentals that cost more than a college education, the impossible beach parking - can stop the crowds from going to the Hamptons. But for those who balk at shelling out $100,000 or more for a summer rental, there is an alternative: Hampton Bays.

One exit past Westhampton, it's still a working town. (It's home to the state's second-largest fishing industry.) In the past, the rental scene was dominated by young weekenders, who stacked up in share houses. But recently, the town police have cracked down on group shares (town rules say that no more than five unrelated tenants are allowed in a rental), making way for families looking for a quieter atmosphere.

"It's the final frontier," said Mr. Swift with Corcoran in East Hampton. "It's not a grand, pretentious, Steven Spielberg kind of place."

"At one time, it was known as youthful and crazy," said AnnMarie Pallister at Prudential Douglas Elliman in Hampton Bays. "Now we see more families."But those looking for a beachfront property should look elsewhere. Hampton Bays is the only town in the area that hasn't allowed construction on the beach. There are plenty of waterside homes on the north edge of town, overlooking Great Peconic Bay. Summer prices range from about $9,000 for a two-bedroom to $80,000 for a nine-bedroom on the water, said Ms. Pallister, whose office had 75 available rentals in late March. A four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house with a heated pool and overlooking the bay was still available, for $35,000 for the summer.

While houses closer to the bay can be pretty fancy, those south of Sunrise Highway might not cry out "beach getaway" to everyone. They tend to be one-story ranches, on about a half acre. The neighborhood "just looks more like suburbia," said Brian Johnson, an associate broker at Corcoran in Southampton.

Still, the atmosphere reminds him of East Hampton in the 60's. And the town's more westerly location could be enough to persuade some to forgo the famous neighbors and nightlife. "You can knock an hour or two off of sitting in traffic," said Mr. Johnson. "It's the last place you can jump off when the highway is still four lanes."

THE STANDBY Woodstock, N.Y.

THE ALTERNATIVE Delaware County, N.Y.

THE DOWNSIDE Exceeds the crucial 2.5-hour drive limit from Manhattan.

For years, summer renters in the Catskills balked at going any farther than Woodstock, with its long-established arts scene, requisite scenic pastures and old farmhouses just two and a half hours from New York City. "For many people, Phoenicia was the DMZ," said Dolly Shivers of Ruth M. Gale Real Estate in that town, 14 miles west of Woodstock.

No longer. With the rent on some three-bedroom houses in Woodstock exceeding $20,000 for the season, and the summer bringing in models and movie stars, more vacationers are heading at least another half-hour west, to towns like Margaretville and Delhi in Delaware County.

"The drive is not so much of an issue anymore," said Eugene Pereira, an agent with Frank Lumia Real Estate in Delhi. He has noticed that second-home owners have also been expanding their boundaries to get away from it all. "I've had people purchase homes in Margaretville," he said, "and after they've lived here six months or a year, they're willing to go to Franklin," which is another hour farther from New York City.

Woodstock, in neighboring Ulster County to the east, has retained its artsy vibe, but Delaware County has a more farm-country feel. It's not totally isolated, though; Andes, for one, has several popular restaurants, like Cantina, a Mexican place opened last year by the owners of Radio Mexico in Manhattan, and Slow Down Food, which features local produce.

The rents, so far, remain relatively low. A two-bedroom cabin between Delhi and Andes on 20 acres is available for $1,400 a month, while a four-bedroom farm built in 1890 with mountain views in Bovina is being offered for$1,950 a week.

And business is up this year. Patty Cullen, who owns the House Around the Bend rental agency in Margaretville, said that she had been getting dozens of e-mail messages and calls a day since the end of ski season. "People are definitely renting more over the last two years," she said. Word seems to have gotten out to the owners, too. "I've gotten five calls from homeowners interested in renting in the last day," she added.

THE STANDBY Nags Head, N.C.

THE ALTERNATIVE Corolla, N.C.

THE DOWNSIDE Fewer places to play arcade games and miniature golf on rainy days.

The strip of barrier islands know as North Carolina's Outer Banks has grown increasingly crowded in recent years, especially in the commercial strip around the towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk. Last year, occupancy for summer rental houses in the entire region rose 6 percent from 2003, according to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

That has some quiet-seeking vacationers heading north. "The trend seems to be Corolla," said Meredith Olinger{lcub} with Sun Realty in Kill Devil Hills. "It's really kid-friendly." Corolla, some 30 miles on Route 12 from Nags Head, has bigger houses, a lot of community pools and more secluded beaches.

There is plenty of supply, too. "There has been a significant growth in rental properties, and an increase in new construction" in Corolla, said Jon Summerton, a vice president at Twiddy & Company, a real estate company with 500 houses in town. Still, there is little commercial zoning, and buildings can't go over three stories. A "cozy" two-bedroom condo near a golf course costs $950 a week, while an eight-bedroom oceanfront house with a barbecue and a billiards room goes for over $16,000 a week.

Being at the end of the road has its drawbacks. "You can be sitting in traffic for one to three hours to get there, especially on a Saturday," Ms. Olinger said. "It's really, really horrible."

It is also not the best destination for the party set. "There's not a lot to do. There aren't a lot of bars," said Claudia Shields of the Corolla office of Sun Realty, which lists 299 rental houses in the area. There aren't as many miniature golf courses and movie theaters, either, but the compensations are plenty of sand, golf, fishing, sailing and other water sports.

And lately, people have been pushing even farther north, past town and toward the Virginia border, where a four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to reach houses tucked away on unpaved roads. "It's very romantic, and there are wild horses around," Mr. Summerton said. "There aren't that many areas on the East Coast where you can drive on the beach."

THE STANDBY Aspen, Colo.

THE ALTERNATIVE Snowmass, Colo.

THE DOWNSIDE No Prada, no Nobu, and if you want to hit the Belly Up club, you'll need a designated driver.

With a big classical music festival from June through August, and a lot of outdoor mountain activities, Aspen has become far more than just a ski town. "July and August literally tend to be as busy as the winter months now," said Ms. Tucker of Frias Properties. But summer in Aspen can be just as expensive as winter there. A two-bedroom condo half a block from the gondola goes for $325 a night in July and August, while a three-bedroom unit with views of the mountain runs $975 a night.

That has led to more visitors in Snowmass, Aspen's more affordable, family-oriented sibling 14 miles away.. "Aspen will always have the stronger market, but certainly that does spill over," said Doug Faurer, owner of Alpine Property in Snowmass, who has been getting 8 to 10 calls a week for summer rentals. "It looks like a strong summer for us."

To shed some of the winter associations - perhaps it's the name? - Snowmass also started throwing more of its own summer events, like free Thursday night concerts and mountain biking competitions. And more and more, town officials are marketing the two towns together. They just printed a joint summer tourism guide, in hopes of offering visitors "two towns in one destination," said Susan Hamley, marketing director for Snowmass Village. "Now, when we promote Snowmass," she said, "we always promote it as Aspen."

While Aspen's borders expand, renters are also looking at the greater area - going as far away as Carbondale, a small former ranching community. Carbondale, an hour from Aspen, has lately grown more gentrified. . "We're starting to see more and more short-term rentals," said Toni Cerise of ReMax Mountain West in Carbondale, which is becoming especially popular with fly-fishers, thanks to its location near the Frying Pan, Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers. And work on the road from Aspen was just completed, making the town even more popular. "Before, it was a two-lane treacherous highway," Ms. Cerise said. "Now that the road has been finished, it's very accessible."

The fishing is what initially drew Al Musser, 63, to the area. But he also likes Carbondale's restaurants, like the trendy SIX89 on Main Street. "It's nirvana," said Mr. Musser, a real estate developer. "Aspen is a good destination for a day trip."

THE STANDBY Santa Barbara, Calif.

THE ALTERNATIVE Ventura and Oxnard, Calif.

THE DOWNSIDE Oxnard is nicknamed the "Lima Bean Capital."

Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and John Cleese haven't abandoned Santa Barbara (both own homes in the town, 90 miles north of Los Angeles). And it has its major charms: beaches, Spanish architecture and ritzy shops, majestically set by the Santa Ynez Mountains. But lately, more renters are looking just south, to Ventura and Oxnard - towns normally passed over in the travel guides. "We used to be just the 101 to Santa Barbara," said Marianne Gallegos of Pierpont Bay Realty in Ventura, referring to the highway that runs much the length of California. "Now people stop and stay."

A lot of that has to do with prices: a three- or four-bedroom house on the ocean with a hot tub and playroom that might go for $8,500 a week in Santa Barbara, she said, goes for $3,500 in her area.

With Malibu and Santa Monica just to the south, Ventura and Oxnard are also drawing people up from the pricey stretch between San Diego and Los Angeles. "It's an alternative to the ridiculous prices in Malibu, and it's not overrun with people," said Trigg Schaefer, owner of Channel Islands Realty in Oxnard. "We've been kind of a secret for years, and little by little, that secret has gotten out." Among his listings: a two-bedroom cottage that is nine houses from the beach for $1,070 a week.

"It's great for families, but not great for anyone who needs a lot of cultural stimulation. The main entertainment is the peace and quiet," said Mel Otey, 49, a headhunter in Los Angeles who has rented in Oxnard with her family for the last 10 summers. "We play a lot of cards and drink a lot of beer."

The towns aren't without their own summer attractions. Ventura is the host of the county fair in August, while Oxnard has Saturday outdoor concerts and a watermelon eating contest at the farmers' market. Besides the cachet, Santa Barbara still has more touristy activities. but watch out for the drive there - the 30-minute trip can stretch to an hour in traffic.

That doesn't bother John Tepaske, 61, from Orange City, Iowa. He's been renting for five years in the area. Granted, he does have to time certain outings around traffic, like taking his young daughter down to Disneyland or up to the zoo in Santa Barbara. But he likes the quiet beaches and the nearby tennis club, and the prices don't hurt either. "I had a doctor friend who rented on Newport Beach, and it cost thousands of dollars per hour," joked Mr. Tepaske, a lawyer. "My wife doesn't want me to say too much. We don't want it to get too discovered here."

more stories like this

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
 
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Del.icio.us Save this article
  • powered by Del.icio.us
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: Boston.com does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.