Each year, visitors flock to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to escape city life, reconnect with family and friends, and enjoy the sea and salt air. The Outer Banks is made up of 200 miles of coastline, with ambiance and activities for a variety of ages and interests. Mostly, visitors travel for week-long vacations in privately-owned rental homes. The OBX does offer hotels and motels, from small “mom and pop” style to chain hotels like Marriott, Hilton, Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn, and Holiday Inn. These are great options for weekend visits, but the true, traditional Outer Banks vacation experience is to spend a week in a rental house.
For over 40 years, Sun Realty has provided rental management services for thousands of Outer Banks property owners who offer their beach houses up for rent to the vacationing public. We take care of everything from marketing and reservations to maintenance and cleaning, and everything in between. We ensure that the property and owner are properly insured and that all taxes are paid promptly to the appropriate agencies. Beyond that, we offer warm greetings and hospitality to weary guests who have traveled great distances and are excited and ready to enjoy some well-deserved R&R.
Enter third-party online travel agencies (OTAs). The likes of Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Expedia, and even Google Vacation Rentals. These OTAs have huge advertising budgets and offer property owners broad exposure on their platforms (lots of competition). These sites offer a vast assortment of options for prospective vacationers to choose from, some offered by individual owners, some represented by professional management companies. Services offered vary, but most are related to advertising the property and procuring rental reservations. Commissions and fees charged by these third-party channels can be added when the home is offered on these sites. That may mean increased cost and associated taxes on all reservations.
This model is similar to the commission and fees charged by traditional, full-service management companies; the difference is, these online travel agencies typically provide very limited service or support beyond the reservation process. In addition, the price paid for a third-party booking may be more than through direct booking with a rental company.
For example the same property listed on a third-party OTA site, and represented also by a professional management company shows a 5% commission on top of the base rent and built-in fees already tacked on by the management company. That higher amount is then of course taxed accordingly. There is also an added service fee charged by the OTA. Before you know it, your cost is now almost $1000 more than if you had booked the house directly through the professional management company. Same house. Same week. Same amenities.
What’s more, should an issue with the property arise, the OTA typically has very little recourse to make it right, and that largely falls on the local management company or the owner directly. What happens if the property is only offered through an OTA? While you may feel you’re getting a great deal by booking directly through the owner, one thing to consider is the level of service provided beyond the reservation. Does that owner live locally or have sufficient resources to handle after-hours maintenance issues, lock-outs, or even cleaning staff who are no-shows? Are your rental payments properly accounted for, with 50% kept in a trust account until you take occupancy? Is travel insurance available to protect your vacation investment? You may appreciate the convenience and ease of finding and comparing various vacation property options on third party travel sites and be comfortable reserving your beach getaway through an OTA like AirBnB, VRBO, and Booking.com. Be sure you consider the potential issues that may arise during your stay, and the resources available to address and remedy them.
Guests reserving their vacation rental directly through Sun Realty can trust in the knowledge that we offer a full suite of services to assist with your stay, from finding the best beach house for your family on your budget (at the best price), to ensuring a clean and safe home when you arrive, and the ability to deal with any maintenance issues or other emergencies during your stay.
In 2021, we look forward to greeting thousands of vacationers. Rest assured you’ll get the best service, best price, and a great experience when booking direct with Sun!