It’s spring now, but are you already thinking of escaping to a summer beach haven? It doesn’t matter if it is Ocean City, Panama City Beach, Rehoboth or the Hamptons, the costs involved in a house share can pile up quickly.
Let a broker help
If you’re new to finding a beachfront home to share, it’s probably a good idea to have someone with some experience help you out. According to Condé Nast, even a small cottage in the Hamptons can go as high as 17 grand. And even if your plans aren’t at a “hot spot,” a good broker will be able to quickly tell you what places are still available and also take you around to see them.
If you’re too busy for that and want to skip the broker—speak directly to the owners. This is your time to try and get a lower price, and also ask a bunch questions to make sure you’re getting a house that’s spot on for you and your buds.
- The biggest things to keep in mind are weekend rates and cleaning fees. Weekend stays usually cost more than going during the week, when you can often get five days for the price of two. Some rentals charge a cleaning fee of $75 or more.
- Make sure to ask what’s included with the share or rental. Some houses have weekend barbecues or Sunday morning bagels included in the price; others hire DJs to spin music poolside, athletic trainers for free, or Crossfit classes or drivers to shuttle you and your housemates around to local bars and clubs.
- Check out some photos. Make sure the place has the right number of rooms, look at the surrounding neighbors, and make sure it has all the amenities it claims.
- Find out about any rules or regulations such as whether smoking is allowed or if you’ll need to maintain the pool or any other part of the property.
- Ask about any fees.
- See if the owner will supply stuff like towels, dishes, pots, toilet paper, paper towels, etc., or whether you should bring them yourself.
- When negotiating, work not just on price but perks. Try for a holiday weekend or two as part of your share for no additional charge, a later checkout or longer stay.
Many group houses hold informal meet-and-greets. Others have group pages on Facebook so you can check each other out ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from friends or family who’ve stayed there before so you’ll have an idea of what to expect.
Apps and sites
If you prefer, try national vacation-rental sites such as Airbnb.com, beachrentals.com, vacationrentals.com and vrbo.com. Most of the sites also have apps, and are easy to navigate. Just be aware that many of the owners who post on these sites list their homes for as little as a weekend.
If you like to live on the edge, wait until the date gets closer and score a last-minute listing, usually for a reduced price.
Sign on the dotted line
Once you find a place you like, move on it now with a deposit, especially if your stay is for a month or the whole summer. In April, most owners will ask for at least 20 to 30 percent and by May 15, you’ll need to put up full payment. Until you sign a rental agreement, nothing is guaranteed. And if you take too long, you’ll run the risk of someone else who has money in hand snagging your rental.
Before the contract is drawn up, ask about deposits, fees, and whether all or part of the deposit is refundable if you have to cancel. A good idea is to ask the owner whether you can pay your deposit through PayPal, which insures your payment in case the landlord turns out to be shady.
When you get there
Take photos. You’ll want to record the condition of the house—both on the outside and interior. Or ask for a checklist sheet. You don’t want to get charged for damages if they already existed before your time there. Take note of any scratches, stains or dings on furniture, appliances or floors. Test all appliances, electronic items and plumbing when the owner or agent meets you at the house with the keys.
Resources: Conde Nast, Newsday, Brokelyn.com