BOSTON (TheStreet) -- For the cost of a gym, tanning and laundry, you can still beat Snookie and The Situation to the best last-minute Memorial Day beach house and vacation rentals.
From the owners of a three-bedroom, 14-person
house in North Wildwood discounting the price of a week's rental from $2,300 to $850 to a three-bedroom
in St. Ignace, Mich., asking $750 for a Memorial Day weekend stay, the last-minute rental market is a procrastinator's paradise. As the
Spending & Saving Tracker finds that the average family of four will spend about $4,000 on their summer vacation this year -- with young professionals and affluent travelers increasing that total to between $4,800 and $6,400 -- procrastinating pays off.
"From a customer's perspective, it does pay to wait," says Jeff Frutkin, spokesman for last-minute travel Web site PackLate. "Customers are getting deals for 30%, 40%, 50% to 60% off standard rates by booking at the last minute."
Alexis de Belloy, vice president of vacation-rental site HomeAway's U.S. operations, says the average rental is usually booked 90 days before the departure date. When the economy soured and property owners grew more desperate, however, lower last-minute prices were accompanied by incentives like extra nights and even free bottles of wine. This year, several of those incentives remain, despite HomeAway's finding that 17% of travelers plan to increase their vacation spending this summer.
"There are plenty of deals, partly due to the fact that there are 10,000 to 15,000 new listings on the site," de Belloy says. "There are lots of owners coming in with last-minute deals and recognition by more than half of all owners that these are tough economic times."
For example, in Orlando, Fla., and Cape Cod in Massachusetts -- two of HomeAway's top three destinations along with New York City -- there were a combined 4,500 properties available for rent on the site less than two weeks before Memorial Day weekend. On PackLate, which launched only three months ago and deals exclusively in last-minute rentals, there were 116 properties in Orlando alone. Many were discounted by 50% or more.
"There's still a tremendous amount of inventory for Memorial Day weekend and the whole summer," says Steve Barsh, PackLate's chief executive. "What we find consumers are looking for is price, and the only thing we try to push property managers to do is avoid fees or bake it into the price."
Even with cleaning fees and security deposits, summer rentals can be ridiculously cheap. A five-night stay in a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a pool and game room and sleeping room for 10 near
World is $69.50 a night and $487 for five nights after taxes and fees. That's down from the original price of $130 a night.
Even in the Rockies, where rental prices tend to start much higher than those of their East Coast counterparts, deals abound. A two-bedroom condo in Breckenridge, Colo., with a private garage, balcony, gas fireplace, pool and hot-tub access and room for seven people goes for $96.85 a night (35% off its usual price) on
Meanwhile, a two-bedroom condo in Mountain Village, Colo., near Telluride with a private garage, deck, elevator, gas fireplace and room for eight goes for $104 a night, or 47% off its regular price for
Travelers don't even have to try very hard to track down most of these deals. Whether they're shorefront spots in Myrtle Beach or condos in New York or San Francisco, vacation rentals always maintain one common element that benefits leisure-travel lollygaggers: an expiration date.
"There's more leftover inventory the later you wait, and property managers are willing to increase discounts significantly because it's a perishable night," Barsh says. "If a night goes unused, they don't get it back again."
-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.