Barnstable County

Here’s why fewer Cape rentals this summer could mean cheaper prices in 2024

FALMOUTH, Mass. — For the first time in years, Sarah Buckwalter is having a hard time renting out her property near Old Silver Beach in Falmouth.

“It’s definitely been slower this year,” Buckwalter said. “We used to be booked a year in advance. Now if you get anything, it’s last minute.”

Buckwalter is not the only property owner noticing a big drop in demand. The Cape’s rental occupancy rate is down 18 percent year-over-year, according to the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors. At the same time, the average daily rate is up 16 percent from 2022.

“The Cape is not a cheap place to vacation,” said Blake Decker, CEO of Pretty Picky Properties. Decker said a record number of visitors flocked to Cape Cod in 2021 and 2022 following the COVID-19 shutdown. Today, Decker said there is a large supply of pricey rental units but demand has come back to earth.

“People see 18 percent down, that’s a big red number,” Decker said. “But in the larger scheme of things, it’s going back to what the Cape has always been versus the supercharged demand we saw [after the pandemic].”

Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Niedzwiecki believes the current prices are unsustainable.

“I think the prices have to come down. For decades, middle class families have been coming to the Cape. Over the last two years, those families have been priced out,” Niedzwiecki said. “I think what we’re seeing is a market correction. From the Cape’s perspective, it’s not a question of demand. It’s really about affordability. Some of these rentals are expensive.”

Decker manages more than 200 rental units and said he’s already slashed prices.

“I can tell you internally, we’ve been reducing rates--in some cases dramatically--to try to get back in line with what the demand is,” Decker said.

Buckwalter doesn’t think the Cape is losing its luster, but does think more property owners will have to lower their prices.

“I think a lot of people still love coming to the Cape,” she said. “But people kept jacking up the prices because they were getting it and that has scared some people away.”

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