Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What to know about Delaware’s beach rental market and booking your summer getaway

A beach rentals sign in Lewes, Delaware..jpg
Delaware Public Media
A beach rentals sign in Lewes, Delaware.

The burst of winter weather this week might make summer vacation feel a long way off, but if you’re planning to get away to the beach later this year, now is the time to book where you will stay.

In recent years, rental costs have been higher, but that hasn’t deterred people from booking at the beach.

Contributor Eileen Dallabrida reports on this year’s beach rental market and what to know about booking in Delaware.

Contributor Eileen Dallabrida reports on Delaware's beach rental market

The First State is still in winter’s chilly grip, but the summer beach rental market is red hot as vacationers lock in their place in the sun.

Reservations are outpacing last year’s rate, as renters are acting early. Already, there’s a shortage of properties that are available from mid-June to late August.

“We are pretty much booked for anything that’s three bedrooms or more that are walkable to the beach,” says Robb Kimbles, leasing agent at Jack Lingo Real Estate in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. “People are attracted to our biking trails, amazing restaurants and food, and tax-free shopping, things you won’t find at beaches in other states.”

While demand is strong, the inventory of rental homes hasn’t expanded significantly in the past year. The good news is most rents are holding steady or increasingly only slightly, Kimbles says, “maybe $100 a week or so.”

Still, a beach house is a pricey proposition. In North Shores, a five-bedroom canal-front home with two living rooms, a wet bar with ice machine, an elevator and a private pool rents for $10,000 a week in May, $17,000 a week in June and July, and $13,500 in mid-August through Labor Day. Only the first week in May and two weeks in August are still available for bookings.

A bayfront home in the Cape Shores development in Lewes sleeps 13 guests and offers a children’s playroom, multiple decks, and community pool and tennis courts. Priced at $15,500 a week, it’s booked solid well into fall.

Reeling from sticker shock? Vacationers who are willing to stay further from the beaches and nightlife can find lower rents. In Broadkill Beach near Milton, a four-bedroom house with sea views and ready access to nature preserves is available for $3,275 a week in August. To sweeten the deal, the landlord is including bike and movie rentals. In sleepy Selbyville, a three-bedroom townhome in the family-friendly community of Bayville Shores is available for $1,543-$2,110 a week.

Rental costs have been higher in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped people from booking at the beach.
Delaware Public Media
Rental costs have been higher in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped people from booking at the beach.

Delaware State Parks offer some of the best values around, with two-bedroom cottages at Seashore State Park’s Indian River Marina renting for $363 a night on weekends and $238 a night on weekdays during peak summer season. While reserved spots typically fill up a year in advance, cancellations do occur. Campers also will find some availability for RV hookups and sites to pitch a tent.

Even in hot locations, smaller properties typically carry smaller price tags, and rentals that are rich in amenities are snapped up quickly. A two-bedroom unit at Henlopen Condominiums on the boardwalk in Rehoboth offers a rooftop pool and ocean views from every window. Priced from $1,020-$2,870 a week, it’s booked solid through October. A one-bedroom unit in The Crest, located one block from the beach, rents from $1,650-$1,825 a week, and is still available except for one week in July.

Vacasa, a vacation home rental platform, ranked Rehoboth the fourth best market in the nation for owning a second home that is available for short-term rentals, with potential rental income of $58,992 a year.

Long known as the nation’s summer White House due to its popularity with the Washington D.C. set, Rehoboth also is noted for its welcoming LGBTQ+ community.

Megan Rynkiewicz, Vacasa’s director of operations for Delaware, says Rehoboth visitors are looking for amenities like beaches, boardwalks, and pet-friendly accommodations.

“There is a robust array of local businesses for everything our guests desire, as well as beaches, state parks, water sports, shopping, family attractions, delicious dining and nightlife. And we have more private pools to offer than in Bethany Beach or the Ocean City area,” she says.

So why the rush to book at the beach? Anecdotally, market watchers theorize that travelers who had to cancel trips to Europe and other distant destination during the Covid-19 pandemic opted to take those trips last summer. This year, they are eager to get back to the beach.

“Last year we were busy but there wasn’t as much of a sense of urgency,” Kimbles says. “People waited longer to button up a week at the beach.”

Hotels visits weren’t as brisk, either. Last season, 10,000 fewer daily hotel bookings than the previous year were logged in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach, a decline of about 10%, according to the local joint Chamber of Commerce. In 2023, room rentals totaled 92,703, compared to 102,683 in 2022 and 93,997 in 2021. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, room rentals swooned to 60,875 as many would-be tourists hunkered down at home.

In 2024, with landlords firmly in the driver’s seat, homes are renting in one-week blocks. “This year, the one-week minimum is standing firm,” Kimbles says. “If you want less than a week you might have to go through Airbnb or VRBO.”

“This year, the one-week minimum is standing firm. If you want less than a week you might have to go through Airbnb or VRBO.”
Jack Lingo Real Estate leasing agent Robb Kimbles on how homes are renting in one-week blocks.

This season, tourists who want to get away for a long weekend or a mid-week break have a variety of options. Coast Hotel, a 60-room boutique hotel and Mediterranean-themed restaurant, opened in August last year after a two-year, $5-million renovation on the site of the old Sandcastle Motel. Part of Hilton’s upscale Tapestry Collection, the venue offers free parking, an outdoor firepit, covered rooftop pool and golfcart rides to and from the beach.

The upscale Bellmoor in Rehoboth entices guests with a full breakfast, shuttle to and from the beach, onsite pools, hot tub, lobby bar, and cozy gathering spaces for guests to enjoy.

“We generally see that Monday through Thursday are our slower days during the summer but rooms are filling up quickly as we get closer to peak season,” says Garth Huffman, general manager.

Listed on Airbnb, a cozy, two-bedroom cottage within walking distance of Dewey Beach rents for $461 a night in July with a discount for early-bird guests. Cleaning and service fees are extra. It’s also walkable to bars and restaurants, or a quick jaunt by pedicab. Listed on VRBO in downtown Lewes, a romantic one-bedroom apartment in an historic home offers such charms as exposed beams. There’s no designated parking but the apartment is only a few steps from shops and restaurants. Rates in July are $378 a night.

Stay Connected
Eileen Smith Dallabrida has written for Delaware Public Media since 2010. She's also written for USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, the Christian Science Monitor and many other news outlets.