With the summer season a few short weeks away, vacation rentals are quickly being snatched up along Connecticut’s southern shoreline. But with homebuyers transforming former rental properties into year-round homes, the supply is shrinking almost as quickly.

Peter Watson, a sales associate at H. Pearce Realty’s Guilford office, has been dealing with vacation rentals and summer homes along the shoreline since 1973. He specifically rents in the towns of Guilford, Branford and Madison, which make up the eastern border of New Haven County.

“I would say in general that we’ve had a very upscale push for properties so far this year,” said Watson. “In Madison, in particular, the properties have gone very quickly so far. I have several people who will come back and pay more than they paid last year to secure their home. There just aren’t that many good rentals, so these people are willing to pay well for them.”

‘Tighter’ Market

Watson was quick to point out that there isn’t necessarily a lack of supply in the area, but that the market clearly has been tightened. One trend in the area is people coming in and purchasing former rental homes. Often those homes, which have as many as four or five bedrooms, are converted to full-year residences.

“What’s making it harder to rent is that a lot of people have bought up the summer homes. That takes away from the pool of homes and makes the market tighter,” said Watson. However, he added that there is “still plenty of time to find good rentals.”

Watson said his rentals and summer home sales are performing as strong as they did last year, and maybe even better.

“When you compare our area to something like the Hamptons [in New York], our prices look a lot better,” said Watson. “A lot of people are taking the attitude that they’re not going to travel to expensive places and would rather be here in this country. These rentals are good values, and the beaches in Madison and Guilford and Branford are very nice.”

For the most part, renters in Watson’s area are coming from the Tri-State area, usually from New York City and New Jersey. There are other renters who come from farther away in order to be closer to Connecticut family members.

“I’ve got a lead on some people looking for a rental in the area who are coming up from Florida to be closer to their family for the summer,” said Watson.

Typically, renters are looking for access to a good sandy beach and a house with enough room for guests to come visit. Watson often deals in homes that have upward of four bedrooms to accommodate visitors and large families. He does offer smaller homes for slightly different rates.

The supply of summer homes in the area is also dwindling, which is one reason why vacation homes are being plucked up and converted, said Watson.

“That’s still something that people want to do – look for a summer or second home. In Madison it’s very hard to find one unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money,” he said, noting that houses are going for upward of $1 million in the shoreline area.

Vacationing renters, however, are often first introduced to the area through their summer rentals, and often can come back to purchase homes in the future.

“These people will rent for a while and hopefully they like what they’ve found here. They’ll come back and ask us to find them something to buy in the area,” said Watson.

With rentals usually starting up in January, Watson said that so far he has had a “very positive experience” in the market this year. Many of the repeat renters have already expressed their interest and signed up for rentals, he noted, adding that he has a good base of renters with whom to work.