Trend toward renting Myrtle Beach vacation rentals online sparks crackdown on amenities

In recent years, more and more vacation home owners are turning to sites such as HomeAway.com, the nation’s largest online marketplace for vacation rentals, to market and rent their Myrtle Beach vacation rental properties.

As these property owners turn to online rental assistance websites, it has become an increasing issue for traditional on-site rental management businesses in Myrtle Beach, most who make their money by taking a cut of the daily rate vacationers pay to stay at a condominium in the resort’s rental pool.

Many of these companies are beginning to fight back against the trend by limiting the use of amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants and parking for the owners who use these sites to rent.

Though many Myrtle Beach resorts have always offered special benefits to owners — and their renters — who use their in-house rental agencies, things have gotten a bit more cutthroat this spring.

At least one local property owner suing a rental firm over his loss of parking and restroom privileges and another rental firm threatening to sue an owner for advertising the availability of amenities in an online advertisement.

“We can’t give away our business and expect to stay in business,” said Lee Rawcliffe, who owns the rental management group for the Sands Resorts condominium towers in Myrtle Beach. “If an owner doesn’t want to participate in paying for the amenities, I can’t let their guests use them.”

Rawcliffe’s business, like most traditional rental management companies here, typically receives a cut between 40 percent and 50 percent of the cost of a reservation, in return providing a full-service rental program — from taking the reservations to checking in the guests and then cleaning the rooms once they leave.

The rental management company uses that money to pay salaries, insurance, taxes, marketing and for construction and upkeep of expensive amenities such as lazy rivers and water parks designed to lure vacationers to the property. If a condo owner decides to drop out of the resort’s rental pool and advertise his own property online, Rawcliffe’s company loses that revenue.

Trouble is, many of the guests who rent that Myrtle Beach vacation rental property from an online service still want to use the amenities that are no longer being paid for by the condo owner.

“It’s becoming a big problem,” said Rawcliffe, who said he handles rental management for about 80 percent of Sands Resorts’ 1,200 units — down from 95 percent just three years ago. Rawcliffe said the trend started with the growth of the Internet but accelerated “when the market crashed and people started looking for a way to save money.”

Learn more about what rental companies are doing to combat this trend by reading the full story by The Sun News’ David Wren at our sister site, MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

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