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Vacation Rental Information

Outer Banks newcomers are often surprised at the number and variety of weekly vacation rentals throughout the beaches, from Carova to Ocracoke Island. Vacation rentals are, in fact, the predominant accommodations available to vacationers, and visitors will find that the sheer number of rentals available allows them to find an ideal retreat to fit their Outer Banks crew, from quiet condo complexes to brightly colored oceanfront sand castles.

The majority of the rentals on the Outer Banks are privately owned and represented by established local property management companies, also located throughout the North Carolina beaches. These companies are instrumental in helping guests with booking, checking-in, housekeeping, and any maintenance issues that may arise, and the property management companies on the Outer Banks are among the best and most experienced in the country. Vacation rental homes were always the main form of accommodations for OBX visitors, long before other East Coast resort communities caught on to the weekly rental trend.

Vacation rental tips and tricks

Seasoned Outer Banks vacationers have figured out a number of tips or tricks throughout the years when it comes to renting vacation homes, however many newcomers will be happy to find that many of these "tricks" are in plain sight, if you know where to look.

When planning your Outer Banks vacation, be sure and keep a lookout for the following budget-friendly tips that will ensure your vacation dollar is well spent.

  • Many property management companies and vacation rental homes provide Outer Banks guides that feature money-saving coupons, either offered independently by vendors, or via a partnership between the property management company and the vendor itself. Be on the lookout for these guides and coupon books, as this allows vacationers to enjoy the same great activities at a sometimes substantial discount.
  • Flexible about when you can vacation? The shoulder season months of April May, September and October can offer fantastic rates on weekly rentals. Bear in mind that the majority of local businesses and attractions are open from Easter until Thanksgiving, ensuring there will be plenty of places open, and ocean water temperatures on the Outer Banks generally stay warm and inviting until mid-October.

    Water sports lovers will also adore the seasonally breezy environment that allows them to enjoy kiteboarding, windsurfing, fishing, and surfing at its best. As a result, the shoulder season has become regionally recognized as "water sports" season, when all the die-hard ocean and sound fans show up to enjoy the local conditions at their peak. (Non-water sports lovers will also be rewarded with miles of colorful kites blowing throughout the sound, creating some of the best vistas and photo opts the Outer Banks has to offer.)

    Best of all, the shoulder season months offer miles of virtually deserted beaches, allowing fall and spring guests to enjoy privacy and seclusion galore, without any summer traffic.

  • A number of property management companies offer special discounts for a number of guests, including active and veteran members of the US Military, or repeat vacationers to the same property. Be sure and check with your vacation rental company to see if your vacationing crew qualifies for a discount.
  • Some vacation rentals are practically catered to specific vacationers, whether it's oceanside rentals with weekly fishing pier passes, or soundfront homes that have their own kiteboarding or windsurfing launching areas. If there's a particular Outer Banks sport or activity that you love, be on the lookout for properties that cater especially to you.
  • A little goodwill goes a long way. Did you love your vacation rental home, or the service of your property management company? Spread the word via in-house surveys, or through nationally recognized review sites. Chances are your rave review will help garner you a discount on your next stay, or just an appreciative Thank You letter weeks after your vacation has ended.

Clearly, vacation rentals have taken the Outer Banks by storm, and for good reason. With all the conveniences of home, spectacular amenities that are truly vacation-worthy, and simply idyllic locales where family memories are formed, vacation rentals serve as great accommodations for vacationing Outer Banks families.

Have fun perusing the many options available, and remember that if your family has something specific in mind, whether it's a soundfront retreat with a hot tub, or a pet-friendly oceanfront palace, you can find it and much more on the Outer Banks.

Booking an Outer Banks vacation rental

For decades, Outer Banks vacationers would sign up for annual vacation rental catalogs that were shipped to their homes, and displayed all the vacation homes and condos that a property management company represented. From there, a prospective vacationer would flip through dozens of catalogs, call and make a reservation for their favorite, and then go through a month or two of mailing payments, forms, and leases back and forth.

Enter the internet. Today, the majority of vacation rentals are searched for, reviewed, and booked online, allowing a vacationer to successfully plan and book their dream rental home with just a few minutes of computer time. Many vacation rental companies have even created mobile-friendly sites, allowing guests to search and book on the go, or offer online lease agreements and forms to simplify the process even more.

Thanks to the internet and the ensuing construction of detailed property management websites, vacationers will also find they have access to all kinds of information regarding Outer Banks rental properties, including dozens of photos, aerial views and area maps, amenity lists, and availability calendars.

The overall process is the same as it was in the pre-internet dark ages, however. Vacation rentals can be booked in 1-week increments, although some rentals allow last minute "partial week" stays, usually 1-3 weeks before the check-in date. Most rental "turnover" dates are on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, meaning that a guest will check-in on a specific weekend day, like Saturday, and then check out the following Saturday. The check-in date is consistent for every week at the rental, so guests cannot ask to check-in on any other date than what is advertised.

Once you've found your perfect rental, you can call the property management company to reserve your vacation, or book online through their website. Generally, once a tentative reservation is made, a payment and lease is soon due. In order to stay at a weekly rental, all guests must sign a North Carolina Vacation Rental Lease Agreement that allows them to reside at the home for the week, and also outlines certain rules and guidelines for being a tenant at the property. (These can include rules such as "No pets" or "No smoking.") Once the lease has been signed and approved, and the payments made, it's simply a matter of sitting back until your long awaited (and well-deserved) vacation.

Book early for best selection

There are two different schools of thought on the best time to book an Outer Banks vacation rental, and it all boils down to what your family is looking for in your OBX vacation accommodations.

Many vacationers attest that the best homes and condos fill up first and fast, and therefore make their reservations up to a year in advance. As a very general rule of thumb, the current vacationing family has an opportunity to reserve their rental for the same week the following year, before the home or condo is available to the public. Most rentals are available to book up to a year in advance, however many folks start planning and reserving vacation rentals in the winter months, when the holidays bring families together to compare notes on their favorite accommodations. (Not to mention planning a summer vacation is the perfect way to get rid of those Winter Blahs.)

That said, families who aren't as particular about specific amenities, such as private pools, game rooms, or proximity to the ocean or sound, may fare well by waiting until a couple months before their Outer Banks vacation to book a home. Though the supply of rentals may have dwindled considerably, some rentals that are still open for prime summer weeks may offer "last minute" discounts, allowing budget conscious vacationers to save anywhere from 10%-25% off the standard rental rate.

In essence, when to book is completely dependent on what you're looking for. If your family has a specific house, week, location, or certain amenities in mind, then booking as early as possible is best. If your crew can wing it, and love a good bargain, then waiting until a couple months until your actual vacation may prove to be a cost-savings venture.

Types of homes available

Vacationers will find no shortage of vacation rentals to select from, ranging from small 1 bedroom condos to 22 bedroom, (yes, 22), beach mansions. Essentially, whatever your size, amenity, or location needs entail, chances are you can find it on the Outer Banks.

The condominium communities with weekly rentals available are generally smaller oceanside or soundside complexes, with plenty of amenities and plenty of scenic views. Many vacationers are delighted to find a complete lack of towering hotel-like condo complexes the Outer Banks, replaced instead by quieter and more inviting condos, with a waterfront neighborhood feel. For folks who only require a bedroom or two, but still want direct sound or ocean access and views, a weekly condo rental might be the best way to go.

The other type of rental available is the vacation rental home, which comprises the majority of the Outer Banks vacation rental market.

Here, vacationers will find plenty of options. Small families who simply need a place to stay when they're not out and about enjoying the beach will find lots of 2-4 bedrooms cottages with cozy furnishings, comfy bedrooms, well-supplied kitchens, and breezy ocean or soundside decks. Many of these classic cottages have been well-loved vacation destinations for decades, and are perfect, budget-friendly accommodations for families who just need a quiet place to relax on the Outer Banks.

On the other end of the spectrum, vacationers will find a number of superb vacation rental homes that offer all the amenities and features of a five-star resort. These properties can range from 4-18 bedrooms or more, and can include all the incredible features of a world-class tourist destination on the premises. These rentals usually include private pools, hot tubs, game rooms with pool tables, foosball tables, and entertainment centers, home theater rooms with projection TVs and stadium seating, and multiple levels of living space to spread out. At these castles, gourmet kitchens are standard, with double overs, refrigerators and dishwashers, and bedrooms are reminiscent of a decadent hotel, with private bathrooms, deck access, and TV/DVD players.

These sprawling vacation homes, in fact, are becoming popular with Outer Banks vacationers, as large families of 8 people or more can comfortably enjoy a vacation together, and equally enjoy all the fun amenities of the beach without leaving the backyard.

Regardless of whether your group needs a quiet and simple retreat, or a fantastic newly constructed home with all the bells and whistles, rest assured that the sheer variety of rentals available on the Outer Banks virtually guarantees that your group will find the vacation rental that suits your needs.

Checking in and checking out

It's easy for many first-time vacationers to be confused on the checking in and checking out procedures of a vacation rental home, which is noticeably different from a hotel or motel's practices.

For one thing, for the most part vacationers will check-in at the property management company's local office, where they will be given a packet containing keys, a map, and vital information pertaining to their Outer Banks vacation. (Some rental companies offer a "keyless entry" system, which means that when the home is available for the guests, they will be given a security code to enter into an electronic box outside the home, and they will be able to simply arrive at the house.)

For the majority of rental companies, check-in times are from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. This ensures that the weekly cleaners and inspectors have enough time to thoroughly review the property and make sure it is available for guests.

Unless otherwise stated, guests should plan on bringing their own bed linens, groceries, toiletries and paper products such as tissues, paper towels and toilet paper. Other amenities, such as kitchen utensils or dishes, are most always included with a vacation rental.

On check-out day, vacationers should do a quick sweep of the home and remove all excess trash, any extra food in the fridge, and basically ensure the home is a "clean slate" for the house cleaners to attend to quickly and efficiently. Generally, check-out time is 10:00 a.m., although it should be noted that early check-ins and check-outs can be arranged via the property management company, generally with a small extra fee.

Unless otherwise noted, guests are advised not to park at the house while waiting to check in, but to stay at the office or do a little Outer Banks exploring. By leaving the home vacant and free of vehicles, the cleaners and inspectors are more aptly able to quickly access the property and get it ready for incoming guests. It's also a good idea to check with your rental company beforehand, whether online or via a quick phone call, to review their specific check-in and check-out procedures.

It's all about the Amenities

Vacation rental amenities can vary widely, from expansive private heated pools to local gym or club memberships, and guests are advised to check the website description or call a vacation specialist associated with the property management company beforehand to ensure what features their favorite rental properties have to offer.

Vacation rental guests can expect that the basics always come with their rental unit, including comfy furnishings, bed comforters, kitchen supplies and utensils, major and small appliances, and extra pillows and blankets. From there, rental homes can offer a world of "extras," ranging from game rooms, to full linens provided, to Wifi internet access and full-scale home theaters.

Homes or condos within a particular community or area may offer additional off-the-premise extras, such as local fishing pier passes, community pool access, fitness center access, free movie rentals, or more. In addition, many homes have resort-style features to attract guests, which include pools, hot tubs, Tiki bars, multiple living areas, and other all-inclusive resort worthy amenities.

A number of vacation rentals are handicapped friendly, with elevators and roll-in showers, and even more are pet-friendly, with fenced backyards or kennels available for guests' use.

In short, there's virtually no limit to the number of amenities available to guests, both within the rental's grounds, and out and about in the community. Pay careful attention to the home's description and list of amenities, and if your vacationing crew is on the hunt for something specific, (like handicapped friendly accommodations), a quick chat with a vacation specialist from your property management company can help point you in the right direction.

Available services

Like a hotel or motel, all vacation rentals are cleaned both before a guest's arrival and after they depart. In addition, guests will find that property management companies also have an experienced maintenance staff on hand to come out and resolve minor issues, ranging from replacing a hot tub filter to internet access connectivity issues.

In addition to these basic services, many companies offer their guests additional special services as well to ensure they'll return year after year and enjoy decades of happy vacations on the Outer Banks.

Some companies have special concierge or event planners on hand for guests who are planning a wedding, rehearsal dinner, or reception at an Event Friendly Vacation home. Still more companies have facilities on the premises for vacationing guests to enjoy, such as community pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, or even seasonal programs on educational topics ranging from local cooking to watercolor painting.

Several exceptional properties even offer special incentives, such as an evening with a "private chef," who will come to the rental property and provide dinner (and clean-up) for the family, an at-home massage, or unlimited admission into the local golf or beach club. These five star services are property specific, so be sure and check with your property management company to see which rentals offer all of the elite "extras."

Regardless of what extensive amenities your rental may provide, rest assured that when it comes to the basics - such as vacation specialists who are experts on the area, housekeeping, and everyday maintenance -every property management company on the Outer Banks has you covered.

Benefits of renting an Outer Banks home

One of the biggest benefits of a vacation rental home is that vacationers can essentially enjoy the same conveniences they enjoy at home, such as kitchens, living areas, and multiple areas where they can relax, all without any travel or venture off the vacation rental's premises.

Also, because vacation rentals are the Outer Banks's main form of accommodations, vacationers will find one of the best ways to reserve an oceanfront or soundfront location, particularly in smaller vacation rental areas such as Hatteras Island or the northern Outer Banks, is via a weekly rental. These properties have step-outside-your-door access to beach walkways, oceanfront decks, or even launching docks on the sound for water sports lovers. This also allows vacationers to enjoy private and secluded access to some of the best ocean and soundfront beaches the Outer Banks has to offer.

Finally, the overall purpose of a family vacation is to actually spend time with the family, and vacation rentals allow vacationers to do exactly that. With sprawling decks just begging for occupants, or cozy living areas with entertainment centers ideal for a family movie night, a well-equipped vacation rental allows the family to unwind after a beach day by spending time with each other. As one of the top ranked family vacation destinations in the country, this is what the Outer Banks is all about.

Costs to rent Outer Banks vacation homes

Many vacationers are surprised to initially learn that the cost of a vacation rental is very similar in price to a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. As the property size increases, and the cost is split between more and more guests, the cost decreases while the amenities stay the same, or even approve with game rooms, theater rooms, and multiple levels of living space.

Prospective visitors with a good eye will notice that the rates for vacation rentals tend to ascend in the summer months, and then drop considerably in the winter months. This is a reflection of the Outer Banks prime and off-seasons. While the wintertime can be a delight for folks seeking an escape from busy summer season, with a handful of shops and restaurants open to patrons and miles of deserted beaches, the majority of OBX vacationers want to enjoy the beaches at their peak - with warm weather, warm ocean temperatures, and miles of attractions and amenities to choose from. The pricing of rental homes reflect this seasonal change, and vacationers are encouraged to take this into consideration when planning their perfect OBX vacation.

In addition to the standard base rate, vacationers will need to pay state taxes on their rental, as well as any other additional fees that may be required depending on their situation, including a pet fee, early check-in or check-out fee, or a pool heat fee for private pool usage during the fall or spring months.

That said, many vacationers find the cost of a rental, as well as the convenience of cooking and entertaining at "home," well worth the price, and a solid vacation investment. After all, there's a reason why vacation rentals have been the accommodations of choice on the Outer Banks for well over 50 years.

Cancellation policies

Property management companies and individual home owners often offer their guests the option to purchase trip insurance. Trip insurance, which generally costs anywhere between 1% - 5% of the base vacation rental price, provides guests with reimbursement of their vacation costs (and subsequent rental costs) for any days missed due to personal medical emergencies or storms, as well as ensuing extra hurricane evacuation costs or expenses, such as a unforeseen motel stay or extra gas.

Many vacationers find that the minimal cost of trip insurance is well worth the peace of mind, especially for vacationers during the prime East Coast hurricane season months of August through November. Guests should be advised that owners are not required to provide refunds in the event of a government issued evacuation, but trip insurance is a cost-effective and easy way to ensure your hard earned vacation money is protected, whether it's due to a hurricane, evacuation, or a personal emergency.

For a list of more than 1000 individual homes for rent in the Outer Banks, check out our rental listings page.