7 Reasons to Visit the Outer Banks in Winter

This week on the Outer Banks, all focus was on the tubes. But not the gnarly waves as you would think, the water pipes! More precisely, how to keep them from freezing as temperatures dipped into the 20s and snowfall cast a frozen sheen on the beaches. Locals know all too well how to make the most of the Outer Banks any time of year. Even at its frostiest, the Outer Banks offers a peaceful getaway for tourists.

The wintertime offers visitors an opportunity to explore the quieter side of the Outer Banks. If you are considering a winter escape, here are a few benefits you can enjoy:

1. Saving money. Most rentals and restaurants offer lower off season prices. This means you could rent a much larger oceanfront home (with a hot tub!) than you ever expected. $1 slices of pizza? Half-price wine? Yes, please! The off season pricing also extends to local restaurants as well as spas and other activities.

2. No waits. There’s no patience needed in the wintertime! With no traffic on the highway, you pretty much have the road to yourself. And you can walk into just about any restaurant and be seated for your meal right away! You’ll enjoy a quieter, calmer atmosphere as well.

3. Sea shells. The best seashore treasures, including large unbroken conch shells and colorful seaglass, are found on the beaches during the off season.

4. Fishing. Charter a boat off shore and look for tuna, stay inshore for rockfish, fish from the piers for rockfish, bluefish or striper, and try the surf in milder temperatures for puppy drum, speckled trout and sea mullet, to name a few options. Remember to check with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission on licensing and regulations.

5. Unobstructed views. Enjoy the beach all to yourself! Take sunrise and beach photos without anyone photobombing!

6. Freedom. The beach rules are more relaxed in the wintertime. Most towns allow driving on the beach from October 1 to April 30 with a permit. Dogs also enjoy more freedom on the beach during these months! Be sure to check the web sites for each town for updated regulations.

7. Calm. Bring a project you are working on – writing, art, music, a business plan – with you to the Outer Banks and work in a beautiful location without distraction.

While undoubtedly the summertime makes the Outer Banks the hot spot place to be, the wintertime offers a uniquely different experience still to be enjoyed. Leave your flip flops behind, and show your boots a sandy good time!

5 Reasons to Rent Through a Professional Property Manager


Welcome to our blog and thanks for stopping by. You’re probably here to read about the pros and cons of renting your vacation rental home through a professional property manager vs. big online marketplaces. If that’s your intention – you’re in for a treat! If it’s not, you may want to stick around for a quick refresher course on how adding a middleman means adding extra costs and potential frustration.

Let me preface this list by telling you I’m not here to bash monstrous vacation rental marketplace websites with a combined net worth greater than the government of a well-developed country.  That is neither my intention nor a wise decision in any regard.  This list is simply here to outline the many benefits to consumers when they make the well informed and educated decision to rent directly through the service provider located in their vacation destination.

Make sense?  Cool.  Let’s jump right in!

1) #RentLocal

Oh boy, there it is.  Starting off the list with a tug of the heart strings and a side order of reality.  Let’s face it, when you are renting a vacation home in a particular destination (say the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina) there are inherent benefits when you transact with a company located there.  The first thing that jumps to my mind is “local” knowledge and a deep understanding of the area.  Anyone can sit on a computer 2,000 miles away from your destination and read the bullet points off a Wikipedia page…. but that’s neither satisfying nor enriching on any level.  The online concierge or customer care representative at XYZ online-vacation-mega-deals website can tell you about the highly rated restaurants on TripAdvisor, but I’d prefer getting the inside scoop from locals on the “must trys” at the local taco bar or steakhouse, and hear about what my vacation would be incomplete without!  

You are also (undoubtedly) providing greater impact to the local economy when you deal directly with the managing company.  Thanks to the advent of the internet and reservation software, booking your vacation directly through the local provider is very simple.  There’s also the extremely satisfying feeling you get with real world business relationships you’d be missing out on by shopping the big vacation resellers’ websites.  We love our guests here at Southern Shores Realty, and it’s a pleasure to show them how much they are valued and to see returning faces each year.

2) Ease of Use

These numbers don't look right


Booking your vacation is supposed to be stress-free and easy!  One of the main selling points online vacation rental marketplaces use in their advertising is the “ease of use” their websites offer.  They tout their “exclusive homes”, “accurate information”, etc.  All aboard the rebuttal express!  Allow me to let you in on a secret that’s not so secret.  Our industry is not using a white board and dry erase marker to write down your reservations anymore.  Many professional property management companies invest tens of thousands of dollars into their websites and physical operations each year to ensure continual improvement and user-friendliness.  For highly competitive destinations like the Outer Banks, it’s not unreasonable for that figure to be much higher.  What does this mean?  Basically, you’re going to have a very easy time booking your vacation rental with the property managers so you shouldn’t think that it’s going to be a hassle.

In regards to accurate information and exclusivity, these marketplace websites will accept most properties from any company whose check clears… and the “accurate information” is, in most cases, outdated and scraped right off the management company’s webpage.  There are some marketplaces that interface with reservation software to provide more up-to-date data, but there are still dozens of ways for data inaccuracies to occur, causing frustrations for both the consumer and the management company.

3) Price



You knew we’d arrive here!  Before we go any further, you should be aware that there are some vacation rental marketplaces that are built on a “price discovery” model.  What does this mean?  In essence it means you, the consumer, sort by price to book your deal and then walk away with a smile.  Sounds pretty nice, right?  Tell me how this tastes: the price discovery modeled marketplaces we’ve been approached by want to tack on an additional 10% to our advertised rate and charge you that extra for their profit.  Besides that whack on the wallet, they sometimes charge fees that the property management company normally does not… often billed as “concierge fees” or “add-on fees.”   Tastes a little bit sour compared to first go…. kind of like a Lemonhead candy.

Last but not least, by the nature of the beast, increased advertising costs threaten to increase rental rates. Nearly all of the major online vacation rental marketplaces are comprised of professionally managed properties.  These are all (in a sense) paid advertisements.  When these marketplaces grow in popularity, the demand to be represented there grows and it ends up as a burden to the property management company.  While you’d think property managers are advertising here out of choice, often times it’s out of force.  Let me paint the picture: if 40% of the property managers in a particular destination pay to be on a marketplace website, the actual homeowners in the remaining 60% of the rental programs are going to start demanding their property manager pay for the same service.  It creates a snowballing dependency on these paid services and ultimately stresses the relationship between homeowner and manager.  Advertising costs then rise significantly for the property managers and this turns into rates increases for you, the guest.  Are you still thinking about shopping the big websites?

In the news:

Renting a vacation home online? 3 players add fees
Lawsuit: New fees from Austin-based HomeAway are ‘bait and switch’
New HomeAway, VRBO fee sends irate customers through the roof
Consumer Affairs Newest VRBO complaints

4) Maintenance & Housekeeping

Maid making bed in hotel room smiling


An alternative to a professionally managed vacation rental property is one that is offered, maintained, and marketed by the actual homeowner.  Booking a vacation rental directly from the owner has many perceived benefits, including but not limited to: price haggling.  Long list indeed!  I won’t question the method, madness, or success rates of attempting to negotiate vacation rental rates with a homeowner.  I’m a die hard deal shopper myself, but there’s a time and place for everything. One thing I’d rather not skimp on to save a few bucks is a stress-free vacation.

Let’s reflect back to our headline.  Do you know if your rental will be cleaned properly before your arrival?  Will it be cleaned at all?  Who should you call in case of maintenance emergency?  Who’s going to handle that maintenance emergency?  How trustworthy, helpful, and timely is the sole person you can call for any of these needs?  Sound appealing?  I’ll pass on price haggling and sleep well on my vacation.

When you book your vacation through a property management company you are purchasing a worry-free experience with a dedicated housekeeping and maintenance staff who are at your service.  Southern Shores Realty for example, offers a 24/7 maintenance hotline so you always have someone to talk to should an emergency occur.

5) Communication

Stressful work


Last but not least is communication.  Communication is vital in anything, especially a family vacation that is miles and miles away from home.  Sometimes when you book through a mega marketplace, you correspond with their representatives who then in-turn, get ahold of the property management company and then get back to you.  This is an unnecessary chain of events and it only adds time until you get assistance.

A second point to speak on about communication is electronic communication… namely email.  When you submit a request for information on most marketplace websites you are all but guaranteed a plethora of marketing emails from them.  This is in addition to the responses you’ll receive from the actual property management company.  You’ll get emails until your computer starts emitting smoke and won’t load your inbox anymore.  The volume is insane, but the more traffic they can drive equates to more money they can charge the management company.

Hopefully by now you’ll have a basic understanding of how online vacation marketplaces where professional property managers compete against each other is bad for everyone involved except for the marketplace itself.  You’ll end up paying more money than you should, to people who don’t even live there, only to stress yourself out in the process, have limited assistance during your trip, and get walloped with emails before/during/after your stay…. sounds horrifying to me.

Do yourself a favor, when you search for your next vacation rental home for your upcoming trip, take a look at rental companies in the area you’re staying.  They all should have websites.  They all should be knowledgeable.  They all should go above and beyond to exceed your expectations and provide you an affordable price for a quality vacation stay.  If they don’t, visit www.SouthernShores.com because we do!  Thanks for reading, sharing is always welcome.

Hurricane Joaquin OBX Update

Hello all.  Below is some footage of Hurricane Joaquin making his pass by the Outer Banks.  While he was quite far away, the effects are coupling with other storm systems and a pre-existing, saturated OBX.  The fragile stretch of highway 12 in Kitty Hawk by the Black Pelican was weakened by a strong Nor’ Easter earlier last week and finally gave in to the high tide yesterday.

Outer Banks Beach Report | August 28, 2015

It’s Friday on the Outer Banks – that’s a good thing!  Here are the sights and sounds from Kitty Hawk, NC.  The wind is coming strong around 10-15mph out of the NE, so that means plenty of warmth in the water but it’s looking pretty choppy.  The good news: no rain in sight!  There’s plenty to do as well this weekend if you’re looking for off the beach activities. Enjoy!