Living in an off-season rental kicks ass!

September 26 | Guest post by Julie Letowski
This place is freaking magical — over an acre fenced in, four different kinds of swings coming out of trees, stone pathways all over the place, and thousands of perennials around the property. I have plans to get very, very wealthy by the start of next summer so I can stay here forever.

There we were. Ten days out from our September move out date, and we didn't have a place for our family of two adults, two dogs, and one toddler. Earlier in the month the purchase of our dream farm had fallen through (damn you, collapsed chicken barn!) and then the back-up rental secured shortly thereafter fell through the cracks. To say tensions were high would be the understatement of all understatements. You don't just find a place to live for the beginning of September in late August in Boston. That squaring away of business takes place in the spring, at the latest. So, on a complete whim, we started looking again in Maine, the original intended landing spot for our family, and that's when we found it: the off-season rental of our dreams.

I grew up in landlocked Tennessee and never even knew seasonal communities existed. I just assumed places like the Florida panhandle was hopping year round! My husband on the other hand, having lived on a few different islands, quickly brought me up to speed: vacation hot spots aren't so hot when the temperature drops. This means for a little more than half of the year us folks of modest means can live the high life. A few short minutes from the beach? Check. Rent that's well under what we were paying in the city? Check. A screened in back porch bigger than the apartment I was living in when I met my husband? Checkity check, y'all. And don't even get me started on the life-changing presence of an in-house washer and dryer or a non-human dishwasher. Before you go running for the coast though, here are a few things to consider, good and bad.

Pros:

You live near the beach! And even though you're technically living there "off-season" beach season is still happening at the beginning and end of your rental and there are very few people to share it with. ALSO the beach is still freaking awesome in winter. You don't need to be half-dressed to enjoy it. I promise.

The community you're moving into is small but mighty! Overnight the bustling summer town turns into the cutest little town you ever did see where everyone knows one another and looks our for each other. On the FIRST day we were here we had the cops called on us for fear we were stealing out of our dear landlord's house. Once that was cleared up the head of our town's part-time police force spent the next hour telling us everything we needed to know about our new home.

An off-season rental is intended for vacationers and is set up for relaxing. Of course this will be different from rental to rental but in our case we've got an insane garden and outdoor grill set-up, a kiddie play paradise in the backyard, and a tub long enough and deep enough for my 6'2" husband. AMAZING.

Cons

A seasonal community = a seasonal economy. There are less businesses for you to patronize and work for. Being within a reasonable driving distance of another town or city can be helpful. In our case Portland, Maine is just down the road but say you chose an island for your off-season rental? You may need to get creative with your income.

You can almost bet an off-season rental is going to come at least partially, if not fully, furnished. This could really be a pro or a con. It really just depends on the taste of the homeowner and how much stuff you have to squeeze in alongside theirs.

It's short-term. You will have to move on, perhaps quicker than you would like. But what is it they say? It's better to have off-seasoned and lost, than never to have off-seasoned at all?

All in all, I've become a real believer in the off-season rental. Not only was it there for me in my time of need, but it gave much, much more than I would have ever dreamed to ask for. With Labor Day just having passed and Columbus Day just around the corner off-season rentals are ripe and ready. Maybe it's time to hole up in a tiny town by the sea and write that book you've been talking about for ages. At least that's my plan!

  1. An even better deal is when you can house-sit for someone while they go south for the winter. My now-husband and I spent last winter rent free (here in Maine) by house sitting for a very nice elderly woman who spends her winters in Ohio.

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  2. Off season renters are a blessing. My family communally owns a beach house (my great grandparent's old home) that we rent out amongst ourselves week by week during the summer. But we would never be able to afford to keep it if we didn't have off season tenants to cover the costs the rest of the year (usually professors at the College of Charleston or Grad Students).

    If you're a student at a coastal school, this could be the perfect set up for you. "Off Season" is basically the same as a school year, so if you're planning on going home for the summer, and haven't bought/inherited any furniture yet, this is a great way to get a home while you're in town.

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  3. Agreed that off-season "vacation" living can be great! Just be sure to go into the situation without rose-colored glasses. Life will not turn into a vacation (although the pros can make it seem that way sometimes!). My family moved to a coastal island in my teens, and it turned out that because of its vacation draw, the community was rather openly hostile to "come-heres" (people who weren't natives). My teenage years on the island were not the best, in part because of the surprise-insular nature, and people's tendency to put on one face for tourists and another for island-dwellers. My advice: scope out the community and see if you think it's a good fit by talking to other "come-heres". Obviously if it's a temporary situation then this isn't a *huge* deal, but living with nice people is better than being viewed as a touristy come-here to be avoided/SHUNNNNED.

    Winter beaches are so lovely. Winter beach walks are really the big thing I miss about that island. Enjoy it!

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  4. oh my goodness! I actually moved from TEXAS to MAINE 1.5 years ago. I go tomorrow to look at a seasonal rental as I just want to embrace Maine's isolation/seclusion. And all your pros and cons are right on. I think I'm just super excited other people are moving to Maine-most think I'm crazy for moving here.

    Actually the house I'm looking at is "off-grid" solar, and I'm starting to worry about what all that entails.

    Jaime-How'd you get the house sitting job?

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    • We sort of cheated…our house sitting gig was for an old woman that my husband has mowed the lawn for ever since he was a kid. She knew him to be trustworthy, so when she was unable to come back from Ohio for the winter, she offered us the house. The winter before, there was a power outage which caused her pipes to freeze, and essentially her whole house got ruined. She asked us to live there in exchange for watching the house and making sure it survived the winter. Good thing too…two weeks in, there was a massive rain storm, and at the same time her sump-pump blew. Six inches of water in the basement. If we hadn't been there, that water would have sat all winter.

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  5. Of course too, off-season rentals mean off-season weather, such as hurricanes, snow, etc. These aren't really things folks think about when living at the beach and whatnot. It's not all "The Shining", but it is still something to think about when moving.

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  6. While going to university in Rome most of the foreign students lived in off-season rentals throughout the school year. It was great to be oversees not have to worry about furnishings or paying year round when you'd be gone during the summer. Plus we students created a great community and got to experience small town life in Italy – what could be better?

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  7. I love my beach town in Maine! We own a surf shop (in OOB if anyone wants to visit!) and both the on-season and off-seasons are amazing. This year is actually the first year we've had a full-time employee recently because we bought an ancient 'fahmhouse' up in the mountains. We're now living an hour and a half from the beach. But anyways… On-season is ten weeks of craziness and the fall and spring are calm and gorgeous. Anyone into surfing though, winter is the time in Maine. Summer can be primarily flat but when the snows fly, the waves roar. Pull on a 6/5/4 hooded suit, some booties and mitts and you're riding high. Our shop is open on Saturdays all winter if anyone wants to learn! Haha

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  8. The trouble with living in Southern California: It's always on season.

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