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.
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.
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!