By MADDY VITALE
A new vacation rental website launched in Ocean City gives homeowners and realtors a site to showcase their listings with no added fees, and vacationers a site to find their perfect getaway from the Gold Coast to the Gardens and the rest of town.
Duane Watlington, founder of Vacation Rentals Jersey Shore LLC, said VROCNJ with the website, www.vacationrentalsoceancitynj.com, provides a lot of ways to connect with no hidden fees or taxes. Watlington, a real estate agent, started with a site dedicated to Long Beach Island four years ago and another in the Wildwoods last year.
“We believe that owners, property managers and realtors like knowing who they are renting to. Vacationers prefer to be able to contact the owner before booking to ask questions and go over all the details,” he said.
Ocean City, he noted, is the next hot spot for vacation rentals.
“I’m really excited about Ocean City,” he said. “We have been so successful in LBI and I think we can be more successful in Ocean City. There are more rentals and it is a rental town.”
So far, with the site up in the fall, his company features 165 Ocean City rental listings. Watlington said there are many benefits to listing on the site.
“We have taken off like wildfire in Long Beach Island. The owners know and the vacationers know that we encourage direct communication, especially with COVID–19,” he said. “Renters want to know how a home is cleaned. Homeowners want to know who is staying at their properties.”
Specifically, according to the website for VROCNJ, the mission is to provide homeowners, property managers and realtors with a “listing site” to promote their vacation rental properties.
People can manage a calendar or import one from their own website. They can also manage reservations and keep track of communications with guests, and the guests will be able to search relevant vacation rentals.
Watlington also emphasized that VROCNJ offers homeowners who rent without a realtor to showcase their homes on a site that gives them exposure to potential renters.
And anyone who lists on www.vacationrentalsoceancitynj.com will see that the pricing is competitive.
“We are offering owners who want to sign up 60 percent off subscriptions for one year,” Watlington said.
Prices start at $249 and go up to about $899, depending on where a person wants their listing placed on the website.
“Right now, they can do the $249 and it will be discounted to $99. When they renew their listing for another year, it would be $249 and there are no commission fees,” Watlington explained.
The same offers apply to realtors, he added.
He acknowledged that since launching his sites, he has had to overcome a big obstacle.
“One of the growing pains we had in LBI and Ocean City is that the realtors see us as competition and my answer is, ‘No, we are not your competition.’ We are just a media channel to use to promote the rentals,” he said.
The role for Watlington and his team is to work with realtors on rental units only.
“Our role in the rental process is to advertise the rentals,” he pointed out. “The realtors play an important role in the property management. We can help the realtors just like we can help the homeowners with the advertising and marketing.”
And although the season is beginning late due to the pandemic, Watlington said he has a good feeling about the rental season for vacationers, renters and realtors.
He hopes the website catches on and takes off as it has in LBI, bringing people back year after year.
“We want people in Ocean City to learn about us. The owners want to build a rapport with the renters so they can come back year after year,” he said. “The fact is, people want to get out. No one is cruising. No one wants to fly. Everyone wants a staycation. I think we will have a strong summer season and a strong shoulder season if things keep continuing on the positive trend.”