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Last minute summer rental guide

How not to settle for sizzling in the city - or an overpriced shack.
Aspen - price: $65,000 a month
Aspen - price: $65,000 a month Joshua And Co. / Joshua And Co.
/ Source: Forbes

In the land of summer rentals, there are two types of people.

The first are--well, you know. The kind that have summer plans figured out before their sunburns from last season have even finished peeling. This story is not for them.

It is for the other category of vacationers--those commitment-phobic, I'm-sure-there-will-be- a-fabulous-last-minute-bargain people who have barely figured out tomorrow, much less which beach they want to be near.

This summer, the perennial procrastinators are in luck. Though Memorial Day is but a flag-waving memory now, it’s not too late to book an exclusive getaway in the U.S. Even better from the perspective of renters, it’s hardly slim pickings this year. For about the same sums as last summer, last-minute renters can have luxury homes in the hottest summer locales --whether they're New Yorkers willing to endure the weekend traffic to East Hampton, Southerners escaping to the mountains of North Carolina, or Californians trying to take on Tahoe.

Don’t bank on huge bargains, however. Deals are rare when it comes to the luxury marketplace these days. What’s more, some of the most desirable properties--think waterfront locales--will indeed have been snatched up by now.

The summer-rental market is anything but homogeneous, due in large part to differing conditions from coast to coast. The heavy rains in Sonoma this winter, for example, didn’t slow renters in Maine. But one thing that has remained fairly consistent across the map is an extended booking season. From Lake Geneva to Lake Travis, summer vacationers have been waiting longer and longer to book their summer getaways.

"Out here we got a later start due to bad weather," explains Patrick Smith, president of Beautiful Places, which rents luxury properties in California's wine country. "The deluge that we were having throughout the winter slowed down the early renters. Typically, people would book in January, February and March for the summer and fall, but now they’re booking just weeks ahead."

Shifts in financial behavior have played a role also, according to Diane Ablitt, a rental specialist at Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Cod, Mass. "We have found that people are much more conscious about their spending habits now."

Nancy Borino, director of luxury lodging for Chase International, which sells and manages properties around Lake Tahoe, says our changing lifestyles have contributed as well. "We no longer get to choose to plan so far in advance," she says. "Our lifestyles are way too chaotic these days that we no longer know that we’re going to get a week during the summer."

And last, but certainly not least, we can attribute the last-minute availability to an increase in inventory. Take Lake Tahoe, where Borino says investment in real estate has increased significantly in recent years. But the people buying properties often don't live in them, or only use them occasionally, choosing to rent them at other times. According to the National Association of Realtors, 40% of all homes bought last year were investment or vacation properties. "To pay for part of these investments, the owners will then turn them into vacation rentals," says Borino.

"Real estate is such a hot investment that we have approximately the same number of visitors to the Lake as we did five years ago, but our inventory has increased 300%," she says.

So for all of you last-minute types--and you know who you are--stop stressing and check out our selection of getaways, which are still available for at least a few weeks this summer. But act now: Labor Day isn't as far away as it seems.