Outer Banks Rental Guide: How to Find the Perfect Beach House

By Mercedes Tabano II | February 28th, 2014

Don’t leave it to chance. Here are the best questions to ask.


Nothing says summer like a vacation at an Outer Banks beach. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the Outer Banks for its unique charm, natural beauty and wide-open beaches. Staying at a rental house instead of a hotel allows families to have the most space and best times while still controlling costs.

Most homes begin booking early in the year, so you’ve no time to lose. But be aware: Choosing a vacation home can be fun, but it can also be hugely stressful. So how do you know which vacation home is right for you?

The experts weigh in on the best questions to ask:

IT ALL STARTS WITH KNOWING HOW BIG a house you need, says Dan Hardy of Joe Lamb Jr. and Associates. While many houses have rooms with sleeping arrangements for more than two people in a room, a house’s septic is only able to accommodate two people per room. The extra beds are just sleeping options.

“It’s best to know in advance not just how many people you’re bringing, but who sleeps where,” Hardy says. Knowing the layout of your house and the nature of your group can go a long way toward a perfect vacation.

Dan’s Best Questions:

 How many does it sleep?

 What are the sleeping options?

 Will this work for my family?

CHOOSING ONE WITH THE RIGHT AMENITIES in the right location is a big part of choosing the right vacation home, Stuart Chamberlain of Sun Realty explains. Part of this is distance to the beach. That can be trickier than it sounds.

“It’s important to understand that there is no standard way of measuring distance to the beach on the Outer Banks,” Chamberlain says. Some companies measure “as the crow flies” while others use official accesses. Moreover, not all distances make sense; a “semi-oceanfront” home in some parts of Corolla, for instance, might be farther from the beach than a house three houses back in Kill Devil Hills. Additionally, make sure you consider how the town in which you are staying factors into your perfect vacation.

Stuart’s Best Questions:

 How far of a walk is it to the beach? (Ask for yards, not minutes.)

 Will I be happier with a “three-back” that’s closer to the beach or “semi-oceanfront” that’s further away but has a view?

 When it comes to the surrounding town, am I looking for action and excitement or peaceful isolation?

CONSIDER THE “ENTIRE PACKAGE” when choosing a vacation rental, urges Doug Brindley, of Brindley Beach Vacation & Sales.

The number of bedrooms and distance to the beach can give you only half the experience.

The other half comes from the house itself. Think about the special needs of your family and the type of vacation you want. Do you want a house with a place for your boat? A kitchen for an in-home chef? Large living area? Porches for sunbathing? “It’s important to consider the type of experience you want,” he says. Then get the house that best fits.

Doug’s Best Questions:

 What do I want to do in the house?

 Do I have any special needs (mobility, in-home entertainment, boat, pet or other)?

 Which parts of the house are “must haves” and which are merely “nice to haves”?

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AREA and the attractions you want to see, Myra Ladd Bone of Atlantic Realty recommends. “Different locations give different experiences.”

Another thing she reiterates is that all distances to the beach are not created equal. A house that is close to the beach might not be the one you really want. If it’s in the Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills or Nags Head area, you’ll have to cross a small road to get to the beach. This is not true in places like Duck or Corolla. That road poses an issue for some families, while others don’t mind. Also consider how the town in which you are staying factors into your perfect vacation. Will it be close enough to everything you want to do?

Myra’s Best Questions:

• Are you willing to be farther from the beach if there’s no road to cross?

 Is this house close enough to the attractions I want to see?

 What makes a house perfect for you: location, amenities or price?

SEE THE HOUSE FIRST WHENEVER POSSIBLE, Village Realty’s Jenny Myatt advocates.

“There’s a lot more to a house then just its location and amenities; there’s also its age to consider,” she says. While older houses can be charming and less expensive, they do not always have the luxuriousness or amenities of newer homes. The pool is a big issue. Modern pools have shapes, sizes and depths that are more popular than older pools.

The same is true with the furniture. Beach houses once were all crate furniture and shag carpets. Then, décor changed to corals and pastels. Then, the décor changed again, this time to tropical styles. The type of furniture the home has can indicate its age; newer styles often denote newer furniture.

Jenny’s Best Questions:

 When was the house built?

 When was the last time it was renovated?

 What’s the depth/size of the pool?

FOR THOSE TRAVELING WITH PETS, it’s important to pick not only a pet-friendly home but a pet-friendly area, says Cindy Edwards of Century 21 Nachman Realty.

“It’s best to be familiar with the leash laws, the dog parks and the dog beaches of where you want to stay.” Some places on the Outer Banks are just more dog-friendly than others.

Cindy’s Best Questions:

 Is the home pet-friendly?

 Are dogs allowed on the beach or parks?

 What are the leash laws?

CHOOSING THE RIGHT VACATION HOME can be a lot of fun. It can also be very stressful. You want to ensure you choose one where everyone is happy. This involves not only knowing the needs of your group but also knowing the best queIstions to ask. Doing your homework now will pay off this summer.

Mercedes Tabano II, an Outer Banks native who has worked for many years with beach house rentals, is now a content specialist and writer. Contact her at Mercedes@writetherightstuff.com. 

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