Short-term rental industry still shaky in Hampton Roads as reopening begins


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Memorial Day weekend — the unofficial start to summer — usually means big business for short-term rentals. It’s not surprising that was not the case this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, however, hope is on the horizon.

After months of uncertainty, the phone lines at Harper Brothers Holdings LLC are starting to ring again.

“They’re asking is the beach closed. How many people can be out at the Oceanfront? How is it being managed and enforced?” Chase Harper, with Harper Brothers Holdings, said.

The company owns and operates rental properties in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

“Right now it’s still uneasy, you know, but the confidence is increasing and it’s reassuring for us,” said Harper.

During the past few days, they confirmed the first few post-COVID-19 reservations. Although customer confidence is still a bit shaky, Harper says they’re getting more “inquiries” than bookings.

“Not quite there yet but we’re making progress,” he said. 

During the shutdowns, the state of Virginia didn’t place a ban on short-term rentals. Neither did local governments in Norfolk or Virginia Beach. But the tourists still stayed away.

Harper Brothers Holdings wants those visiting their properties to feel as safe as possible.

“Prior to arrival, we’ll go in deep-clean and sanitize everything,” said Chase Harper. “Specifically all the handles, the refrigerator, all the highly-touched surfaces. We’ll also leave a little gift box for guests when they arrive with hand sanitizers and wipes.

Harper says they’re still a relatively new company focused on expanding. Right before COVID-19 hit, they bought a new property.

With no income coming in, they decided to furnish the place using wooden pallets they picked up for free.  

“Just getting creative and figuring out the best way and best strategy moving forward to save money and kind of get through this.”

Harper says while Memorial Day was disappointing for business, July 4 is looking much more promising.  

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