Back to planet earth. That’s the main theme this year for the Martha’s Vineyard summer home rental market, which is seeing a return to more normal trends after three years of through the roof demand fueled by the global pandemic.

Pointing to the reopening of international travel and other factors, Island rental agents confirmed they are seeing a far less-frenzied pace for the 2023 season.

“During the pandemic, if there was a cancellation, somebody would put up an owner’s special on the listing for a lower price and within hours, it was scooped up,” said Joan Talmadge, co-owner of the website, which lists vacation properties on the Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod. “That’s just not happening anymore,” she said.

Anne Mayhew, owner of Sandpiper Rentals in Edgartown, echoed the sentiment.

“It was such a frenzy during the [pandemic],” she said. “We are feeling like we’re coming back down to normal, but we are definitely still in for a big summer.”

State numbers show the vacation rental market on the Island appears to be steadily expanding.

According to a state registry that tracks licensed short-term rental properties throughout the commonwealth, from March 2022 through May 2023, there was a 44 per cent increase in registered short-term rentals on the Vineyard.

Though the market is back to its pre-pandemic pace, there was a 44 per cent increase in registered short-term rentals on the Vineyard between 2022 and 2023. — Ray Ewing

There are currently 3,675 registered rentals throughout the six towns, compared with 2,552 in March 2022.

And while the market remains strong, it’s not completely sold out this year, and more than one rental agent suggested a course correction is needed on pricing.

“We had one person who was coming for the last couple of years and he realized what he could get for his money by going overseas,” said Michele Moore, an agent at Island Real Estate in Vineyard Haven, which manages home sales and rentals across the Island. “The price [here] just deterred him.”

Ms. Talmadge agreed. “[During the pandemic renting frenzy] homeowners realized that because the demand was so high they could ask a much higher rate,” she said. “Many homeowners increased their prices and have just kept them at that level.”

Larysa Trafas, an agent at Seacoast Properties in Edgartown, said she too has seen clients put off by the high prices.

“For one week here on the Island, if they have to pay $10,000, they can spend a month in Italy,” she said.

At Point B Realty in Edgartown, one home that rents for $65,000 per week is still available, according to owner and managing director Wendy Harman. Ms. Harman warned that rates will need to adjust soon, and said some of her agency’s most popular homes are still only at 50 per cent occupancy for the summer.

Point B agents are working with homeowners to design special price promotions to fill the empty weeks, Ms. Harman said.

The 2023 season isn't totally booked, as in years past. — Ray Ewing

In another shift toward more normal patterns, agents said they are seeing a move away from the summer-long stays that were popular when people were working from home and seeking safe refuge from Covid-19.

Ms. Trafas said the shorter turnaround time is posing problems for some homeowners when it comes to cleaning, given the current shortage of summer workers on the Island.

Ms. Talmadge said most longtime vacation homeowners have established relationships with cleaning companies, but newcomers to the rentals business may find hiring cleaners to be an ordeal.

“Cleaners are always very difficult to find on both the Cape and Islands,” she said. “It’s like parents giving out their babysitters’ numbers — they just won’t do it.”

Statistics provided by Ms. Talmadge illustrate other short and longer-term trends in the market.

For 2023, spring, summer and fall bookings at WeNeedaVacation are down 13 per cent compared with 2022, and more than 23 per cent compared with 2021.

But the same bookings are still well up over pre-pandemic years — 7.4 per cent higher than 2018, 10 per cent higher than 2019 and 71 per cent higher than 2020, the year of the outbreak.

Numbers provided by Ms. Talmadge also show an increase in spring and fall bookings when compared with pre-pandemic years. Spring bookings at WeNeedaVacation in 2023 are up 18 to 23 per cent over 2018 and 2019, and fall bookings are up 23 to 39 per cent over 2018 and 2019, she said.

Ms. Talmadge, whose company also tracks inquiries as a measure of activity and interest, cited an increasing early-bird approach among vacationers coming to the Vineyard.

“We have found that since 2016, vacationers are looking to book their rental home earlier and earlier,” she said in an email. “This may be due to competition . . . and of course the car ferry situation compels them to book early enough.”