Summer vacation rentals appear to be doing better this year than last, despite fears about the thoroughbred racing season being in jeopardy.
Tony DiDonna, who owns four homes on Saratoga Lake that rent for between $1,100 and $1,700 a week, has booked four or five weeks during track season in the last few days, he said Thursday.
“I think people are really booking this week because of the weather being so warm,” DiDonna said. “It seems to be pretty steady.”
People are mindful of the issues surrounding racing, since the New York Racing Association asked the state for money to help it get through the year and officials have sounded the alarm that racing at Saratoga could either slowly decline in quality or stop altogether.
A double hit of the bankruptcy of New York City Off-Track Betting and the lack of long-promised video slots at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens has created a disaster in the making for the already fragile NYRA.
“Some people are still nervous about the status of NYRA, both homeowners and some renters,” said Tom Federlin, owner of Racing City Realty, which brokers about 250 leases a year for seasonal rentals.
Sheila Cabano has noticed she hasn’t been getting many hits on the Web site she set up to advertise the Adams Street house she and her husband, Dave, bought in 2007 as their eventual retirement home.
“I think people are kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen before they book anything,” the Connecticut woman said.
But most officials agree that NYRA won’t cancel the lucrative Saratoga meet, and people are booking their summer trips to Saratoga anyway, seemingly confident that everything will be worked out by the first post time on July 23.
Only one of Federlin’s renters has backed out of a lease.
“I’m significantly ahead of where I was at this time last year,” Federlin said.
Cabano also has several bookings during the track season and some beforehand, including two weeks during the Skidmore Classic Horse Show and two weeks in early July.
The three-bedroom, three-bath house with an in-ground pool rents for at least $3,500 most weeks, and more during high demand weeks such as during the Travers Stakes and the Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sales.
“We anticipate that we’ll sell every week,” Cabano said. Last year they did rent all six weeks of the racing meet.
“We have a couple of repeat renters that come back.”
Federlin, who specializes in short-term rentals, signed 4 percent fewer leases in 2009 than he did in 2008, his best year ever.
Homes that rent for $3,000 to $4,000 a week were the hardest ones to rent last year, he said.
“Most renters wanted to play ‘Let’s make a deal,’ ” he said. “Some people are trying to do that this year [but] not as much.”
On the other end, one-bedroom homes always get rented quickly and are sought mostly by single people who come up for the season, work from home and go to the track, and by people who want to be able to come and go through the meet but not pay a huge sum.
Some larger houses and those near the racecourse rent for $3,000 to $5,000 a week or even more, up to $8,000 a week.
For a season-long rental, people can pay anywhere from a few thousand up to $20,000.
“There’s not too many people that can afford an entire track meet,” DiDonna said.
This year’s Saratoga racing meet is four days longer than last year, 40 instead of 36 days, but so far the extra days haven’t seemed to make a difference to renters.
Still, it’s early in the process, Federlin said.
“I rent right up until the day the track opens.”