5 Ways Jersey Shore Changes Summer Rentals

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SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (TheStreet) -- If things are a little different at your summer rental house this year, thank America's favorite houseful of loud, spray-tanned mush-mouths.

MTV's Jersey Shore has become an industry unto itself, with the television franchise pulling in a network-record 8.45 ratings share for its Season 3 debut episode back in January and a series-record 8.87 share three weeks later for the season's fourth episode featuring diminutive cast member Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi getting out of jail after causing a drunken scene on the beach and being escorted off by the Seaside Heights police.

As a result, the cast members have built portfolios as impressive as their alcohol tolerance. Oft-shirtless misogynist meathead housemate Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino made an estimated $3 million last year through personal appearances -- including a place on ABC's (Stock Quote: DIS) Dancing With The Stars and an ill-fated appearance on Comedy Central's roast of Donald Trump -- a book deal, part-ownership of a line of protein-infused vodkas, fitness DVDs and endorsement deals with Reebok and Vitamin Water (Stock Quote: K). Heavily tattooed Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio, meanwhile, made roughly $2 million after demand for his DJ services increased his price tag to $40,000 a night.

Not to be outdone or outshouted, the Jersey Shore women also capitalized on their most bankable talents when Snooki and Jenni "JWoww" Farley took a stab at professional wrestling and Snooki notched her first win during WWE's Wrestlemania. How did every summer rental-property owner that watched Jersey Shore through their fingers benefit from the show's success? In some cases, with a Pauly D-haircut-sized spike in rental interest.

Hank Hudepohl, director of vacation rentals at TripAdvisor, says his site has seen a 94% increase in Jersey Shore rental interest since the first quarter of last year. Those inquiries are expanding the rental base beyond its typical, more regional borders and drawing a younger crowd with expendable income to burn.

"More out-of-towners who may not have typically stayed in the Jersey Shore area for a vacation -- including travelers from Kansas, Iowa and California -- are submitting inquiries, but they are primarily 20-somethings looking to go there to party," says Jaime Dito, spokeswoman for vacation rental site HomeAway. "The owners also claim to receive three to five inquiries a day from kids -- 30 or younger -- looking to book their property, many for prom or graduation in May and June."

That's little cause to celebrate, as renters and property owners have had reason to wince every time a table's been overturned in a fight between Jersey Shore housemates, a bed's been destroyed while being moved out of the "smush room" and persons of questionable repute and hygiene have taken long, cleansing, sometimes amorous soaks in the house hot tub.

HomeAway spokeswoman Dito, who we'll remind you is paid to present the site's properties in the best possible light, says that the general consensus among that site's property owners in the show's seasons 1 and 3 setting Seaside Heights is that it has been "detrimental to the area, giving it a bad reputation and having somewhat negative effects on the rental market."

"According to one homeowner, there's had to be an increase in the number of cops in the area, which has raised property taxes," Dito says. "Plus, they feel the show deters the coveted family renters from booking in the area."

Looking at this glass of RonRon juice as neither half-empty nor half-full, we took a look at five ways that the fist-pumping first family of reality television changed summer rentals forever:

Gym, Tan, Laundry

Now that they know the pillars of summer-rental existence, property owners are stepping it up and trying to squeeze more letters of the GTL acronym into their vacation homes. Roughly 59% of vacation property owners plan to upgrade their homes this year, according to HomeAway, with 21% adding new electronics and 11% adding new appliances -- which should take care of at least the L.

Even the G isn't completely out of the question, though, as the 62% of vacation homeowners who compare their properties to boutique hotel brands such as the W Hotel and Hotel Indigo (Stock Quote: IHG) or slightly upscale establishments such as the Westin (Stock Quote: HOT) or Hilton (Stock Quote: BX) are increasingly adding the amenities to back it up. Hudepohl says in-house gyms and laundry, pool tables, video game consoles and home theater systems are becoming increasingly common.

"Vacation rental homes offer a number of amenities that are sure to please travelers, including those who want to live like the cast of Jersey Shore," Hudepohl says. "In addition, rental homes often offer full backyards and front yards, which are great for outdoor activities like football and volleyball."

Hot Tub Time

Even if you're not using it as a warming station for the person you just brought back from the club or as a thin excuse to ogle your housemates, the hot tub has become an increasingly hot commodity for vacation-home renters. A TripAdvisor survey found that 9% of those polled viewed a hot tub as their luxury feature of choice in a vacation rental home. That's still less popular choice than a private beach (51%) or maid service (12%), but it still ranks ahead of a personal chef (8%).

It's also one of the options being considered by the 23% of vacation home owners who told HomeAway they'll be improving the exterior of their vacation homes this year. Whether the hot tub's appeal outweighs anything renters -- or their lecherous Uncle Nino -- leave behind for the cleaning crew remains to be seen.

Family Dinner

His jokes are terrible and a touch racist, his use of abdominal muscles as a pickup line is questionable and his relationships with housemates are touchy at best, but there's no questioning that The Situation can cook. The egomaniacal young man's experiments with broccoli rabe, chicken cutlets and Italian saw-SEEGE are both the most digestible portion of the show and the strongest argument for vacation accommodations with a respectable kitchen.

According to TripAdvisor, 23% of travelers said the vacation rental feature they liked most was access to a full kitchen that both cuts their dinner spending and allows for quiet nights around the table. The 11% of vacation homeowners who are replacing appliances this year aren't focused solely on GTL, but are taking a long look at the french-door refrigerators, high-capacity dishwashers and stainless steel ranges and ovens similar to those in the Jersey Shore houses.

While great for pacifying rowdy housefuls of 20-something drama magnets, an expanded, updated kitchen adds value long after the rental crowd clears out. Even a minor remodel that replaces the oven, range, sink and cabinetry retains 72.8% of its cost as resale value, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. Whether Sorrentino will retain similar value once Jersey Shore runs its course and time and nature ravages his ripped physique is less certain.

The Cabs Are Here

It's a tough thing to envy when your shrill housemates are yelling at the top of their lungs at 3 a.m. or leaving torn Ed Hardy shirts and similarly shredded hair extensions for your to clean up the morning after their brawl, but proximity to beaches and bars are a coup for any vacation rental property.

TripAdvisor notes that 47% of the vacation renters it surveyed say they plan to stay in beachfront villas this year, making them the most popular rentals of the year. Not surprisingly, 49% of vacation property owners told HomeAway that they would buy a beach property if they could buy another vacation home today.

Unless you're wearing Snooki-sized Hubble Telescope-lens sunglasses bedazzled with rhinestones, it's not hard to see why property owners would make the upgrade. The average cost of renting a three-bedroom house on the beach in July is $3,250 a week. Set that property back a third of a mile from the beach and that price drops to $2,596.

It also helps to be someplace where the bars and clubs can outnumber the beach chairs, as TripAdvisor's Hudepohl notes that Cape Cod, Mass.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; North Carolina's Outer Banks; and Alabama's Gulf Shores are among this year's hot properties. With 8% of HomeAway property owners considering their homes "convenient" and 5% declaring themselves in the "middle of the action," there's of room at the party for property owners looking to step up their game.

Doin' Damage

For young adults and young professionals who rented houses during the summers spanning Jersey Shore, the differences in the rental environment before and after the show's launch are as apparent as the myriad reasons Ronnie and Sammi just need to break up already.

In Seaside Heights proper and surrounding shore towns such as Lavalette and Ortley Beach, the fallout has been a de facto moratorium on renters devoid of graying hair or crow's feet. For property owners, it's also meant an exodus of families away from the boardwalks and beaches now inhabited by inebriated brawlers in bronzer yelling "Come at me, bro." HomeAway's Dito says summer at the Jersey Shore will look a lot different if her property owners get their way.

"Each of them reported that they refuse to rent to kids -- they prefer to only accept bookings from families," Dito says. "An owner who's rented their property since 2006 reports that while he used to be completely booked by January, he still has two weeks open during the summer, which he feels is a result of the show scaring away family renters."

The rest of the country is paying the price as well, as security deposits on rental properties rose to as high as 100% of the rental cost for homes and condos on the market in Dallas and Arlington during this year's Super Bowl. TripAdvisor's Hudepohl says renters should be increasingly aware of their security deposit amounts, which can be 10% to 20% of the rental rate, cancellation fees and policies, whether pets are allowed, how many people are allowed to stay in the rental home, and whether cleaning fees are an extra charge. He cautions that while some property owners have taken drastic steps to ensure their belongings aren't broken just because one drunken renter thinks another drunken renter called her fake, its a lot easier to be cool about wanton screaming and destruction when MTV and Viacom (Stock Quote: VIA) have you covered.

"Any agreement provisions that seem onerous, such as having to pay the cleaning fee for few dirty dishes, should be red flags," he says. "Also, when staying at a rental home, you will be expected to adhere to local noise ordinances, which the owner or property manager should be able to outline for you."

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