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Restful rentals

It's home, sweet home for some tourists when it comes to overnight stays at Lake Murray.

Karin Cavanaugh of Summerville is among those who opt for a rental residence as a better way to boat, fish and relax.

"I like staying right on the lake, having it right there," she said. "It's so much better when you're on the water."

Deborah Berry likes sitting on the porch with a scenic view of the lakeshore at gatherings with friends.

"It's very, very comfortable," the Charleston resident said. "Why not have a pretty setting?"

Other tourists like the convenience of having their boat handy at a rental home's dock instead of shuttling it back and forth to a marina or public landing.

"It just works better," said Rex Norris of Boone, N.C., who recently spent a week fishing at the lake with family and friends. "We just hang out."

Sentiments like those keep Randy Walston busy.

His property management firm - Lake Murray Vacation Rentals and Sales in the Gilbert area - specializes in vacation home leasing on the 47,500-acre lake.

No hotel sits on the lake, although those in Irmo and Lexington are a 10-minute drive away.

Lake tourism officials say nearly 208,000 visitors from outside South Carolina came in the year ending June 30, with nearby hotels receiving about 36,000 overnight stays. That doesn't include stays associated with fishing tournaments.

Walston estimates there were slightly more than 1,500 lake home rentals with stays of 6,500 nights in the same period.

Lake home leasing is a small but flourishing niche, he said.

"It's a hidden market in our backyard," he said.

Rentals through his firm run $1,200 to $1,900 per week.

His firm handles rental of 40 homes, about half the dwellings Walston estimates are available to lease.

That total represents 1 percent of the homes scattered around the 650-mile shoreline.

Most rentals are retreats of families living elsewhere in the Midlands, Walston said.

Renting a lake home is a custom for some visitors.

Ann Anderson of Early Branch described the lake as the perfect getaway since discovering it six years ago.

It's easy to reach with rental homes well-equipped and large enough to accommodate get-togethers with family and friends, she said.

"It's a nice a lake as we've ever been on," Anderson said. "It's our home away from home."