Laura Gale, a longtime agent with Coldwell Banker, said rental rates have stayed steady because the supply of rental homes is limited and demand remains strong.
But Christine Hehir, an agent with Aegir Properties, has notice a change in the rental market this year. The owners of some smaller rental homes without bay views have had to cut rates to keep them from sitting empty this summer, she said.
"Owners are willing to negotiate," Hehir added. "We've dropped the rates on several places to get them rented."
The drop in rates might signal that even prosperous vacationers are anxious about the future and are ready to scale back vacation plans.
Lee Young, a doctor visiting from Shanghai, brought his wife, Deanna, and their three school-age children to stay with relatives on the island.
The family's biggest vacation expense here was a visit to the Legoland theme park in Carlsbad. "Other than that, we are just doing the free activities like hanging out at the beach," Deanna Young said.
As for clothes shopping, she added, "you just buy what you need and wear it to the ground."
Island merchants say visitors are spending less this summer on beachwear and souvenirs.
Pamela Hubbard, owner of the Persimmon Tree, a clothing and gift shop that has operated since 1964, said more customers have asked for discounts this summer. "They will say, 'I'm buying two swimsuits. Can I have the second one for half off?' " she said.
To Hubbard, the requests for discounts mean the recession has finally reached Balboa Island.
"We are slower to be affected, but we are definitely feeling it like the rest of the county," she said.
A few doors away at Shull's shop, business has been down as much as 15% from last summer, and customers repeatedly ask to be directed to the discount clothing rack.
But Shull has seen tough times in her 18 years on the island and is sure her business will survive.
"We've been through a recession," she said, "and we'll get through this recession."