Followup - I reserved my 2022 week in mid-summer when I saw complaints that the 2022 OBX rates were climbing already. At that time, VRBO gave me the 2021 rate, which I really liked. I didn't need to pay anything, the website said it was 'pending approval'. Ok, same thing as last year too and we had never rented from him before so no worries.
Today I got an email from the owner, he wants repeat renters like us so if we come back, he'll take $150 off and the dogs stay for free. That's $350 off (9%) from 2021, so that's a done deal.