Will snowfall erode summer rental business?

A rental sign hangs on a beachfront house on Wesley Avenue in Ocean City. Paul Leiser says Internet browsing has reduced the negative effect snow damage might have on a property’s attractiveness to renters, but say beach erosion due to snow can drive them away. Photo by: Dale Gerhard

By BEN LEACH Press of A.C. Staff Writer | Sunday, February 21, 2010

As most of the region spent the past few weeks digging out of more than 2 feet of snow, some people imagined the summer months and a nice, warm, and snowflake-free beach season mere months away.

But as the snow eventually melts and washes away, so could the sand that makes living at and visiting shore resorts so desirable in the first place.

When people start making their vacation plans for the summer of 2010, the amount of sand left on the coast could make a big difference in where people want to spend their time and their money.

“People are going to go to an area where there is a beach,” said Steve Booth, a manager for Prudential Fox and Roach Realty in Ocean City.

According to an analysis by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, Ocean City lost about a foot of sand at the northern end, where a beach replenishiment project has been under way for a few weeks.

Those routine beach-replenishment projects are what puts visitors’ minds at ease, Booth said.

“(Visitors) are fairly confident that by the summer everything will be fine,” Booth said.

However, Booth said residents who like to be close to the beach are not above taking their business somewhere else if the beach immediately in front of their rental property isn’t there or doesn’t meet their standards.

“If people don’t like the beach where they’re staying, they’re not going to go to another town. They’re going to check out places a few blocks away,” he said. But to a real estate agent, that can be too far. “The rental business tends to be territorial.”

Even though visitors to a shore resort can make a last-minute decision, many of them like to plan well in advance.

Presidents Day weekend is a particularly busy time for booking rental units for the summer, said Paul Leiser, co-owner of the Avalon Real Estate Agency on Dune Drive in the borough of Avalon.

“Twenty five years ago, they would be lined up waiting for us to unlock the doors,” Leiser said. “By 5 or 5:30, we’d be wiped out.”

Leiser said that at the time, a visit could be affected by ice on the steps or the appearance of the beach. But times have changed, and so have the ways in which people seek out rental properties.

According to Leiser, about

70 percent of all summer rentals through his agency are researched online. For some visitors, virtual tours are sufficent when making their summer real estate decisions.

Even in the hardest-hit areas, such as Long Beach Island, where the DEP’s analysis found 2 to 3 feet of erosion along places such as Beach Haven Crest and Harvey Cedars, a history of beach erosion doesn’t necessarily deter renters.

“(Erosion) is not affecting rental prices,” said Eileen Matson, a broker associate for Century 21 Mary Allen Realty Inc. in Ship Bottom.

Matson, who has been in real estate on Long Beach Island for 25 years, said erosion has never affected rental prices in her territory.

As long as people want to rent beachfront properties over the summer, Matson said, the prices will remain steady. And so far in 2010, that demand doesn’t seem to be dropping off at all.

“We’re actually seeing a rise in business this year compared to last year,” Matson said.

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