Optimism prevails in Cape May County shore home markets

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011  

By BRIAN IANIERI Staff Writer Press of Atlantic City

Optimism prevails in Cape May County shore home markets

From sea to shining bay, Cape May County real estate agents have an optimistic outlook for the shore housing market in 2011.

The real estate market on the barrier islands along Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean counties spans a wide variety of price ranges, housing styles and locations.

Optimism prevails in Cape May County shore home markets. Proximity to the beach and ocean views can add significantly property prices.

In the last year, potential buyers have been looking around more, said Brian Groetsch Jr., a broker associate at Century 21 Gilmartin & Co. in Cape May and the president of the Cape May County Association of Realtors.

Shoppers who exclusively sought three-bedroom beachfront homes have expressed more interest in other possibilities like single-family homes blocks from the beach, he said.

“The consumer is much more open in general if they can achieve greater peace of mind in the investment they’re going to make,” Groetsch said.

Interest in properties now spans the price ranges. In 2009, much of the market was entry-level, lower value properties, he said.

“In my practice, what we’ve seen most of are first-time second homebuyers, most likely fence sitters watching the market and now feeling there’s value in the market and jumping in,” he said.

Paul Chiolo is a broker at Keller Williams Ocean Side Realty in the Wildwoods and Ocean City.

The gap between asking prices and selling prices has gotten closer, an indication that Chiolo said reflects sellers being more realistic about asking prices and buyers anxious to get in on the lower end of the market, as well as use the properties for the summer.

In the Wildwoods, “I’m seeing the inventory get bought up. The bank foreclosures are getting absorbed very rapidly,” said Chiolo, a broker for 23 years.

The activity, however, is not just relating to distressed properties, he said.

“I think it’s a combination of the good mortgage rates in conjunction with more consumer confidence that’s driving this market right now,” Chiolo said. “The reality now is you’re able to buy at the Jersey Shore now for like 1999 prices. And that’s a hard thing to pass up.”

In Avalon and Stone Harbor, January and February of 2011 were big months: There were 25 percent more properties placed under contract than in those time periods of 2010 and 2009 combined, said Allan “Dutch” Dechert, president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors and principal of Ferguson Dechert Real Estate based in Avalon.

Nine of those were priced over $2 million, he said.

“We’re seeing some of the higher-end players coming back into the market,” Dechert said.

Second homes are inherently different from primary residences. That reflects differences in how potential home buyers make up their mind.

“It’s a discretionary purchase. People don’t have to have a second home,” Dechert said. “They seem a little more ready to make a decision now. Last year, sales people would go out and show houses and houses and houses … and they’d say, ‘We’ll go home and think about it.’ They were sitting on the fence and now they’re ready to make a decision on it.”

Nicholas Marotta, president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors, said sales activity in Ocean City picked up near the end of 2010 and has continued early into 2011.

Ocean City saw a 5 percent increase in overall home sales last year and an 18 percent increase in the last three months of 2010.

For January and February this year, Marotta reported there were 13 more closed sales than that period in 2010.

“The market itself is much more affordable price-wise,” he said. “I feel the biggest thing is people were starting to feel comfortable with their jobs, with the economy, with themselves. That was the scariest factor – nobody had security. They weren’t going to look to invest in properties.”

Dave Wyrsch Jr. is real estate and vacation rental manager for the Van Dyk Group on Long Beach Island in Ocean County.

“The early part of the year’s been real busy. There’s been a lot of activity, a lot of people are out looking,” he said.

High-end transactions, including several homes selling for multi-million dollar listings, sold near the end of 2010.

Those high-end ones have tapered off a bit from those numbers.

“The ones we’ve sold so far this year is a mixed bag but a lot of them are $1.3 million to $1.5 million sales,” Wyrsch said. “It’s still kind of a mixed bag.”

We had a big run on ocean fronts the second half of last year – July, August, September,” he said. “That’s died down a little bit, but I don’t think there’s as many on the market at this point.”

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