Agents report good season for high-end rentals

Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2011

By JOEL LANDAU Staff Writer press of Atlantic City

Local real estate agents report a strong summer rental season, which they say is an indication of both a rebounding economy and interest in the Jersey Shore.

The agents also hope that renewed interest in rentals could translate into more people buying a vacation home.

Ron Giordano, president of Atlantic Beach Realty in Stone Harbor, said rentals were up

7 percent among the 150 units his firm has for the season.

But the number of rentals among the lower-end, less-expensive properties actually went down. It was the higher-end properties that had higher occupancy rates this summer, he said.

“The higher-end people doubled their money in the stock market,”prior to late summer’s market swoon, he said.

Giordano’s office tried new initiatives this year, such as posting pictures of rentals on its website.

Joe Wilhelm, of Ocean City Realty, said the rental market got busier as the season moved along.

“The three weeks from July 30 to Aug. 20, it was impossible to find a rental for most people,” he said. “As the year started, more and more calls were placed to find a rental.”

Overall, Wilhelm said, rentals in his office were up 34 percent from the previous year.

Wilhelm said the majority of his clients were from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware. With gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, they did not want to travel further south — even rental prices are lower.

“They could get places for cheaper in North Carolina, but they would have to drive longer,” he said. “We had a busy year. People did not want to travel as far as they used to. So they are coming to the Jersey Shore.”

Wilhelm said he is optimistic for next year’s market.

“I think this will be good for next year too,” he said. “People really enjoy coming to the shore. They did it as kids and want to keep the tradition going with their kids.”

Local real estate professionals also used the summer rental season as a way to secure future home sales.

Chris Hegel, sales associate of Weichert Realtors in Brigantine, handled rentals this summer as an opportunity to make more contacts.

About 80 percent of the agency’s 200 homes were rented this season, but the newer and higher-end homes were closer to 100 percent.

“I think it went great,” he said. “All in all, our office did very well with our units.”

People were still reluctant to step up and buy, but they were more curious this year than they have been in the past, Hegel said.

“They see a lot of inventory and affordability. Two working people can afford a second home again,” he said. “I did not have a lot of sales from rentals, but contacts have been established. I feel it will translate in a couple of transactions in the next year.”

Giordano was enthused by the strong rental market but nonetheless is waiting to spend money on marketing until the economy improves.

“The economy has to change itself,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to advertise for homes when no one is buying. When the economy moves around, you start advertising and make money. Then you save your nuts like a squirrel.”

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