Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer
OCEAN CITY — Real estate agents in South Jersey are watching for any surge in new listings related to Hurricane Sandy and the stricter flood-elevation standards.
So far, it’s been a pretty typical winter at the shore. But agents said the owners of flood-damaged or older homes built far below flood elevations or in newly expanded velocity zones will have to make some tough decisions.
“Some people are unsure about what they are going to do. But I don’t think at this point anyone is looking to run yet,” said Maria Marinelli, a broker associate with Re/Max At The Shore in OceanCity.
Gov. Chris Christie last month issued an emergency order adopting federal advisory flood maps to expedite reconstruction on the coast. These standards have been criticized as being overbroad and not taking into account neighborhoods that already have bulkheads or other flood-mitigation improvements.
“The maps are constantly changing, and it’s been a process,” Marinelli said. “There is no reason to panic or sell your home because you think you’ll lose value. Nothing is set in stone yet.”
There were 176 new listings in OceanCity in January compared with just 81 in December and 60 in November, according to numbers provided by Prudential Fox & Roach. But January generated 174 new listings for OceanCity in 2012 and 208 in 2011.
Agents said such fluctuations are prompted more by sellers’ seasonal habits.
“It’s typical after the holidays,” said Kevin Redmond, president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors.
“You see a slowdown leading into Thanksgiving and the holidays. Typically, people will take their house off the market over the holidays, then pop them back on at the beginning of the new year,” he said.
At this point, nobody is panicking, said Redmond, who lives in OceanCity and is a broker for NJ Realty Inc. on the island.
The construction boom on the island in the late 1990s through the mid-2000s converted a lot of the city’s older housing stock into higher-elevation, flood-resistant homes that weathered the storm better, he said.
“I think there’s going to be properties that suffered damage and the owners will make the decision to sell. It’s easier. They don’t want to put the time or effort into rebuilding or reconstruction lift the house,” he said.
But even these property owners are sitting on a potential goldmine in land value, regardless of storms past or future, he said.
“Just look at their assessment. It’s a $500,000 house and $450,000 is the land. At the end of the day, they’re not getting totally crushed if they sell,” he said.
New home listings in the Atlantic City area are down slightly this year compared with January 2012, said Anthony D’Alicandro, president of the Atlantic City and AtlanticCounty boards of Realtors.
D’Alicandro, who owns Coldwell Banker Casa Bella Realtors in Linwood, said changes in interest rates will have a greater effect on coastal real estate than the storm.
Even in parts of Long BeachIsland hit hardest by the Oct. 29 storm, agents said there is no mass exodus of sellers at this point.
Long Beach Island had 73 new listings in January compared with 87 a year ago, said David Wyrsch Jr., of Stafford Township, broker and real estate manager for the Van Dyk Group based in Long Beach Township.
“We’ve listed three houses that are pretty much as-is teardowns because of the storm,” he said. “Everyone thinks we’ll see a little more of that.”
Wyrsch said much of Long BeachIsland is well on the road to recovery. Many homes were largely spared by the storm’s wrath. And owners whose homes sustained significant damage could postpone any decision about selling, renovating or rebuilding until they know more about their neighborhood’s flood maps, he said.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty now, which is why you’re seeing fewer houses on the market here this month compared to last year. People are having a harder time figuring out what to do,” he said.
“If people were going to flock to get off the island, you’d see a dramatic rise in the number of houses going on the market. We haven’t seen that. But there will be homes that people will walk away from.”
Roger Weber, a broker with Oceanside Realty in SurfCity, said the storm and new flood maps are just part of the equation in deciding to buy or sell at the shore.
“It’s all about price. It’s wood and nails. We don’t see any mass exodus,” he said. “I don’t see widespread panic like people thought.”
Weber spent the storm in his SurfCity home even as floodwaters turned his elevated house into its own island for two days. He said SurfCity is showing its resiliency both in its real estate market and its people.
“I had a generator going and the wood stove. My wife was getting tired of looking at the water for two days,” he said.