New Reality of Shore Real Estate

Amid post-Sandy uncertainty, buying opportunities await.

Bay Watch: This 4,200-square-foot home on Barnegat Bay in Lavallette is on the market for $3.19 million. It sustained only minor garage flooding during Sandy.
Photo courtesy of Childers Sotheby’s International Realty

Knowing the right time to buy or sell real estate is always a tricky matter. Nowhere is it trickier than the Jersey Shore, particularly in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Driving down the Shore on Route 35, even today you can see the devastating impact of Sandy in places like Mantoloking, where multimillion-dollar homes were wiped from existence. Throughout the Shore, homeowners and property owners are still wrestling with crucial questions involving flood insurance, flood maps, home elevation, FEMA payments, lawsuits, dune projects and easements.

For many who own properties at the Shore, the ultimate question is whether to stay or sell. Similarly, those around New Jersey who have always longed for a place by the sea are asking: Is this the time to buy?
Lee Childers, owner of Childers Sotheby’s International Realty in Normandy Beach, sees plenty of post-Sandy opportunities for buyers. “Within two years, the Jersey shoreline from Point Pleasant Beach to Island Beach State Park will be much wider, with beautiful white sand pumped from offshore,” predicts Childers. “Route 35 will be brand new with a bike path. The Jersey Shore will look better than ever, so it is a no-brainer to buy something now. In a few years, you will be glad that you did.”

For sellers, life is more complicated. Beyond the decision of whether to stay in storm-damaged homes that often have decades of sentimental value, there are many practical considerations. “Before Hurricane Sandy, buyers [of Shore properties] were looking for turnkey, renovated homes,” says Mary Cericola, manager of the Barrier Island office of Crossroads Realty in Lavallette. But after Sandy, that is not always the case.

That’s because the market is filled with discounted homes. “We have gutted and distressed houses at about 40 percent below market value or land value only,” says Cericola. On the other hand, some buyers prefer “a newly renovated or new-construction home at fair market value.” Typically, her advice to homeowners is to sell “as is.”

Naturally, some Shore points look more attractive than others. Childers says towns such as Point Pleasant Beach, Lavallette and Bay Head remain strong real estate markets because—while many homes sustained damage—they were better protected during Sandy by well-managed dune systems. The opposite is true in hard-hit places like Mantoloking and Ortley Beach.

In general, says Cericola, “buyer confidence is building. Immediately following Sandy, everyone was apprehensive. But today, I have not seen many people being worried to come down. Everyone loves the Jersey Shore.”

Apparently, the banks are not standing in the way of qualified buyers. “In terms of the borrower’s experience and the loan process, nothing significant has changed post Hurricane Sandy,” says Christopher Copley, regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank. “What we are seeing more of, however, are different types of loans. For example, we’re seeing more construction loans to aid homeowners in their rebuilding efforts.”

Copley says the story on loan rates shouldn’t change anytime soon. “Industry predictions call for rates to stay between 4.25 and 4.75 percent over the next six months, which is still an attractive interest rate for buyers.”

The bottom line: Whether you are thinking of buying or selling at the Shore, the usual rules apply. You have to use your head, but there is always room for trusting your gut. After all, we are talking about the Jersey Shore, which, beyond all the bricks, mortar, seawalls and sand, is a place of the heart.

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