Act Quick: Summer Rentals Are Going Fast

A strong start to the summer rental season could indicate a return to normalcy three years after Hurricane Sandy touched down on Jersey's shores.

Two summers have passed since Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey’s beaches. As the third summer approaches, the rental market seems to indicate a return to normalcy for most beach towns.

Real estate agencies up and down the Shore are reporting an early increase in summer beach rentals, viable proof that the Garden State is on track for full recovery.

Lee Childers, broker and owner of Childers Sotheby’s International Realty, with six locations from Point Pleasant Beach to Seaside, says although rental properties are reportedly being snatched up left and right—there’s still sufficient inventory for those looking to rent.

“Are all the rentals gone? No they’re not. There’s still plenty,” he says. “And one of the reasons is because we’re getting more inventory—houses have finally been remediated, repaired, raised—so we’re getting new inventory all of the time.”

Summer Rental Buccaneer Lagoon

This 5-bedroom bay front home in Mantoloking Shores is still available for rent this summer.

Coastal communities took a beating when Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012 and the effects are still visible, although locals have been working to rebuild their homes and businesses ever since.

Childers says his business was down 70-percent the summer after Sandy, when two-thirds of the 900 or so rentals Sotheby’s International previously represented were damaged, destroyed or otherwise affected by the storm.

“I’m asked a lot—was it less houses to rent or less people and my answer is: yes,” he says. “There were less people coming and we had less inventory to rent. A lot of people took 2013 off but they seem to be coming back, thankfully.”

Ortley Beach was particularly devastated. The small seaside community and section of Toms River is nestled between Lavallette and Seaside Heights.

On top of ongoing renovations being made to properties there, Childers says the 12.5-mile reconstruction of Route 35  has created its own problems in the area—which locals fear could continue into the summer.

Nearly complete in Bay Head and Mantoloking, the next phases of the project—run by the state Department of Transportation—is currently underway in Lavallette trickling south toward Seaside, with patches of Route 35 northbound and southbound currently closed for construction.

In years past, Governor Chris Christie halted construction for the summer tourism season. However, communities like Lavallette, where construction is underway, have received no official word from the DOT on whether the construction will be complete as originally expected.

“To be honest, I’m very disappointed in our governor,” Childers says. “A year ago he told the contractors they had to shut down at least on Route 35 and they could work on side streets and this year he has not done that. The locals here… we feel abandoned.”

Steve Schapiro, Communications Director with the DOT, says while work on the $340 million project is currently ongoing, it is expected that crews will complete their work in the coming weeks.

“All travel lanes will be available this summer for the entire 12.5-mile length of the Route 35 reconstruction project from Bay Head to Island Beach State Park. Crews are working tirelessly to get the remaining parts of the project completed with the majority of the work expected to be finished in the weeks ahead. Some shoulder work as well as work to complete curbs and sidewalk is expected. However, no work will be done in the Lavallette Business District between Brown Avenue and Bond Avenue on Route 35 northbound until after Labor Day.”

Childers says his clients are aware of the construction expected the last into the first few weeks of summer and luckily for the Shore, there’s strong support despite hurdles still facing the local communities.

“The resiliency of people wanting the Jersey Shore (to recover) has just blown me away,” he says. “The beach hasn’t been replenished yet, but people are still coming down.”

Head south a bit and Long Beach Island seems to be nearly back to normal.

Michele Timlin, sales associate with G. Anderson Agency, which represents properties all along the 18-mile stretch of barrier island, says lease counts are up more than 10-percent since this time last year.

Without a major roadway project like Route 35 in Ocean County, the effects of Sandy are less visible on LBI, Timlin says.

The most noticeable aftereffect is the raising of individual homes up and down the island, thanks to changes in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps.

Other than private construction to homes, Timlin says the island is ready for summer tourists.

“Everything has cleaned up nicely, things are being rebuilt, you will see homes being raised based on the new elevations but I think the island looks lovely,” she says.

Summer rentals LBI

This four-bedroom oceanside home located in Spray Beach on Long Beach Island still has some availability this summer season. Photo courtesy of G. Anderson Agency.

And summer tourists, it seems, are ready for the island.

“One factor (helping the rental market) is definitely the long winter,” Timlin says. “People are craving summer to come and to be at the beach or the bay.”

An average LBI-renter can still find nice, three-bedroom units for between $2,600 and $3,000 a week scattered throughout the island.

“I think people appreciate all areas of the island based on their taste and their families needs,” she says. “And we have a wide range of homes from two bedrooms to six or larger so there’s a great variety.”

Monmouth County, located north of where Sandy touched down in 2012, also seems to have bounced back nicely since the storm, says Tricia Beam, realtor with Coldwell Banker in Spring Lake.

“Monmouth County recovered pretty strong,” she says. “The towns that had a little bit more devastation were Belmar and Manasquan, and Belmar is pretty much back to normal at this point. But there are still some being rebuilt so they’re not available yet to rent.”

Beam says last summer ended on a positive note and it looks like this summer will begin and end strong.

“Sales are up about 5 to 6 percent,” over this time last year, she says. “And rentals are doing very well for July and August.”

Beam says “very few” rentals are still available for those looking to rent on a monthly basis, although it depends on price-range and how close a renter is looking to be to the ocean.

“There are still rentals available but they’re dwindling,” she laughs. “Some [rentals] are only available in October or late September or maybe there are only specific weeks left. But the monthly’s… there are very few left.”

Beam says Manasquan is probably the toughest town to find a weekly rental because the homes are often rented from year to year. On the flip side, she says there are still about 90 rentals left between Spring Lake and Sea Girt, depending on the week.

“If you’re looking to be, say within four blocks of the beach—you can still find a week or two here that rent from anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000,” she says. “Closer to the beach, it might be closer to $15,000 to $25,000.”

Beam says an alternative to renting in the summer months is to head to the Jersey Shore in early September.

“We do get a lot of people that want to come down in September, especially Labor Day weekend,” she says. “September is a beautiful month down here.”

The southernmost Shore towns, which mostly avoided Sandy’s wrath, are poised for another good summer says Allan Dechert, broker and co-owner of Ferguson Dechert Real Estate in Avalon.

In recent summers, many renters, who usually vacationed in the towns most affected by Sandy ended up heading south to places like Avalon, Stone Harbor and Sea Isle City. “We’re trying to keep them here,” Dechert laughs.

This summer is off to a strong start, Dechert says, and many of the valuable oceanfront properties are booked for the prime July and August weeks.

Despite this, there’s “no shortage of properties to rent,” and Dechert says he expects most of the 850 properties his agency represents, to be occupied.

“Everyone is tired of this past winter and started looking early so things are going well,” he says.

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