No real estate agent can promise warm summer weather to people who rent vacation homes from them.
But agents up and down the South Jersey coast can say the unusually warm weather this winter has sent them more customers looking to rent vacation places this summer.
Rachel Albert, rental manager at Keller Williams Jersey Shore in North Wildwood, said as of last week, business was up about 47 percent over the same period last year.
“The season started incredibly quickly. It’s been gangbusters,” said Albert, who believes the warm weather “has a lot to do with it.”
When things warm up where the summer renters live, typically the Philadelphia area or northern New Jersey, “people always want to come down,” she said. “They’re not used to wearing shorts in February.”
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Deedra Bowen, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach in Ocean City, agrees business got a nice bump out of the spike in temperatures last month. That was particularly true over the long Presidents Day weekend, Bowen said.
In 20-plus years as an an agent, she has mainly dealt with summer rentals, and she knows Presidents Day weekend has always been a popular winter weekend for people to visit the shore and book their vacations.
She also knows that for most of those years, the shore weather for that weekend was miserable. This year was definitely different, with highs near 70 on the local mainland, and Bowen said real estate offices were among the businesses that basked in that warmth.
“We’re probably looking at about a 10 percent increase in rentals,” she said of Ocean City, which has more than 4,500 properties available for rent by the week, making it the biggest rental market in Cape May County.
But Ocean City’s prices haven’t changed dramatically with that jump in business, said Bowen, who also leads the rental committee for the Ocean City Board of Realtors.
Price increases have generally been “a small amount and not every property,” she said.
Cathy Moeller, owner of Sea Breeze Realty in Surf City and Beach Haven, sees a similar pattern on Long Beach Island.
“Anybody who did renovations, those prices have gone up a little,” she said. “But typically, (weekly) prices are within $50, $75 or $100 of what they were last year.”
Moeller said the volume of rentals is also higher on her island, which stretches along 18 miles of southern Ocean County.
“It’s been super busy. Our inventory is really gone for the prime weeks,” which most agents say are the last two weeks in July and first two weeks in August. “I’d definitely say we’re fuller faster than last year.”
The first places to go are usually ones that offer special amenities, Moeller added.
“If people are looking for dog-friendly (houses) or looking for pools, I’d have to say most of those properties are already gone,” she said.
In Cape May, Ann Degener of Jersey Cape Realty said summer bookings were busy in January, and overall, “I think they’re going to be about the same if not better than last year. And last year was pretty spectacular.”
She also sees weather patterns as a key in that business pattern.
“They never got in that winter mode of being depressed and nobody does anything,” she said. “It gets warm and people start calling us again, because that reminds them of the beach.”
But a few islands to the north, in Stone Harbor and Avalon, agent Holly Rennie isn’t sure whether the weather is behind that increase in business.
“We don’t have enough inventory for the demand,” said Rennie, of Ferguson Dechert Real Estate. When many owners sell their shore homes now, the buyers don’t want to rent them out anymore, she said. They want to use the places themselves.
“Our customer base is growing, but our inventory isn’t,” she said.
She also thinks people are locking in their vacation dates earlier, responding to their children’s schedules of sports, camps and more.
“Our market demand has moved earlier each year,” she said, remembering when Presidents Day used to be when people tried to get a jump on the season. “Now they’re booking in October. They’re booking again for next summer before they leave.”