For Cherry Hill residents Rose Anne and Andy Noll, no place on the Jersey Shore made more sense to buy a secondary home than Ocean City.
Their final choice was between Ocean City and Atlantic City because they were the closest drives from their Camden County home.
They purchased a condo on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City because the couple are not gamblers. They like being close enough to visit Atlantic City, but they said they don’t need to live there.
“Andy and I are beach people, always have been,” said Rose Anne Noll, 63, who added the drive is 65 minutes one way in the offseason. “We use it as a getaway, an oasis. ... The other reason we chose Ocean City was because the town itself has so many activities. In other shore towns in September, they roll up the sidewalk, and that’s the end of that.”
The Nolls own a house in what is the hottest secondary home market in the country for the second year in a row, according to SmartAsset, a financial technology company based in New York City.
The number of Ocean City mortgages for primary residences was 744. The number of mortgages for secondary residences was 2,865, which means the percentage of mortgages for secondary residences was 79.38 percent, which is the highest in the nation, SmartAsset said.
Many of the top places to buy a secondary home are vacation markets.
Barnstable, Massachusetts, the largest community on Cape Cod, came in fourth. Kahului, on the island of Maui in Hawaii, came in eighth.
The Atlantic City metro area finished 10th on the list.
The high price of Ocean City real estate opens it up to be a secondary home market for people who live in larger metropolitan areas where they make more money, according to real estate agents.
The average household income for secondary home buyers in Ocean City is $288,000, but the U.S. median household income is around $60,000, said AJ Smith, vice president of financial education for SmartAsset.
One of the main attractions Ocean City has is that it is a dry town, meaning it does not allow alcohol sales, said Kristina Doliszny, who has been in the market for 10 years as vice president of the Ocean City Real Estate Group, which is affiliated with Keller Williams South Jersey Realty.
“That’s probably the No. 1 reason that drives property values because it essentially, intentionally or unintentionally, creates an environment that is extremely family-friendly,” she said.
Typically, what happens in Ocean City is that a family will spend between three and five nights in a hotel during their first visit, Doliszny said.
“They fall in love with Ocean City. Then they end up coming back maybe one or two times consecutively whether it’s the same season or the following season. Then they are usually incentivized in some fashion, because they really like coming here multiple times, to buy,” she said.
Ocean City secondary home residents usually upgrade to more expensive accommodations over time, Doliszny said.
The homeowner who starts off with a three-bedroom, two-bath duplex frequently moves into a unit that is either larger or closer to the beach, or both, Doliszny said.
If circumstances allow, that person may eventually buy a single-family home in Ocean City, she said.
“Sometimes people don’t go right into a single-family home, but they usually end up there,” Doliszny said.
When Damon Bready, president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors, heard the municipality topped the chart, he wondered why when there were other places nationwide that have warmer weather for longer periods of time.
“One of the biggest things is that it has been a generational city or town. A lot of people, who have been coming here for generations vacationing with their families at the shore, drive from any of the suburbs of Philadelphia and Delaware. It’s quick to get here,” Bready said. “They know what they are going to get. It stays consistent.”