OCEAN CITY — The hulking, jingling walls of keys to summer rentals are as much a part of shore real estate offices’ decor as mounted deer heads at hunting lodges.
“You want people who walk through the doors to be blown away by that,” said Clay Rossiter, a broker at Fox Real Estate, where 1,700 keys line the office on Brighton Avenue in Ocean City.
South Jersey shore towns are gearing up for a busy rental season, which picks up in the weeks after Memorial Day weekend. Some agents say the booking season started very strong earlier this year — including bookings made nearly a year ago — and evened out in May.
“We did a lot of our leases early. We were running at a very high clip above the norm for a while, and then things kind of mellowed out with spring,” said Rossiter, who added the office is on pace with the previous two years.
Rossiter estimated more than eight of 10 of the season’s summer bookings have been made already. They include rentals that range from $1,500 to $3,000 per week, and higher-end properties that can reach $12,000 per week or more.
“On barrier islands, this is our lifeblood, the rentals,” he said.
On Saturdays in July and August, these offices will be bustling with vacationers dropping off keys early in the morning and others picking them up in the afternoon.
Agents said there are still shore rentals available. Some are existing properties with weeks that have not yet been booked; others are newly built or recently sold homes that were not listed previously.
Mary Lou Ferry, owner of Farley and Ferry Realty in Ventnor, said the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend is an exciting time.
While many properties are booked, Ferry said her office is continuing an online marketing push and hoping the weather will hold out.
“We need a couple of nice weekends to drive business,” Ferry said. “We’ve been getting calls this week for August rentals, but the warmer the weather, the more people start thinking about vacation.”
According to Ferry, late-season renters are often people looking to get out of areas near Cherry Hill and Philadelphia as temperatures heat up.
Some vacationers book as soon as possible.
Rental demand begins almost as soon as the season ends, said Mike Mavromates, branch manager at Long and Foster Real Estate in Avalon.
“A lot of renters have been booking earlier,” Mavromates said. “More than usual for this year in October and November.”
Mavromates said by February, his office was ahead of the previous year’s schedule by 20 percent. Marvomates said there was a strong demand for beach block or bayfront, single-family homes, although they are in short supply.
In Avalon and Stone Harbor, Mavromates estimated the average weekly rental rate is $4,000 to $5,000. But the trend has been for extended families to pool resources to rent a larger home, for up to $20,000 per week.
“We had a family that was going to need five bedrooms and three bathrooms for two weeks in August, which at this point, it’s next to impossible to find something available,” Mavromates said. “We actually worked with our other offices in neighboring towns to get specific rentals booked.”