The winter rental has gone cold in beach towns around South Jersey.

The offseason deals have mostly vanished like the snows from past winters, and the number of these rentals on the market has also dropped, local real estate professionals said.

“The problem is finding those properties,” said Donna McKenna, a Landis Co. agent in Sea Isle City who knows of about a dozen owners willing to rent in the winter. But only some of them are for the whole winter, instead of by the month or even long weekends, she said.

“There are a lot of reasons why the owners don’t want to do that,” McKenna said. “Realistically, what can you charge? ... I think a lot of it is all the wear and tear you get on the property, and you can’t really get enough (in rent) to cover that. People who are going to rent in the winter probably can’t afford as much, and you do get a decent amount of wear and tear” from having people living there every day.”

Larry Campbell, an agent in Balsley Losco Real Estate’s Margate office, sees owners trying to charge enough to make sure a winter rental is worth the trouble.

“The prices have gotten to be close to the same” for winter and year-round rentals, Campbell said, which means the winter option is too expensive to deal with the hassles of tenants needing to find another place by Memorial Day.

He said renters “are figuring that out: Why pay $1,300 for this when I can get something just as nice year-round for $1,400 or maybe $1,450?”

He added that he knows places that are available for the winter, but “you have a lot of seasonal stuff this year that sat,” unrented.

Scott Di Stefano, of Re/Max Carrier in Brigantine, agrees that “we don’t get that much activity on winter rentals” anymore.

Still, there has been some interest from poker players looking for a cheap rent “so they can play poker all winter” in Atlantic City, he said. DiStefano has also spotted a bump in the winter-rental market following Hurricane Sandy from homeowners who need to clear out of their own houses.

“We’re seeing some temporary rentals because of house liftings,” he said. “I have a few clients calling me and looking for rentals while their houses are being raised.”

But back in Margate, Campbell said that can be a sticky situation if those elevation projects run into delays.

“The big problem with the whole business of house-raising is that the three-month estimate could turn into six or seven months,” he said.

Students at what’s now Stockton University were once good candidates to fill summer homes in past winters, because their academic year was almost the perfect opposite of the local beach season. The college traditionally hosted “housing fairs” to help students connect with landlords with places to fill, including winter rentals.

But that market, and the housing fairs, apparently dried up after Stockton opened a new dormitory complex in 2008, and then bought the current Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in 2010.

Bart Brigidi, of Vineland, owns two places in Ocean City and hopes to move there when he can. He rents them out for the winter and said he had no trouble finding tenants this year. He advertised them in August and had leases on both by mid-September.

“I have a mortgage, and I want to make sure they’re filled,” he said. “But some people get goofy on their pricing.”

Linda Taylor, of the Landis Co., has been in real estate about 20 years, now in Sea Isle but before in Ocean City. She remembers winter leases for fairly new, four-bedroom houses in Ocean City going for $800 a month. But she’s seen owners shy away from winter rentals in recent years, partly because having full-time tenants can hurt their chances at getting weekly rentals in the summer — and those vacation rentals are where the real money is in an investment property.

“When they get in there, sometimes they don’t want the property to be shown to summer renters, or they don’t keep it up right. That’s not to say we don’t have any winter rentals. They’re just not like they used to be,” Taylor said. “You can do so much better doing summer rentals, and the owners can use the place in the offseason.”

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