Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Look At Housing Along Route 35 After Sandy

Nothing speaks of the charm and vibe of the Jersey Shore like the summer rental, especially on the barrier island from Bay Head to Seaside, along Route 35. For generations, many a round of mini-golf has been played and many a heart has been broken on warm summer nights between the Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, this strip of land, sometimes no more than few blocks wide, was among the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Countless reports have described the damage to the infrastructure and homes along the ten miles of Route 35 from Bay Head to Seaside and as Sandy fades from the news, the job of recovery goes on.

View from the top of the Mantoloking Bridge looking east.
January 27, 2013.
Route 35, from Point Pleasant to Mantoloking has been closed for the most part since the storm, but on February 1, the road will re-open from Point Pleasant south to its terminus in Seaside Park. Motorists will not be able to turn onto side streets in Mantoloking and other affected areas without proof of residency but the fact the highway is open at all is a major step forward. If you decide to take a ride, be aware that motorists are also subject to random stops and searches by the police because looting is still a major concern.

This begs the question about what the summer rental season will be. Many of the bungalows and rental homes in Ortley Beach, Normandy Beach and Lavallette were flooded in the storm, while others were completely lost to it. A reasonable estimate would be that 90% of all the homes in the area suffered severe damage from flooding and it will take some time for rental inventory to rise again. There is also a growing fear among area residents that new regulations and insurance costs will price middle class owners out of the area and that the small rental home everyone who has ever been to the Jersey Shore is familiar with will eventually cease to exist. This would be as great a tragedy to the memories of those of us who grew up here as the storm itself.
On January 23, Governor Christie announced new regulations that are onerous to homeowners without a large cash reserve, and many fear that we have begun the inexorable drift to a shoreline that looks like the Outer Banks in North Carolina – the small clusters of summer homes and bungalows being replaced by larger homes on larger lots.

A summer home on Inlet Drive in Point Pleasant Beach.
The new regulations include a requirement that homeowners spend the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to raise their homes on pilings to reflect the new FEMA floodmaps released in December, 2012, or face flood insurance premiums as high as $31,000 per year.  Grants of up to $30,000 are available from the government, but the grant process is long and many homeowners face having to begin the rebuilding process before they receive the grant money. The fears all of us along the shore have dealt with our entire lives has now become a reality – rebuild against an ocean that will do what it wants, when it wants, or change the very face of the Jersey Shore that has become a home to so many people, if even for a week or two during the summer.
The power and fury of the Atlantic Ocean is now a stark reality to the tens of thousands of residents who  never experienced this type of storm before. For years, residents in the newly developed areas of the Jersey Shore were warned that a storm would eventually come and wreak havoc, and that storm came on October 29, 2012.
"I'm doing the best I can to help folks," Christie said during Wednesday’s announcement in Seaside. "But the government cannot be the guarantor of a good result for everyone. I can't fix every problem. Any politician who gets behind a mic and tells you they can fix every problem is a liar."
Like this row of bungalows in Ortley Beach, many homes were flooded
but left standing.
Understanding the summer season is a mere four months away, I sat down with a local realtor last week  to talk about the initial forecast for the summer rental season and to get a feel for the real estate market in general in the affected areas. What I heard was both dismaying and uplifting – much like the story of the entire region since the storm hit.
At this time in a normal season in Point Pleasant Beach – an area that was completely flooded – ten homes would be on the market for summer rental and there are currently six, which is an encouraging number. Indications are that Point Pleasant Beach will see the full inventory of summer rentals available by Memorial Day. Areas in Manasquan (to the north) and the Brick and Toms River areas on the barrier island (to the south) may see a smaller percentage of homes available, but the situation is not as dire as I thought it was before speaking with Kathryn Fencik, a Sales Rep at the Weichert office in Point Pleasant Beach. "This summer, the beach will be here, the boardwalk will be here, and the fun will be here,” Fencik said, in spite of the fact that there are still hurdles to navigate throughout the region.
Looking south along the boardwalk in Point Pleasant, from the Inlet to
Jenkinsons. Picture was taken December 30, 2012.

The commercial area of the boardwalk in Point Pleasant is on track to be opened by the time the season is in full swing, and in fact, many businesses on the boardwalk itself are open for business now. The area to the north of Jenkinson's and the commercial area may still not be ready until after the season starts. The Aquarium at Jenksinon’s, which took quite a blow from the storm, is scheduled to re-open for Easter weekend. (Easter weekend is traditionally the start of the weekend season along the boardwalk, with Memorial Day weekend heralding the start of the full-time season).

According to Fencik, one change we may see this year is that summer rentals of inland properties (a mile or so from the beach) may become attractive alternatives to vacationers who are shut out of their traditional Jersey Shore vacation because of diminished inventories.
Brick Twp, between Rt 35 and the ocean.
As far as the health of the market for sales, there is mixed news depending on whether you are buying or selling.  “If you ever dreamed of owning a summer home, this may be the summer to make your purchase,” Fencik said. She is currently aware of seven homes that are available for well-below market price because of flood damage, with one house in particular that had to be completely gutted inside, reduced in price by $100,000. In Point Pleasant Borough alone there are another seven homes that the owners simply decided to walk away from. While this is devastating news for the homeowners, prospective buyers should be aware of the opportunity to take on a true handy-man special with tremendous reward potential.

Another home in Point Pleasant Borough sustained minor damage and the selling price has been reduced from $600,000 to $400,000.

While there is still much work to be done, and there are still many people who are reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, a trip down Route 35 on the barrier island tells the story of a resilient region picking itself up, dusting itself off, and getting on with the job of rebuilding the Jersey Shore.

Advice for vacationers for this summer is to still come “down the Shore” but to plan early.

All pictures this page © 2013 Jack Sharkey

No comments:

Post a Comment