By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City now has something else to go along with those proverbial million-dollar views of the water.
Million-dollar home prices.
In some cases, $2 million – and up.
Reflecting a boom in the real estate market fueled by low mortgage rates, a surging stock market and the shore being seen as a safe haven from the COVID-19 pandemic, Sea Isle has now become a million-dollar housing market.
“It’s like the perfect storm,” Sea Isle real estate broker Nick Preuhs, of the Long & Foster Sea Shore Team, said of the favorable conditions boosting home prices.
The median sale price for homes in Sea Isle has now jumped above $1 million and shows no signs of slowing down over the summer because demand is high and inventory is low, real estate agents pointed out.
“If something is listed under $1 million, it goes like wildfire,” said Carol Hopely Russo, who heads the Sea Isle office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors.
“We have really jumped significantly,” Hopely Russo said of home prices. “What’s becoming a more common number is a home price with $1 million in front of it.”
Statistics for homes currently on the market – known as “active sales” – illustrate how Sea Isle has soared about the million-dollar threshold.
Hopely Russo said 25 percent of the homes on the market are selling for less than $1 million, 50 percent are above $1 million and the remaining 25 percent are more than $2 million.
“That’s what has changed so dramatically, that we now have $2 million properties,” she said. “That’s the shocking part.”
She said it used to be about a 50-50 split, with half of the homes selling for less than $1 million and the other half going for more than $1 million.
Since April, of a total of 84 homes sold in Sea Isle, 33 went for less than $1 million, 44 cost more than $1 million and seven were above $2 million or even $3 million, Hopely Russo said.
It’s not uncommon for Sea Isle homes to attract multiple offers from eager prospective buyers or for buyers to pay more than the list price, Hopely Russo and Preuhs explained.
Oceanfront, beach block and bayfront homes are now routinely breaking the $2 million mark.
“You can see the trend now. Before, we never had any homes over $2 million,” Hopely Russo said.
Preuhs said Long & Foster sold a new beach block home for $2.6 million three months ago and will close on another beach block sale this Friday for $2.15 million.
“At Long & Foster, we’ve done quite a few sales over $1 million and a few over $2 million. Our group is having our best year ever,” he said.
Underscoring the upward trend, Preuhs and Hopely Russo said Sea Isle is closing the gap in prices for luxury homes in neighboring Avalon and Stone Harbor, two traditionally high-end beach resorts.
Yet Sea Isle still falls short of Avalon’s home prices, positioning Sea Isle as a less expensive option for buyers hunting for attractive shore properties, Hopely Russo said.
Although the pandemic has had a devastating economic and health impact on so many communities nationwide, it has actually helped to drive the housing market higher at the Jersey Shore.
Homeowners living in crowded urban or suburban areas have fled to the shore, thinking that they can escape from the pandemic. The work-at-home trend that is replacing the traditional office workplace has allowed homebuyers to enjoy their shore retreats even more, Hopely Russo and Preuhs said.
“We hear more people say, ‘Let’s live at the shore full time,’” Hopely Russo said.
She also noted that Sea Isle’s red hot housing market is attracting more buyers now from New York and North Jersey, not just the traditional Philadelphia-South Jersey metropolitan area.
Sea Isle is also proving attractive as a rental market. A story in Realtor.com (https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/airbnb-bonanza-best-places-to-buy-a-vacation-rental-and-cash-in-on-the-post-pandemic-travel-boom) ranked Sea Isle as No. 2 in a national survey of the most profitable real estate markets for those thinking of buying a property to list on a rental site like Airbnb or Vrbo.
But as good as Sea Isle’s housing market has been challenges remain, including a low inventory of homes for sale at a time when demand is extremely high.
“It’s been a challenge for agents to get the inventory to keep things moving,” Hopely Russo said.
Only about 40 homes are up for sale in Sea Isle at this time, dramatically lower than what has been available in previous years.
“It’s been incredible. There’s not a ton of inventory now,” Preuhs said.
In comparison to the scant number of listings now, Hopely Russo recalled when more than 200 homes were on the market eight years ago. Preuhs said he remembers when 303 homes were up for sale around 2016 or 2017.
Preuhs believes the market will remain hot at least through the summer. After the summer vacation season is over, more homebuyers may start considering their options and decide to put their houses up for sale, he said.
“What I think may happen is, after summer, after Labor Day, we’ll have a little bump in inventory,” Preuhs said, adding that home prices may dip a bit then.