By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
All of you summer vacationers out there, listen up: Don’t wait to book your trips. If you do, you might miss out on that coveted rental property at the shore, realtors say.
Even though remnants of the last snowstorm are still on the ground and temperatures are struggling to break out of the freezing mark, the summer rentals market is red hot in Sea Isle City.
Realtors are reporting that there is extraordinarily high demand for rental properties – driven in part by the feeling that the shore is a safe haven for vacations during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s strong demand, no question about it,” said Carol Hopely Russo, who heads the Sea Isle office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors.
She noted that bookings for rental properties handled by Berkshire Hathaway are up 20 percent this year compared to the same period in 2020.
With the pandemic causing uncertainty about air travel to other vacation spots, people feel more secure knowing that they can drive to the shore for their summer getaways, Hopely Russo said.
“People just want to get away. They don’t know if they can go by plane, but they know that they can drive in their car,” she said in an interview Sunday.
She added, “We want everyone to be safe.”
Christopher Glancey, whose Shorebreak Resorts company rents out 33 upscale condominiums in Sea Isle, agreed that the shore is regarded as “a safe choice” for vacations during the pandemic, which is helping to boost business.
“We are way ahead at this point compared to last year,” Glancey said of his company’s bookings.
Noting that rental properties are booking up fast, Glancey is recommending that vacationers get a jump on their reservations now to have the best chance of locking in the weeks they want.
“I would recommend that people look at booking their vacations early rather than later, because by the summer it may be too late,” he said.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who also confirmed that summer rentals are particularly strong this year, said it seems that people are booking earlier than in previous years.
“From all indications and from what I’ve been hearing from realtors and homeowners that rent is that people want to be at the shore, and they want to be at their favorite getaway destinations, and in this case Sea Isle City,” Desiderio said.
High demand for summer rentals is another indicator of Sea Isle’s torrid real estate market overall, including the sale of homes and commercial property. Demand is so strong that realtors are struggling to find enough homes to sell, Desiderio pointed out.
“Sales in our community are also very strong and are selling at record numbers, according to realtors. I’m told that inventory for properties that are for sale is at an all- time low,” he said.
Single-family homes, condos and duplexes are all part of the inventory for summer rental properties. Typically, vacationers rent for a week, but Hopely Russo and Glancey said they are also seeing demand for two weeks or longer this summer.
“I have one rental for five weeks,” Glancey said.
Hopely Russo believes one reason renters are looking to book more than one week is the pandemic-related shift from working at the office to working more from home.
“I think the uncertainty of not knowing if they’ll ever go back to the office means that more people are working from home,” she said.
As is the case every summer, the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August are the prime times for vacation bookings. Fourth of July week is also popular.
Those prime weeks may be hard to get now if vacationers haven’t already booked them, according to Hopely Russo and Glancey.
Berkshire Hathaway, for instance, is currently showing just 13 properties that are available for rent during the weeks in late July and early August.
To ensure they will be able to get the same vacation weeks the following year, some renters are booking a year in advance. Hopely Russo said it is relatively common for renters to book a year ahead when they are wrapping up their vacation and checking out.
With higher demand also come higher prices. Hopely Russo estimated that rental rates are up about 10 percent compared to last year.
“People are willing to pay it,” she said, referring to the increased demand.
Rates for weeklong rental properties in Sea Isle generally range from about $2,000 for a two-bedroom condo to $4,500-$5,000 for a four-bedroom duplex, she said.
In the event there are any COVID-related cancellations like last summer, Hopely Russo believes that the property owners and renters will work together to resolve any issues.
“I think everybody’s being reasonable,” she said.
For now, with rentals moving at such a fast clip, the expectation is that Sea Isle will certainly have a solid summer, if not stronger.
“I think we’re going to be in good shape,” Hopely Russo said.
“This summer is going to be exceptionally busy with summer rentals,” Glancey added.
For more information, visit Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach REALTORS® or HOME | Shorebreak (shorebreakresorts.com)