Throngs of renters looking for a place in the sun.
That’s the advice of a seasoned Ocean City rental manager about making vacation plans.
“We’re busier, definitely ahead of last year. It started out that way on Martin Luther King weekend,” Berger Realty Rental manager Deedra L. Bowen said.
“We’re always ahead, the norm is 10 percent, but right now we’re at 20 percent ahead of last year. This weekend has been huge,” she said, picking her way between a crowd of clients and their children at their bustling office at 3160 Asbury Avenue.
“The sun makes a difference,” she said as she carefully wended her way to her desk at a real estate business that has handled Ocean City properties for 90 years.
Bowen, who has been in real estate for 15 years, is seeing a few new trends.
First, there are more young families coming down with toddlers. Often they are third or fourth generation renters from the same family. Next — and related — demand has softened for gigantic multiple-generational houses as extended families are splitting off and looking for age-appropriate rentals better suited to their specific needs.
Tony and Marlene Bria of Warminster, PA, who have come to Ocean City each of the 32 summers they’ve been married, exemplify just that.
The couple, who rent through Monihan Realty, had rented the same multi-generational place for the past four years to accommodate both their older parents and their adult children.
On Sunday, they were looking for a more “kid-friendly” home for their grandchildren to vacation with them since Marlene’s mother and step-father are no longer coming to the shore. They’d scouted 12 locations and were ready to sign a lease.
“Something with space to store kids bikes and strollers,” Tony Bria said.
Michael Monihan, whose family began the eponymous real estate business in 1947, said the Internet, dual-wage earner families with limited vacation time and the competition of package vacations to exotic locations have changed the bustle of President’s Day weekend for renters, but the draw of picking out a place at the shore remains.
However, Ocean City’s prime rental season has shrunk as schools and activities run longer into June and school and activities start up again sooner in August. But demand for the heart of the summer is up this year over last year — and last year was their best year ever, Monihan said.
Nicholas J. Marotta, president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors, said members over all are reporting their rentals are up 10 to 14 percent over last season.
Most owners are holding the line on rates, all three Realtors agreed, a product of the stalled economy.
That suits Michael Messenger, a second-year renter from Pennington, NJ, seeking a “reasonably priced” and child-friendly rental through Berger. He had focused in on a property after reviewing several.
Monihan said they rent the smallest and oldest places for as little as $500 a week, while larger beachfront properties in the best locations command as much as $10,000 a week — and few ask for more.
The heart of Monihan’s market, though, is a three-bedroom, two bath place on Asbury Avenue in the 30s, which rents for $2,000 to $2,300 a week during the best weeks.
As for sales, Monihan and Berger’s Frank Shoemaker are seeing the start of price stability in what had been a dropping market for the past several years, but both said demand was mostly in the low-range to mid-level, with top-priced properties still very sluggish movers.
Sill, Marotta said the total number of property sales increased by five percent last year as buyers took advantage of lower property prices and low mortgage rates.
“As far ahead as we are, there will be no last-minute deals this year,” she said.
By Kevin C. Shelly
Ocean City Patch