Looking for a Jersey Shore house to rent? Real estate agents share tips as interest rises due to COVID-19

Looking for a Jersey Shore house to rent? Real estate agents share tips as interest rises due to COVID-19

Vacationers are not shying away from booking rentals at the Jersey Shore despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Everyone is a little stir-crazy after months of quarantining. Plus, road tripping is viewed by many as a safer alternative to jetting off to far-flung locales.

Real estate agents up and down the Jersey Shore say an uptick in demand this year is piggybacking off a successful 2020 season that saw a record number of vacationers flock to the Shore in mid- to late summer, followed by an unusually busy fall and holiday season.

Several factors are fueling demand, ranging from flexibility with telecommuting to pandemic fatigue as families have been staying close to home for months. In addition, with lockdowns and travel restrictions, fewer people are traveling out of the country to destinations such as the Bahamas.

If you are considering a vacation rental, here are a few pro tips to help you out:

Don’t delay

Realtors caution this year’s accelerated demand is destined to hurt those who wait.

“There’s plenty here to rent right now. The velocity of the rentals is what’s ramped up,” said Jack Binder, co-owner of The Jack Binder Group in Avalon and Stone Harbor with his wife, Cindi.

He advises making reservations now rather than wait until spring when inventory is projected to be low: “I can’t imagine what the customer in March is going to find this year.”

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Expect limited choices

Right now the biggest hurdle for Realtors is a lack of inventory. Ami Menz of Coastline Realty in Cape May, New Jersey said inventory is so low, she’s begging anyone with rental homes to make them available.

But some homeowners no longer want to rent because they are permanently using their homes, whether for a few weeks or all summer, or don’t want to rent due to safety or health concerns related to the pandemic.

Binder noted more people are buying rental properties due to low interest rates, and turning them into second homes, which is shortening the supply.

Be flexible

You might not secure exactly what you want, whether a house with a pool or a convenient beach front. Due to limited inventory, Realtors say in some cases renters will have to make amends and be flexible about location or dates.

“If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack property, places like beach fronts, they always go early. So if your plan is to get something on the beach, definitely you can’t wait,” said Frank Shoemaker, broker with Berger Realty in Ocean City, N.J.

The Binders said they have one listing with a swimming pool left for one of the most sought-after weeks of the year, the end of July.

Exercise some creativity

Much like being flexible, brokers such as Ryan Vince of Tim Kerr Sotheby’s International Realty in Avalon and Stone Harbor said you have to be creative.

Renters who ordinarily book a property over multiple weeks, are running into issues this year with limited availability. Vince said they are splitting the weeks between two properties. It’s an inconvenience to move mid-vacation but one way to make a vacation work.

Likewise, Menz said she’s had large groups and families book multiple small homes in proximity to one another instead of renting one big home.

It’ll cost you

Parts of the Jersey Shore can be expensive. Large, top-of-the-line homes can run $25,000 a week in some towns such as Avalon and Stone Harbor. And, Vince noted renters should expect to pay more this year as some home owners are raising rates due to the demand. But the Binders noted most price hikes are on par with most years at about 3 to 5 percent.

Rethink the time of year

Summer is the most desirable time to go to the Shore. But more people are taking advantage of telecommuting and remote school and vacationing during the off-season. Last fall was one of the busiest in Cape May County as vacationers booked last-minute trips.

Even in January, Menz said couples and families are booking houses, if anything for a change of scenery after months of being cooped up. In fact, she said rentals in Cape May are booking for spring with groups taking advantage of the weather as well as attractions such as wineries, shopping and nature trails.

Expect COVID-related changes

COVID has certainly changed everything including rental leases.

Last year the pandemic upended many lease agreement as renters were unsure about their rights and obligations due to restrictions.

As a result, always look for a pandemic clause when leasing a property. The clauses give tenants full reimbursement in the case access to the town is restricted by federal, state, county or municipal governmental authorities.

Also, many renters are requiring tenants to bring their own bedding including sheets, blankets, comforters and pillows. Can’t bring your own? Several companies now offer linen rentals.

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