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The Demand for Shore Homes Increases for Main Line Residents

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Residents around the Main Line are increasingly searching for shore homes since the pandemic. Flexibility is key for buyers.

Every Thursday afternoon starting in spring, Sue Hippert leaves her Radnor office and heads to the shore in Sea Isle City, where she kicks off her summer routine several weeks early with other families who have second homes in Stone Harbor and Avalon. “My kids love swimming in the ocean and fishing. They’re outside, riding bikes,” says Hippert. “It’s a wonderful family-oriented lifestyle.”

Swayed by the pandemic, an increasing number of Main Liners are viewing the Shore as more of a year-round destination—and the demand for homes has boomed. In Stone Harbor, two houses on a rare double oceanfront lot recently attracted a flood of interest from buyers. The new owner paid $13.1 million, promptly razing both structures to make way for something bigger to go with his 147 feet of ocean frontage.

shore home

That’s the norm these days. In 2021, four of the five most expensive home sales in New Jersey were in coastal communities. Buyers from our region who’ve vacationed at the Shore for generations are now competing with bidders farther north who’ve been priced out of places like the Hamptons in New York.

At Goldcoast Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City, Burton Wilkins III sold two $5 million homes in a single week in Stone Harbor, where the average sale price is $3.5 million. The seller of one bayfront property with an in-ground pool and dock recently raised its list price from $5.8 million to $6.5 million. That’s $2,385 per square foot.

Still, there are opportunities for buyers willing to compromise on size, location or both. “When COVID came raining down on us, condo sales suffered and single-family sales rocketed because people didn’t want to share pools and decks with other households,” Wilkins says.

Wilkins jumped in and bought a penthouse condo for $375,000 at Gardens Plaza, a 15-story beachfront property in Ocean City. He took it down to the studs, refurbishing the unit from top to bottom. “It needed everything, and I wondered what I was getting myself into,” he says. “Now that it’s done and I’m enjoying the phenomenal views, I’m so glad I bought it when I did.”

Wilkins also encourages buyers to cast a wider net. Avalon, where the average sale price is $3.53 million, is out of reach for many. Less than 30 miles north toward Atlantic City, price points are significantly lower. In Margate, $1.5 million will get you a five-bedroom, three-bath home with a gourmet kitchen and three decks in the desirable Parkway neighborhood within walking distance to the beach and restaurants. In nearby Ventnor, a circa-1930 home less than two blocks from the beach is listed at $749,000. “People get fixated on a certain island—sometimes even a certain block,” Wilkins says. “If they’re willing to try Strathmere or Margate, they’ll find homes that are more accessible.”

As for the rental market, that’s tightened up, too. Homeowners are holding onto more summer weeks for themselves—and many, like Hippert, aren’t renting at all. RE/MAX agent Joseph Mayo IV has been selling and leasing properties on Long Beach Island for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, his parents would rent a place for the entire summer, packing clothes for Mayo and his eight siblings into trash bags. “These days, we’re seeing large homes renting for $17,000 a week, and families are going in together to be able to afford it,” he says.

And what about buyers? “You can’t get a hovel for less than a million bucks,” he says, adding that even buyers with rock-solid credit are coming up short in bidding wars.

Many sellers are looking for cash, which avoids the hassle that often accompanies sale prices higher than a bank’s appraisal. “The market is going up so fast that appraisals aren’t keeping up with it,” says Mayo.

“You can’t get a hovel for less than a million bucks.”

His advice to buyers: Think ahead. Make the property more attractive to the next owner by snapping up the largest lot possible. That buyer, after all, will likely demolish the home and build something new. “You can find opportunity, but you’re not going to check all the boxes,” he says.

As for prospective sellers, even the lure of a big payday isn’t enough for many. “People are getting tired of receiving emails, phone calls and texts asking if they want to sell their homes,” Mayo says.

Hippert knows the feeling. She won’t budge on her Shore house. “We want to keep it in the family for our kids and their kids,” she says.

Related: Wylder Tilghman Island Is an Ideal Summer Getaway Near the Main Line

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