Fourth quarter real estate sales down in Ocean City

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Realtors optimistic for 2014

Ken Sedberry, 2014 president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors. Ken Sedberry, 2014 president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors.

OCEAN CITY — Rolling into the last quarter of 2013, Kevin Redmond hoped that the slow-to-get-started, post-Hurricane Sandy real estate market would end up about even with where the city was in 2012. Down about 10 percent at the end of December, the past president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors said the fall market fell flat.

“I thought we had an honest shot at wiping out that deficit, but it was slower than we had hoped,” he said. “We had hoped it would be busier.”

However, the first quarter of 2014 gives him hope, Redmond said. The phones are ringing and people are looking, so the New Year is off to a good start, he said. Redmond said he’s happy to close the door on 2013 – and Hurricane Sandy.  

In the first quarter of last year, sales were down about 35 percent. Sales were down 25 percent in the second and 20 percent in the third. It looked like the fall market, off to a strong start, would erase the lackluster start.

The government shutdown followed by the unveiling of the problem-plagued government healthcare website in October “cautioned buyers,” he said.

“The threat of a shutdown created uncertainty,” he said. “Obamacare came right after that and people got concerned. Because we are a second home market, we are tied into these things. It’s a clear indicator of outside influences.

“We serve an upper middle-class population and they are affected by Obamacare,” he said.

A lot of the would-be buyers are business owners, Redmond said. With disposable income a concern, Redmond said buyers felt somewhat reluctant.

“We always slow down at the holidays, but with this uncertainty leading into it, it sort of hit us harder,” he said. “It’s not a horrible thing, considering. It was a tough year. We muddled through Sandy. We had flooding and reconstruction issues.”

Looking back on the year, Redmond remained positive.

“All things considered, we had a pretty good year, really,” he said. “All-in-all, despite being down a little bit, it was positive.”

Hurricane Sandy is now in the rear-view mirror, Redmond said.

“Clearly, we can say we have put Sandy behind us in a lot of ways,” he said. “That is not to say that there are not still people out there dealing with issues. The island has recovered.”

Redmond said he has talked to professionals statewide in businesses that support real estate, such as title and mortgage companies and has found that Ocean City is “by far, way ahead.”

“We’ve had a lot of activity,” he said. “A lot of people are saying it looks like we’re going to have a good spring. The push really comes in February, but rentals have been very strong so far.

“We have less than 900 properties on the market,” he said. “We are actually having a hard time finding properties to sell people. I was looking for a four bedroom, first floor in the Goldcoast/south end and there were not many properties to choose from. Inventory in some niches is low. I think it’s going to be an interesting spring.”

Ken Sedberry, the new president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors, said he is “very optimistic” about 2014.

“We were pleased to see a decent amount of people in our offices over the weekend, after the cold snap broke,” said Sedberry, a Realtor for Berger Realty. “The phones were ringing; we had a lot of rental inquiries and wrote a lot of leases.”

Sedberry said the weather has not been favorable.

“In January and February is when we find out, when we get a pulse on the sales market,” he said.

He agreed with Redmond that 2013 was a tough year for the market.

“From a business standpoint, a lot of people were affected by Sandy,” he said. “As you look around now, the town is in great shape. Asbury Avenue looks great, the beaches look (really) good. Everything is coming together.”

Sedberry said he is enjoying his new role as the leader of the board of realtors and credited Redmond for his past leadership.

“I have a great executive board and board of directors and support staff; and a lot of good people volunteering to help,” he said.

Ocean City, he said, is a good place to live, work and play, and also visit.

“Things will be better this year,” he said. “The town is looking really good. Our vacationers and property owners were happy to see how quickly we bounced back.”

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