Realtors see improvement in rental market

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OCEAN CITY — One of the snowiest, coldest winters on record hasn’t helped the local real estate market, but local professionals are expecting a busy spring to make up for a somewhat sluggish start to the New Year.

“Needless to say, with all the heavy snow and cold weather we have had, it hasn’t helped,” said Ken Sedberry, president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors.

Sedberry said there are many silver linings. Miserable winter weather was a mixed bag, he said. Ice and snow may have kept some would-be buyers on the sidelines, but prospective tenants went on the Internet in droves, creating a very favorable climate for a busy summer rental season.  

“The weather helped rentals,” he said. “Rentals are up 35 percent over last year. A lot of people had cabin fever and they got online or picked up the phone and booked their summer rental.

“We had a few nice weekends in March, even with the snow storms, where there was a nice Saturday, and a lot of people came down. When the weather gets awful, it can work in our favor. People start to think of Ocean City, sunshine and summer vacation,” he said.

Sales are up too, he said, just not quite as much as what many hoped.

“It’s up a little bit, more sales closed the first quarter of 2014 than the first quarter of 2013,” he said.

So far in 2014, the OCBOR recorded 142 closed sales, including residential, condominium, multi-family, commercial and land.

“Last year we had 134 in that same period,” he said. There were 54 closed sales in January, compared to 21 that month last year. February, he said, was up too but March lagged.

Of course, five snowstorms didn’t help much.

“All in all, I think this is good, despite the weather,” he said.

There are 974 active sale listings on the Multiple Listing Service, he said.

Gloria Votta, vice-president of the OCBOR, said the recent spring thaw is most welcome.

“I have seen a tremendous increase in traffic at open houses,” said Votta, a broker for Re/MAX at the Shore. “During the winter I hosted some open houses where there was nobody. I think the weather had a lot to do with that. People are not thinking about buying a house at the shore when they are shoveling snow.”

The same weather, she said, helped spike rentals.

“I had a hard time finding an available rental for a client the other day, everything was booked,” she said.

“All it takes is good weather,” she said, and the sales market starts to heat up too. “You get a couple of nice weekends and people want to get in the car and come down to the shore. You have a beautiful day and they’re here. We had a God-awful winter, let’s hope we have a real nice spring.”

Tax season, she said, doesn’t help.

“Every year, I don’t care what kind of market we have, there are a few slower periods,” she said. First, the Christmas bills arrive in January and then there is a slower stretch leading up to April 15.

“They have to figure out how much they owe the IRS,” she said. “We should see a surge between then and Memorial Day.”

Votta said she hosted an open house at a condominium on the boardwalk over a recent weekend.

“The boardwalk was packed,” she said. “You could see everyone was here for their Johnson’s Popcorn, for their Ocean City fix. They’ll be down this weekend and next for the ride ticket sale, for Easter.”

Votta said she is optimistic.
“I think we are going to have an awesome summer,” she said.

Sedberry concurred.

“Looking forward, we are anticipating a strong spring market, especially with the interest rates being so low and all of the positive things being promoted about Ocean City and the nice weather to come this spring,” he said. 

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