From the NY Times:
FOR the shoreline real estate market, by unvarying tradition, spring arrives early. Sometime in mid-January, in all four coastal counties — Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May — the number of listings begins to swell and rises in small waves, usually reaching a peak by early April.
So far this year that pattern remains unbroken, according to brokers selling homes in the shore counties.
Price trends, on the other hand, appear to be breaking in unusual directions. A look at sales statistics from the last two years indicates that towns on beaches are doing less well than their counties-at-large, according to Jeffrey G. Otteau, the president of the Otteau Valuation Group in New Brunswick.
In one sense, this flouts Realtor wisdom, as proximity to water ordinarily translates unambiguously to premium prices. But economic uncertainty changes things, Mr. Otteau said. “People are more conservative about how much they will spend for a house, and especially a second house, if that is what they are looking to buy,” he said.
In Belmar, a beach community with 6,000 year-round residents, the median sales price in 2010 represented a 4.3 percent decline from 2009. It was $400,000, down from $418,000. Yet in Monmouth County, where Belmar is situated, the median price over that same period rose by 2 percent.
If you look at the average sales price disparity in this instance, it was even greater. Belmar’s was down by 15.1 percent, and Monmouth’s was up by 3 percent.
In 2007, when redevelopment of Belmar’s beachfront began, the median price reached a high of $456,000.
“For several years after that there was pricing arrogance in Belmar,” said Brian Church, a broker for Ward Wight Sotheby’s International Realty. “They had done a great job of improving their profile. But then sellers got a little cocky with pricing and it took a while for prices to come back down.”
Mr. Church said that many buyers “voted with their feet,” seeking lower-priced homes in nearby communities like Avon, Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach — until sellers in Belmar started to become more realistic about asking prices.
In Ocean County, where the median price did not change appreciably in 2010, it was down 7.56 percent in Seaside Heights, the honky-tonk beachfront town that is the film site for the TV reality show “Jersey Shore.” The most expensive house sold in Seaside last year went for $607,500; the median sales price was $220,000.
In Point Pleasant Beach, another popular Ocean County community, the median essentially stayed the same — $522,000 — but there were 17 percent fewer sales than in the previous year.
Down in Atlantic County the Atlantic City housing market, mostly condominiums, continued its rapid deterioration; the median price was down 20.1 percent, to $147,350. In more neighborhood-oriented Brigantine, by contrast, the price dipped 3.5 percent, to $308,500. Atlantic County’s median stayed flat, at $206,144.
In the southernmost county, Cape May, North Wildwood was one of the strongest markets. Indeed, it outdid the county, but not in very impressive style. Its median price declined by 0.3 percent; the county’s fell by 3 percent.