From Rehoboth to Brigantine, rental specialists said there's still something for everyone. Then again, some spots, and some weeks, are better than others. And prices vary. A lot.
Then and now
October 2012's Superstorm Sandy caused a small yet notable downturn in weekly rentals last summer. This year, area agents report a 10 to 20 percent increase in demand.
"We're having a good season, up about 15 percent from where we were last year, but there's still stuff left," said Frank Shoemaker, at Berger Realty's office in Ocean City.
Even for vacation housing, the old real-estate adage applies. "It's all about location," said Bacher, explaining, "Anything closer to the beach rents first. Things farther out come next."
Mike Mavromates, manager of Long & Foster's Avalon office, said on his coveted coastal haven, "Families with children generally prefer to be closer to the ocean. Those with no children or grown children, they want bayfront. That's the rule of thumb."
Still bargains left
Rent farther inland, and there are more choices - and lower pricing.
"You're paying more on the beach, and you're paying less as you go, street by street, down," Shoemaker said.
Carole Hewett, who's repped Wildwood Crest at the Hoffman Agency for nearly 20 years, said in her part of the island, "If you don't mind walking three or four blocks to the beach, you'll get a better rate." How much better? Could be $500 less per week on the Crest, $1,000 to $2,000 less in Cape May and upward of $3,000 less in Stone Harbor or Avalon.
Venture about a mile from the dunes, and you could also score a bargain rate plus a pool, as in Rehoboth's condominium complexes the Tides and the Grande at Canal Pointe. Although, then you'll likely have to drive to the beach (and pay $45 for a weekly parking permit). "Some people will bike. Some people will walk. But that's pretty ambitious," Bacher said.
When to go
Another way to save a few hundred or thousand bucks? Book in June, or later in August.
Selection next month is great - and rates then are low. "Many people can't come here on vacation until their children are out of school, so there's plenty available," Hewett said. And, with this winter's weather causing many schools to extend their year, beginning-of-summer inventory is even larger than usual.
Folks who have to wait until July to vacation should think the first half of July. "If you're looking for prime summer, your best bet is the week after July Fourth," said Noah Freda, of Sea Isle Realty, which specializes in side-by-sides and two- and three-bedroom condos.
Try to book a place in late July or early August - and be prepared for slim pickins' and soaring prices. "This year, the busy weeks are from July 26 to Aug. 2, and Aug. 2 to Aug. 9," Freda said. "For those two weeks, we have almost nothing left."
Rental reps agreed: "The last week in July and first week in August are getting much harder," said Vickie Banks, of Jersey Cape Realty in Cape May.
"Not much left over then," Hewett concurred.
Once again, vacationers who don't have to hew to school or sports schedules can reap benefits. Late August into September, when ocean temps are bathlike, days tend toward crystal clear and evenings become crisp, availability increases and prices dip.
Whenever you book, don't wait too much longer. "With the nicer weather, we see more people thinking about the Shore and wanting to be here again," said Banks, who put a plug in for her beach town. "Give us a call. We're gonna have a great summer in Cape May."
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