NJ shore summer rental market lagging post-Sandy

January 23, 2013 2:54:12 PM PST
The New Jersey shore is not as badly damaged as you think. That's what state officials are saying after a sluggish start to what's usually a prime time to book summer rentals.

It's images like those of storm-ravaged Ortley Beach that make people think ALL of New Jersey's 127 mile coast is destroyed.

"Don't get me wrong. It's bad," said Lavallette realtor Stephen Krug. "But most of the houses are still here."

Krug acknowledges the rental market is terribly slow right now. His office is fielding calls from clients who want to know if the houses they've rented for years are still standing, and if the boardwalk and businesses will be open come summer.

"I convince them to get down here," he said. "So far, from my point of view, as long as I've had the three or four tenants this week come down, they've rented the property."

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadano stopped at several locations at the shore Wednesday, including a hardware store in Lavallette. They had to clean up the place after 30 inches of water flooded it.

"We are one of the few businesses open," said Lavallette Hardware's Randy Shoemaker. "But we're also one of the main businesses that people need at this time."

"What we'd like people to know is that the Jersey shore is open for business now," said the lieutenant governor. "And in many cases, and certainly in five months when the season starts, they'll be ready for them to come to the Jersey shore."

In Cape May County, where beaches, homes and businesses survived Sandy relatively unscathed, tourism officials are worried vacationers will go elsewhere because they think all of the shore has been devastated.

"Right now people are making their plans, formulating their vacation plans for the summer and we're getting calls because they're concerned," said Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland. "And we want to make sure right now that the message is out there: we're open, we're ready, and we can welcome you when you're ready to take your vacation."

The shore generates about half of the state's $38 billion tourism industry.

That's why some are pushing for a bill in Trenton that would steer $20 million into an ad campaign designed to get the word out that despite the reality of cleanup work still to be done, there are rentals, restaurants and other places that will be open for business this summer.