The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy launched a private construction boom that is just starting to fade in the wealthier southernmost towns of Absecon Island, while the slow trickle of FEMA money now starting to come in means more construction and demolition is shifting to the northern end of the island.
Certificates of occupancy for new homes are down in Margate and Longport this year through September, while data from state permits show demolition and construction has picked up this year in Ventnor and Atlantic City.
You can download – for a small fee – here our full data set showing construction, demolition, certificates of occupancy and residential additions in Ventnor, Margate and Longport since 2010.
Ventnor has seen an unprecedented spate of new construction in the last 18 months, while new certificates of occupancy have slipped in Margate and Longport since last year.
Jimmie Agnesino, construction code official in Ventnor, said the pickup in construction in the town is mostly due to the fact that FEMA money is now starting to reach homeowners. “The money from the state really started flowing in the last year,” he said.
At the same time, more second-home buyers are now considering Ventnor. “We have quite a bit of stock still that was affected by Sandy and they’re getting these properties at a reasonable price – I think that’s a big part of it,” Agnesino said.
In Margate, where a rash of homes were torn down in 2013 in the immediate aftermath of the storm, there is now a surplus of new homes on the market and the pace of demolition has slowed.
Judi Cohen, realtor at Fox & Roach in Margate, said there are 63 newly-built homes available right now, plus 15 further south in Longport. “That’s very large inventory…and they’re not running away,” she said. Cohen said some of the properties had been on the market for one to two years and are priced high, while the market is flat. Margate has been slowly changing to become more of a second-home community, like Longport, Cohen said. “Most people here are summer residents, the all-year residents are diminishing,” she said.
Still, homebuilders remain bullish on new homes in Margate – especially those built close to the beach for the second-home market. “Margate is still the closest shore point to Philadelphia,” noted Jeff Kaliner of Oasis Property Group.
In an interview at the Oasis cafe on Ventnor Ave in Margate last week, just as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, Kaliner said the second-home market was holding steady. Since many second-home buyers pay cash, the interest rate decision is unlikely to affect that market, he explained.
Oasis Property Group has had a number of new home starts in Margate and Longport since the demolition moratorium ended mid September, Kaliner said. Since builders cannot get construction permits until after demolition, it is possible the Margate and Longport construction numbers for 2016 will pick up once the data is updated to include permits through December, he noted.