Like nation, Hammonton real estate market red-hot
Our Real Estate section along with ads on earlier pages, provides our readers with a service each week.
It’s a service they’re using more than ever.
What’s the service? Connecting buyers and sellers of residential and commercial properties with real estate professionals who can help them with what they need. (Go to page 49 to see this week’s Real Estate section.)
We all know that real estate has its booms and busts, but in the 24 years I have owned this newspaper, this shift upward in the value of local real estate has been on a positive trajectory that is unrivaled in the past quarter-century.
It’s not just here. The Wall Street Journal had it splashed across its front page and on its website last week. What’s interesting is that instead of bucking the real estate trends, which Hammonton has been known to do for a variety of reasons, we are moving up the escalator right along with nearly everyone else.
There are several factors for the current boom. Obviously, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is at the top of the list. Suddenly, we have what everyone wants: small town, small population, wide-open spaces, houses on larger lots, a downtown, uptown, Little Italy and business park, a public school district and a private high school and a significant amount of decent to excellent housing stock along with some remaining buildable open spaces.
About that open space: there isn’t much of it left. Careful readers of this column know that even the empty lot where my friends and I played football in my youth had a large modular home constructed on it in recent months. It seems like nearly every empty lot in town is seeing infill development.
Infill development is the kind you want to see built, because it uses the existing infrastructure instead of having new roads, sewer lines and other utilities build out and impact the environment. We’re seeing some of that as well. Truthfully, while cul-de-sacs aren’t my favorite type of development, they do tend to result in luxury homes that bring up the value of the neighborhood, and the town.
Switching back to infill development, what has been interesting is the fact that in Hammonton, even the infill development has been acting like the luxury homes one sees on a cul-de-sac. Take, for example, the relatively new housing on Walnut Street, extending to Old Forks Road. These are homes that would be the pride of any cul-de-sac, and yet they were built on an existing roadway that had existing infrastructure.
On a separate note, have you seen the prices remodeled homes that are decades-old are going for during this real estate boom? Hundreds of thousands more than they sold for decades ago, that’s for sure. While there has been work done to these homes, it is increasingly apparent to me that what’s driving the price are the qualities of the town I mentioned coupled with the idea that homes are an excellent investment right now nationwide.
Will the bubble burst? Excellent question. First, is there a bubble yet? I don’t believe there is. Consider that in Atlantic County, we haven’t even put all the casino workers back to work yet, which will be a huge factor in housing values countywide (although it may not be as large a factor in Hammonton, where there are far less casino workers than there used to be). The real estate market may continue to roar for a while, as more people leave the cities for small towns like Hammonton.
Culturally, this is going to create some shifts. The people who move here will not have the same needs and wants as the people whose families lived in Hammonton for generations. They will impact our schools, our municipal government, our politics, our athletics, our churches, our civic clubs—virtually every aspect of Hammonton life. People don’t just buy a home in Hammonton. They buy into a lifestyle.
How we all come together and find common ground depends on how each of deals with one another on a personal basis. The idea would be that we became a better town through blending what’s here now with what’s new.
Lastly, what happens if that real estate bubble does burst?
Well, we all lived through it the last few times the bubble burst, right?
Just keep everything in perspective and in balance.
Moderation is the key—including in real estate matters.
It may be tough to maintain, but it does work.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.