• Joseph F. Berenato

Realtors: 2021 looks promising


"The applications are starting to come in pretty good,” said Kevin Salerno, the on-site property manager at Main Road Apartments. (THG/Kristin Guglietti. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—If the real estate market in 2020 was any indication, the outlook in Hammonton for 2021 is exceedingly promising, according to area real estate agents.


“It’s crazy right now ... It’s amazing the amount of competition and activity there is right now in the area,” said Gabrielle Raso Carini of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors.


Philip Carr, of Crowley & Carr Real Estate, explained further.


“To talk about this year, you have to talk about last year—and how unprecedented it was. The whole world was shutting down, basically, and I thought that real estate was going to follow—and it had the complete opposite effect. In 2021, I would expect much of the same,” Carr said.


Ricky Mauriello, a RE/MAX Community owner, said that, thus far, there hasn’t been any change in the market from 2020.


“December was like June or July, in terms of how busy it was. It was the busiest December I and my team has had in my entire 18-year career. The numbers still aren’t at the 2006 prices—and I don’t think we’ll get back to that—but the numbers are the highest they’ve been in the past decade ... I just did our numbers for the first two weeks in January, and we’re already at over 35 units under contract; we’re just under $10 million already. That’s not even listings; that’s just under contract. That’s pretty amazing,” Mauriello said.


Those numbers, Mauriello said, do not include any settlements that took place in the first week of 2021.


“That doesn’t carry over. We had a handful of settlements in the first week that carried over from last year that people didn’t want to do during the holidays. It’s pretty amazing during a pandemic, the changing of the presidency and during all these crazy times,” Mauriello said.


Joanne Murphy, of Keller Williams Atlantic Shore Real Estate, said that this is still a seller’s market; interest rates remain low, hovering at or under three percent.


“They change every day, but they anticipate them remaining this way ... Listings fly off the shelf, and I think that’ll continue,” Murphy said.


Henry Amendolia, of Century 21 Reilly Realtors, said that the low interest rates and a lack of inventory have helped to maintain a seller’s market.


“It’s a seller’s market for sure, because the prices have gone up substantially in Hammonton. If you’re out looking, with the interest rates it’s a good time to buy, but there’s not much out there. I think the low interest rates and the lack of inventory have raised the prices. I’ve seen listings where they’re getting eight showings on the first day, and by the second day they’re gone ... It’s crazy. Not where the inventory’s been this low, I’ve never seen it like this,” Amendolia said.


Sail Lake Realty’s Michelle Lucca agreed with Amendolia, offering one possible suggestion for a lack of available homes.


“Home prices are high. The market value is high right now. There are a lot of buyers in the market, so that’s driving prices up ... Hammonton, overall, always has lower inventory than the surrounding areas, because a lot of people have generational homes, so they pass their homes down to their kids. We’re seeing an even lower inventory than normal, though,” Lucca said.


Frank Maione, of Century 21 Reilly Realtors, noted that buyers can also benefit from this market.


“It’s definitely a seller’s market, but, in turn, it’s a buyer’s market as well, just because of the interest rate. The interest rate is pushing the home prices higher, but, in turn, the buyer is OK with paying it because their payment is still going to be the same as if they had a higher interest rate,” Maione said.


Maione said that many of his clients, both buyers and sellers, are capitalizing on the current real estate trends.


“Interest rates are continuing to drop, so that’s stimulating the market and causing a frenzy of people fluctuating into town to come and buy. The prices across the board are about a 12 to 15 percent increase over the last eight months. More buyers are trying to capitalize on the cheap interest rate. My buyer just got a 30-year fixed FHA loan for 2.3 percent,” he said.


Lucca said that many of the prospective buyers looking at Hammonton are from other areas.


“Part of the reason why we have a ton of buyers is because a lot of people are leaving New York and North Jersey and coming down. We see a lot of people moving out of the Philadelphia suburbs and into the South Jersey suburbs,” Lucca said.


Mauriello concurred, saying that Hammonton—and South Jersey in general—is popular right now because many people are still working from home and thus are able to relocate from more expensive areas.


“Lots and lots of New York and Philadelphia people are moving here. Lots are looking, because, remember, a $200,000 or $300,000 house down here is double that much up there. I had a family from Carteret, N.J. come down and they listed their house for 500-something thousand in Carteret. I looked it up online, and that house here would probably be under $200,000. They’re looking here for a house under $300,000, and they’re going to sell their house, buy my house cash and pocket some money,” Mauriello said.


Raso Carini said that it’s a great time for buyers with their finances in order “because they have more purchasing power than they typically normally do.”


“Since the interest rates are low, they’re able to afford a little more than they normally can ... It’s very important for buyers to make sure they’re pre-approved before they’re going into a showing. That will help give them an advantage over a typical buyer,” Raso Carini said.


Carr said that one of the biggest problems is seller motivation, one of the causes for the lack of inventory, but that anyone who is looking to sell is “at a distinct advantage.”


“The buyer demand is so high, and there’s not much to choose from, so being listed puts more attention on your property at the right price. Seller values have increased as a result of everything that’s transpired, too. I think that will continue ... For any sellers out there who are really giving it consideration, there’s really never been a better time to sell that I can think of in the past decade,” Carr said.


Raso Carini agreed, saying that houses that are marketed correctly and priced appropriately sell surprisingly quickly, sometimes within a day or two.


“It’s because the Hammonton market is always very busy; we really don’t have much of a slowdown. On average, there are more homes listed in the spring and summer months than in the winter months; however, Hammonton is constantly trending to always be busy, which is great, but the low inventory really does impact that buyer activity. There are so many people fighting for only so many houses ... If something is priced correctly, it’s going to sell; you might think it needs work, but there are five other people behind you that don’t agree,” Raso Carini said.


Additionally, Raso Carini said, this presents sellers with the opportunity to make more of a profit from the sale of their home.


“It’s good for sellers, especially for people who have been on the fence. If they wanted to ask for a little bit more than they originally thought that they could, it’s a great time for that right now,” she said.


However, Maione said, the rapidity with which homes are selling does have one potential drawback.


“People are scared to sell, because it’s hard to find them something else after they sell. There are a lot of contingencies for the seller to find suitable housing that we include in our contracts when we have that situation. Sometimes, the seller is unable to find suitable housing, so they have to let the buyer out of the contract. I’ve never been in a market like this,” Maione said.


Rental properties, the real estate agents agreed, are also low in inventory.


“Rentals are just as scarce as buying a house, if that’s even possible. There are very few rentals right now in the area,” Raso Carini said.


Maione offered a possible explanation for the lack of available rental units.


“If you can find a rental, they usually go pretty quickly. They still have the moratorium from being able to evict tenants for nonpayment, so the turnover is not what it normally is. You can’t evict solely for nonpayment. There has to be some other things going on; maybe they’re destroying the property or something in that manner. Rentals are few and far in between because of that,” he said.


Mauriello said that another reason is that some people are selling their properties instead of renting them.


“People are buying up rentals because there aren’t enough rentals to have. I have a handful of people right now looking for rentals in town that we can’t really find. As much as there are no houses for sale, why would somebody rent their house out if they can make a lot of money from a sale? That’s another issue that we’re having,” Mauriello said.


Carr said, however, that there has never really been an abundance of rental properties in Hammonton, as far as agents are concerned.


“If there are ever three rentals listed at a time, it’s a lot. A lot of times, people don’t even use agents for rentals because there’s a good amount of demand for that, especially after everything that just took place. Not everyone is necessarily in a position to buy, but they can make do with renting. The rental market in Hammonton is very word-of-mouth, truthfully. Very seldom do you get rental listings,” Carr said.


For those that are available, Lucca said, there is a great deal of competition.


“It’s insane. It’s unfortunate, because a lot of renters either only want to live somewhere temporarily or they can’t apply for a mortgage. Their financials usually aren’t as strong, and you’re competing against people who just don’t want the maintenance for a home. The people who are in a stronger financial position are getting the rentals,” Lucca said.


Carr pointed to Main Road Apartments when discussing available rental units.


“That’ll probably end up being where the bulk of the rental market is in the near future,” Carr said.


While there are units available at the complex, that, too, is starting to fill up.


“The units are being rented ... For available apartments, out of 26, we’re definitely at more than 50 percent occupied on the 26 that are available. The applications are starting to come in pretty good,” said Kevin Salerno, the on-site property manager.


Salerno said that these two-bedroom, two-bathroom units—which start at $1,600 per month—are in three of the five buildings in the complex, which is still under construction.


“We have our COs (certificates of occupancy) on buildings one to three. Building four is pending; I should probably have that ready by the beginning of March. We have building five under construction; it’s all shelled in with a roof, siding, windows and doors. They started the rough on the interiors,” he said.


Murphy said that she sees new construction as one way to add available units across the board.


“New construction, I think, is going to become more aggressive because of the lack of inventory,” Murphy said.


Maione concurred with Murphy.


“New construction is booming. If you look around, every corner you turn, you see it: Egg Harbor Road, South First Road, Tilton Street, everywhere,” he said.


However, Mauriello said, the number of buildable lots is diminishing.


“There’s not a lot of lots to build on. I’m having a very difficult time; I have a lot of people who would love to build, but there are no lots. That’s tough. I sold a few lots, but those prices are going up as well. Those people have to be cautious, too, because steel and lumber is going through the roof. Material is going through the roof,” Mauriello said.


Lucca agreed with Mauriello, explaining further.


“Although the sale prices are higher than previous years, the cost to build is also really high right now. The material cost is really high, and the time frame to get materials in is also longer because of COVID-19. The builders are still building, but they’re seeing a little bit of a slimmer margin right now,” Lucca said.


Regardless of these potential pitfalls, the coming year is filled with potential.


“I would say 2021 is promising, especially compared to last year. Anything is promising; the bar was set pretty low last year. I think we can definitely do better, no doubt,” Salerno said.


Mauriello sees this as a portent of things to come for the economy in general.


“As long as we’re doing well, I think the rest of the economy is going to do well. If we’re busy, everybody’s busy,” he said.