RENTING A HOUSE

For One Week, Find A Home of Your Own

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By Elissa Leibowitz Poma
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 24, 2007

To nab a rental property along the Jersey shore, you used to have to plan months in advance. Not anymore. The Internet has made finding a beach rental home simple enough that you can reserve a house or condo days before taking residence. And plenty of units are still available for this summer.

"Most weeks there is usually still a good selection, but the last two weeks in July and the first two weeks in August are the most popular, so those weeks are difficult," said Steve Waters, a real estate broker with C.A. McCann and Sons in Sea Isle City.

WHERE TO GO: Among the popular family destinations are Ocean City, Wildwood Crest, Stone Harbor and Spring Lake, said Maria Kirk, founder of the rent-by-owner Web site ShoreSummer Rentals.com (877-746-7348). Partying types head to Wildwood, Sea Isle City and Seaside Heights. For a quiet getaway, try Cape May and Avalon.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE: Rentals range from multi-unit apartment buildings, duplexes and bungalows to modern townhouses and beachfront McMansions. It's hard to say exactly how many rental units are available coast-wide. Cape May, for example, has about 3,000 rental properties; Ocean City has 5,500 and Sea Isle 2,500, according to Waters.

One of the more interesting properties is the "condo-tel" in Wildwood. For decades, families drawn to the town's wide beaches stayed in 1950s-style motels. Looking to make more money during busy summers, motel owners have been converting them into condos -- and turning them into "a great bargain for consumers," said Debbie Rogers, a broker associate with the Avalon Real Estate Agency. For instance, her firm offers a two-bedroom unit in a renovated building a block from the beach for $750 a week.

COST: Most rentals are priced by the week, with rates determined by size, amenities and proximity to the beach. Most vacationers aren't eyeing the $10,000-a-week century-old Victorian in Cape May or an $18,000 Stone Harbor oceanfront mansion. They're looking for a two-bedroom beachfront condo, which can run $1,700 to $2,500 a week in Cape May, said Justin Aftanis, managing broker of Cape May Realty.

In Wildwood -- considered one of the most affordable spots, along with Ocean City and Sea Isle City, according to several agents -- a one-bedroom apartment or condo can run as little as $700 a week. In Lavalette, you can get a four-bedroom bayfront or ocean-block single-family house for $2,500 to $4,000 a week.

Stone Harbor and Avalon are among the priciest places, according to Maureen McCormick, rental manager for Coldwell Banker James C. Otton Real Estate in Stone Harbor.

LAST-MINUTE DEALS: Some real estate agency Web sites and many Internet rental sites, such as ShoreSummerRentals.com and Jersey Shore Vacation Rentals ( http://www.shorevacations.com), post last-minute specials, especially after cancellations. Also consider Craigslist ( http://newjersey.craigslist.com), a site of free classified ads. A one-bedroom beach-block condo in Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island was listed for $1,100 a week at press time.

CHOOSING A HOUSE: This late in the game, the rule is not to be too picky. As Rogers said, "[You] are only there for a week, not a lifetime."

After collecting word-of-mouth recommendations and reviewing the chamber of commerce Web site for the town of your choice, decide whether you want to work with a real estate agent, troll the Internet or do both.

While reviewing your options, keep a street map by your side to help you determine whether the listing that says "minutes from the beach!" is truly so.

Pet-friendly spots are hard to come by. And many owners won't rent to groups of vacationers who are younger than 25; there have been too many bad experiences with post-party damage.

Lastly, be sure to ask what you'll need to bring; while most houses are packed with kitchenware, DVDs, etc., you'll probably need to bring your own linens and towels.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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