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US second-home purchases up as folks stick to the shore

PLEASANTVILLE, New Jersey--Fran Gelman was headed to the beach Thursday, even as a winter snowstorm was nearing. For the past 26 years, Gelman and her husband, Andrew, have taken the two-hour drive from their primary residence in Wilmington, Delaware, to their Jersey Shore home, where they spend the weekends going to the local restaurants, riding bikes on the Boardwalk and visiting Atlantic City casinos.

“We've had opportunities to invest in properties at the Delaware beaches, but we prefer the Jersey shore,” said Gelman, who owns property in Ventnor. “It's where we get the best value for our money, and honestly, we just love the feel of it. I wouldn't want a vacation home anywhere else.”

Over the past few years, Ventnor and other shore towns in Atlantic and Cape May counties have seen an increase in second-home construction and sales. Many older homes are being torn down and replaced by new, multimillion-dollar construction.

Second-home sales were up 10.1 percent nationally from 2011 to 2012, while Ocean City was found to be the most sought-after place in America for a vacation home. North Wildwood was second, according to the National Association of Realtors' 2013 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey and analysis by 24/7 Wall St., a financial news and opinion provider based in Delaware.

In every oceanfront community from Long Beach Island to Cape May Point, except for Atlantic City, there are more second homes than primary residences. In Ocean City, 77 percent of the houses are second homes, and in Ventnor the number is 53 percent, according to the 2012 tax lists of each municipality sent to the state Department of the Treasury's Division of Taxation.

Gelman said Ventnor is tranquil in the winter.

“It's our escape,” she said.

Mary Lou Ferry, a real estate agent with Farley & Ferry Realty in Ventnor, attributes the secondary market growth partly to Hurricane Sandy, which forced many businesses and homeowners to undergo extensive property renovations or abandon their shore homes, making way for wealthy buyers to purchase them, tear them down and build bigger, better and taller ones. She also credits the “Do AC” marketing campaign.

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