A number of years ago, there was a joke going around about a man who built a house on top of Lake Carasaljo in Lakewood, NJ. He was then looking to buy a submarine, so that he could rent out his basement.
With today’s market, it’s not such a joke.
There is a severe apartment shortage in Lakewood partially due to the natural growth of the community and also because of the impact of Covid and the fact that many couples who would have gone to Eretz Yisroel have stayed local. The shortage is an unprecedented one – and so are the rental prices.
For many years, the Masa Umatan rental listings comprised many pages. Apartments in West Gate fetched $6-700 a month. An expensive apartment in the hot areas went for $1,100. Today, smaller apartments in less desirable areas are garnering $1,200 or more a month.
“We have never seen anything like this,” a realtor who has been doing business for 20 years told Matzav.com. “And it’s not like people who can’t find apartments can just go out and buy a home, because, while interest rates are low, housing prices have shot through the roof.”
Indeed, the shortage has driven people to buy further and further out into Jackson, even purchasing in Manchester and beyond.
“Where this will end we don’t know,” said one real estate developer. “But the Covid restrictions don’t seem to be ending any time soon, so the influx of couples who would go to Israel is only going to grow. And even once they go to Israel, the growth of the community will require more apartments. We’re in big trouble.”
A homeowner who has a 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment told Matzav.com that previously he was overjoyed to get $900 a month in rent. Today, if his apartment would go on to the market, he’d get $1,100 in no time.
Larger, 3-bedroom, 2-bedroom basement apartments, which were previously renting for $1,250-1300 depending on their condition are now being rented for $1,500 or more.
“This type of market is good for no one, not even the landlords,” said one askan, “because what goes around comes around. When their own children get married and have to rent apartments, they’ll be paying these absurd prices.”
It’s hard to believe that just 3 years ago, the Lakewood area had many vacancies. In fact, some of the most popular areas of Lakewood were not attracting renters. At the time, in 2017, Matzav.com did a survey and found that there were over 40 available spaces for rent in the general yeshivah area (Forest Avenue, Clifton Avenue, Lexington Avenue, etc.) and about 15 available spaces for rent in the 14th Street/Hope Chapel area. Coventry had 10 available homes, and there were over 90 in the Squankum, Ridge, East County Line, Somerset, and Rt. 88 areas. There were 15 vacancies in the Brook Hill/Joe Parker/ Raintree area, and over 50 in the New Central, Central, and West Gate area. As Lakewood further developed, and residents began seeking more affordable housing options beyond its borders in Jackson, Toms River and Brick, a seller’s market transformed into a buyer’s market. These factors – the affordability of homes, the availability of homes, and over-development – in part led to hundreds of empty apartments and homes for rent.
That was just 3 years ago.
Today, it’s a different world.
Now, in January 2021, it’s a whole different story. One is hard-pressed to find an apartment in any desirable area, and apartments are usually taken before they even hit the rental market, as word of mouth brings the renters straight to the landlords’ doors.
When asked to predict what the future holds, all of the experts Matzav.com spoke to were in agreement that there are too many factors that determine real estate markets to be able to have a worthwhile opinion. But they were all quite concerned, stating that there is reason to be alarmed.
So, will apartments in Central Jersey become more or less affordable? Only time will tell.