While I was working on cleaning up the house, on my morning jog I saw how any old home is in danger from development. While jogging, I like to keep an eye on houses that I previously visited to see how they are doing. Some houses are prime targets for teardowns - ones on double lots, ones that need a lot of work, or ones on blocks already full of condos. So as I turned down Roberts Avenue to see what someone had done with the 1900s bungalow I saw in the past, I came upon an empty lot.
I knew this house was destined to be torn down after seeing it. This was the house that got listed on the standard real estate sites for 89K, but it was listed by some shady out of town agent with no contact info. Turns out that they were funneling people to an auction site to buy the house and the bidding was at around 150K so the 89K price listed was misleading. After I saw that bait and switch I dropped out of that. It seemed like the only people who'd be messing around with this type of situation would be real estate speculators looking to make a buck.
Using the site njparcels.com you can follow the trail of sales and see the property moving away from a cherished family heirloom to purely an investment.
The site shows the house sold in 1994 for 49K to a couple who lived in the house. The previous owner was from South Jersey and not sure how long he had the house, but with the history of the Wildwoods, we can assume it was probably someone who held the house for more than a few years looking for a flip. The couple who bought the house in 94 listed the house as their address meaning they lived in it. So this house meant something to them as a primary residence. By the early 2000s the condo boom was in full swing. In 2005, the house sold for a whopping 322K to the SHANGRA-LA INVESTMENT GROUP, LLC. Here’s where we can see the shift from families owning modest homes to developers and investors looking to make a buck on the Wildwoods.
Good for the family to cash out from 50K to 322K in a little over 10 years. I can’t fault them for selling the home with that type of return. Strangely it seems like the house escaped destruction during the first condo boom because the house stood for another 18 years. I can’t imagine Shangra-la Investment paid 322K to leave the home as a small bungalow and they had to have demolition in their plans, but maybe they went bankrupt or ran out of money from other condo conversions. Either way, the home survived and started falling into disrepair until it was put up for sheriff’s sale in 2017. That’s when I saw the house for sale on that weird real estate listing site that was doing bait and switch pricing.
The house eventually sold for 145K to another couple, but this time from Northern Jersey. These new owners now pulled the trigger and tore it down as the next condo boom continues. A home that stuck around for almost 100 years is now being redeveloped into what looks like 4 condo units. I’m only speculating about the new owners, but it seems like a pattern is real estate changing hands from locally-owned where people understand the history and feel of the Wildwoods, to more wealthy owners from the NYC-area who may be priced out of the rest of the Jersey Shore and want to get a piece of a beach property. They see lower prices in Wildwood and don’t care about what old house is on the property since they’ll tear it down and put up some generic luxury style condo.
The other problem is the investor who bought the home in 2005 and let it sit for 13 years. Since they were looking to originally tear it down, they didn’t put any work into the home so it started falling into disrepair. Windows were boarded up and lots of peeling paint were evident when I viewed the house. When the investors neglect the property that contributes to the idea that old homes = blight. Many people in Facebook will comment about how Wildwood needs to be cleaned up and they are glad to see the old homes torn down. Obviously that’s a short-sighted way to think in that in 10 years condos could also be blight if owners don’t take care of them (there are already a lot of condos from the 2000s in the Wildwoods showing blight with rusted garage doors and rotted wood from shoddy construction, but that’s another blog post).