Thoughts From the Publisher’s Desk

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The local real estate numbers for the month of August seem to indicate a mixed bag of results. For some demographics, such as Ocean City-based condominiums, things are looking up, while in other cases not so much. Here’s a recap, according to the monthly Coastal Association of Realtors reports, obtained from the Automated Regional Information Systems, Inc. (ARIS):

– Ocean City Condominiums: Realtors saw a 6.7-percent surge in resort condominium settlements in August with 64 confirmed last month. Thirty-one of those settlements were for properties priced between $200,000 and $399,999, confirming the notion that modestly priced properties are moving at a better clip than those of the high-price variety. As far as a year-to-date comparison, settlements have increased 3.6 percent over the same time period last year, from 448 in the first eight months of 2008 to 464 during the first two calendar quarters this year. Additionally, listings for August fell slightly, 1.6 percent, compared to last year, while contracts increased 13 percent in the month.

– Ocean City Single-Family Homes: Resort homes are doing better than they were last year at this time. In August, five single-family homes went to settlement compared to three in August 2008. On a year-to-date perspective, single-family home settlements have surged 52 percent from 2008 to 2009, from 23 to 35. On the converse side is the listings picture, as a 40-percent decline was reported in listings for the month of August, from 20 last year to 12 this year. The number of contracts signed in August held steady at six from last August.

– Worcester County Single-Family Homes: Property sales that actually made it to settlement totaled 44, up from 43 last August. Notable was the fact 33 of the settlements were for properties listed under $399,999. As far as for the year so far, settlements are down 8.6 percent, from 303 last year to 277. On the listing side of things, listings fell 15.6 percent for the month of August, from 128 last August to 108, while contracts increased 25 percent, from 44 to 55.

In Ocean City, it will be a shock if MGH Advertising is not selected to continue to handle the town’s marketing and advertising. Conspiracy theorists could argue the process has been skewed toward MGH, but I am not buying that entirely. The fact is of the 10 candidates vying for the contract, which starts at the beginning of next year only three meet the town’s requirements laid out in its request for proposals. Right or wrong, the town does not want to work with agencies charging per-hour fees or companies that currently represent other resort destinations. That essentially means it’s the incumbent, MGH, trying to stave off two challengers. It will more than likely come down to the town’s familiarity with MGH and the fact it created the ‘Rodney the Lifeguard’ campaign, which appears to be booked for at least one more year for financial and consistency reasons. At this point, if I had to handicap this contest, MGH would be heavy favorite.

All things are cyclical. At its most simplistic, and I realize there are different scales to everything, what’s happening today regarding the economy is no different than what was happening a couple hundred years ago. Delegate Page Elmore seemed to be making this point when he addressed the local Economic Development Committee last week in Ocean City. This meeting was dominated by grim and gloomy economic discussions, but Elmore’s quotation from President Abraham Lincoln back in the 1860s seem to bring a sense of depth and perspective to the ongoing talk. I was impressed that Elmore brought this quote from Lincoln to the meeting. He read the following:

 “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot strength the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s initiative and independence.

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”

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