When Fabricio and Amy Pazmino started thinking about leaving their home in Colts Neck, N.J., to move somewhere on the Jersey Shore, they immediately thought of a place where they had spent several happy post-college summers, packed into small beach bungalows with friends for season-long rentals.
After nearly five years of searching — and repeatedly being outbid — the Pazminos finally found their beach house this year: a four-bedroom, four-bath home in Manasquan, near the Glimmer Glass inlet, that they bought for $970,000.
The colonial-style house, which they moved into in March with their three daughters, was built in the 1970s, but they refer to it as a “post-Sandy home,” because it is one of many in this oceanfront borough that were severely damaged and rebuilt after the hurricane swept up the coast in 2012.
That storm set in motion a process that has changed the image of this formerly funky beach town. Less than 10 years later, an influx of city people seeking refuge during Covid helped cement the Monmouth County borough’s more polished image.
“It’s a little more high-end than when we were here before,” said Ms. Pazmino, 49, an administrative director at NYU Langone Health.
“But it still maintains that small beach-town feel that brought us here in the first place,” said Mr. Pazmino, 50, the chief financial officer of Princeton Orthopaedic Associates.
Michael Mangan, a lifetime resident of Manasquan, has watched his hometown change over the years — especially during the last decade, as this borough of close to 6,000 year-rounders (a population that triples during the summer) has absorbed a wave of new full-time residents. Mr. Mangan, who has been a borough council member for 16 years and is now running for mayor, said the question on most people’s minds is, “How do we keep Manasquan what it always was?”
“We’re trying to find ways to maintain the small-town charm,” continued Mr. Mangan, 39. “There’s a lot of nostalgia for those bungalows, but people are aware that those older homes are going to be replaced by new, bigger homes. Change is inevitable.”
Still, asked what they like best about Manasquan, many people paint a nostalgic picture.
“Their parents are not going to see those kids for the rest of the day,” said William Feehan, 52, a real estate agent with Re/Max Revolution, pointing to three boys riding their bicycles to the beach, surfboards in tow, on a recent July morning.
Beachgoers stroll along the north end of the boardwalk, where there are many summer rentals: traditional bungalows that pack in crowds of young people who come for the season.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
“It’s a good lifestyle for kids to be raised in,” said Mr. Feehan, who has two teenage stepsons and has lived in Manasquan for eight years. “Everyone’s very active, on their boats, bikes, fishing. There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to have some knowledge of the water, whether it’s surfing or sailing or just recreational.”
Leaning into that water culture, Andy Manser, a third-generation resident, teaches seventh-grade math at Manasquan Elementary School during the school year and runs Paddle Out, a paddle-board and kayak rental shop, during the summer with his brother, Brian Manser. The brothers bought the building just after Hurricane Sandy, when it was immersed in nearly five feet of water, and renovated it before opening for business the following year.
Five years ago, Andy Manser and his wife, Kim, now both 40, paid $720,000 for a three-bedroom Dutch colonial that backs up to Mac’s Pond, a man-made body of water where teenagers ice skated when his parents were young, he said. Now he and his wife are ushering in the fourth generation of Mansers to the Manasquan lifestyle, with three children of their own.
“My 13-year-old and his friends see Paddle Out as a home base. They stop by to help out, or grab an ice pop, then head back to the beach,” Mr. Manser said. “In Manasquan, they have a little more freedom than in some in other areas. That’s the cool part about growing up here.”
What You’ll Find
Manasquan is at the southern end of Monmouth County, covering 2.53 square miles, but almost half of that is water. The numerous creeks, ponds and waterways that lead out to the Manasquan Inlet offer extensive docking sites and waterfront views, as well as easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Running north-south, Route 71 connects Manasquan to many neighboring shore towns, and unofficially divides the borough between the beach side and what is considered the historic district, west of Route 71, where some of the larger, Victorian-era houses are found. Intersecting Route 71 is Main Street, with a busy and eclectic shopping and restaurant district. During Covid, the borough began closing Main Street to traffic one or two evenings a week, and that practice has remained in place.
Mr. Mangan, the borough council member, estimated that some 60 percent of Manasquan’s homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, resulting in numerous knockdowns and rebuilds, especially between Route 71 and the beach.
That has been a boon for business for Neil Ducharme, 47, who moved to Manasquan from Rhode Island 20 years ago. Mr. Ducharme, the president of Ralco Builders, said he has built or renovated 75 to 100 homes in the borough.
That hasn’t made him popular with some residents, he said, noting that he’s “gotten tortured” on the town’s Facebook site, Overheard in Manasquan. “There’s been blowback on knocking older buildings down and ruining history,” he said. “But on the other side, we’re creating new places for other people to be able to come here.”
The beach-shack vibe hasn’t completely disappeared from Manasquan. In the blocks closest to the shore, tightly packed bungalows — often two to a lot — are rented to large groups of young people during the summer, perpetuating the borough’s reputation as a party town.
For the past 10 years, the borough has had an “Animal House” ordinance that imposes penalties for noise and nuisance violations, Mr. Mangan said, but it’s rarely enforced.
What You’ll Pay
Housing prices have increased dramatically in Manasquan since the pandemic, said Patricia Florkowski, a real estate agent with Re/Max. As she put it, “If you can get a house 10 minutes from the beach for less than $1 million, that’s the magic number.”
But Manasquan is still considered something of a bargain, she noted, compared with nearby Monmouth County shoreline towns like Sea Girt and Spring Lake.
As of mid-August, there were 33 homes on the market, from a beachfront property with front and back houses and a total of five bedrooms and four bathrooms, listed for $3.4 million, to a 920-square-foot one-bedroom cottage built in 1912, listed for $569,000.
According to information provided by Monmouth Ocean Regional Realtors, 38 homes sold in Manasquan this year through Aug. 7, at an average price of $1.455 million — a 25 percent increase over the average sale price of $1.159 million during the same period in 2022, when 52 homes sold.
Rental opportunities are largely limited to whole houses, which can go for as much as $15,000 a week in the summer. During the off-season, more modest houses rent for $2,000 to $3,000 a month.
Manasquan is all about summer. On Wednesday evenings, hundreds of volleyball players meet on the beach to compete at more than 20 nets as part of Gee-Gee’s Volleyball League. On Thursday nights, the action shifts to the inlet, where people gather to watch the weekly fireworks display put on by neighboring Point Pleasant Beach.
Most nights, the college and post-college crowd can be found lining up outside the Osprey Night Club on First Avenue, or next door at Leggetts Sand Bar.
Dogs are allowed to go off-leash at Fisherman’s Cove, a 55-acre conservation area with a sandy inlet beach, where fishing and swimming are also allowed.
Students in prekindergarten through eighth grade attend Manasquan Elementary School, where 517 students were enrolled in the 2021-22 school year. For ninth through 12th grade, they move on to Manasquan High School, which had about 970 students in 2021-22.
The high school, which also enrolls students from seven neighboring communities, offers 21 Advanced Placement courses and five career-focused fields of study in finance, health, engineering, performing arts and public safety. The average SAT scores in 2021-22 were 566 in reading and writing and 552 in math, compared with state averages of 538 and 532.
Private school options in the area include two Catholic schools serving students in prekindergarten through eighth grade: Saint Peter School, in Point Pleasant Beach, and St. Catharine School, in Spring Lake.
Driving to New York City, about 63 miles north, can take between and hour and a half and two hours, depending on traffic.
During rush hour, New Jersey Transit offers direct service to Penn Station in Manhattan, a trip that takes a little less than two hours; the rest of the day, the trip requires changing trains in Long Branch, N.J., and takes a little over two hours. Tickets cost $16.75 one way or $480 for a monthly pass.
New Jersey Transit also offers bus service, which takes three and a half hours and requires two switches, in Asbury Park and Freehold; one-way tickets cost $20.85, and monthly passes are $470.
Squan Beach Life Saving Station No. 9 was established in 1902 by volunteers, to save shipwreck victims. In the 1930s, it became part of the United States Coast Guard, continuing to perform sea-rescue missions until it was decommissioned in 1996. The borough bought the building in 2000 for $1; today, it houses a museum with artifacts recovered from the ocean floor by the New Jersey Historical Divers Association.
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