When Veronica Vozzolo and her boyfriend, Michael Frascella, began looking for a place to live in Long Beach a few months ago, they heard the rumors of fabulous bargains waiting in the Sandy-walloped community. But Vozzolo, 24, who spent childhood summers and vacations there visiting her grandmother, was also aware of the abiding attractions of the City by the Sea.
"We didn't go in thinking that just because there had been storm damage we were automatically going to get a good price," says Vozzolo, an editor for a Manhattan television production company.
She and Frascella, 28, an electrician, did eventually find what they believe is an excellent co-op buy, but they did it the old-fashioned way -- by doing their homework and using a lot of shoe leather over several weekends of hard-core searching.
They also confirmed what Vozzolo had suspected all along: "There are definitely no flipper bargains out there," she says.
So, what's up with Long Beach coops and condos? Are there any deals or not?
Maybe, under certain conditions. But not the kind that existed shortly after the storm surge at the end of October that swept away a good portion of the beach and reduced the boardwalk to splinters. It was during that grim time that real estate prices tumbled and signs sprang up from investors offering low prices for flooded residences -- proposals that some homeowners chose to accept rather than rebuild.
Those days are past, say agents that operate in the area.
"There are no steals anywhere in Long Beach these days," says Joseph Sinnona, an associate broker with Verdeschi Realty and director of the Long Island Board of Realtors for the South Shore.
That observation was echoed by Renee Weinberg, an agent with Petrey Real Estate. "I have seven things in contract, and nothing is a giveaway price," she says.
There are several reasons for the turnaround. One is that only a portion of the barrier-island residences -- mostly seaside homes and the lobby levels of co-ops, condos and town houses -- were damaged. That means that instead of a glut of homes for sale, the inventory has returned to near normal levels. Sinnona says that at last count there were only 10 more properties than usual on the market.
Also, instead of putting their damaged homes on the market, many are biding their time in the hope that the city's attraction as a recreational, retirement and bedroom community will continue to push up prices in coming months, says Weinberg. One of her clients, for example, was offered $60,000 less for his condo than he thought it was worth, so he gave it a thumbs down.
"He said, 'I'll keep it, redo it and wait for the market to come back,' " she says.
Of course, the situation has been helped by the overall rebound of the real estate market nationally. And, ironically, the stories about lower prices may actually have generated more-than-usual interest in the area, agents say.
"I've never been busier in my career," says Joyce Coletti, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
She knows of several instances of young couples buying a destroyed structure who plan to replace it with a modular home -- usually on a raised platform. "The fact that young people are still interested in moving in is a very good sign for Long Beach," she says.
Co-ops and condos remain a good buy, Weinberg says. Prices vary according to location and view, although most people, leery of future storms, are requesting something above the second floor, she says.
That was the case with Vozzolo and Frascella, who signed a contract for their co-op but have yet to go before the board for final approval. They saved money to make the leap by living at home with parents, Vozzolo says.
The oceanfront co-op they are eyeing has everything they want, including a fifth-floor view of the beach. The location isn't actually going to shorten her city commute, Vozzolo says, but she likes the fact that Long Beach has a close-knit atmosphere.
"And I love that you can walk to everything," she says.
The thought of another Sandy does make her nervous, Vozzolo admits. "I know there are going to be storms again, but Long Beach is trying to find ways to lessen the blow," she says. "And anyway, I think something like this makes a community stronger."
The following condos and co-ops were undamaged in the storm and are now on the market:
This three-bedroom, two-bathroom, one half-bath condo is at Ocean Villas on Oceanfront Street. The unit has two oceanfront decks, a fireplace and semiprivate elevator. Monthly fees are $585; taxes are $18,000. Listing agent: Erik Kobley, Charles Rutenberg Realty, 516-637-1690
This 2,400-square-foot condo is in the new Versailles town homes development on East Broadway. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit features red oak floors, a marble fireplace, walk-in closets and a Jacuzzi in the master bathroom. Monthly fees are $286; taxes are $9,000. Listing agent: Joyce Coletti, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-313-2700
This co-op in The Beach House on East Broadway has two bedrooms, one bathroom and one half-bathroom. The corner unit has a newly redone eat-in kitchen and new hardwood floors as well as ocean views from all windows. The complex has a pool, and there are laundry facilities on every floor. Monthly fees are $1,185, which includes taxes. Listing agent: Donna Nardi, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-286-1706
This two-bedroom, one-bath unit in the Ocean Terrace co-op complex on Monroe Boulevard has ocean views from all windows. The bathroom has a new vanity and shower doors, and the newly done kitchen has granite countertops and a glass tile backsplash. The building has a gym. Monthly fees, with taxes, are $1,350. Listing agent: Fran Adelson, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-987-8649
This junior-four co-op in the Parker Deauville apartment complex on Shore Road comes with a terrace and wood floors. There is a heated indoor parking garage in the building, an in-ground oceanfront pool, gym and party room. Monthly fees, including taxes, are $766; monthly parking fees are $80. Listing agents: Sandra and David Kasner, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 917-626-4569
This oceanfront co-op in the Sea Breeze complex on Shore Road is a studio apartment. It has a terrace. The kitchen has new appliances and Pergo floors. Monthly fees, with taxes, are $834. Listing agent: Carol Okin, Topper Realty Corp., 516-889-6677