Steve Booth oversees nine Berkshire Hathaway and Fox & Roach offices from Brigantine to Stone Harbor, including five in Ocean City. By Donald WittkowskiFor home buyers at the Jersey Shore, now is a good time to jump into the market. Prices are attractive, inventory is up and mortgage rates are down.All of those factors mean that the primary home market in Ocean City is strong, said Steve Booth regional manager for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and Fox & Roach Realtors.“Ocean City’s primary market is hot compared to the secondary market,” he said.Sales of vacation homes, though, have slowed down amid uncertainty about the financial markets, tax policy and the presidential election, Booth noted.“It’s not a real comfortable time to be going out on a limb on secondary homes,” he said. “Uncertainty is not good.”Home sales in Ocean City were growing briskly through the first quarter of 2016, but began to fall off once uncertainty took over in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Booth explained. For the year, sales are down about 6 percent compared to the same period in 2015, he said.Despite an overall decline so far this year, Booth stressed that the market remains reasonably robust, including sales and rentals.“It’s good,” Booth said. “If you’re looking at it year to year, there are always people who want to live at the shore.”Booth has a broad view of the marketplace from his position at Berkshire Hathaway and Fox & Roach. He oversees nine offices and 350 agents from Brigantine to Stone Harbor. Five of the offices are in Ocean City, where his company leads the market in sales. He noted Berkshire Hathaway and Fox & Roach are also No. 1 in sales in Brigantine and Margate.Booth, pictured at his office on 34th Street in Ocean City, noted that sales of primary homes have been strong.The seashore housing market continues to recover from the real estate bubble from 2005 to 2007, which foreshadowed the recession of 2008 and 2009. Booth pointed out that vacation homes can be particularly susceptible to economic downturns because they are considered “a desire, not a need.”“We got hit in the recession and got hit hard,” he said. “Historically, we’re a desire, not a need. So whenever people are starting to feel uncomfortable, we get hit first. But we come back.”Low mortgage rates and a good selection of homes are helping to drive sales. Rental properties continue to be a strong segment of the market, reflecting Ocean City’s drawing power as a vacation retreat for families in the Philadelphia area. Rentals were up in 2015 and continue to climb in 2016, roughly in the range of 3 percent to 5 percent, Booth said.“It’s a stable part of the lifestyle in the Philadelphia marketplace to come to the shore for a week during the year,” he said.Whether it’s Ocean City, Sea Isle City or other beach towns, shore vacations have become “a rite” for generations of families, Booth explained.“When you were a kid, you were coming to Ocean City. Now, your kids are grown up and they’re coming to Ocean City,” he said.Booth’s own family has longtime ties to Ocean City. His grandmother, Jean Campbell, opened the iconic Chatterbox restaurant at Ninth Street and Central Avenue in the 1930s and continued to own it until the 1960s. His late father, George Booth, was a postal clerk in town. His mother, Elizabeth, still lives in the Warwick Avenue home where he grew up.The 58-year-old Booth has been in the Ocean City real estate industry since 1984. He briefly worked at the Sharp Real Estate office on 55th Street , before switching to Hager Real Estate about a year later.Hager was founded by his relatives. Booth was interviewed for a job at Hager by his cousin, Richard Booth.“We shook hands and he told me that if it didn’t work out, it would be just like every other employer and employee,” Booth said. “That’s the way I wanted it.”
Last month’s announcement by PFZW that hedge funds would no longer be a strategic asset class raised questions on the role of the platform in PGGM’s business.In July last year, the departure of Jan Soerensen, PGGM’s head of hedge funds and main contributor to the development of the platform, also suggested the asset manager would re-think its strategy.Sorensen went on to found Tang Financial, a hedge fund replication business.PFZW has specified that while hedge funds are not a strategic priority any more, hedge fund-style passive strategies will be considered.Bagijn added that the company was “currently evaluating the different options for the future of the platform.”The platform was developed using the know-how and technology of Paris-based Lyxor Asset Management.At one point, as much as 5% of PGGM’s assets were invested in hedge funds on behalf of clients.PGGM’s proprietary managed account platform, called IMAP (Institutional Managed Account Platform), is based on Irish QIF fund structures.The platform is a plug-and-operate system, where template contracts exist with a suite of different service providers.For each investment held on the platform, the necessary service providers to facilitate the particularities of the investment are plugged in.Bagijn added: “While the platform was built for hedge fund investments, it can facilitate any investments where the preferred vehicle is an Irish QIF structure.”Other Dutch pension funds have left the hedge fund sector.The industry-wide scheme for metal workers PMT announced last year that it would divest its €1bn portfolio because of cost concerns.PME, another pension fund for the metal industry, also divested from hedge funds due to high costs and unattractive returns.The US’s largest pension fund, CalPERS, announced its exit from the hedge fund sector last year, prompting worries that other large pension fund would follow suit.However APG, the €343bn Dutch asset manager owned by public sector pension fund ABP, continues to invest in hedge funds based on the positive performance of its portfolio.In 2013, APG’s hedge fund portfolio recorded a net return of 6.19% against management costs of 4.36%. PGGM, the Dutch pension asset manager, is considering selling its managed account platform.Ruulke Bagijn, CIO for private markets, said PGGM had been approached by “a number of interested parties about a potential acquisition of its managed account platform”.The €155bn asset manager, whose main client is Dutch healthcare pension fund PFZW, developed the platform in 2010 to manage its clients’ hedge fund portfolios.Bagijn said interested parties had approached PGGM “as a consequence of PFZW’s decision to exit hedge funds”.