One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Even on an early spring morning still tightly wrapped in winter, Atsion Lake in Wharton State Forest has that "go home and get your kayak" look.
The wind whipping the icy-cold, cedar-colored water over the edge of the deserted beach is enough to recommend a two-month postponement. But that means more time to explore the rest of Shamong, which has a long history and a great deal to look at.
Leave enough time for a crab melt on rye for lunch at the Shamong Diner on Willow Grove Road and a visit to Valenzano Winery on Route 206, where you can sample the "Shamong Red."
In the Southern Unami dialect of the Leni-Lenape, Shamong means place of the horn, owing to the abundance of deer that sustained members of the tribe who lived there.
This Burlington County community deep in the Pinelands has an active real estate market, although, like most South Jersey municipalities, it is weighed down by property taxes.
"We have tried to keep the local-purpose tax as low as we can at about $60 per house," says Mayor Kenneth Long, a partner in Damiano Long Consulting Engineers in Camden - although the tax may have to rise $30 more for roadwork, for which Shamong likely will need to float a bond issue.
"We didn't have a local-purpose tax until 2011," when the township needed money to battle a gypsy-moth infestation, says Long, who has lived in Shamong since 1994, after moving from Cherry Hill.
There are just 10 full-time employees, and the state police keep the peace in this 45-square-mile township. Residents take care of trash collection and recycling, and "we try to share as many services" with other towns as possible, Long says.
"There's not a lot of government here, and residents like that," he says.
Properties for sale reflect the wide range available, from a $12,000 mobile home in Fawn Lake Village to a $1.2 million amenity-filled home with four bedrooms, 21/2 baths, and a 6.93-acre horse farm in the Deywood neighborhood.
Eleven houses have settled here since the first of the year, and 18 are under contract, says Val Nunnenkamp, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors.
Thirty-five of the 53 active listings - about the average number of houses for sale in Shamong at any one time - fall into the $200,000-to-$500,000 price range, as do most of the settled and pending sales, the latest data show.
"Most houses that have sold or gone under agreement quickly are under $500,000," says Nunnenkamp, adding that his buyers "are looking for something more rural than Medford."
Though Shamong "is not quite as popular as Medford among buyers, it is a close runner-up," Nunnenkamp says, with many clients coming from Tabernacle, Marlton, and Westhampton.
"They like that there is no public water and sewer, and that a lot of acreage comes with every house," he says. "There are also some nice custom-home neighborhoods that date from the mid- to late 1980s that are very popular."
There isn't likely to be much new residential construction going forward, Long says, "perhaps 25 houses at the most."
Sixty percent of land in the township is owned by the state, federal, and local governments and won't be developed, the mayor says. Development restrictions in the Pinelands have limited population growth.
Shamong's two mobile-home neighborhoods are popular "among people who don't want to own big houses," Long says.
Notes Nunnenkamp, "These communities have many senior residents who have lived there for a long time, and are very well-maintained."
The slowest part of the market here, as it is in many area communities, is in the $500,000s and $600,000s, he says, adding that there aren't many listings in that category.
Shamong has a good school district, Nunnenkamp says.
Long agrees, though he considers having two schools - one K through 4, the other grades 5 through 8 - each with a principal, as well as a superintendent, and then sending students to Lenape Regional for high school inefficient and a "colossal waste" of money.
"It's a problem all the towns around us have," he says, noting that a tax increase for Lenape will add $200 more to the bill for each home next year.
With a median household income of $104,063, Shamong is fairly affluent.
"People here work hard, and the median income reflects lots of two-paycheck families, with both spouses highly educated professionals," Long says.
Shamong also has "more entrepreneurs per square foot," he says.
Take Tony Valenzano, a former restaurateur, whose family began making wine on their farm as a hobby in the 1980s and opened their winery, the county's first, in 1996.
"It became a small business, and now we are a much bigger small business," Valenzano says.
In the first year, the Valenzanos produced 500 gallons. Today, it's 115,000 gallons a year, with 99 percent sold in New Jersey, he says.
"There has been a lot of expansion, and we keep coming up with new reasons" - a tasting room, Thursday night dinners, wedding receptions, and a July 4 fireworks festival - "for people to come out," Valenzano says.
Even "yoga in the vineyards" when the weather improves.
"A little bit of everything," Valenzano says.
Town By Town: By the Numbers
Population: 6,444 (2013)
Median household income: $104,063
Area: 45 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 11
Homes for sale: 53
Average days on market: 169
Median sale price: $275,000
Housing stock: 2,227 units, from mobile homes to horse farms
School district: Shamong, Lenape Regional
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau;
Val Nunnenkamp, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors, Marlton; BHHS Fox & Roach HomExpert Market ReportEndText