The barrier island in nearly 20 miles long. Locating near the hub of activities, or near to the homes of family and friends may be important when choosing a location. Driving the length of less than 20 miles can be a daunting task taking hours during peak times. It seems that your interest might be restricted to Beach Haven (and that may include North Beach Haven? Haven Beach?) That is certainly one of the more concentrated hubs on the barrier island. Beach or bayside is really a matter of preference. Budgets reach all directions. There is currently a condo for sale in the low 3's, multi family home at 1.3M, and SF homes ranging from the 4's to 1.7M. You will find the largest potential selection of homes in the higher 6 figures and lower 7 figures.
There isn't much inventory active in MLS right now, but surely, there are many potential sellers out there who are not listed. If you are serious about buying soon, I would suggest that retain a buyers agent that will aggressively comb the market for would be sellers in addition to those actively listed. There weren't many sales last year, and there were a lot of properties that went off the market as expireds and withdrawns. For you, as a buyer, that creates both oppty and risk. But, oppty generally does run hand in hand w/ risk.
For many buyers, the question is "buy or wait for the market to adjust"? I explain to buyers that your target property may or may not move with the tide of the market. Not all sellers, therefore not all properties, will swing at that the same speed as the "average" of the market. Today, there may be a motivated seller who wants to sell now, and may become very flexible in pricing......well below today's average, or even well below tomorrow's average. The more flexible you are as a buyer in your choice of amenities, location, and condition, the more likely you are to be able to secure a great deal by prioritizing properties held by motivated sellers. A buyers agent, if representing exclusively you, can approach sellers from last year who may still have an interest.
If you are looking for a long term summer home to share with your family (I see in your picture that you have little ones!), then I would suggest beginning your search now. It is impossible to time the market perfectly. If this is a long term hold and a place to build memories w/ family and friends with for years, you can start that now. You are in a more favorable position today than the buyers were 3 and 4 years ago.
Jeff....please excuse me while I borrow your thread for a side comment..............I haven't been that active on Trulia in the recent weeks. When I came to this thread and saw the volume of TD, it was disheartening. It looks like Realtors slamming Realtors, and that makes a negative statement about us, and about our profession. I would ask that you try to take a step back and see this how a first time Trulia visitor might.....coming to a sight, finding a question of interest, and seeing all this negative bashing. Really, is this uplifting to Trulia or Realtors? Does it speak well about us? Did all this TD activity help Jeff or other consumers? Or, did it turn off Jeff and/or other consumers?