After more than 25 years of living, working and playing on Cape Cod we have a lot to share about the area.  Our blog topics run the gamut from fun things to do, working with contractors, and homeownership tips and tricks, so check back frequently to see what's new.  If you have questions or would like to learn more about Cape Cod or owning property on this beautiful peninsula please contact us for more information and to set up a showing for any listing. 

Ask Agnes: Selling and Buying on Cape Cod - Part 2

In this series we examine the process of selling on Cape Cod - and don't worry, we'll get to the buying soon.  This installment includes choosing an agent and living with a listed property.

"OK Agnes, I am ready to choose an agent...what should I consider?"

    "Well, a great place to start is with interview questions to ask your agent.  Consider some points in this article on and create your questions with the goal of choosing a professional.  We suggest asking, "In which neighborhoods do you primarily work?", "Do you work full-time or part-time?", "Can I hear from your past clients?", and "How many sales did you close last year?".  An agent worth their salt should be able to answer all of those questions satisfactorily. 

    "Keep in mind that many real estate agents are part-timers or hobbyists who participate in very few deals each year.  Of the 2,712 registered agents and approximately 5,325 residential sales in 2017 you can see that 91% of agents on Cape Cod participated in fewer than one deal per month.  While we don't snub our noses at anyone working hard to make a living in a competitive industry, we strongly recommend you consider agents who have the experience and expertise that comes from doing dozens of deals each year, rather than just a handful, or none.  It may feel good to give a close friend from your book club a chance to sell your house but when it comes to six and seven figure transactions we recommend hiring professionals.  Think of it like this: chances are that the other party will be represented by one of the agents in the top 1% anyway, so set yourself up for success and make sure that your agent is not outmatched even before you start negotiating.  We'd also like to point out that the Cape Cod Chatelains are in that top 1% category (we are actually in the top 0.3%)."

"Really Agnes?  It's just a stats game?"

    "No and stop interrupting.  You have to be sure you connect with, like, and trust whomever you choose to work with.  Agents are so plentiful that you have a lot of choices - be sure you will want to work with this person, or these people for a while.  The process of selling your home can take months, and sometimes years depending on the client's needs and expectations.  Keep in mind also that we aren't just talking about how long your home spends on the market.  A good agent is going to work with you from start to finish and this process can be timely, as should any major transaction.  And be sure to ask for references - we are proud that an average of 88% of our business comes from repeat or referred clients who are always happy to speak with folks who are considering us to represent them."

"Thanks Agnes.  Now to actually having a house listed...what is that like?

    "Well again this depends on your current situation.  Needless to say it can be easier to sell a second home if it is not your primary residence because it is far less disruptive.  But let's consider a home that is occupied full time for this exercise.  First, there is generally a lot of activity when a house first hits the market.  The Cape market is heavily seller favored so there are buyers that are waiting for houses to pop up.  Literally we get calls within the first 20 minutes a listing activates.  Furthermore we schedule two different types of open houses as soon as is feasible for the seller.  First we schedule an agent open house during a work day so that local agents can preview the property.  Soon thereafter we do a weekend open house for the public so that anyone and everyone gets a chance so see the home.  It helps tremendously if the home is in tip-top shape for both of these events - clean desks, no drying dishes, fresh towels, swept, mopped, dusted, you get the idea.  From then on showings are as requested.  Keeping the house tidy and clean during this time helps it show well.  Also we love chatting with our clients about black-out times when showings are not possible (i.e. dinner or Sundays 1-3), as well as the best way to get in touch when needed.  Needless to say, when a house is on the market it can feel disruptive and intrusive to have strangers in it.  Setting some black out times is a great way to ensure your home still feels like your home, and we are happy to work with clients on which times make most sense (blocking out every day from 4:30-8 may be impossible when accommodating work schedules for example).  Additionally we always recommend that sellers leave for showings, it reduces stress for all parties and allows the buyers to make informed decisions."

Thank you Agnes.  As usual we rely on your years of expertise and insight.  Our next installment will involve getting from negotiation to closing.  Feel free to contact us with questions.

Ask Agnes: Selling and Buying on Cape Cod - Part 1

    We're back for another installment of 'Ask Agnes'.  Recently we have had a lot of interest regarding the process of selling your home on Cape Cod.  We'll start this series with the process of selling and be sure to hit relevant points to consider when listing your property including when, with whom, and why.

"Hey Agnes, should I sell my home and when should I put it on the market?"

    "'Should I sell' is probably the most important question to consider for any potential seller.  Before considering a move, research the time and cost for changing your current home into one more suited to your needs.  If you love your current location but need an extra 200 sq ft then an addition or reconfiguration may be a better idea than a move.  For more information on choosing a contractor check out our blog - 5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Contractor.  However a job relocation, undesirable location, or already maximized space in your current home are all reasons that necessitate a sale.  

   "Once you have made the decision to sell, timing can be critical.  Luckily a lot of the Cape Cod market has such low inventory right now that a home priced correctly for its condition and features can sell quickly regardless of the listing start date. Additionally we ran some numbers for the previous few years and there is no significant correlation between how close you get to your original asking price and when you list your house.  However, houses that list in the early spring and late summer spend less time on the market.  And the less time your home spends on the market leads to fewer mortgage payments, electric bills, insurance (etc...) so ultimately, more money in your pocket."  

"What can I do to prepare my home (and myself) for listing?"

    "Make a plan for the future: The most important question is where will you go once your home sells?  If your home is not a primary residence then this question may already be answered, but if your home is rented it is important to make sure tenants have somewhere to go as well.  Another thing to consider is your financial situation and how long you can afford to wait for your house to sell.  The reality is that some properties take longer to sell than others but be sure you have enough money to pay all mortgages, taxes and repair bills that may come up.  Just because you are selling doesn't mean you are not responsible for putting on a new roof or repairing damage due to flooding. Working with a local agent on a pricing strategy to meet your timeline is critical.

    "Prepare the property:  While squeaky hinges and jiggly doorknobs are things we all deal with in our own homes, now is the time to address each item on the punch list (a great example of a well prepared and kept property is 9 Osborn Snow Dr, East Dennis).  You would laugh at how often some of these items are on the original inspection report from years (sometimes decades) ago when the owner bought the house.  But don't feel bad, this is the reality of owning a home (and I have a few of these items still on the list too...Ed...).  Also cleaning and appropriately staging your home highlights its best qualities.  A pile of folded clothes on the bed during a showing is not as detrimental as a three foot stack of newspaper clippings on a cluttered and dusty desk.  Unique furniture, expensive menageries, and unfinished projects don't sell houses.  Let the best of your home shine through (and finish that 10 year old jigsaw puzzle in your new house).  The same goes for landscaping.  Trim the hedges, cut the grass, weed the garden, mulch the roses.  Check out some suggestions in an older blog on exterior improvements.  Curb appeal is the second impression of your home (the first is the photos!) and cannot be underestimated in importance."

Thanks Agnes, as always we appreciate your years (but not too many) of insight into the local market.  For the next installment we'll be examining how to choose a real estate agent and what having your house listed is actually like.  As always don't hesitate to contact us with questions about all of your real estate needs.

Open Houses Weekend 2/24-2/25

We have 3 great open houses this weekend that you won't want to miss.

With 9 Osborn Snow Drive, East Dennis, location is everything and this home has it all - expansive views of Quivet Neck conservation land as far as Cape Cod Bay and lush grounds that have character and set the tone for the Cape Cod lifestyle. The gracious interiors cover 6600 square feet which include separate living quarters and a large private office that makes this home ideal for corporate retreats. Every inch was custom crafted with low maintenance in mind. Boasting a fabulous chef's kitchen and oversized deck, entertaining is a breeze. Delight your clients with delicious treats prepared in the brick oven while enjoying the sweeping views and wine on the deck or by the fire pits. This special place features 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, sparkling wood, tile, and lush carpeting, vaulted ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows. This is truly private and in an exceptional neighborhood. Bring your personal touches. $2,075,000.


Just new to the market 438 Main St, Osterville, is a unique refined residence a short stroll to Osterville Village for Fancy's Market, library, post office, coffee, and brunch or to Dowes Beach for a sunny walk or cooling dip. This renovated charmer has a versatile floor plan. The heart of the home features a family room kitchen combination that spills onto the large gracious sun room that was added in 2012 with deck and patio on either side. The living room with lovely bay window is set apart allowing for quiet contemplation and intimate chats. Each bedroom has a private bath. There is extra sleeping area with half bath for visitors. The home is air conditioned throughout and has a fantastic outdoor shower. This adaptable home is to be enjoyed in summer and all year long. $699,000


Also new to market and having the versatility of both residential and general commercial zoning, 485 Main St, West Dennis, was also known as the Rose Victorian Gift Shop for many years.  Built in 1877 this striking Folk Victorian home features five bedrooms, 3 baths, a large carriage house of consistent architecture, two storage 'barns,' plus a privy. It is sited along Main Street a walk to the Village Center. Charm and grace best describe the tree lined street setting and interior with its inlaid wood floors, high ceilings, plaster ceiling medallions and many other period features. The General Commercial zoning allows for a wide variety of uses. Bring your ideas and make this property sparkle once more! $399,000

Market Trends and Analysis - Part 4

    Our goal in this series is it to help you understand how we interpret markets on the Cape and how this informs our recommendations when developing pricing strategies.  For our final installment we will evaluate the Cape Cod market for the past 3 years (starting in October 2014).  

    First the inventory of single family homes has been dropping over the past few years.  This factor coupled with rising median sales prices and fewer days on market indicate an accelerating market in Barnstable County.  Another interesting factor to note is the significant decrease in homes for sale over the past year and that 2017 did not show as stark a seasonal bump in inventory as is typical.  Additionally the affordability index is trending towards less affordability on Cape Cod.  

    What's our take? If you are thinking of buying, our advice is not to wait.  Interest rates are at historic lows and, if the current market trend continues, homes will continue to become gradually more expensive.  The long-term news isn't all bad, though - there are numerous local, state, and federal initiatives in the works which plan to ease the affordability pinch here on the Cape.  For more information, check out this local housing forum featuring none other than our own Ned Chatelain.  But you don't have to wait for new programs to buy something - give us a call and we can put you in touch with the top-notch mortgage brokers we work with who can walk you through low-downpayment and no-downpayment mortgages, first time home-buyer programs, or local lending incentives that can make the difference between buying this year or buying in three years.

     On the other hand, If you are thinking of selling, this is good news for you.  The Spring is an excellent time to get your house on the market and winter is the best time to get it ready.  Give us a call today if you are interested in a home valuation and comparative market analysis.

Market Trends and Analysis - Part 3

    Our goal in this series is it to help you understand how we interpret markets on the Cape and how this informs our recommendations when developing pricing strategies.  In this installment we will be evaluating a specific market - single family homes on the water, Barnstable to Orleans (Homes on Water Bodies & Homes on Beaches). Immediately we notice some relevant trends.

    First the median sales price for these homes is much higher than the Barnstable County median at $1,200,000, yet take far longer to sell with a median days on market of 95 (and an average of 231).  To be fair these are expensive waterfront homes, occupy a smaller market niche, and ultimately take longer to sell.  We also see, based on the bar graph at left, that the group of fastest selling homes (43 days or less) sell for 94% of the asking price - as compared to Brewster in Part 2, those fastest selling homes did so in 25 days or less with 99% of the asking price. 

    Getting back to the waterfront case study, the homes that take longest to sell require price reductions on the order of 12% off the original asking price and only sell for 79% of the original asking price.  What we see here is that people tend to price waterfront homes very aggressively (high) and require significant reductions before they sell.  Furthermore these homes are sold for far less than the original asking price as well as the current asking price - something to think about if you are in the market for a $1,000,000 home on the water.  Consider also that many of these sellers have a price in mind and are willing, can afford, and believe that waiting will get their asking price; however, as is evident in the data, waiting longer does not return a higher sale price.

    We discovered one more interesting thing here.  When analyzing certain markets it is useful to know how square footage affects sale price - and it may not be what you think.  In this market (and this is not always the case) the larger the home the fewer dollars per square foot ($/sqft) it returns.  Using the trend line on the graph we would predict that a 9000sqft home would sell for about $500/sqft whereas a 1000sqft home would sell for closer to $600/sqft.  Mind this is a loose relationship but it is a trend that reappears in many markets.  The takeaway?  Larger waterfront homes are having a harder time selling than smaller ones - price reductions may be warranted earlier in developing a sales strategy.

  Check back next time for our final part in the series: some long term analyses.

Market Trends and Analysis - Part 2

    Our goal in this series it to help you understand how we interpret markets on the Cape and how this informs our recommendations when developing pricing strategies.  In this installment we will be evaluating a specific market - homes in Brewster between $300k and $500k.  We chose this market because it includes the current median sales price in Barnstable County of $380,000. 

    From August 1, 2017 until October 26th (when we ran the numbers) only 25 homes have sold in this price range in Brewster.  Remarkably, the median sales price is ...$380,000, and the average days on market is 66.  As a result we note that in the past three months houses in Brewster sell more quickly than the average in Barnstable County.  Furthermore Brewster shows signs favoring sellers.  We see this in the fact that homes sell relatively quickly and return a higher % of original list price than Barnstable County overall (please see Part 1 for this graph and explanation).  When looking at the last 3 weeks we also note that fewer price reductions are needed before homes are selling.  Other points of interest that we consider - though don't have time to discuss fully - include absorption rate, total listings and withdrawn listings.

    We look forward to introducing part 3 of this series when we compare markets with specific features (water!).  If you are curious about how your home will compete in your local market please contact us today or click here to get a home valuation.

Market Trends and Analysis - Part 1

    We always try to understand the real estate market on Cape Cod in a variety of ways and to explain our understanding to our clients.  For the first installment of this series we will be looking at Barnstable County as a whole and explaining an interesting trend that carries over into many markets on Cape Cod.  Our goal is to help you understand how we interpret the market here on the Cape and how it informs our decisions when developing pricing strategies.

    To begin we found residential property sales from $100,000 to $2,000,000 for the past 365 days and calculated the median days on market and sales price.  In this case median days on market is 55, median sales price is $380,000.  Why median and not average? When describing a set of data that is not normally distributed (a bell curve), average is not necessarily the best way to describe the central tendency of the data.  The median says that 50% of homes that sold were equal to or greater than that price, and the other 50% were less than or equal to that price.  This helps us get a better picture than the average for what a typical house sells for on Cape Cod (since only a few expensive homes will pull this average up).  Also for the days on market the same discrepancy is apparent: median is 55 days, average 100 days.  The average in this case is skewed above what is typical because some houses take a very long time to sell.  So we stick with median for these cases.

    The other thing we find is that the longer a house stays on the market, the less money it two ways.  Notice the graph at right.  The pairs of bars represent the fastest selling homes (selling in less than 26 days), the middle (26-118 days) and the slowest selling homes (more than 118 days).  The red bars are the current price as a percent of the original list price.  The blue bars are the sale price as a percent of the original list price. What we see is that the fastest selling houses don't reduce in price (red = 100%) and sell for very near the original asking price (98%).  The next set of homes reduce their current price to 97% of original and sell for only 94% of the original.  The last group reduce the price yet again and sell for even less than the original asking price.  The trend is towards weaker offers generating lower sales prices.

    The lesson is three fold.  First, by pricing your home well from the start you are increasing your chances of getting a better offer.  Second, leaving your home at a high price for too long tends to return lower offers - a principle which is more pronounced the longer your house spends on the market. Finally, by using qualified local real estate agents who understand the local markets you are maximizing your chances of pricing your home correctly from day one.  One final point, agents do not determine the price of your home, the market does.  

    If you are curious about how your home will compete in the local market please contact us today or click here to get a home valuation.


5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Contractor

Fall is a great time to consider more significant home improvements including bathroom and kitchen remodeling, exterior residing and shingling, and landscaping upgrades and improvements.  With the holidays still months away many projects can be completed before guests, turkeys, and trees begin occupying your time.  If your project is a more significant undertaking, you can at least begin a conversation so that improvements can be done next year.  With this in mind here are our top five considerations when hiring a contractor.


The most significant way to spare yourself a headache down the road is to ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences.  If you notice quality craftsmanship at a dinner party, ask about the responsible contractor; if exterior repairs and painting look stunning, check for signs in the yard; if landscaping is exquisite... well, you get the idea.  If someone comes highly recommended they more than likely do a great job.  The trim pictured at left should raise a red flag if newer construction; in this case, this is 30 years old and in an outdoor shower, we figure we'll cut the builder some slack.


A good contractor will stand by their work so ask to see examples (particularly of older work to determine longevity).  If a contractor does a dynamite paint job that in two years is chipping away, consider going elsewhere; also be aware that interior work is difficult to see in occupied homes but you can always ask the contractor - as should be obvious, inviting yourself onto others' property is inappropriate.  If you don't like the work they do, don't use them.  We love the custom tile work at 9 Osborn Snow Drive in East Dennis, pictured at right, as well as so much more in this luxury home.


While operating on a handshake is doable, writing down your specific agreement insures both you and the contractor know what is expected.  Written contracts can easily be appended in the event of changes so don't think they lock you into an immutable arrangement (also four months is a long time to remember whether the painter was responsible for trim on the dog house or not).  Our advice - make sure 'clean-up' is well defined and a part of any agreement.


Too often people go with the first offer without considering other bids - this is a mistake.  Furthermore asking for bids from multiple contractors informs one of the most important things about them, their timeliness.  Frequently we make four or five calls for a job and receive only two calls back.  No matter how highly recommended someone is they don't win points by being hard to reach, late with offers, or otherwise discourteous in any way.


Even excellent contractors can't make every deadline and there are plenty of legitimate reasons why something may not go as expected.  Good contractors are busy and may not be able to work with you for months, or even years.  In addition, when you are working with someone don't expect that they will be able to do everything today, be understanding with reasonable delays, and be kind.  If things aren't going as expected then you can always refer to your written contract about how to end the work.  In fact, the land at 196 Baxter Street, South Dennis - pictured at left - has been on a contractors docket for nearly 15 years, but we are constantly reassured a house will be built any day now (just kidding of course.  But give us a call if you are interested in this is a lot to love.)


If you have any questions about how home improvements affect your property in the market feel free to contact us today, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

Things to do in the Fall on Cape Cod

Ask Agnes Vol IV: Fall on Cape Cod

Cape Cod Chatelains: "Can you believe, Agnes, that Labor day is almost here and fall is just around the corner?"

Agnes: "Unbelievable.  I love the summer on Cape Cod but fall is fantastic for a lot of different reasons."

CCC: "That certainly makes my next question easy...what do you love about fall Agnes?"

A: "First and foremost I love this time of year; days are warm, nights are cool and the weather is dry.  Outside activities are a treat and I particularly love birding in the fall.  Between South Beach in Chatham and the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary the outer Cape abounds with spectacular fall species.  Many of the marshes in Dennis and Harwich (Like Crowes Pasture and Bell's Neck) are also excellent places to see migrants as they prepare for their journeys.  I also enjoy listening to Mark Faherty's bird report on the local NPR station WCAI."

CCC: "Great thoughts thanks Agnes.  What else do you love about fall?"

A: "Well, I love the hustle and bustle of the summer season but I also love being able to drive around again and take advantage of the summer amenities that are still open, and largely quiet.  This is still a great time of year to enjoy a meal outside at one of the many fine establishments on the Cape...and without having to wait 45 minutes for a table!  The Cape Dining Review has some excellent suggestions that are frequently updated.  The weather is so wonderful that I really enjoy getting a chowder or a sandwich and sitting on an empty beach for lunch (and sometimes going for a quick dip as well since the water is still delightful).  There are so many beautiful beaches and, while a busy summer beach on a hot day is great, I like the cool quiet beaches of the fall too. "

CCC: "Very poetic Agnes, you are a romantic aren't you?"

A: "    "

CCC: "Anything else great about fall?"

End of the seasonA: "Well you can't think about fall on Cape Cod without at least mentioning that we live in New England, which has the market cornered on amazing fall activities.  It is easy to forget how close Cape Cod is to the rest of the world and, as much as we love spending time here, it is great to have a change of scenery every now and again.  Go apple picking, enjoy a hayride, view spectacular foliage, relish a drive off-Cape, see a witch in Salem, really the list is endless.  In fact here are some great ideas for things to do throughout Massachusetts. "

Well thank you again Agnes, we are lucky to have your decades of experiences here on Cape Cod.  As always, please contact us with any questions about your real estate needs, we are happy to help.


Add value to your home through exterior improvements

  As the days get shorter and the prospect of fall becomes ever more apparent, outdoor landscaping improvements seem less daunting.  Cooler weather makes outdoor projects more enjoyable and undertaking even simple jobs can add significantly to the curb appeal of your home.  The National Association of Realtors published a report relating to the benefits of outdoor remodeling projects that you can find here and while many of their suggestions are valid in the national market we pulled out the one we find most pertinent to Cape Cod.

LAWN CARE AND MAINTENANCE is by far the most important and cost effective thing you can do to add value to your home. We can not stress enough the importance of keeping your landscaping neat.  You needn't spend a fortune to re-sod your lawn, install irrigation, repave your driveway and invest in mature plantings in order to reap gains on the sale price of your home.  For the cost of a used lawn mower (often free) and an hour once or twice a week you can add value to your property and enjoy a more pleasing atmosphere in the mean time. One of the most important aspects of cost-effective landscape care is matching it to the condition of your home.  On Cape Cod a lot of small cottages have 'Cape Cod lawns' - which is a nice way of saying mostly pine needles and some tenacious tufts of grass here and there - and, if paired with a clean, weed-free shell driveway and well pruned shrubs, requires minimum  investment in landscaping improvement.  However, newer homes with poorly maintained landscaping (spots on the lawn, overgrowth, rotting fences) significantly detract from the curb appeal and, ultimately, sale price of your home.  If it is in the budget, having trusted and professional landscapers on a yearly maintenance schedule is a great way to be sure your landscaping looks its best as they can take care of fall cleanup, spring planting, regular pruning, trimming and mowing and much more.  Let's see a few examples:

429 Bragg's Lane in Barnstable, is an updated home with appropriately matched and maintained landscaping.  The plantings in front are below the windows and the lawn is well maintained, which is appropriate for the condition of the home.   Also shown is a cute patio in the backyard.  While not always needed or fitting, adding tasteful exterior living space can definitely add value to your home, and this simple patio is a great example of that.  Unfortunately this home just sold for $480K but if you are interested in other Barnstable homes check this out.

5 Sebastian Way in South Yarmouth, is an example of a house with appropriate and simple landscaping.  The minimal plantings in front are still growing into their spaces , the hydrangeas are well pruned and blooming, and the lawn (a good example of a Cape Cod lawn), is trimmed with the flower beds neatly mulched and ringed in front.  As a cute summer getaway or year-round residence, this home also benefits from a simple fire-pit ringed with bricks.  Well matched and well maintained beats neglected every time.  Yarmouth is a beautiful town and there are plenty of other Yarmouth listing to be seen here.

As a final point regarding soft-scaping, the late summer and early fall is a great time to reseed your lawn on Cape Cod.  The ground is warm and yet the scorching summer sun is in the past so seedlings have a chance to get established before the winter.  Believe it or not, many grasses will survive a winter covered in snow more easily than a summer baked in sun - so time to reseed ladies and gentlemen.

If you need help contacting trusted local landscapers or have questions about buying or selling a home please give us a call today.