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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. 

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 makes...in 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.

1. ASK AROUND

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.

2. GET REFERENCES AND EXAMPLES OF WORK

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.

3. EXPECT A WRITTEN CONTRACT

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.

4. GET MULTIPLE BIDS

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.

5. BE REASONABLE AND PATIENT

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 land...it 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.

Cape Cod Open Houses August 12th and 13th

 

We have three excellent open houses this weekend as well as numerous others throughout the Cape.  We are featuring the wonderful property on 9 Osborn Snow Drive, East Dennis.  From the fruit orchard, to the steam shower, the outdoor pizza oven and the sprawling deck, everything about this home exudes luxury.  Perfect for entertaining family and friends this spacious home will knock your socks off.  $2,075,000.

 

Additionally, at 28 O'Connor Lane, South Dennis, we have a beautiful 3 bedroom 2 bath ranch including a partially finished walk-out basement, 1 car garage, first floor master bedroom with en suite bathroom, bright sun-room and new engineered wood floors.  This is close to the shopping at Patriot Square, route 6, the newly updated Cape Cod Rail Trail and so much more. $369,000

 

 

Finally, at 5 Sebastian Way, South Yarmouth, a beautifully kept 3 bedroom 2 bath saltbox is not to be missed.  This one has a fresh kitchen and two updated full baths, a back deck and an outdoor shower to rinse off after a full day at one of the many beautiful Yarmouth beaches.  $329,000

 

 

For a list of all upcoming open houses in the Cape Cod area, please follow this link.  And, as always, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions

Homeownership on Cape Cod Part III

We have just introduced a new informational page on the website, 'Homeownership on Cape Cod'.  We will be adding more information to it in the future, but for now here is the third part of that page with some useful information regarding basements, sump pumps and dirt roads.  As always contact us for information about both buying and selling on Cape Cod.

 

Basements and Sump Pumps

   Cape Cod's proximity to the ocean is part of what makes it such a treasured and wonderful place to live.  The water that makes up our aquifer floats on the saltwater and, when the groundwater is high, can be seen in basements.  When the Cape was first settled basements were dug by hand and, as a result, often were shallow or limited to root cellars under only a portion of the house and many antiques on Cape Cod still feature these stonewalled and circular cellars close to kitchens.  As development progressed and heating requirements changed from hearths to furnaces, the 'Cape Cod Basement' was born.  In these instances a small section of the basement is accessible from an exterior bulkhead and is often deep enough to stand in.  These smaller areas sometimes feature furnaces, water heaters, oil tanks, washing machines or dryers - whereas the rest of the basement is frequently an earthen floor and only small enough in which to crawl, affectionately known as a 'crawl space'.  Another commonly seen aspect of basements on Cape Cod are sump pumps which act to keep the groundwater below the floor of the basement.  Like any appliance these should be maintained and specifically checked after significant rain storms and during the spring.  

 

Dirt Roads and Wooden Bridges

    The Cape’s rural past still has other remnants including dirt roads, wooden bridges and low bridges.  Picturesque examples of wooden bridges can be seen crossing Bell’s Neck Road and North Road (the walking bridge pictured at right) in Harwich, and the bridge to Lieutenant’s Island in Welfleet.  

   

    Living on a dirt road comes with the advantages that the traffic is limited generally to locals and the poetic benefit of being able to say ‘turn down the dirt road’ when inviting friends to dinner.  

 

Airbnb, Mountain Towns and Cape Cod

    We think this article by Tom Vanderbilt at Outsideonline is particularly poignant.  While it characterizes a mountain town in Colorado the parallels to Cape Cod are astounding.  Vanderbilt describes how the growing trend in short term rentals through companies like Airbnb is slowly eliminating potential housing for residents.  The problem is one of economics: if you can own a home in a desirable area, why would you rent it on a long term basis - yearly for example - when you can rent it on a short-term basis, through a company like Airbnb, and generate more income?  Vanderbilt follows a local father struggling to make ends meet, working multiple jobs, and worrying about where he will live when the tourist season starts...sound familiar?  What makes the Cape such a great place to live also makes it a great place to vacation and it is difficult to dissuade a homeowner from the extra income potential.

    On Cape Cod we are finding that more and more homes are being rented just for the summer, making them unavailable for long term lease seekers.  In fact, in response to the decreasing supply of affordable housing on Cape Cod, CCYP is holding a design competition for architects (see the brochure here).  The contest encourages a repeatable homes design balancing 'affordability, utility, adaptability, durability and suitability for the target demographic (young professionals, working families, year round residents).'  Other initiatives on Cape Cod seek to remove restrictions on building and renting accessory dwelling units (more commonly known as in-law apartments) to increase the amount of available housing.  This link comes from the local MLS on Cape Cod and describes the problem well.

    While the economy plays a large roll in housing trends on Cape Cod we are curious to see where the future will lead.  On one side of the coin locals will be increasingly priced out of the market and the Cape will be a resort where service personnel commute from less expensive housing elsewhere.  On the other side of the coin the development of Cape Cod will find a balance between the tourist economy that sustains the region and more permanent solutions.

If you are interested in learning more about housing on Cape Cod and buying or selling property please contact us today with your questions.

 

Homeownership on Cape Cod Part II

We have just introduced a new informational page on the website, 'Homeownership on Cape Cod'.  We will be adding more information to it in the future, but for now here is the second part of that page with some useful information on septic systems, building norms and utilities.  As always contact us for information about both buying and selling on Cape Cod.

 

Cape Cod Homeownership

Septic Systems

    One very common and sometimes befuddling aspect of local homeownership on Cape Cod relates to septic systems.  Put simply these are systems that collect wastewater from the home, separate solids from liquids, and leech the liquids back through a natural soil filter into the ground.  For more information on septic systems please check out some of these useful links

Local Building and Construction in Brief

    Regarding construction on Cape Cod, the traditional 'Cape' style house (pictured with red painted clapboards) stems from a New England style of utter utilitarianism.  The fairly high pitched roof prevented the crushing weight of heavy snowfall from collapsing the building and the upstairs bedrooms meant the heat would rise upstairs to make sleeping more comfortable.  You can find 'Half Capes' and full Capes all over, though many have seen additions or dormers added to increase usable space.  Most construction on Cape Cod is wooden framed with cedar shingles or clapboards for siding and pitched asphalt roofs.  Some homes also have red cedar shingling on the roof.  We have a graphic here, that does a phenomenal job of illustrating the elements of homes.  

Utilities

    A fact of life on Cape Cod (as with anywhere) is the occasional power outage.  Cape Cod, being a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean, receives a number of storms during the year, particularly during the winter.  Affectionately known as Nor'easters from the direction of the wind, these storms can cause some damage to the unprepared house.

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Client Testimonials

Dear Ed & Agnes, Thank you so much for your dedicated hard work in selling our parent's home (twice!!!).  We really appreciated your efforts. Sincerely,

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