Annual Newsletter

2020 Cape Cod Real Estate Market Recap Part 2

FOR PART 1 IN THIS SERIES CLICK HERE

The big question is “what about 2021?” Will the strong market hold?  Will prices continue to climb?  Or are we in a bubble whose collapse is imminent?  The short answer is, as always: “we have no idea.”  But for a long answer, here are some factors we see swimming around in the crystal ball on Agnes’ desk:

1) COVID generated an incredible demand for properties on Cape Cod, driven largely by out-of-area buyers.  Many of these were shopping for second homes to escape the pandemic shutdowns in urban areas and retained their off-Cape home as their primary residence.  But many made the move to Cape Cod permanently, attracted to the high quality public schools, phenomenal outdoor recreation, arts and culture scene, and of course, fried fish.  The extent to which either group will remain in the marketplace is the single greatest X-factor in predicting 2021 market performance.

2) Regardless of what happens with COVID demand, we are not generating enough new units on Cape, so we expect continued inventory problems.  This has been the story for 25 years across MA, and lack of new production has been driving median home prices to exceed median income by incrementally greater and greater margins every year.

3) The Fed's buying has contributed to massive amounts of cash in the marketplace, which even apart from COVID has been putting significant upward pressure on assets like real estate, bonds, gold, art, wine, etc... Everything we are reading suggests that this stimulus will continue.

4) Likewise, the Fed is signaling that they will keep the benchmark rate near 0% for the short-medium term, which favorably impacts mortgage rates and again puts upward pressure on real estate prices.

So what’s the roundup?  Items #2, 3 and 4 combine to suggest a continued strong market in the short term.  #1 is a wild card.  If things return to 'normal' and folks suddenly decide they no longer need or want that second home, or that they can no longer rationalize the expense, we may be in for a buyer’s market in the near future.  Only time will tell how things will play out.

2020 was a crazy year.  2021 is starting off on the same foot.  We have no idea what the future will bring.  But we do know this with 100% certainty: whatever the market brings, your Realtor will be a vital resource and ally ushering you through the buying, selling, or renting process, and there are no better agents out there than those at Chatelain Real Estate.  So pick up the phone, drop us an email, or stop by the office any time to discuss your needs -we’re here to help!
 

2020 Cape Cod Real Estate Market Recap Part 1

There are no two ways about it.  2020 was a remarkable year for the Cape Real Estate market.  We started off the year in familiar territory with January and February showing roughly the same level of market activity as in recent years.  But when the COVID pandemic took hold in March we saw a sudden slump in both pending sales and new listings – by the end of April new listings for single family homes were less than half of what they were in April 2019.  Things started to turn around in May, and by the end of July first quarter losses had already been erased and year-to-date median sale price and closed sales were up.  This trend continued until the end of the year, with record-setting monthly numbers in Q3 and Q4 eventually leading to a full 17.9% increase in median home sale price, and 19.8% increase in closed sales.

 

This 19.8% increase in closed sales happened in spite of inventory continuing to lag behind demand (see graphic above).  For example, buyers came back to the market in force in May. However, new listings of single family homes continued to drop until June, and by the end of the year never reached up to 2019 levels.  The most obvious effect of this low inventory is higher prices (a whopping 17.9% higher).  But it also leads to a faster and more aggressive market.  Total days on market was down this year, and homes are fetching closer and closer to asking price as time goes by.  A seller in today’s market can expect to receive 98.2% of asking price for their home, which is a significant increase over past years. 

What does this mean for buyers in today’s market?  Low inventory and high list/sale price ratios mean buyers should expect multiple offer situations with many homes selling for over asking price.  And the ever shortening days on market means buyers have to be ready to strike when the right home comes on the market.  Buyers should be pre-approved by a reputable local bank, and have a crack Realtor (like those from Chatelain Real Estate) on their side to help them move quickly and decisively.

For sellers, the takeaway is: sell!  Please!  We need more inventory in the marketplace in order to balance out surging demand.  Continued low inventory will only keep pushing prices higher, further exacerbating our already crisis-level affordability issues.  And with so many buyers out there, you are sure to get top dollar for your home.

The big question is “what about 2021?”  Will the strong market hold?  Will prices continue to climb?  Or are we in a bubble whose collapse is imminent?  The short answer is, as always: “we have no idea.”  But for a long answer see part 2 --HERE-- with the most significant factors we see swimming around in the crystal ball on Agnes’ desk:

Vacation Rentals on Cape Cod - 2020 Year in Review

2020 was an unusual year to say the least and the vacation rental market on Cape Cod was no exception. Local hotels and motels suffered as many vacationers were either unable to travel or reluctant to be in shared spaces. However, when comparing our experience as short-term vacation rental brokers to the hotel industry, we found the comfort of a clean private vacation rental home to be an incredible draw during the pandemic. Let's unpack a couple points of interest from last season and determine if that may influence 2021 and beyond.

1. Renters were not discouraged from weekly home rentals

Let's review here briefly since March 2020 seems like it was a lifetime ago.  Once significant lock-downs were put in place by the Commonwealth in late March of 2020, short-term vacation rentals were put on hold. This shutdown prevented new leases from being written and left a looming question mark over the entire season. However, in early June when the restrictions on vacation rentals were lifted, the floodgates opened and boy did they ever. Most of June was spent furiously making up for the past 6 months of lost booking time and, as a result, our 2020 summer season was unmatched in recent memory for occupancy. Vacationers, after spending months cooped up in apartments and cities, wanted to get away and felt safer doing it in a professionally cleaned private home, like the ones we manage, than in a hotel, resort or other accommodation where more people congregate and comingle.

Vacationers were suddenly reminded that Cape Cod is a delightful getaway merely a day's drive from anywhere in New England, New York, and even down as far as Washington DC and farther west. The appeal of a sunny beach or private yard where you can spread out and remain socially distant from strangers - while also enjoying a cooling dip every now and again - is something that makes Cape Cod both unique and delightful in the vacation market. 

2. Peak Season and Off-season each got a little longer

In our experience the most popular "peak" weeks for vacation rentals on Cape Cod are the last two weeks in July and the first two weeks in August. Bookings usually are less competitive for the end of August (kids back in school) and earlier in July but last year saw our waiting lists extend to double digits, even for some of these off-peak weeks. 

In addition to the unprecedented summer season, off-season interest was also exceptional in 2020.  In a typical year, before mid June as well as after Labor Day are challenging to fill due to school schedules; yet both of these times saw far higher occupancy rates than usual. With students and parents working virtually,  many were able to either extend vacation time or come to the Cape to escape even during the school year or normal work weeks.  Additionally, we had a number of retirees and remote workers just looking for a change in scenery that filled many of these vacancies.

3. What can we expect in 2021?

Based on how much booking interest we are already seeing so far we expect that Cape Cod will remain top of list for summer vacations for this year at least, and hopefully for quite some time. After 2020's jarring nature of shutdowns, ever changing regulations, and palpable uncertainty, we also expect local businesses to be able to better cope with the nature of operating during a pandemic. Many local shops, restaurants, retailers etc... have spent the past 11 months honing their operations during a pandemic and will be able to manage the summer crowds without the uncertainty of last year. We see Cape Cod continue to be a delightful summer vacation destination and hope you can come and experience it for yourself this year or in the near future.

For more information on a summer vacation rental, see our available homes --HERE--

Donation Opportunities on Cape Cod

What a year it’s been since I sat down to write for our last annual newsletter! Then, I was just settling into my new position here at Chatelain Real Estate and was looking forward to a wonderful year. What’s that they say about ‘the best laid plans’?  While the Cape has been experiencing a record-breaking real estate market, many people and businesses are living with the uncertainty of whether they’ll be able to support themselves through the coming year. One thing I love about living on Cape Cod is the spirit of community, so if you’d like to donate to support our local individuals, businesses, or non-profits -- or if you’re in need of resources yourself! -- check out the following funds:

Housing Assistance Corporation created a workforce housing relief fund to provide some financial relief for individuals and families struggling to stay afloat. Keeping people stably housed is always important, and doubly so during a pandemic! HAC has a long history of helping local residents find and maintain housing, and connecting them with appropriate financial and social services. 

The Cape Cod Resilience Fund is the brainchild of Love Live Local, an amazing nonprofit that spotlights and supports local businesses and vendors. The fund provides grant money to small business owners who have been impacted by Covid, whether from lockdown or a reduced ability to do business. Love Live Local has a store on Main Street in Hyannis and hosts a number of markets throughout the year for local makers to showcase their wares!

The Cape & Islands United Way’s Covid-19 Community Response Fund is channeling money to their existing and new non-profit partners. As lockdown went into effect just after the 2020 grant review process, the United Way decided to prioritize initiatives supporting housing and financial stability. The Community Response Fund continues this work by giving money to organizations that help with food, shelter, and emergency assistance. 

Hopefully, by the end of this year, things will be a bit more ‘normal’ -- but until then, give if you can, be kind to each other, and wear your mask!

Cape Cod Affordable Housing Update | Feb 2020

We get a lot of questions from folks interested in the issue of housing affordability here on the Cape, so we thought we’d give a quick overview of the issue and some of the potential solutions being discussed.  

What exactly is meant by “affordable”?  The benchmark for housing affordability is 30% of a family’s income.  Here on Cape, the Area Median income (AMI) from 2014-2018 (per census) was $70,621 (see here for census data).  During the same interval the median home sale price was $367,700.  The total monthly payment on a median priced home comes to approximately 28% of median income if the buyer has a traditional 20% down payment (jump to our math below).

So with a good-sized down payment, the median priced home can be purchased by the median-earning household.  Good news so far.  Now let’s break down housing affordability for households earning below median income.  Take a look at the graph of residential price distribution in 2019.  Here we matched home prices to the income brackets in the next graph to determine how many homes are available to homes in their income price range.  Notice the steep decline in available homes below median income affordability of $367k.  Now compare that to the graph of income distribution.  Notice the mis-match.  If your household earns 68% AMI you may be only 32% away from median in terms of income, but 32% less than median home value equates to $250k, and there are almost no homes available in that price bracket.  

In addition, these graphs don’t account for the quality of the housing at each price point.  A good-quality ‘move in’ condition home can be found around the median price point of $367,000.  However, once you get down to about the $300,000 mark it is extremely challenging to find a home that is not in need of significant repairs or upgrades before it is ready for occupancy.  (If we could graph housing quality against price point, it would show an even sharper peak than the price graph).  On the one hand, this presents an opportunity to a buyer who is willing to buy a fixer upper for a low purchase price, bang nails after work and build equity.  However, it also means that same buyer must budget for repairs in addition to down payment, which further reduces the price of the home they can afford.  And for the less hands-on households, it means a home purchase is a nonstarter.

Ok, so it is a challenge for a household earning less than AMI to buy a home, so they decide to rent and save up to buy down the line.  Good plan – but let’s take a look at rental market first. Per HUD guidelines, fair market rent for a 3 bedroom house in Barnstable county is $1,919/month (reference here).  This is $264/month more than the same household would be paying for a median priced home of their own.  Why the mis-match? Barnstable County has a 1% vacancy rate for rentals, which represents a huge shortage – a healthy rate would be 7%.  This shortage translates to high demand, which translates to – you guessed it, high prices. 

So let’s circle back to the median home value calculation above, which assumed that our median earning family had a 20% downpayment to apply to their median-priced home.  If a renting household is paying close to $300 (16%) per month more to rent than to own, it can be a real challenge to save enough money to put towards a downpayment.  They are stuck in a loop of paying too much for rent, while also pricing themselves out of the possibility of homeownership.

So what is the solution?  There is no silver bullet, but bringing more rental units online is a big part of the answer.  One tool that has gained a lot of traction on the Cape is easing prohibitions on accessory apartments.  This is a minor change which can go a long way to bringing more small, organically affordable, market rate units into the market place.  Other initiatives include property tax incentives for landlords of long-term rentals, form-based code zoning reform to encourage multi-use and multi-family development, and raising density in areas where the infrastructure already exists to service a higher density of homes.  A lot of innovative work is being done to help restore a healthy, balanced real estate market to the Cape (and the nation).  It’s a topic that is near and dear to our hearts – if you ever have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  We’d be happy to discuss in greater detail.


Calculations

Area Median income 2014-2018 (per census): $70,621
    • Average Median home price 2014-2018 (per CCI board of realtors): $367,700

At today's conforming interest rate of 3.375% (CC5 2.06.2020) a mortgage on a $367,700 home looks like this:

    • 20% Down payment = $73,540
    • Loan Amount = $294,160
    • Principal/Interest monthly payment = $1,300.47
    • Taxes = $245 (assuming an imaginary town with 8/1000 mil rate and assessed value equal to purchase price {market value is typically actually 120%-124% of assessment for most towns in the mid-Cape})
    • Insurance = ~$110

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Total Monthly Payment Estimate = $1,655.47

2019 Cape Cod Real Estate Market Recap

Are you interested in the health of the Cape Cod real estate market?  How it compares to Massachusetts' real estate trends? We have had some time to review the market data from 2019 and have some interesting findings to report.  We'll take a few key points and break them down 

Inventory: What is "month's supply" and who cares?

Month's supply of inventory is a way of describing how much property is currently salable in the market.  It tells us that, if no homes were added to the market, how long it would take for all 'for sale' properties to be sold.  It is based on how quickly homes have been selling over the past few months and how many homes are currently for sale.  When it comes to inventory, 2019 saw a decline and was down nearly 20% from 2018 (see the graphic at right from the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors).  This has been the overall trend since 2015 when months supply of inventory was at 7.9, at 2019 year end it was 4.0.  Who cares?  With inventory so low the market favors sellers.  Generally between 5 and 6 month's of inventory is considered a healthy and sustainable amount.  4 is heavily in seller favored territory and means that buyers may compete against multiple offer scenarios or have difficulty seeing a home before an accepted offer takes it off the market.  The lesson for buyers is be prepared! Contact one of our local agents to see what this looks like.

 

 

Median Sales Price: Why does it keep going up?

2019 median sales price in Barnstable County rose 2.5% to $410,000.  Median price in 2015 was $350,000 and has been steadily increasing since then with the steepest gain in 2018.  Something to note however is that not all markets on the Cape are experiencing an increase in this metric while others are far outpacing the larger area. The question as to why median price continues to increase is multifaceted.  Since 2015, the larger economy has seen cumulative inflation about 8.5%.  The Cape Cod real estate market has seen cumulative median price increase of 17% in this same time leaving us with 9.5% to account for.  Supply and demand plays a significant role in the Cape economy and with inventory decreasing since 2015 and demand remaining high, this places upward pressure on the price of homes.  Additionally with construction costs also quite high new homes are not being built which contributes to the lack of inventory.  Also in order for builders to make a profit, new homes are being built at ever higher price points driving the market up even more.  

Statewide and Larger Trends: Cape in Context

Massachusetts as a whole is also suffering from historically low inventory and increasing median sales prices as well.  According to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR), even with the rising cost of homes, Massachusetts first-time home buyers comprise 45% of home buyers, way above the national average of 33% of home buyers. This is good news as it indicates the State is a desirable place to live. MAR states that the increasing complexity of buying homes, has 93% of buyers using a real estate agent to assist in the process of buying as opposed to purchasing directly from a builder or owner (for the entire press release, see here). This trend has increased through this decade. Additionally, the historically low interest rates throughout much of 2019 (3.375% at the time of writing), coupled with the 88% of buyers financing their homes, highlights the strength of this real estate market for sellers and buyers.  

As always, to discuss the larger market trends or find out about buying or selling in your market, contact one of our agents today.