Homeowner Tips

Cape Cod Market Update August 2019

July Review:

   Compared to this time last year, July saw only slight variation in four of the six metrics we investigate for this blog (pictured at right).  Days on market was up significantly compared to this time last year; however it was down compared to June.  Additionally the number of new listings was down nearly 15% compared to last year and lost about 9% compared to June this year.  With all of this in mind we are seeing a normal decline in market activity due to the seasonality of our area.  Nationally, mortgage interest rates are exceptionally low yet affordability continues to be a serious concern.

 

 

Recent Market Summary

  May June   July  
    Closed Sales   441  361   341  
   Inventory    2,032  2,067   2,044  
   Median Sales Price   $427K     $450K     $435K  
   Avg Days on Market   101  106   101  
   Avg % of Original Price   95%  95%   94%  

 

Check out these two blogs for more valuable insight into real estate on Cape Cod

 

   Our Take: Are sharks really taking a bite out of the Cod Cod Summer Rental Market?

    Owning a Septic System on Cape Cod

      

Owning a Septic System on Cape Cod, Ins and Outs

Owning a septic system can be a new experience for many homeowners.  Here are the ins and outs of owning a septic system on Cape Cod including helpful information and links.

What is a Septic System

Put simply it is an engineered system that, along with your modern plumbing, safely removes waste water from the home.  In their simplest form these systems include a tank which captures solids and a leaching field (called a drainfield in this diagram by the EPA) wherein the liquid waste is distributed over a large area and allowed to percolate back into the ground, thereby removing pathogens.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Septic Systems on Cape Cod

Living on Cape Cod so close to the water is wonderful but, from your septic system's perspective, can come with a few downsides.  If you live in an area close to groundwater you may have or need an 'above grade' septic system (what the EPA shows here as a 'mound' system).  These are visible throughout the Cape in low-lying areas and resemble hills, mounds or, short concrete retaining walls.  Believe it or not what you are seeing is often not the tank that holds solids (which is water tight) but the leaching field that has been raised a minimum distance from the aquifer.  In these systems an electric pump is used to pump water uphill so it can be drained through the sand filter in the leaching field.

 

Maintenance

Luckily modern septic systems are low maintenance.  Once every three years (for average use and if you don't have a garbage disposal) your system should be pumped out.  This recommendation can change though as seasonal home use can affect the helpful bacteria that breakdown much of the solid material in your tank.  In this case more or less frequent pumping may be required.  Always choose a licensed septic pumper, a list of which can be found at many municipal health departments. For more information on caring for your septic system here is a useful article from the MA DEP and another from the EPA.

 

 

For more expert advice regarding homeownership and real estate on Cape Cod, contact us.  Also check out our listings here.

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Cape Cod Market Update May 2019

April Review:

We are glad to see inventory building up in 2019.  With approximately 5.8 months of inventory of single-family homes the market is reaching sustainability (particularly favoring neither buyers nor sellers).  It is also worth noting that the year-over-year comparisons of month's supply has been up since July 2018 which could indicate that we have passed the minimum supply level in this market cycle.  However ever increasing median sales prices led to a 2% drop in affordability in April (down to 85), a point of growing concern for the long-term health of the Cape Cod real estate market.  While single-family homes continue to be below 100 on the affordability index the condominium market has essentially been increasing its affordability since October 2018.  Condominium affordability is at 144 on the index, which means Barnstable County's median household income is 144% of what is necessary to qualify for the median priced condominium.

Recent Market Summary

  Feb Mar Apr
    Closed Sales   201   291   331 
   Inventory    1,693   1,837   1,982 
   Median Sales Price   $408K     $421.5K    $425K 
   Avg Days on Market   130   120   120 
    Avg % of Original Price   91%   93%   94% 

 

    Ask Agnes: Best Freshwater Beaches on Cape Cod          

    DIY Cape Cod Homeowner Tips to

    Sell Your House For More - Keep Your Roof Clean!

      

DIY Cape Cod Homeowner Tips to Sell Your House For More - Keep Your Roof Clean!

For this blog we delve into the wealth of knowledge accumulated by Ed over his (undisclosed) years spent working in the yard on Cape Cod.  With the cold wetness this spring in particular we wanted to share some pro-tips to keep lichens from taking over your roof and improve the curb appeal of your home.

Lichens and mosses hold water on your roof shortening its lifespan, lichens slowly dissolve the asphalt and other components in your roof shingles and tiles, and a roof that looks like a garden is unsightly and can turn off potential buyers - so managing these species is a worthwhile endeavor.

One very simple thing is to remove overhanging branches that shade your roof.  Sunlight is your best friend when it comes to keeping a roof clean, so trim those extra branches and try to keep organic material off of the roof (like pine needles and leaves) as this creates more opportunity for lichens and mosses to get a foothold.  In the photo below the roof has a mostly north facing aspect so shade is the reality no matter what.  In this case, products exist that use chemicals and herbicides to kill living things on your roof and specialty companies use high-pressure washers that blast these organisms off of your roof.  Since Ed isn't a fan of damage from power-washing and, with kids and dogs running around, tries to stay away from nasty chemicals, we asked for his safe and easy lichen-removing recipe.  Here it is with some photographic proof of its effectiveness

 

1 gallon white vinegar

1 cup epsom salt

1 squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent

 

This roof was a test case two years ago.  Notice the section on the left is significantly cleaner that the section on the right (there is a fairly obvious square on the left which was the only spot sprayed).  Ed used this mixture on the roof once when the forecast showed a stretch of hot dry days. He used a hand atomizer while standing on the ladder and got this much of the roof without a lot of trouble.  If you are doing this yourself we would recommend using a larger pump sprayer to maximize the surface you can reach from one spot. An added benefit of this mixture is that it can also be used for weeding in shell driveways, gravel walkways, and on patios.

For more pro-tips give Chatelain Real Estate a call to put two generations of tradition (and yard work) and three decades of experience in your pocket.  And to see a few houses that don't need this treatment take a look at some of our listings here.  Or for some more tips for homeowners check out our blogs tagged here.

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Spring Cleaning Tips

With Spring finally here we are ready to shake off our winter coats and enjoy longer days and better weather (soon).  But take a rainy day this April (like today!) and make your home clean and tidy with these easy and fun spring cleaning tips.

Dust and clean horizontal surfaces

This often gets overlooked but now is the perfect time to take care of it.  Here is a quick trick too: use a reusable microfiber cloth or rag on a Swiffer handle to wash and reuse without wasting a lot of single use cloths - it also keeps you from having to bend over for shoe-molding!  We also like using a dilute vinegar mixture (50:50 water vinegar) after the quick dusting to truly clean and refresh all of those surfaces.  Even consider putting in a few drops of your favorite essential oil to add a pleasant fragrance.

Wash and put away winter goodies

Spend a little time going through coat racks, car trunks and chair backs to collect heavy coats, scarves, sweaters etc....  Wash what you can and put it away.  If your house is small, consider packing these items away in plastic tubs in the attic or basement with a dryer sheet to keep them fresh until the fall.  This is also a great opportunity to go through those winter items that never got used and consider donating them.  There are a lot of Red Cross donation drop boxes around Cape Cod that accept clothing donations.  Also Goodwill and municipal transfer stations are collection points for these goods as well.

Clean your refrigerator and freezer

Nobody likes doing it but now is your chance.  The best thing to do here is to completely empty the contents.  It doesn't take too long and allows you to take a look at the expiration dates on jars and condiments (mustard from 2015! Shame on you).  Wipe the shelves and drawers and, once you put everything back, you are left with a better organized, emptier and cleaner fridge!  Here is a fun tip for smaller families that will save you energy as well: if you find that you don't use up all of your fridge's space, put gallons of water inside to fill up the empty area.  These will help retain the coldness when you open the door and your fridge won't have to work as hard getting things back to temperature once it is closed, saving electricity.

Make a plan and chip away at it

Don't mark off one whole day to do all of this at once.  Write down a checklist of what you want done and choose 15-30 minute projects to tackle over the next few weeks.  Remember the result is a nice clean home that you will love spending time in!

Ask Agnes: Cost Recovery and Home Improvements

Consider doing the garage door, but that's it!It's that time again, Spring.  The daffodils are starting to poke up through the ground, afternoons are getting warmer, and homeowners are starting to take a long hard look at the shambles of their yards and homes after the winter.  We decided to take a bit of time for another installment of "Ask Agnes" and focus on home improvements and how much value they add to a home. 

"Hi Agnes! It's been a while since we've had a chance to do this and we are excited to be back."

"Me too.  What can I do for you today?"

"I'd like to sell and need to know which major home improvements I should do to maximize my sale price?  Should I finally renovate my bathroom"

"The short answer is don't do it."

"Truly? Even my bathroom?  Everyone loves new bathrooms right?"

"The cost recovered on most home improvements just don't pay back"

"Can you explain a little about this 'cost recovered' to start?"

"Sure.  Cost recovered is a way to measure how much value a home improvement adds to your home compared to what you spent to make the improvement .  Here is a quick example: you have a lemonade stand that is worth $10 and you spend $5 improving the sign and painting the stand.  You then sell the stand for $15.  We are interested in how much value that $5 improvement added to the property and in this case it is $5, so you recovered 100% of your investment.  This means you only broke even and the improvement, while it added value to the property, didn't net you any extra money."

"Wait, isn't a 100% return an amazing investment?"

"In the stock market it sure would be because they are considering a "Return on Investment' or ROI, which is a little different.  For home improvements we are interested in the cost recovered so anything less than 100% means you lost some money."

"Right, that makes sense now.  So to get back to the bathroom how do you know it isn't a good investment?"

"Well based on the report here a mid-range bathroom remodel in New England costs $21,891 and adds $15,777 in value to your home at resale.  That is a 72% cost recovery which means you lost $4,333.  The cost recovered is even worse nationwide at only 60%.  

"What are some other examples? What about kitchens or re-siding?"

"People do like new kitchens but a mid-range minor kitchen remodel in New England only returns about 81%, more extensive remodels closer to 60%.  Siding is about 89%, backyard patios are 57% and the list goes on and on."

"Is there anything I can do that will actually earn a profit"

"According to the report new garage doors are the only thing that does.  And in this case a $3629 improvement nets only $267."

"Yikes, forget home improvements then huh?"

"That thinking isn't quite right either for two reasons.  Sometimes an improvement is actually maintenance and deferred maintenance may reduce the value and marketability of your home. For example, a leaking roof will lessen the value of your home through water damage and should be repaired regardless of the cost. The important thing is to consult with your realtor before making improvements to sell your home.  They will advise you as to which projects are worthwhile and which are not. My final thought here is that you shouldn't be waiting to improve your home!  Enjoy it and make it work for you.  If you want to add a back deck by all means do it and enjoy an improvement in both your home and your quality of life.  Don't hold back from an improvement if it is something you will enjoy."

Well Agnes, as always we appreciate your sage advice and experience here in the Cape Cod real estate market.  Please contact us with questions about buying and selling on the Cape and stay tuned for our next installment of Ask Agnes.

Avoiding Unpleasant Fresh Paint Smells

Don't you love a fresh coat of paint?  What better way to freshen up a room or change the style and swagger of your home.  Unfortunately painting can come with the undesirable consequence of an overpowering odor.  But don't let that discourage you from changing to the palette of your dreams.  With these helpful tips from Nolan Painting you can paint with abandon and enjoy the new colors, without the smell.

 

As always, if you are thinking of buying or selling your home give the professionals at Chatelain Real Estate a call today.  Or for more tips on homeownership check out our blog homeowner categories or our page dedicated to living on Cape Cod.

Making your home photo ready

Photos! Photos! Photos!  Are crucial to attracting buyers to your home and getting them in the door.  Since all of our listings are syndicated to numerous websites it is essential that your first showing (your online photos) are done right the first time.  Here are some tips for sellers to prepare your home for an excellent photography appointment.  

~ Stay out of the shots, and Fido too ~

Family photos on the fridge, stairwell and mantlepiece are necessary to making your house feel like home - YOUR home.  However, potential buyers need to be able to picture themselves in the space, so consider removing some or all of these personal items.  And while photos are being enjoy a nice relaxing walk with the dog (or cat) so the photographer can do their work uninterrupted.

 

~ Arrange furniture for guests ~

We mean a couple of different things here but the main idea is that simplicity is the heart of elegance.  Remove excess furniture and decoration so that rooms feel more open, just like you would for a party.  Set out your patio furniture, create separate sitting areas that feel inviting and intimate (but not cramped).  Here is a nice example of the warmth that a patio set can bring.  47 Asack Drive in South Dennis has a beautiful deck that is even more appealing because your imagination inserts corn on the cob and iced tea.

 

~ Declutter ~

And don't take this the wrong way, we all live busy lives and have that pile of unread magazines on the coffee table.  But it doesn't look any nicer if you just straighten up the edges,  why not get rid of it completely?  Reduction is the most important point here; counter tops, coat racks, end tables, and refrigerators should all be clean and empty.  For a nice touch consider a modest centerpiece as an accent though.  Here is a great example of decluttering at a water view listing, 13 Beachwood Road in Yarmouth.  The shelves are clean and filled with only one accent piece, coat rack is empty and the beds are made without a pile of stuffed animals.

 

 

Check out some of our other blogs on selling your home here and, as always, give the Chatelains a call for all of your buying and selling needs.

Storm Preparation on Cape Cod

With the 2018 hurricane season in full swing, preparing for a storm should be front of everyone's mind.  And while late summer and fall hurricanes do pose serious concerns for the Cape, winter Nor'easters are often just as damaging with the additional possibility of freezing temperatures.  To make sure you and your house are prepared to weather any storm here are some specific recommendations to consider.  

Landscaping

  Trees are a major threat to structures, cars, and people in storms.  In particular Cape Cod has a lot of pitch pines that tend to snap off large limbs or drop the entire top in large wind events.  If you have them, make sure they are far away from your house so that, if they do fall, they won't land on anything important (see right.  This was the 'Freaky Friday' storm in December 2005.  Luckily no one was hurt but the driver had only returned home ten minutes before).  Obviously it is important to take a good look at any tree that is close to a structure, not just pines.  Additionally limbs that overhang the roof cause more lichen to grow, shortening its life, and leaves and needles clog up gutters adding to drainage issues in heavy rains.

Make a prep bag

  We are big fans of self reliance.  To that end preparing for the worst is a good way to make the best of a bad situation.  Have a grab bag ready in case you lose power for several days.  Here is the FEMA website with good instructions too. Crank flashlights and radios are great since they don't need batteries, also make sure you have some way to eat.  Your gas may work in a storm but your electric sparker won't so don't forget matches.  Also have enough canned food in the pantry for a few days in case cooking isn't an option.  Also if you don't want to live rugged at home without power, your bag should include what you need at a shelter, bedding, toiletries, medications and some personal items (games and books!) will make smart additions to a prep bag.  During major storms emergency services are already stretched to the max so make sure to get to a shelter before travel gets dangerous or you become an emergency yourself.  In winter this becomes a serious decision since power loss often means loss of heat as well.  If you have a working fireplace or wood stove stock up on plenty of good dry wood.  And get out all those ugly old wool sweaters and down comforters!  

Prepare your house

If you are planning on being out of town or leaving your home for a shelter, turn off the water.  This is true even in the summer but especially in the winter.  We can't stress this enough.  With no heat in your house there is nothing keeping your pipes from freezing and turning your house into a skating rink.  Even if your pipes do burst, with the water off, there is a limited amount of damage that can be done.  Boarding up windows is a good idea for people who leave for long periods of time.  We see it less and less these days since windows are more durable, but it won't hurt.  If you aren't boarding up and high winds are expected, consider taping your windows or drape sheets against the inside to reduce broken glass damage.  Mind you, those sheets will blow away if a window breaks but they'll also help keep the glass contained.  Here is a fun anecdote.  Off the coast of Maine, where many small private islands exist with seasonal cottages, many people intentionally leave their door unlocked.  Why you may ask?  This not-so-secret secret is well known among the fishing and maritime community as a means of survival.  Homeowners leave food and blankets on the kitchen table in case a stranded fisherman (or a wrecked one) needs some help.  Our favorite part of this story, no one betrays this trust and loots - ever.  The lesson here is don't forget to help your neighbors.

We hope you found these tips helpful.  If you need recommendations for good local landscapers or tree professionals please contact us

 

Ask Agnes: Selling and Buying on Cape Cod - Part 3

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 getting from negotiation to closing.

"Hey Agnes, I finally have a good offer?  What now?"

"Congratulations!  You have been putting up with the inconveniences of showings and open houses and it has finally paid off (for an idea of the process up to this point, check out part 1 and part 2).  Now is when we work with both parties to agree on a contract for the sale.  The truth is that price is only part of what can be negotiated when selling a home.  Other items that we frequently see involved in negotiations are deferred repairs (like aging roofs, windows etc...), septics, and personal property."

"Wait, a buyer can ask me to repair my roof before they buy my house?"

Well they can certainly ask - but the outcome is negotiable.  Let me use an example: your house is on the market for $350,000 and has an aging roof.  A buyer offers $350,000 if a new roof is installed.  After some back and forth both parties agree to $340,000 without a new roof.  In this case the cost of the roof is the negotiating point and the seller will not need to install a new roof before the sale.  We can imagine that this negotiation may have started with a buyer offer of $335,000 (from a quote of $15,000 for a new roof) but the savvy seller found another quote for only $5,000.  The two parties decided to split the difference.  A main point to keep in mind as the seller is how your pricing strategy reflects the 'listing price'.  If your home has a lot of wear and tear, an aging roof, and old windows, but it was priced accordingly, then items like the roof may not be negotiated at all.  You may have seen this in homes listed in 'As Is' condition, meaning the seller isn't willing to negotiate on items related to the condition of the home.  Employing a qualified real estate agent is a great way to worry less about the details of the negotiation (that's our job).  If you are interested in a home that doesn't need anything except to put your feet up and enjoy the water view, check out this property at 13 Beachwood Rd, South Yarmouth."

"That sounds great, but what do you mean 'personal property'"

"Well, often homes are sold empty, but sometimes they are sold furnished or a few items (pianos, pool tables and kids play areas are good examples), can be a part of the negotiation and sale as well.  Negotiations that don't involve furniture or other items of personal property are often smoother.  Believe it or not negotiating several $200 items in a $350,000 sale can literally make a deal fall apart, so it helps to keep the big picture in mind. This is always a sticky situation and we recommend to our clients that the family heirloom french armoire be explicitly excluded from a sale in the listing descriptions."

"OK, we finished negotiating and agreed on terms, what next?"

"Well done.  Negotiating to this point is a challenge, but there is still a lot that needs to happen.  The most important thing to a seller is the home inspection contingency.  In this case the buyer is allowed supervised access to the home where they can have a knowledgeable professional(s) look the house over from joist to rafter.  Sometimes, buyers will pull out of a transaction based on this assessment, or they will attempt to negotiate repairs or a lower price.  Having a real estate agent on your side can help with further negotiation or identify if a contract should be terminated."

"And that's it?"

 "Not yet.  Buyers will often require financing (a mortgage) to buy a home which can take a long time to acquire (45 days or more).  Also appraisals may need to be done, along with inspections, final bills and certificates of compliance from a variety of governmental agencies.  On the seller side most of this time is spent setting up your own move while your agent works to keep everything plugging along smoothly. Finally the house will 'close' when paperwork is signed and the deed is recorded at the registry of deeds."

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.