You found the Cape Cod place you want and you're ready to place an offer. The problem is, in 2017, the supply of homes is at record lows and chances are, you could lose out to other buyers who offer to pay more. How do you give yourself an edge?
I spoke about this last month on Claudette Vickery's weekly Cape Cod Real Estate Show. My solution was an escalation clause. This is an offer that, when placed against a competing offer, pledges to beat the competition by a set amount.
Here's how it works. Suppose the house you want costs $375,000. You're ready to offer $350,000. But now you hear there is a competing offer coming in. You can still offer $350,000, but that might not be enough, especially if the home is new to the market. You can place a full-price offer, but even that may not be enough to beat the competition.
The problem is, you don't know the amount of the other offer. Only the sellers and their agent have that information, and they're not saying. We're flying blind. We don't want you to pay more than you have to, but you've decided it's got to be enough to get it. What if the other offer was only $340,000? Your initial offer of $350,000 would have been enough.
That's when I suggest an escalation clause. We write the offer so that we will beat the competion by $1,000 up to a limit. In this case we may cap our escalated offer at $376,000. Remember, if the buyers need a mortgage to finance their purchase, the lender might not appraise the house at more than the listed price anyway.
According to the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors, escalation clauses are increasing on the Cape, due to the short supply of homes for sale. The CCIAOR says these offers are legal with the following stipulations:
Every offer should include a letter of prequalification from a lender, so you want to make sure you've got the escalation clause covered as well. After that, you're good to go.
Happy hunting and good luck.
One of the easiest ways to upgrade a kitchen is to switch out the backsplash -- that wallspace between the countertops and the cabinets that occasionally takes splashes from dishwashing and food prep. Tile is the most common material chosen, however whole slabs of solid surface stone or even scrubbable paint are popular choices too.
Our friends at Houzz.com have some high-impact examples to inspire you. Enjoy.
Cape Cod is famous for many splendors-- beaches, fried clams and lobster rolls, charming architecture and sharks. But it's also renowned for the beauty of its gardens.
As an enthusiastic gardener, the most common question I get from my Cape Cod home buyers is, how do you prune hydrangeas? Enter the Cape Cod Garden Academy, a new youtube playlist I began with my smart friend, Megan Moreland of Harwich, a graduate of the prestigious School of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University.
Megan and I explore the many beautiful plants available to our Zone 7 climate, and the best way to care for them. Our eight-month growing season insures month after month of color and texture outdoors. I hope you'll also get the sense that we don't take ourselves too seriously. Fun should vastly win out over frustration when you're digging in the dirt.
A few years ago, an airbnb guest from the U.K. remarked that "Everything is so beautiful here", referring to the colorful Cape Cod gardens. "Why is that?" How interesting, I thought, that a native of England, home to some of the most beautiful gardens of the world, would take note of what we have on the Cape and ask why it's all so perfect?
Enjoy our first three segments below. And if you have a gardening question, or an idea for an upcoming segment, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a tweet to @MaureenGreenCC. As Megan states in the inaugural video, there's plenty of beautiful color ahead.
The home at 747 Queen Anne Rd. in Harwich was ablaze this week and the cause was a mystery, at first. No one lived there in the winter. The home was an unoccupied vacation property.
My old days in the news business taught me that an unoccupied building that catches fire is definitely suspicious. But the cause of this one was different.
The Harwich Fire Department concluded that a mirror hanging in the outdoor shower is what touched off the fire. And apparently, these outdoor shower fires are common.
The sharp, low angle of the sun caught the mirror at just the right angle, and focused intense light onto the dry wooden wall of the shower. Spontaneous combustion ignited the wood and there went the back of the house.
I hang an outdoor mirror in my shower in the summer months but from now on I'll be sure to place the mirror on a north-facing wall, out of reach of the sun's powerful rays. Until this Harwich house fire, I thought the biggest risk from an outdoor shower was a tumble on occasionally mossy, slippery flooring. But not anymore. Now I know an outdoor shower can spark a fire by itself, and burn the house down.
Your next trip to the Cape Cod National Seashore will be less of a bumpy ride, thanks to road improvement projects that began today. Reconstruction at the road to Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, and in parking lots at the Province Lands area of Provincetown, and two locations in Eastham will last approximately three months.
It's part of a $2.3 million enhancement to Cape Cod National Seashore assets. A Buffalo, NY firm, Call Associates, will conduct the work to include removal of old pavement, subsurface reinforcement and resurfacing. The firm says road closures will be kept to a minimum and all areas should be open and fully functional by the time vacationers arrive this summer.
Fueled by its outstanding healthcare and education, Massachusetts was named today the best state of all. That's according to U.S. News and World Report which ranked all 50 states on criteria such as economic opportunity, crime, infrastructure and government.
The number-one ranking prompted Republican Governor Charlie Baker to eschew his typical-favorite local media and appear on a national news program to tout the Bay State's strengths.
Massachusetts placed number one in education and number two in healthcare, oddly after Hawaii. But it's low placement in "Opportunity" and the "Economy" due to high housing costs and income inequality took some of the luster off the top ranking placement. Analysts weighted healthcare and education to give the Commonwealth its top ranking.
To see the complete list, click here. And to see the ranking for each individual category, simply click on the arrow next to the category title at the top of the chart.
Owing largely to the trends in spacious homes outside of Cape Cod, the default fix for a kitchen upgrade is to add an island. The problem is, most Cape Cod kitchens are too small to accommodate one.
Many Cape homes, particularly those built before 1990, use peninsulas to delineate the kitchen from the dining area, to stretch the counter space and to block the view of the messy food prep.
When I renovated my Harwich kitchen in 2005, I enlarged the peninsula, widening it beyond the door frame to provide seating for three people. 11 years later, the tight little workhorse of a kitchen works well.
Our friends at houzz.com appreciate the functionality of kitchen peninsulas. Enjoy the article and photographs below. If you're in the market for a Cape Cod home this summer, you may well end up with a kitchen peninsula too.
When a prospective home seller contacts me about a market value for their property, I check the tax rolls to see when they purchased the house. If they bought during the height of the market in 2006, they won't like what I have to say. By 2016 their home is still not worth what they paid for it.
In general the economy has recovered from the Great Recession. Unemployment is down, incomes and the stock market are up. But housing values on the Cape remain lower than they were at the start of the recession. Condos are an exception. They have shown an increase in value since 2006.
The chart below illustrates the the arc in home pricing in Barnstable County-- Cape Cod excluding Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
In 2006 the median price of a single-family home reached $400,000. By the end of 2016 that same home was worth $375,000.
Now check condo prices.
At the height of the housing market in 2006 the median price of a condominium on Cape Cod was $263,000. By the end of 2016, that condo was worth$277,000.
Inventory on Cape Cod and Massachusetts as a whole is historically low. Right now there is a 4.5 month supply of homes for sale, meaning that at the current sales pace (demand), it would take 4.5 months to buy up everything on the market right now (supply).
Part of the inventory problem is all the homeowners who would like to sell, but who purchased in the heady years of 2004, 2005 and 2006 and who cannot afford to take a loss. A spike in mortgage interest rates will continue to pressure home sales in the coming year as well.
It takes just five sunburns over a lifetime to double one's risk of getting melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, according to the website, skincancer.org. With it's temperate year-round climate, Cape Cod children spend plenty of time outdoors. Yet the use of sunscreen without a prescription in schools is illegal in Massachusetts.
Julian Cyr represents Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in the Massachusetts State Senate and he has a proposed Bill to correct that.
Cyr wants to add a section to Chapter 71 of the Massachusetts General Laws to allow suncreen use on school property without a doctor's consent. It's true that the majority of a school day is spent in the classroom, but during recess, field trips, outdoor gym time and after-school sports, children are exposed to ultra-violet light and their skin needs protection.
Cyr's Bill would add a new section to Chapter 71:
Section 98. Any person, including but not limited to students, parents or school personnel may possess and use a topical sunscreen product without a physician’s note or prescription while on school property or at a school-related event or activity to avoid overexposure to the sun if the product is regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use.
For the purposes of this Section only, sunscreen is not an over-the-counter medication. Nothing in this section requires school personnel to assist pupils in applying sunscreen.
The school district may encourage school sites to educate pupils on sun safety precautions.
To read Chapter 71 in its entirety, click here. And to read Senator Cyr's proposed Bill, go here.
My officemates at Kinlin Grover tell me that until I relocated to the Cape in 2012, we got a blizzard once every few years. Now it seems we get one every few weeks. All winter long.
The latest occured last weekend. As blizzards go, this one was tame. We got a foot of snow and roads were passable by the following morning.
I drove west on Main Street/Rt. 28 through the center of Harwich Port the day after, to give my readers who never see the Cape in winter a glimpse of their pretty little summer spot covered in snow.
Note the new Cumberland Farms well underway at the beginning of the video.
I selected the music for it's title -- "Snow Queen" by Kevin Macleod.
Happy New Year to all. I'm looking at Cape Cod real estate in the year ahead and wondering how many homes will still be standing this time next year.
My unofficial gauge of rising economic fortune in the northeastern U.S., is falling houses on the Cape. The more the stock market goes up, the more that houses come down.
In the center of tiny Harwich Port alone, four older homes have been torn down and are in various stages of replacement within the last year. There is massive, overdue commercial renovation occurring in the business district too, and that will be the subject of an upcoming article, but first, the houses.
98 Miles Street
This two-story home went up last summer, a prefab structure that cranes assembled an entire floor at a time in one single day. It replaced a two-bedroom ranch.
No photos exist of the previous 1952 home, however you can see from the surrounding homes the size and scale of the street. The new building comprises 4 bedrooms and 2,388 square feet on a quarter-acre lot. It towers over its neighbors.
86 Miles Street
First, what the home used to look like, an 845 square foot home with no septic system, in uninhabitable condition on a killer 1 acre-plus lot close to EVERYTHING. It was marketed as a teardown and sold for $360,000 in 2013.
And here is the site today. The new owners leveled all the trees and now have a view of the Harwich Port golf course beyond the backyard. The home features 3,434 square feet with four bedrooms.
7 South Street
This 1813 home had survived for 203 years, until 2016. Whether or not it should have survived a year longer is debatable. Here are the interiors of the old place.
And here is 7 South Street today. The owners haven't done the landscaping yet -- it is that new. But the addition of a wreath on the front door shows life rushed along in the new place. Once the cedar shingles get some salt air on them they'll weather down to the gray we all associate with Cape Cod. In my opinion this new home upholds the Cape aesthetic. The home in the background at right lie on Main St. in the village so these homeowners can park their car and not get in again until they need provisions. The village and beach are all right there. Nice job in making the house blend in.
17 Sea Street
We don't know yet what the new house will look like as construction has just begun. There is only one story so far. I will be surprised if it stays at that. Everyone builds a second story now, and most take over all the air space to the maximum height allowed by town building codes, 28 feet, so stay tuned. Check out the little cottage at right. It's what Sea Street used to look like.
Here is what once was at 17 Sea Street. It was a1938 home perched on a bluff with ocean views and a three-house walk to Sea Street Beach. It sold for $917,000 three years ago and was demolished in the fall. Classic, isn't it?
Elsewhere on Sea Street...
Two houses south of 17 Sea Street, with direct oceanfront, lie1 Sea Street which sold this fall for $3,250,000. It was built in 2007, a total rebuild after the owners bought a little cape-style home the year before for $1,725,000 and tore it down. Check out the before and after.
The present day photo also shows the neighboring property which was another rebuild. The old home was unmistakenly Cape Cod. The new home looks like it could be on the Jersey Shore. It's gorgeous and the interior spaces are to die for.
With the destruction of number 17 this fall, the original little Cape homes on the street is down to two. Here they are.
Take them in while you can. Everyone loves visiting the Cape and seeing the quaint little cottages, but it doesn't seem anyone wants to live in them anymore.
Condominium sales in Massachusetts are up 4.7 percent this year with most of the growth occuring in Boston and it's suburbs. The median price of a condo in the Bay State is up to $330,000, just beneath the price of a single family home at $340,000. Single family home sales increased just 1.7 percent, according the Warren Group.
Within city limits, condo sales rose 19.4 percent between January and October 31st. The median sale price of a condo in downtown Boston is now $885,000.
On Cape Cod where half of the homes are vacation homes, condo sales barely edged out those of single-family homes by one-tenth of a percent, 2.7 to 2.6 respectively. The median price of a condo in Barnstable County which includes all of Cape Cod except the islands, is $275,000. The single-family home median is $375,000.
Tight supply is cited as the reason for the increase. The number of new listings on Cape Cod this year is down by a significant margin-- 8.9 percent for condos, 6 percent for single-family homes.
Take a look at the stats below, and if you're thinking of selling your home in '17, let me know and I'll be happy to provide a market analysis for your place.
Has your cooking ever set off the smoke detector in your home and you pulled the battery temporarily to make the noise stop? I'm embarrassed to say I have done this and it's a risky thing to do, because if you forget to reattached the battery you are unprotected in case of a fire.
Beginning December 1st, new rules in Massachusetts will eventually make it impossible to remove batteries and in doing so, save lives.
From now on all single and two- family homes built prior to 1975 must install new, sealed smoke detectors with a lithium battery in order to sell. Any home with a smoke detector less than ten years of age as of 12/1/16 will be grandfathered in until that detector is ten years old. The new detectors last ten years and then they must be replaced with new devices as well.
The new requirement is in addition to previous regulation that requires photoelectric detectors installed within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower. The photoelectric sensors are designed not to trip during cooking or hot steamy showers as did the older ionization units.
To determine the age of your smoke detector, check the date stamp on the back of your device. If there is no date, the unit is older than ten years and should be replaced.
The town of Yarmouth on Cape Cod has an easy-to-reference guide which I often use in my real estate business in all towns. Keep in mind, these are state regulations and are not applicable to only Yarmouth, so you can use this in any town in the Bay State.
And for more information on the new rules, visit the Massachusetts Public Safety site here.
If you're like me, the Christmas tree is already up and there are still turkey leftovers in the refrigerator. Every year I use the Thanksgiving weekend to flip the switch to Christmas in my home.
But what if your house is on the market right now? How do you balance your need for nostalgia with the current trend of depersonalizing your home for potential buyers?
Our friends at Houzz have some advice about this. Get out the eggnog and read on.
We are rapidly approaching the time of year when more people visit popular real estate site zillow.com than at any other time. It is the final week of the year, according to zillow. I tell this to home buyers and sellers and it surprises them, but when you think about it, it actually makes sense. It is the week when many people are off-work, together with family and sometimes away from home. For half the nation, it's freezing outside. What better time to escape into one's mobile device and start thinking about houses?
Cape Cod has some unique requirements for home sales, and they reflect our ecologically fragile region, as this quick little video demonstrates. Let me know if you have any questions and we'll get started on the process together.
There are 284 residents on Cape Cod who earned $1M or more in 2014, according to new data from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
In all, more than 15,422 Mass. residents have jumbo incomes, nearly double the number from 2004 and up 22 percent from 2013.
Cape Cod has 15 towns, and all but two of them hold million dollar wage earners-- Wellfleet and Truro. Here is the complete list of jumbo wage earners by town:
Statewide, Weston has the highest number of million-dollar-plus earners, followed by Wellesley, Lincoln and Sherborn.
Towns west of Worcester and its suburbs have the fewest, with pockets of jumbo wage earners around Springfield and the Berkshires.
Everything is getting dragged into this highly-charged political season, even real estate appreciation.
An eight-year study by Attom Data Solutions revealed that homes in democratically-controlled congressional districts appreciated at a higher rate than those in republican congressional districts-- 21 percent versus 10 percent.
The average rate of return for all 435 congressional districts between 2008 and 2016 was $59,467 in democratic areas, and $22,086 in republican ones.
Generally, homes in democratic districts cost more to purchase and their property tax rate is fractionally higher as well, an average of $1.07 versus $1.02.
In what may foretell next month's general election, the findings are reversed in the political battleground states. In Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, republican districts outperformed democratic ones in 7 out of 11 states. In nearby New Hampshire for example, the percentage of ROI was 26 percent in GOP congressional districts versus 16 percent for democratic ones.
What will the annual Wellfleet Oysterfest be without the popular local food that gives it its name? We'll find out this weekend. In a sign of widening troubles for Cape Cod's shellfishing industry, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Division of Marine Fisheries today shut down Wellfleet shellfish beds to both commercial and recreational fishing due to a recent outbreak of norovirus. The areas affected are Wellfleet Harbor, the Inner Harbor, Herring River and Loagy Bay.
75 people reported cases of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting due to norovirus ingested in raw oysters originating in Wellfleet over the weekend in restaurants and weddings in the outer Cape.
Wellfleet is the only Cape Cod community outside the wider area of shellfish beds closed along Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds. Those areas were shut down October 10th in response to an algal bloom which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in people. Marine mammals and birds can also be harmed by the algae.
Organizers for Wellfleet Oysterfest say the show will go on this weekend, with cooked seafood and other popular festival dishes. As of this writing, the festival website had not yet reflected the news that raw Wellfleet oysters will not be served at the weekend event. An article in the Cape Cod Times quotes a festival organizer stating raw oysters will be brought in from other sources. In a typical year, an estimated 125,000 raw oysters are consumed by thousands of festival goers over the two day October event.
Shellfish beds on Cape Cod's warm south-facing Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds are closed until further notice. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries found evidence of a toxic algae bloom and shut down the beds to commercial and recreational shellfishing.
Algae exists normally in both fresh and saltwater, but prolonged hot temperatures can cause the plankton to grow out of control. This can cause toxic symptoms in both people, fish and birds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Affected Cape Cod towns are Falmouth, Mashpee, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Chatham, Orleans, Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Nantucket.
Coincidentally the annual Wellfleet Oyster Festival takes place this weekend. Shellfish beds in Wellfleet, as well as Cape Cod Bay, Pleasant Bay and Town Cove are unaffected by the emergency order.
Half the homes on Cape Cod are second homes. Of those, I estimate about 20 percent are offered as vacation rentals.
There aren't many hotels on Cape Cod which is a blessing and a curse. If you want to stay the night or a week or longer, renting someone's home is the way you'll probably go.
You'll feel you're in a "home away from home". If you're like me and so many others, you'll begin to wonder if it's best to turn the tables one day, to own your own place and to rent it out to vacationing families to help you pay for it.
Until then, you'll try your hardest to select the best place for your vacation from online photos and descriptions.
As the 2016 summer season comes to a close, and thoughts of 2017 are up next, the New York Times wrote a terrific guide to selecting a rental home for your vacation. Check it out here. And if you would like some recommendations on good rental sites on Cape Cod, give me a call. I was there once too, and I'm happy to help you out.
The phone call came in January from the real estate company that sold me my Cape Cod home in 2000. An alert neighbor spotted a frozen stream outside the foundation of my vacation home beneath my living room window and contacted the realtor whose name they remembered from the sign posted at the house when it was on the market. Thank you thoughtful neighbor! But I was 400 miles away in Syracuse where I lived and worked at the time.
In a total panic I called my Cape Cod plumber who prepared me for the worst. A pipe could have burst in the house, flooding the first floor and bursting through the wall to the outdoors, only to freeze once it hit the January air. Can you spell T-E-R-R-O-R?
Luckily my fears were for naught. It turns out my outdoor spigot had been slowly dripping all winter and it built into an impressive frozen mini Niagara Falls. It was an easy fix but I've never looked at pipes and cold weather the same since.
Our friends at House Logic have some tips on how to prevent your pipes from freezing, beginning with the most vulnerable areas:
A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst an interior pipe. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze.
If you don't have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. Don’t forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, too, to prevent damage.
Exposed Interior Plumbing
Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, and garage, are at risk of freezing.
Often, inexpensive foam pipe insulation is enough for moderately cold climates. For severe climes, opt for wrapping problem pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temps.
If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), it’s probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It might well be worth the couple hundred dollars it costs to open up the wall and beef up the insulation.
Heading South for the Winter?
For folks leaving their houses for an extended period of time in winter, additional preventative measures must be taken to adequately protect the home from frozen pipes.
Make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees. If you prefer, you can shut off the main water supply and drain the system by opening all faucets and flushing the toilets.
In extreme situations (vacation home in a bitterly cold climate), Abrams recommends having a plumber come to inspect the system, drain the hot water heater, and perhaps replace the water in traps and drains with nontoxic antifreeze.
One of the first vendors I share with my new homeowners is a reliable plumber, especially when sales occur in the fall and winter. He or she will be your best friend. Go to Angie's List for a growing list of vendors on Cape Cod, or contact me via email, text or phone call for my personal recommendation.
Until I purchased my own Cape Cod home in 2000, my children and I rented cottages for two weeks every summer for 12 years. We really settled in for those wonderful vacation days. The first thing I did was to push aside decorative items that were vulnerable to damage from four young children. I moved a chair or two to reflect the way we were using the rooms during our down time after the beach. In every case, I carefully replaced everything just as it was when we found it. My goal was to make it personal but not permanent.
Our friends at Houzz.com have great ideas on how to tweak a rental cottage to make it more like "home". While not all the advice is something I would have done -- bothering to bring a framed photo of our family in an already filled-to-the-gills car, others, like taking a quick phone photo of the layout so you remember exactly where everything was when you took possession, you'll find something you can use on your Cape Cod vacation.
You might also like:
Planning a Trip to Cape Cod? Start with "Street View".
I am fascinated by backyard birds. Part of it is a nod to the comfort of my childhood when I watched my mom study the traffic at her bird feeders outside the kitchen window in Worcester. Now I am her. Bird feeders of various designs, all loaded with dinner for Cape Cod's diverse bird population, hang just outside my window for year round entertainment I find better than TV.
In the winter, I cook suet for the woodpeckers and I supply another feeder with dried mealworms for the bluebirds, chickadees and finches. Now that the summer birds are back, the winter feeders take a less prominent role near the fence and the Welch's grape jelly dish and the nectar feeder move forward. Until the weather turns cold I'll fill these non-stop for flashy Baltimore Orioles and acrobatic hummingbirds.
Of course, nature is the primary source of food and our friends at Houzz compiled this excellent list of flowers that attract hummingbirds.
So get to your favorite nursery and start digging. You'll love being a magnet for the highly entertaining backyard bird population.
Massachusetts and Maine tie for the lowest property tax burden of the six New England states. That's according to the National Association of Realtors, using data from Core Logic.
The report, titled "Comparing the Real Cost of Home Ownership Across the United States", calculates that the average property tax rate in the U.S. is 1.31 percent of value, but northeastern states have a higher rate with southern states generally requiring less.
The highest rate in the country is the state of Illinois. There, homeowners pay 2.67 percent of the value of their homes in property tax each year, followed by New York State at 2.53.
In New England, New Hampshire leads the pack at 2.43 percent, owing perhaps to the lack of a state sales tax there. Connecticut follows at 2.10, Vermont is next at 1.98. Rhode Island stands at 1.93. Massachusetts and Maine tie at 1.47 percent.
Where does your state rank? Consult the table below, provided by Core Logic.