2013 was an interesting year for real estate. We saw the return of a buying frenzy for a short while, interest rates went back up, and the market inched forward as the economy slowly improves. Yet uncertainty remains: between conflicting job reports every month, credit markets that have yet to fully stabilize and scary flood insurance changes, the market, at least on Cape Cod, has lagged behind many other areas. We do expect some of these conditions to persist into the new year – the economy isn’t improving fast enough, flood insurance changes are still up in the air, and, most worrisome, inventory will continue to lag behind demand.
The news isn’t all bad though. Certain strata of the market are performing well and if your home is priced right, it will move and move quickly.
Below we’ve complied a brief buyers and sellers guide to the Cape Cod real estate market. We came up with these recommendations based on CC&I MLS data and the collective observations of our 65 agents and staff. These are in no way meant to be an endorsement of buying or selling, merely a reference guide for those interested in the real estate market.
The Cape Cod Real Estate Buyers and Sellers Year-End Guide: 2013
• Anything in the $250,000 – $650,000 price range. The homes are flying – flying – off the market lately. Interest rates are still reasonable and many of these homes are out of the floodplain, meaning the cost of ownership isn’t going to spike. Some fantastic values can be had in this range as well; some of the original and early era homes in New Seabury and other developments are great values at current prices, especially as a summer retreat or a renovation / teardown opportunity. Buyers looking to move year round are in luck here as well, as many homes in this price range are in great neighborhoods and close to downtowns in Falmouth, Bourne and Mashpee.
• The “Million Dollar Teardown.” Yes, such a thing exists. Market conditions are perfect for buyers looking for an opportunity to leave their lasting mark on the shoreline. Cash buyers make up many of these sales. These buyers have the means to purchase an expensive home and promptly begin renovating it to their specifications or starting completely over. “Teardown” here does not necessarily mean a home with a three million dollar view and rats in the floorboards, though that’s sometimes the case. Many of these homes simply under-utilize the land they’re on and the buyer can add literally millions of dollars to the home’s value by rebuilding on the site. A lot of these sales have been in Bourne.
• Location, Location, Location. Homes close to downtowns or other amenities such as shopping districts and golf courses, continue to sell well. Many of these homes do not stay on the market long, so if you want in, you’ll have to make a serious offer a little sooner than you might have felt comfortable with. A recent study released the surprising conclusion that all age demographics want easy access to downtown areas, shopping and other key amenities, meaning competition is high. Two listings on Queen Street in Falmouth sold in weeks, rather than the months it has taken some listings to sell.
• Opportunities. OK, we’re cheating a bit here since this includes a bit of everything above. But by opportunities we mean a few things: priced-to-sell, great location, the cheapest house in an expensive neighborhood, or complete tear downs / extensive renovations. There always seems to be a few of these popping up on Cape Cod no matter if it’s a slow market or a white-hot one, and they alway sell. Our advice is to snap these up and hire a contractor to get a quick start if you’re buying a teardown. If you have the opportunity to get in your dream neighborhood for a price you never thought possible, do it right away.
What’s Not Selling
• The Super-High End – $2 million and up. Many are sitting unsold for long periods of time. It may be a function of the nature of the Upper Cape, where a $4,000,000 home can sit directly across the street from one that costs $600,000, but there’s clearly something else at work here. Many buyers in this segment are very particular and have strong tastes, so some homes simply may not appeal to their aesthetic, desire for privacy or something else. A lot of these homes are simply priced too high. All of these issues are magnified by the limited size of the buyer pool – there are only so many buyers with the means to purchase these properties, and they can look anywhere on Cape Cod for these properties. These homes are on the market for an average of 332 days Cape-wide, so a quick sale may be unlikely.
• Homes that need updating, but not a renovation. – Call it superficial, but buyers are becoming increasingly picky about what’s in the house. Tastes have changed significantly since the 1990s and even since the early 2000s, meaning what was trendy and hip then is dated now. This is especially true in the kitchen – if the countertop material and color isn’t right, the cabinets are the “wrong” design or if the layout is poor, it’s a major turn-off for buyers. Kitchens without islands are out of favor – 66% of all homeowners add an island to a kitchen if it doesn’t already have one. If the appliances are coming with the house they better not be white – stainless is in at all price points. If you’re selling a premium or upper tier home and the kitchen needs work, it’s going to be a sticking point. The same goes for living spaces, though not to the same extent.
Interested in buying or selling on the Upper Cape? Give us a call or check us out online.