Cape Cod: New England haven

Posted on: 25 July 2011 by 50connect editorial

Barack Obama's resort of choice...

Cape cod

The nautical natural assets of Cape Cod have long drawn visitors to New England’s ultimate summer haven. Now second-home buyers sensing a market upturn are returning to the property game. Laura Henderson reports.    

US President, Barack Obama, knows a good thing when he sees it. With the pick of secluded locations to choose from for a family-friendly break earlier this year, whittling down the options must have been akin to short-listing cabinet members from the cream of Democrat hopefuls-in-waiting. In the end, it was the pristine playground of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod that secured his patronage.

Genteel, wind-swept and wholesome, The Cape and the neighbouring offshore havens of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have a long and prestigious reputation for attracting well-heeled second-home buyers. One of New England’s most revered holiday regions, the local topography embraces everything from rugged beachy coves and rampart cliffs to historic villages and quaint harbours. These days however, the area is almost as well known for its genteel leisure and pleasure attractions from theatres, galleries and golf courses to fine-dining establishments and shopping.  

Geographically divided into four regions, the Upper Cape, where year-round residents rub along beside a healthy cohort of second-homers, is perhaps the best known of the summer colony grouping. The more heavily populated Mid Cape embraces the picturesque towns of Barnstable, Yarmouth and Dennis. 

The Lower Cape meanwhile, nurtures the picture-postcard communities of Harwich, Brewster and Chatham, while the Outer Cape has its very own USP: the majority of the area is blissfully free of the coastal restrictions that apply elsewhere on the east coast. Unlike New York’s Long Island with its frontline of VIP properties limiting beach access, over 50% of Cape Cod is declared National Seashore, a much-prized covenant established in 1961 by John F Kennedy, the Cape’s spiritual patron.

Like most US regions adjusting daily to changing real estate market dynamics, the area still has its share of challenges, notably distressed sale and foreclosures – and will likely do so for the remainder of 2011. 

But positive signs are also demonstrably there, as Bett McCarthy of Kinlin Grover explains: “Buy-sell volumes have picked up in the last quarter for a number of reasons. Homes in the lower to mid-range price bracket (£250,000 to £450,000) are shifting, as buyers who couldn’t purchase over the last eighteen months are now in a position to do so because of competitive prices and favourable interest rates. Second-home buyers across the price spectrum are also sensing a bottoming out of the market and are stepping in ahead of any expected upturn. Transaction times for homes in the £1.5m to £4m price bracket for example, are now taking on average four to six months to shift; a step change from last year when it was closer to eight months. 2011 is looking good.”

Top Investment Spots

Nantucket

Despite its mega-bucks property portfolio, the island idyll of Nantucket has managed to retain its community-style atmosphere; walking trails, quiet beaches and the historic town of Nantucket with its cobbled streets and county stores, giving the place a yesteryear glow. Median house price: £525,000.

Harwich 

Located at the Cape’s elbow, Harwich has an old-time America feel to it – old-fashioned country inns, band stands and restored antique houses. The town is also known for its scenic harbour Saquatucket, Wychmere and Allen. Median house price: £415,000.

Cape Cod Bay

Contained between the peninsula of Cape Cod on the east and south and the mainland of Massachusetts on the west, second-homers are just a short drive from Boston. There are spectacular views with the curves of the shore stretching for miles, the area’s bay side beaches are also protected from the current of the Atlantic. Median house price: £305,000. 

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About the Author

Laura Henderson is a national columnist, author and journalist specialising in UK and overseas property markets. Her latest book Tricks and Mortar: The Little Book of Property Wisdom is out now on Amazon

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