Buying a property in the Outer Cape? Be ready to jump

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Unprecedented. Savage. Frantic. Some of the words used to describe the housing market in 2021. For those selling, it was a godsend. For buyers, you quickly learned that to be successful you had to be ready to jump in, and having a knowledgeable local banker on your side made the process much easier to navigate.

Expect the same in 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its cascading effects have created the perfect storm for a seller’s market. The work-from-home movement has suddenly opened up the possibility for people to live anywhere, even in beloved vacation spots. Pandemic fears have led city dwellers to seek more rural areas. And low interest rates have made buying property much more attractive.

If the market was hot just about everywhere, it’s fair to say that the outer Cape market was on fire. As a mortgage officer, I talk to buyers and real estate agents daily and anecdotally, here’s what I can tell you.

Shoppers weren’t just looking to be anywhere on Cape Cod, they were specifically looking for the Outer Cape, and more so Provincetown. It’s not surprising, of course. Those of us lucky enough to live here already know the area’s unique appeal. Walkable towns, a welcoming community, a vibrant arts and culture scene, fantastic restaurants and shopping, a robust calendar of social events (with pandemic limitations and precautions), and all the perks of living in a small city. Without forgetting the accessibility of arriving by ferry or plane, and the strong history of renting second homes or apartment buildings. If Cape Cod is a gem, Outer Cape is a diamond for sure. Stocks were scarce, turnaround times were quick, and prices were exorbitant.

Now in 2022, with the pandemic seemingly waning, some are wondering if the market will also cool down. So far, it doesn’t look like it. Outer Cape inventories remain at historic lows as demand continues to rise. And let’s not forget that stocks may not necessarily increase here as in a city like New York. We can’t exactly build and we can’t create more land. Considering that a significant portion of Provincetown is within the Cape Cod National Seashore, there is simply more demand than space.

So what should a buyer do in 2022? Be ready, be nimble, and align with a local lender and agent. It’s hard to overstate the importance of having a local team. Because they live here, they have intimate knowledge of neighborhoods, school systems, the local economy, and the particularities of each city. They also have a better understanding of our property values. And since word of mouth can make or break their livelihood, local lenders and agents are driven to provide superior customer service. Unlike the big online brokers, they are extremely invested in the outcome and will go the extra mile every step of the way. Many listing agents also prefer to work with buyers who have a local team. With two contenders in close competition, the one with the home team has an advantage. Buying a home can be a stressful experience, which is why partnering with a team of neighborhood experts can make all the difference.

Once you’ve set your budget, established your team, and secured pre-approval, be ready to act quickly — maybe even on the spot — when you find the right ad. Bidding wars are almost a guarantee. I find buyers who forgo inspections and appraisals, sometimes even mortgage contingencies. In such a competitive market, you need to be prepared with a strategy and a plan of attack. Again, this is where a local banker and real estate agent can pay dividends.

While interest rates are expected to rise this year, spring and summer markets appear to be a continuation of 2021. That’s great news for potential sellers – there’s no better time than the present if you are considering putting your home up for sale. Buyers, however, should be prepared for the ride. Vigilance, patience and preparation are the name of the game. Stay the course because the right house will eventually arrive.

And for those of us who already live here, let this be a reminder of how lucky we are to reside in such a prized and sought-after coastal region.

Nikki Rickard is a Provincetown resident and Residential Mortgage Agent.

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