ORLEANS - As town assessor, Brad Hinote is in regular conversation with buyers, sellers, real estate agents and other assessors from across the Cape. When it comes to the local real estate market over the past 18 months, the response from everyone he’s talked to has been consistent.
“We’ve never seen anything like it.”
The ongoing real estate boom has turned the local housing market on its ear, and Hinote presented figures as to just how much during a virtual forum hosted by the Orleans Citizens Forum on Sept. 30.
Property owners in Orleans are due to receive their third and fourth quarter tax bills in December, and Hinote said those bills will reflect how the local housing market has changed during the pandemic. He said the median sale price for a single family home jumped from $665,000 in 2019 to $790,000 by the end of 2020.
The town has also seen a significant increase in the number of overall annual property transactions (single-family homes and condos) during the pandemic.
For about a decade prior to COVID-19, Hinote said, the town averaged about 130 property sales per year. In 2020, that number ballooned to 227 properties, an increase of 73 percent.
With the surge in property sales came other demographic changes, Hinote said. Prior to 2020, a little more than half of the town’s homeowners, 53 percent, were seasonal residents who did not live in Orleans year-round. That figure has since flipped, he said, with 53 percent of homeowners now living in town full time.
Hinote said many people are coming to town to live closer to family, while others are looking to take advantage of the housing market and retire sooner.
“They figured ‘I could retire in five or 10 years, but why not sell my house now while the getting’s good and get into my retirement home early?’”
Alan McClennen, who co-moderated the virtual event, said he and his wife have noticed the change on their street, which normally is quiet during the off-season months.
“For the last 18 months, we’ve been seeing baby carriages, people walking their dogs,” he said.
"I'd certainly like to think that it will be a nice change for our community, to have more neighbors here, especially if they're hanging out here during the dregs of winter," Hinote said.
Hinote said the number of properties up for sale is trending back toward where it was before the pandemic, both in Orleans and county wide. However, the “lack of inventory” continues to drive property valuations up, he said. So far in 2021, he said, the median sale price of a single-family home in Orleans is $917,500, up almost 20 percent from what it was in 2020.
“That’s 40 percent higher than where we were in 2019, before we even knew that COVID was coming our way,” Hinote said.
While Hinote said it’s hard to predict when housing prices will return to pre-pandemic levels, he said the growth over the last 18 months “isn’t sustainable” in the long term.
“At some point we’ll come back to earth,” he said.
Residents can see their property values on the town assessor's page of the town website.