ORLEANS – Off of Skaket Beach Road, there’s a 40-year old Cape house with a view of the marsh. It’s well maintained, Town Assessor Brad Hinote told the select board last week, but it’s “fairly basic” and has never been renovated.
It could be yours for just north of a million dollars.
In his update to the select board July 20, Hinote used the property as an example of what buyers can get in town for $1.2 million. As of June, that was the median sale price of a single-family home in Orleans.
“It’s not a huge oceanview thing,” he said in a follow up phone call after last week’s meeting. “It’s a very standard house, but it does have a nice view. You can look out over the marsh. In the distance way, way, way out there, if you look out northwest you can see the bay.”
The figure represents the latest example of how the regional housing market across the Cape and islands has continued to surge since the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the median sale price of a single family home was $951,000, a 26 percent spike from 2020. The median price rose another 25 percent from June 2021 to June 2022, Hinote said.
By way of comparison, Hinote said that in June 2017, the median sale price for a single family home was about $600,000.
“We’ve been going along this way for a few years now,” he said. “This is where we’re at. It’s a new world we’re living in now. That house probably gets $700,000 three years ago, $750,000.”
The soaring cost of housing over the past two years has only worsened a housing crisis that is impacting Orleans and towns across the Cape. The rising costs in recent years have made finding housing difficult for families looking to stay in town. It has also posed a problem for businesses, which have struggled to find seasonal workers due in part to the lack of available housing.
The new median price is the highest Hinote has seen since he started as town assessor in 2018. And the problem is not unique to Orleans. In Chatham, the median sales price of a single family home is $1.57 million, according to data from the Cape and Islands Association of Realtors. Median sales prices are also inching toward the million dollar mark in Brewster ($815,000), Eastham ($711,000) and Harwich ($763,000), association data shows.
This might sound like great news for sellers, but the current cost of housing can make finding and affording a new home difficult, Hinote said.
“People aren’t selling their home because they want the same thing,” he said. “They’re selling because they want to upgrade.”
Meanwhile, the median sale price also continues to rise for condominiums in town. In 2021, the cost of a condo rose 18 percent from the previous year to $353,900. From June 2021 to June 2022, the median sale price rose another 15 percent to $390,000.
Hinote said a buyer paid that price for a two-bedroom garden level unit on Old Colony Way.
“It’s one of hundreds along Old Colony Way, but somebody dumps $400,000 for it,” he said. “That’s a lot of money [for] 1,100 square feet.”
While it’s hard to predict when the market will recede, Hinote said as prices continue to increase, it’s possible the Cape is looking at a new normal in terms of housing costs.
“We’re hoping that things ease up and come back to some reasonable point,” he said. “I just wonder if the floor has moved us permanently from where it was prior to COVID. I think we’re going to need a few more years before we can say that.”
But while median sales prices are up, recorded sales of single family homes have gone down, Hinote said. Sales in Orleans went down 23 percent in 2021, which Hinote said local assessors anticipated following a record-breaking 2020. Recorded sales continued to fall another 32 percent from June 2021 to June 2022.
“What we’re seeing is an increasingly shrinking pool of available properties and increasingly fierce competition to get at them,” Hinote told the select board.
Hinote and staff in the assessor’s office are currently busy preparing assessed valuations for the current fiscal year, which he told the select board he hopes to have ready in the fall. Sales activity from 2021 will determine how existing assessed values will be adjusted, he said.
“It takes a while to sort all of it, so hopefully by the end of September we’ll have a certified set of values and I’ll be able to tell you what the median increase looks like.”
The tax levy for fiscal 2023 won’t be determined until after the special town meeting in October, but Hinote said real estate taxes could be on par with fiscal 2022, where the average residential tax bill increased by 1.2 percent.
“The situation we were in last year could apply again this year, and I can’t stress ‘could’ strongly enough,” he told the select board.