Buying property in the Outer Cape? Be ready to jump

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Unprecedented. Wild. Insane. Just some of the words used to describe the 2021 housing market. It was a stroke of luck for those who sold. As a buyer, you quickly learned that to be successful you had to be ready and having a knowledgeable, local banker by your side made the process a lot easier to navigate.

Expect more of 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 suddenly opened up opportunities for people to live anywhere, even in popular holiday destinations. Pandemic fears prompted city dwellers to seek out more rural areas. And low interest rates made buying real estate all the more tempting.

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

Buyers weren’t just looking anywhere on Cape Cod, they were looking specifically for the Outer Cape and even more so for Provincetown. It is of course not surprising. Those of us lucky enough to live here already know the region’s unique appeal. Walkable cities, a welcoming community, a vibrant cultural and arts scene, fantastic dining and shopping, a solid calendar of social events (with pandemic restrictions and precautions in place), and all the perks of small town living. Not to mention the accessibility by ferry or plane and the strong rental history of second homes or investment properties. If Cape Cod is a jewel, the Outer Cape is certainly a diamond. Inventory was tight, turnaround time was fast, and prices were sky high.

Now in 2022, with the pandemic appearing to be abating, some are wondering if the market will cool too. It doesn’t look like that for the time being. Outer Cape inventories remain at all-time lows as demand continues to rise. And let’s not forget that stocks can’t necessarily grow here like they can in a city like New York. We can’t build straight and we can’t create more land. When you consider that a significant portion of Provincetown lies within the Cape Cod National Seashore, there is simply more demand than space.

So what should a buyer do in 2022? Be prepared, be nimble and partner with a local lender and agent. It’s hard to overstate the importance of having a local team. Because they live here, they have insider knowledge of the neighborhoods, the school system, the local economy, and what makes each city special. They also have a deeper understanding of our property values. And since word of mouth can make or break your livelihood, local lenders and agents strive to provide superior customer service. Unlike big online brokers, they are very result focused and will go the extra mile at every step of the process. Many listing agents also prefer working with buyers who have a local team. With two bidders in close competition, the one with the local team has an advantage. Buying a home can be a stressful experience, so working with a team of experts in the neighborhood can make a world of difference.

Once you’ve set your budget, built your team, and received pre-approval, be prepared to act quickly—perhaps even immediately—when you find the right listing. Bid wars are almost a guarantee. I find buyers who forgo viewings and appraisals, sometimes even mortgage payments. In such a competitive market, you need to be prepared with a strategy and a plan of attack. Again, a local banker and broker can pay dividends.

While interest rates are expected to rise this year, spring and summer markets appear to be a continuation of 2021. This is great news for prospective sellers – there is no better time than now if you are thinking of selling your home. However, buyers should brace themselves for the ride. Vigilance, patience and preparedness are the name of the game. Stay the course because eventually the right home will come.

And for those of us who already live here, let this be a reminder of how fortunate we are to reside in such a desirable, desirable coastal region.

Nikki Rickard is a Provincetown resident and Resident Mortgage Loan Clerk.

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