New Bridge in Chatham May Impact Real Estate Values

The second major culvert and bridge redesign on the Cape in the past few years looks to significantly improve the aptly named Muddy Creek on the Chatham town line. This will likely has some promising effects on real estate values, especially on the Chatham side.


One of the most scenic drives on the Cape is along Route 28 on Pleasant Bay between Chatham and Orleans. Rarely on the Cape do you find so many water views and waterfront roadsides. Harwich has a section of road along this route and this is where you find Muddy Creek that serves as the town line between Chatham and Harwich. The new bridge is close to completion and it should significantly impact the tidal flow and make Muddy Creek potentially less muddy and certainly more navigable for kayaks and SUP boards. This may have a very positive impact in real estate values abutting the creek most notably in the Riverbay neighborhood in Chatham.


Fido Fills Weeks

“No smoking, no pets” is a common mantra for many rental property owners.

Not renting to the Marlboro Man probably won’t cost you many bookings, but you might want to rethink barring those four-legged family members categorically.

Less than 10 per cent of Pretty Picky Properties accept pets and almost never have a problem booking all summer weeks, often earlier than “No Pets” properties. That’s because probably 20 or even 25 per cent of our inquiries have a Muffy in their vacation plan.

Of course, every dog owner says his dog never barks, never sheds and will never get up on the furniture. We had one dog’s master confide to us that his dog is so smart that he actually talks. The pup was indisposed, however, when we asked the guy to put him on the phone for a brief interview.
Not only does leaving the dog at a kennel during the family vacation cause separation anxiety, it costs some serious shekels. So families are motivated to find a rental home that accepts pets. Sometimes, they’ll pay extra for the privilege.

First, understand that pets are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. You can advertise “Pets Considered,” then decide case by case, yea or nay. You can rent one week to a family with a six-pound, well trained Pomeranian, then just say “No” to the group with the twin Palominos. This is totally your call.

Pet owners frequently will pay a higher security deposit to give you greater peace of mind. Fine, and let’s remember, every Pretty Picky guest signs up for damage protection insurance that pays up to $1,500 for accidental damage that might be caused by you-know-who.

We have even had cases where a desperate pet-owner offered additional rent if his pet were allowed.
And we have to admit that in our experience, the impact of a pet, including any damage or even extra dog hair for the turnover day cleaning, has been next to nothing. Pet owners are almost universally good about picking up after the pooch, and they understand that most beaches do not allow dogs at all in the peak summer season.

“Pets Considered” might be something for you to consider. It could mean booking weeks sooner, filling stubborn week periods, or even increasing your rental revenue.

No new natural gas hook ups until 2019

There will be no new natural gas connections on the Lower Cape for quite a while. A recent inspection of National Grid’s main transmission line revealed some deficiencies requiring upgrades that will take up to five years to complete. Meanwhile, the company has to reduce the pressure in the line. And that means no new demands from new customers. Existing customers and gas supplies are not affected.

The new hookup moratorium also impacts new construction and renovation projects in which a natural gas connection was part of the plan. Towns affected are Dennis, Yarmouth, Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham and parts of Barnstable.

But wait – National Grid is making some exceptions, especially for existing customers who want to add a natural gas, emergency back-up generator or outdoor barbecue grill. These pieces of equipment are used mostly when overall demand for natural gas is low, so they will not increase the total demand on the system.

And there’s more good news. If you want to build or renovate on the Cape, there’s almost always a way to work around problems and get what you want without the wait.

Propane is a smart alternative to natural gas, at least as an interim solution. You can convert to natural gas later, after the moratorium expires, and use many of the same mechanical components. So your added cost for the conversion is not that much at all.

Bottom line: the moratorium on new natural gas hookups does not have to derail your construction or renovation plans or blacklist that house you love with oil or electric heat. Just be sure your first hookup is with a can-do problem solver vs. a builder with stock responses and off-the-shelf plans.

New Tax on Vacation Rentals?

Currently, a short term vacation rental on the Cape is not subject to the hotel/motel tax. But it could be soon, if some Massachusetts lawmakers have their way. Check out the story at this link:

Seems to us that this proposed tax raises some significant issues. For example, the argument for the tax maintains that towns need the extra revenue because of the all the extra services they must provide during the summer, such as extra police and fire personnel. But the other side of that argument is that second home owners on the Cape pay plenty in property taxes already, and use far less of their town’s services than year-round residents with children in schools, etc. So isn’t a tax on vacation rentals penalizing the taxpayers who already pay more than their fair share?

Adding a healthy tax on top of an already robust rental rate will decrease rental appeal for many vacationers to be sure. And if such a tax were implemented in some Cape towns and not others, imagine the impact on the unlucky owners whose town elected to apply the tax. Would those owners have to absorb the tax themselves in order to keep their rental rates competitive?
Passing any such tax feels like a slippery slope to us. We’ll keep watching as things develop on this important issue.

Thought about keyless door locks?

We sure have. Keys can be a problem. They get lost a lot. Or just never get returned by rental guests and contractors. For the purpose of security, we never indicate a property’s street address on our key tags. We also charge guests $25 for a lost key to motivate more careful key handling. And when, on departure day, we don’t find the two keys we provided, we aggressively pursue the missing key. Truth is, we have only mixed success. We have heard more than one owner darkly joke that “By now, most of the Lower Cape must have a key to my house.”

Many owners stash a key at the property to facilitate the situation when a rental manager or authorized contractor needs access and doesn’t happen to be carrying a key. We are very thankful to owners who stash a key, as it can be a huge convenience for us and others. But we must admit there is certainly some security risk in the practice.

Keyless entry may be something to consider. We are seeing it more and more these days, especially as part of new construction or renovations, although almost any door, including a slider, can be converted to keyless entry.

Instead of a key, you use a code, set by you and changed or even customized by individual user. Electronic keyless systems can report who’s coming and going and when at your property, giving you unprecedented security, control and peace of mind.
Even a power outage isn’t a problem if your keyless system has battery back-up or operates mechanically.

Of course, no locking approach is foolproof. If you or we or a guest can lose a key, we can certainly forget a code. Or forget to tell those who need to know that the code has been updated. But wait – how about a keyless lock with a fingerprint reader? Ahh, new technology at work for you!
If you’re interested in exploring keyless door locks for your Cape property, here are a couple of links to check out: