Saturday, February 26, 2011

“Do something good… Famously"

That's what the three interns at the New York advertising firm Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) were told. They were given $1000 seed money and told to use their skills to do something good, but do it famously. They created "Underheard in New York", giving 4 homeless men pre-paid cell phones, teaching them to tweet, and having them tweet about their lives surviving on the cold, cold streets of New York.

I'm the proud Uncle Bob to the 22 year-old Rosemary Melchior, one of the three interns. This project has gotten significant press (CNN, Fox News, CBS, CNN-International, Huffington Press, NY Times, LA Times, etc) and has provided a number of great surprises. Check out the Underheard in New York website, which chronicles the project and has a few very interesting videos.  One of the men was re-united with his daughter who he hadn't seen in 11 years. Wow!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marconi's Radio Towers - Ruins On the Beach

Just north of Marconi Beach is the location where Marconi built his radio towers that changed the world by wirelessly broadcasting across the Atlantic Ocean. This video shows that erosion of the beach sand has revealed the tower bases of 2 of the 4 Marconi Towers.  Watch the video for a bit of history.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo of the Day - Chatham Fish Pier

As part of our deep commitment to show Flat Stanley the highlights of the Outer Cape, a few days ago we took him to the Chatham Fish Pier, in Chatham. It was a beautiful day and Stanley got to see several fishing boats. Nice!

Adjustable Rate Mortgages - Bad News?

We have all heard the bad press about adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). "They suck you in with their low initial rates, but ultimately the rates go up".  Many folks have been taught that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 'best' because your monthly mortgage will remain constant (ie fixed) for the duration of the mortgage. This conservative thinking is certainly safer, particularly for folks just starting out as homeowners. All that said,  ARMs may be the right choice for some folks. The current rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage is 5.00% with the 3/1 ARM at 3.50%.

As an example, when I bought in Eastham, I knew that I was going to be selling my New York home in a few years and moving to Eastham. For us, the low 3/1 ARM rate made sense since we could simply pay-off the Eastham loan before the rates went up. Interestingly, at the end of my 3 year hold period, my rates floated down.

The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch website had a very interesting article on this choice

Outer Cape Real Estate - Prices By Town

I recently had a call from a client who asked about the relative prices of homes in Eastham versus the neighboring and nearby Outer Cape towns. Check out the graph, below.  You'll see that Eastham is one of the more affordable towns at this end of the Cape. Eastham is slightly more expensive than Harwich and Brewster, but less expensive than Orleans, Chatham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown, based on both the average and median prices for single family homes in 2010.

This chart supplements the information from my March newsletter. Go to to download my March newsletter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Provincetown - The Hard Way

Before the railroad line was built to Provincetown, the body of water that we now know as Pilgrim Lake as simply an extension of Cape Cod Bay. There was no Route 6, or 6A. The route to P-Town from Truro and the rest of the lower Cape was overland around the back of the current Pilgrim Lake. This route wasn't much different then as it is now - huge sand dunes, blowing sand, stiff winds, and a wildly shifting route.  The video below was done by the Cape Cod Times. I found it very interesting!  This walk isn't to be done on the hottest days, or by anyone not capable of walking several miles in soft sand.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My March Newsletter - Available Now!

My March Eastham real estate newsletter is available now! This issue has Part 2 of my year-end real estate results - this time with some stats on neighboring/nearby Outer Cape towns. Go to to download your copy.

The home sale prices for Eastham's neighors vary significantly. They show the median prices flat for Brewster, and up 17% in Chatham and Provincetown. Wow!

Photo of the Day - Ship's Ballast On Wellfleet Beach

CNN's iReport website ran a very interesting photo of a pile of rusted, twisted, iron found about a mile north of Wellfleet's Marconi Beach. The photo was taken by Christopher Seufert, of Take a look, below.  The best guess is that it's old anchor chains, used as ballast in the hulls of sailing ships, from the 1700's to the early 1900's.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Photo of the Day - Ice Fishing On Minister's Pond

We have a guest at our home, courtesy of our grand-daughter Alexa. Her friend, Flat Stanley, is about a foot tall cardboard figure who will be joining us for about a month. Our job, as good hosts, is to show him a few of Cape Cod's attractions, taking photos along the way that can be shared with Alexa's first grade class. 

Today I took Flat Stanley ice fishing on Minister's Pond, behind the Eastham Methodist Church on Rt 6. Although it was in the mid-40's, the ice was a safe 4" thick. The other (a.k.a. real) fisherman had caught a few smaller perch and good-sized bass. Stanley seemed unimpressed. You can see a small perch at his feet.

Flat Stanley at Minister's Pond in Eastham

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Man vs. Computer - The Jeopardy Challange

Tomorrow may be Valentine's Day, but it's also the day that an IBM supercomputer named Watson will have his day playing Jeopardy with the game's 2 all-time money winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson comes well prepared, with 90 servers working in tandem, connected to 15 Terabytes of data storage. The game is one of speed, knowledge, parsing capabilities, and judgement. For judgement, Watson will need to know when he's not sure enough to buzz-in, since wrong answers count against you. Learn about Watson on the website. Watson is named after Thomas J. Watson who founded IBM 100 years ago.

The last IBM computer vs man challenge was in 1997 when Deep Blue ultimately beat Gary Kasparov in chess.  This time, the challenge will last across 3 shows, for a purse of $1.5M. The winner gets $1M. Of note, any money Watson wins as part of this challenge will be donated to charity.  Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter have pledged half their winnings to charity.

Watch Watson tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:30 PM on WBZ in Boston. For other stations and times, go to My 'first' career was 32 years at IBM, working the later years in marketing of IBM's linux based servers.  Go Watson!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Orleans Condos Ban Smoking

This is old news since it actually happened almost 2 years ago. The Old Colony Village condo complex on Old Colony Way in Orleans has banned smoking in their units for any new owners. Current owners are 'grandfathered' but need to acquire a filtering system so that their second-hand smoke will no-longer bother other residents.  This ban, which was enacted in 2009, effectively requires that all new owners be non-smokers, reducing somewhat the 'pool' of potential buyers for the condo units. On the other hand, these units are instantly more desirable for nonsmokers who don't enjoy smelling stale smoke in the corridors.

Read the article in the Cape Cod Times online edition.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Cash Is King - In Real Estate Too!

What shouldn't really surprise us in the current real estate marketplace is that cash is king. Cash has always had a nice ring about it, but when mortgage loans get more scarce, sales where no mortgage is required are like music in a Realtor's ears. Just think - no mortgage contingencies, no appraisers, no banker's questions about furniture, holdbacks, and closing costs. In many cases, cash-in-hand provides significant bargaining power over often frustrated Sellers, who just want the process to be problem free.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article, yesterday, on cash buyers. Many of them are foreign nationals looking for a good investment. With prices down already, cash makes the deal even better!  Check out the WSJ article... here.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Photo of the Day: One World Trade Center

Below is a photo, taken this morning, of the Freedom Tower, a.k.a. One World Trade Center. We're starting to get really tall!  My son's apartment overlooks Ground Zero, so he periodically takes a photo out his dining room window.

Friday, February 04, 2011

2011's Rental Season Looking Good!

Summer vacation rental bookings on the website are off to a great start. They are up 26% from last year's start and 42.6% from 2009.  This is a good story, which bodes well for the Cape's economy, for home rental landlords, and (hopefully) for the Cape Cod real estate market.

There's probably a second reason for these improved numbers. The Internet is becoming a larger part of the rental marketplace, taking more & more bookings from local rental agents. Read the entire article on the CapeCodToday That Internet thing is going to be really big!

7 Tips for First Time Home Buyers

A friend of mine asked me to provide some basic advice to her son as he began the search for his first home. Here are the 7 points that I felt he should remember as he started 'the hunt'.
  1. Get your own agent. Don't use the agent you meet at an open house. They represent the sellers, not you. You want a ‘Buyer’s Rep’ (an ABR), someone who will look after your interests. Typically, you want the busiest agent in the office. They have the best ‘systems’ in place for a smooth sale.
  2. Get a home inspection from a state licensed home inspector – money well spent!
  3. As much as your budget will allow – pick by location – it’s the one thing that money can’t change
  4. Be patient – there are plenty of homes available.
  5. Don't take on more debt than you can afford. Don’t do an interest-only loan; they are deadly when the principle kicks in.
  6. Take advantage of any state-sponsored first-time home-buyer programs. However, be sure to read the fine-print.
  7. Be aware that most short-sales and foreclosures are not bargains. Here is one place where having your own Buyers' agent is valuable. 

Thursday, February 03, 2011

January 2011 Preliminary Sales Results

January has (almost) always been a fairly big month for sales in Eastham. This year was somewhat of an exception. Since January sales closings are the product of last November's & December's sales activity, it shouldn't be a surprise that we're seeing reduced sales. The details....
  • A total of 7 homes sold in Eastham in January, compared to 13 in January, 2010
  • Total sales were roughly $3.1M - the average home sale price was $446K
  • The median sale price in January was $455K.
There are currently 76 active single family listings in Eastham, with an average list price of $528K and a medium price of $449K. The average days-on-market is currently 241 days.