Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Cape Cod Cottage

Many, many months ago, after the official end of beach season, Rich suggested that we spend that upcoming Saturday down the Cape looking at properties.  For real.  Which means with a realtor as opposed to the Sarah way of scoping out cottages.  We had spent the summer doing drive-bys and peering into windows.  (Vacant homes on the market only, not in a creepy way!)  Owning a beach house on the Cape has been an adulthood dream of mine and it's something we've talked about and researched for more than ten years now.  Unfortunately, the best time to buy would have been when the market tanked after the girls were born but we were caught up in that downturn as well and not in a position to buy anything.

Why now?  Last year, we sold our first house that we had kept as rental/investment property and we wanted to roll that equity over into another piece of real estate.  I hated to sell that house as it held a lot of memories but antique homes need quite a bit of TLC and, unfortunately, that's difficult to do when the property is a rental.  The market in that area had finally recovered and we wanted to sell while we could.  You never know what the future will hold.

Cape Cod consists of many different towns and communities and it took us years to finally find an area we felt would give us a good investment and more bang for your buck, if you will.  I'd been closely following the market over the summer and while it wasn't as strong as the Boston area, good properties were selling within a few weeks.  I assumed that the process of finding a cottage that met our needs and our budget would take months and months of searching.  That Friday, the day before our excursion down there, I opened while I ate lunch and sorted properties in our area of interest by date placed on the market.

I am too Type A to call a realtor and say, "Here's what we're looking for.  Could you find some properties for us to look at?"  Today, with the internet, it is incredibly easy to search on your own.  Also, even though we had a wish list, there are always options outside the box that we'd be willing to entertain but it's quicker for me to make those decisions.

So what were we looking for?
  • Single family
  • Less than a mile to the ocean (would prefer less than half a mile)
  • Shingle siding, "quintessential Cape Cod" 
  • Three bedrooms (would be okay with two, if one was large enough to comfortably hold two sets of bunk beds)
  • No updates in the last 20-30 years
  • Quiet area (would prefer to be surrounded by seasonal properties)
  • Semi-private lot (if a kid runs from the outside shower sans clothing, what's my exposure risk?)
  • Outside shower

I'm looking through properties sorted by date placed on the market and the first one of interest doesn't meet that list above.  It has two units, which I'm open to because you can rent one side while keeping the other for your own use.  Or you can rent both for a bigger investment.  This place is about a quarter of a mile from the beach and slightly over the budgeted price we had in mind.  I mapped it out on Google and it didn't look very private but you never know until you see it in person.  I added it to the list of potentials.

The next property I came across, which had been placed on the market that week, was behind and diagonal to the first property.  Single family, completely outdated, short walk to the beach but well over our budget.  There was an open house that Saturday so I added it to the list.

I continued with my search and struck gold.  This was a cottage that had been placed on the market a week earlier, was very reasonably priced, appeared to meet our wish list and was under our budget.  Gah, my heart was racing!  From all the time I had spent researching I knew that properties like this did not sit for long.  I thought for sure the realtor would tell us that an offer had just been accepted, but no, we were in luck.  So we arranged to see all three properties the next day with GOLD first.

The next morning, we made the drive down and even before we arrive at the cottage, I'm in love with the street.  It's unpaved and quiet with sandy lots sitting under scrub pines.  We met with the realtor selling the property and I could tell immediately that he wasn't a bullshitter.  The cottage was exactly as described and what we were looking/hoping for.  The owners, an elderly couple, had passed away and the children had decided to sell it, which is why it was priced the way it was.  After looking through the cottage, we all went to the backyard and our question as to why no one had yet made an offer was answered.  Before I could even ask, the realtor pointed out that the septic system had not yet been inspected and he suspected that it was an old cesspool that would fail inspection.  If it did fail inspection, the estate would install a new septic system.

While we were in the yard, random people began appearing on the street out front.  There was a truck parked across the street and an SUV parked out front and two women on foot.  The realtor explained that sometimes people see the for sale sign and several cars in the driveway and assume that it's an open house.  We were just about to wrap up when the two women came over and apologized for interrupting.  They explained how they owned houses on the street and had seen all the activity and walked down to see if there was an open house.  They quickly realized that there wasn't but one of them had recognized the girls.  It turns out that she's a substitute teacher who lives in our town and remembered the girls from school.  Talk about a small world.  These two women were awesome.  They gave us all the information about the neighborhood (so much information!) which really sealed the deal for us.  They also confirmed what we knew - that it was priced to sell.  We thanked everyone and told the realtor that we would check in with him later in the week for a septic update.

At that point, we were so not interested in the other two properties but we looked at them anyway.  The one with the two units was somewhat unique but there was no privacy (people walking by on the way to the beach would be checking out your breakfast) and to really fix up the property to function well as one or two units would require a significant output of $$$.  At least $75,000.  No thank you.  We did go the open house for curiosity's sake.  This house was pretty much the same size as our golden cottage and in the same outdated condition but located about three tenths of mile closer to the beach.  The price difference for that three tenths of a mile was ridiculous.  Plus, there wasn't much privacy in the yard and I didn't like how the third bedroom was located directly off of the kitchen.

We drove around a bit before heading home and the whole time, my brain was chugging away.  I told Rich that no offers had been made because those interested were waiting to see the condition of the septic system.  If we wanted this cottage (and I really wanted it), we needed to make an offer as soon as possible.  We ran the risk of having the septic somehow pass inspection which would leave us with an aging system that would have to be replaced in the near future.  I'm far from a septic expert but I do know that replacing these systems is expensive.  We called the realtor that evening and made an offer slightly under the list price.  It was accepted the next day without negotiation.

Just as we hoped, the septic failed its inspection later that week.  We also began the search for our own inspector for the cottage.  Fall must be a popular time of the year for real estate transactions because these guys were booked for weeks.  Personally, I won't purchase anything without an inspection.  The only real issue that arose during the inspection was the condition of the beams under the house.  There is no basement, only a crawl space over sand.  Over the past 60 years, moisture had rotted those beams and they now need to be replaced.  He also suggested we have the roof replaced.  Visually, the roof looks fine and there are no leaks.  We had to extend the signing of the P&S as we negotiated our original offer to include these unexpected repairs.  This took longer than we liked - good luck getting a contractor to call you back, never mind providing an estimate.  Finally, both sides agreed to a new selling price and we signed the P&S.

Now we needed to wait for the septic to be replaced, which was not an easy task and pushed back our close date.  I wanted to write about this whole process months ago because it was really exciting but then I was afraid I would jinx the whole thing or that it would all fall through.  When we had to push back the close date, we were asked if we wanted to walk away.  We found out that they had a back up offer from a friend of the guy who owns the cottage across the street.  He had decided to wait to see how the septic inspection panned out.  But it's all good, we now own the cottage.  

This is getting really long so I'm going to wrap it up.  I plan on sharing more, probably much more, soon.  We have updates to make - some cosmetic, like painting, and some big, like the bathroom.  Oh, the bathroom.  Thanks for reading!



Tracy said...

Wow, what exciting news! Congratulations! Can't wait to read more about it and see pics!!

Tracey's Life said...

so exciting for you! Good luck

Jordan said...

Can't wait to see hat it looks like!!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Big congratulations to you! I'm so excited to see and hear more :)

Teej said...

This was like a blog version of house hunters! Very fun to read. Good luck with all the updates

Amber Gregory said...

OMG! This is awesome. Can't wait to hear more! Also, I'm coming over ;)


How exciting!!

Lisa MH said...

Congrats! Sounds super exciting. Looking forward to seeing photos!

BreezieGirl said...

So exciting! Congrats!!! I can't wait to see and hear more :)

Christi said...

I am so excited for you!!
Can't wait to follow along with your updates.
And yay! More Cape photos this summer.

Sarah said...

Thank you!!!!

katiefromtheblock said...

Congrats! My parents have a cape house in woods hole. What part of the cape is your cottage on? I know you probably don't want to share the specific down, but is it outer cape? Based on the pines it looks like it!

Sarah said...

Hi Katie - Midish Cape - not all the way to outer.