Real(ity) Estate

Buying property on Cape Cod in the area known as the “Outer Cape” can be the equivalent of the leasehold system in England.  In other words, you never really own the property.  You lease it for a period of time — measured in decades or even centuries — but you don’t own it for as long as you own your deed.  On the Outer Cape, the ocean owns it longer than that.

Thanks to the encroachment of the sea (blame it on climate change or what you will), the cottage I have been renting for the past six years now holds the dubious distinction of being our road’s oceanfront property.  The former holder of that title last year literally had to pick up their home and carry it away, lest it be swept into the Atlantic.

The same thing happened a mile down the road with another home, 780 Ocean View Drive in Wellfleet, and I saw it happen.  The owners didn’t move the house off the property, but they did move it back from the edge of the ocean about 25 feet.  Here’s where the house was before it got moved, on the edge of a 100 foot dune down to the beach .And here it is after the move.They’ve got it sitting on I-beams, and then the utilities will presumably be hooked up.I cycled by and asked one of the workmen how many years he reckoned moving the house just 25 feet would buy the owners.  “10.  Maybe 12,” he said.  “That’s a deal with the devil,” I replied.  “One and a half mil, and it’s yours,” he shouted back.  And that is indeed the asking price, because this beautiful property is for sale.

Do the math.  Even if you had the money, even if it took the ocean fifteen years to gobble the house, that’s $100,000 per year.  OK, it is a pretty good view.


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