From the Boston Globe


Globe Staff, August 15, 2004


The ferry Great Point, docked beside the fishing fleet in Hyannis Harbor.

819 S. Main St. in Centerville, a waterfront estate listed at $9.8 million. (Globe photos)

Miles from Boston: 69
Population: 47,281
Median house price: $426,000
Tax rate: $6.61
Transportation: Routes 6, 6A, 28, 132, and 149. Barnstable Municipal Airport, member of Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority.
Best things: Sandy Neck, Hyannis Harbor
Worst things: Housing costs, traffic
MCAS: 10th graders were ranked 119th out of 273 school districts statewide for proficiency in English (ranking shared with Burlington and Hopedale schools). In math, the same class was ranked 114th out of 273 (ranking shared with the Whitman-Hanson regional district), according to a Globe analysis of 2003 MCAS results.
Census facts: Median family income, $54,026; national average, $50,046. Twenty percent of residents were 65 years or older; national average, 12 percent.
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BARNSTABLE -- Jack Cotton occasionally has those kind of gatherings common to all former high school students, where banter about the past eventually winds its way into a conversation about the present.

Cotton, a member of Barnstable High School's Class of 1974, said those chats invariably focus on one issue: housing costs and just how much the price of living in this town, Cape Cod's largest, has spiraled upward from when they were young.

"We all remember when we were buying a house for $30,000, and now they are asking $500,000 for the same house," said Cotton, president of Cotton Real Estate, with offices in Centerville and Hyannis.

Barnstable is perhaps better known by the 13 villages within its borders -- among them Barnstable, Centerville, Cotuit, Hyannis, Marstons Mills, Osterville, and West Barnstable -- all with some distinctive characteristics. While all are residential, Hyannis is the commercial center and also includes Hyannis Port, where the Kennedy family has its compound. Other villages offer beaches, harbors, the headquarters for county government, and conservation areas.

Cotton said that someone who put his Barnstable house on the market, but hasn't yet sold it, ought to review the asking price, because it's probably too high.

"All the buyers are here," he said. "They are either lurking on the Web or working with a realtor. . . . It's not because they don't know about it."

During a recent week, had 250 listings for single-family homes, ranging in price from $200,000 for a two-bedroom cottage to $9.8 million for a two-acre, waterfront estate in Centerville.

Cotton, who has an affinity for numbers, said he finally tracked down a statistic that helps explain why housing costs continue to rise in Barnstable and the Cape -- and will continue to do so for years to come.

An estimated 33 million people live within 300 miles, or just a four-hour drive, of the area, he said. With a conservative estimate of a 3 percent increase in value each year, Cotton said a house purchased for $300,000 today will be worth $1.4 million three decades from now.

"I suspect we will be looking back years from now, thinking how cheap they are," he said.

Barnstable is searching for ways to bolster its affordable housing stock, particularly rentals, since 6,000 people come for summer jobs each year, said Jemma Lambert, director of community services for the Town of Barnstable.

She said the town is looking to add residences to commercial properties in Hyannis and has given amnesty to those who have built otherwise illegal in-law-style apartments on their property.

John Ellement

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