Real Estate

Edgartown

Aug. 25, Robert and Christine S. Bowen sold 31 Woodhaven Dr. to Kenneth and Kathleen Schoenberg for $799,034.15.

Aug. 26, Robert L. Nagi, Personal Representative of the estate of Caroline M. DeYoung, sold 16 Edgewood Dr. to Kelly Nagi for $135,000.

Aug. 29, Beverly M. Haslam and Emerson F. Haslam Jr. sold 111 School St. to Lisa J. Crowley-Dutile for $1,700,000.

Oak Bluffs

Aug. 25, Douglas W. and Margaret W. Smith sold 24 Winemack St. to Paul G. Alexander and Evelyne Martial for $410,000.

Tisbury

Aug. 28, Kelley Irene Wheeler sold 52 Andrews Rd. to Mark D. and Marcia B. Mariner for $411,000.

Aug. 29, Michael C. and Suzanne S. Cosgrave sold 4 Wood Chips Circle to Krista Elliott Riley for $657,500.

West Tisbury

Aug. 29, John Katzenbach, trustee of the Lydia P. S. Katzenbach Qualified Personal Residence Trust, sold 245 Thumb Point Rd. to Anton C. Pil for $3,000,000.

Justin Melnick, executive chef of the Terrace Restaurant at the Charlotte Inn, gave reporter Rich Saltzberg a tour of the wine cellar.

For Islanders like you who’ve graduated to accumulating wine by the case, the time may have come to consider cellaring your loot.

If you can’t imagine stowing your bottle bounty in anything but an actual cellar, so be it. In July your correspondent was inadvertently locked in, and therefore had ample opportunity to examine a bona fide, lavishly-stocked Edgartown wine cellar while interviewing award-winning executive chef Justin Melnick at the Terrace restaurant. Since Chef Melnick’s cell phone signal couldn’t penetrate the cellar to reach help upstairs, we were afforded ample time to talk about the chamber’s construction.

“The building of the wine cellar was pretty remarkable to witness,” said Chef Melnick. “Gery Conover [owner of the Charlotte Inn & Terrace Restaurant] has such a great vision for projects like this expansion, and gets results quickly.” He expanded on the process in a later conversation. “As I mentioned when we were locked in the wine cellar [lest readers think I exaggerated], it was all dug out by hand and transported out one bucket at a time through a small window leading to the back of the inn.”

Max Barbosa, who works at The Charlotte Inn, led the labor force with a helper and had the entire cellar dug out in just over a week, Chef Melnick said. After that, the concrete was poured, and the shelves were custom made by Dave Root who does a lot of the carpentry work for the inn. “This was a good winter project,” Chef Melnick continued, “when there is otherwise not much else happening. The attention to detail in the wine cellar is in line with the rest of the inn. All the copper pipes are glistening, everything was painted, light fixtures installed, the ‘stage is set’ as Gery often says around the property. Then it was my turn to fill it with wine, organize the locations of everything, and get it to a point where it is streamlined for easy access during service. Each bin has a number plate that Gery installed once I had an outline for how we were going to be setting it up.”

Done in a sort of an Edwardian style, the cellar has a regality you just wouldn’t expect from what is essentially a specialized storage room. As time wore on during our stay there however, the handsomeness of the surroundings gave way to crackpot ideas: maybe we could drink our way out? Eventually, after rapping on some pipes and then positioning his cell phone against one so it acted like a booster antenna, Chef Melnick reached somebody upstairs and we escaped without having to use the Remy XO as a battering ram.

The design moral? Like walk-in coolers and even, say, automobile trunks, wine cellars should have an exit failsafe. Remember that when you get the desire to go big and subterranean.

Cellar beware

If you’re unable to bankroll a stone-by-stone castle transfer from Europe to house your own subterranean bottle hoard or you haven’t inherited something with catacombs, you’re not out of luck. Without the need for so much as a crawlspace, safe storage for your liquid loved ones can be achieved above ground, sans masonry, for a relatively modest investment and with less risk of being trapped underground. A simple household closet, for example, can be transformed into a proper wine room, albeit a little one, with a short list of supplies and building materials and a solid understanding of what type of defenses you’ll be setting up for your wine’s wellbeing. Those defenses are as follows:

1. Blocking the sun: Sunlight is the bane of wine. Consider all your bottles (red or white) to be so fair skinned they’re practically albinos — with exposure akin to climbing into a skillet with bacon and eggs. Just because your wine comes in colored glass (as a minor hedge against sun damage) that’s not an invitation to display bottles where sunrays can reach them. Curb the urge to install a glass door on your budding wine closet. Your wine wants to hide in the dark like a mushroom. Let it. If you have more than one closet in your house, choose one that’s not adjacent to a window so opening it in the daytime doesn’t cause intermittent solar damage. You’ll of course need illumination in your wine closet but avoid mounting fluorescents. They can emit ultraviolet light that over time may degrade your wine.

2. Maintaining temperature: Wine likes it cool and steady. When wine gets too hot or too cold, its flavor and longevity are gutted. Fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature wine is most content at. Anywhere between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is acceptable, however. You will need R19 insulation (at a minimum) throughout your wine closet to be able to keep temperatures in that range. Rigid insulation is easier to cut and sandwich. Though some homes may sustain these temperatures through beefy insulation alone, it is more likely that a small cooling unit (widely available online from companies such as Breezaire and CellarPro) will be necessary. Try not to choose a closet space adjacent to a refrigerator, dishwasher, or dryer, as those appliances are heat emitters. Definitely avoid choosing a closet space adjacent to a furnace. Be conscious of hot water pipes, or occasionally in old houses, steam pipes, running inside walls. Extra insulation may be required to offset the heat these can generate. Be wary of light fixtures that burn hotly.

3. Keeping moisture: Though horizontal storage is the customary method of keeping corks moist, uniform humidity augments that method and keeps corks extra happy. Wine with screw caps or artificial corks are not subject to threats from dryness but wine sealed with genuine cork risks cork-shrinkage, and the damaging oxygen intake that can occur as a result of such shrinkage. Fifty percent to eighty percent humidity is the accepted range for wine storage with seventy percent being the sweet spot. If shelling out for a humidifier seems too much, a bowl of water may suffice. However, humidity can’t be decently retained without a vapor barrier (likely polyethylene sheeting) lain over the insulation. If you store wine by the case, store the case upside down so the corks remain steeped.

4. Nixing agitation: Though the effects are different, shaking a bottle of wine is like shaking a bottle of Coca Cola in that you likely won’t enjoy the results upon opening. Safe to say you’d have to be pretty angry to shake a bottle of wine, unless it’s champagne and in that case you’d be just plain reckless. You can, however, be of otherwise sound mind and neglect to situate your wine away from sources of vibration such as some of the aforementioned appliances. Railroads not being extant on the Vineyard, exterior sources of chronic vibration are uncommon. However, if you suffer from one, shaking champagne and aiming the cork at the problem may prove therapeutic. Suffice it to say, wine, especially maturing wine, thrives on stillness.

Assembling the materials to realize your wine closet will take time and care and most assuredly, additional research but knowing how badly you want one, you’re going to make it happen. If for some reason you find you can’t muster the skills necessary to execute the wine closet of your dreams, an actionable backup plan is available. Standalone units can be bought from a wide variety of manufacturers and simply inserted in the designated closet with little more than a plug needed. Contrary to the preceding warning, you’ll need to accept that these units almost always sport glass doors. A sun-tight outer door is then a prerequisite.

You can manage that.

Lobster trap or not, Chef Melnick’s wine cellar aids him in holding some of the best wine events on Martha’s Vineyard. The next one features Lorenzo Savona on September 19 and 20 – well worth attending; theterracemv.com. Chef Melnick is also one of the featured chefs in the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival on October 16-19. For more information, visit: mvfoodandwine.com.

Chilmark

Aug. 21, Peter Silverman and Jane Katch sold 68 Bija’s Way to Jane T. and Jerald A. Katch for $210,000.

Aug. 21, Erik Simonsen Jr., trustee of Flanders Lane Nominee Trust, sold 37 Flanders Lane to Erik Simonsen Jr. and Kimberly Richter Simonsen for $570,000.

Edgartown

Aug. 18, Sandra Raymond sold 81 Martha’s Road to Malcolm W. Hall 2nd and Laurel C. Hall for $325,000.

Aug. 18 Constantine B. O’Doherty sold 108 Martha’s Rd. to Brian G. and Sally F. Walshe for $1,250,000.

Aug. 19, Joseph C. and Belinda W. Pioggia sold 114 South Summer St. to Thomas A. and Francesca A. Bartlett for $2,320,000.

Aug. 19, 7 Dunes Road LLC sold 43 Crocker Dr. to 6424N10LLC for $1,479,000.

Aug. 21, Michael Ault sold 13 Plantingfield Way to Faith Van Clief for $555,600.

Aug. 21, Richard A. and Barbara A. Lankow sold 11 Dunes Rd. to Frank A. and Catherine K. Delli Carpini for $1,200,000.

West Tisbury

Aug. 19, Melissa J. Manter sold 93 Dr. Fisher Rd. to Daniel J. Larkosh and Christopher E. Larkosh, trustees of Larkosh Realty Trust, for $50,000.

Aug. 19, Arthur R. Hitchings 3rd and Julie M. Hitchings sold 43 Trotters Lane to Hilary Wall and Brian Cox for $535,500.

Aug. 20, Huseby Mountain Farm LLC sold Lot 1 Pine Hill Rd. to Stephen C. Araujo for $300,000.

Aug. 20, Christine A. Fisher sold Lot 2 State Rd. to Jarret F. Brissette for $525,000.

Red Mallow.

Abigail-HigginsThe sun is falling steadily lower in the sky. It signifies not summer’s end, but tells us that it is drawing nigh. This amazing season has given gardeners much to appreciate and be thankful for. The heat waves experienced elsewhere did not materialize, despite predictions, and there have been few Japanese beetles and mosquitoes. Nights have been cool. Rainfall has been sufficient and often at night.

Scene-stealers in the August garden are the hybrid hibiscus now in bloom. Those unfamiliar with the theatrical plants’ dinner-plate sized flowers and stature are literally stopped in their tracks by them. What a floral tour de force!

The question of the August garden has become more perplexing, with height-of-bloom times speeding up almost yearly: stars of high summer such as oriental lilies and some phlox cultivars are almost passé by the beginning of the month. Fortunately, hibiscus hybrids seem to have resisted this speeding-up process, and still reliably take center stage in mid-August.

According to “Herbaceous Perennial Plants,” Allan M. Armitage’s big book of perennials (Stipes Publishing LLC), many of the garden hybrids were bred from Hibiscus moscheutos (“mos-KEW-tas”) a North American native, along with other vigorous members of the genus. Islanders know the beautiful pink stands of them, along our brackish coves and salt ponds, as “marsh mallows.”

Hybrid hibiscus plants share the hardy nature of their wild ancestors and the brilliant colors of their tropical relatives. (Armitage mentions the outstanding work done by the three Fleming brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska, in this hybridizing.) Many are patented plants and not always available in small local nurseries, but finding and growing them is worth the effort for the show they put on. The color range is white through pinks/lavenders to red and beyond red, to an almost black; one, ‘Old Yella,’ is a buttery primrose.

Space them out

The heights of hardy hibiscus hybrids vary from compact to super-sized, but most require plenty of room and air space. Do not try to shoehorn a hardy hibiscus into that small blank space that “just cries out” to be filled. Hardy hibiscus hybrids prefer full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. They appreciate adequate moisture but, unlike our beautiful, Island “marsh mallow,” they do not need to be planted in a swamp! Figure two to three feet wide and about four feet high for spacing most, with some becoming one to two feet taller where happy.

Hibiscus plants are categorized as woody shrubs. They are one of the last perennials to break dormancy and emerge in the spring. In the gardens where we care for them, we leave the woody stems until next year’s growth is well up, to avoid disturbing new shoots by cultivating. These woody stems are sturdy enough to be pressed into service to support the current year’s growth, a sort of built-in, self-grown, staking system.

You may encourage sturdier, bushier growth by pinching hardy hibiscus when the shoots are about six to eight inches tall. They benefit from fertilization, but hold off after the third week of June, or you may encourage vegetative growth at the expense of blossoms. Excessive feeding by Japanese beetles or hibiscus sawfly may indicate plants that are stressed; step up efforts at soil improvement.

Turk’s cap lilies

An emblem of Island roadsides and quiet shaded spots in August, the turk’s cap lilies have shone in recent weeks. While there are some people whose aesthetic prevents them from welcoming these towers of elegant orange into their premises, most of us are enchanted with their bright presence, easiness, ability to reproduce and increase on their own, and general resistance to the red lily beetle. So I am dismayed to see that many — though not all — are suffering from browning and loss of lower leaves. Am hoping to learn the cause of this disfigurement.

In the garden

Check grafted trees and shrubs, such as roses, for suckers originating from below the graft union. If they are not removed, eventually the entire plant will revert to whatever species supplied the rootstock.

Watering is paramount now. The afternoon sun is especially hot. The sun’s wavelength shift towards the infrared causes solid matter to heat up and hold heat differently than when the wavelength is primarily ultraviolet. Pots and garden seedlings may need watering twice daily. Keep plants looking good with a liquid feed.

Lift and divide bearded iris. Choose young, strong sections of rhizome. Trim off foliage and roots by two thirds and one third, respectively, and replant about one foot apart, with rhizome just at soil level.

I have seeded beets, carrots, more zucchini ‘Romanesco,’ Swiss chard, sugar snap peas, radicchio, and Portuguese kale but could have done much more — nothing ventured, nothing gained. Continue to weed and cultivate in vegetable gardens. The uncultivated crust that forms accepts less water, including dew, than cultivated soil does. Reemay over my three seeded rows of carrots will, I hope, hold in the moisture the seedlings need to grow well and keep out the bunny that has wormed its way through my fencing.

Parts of well-established clematis vines have succumbed to clematis wilt in my garden, and in others too. It is always a disappointment: to go for years without wilt, and then, in an otherwise satisfying season, to have it appear — “for no good reason,” as we always say. (Well, there is a reason, probably, but it’s not apparent to the gardener.)

If there are empty spots in your vegetable garden, or if you are clearing it out preparatory to departure, mulch them or sow with a green manure (cover crop) of some sort. If nothing else, it occupies the space and prevents the blown-in seeds of weeds becoming established.

Aquinnah

Aug. 15, James C. and Mildred S. Higgins sold 3 Driftwood Lane to Charles Fitzgerald and Kathryn Cerick for $1,200,000.

Chilmark

Aug. 15, Thomas W. Roush, trustee of Roush Family Nominee Trust sold 39 Spruce Gate Rd. to Squibby LLC for $7,800,000.

Oak Bluffs

Aug. 13, HSBC Bank USA NA, as trustee on behalf of Ace Securities Corp. Home Equity Loan Trust and for the registered holders of ACE Securities Corp. Home Equity Loan Trust, Series 2006-HE2, Asset Backed Pass-Through Certificates, sold 26 Bayes Hill Rd. to Arthur L. Walton, Jr. and Linda V. Dare-Walton for $364,000.

Tisbury

Aug. 11, Sylvia S. Mader, trustee of Mader Realty Trust, sold 645 Lambert’s Cove Rd. along with another lot on Lambert’s Cove Rd. to L. Thomas Galloway and Catherine A. Carlson for $2,990,000.

Aug. 11, Sylvia S. Mader, trustee of Mader Realty Trust sold a lot on Kennebago Ave. to L. Thomas Galloway and Catherine A. Carlson for $300,000.

Aug. 14, John W. Harrer, trustee of John W. Harrer Nominee Trust sold 221 Edgartown Rd. to Charles A. Noona, 3rd and Laura D. Noonan for $383,150.

Chilmark

Aug. 7, Fred Goldstein sold 9 Swan’s Way to Stephanie R. Darosa for $40,000.

Oak Bluffs

Aug. 6, Joseph Elias Garcia sold 41 Eastville Ave. to Susan V. White, trustee of Eastville Avenue Nominee Trust, for $380,000.

Aug. 7, David G. and Ellen R. Berube sold 22 Norris Ave. to Vivian C. Beard for $410,000.

Aug. 8, James F. Hickman sold 285 Barnes Rd. to James C. Fox, trustee of B&G Realty Trust, for $1,600,000.

Tisbury

Aug. 8, Ian A. Luce as Personal Representative of the estate of John B. Luce, Ian Andrew Luce a/k/a Ian A. Luce individually, and Abigail Catherine Luce a/k/a Abigail C. Luce sold 14 Pine St. to Geoghan E. Coogan, trustee of 14 Pine Street Realty Trust, for $1,100,000.

Aquinnah

July 22, Paul and Barbara Valenti sold a lot on Attaquin Way to Jennifer Butler and Kevin Sheehan for $442,500.

Chilmark

July 24, Stephen Carr Anderson sold Parcel 5 Quansoo Beach to Joshua A. Greenhill for $300,000.

Edgartown

July 22, Magda L. Fleckner and Jeremy Scott Wood, trustees of the Robin B. R. Wood Revocable Trust-2005 Family Trust, sold 42 Boulevard to Regula E. Todd for $635,000.

July 22, Catherine A. Hartley sold 4 Tower Lane to Juliet K. Mulinare, Joseph Mulinare, and Kathryn Shands for $425,000.

July 24, Robert C. Nevin sold 10 North Bog Rd. to Kevin J. Foran for $500,000.

Oak Bluffs

July 21, Michael M. and Patricia S. Roberts sold 59 Winemack St. to Jennifer Sanford, trustee of Jennifer Sanford Revocable Trust, for $940,000.

July 23, Martha A. Robinson, Ruth K. Hastings, Personal Representatives of the Estate of Walter J. Knapp, sold 1 Wood Duck Way to William D. Westman, Jr. and Wendy J. Westman for $540,000.

July 24, JD Oak Bluffs LLC sold 133 Wing Rd. to Long Pond Capital LLC for $490,000.

July 25, Mary Ann Heffernan, trustee of Summertime Trust, sold 47 Martha’s Park Rd. to Dawn M. Warsofsky for $490,000.

Tisbury

July 25, 412 State Road LLC sold 412 State Rd. to Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank for $2,600,000.

West Tisbury

July 24, the Internal Revenue Service sold 41 Courthouse Rd. to Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte for $252,000.

July 24, Rosemary Wittels, trustee of the Rosemary Wittels Trust-2005 sold 175 Oak Lane to Werner and Mary Kuhn for $243,000.

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The Martha’s Vineyard real estate market improved in 2013, but the advance over the year before was modest, and early signals from sales statistics for the first half of 2014 suggest that growth continues to be variable across market segments, leaving prospects for the rest of 2014 uncertain. A compilation of market statistics from LINK data, as well as data from MVTimes records and observations from brokers, all shown plainly in the accompanying graphs, make clear that the market collapse after 2007 led relentlessly to fewer annual sales and a collapse in for-sale inventories. The market found a bottom in 2009-2010 and has continued to potter along there since.

MVRealEstate Trans by Price for 2013

The stand still nature of market progress over time become is clear when one compares total sales in 2003, 566, with total sales last year, 502. That’s an 11 percent decline over the decade. Then, looking at the numbers comparing total sales for 2008, 314, and last year, 502, the change over six years was slightly greater than 60 percent. Together the two comparisons describe the steep and deep nature of the financial collapse, now familiarly known as the Great Recession, and the incomplete nature of the recovery.

At the same time, and to some degree mirroring the way the recovery has generously benefited the financial economy but been more niggardly about helping the real economy, one finds that the share of sales of property worth more than $1 million rose sharply between 2008, 87, and 2013, 144, although for property sold for more than $3 million, the difference between 2008 and 2013 has been negligible, 24 six years ago, 22 last year.

2014 Avvearge Sales Price

What the results for the first five months of 2014, compared with the first five months of 2013 show is that the year-over-year margins in these measures have narrowed, and the overall strength of the market last year has diminished in the first half of this year. In January 2014, 52 sales were recorded as against 20 in January last year. In May this year there were 46 completed transactions, exactly as many as were recorded in May 2013. In January this year, $54 million in sales took place as against $14 million in January last year, but in May, the year-to-year dollar comparison for the month found that $35 million in property changed hands in January this year, compared with $33 million in the same month a year ago. In January this year, the average sales price was $1 million, compared with just $676,000 in January a year ago. In May 2014, the average price was $759,000, compared with $724,000 in May 2013.

Interestingly, the share of total sales represented by transactions worth less than $1 million has declined over the decade since 2003, suggesting that the resources of buyers, as well as the sellers’ conclusions about the value of their properties, have increased. In 2003, when 566 transactions took place, 83 percent of those deals were for properties sold for less than $1 million. In 2008, the under-$1 million share was 72 percent, and in 2013 it was 71 percent.

In general terms, real estate insiders mostly call the 2013 performance of the market flat.

2014 Dollar Volume

The change in the inventory of property for sale flattened in 2013. Sales are little changed compared to sales in 2012. The dollar value of property sold in 2013 is barely greater than in 2012. The average value of sales didn’t change materially either. The Vineyard market may have held up better in the immediate aftermath of the 2007-2008 collapse and may have been slower to reach the bottom. Also, the bottom here has not been as catastrophic here as it has been in some other U.S. markets. But, the Vineyard market has not resumed its historically buoyant ways. Brokers say that buyers are plentiful and eager, but nervous about the country’s economic future, and they want their ideal vacation properties at ideally low prices. Inventories, historically high before the recession, declined rapidly as prices fell and buyers disappeared, but they have risen slowly as sellers return to what they see as a strengthening market.

The Chilmark market, historically characterized by high prices and low volume, has seen sales volume decline, along with prices. Chilmark recorded only 32 sales last year, 40 percent fewer than in 2012. The number of transactions recorded in Chilmark has historically been small, but the town has regularly been second only to Edgartown in dollar value of sales. In 2013, the value of its 32 sales dropped 50 percent compared with the year earlier results, to just $11 million.

2014 Median Sales Price

In wealthy, diverse Edgartown, 2013 results contrasted sharply with those of the small, rich up-Island town. Edgartown, vast geographically and its inventory spanning all market pricing segments, saw 2013  sales volume jump 15 percent compared with 2012. Dollar value for all sales rose 10 percent. In 2013, $233 million in real estate changed hands, compared with $40 million in Chilmark.

West Tisbury, $56 million, and Oak Bluffs, $59 million, saw total value of sales drop in 2013, compared with the year before. Tisbury recorded an astonishing 40 percent jump in the total value of sales, to $84 million, year over year.

2014 Number of Sales

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Almost without exception, since its founding in 1984, The Martha’s Vineyard Times has published an annual list of Vineyard real property values (VPV), and in recent years has made this data available online. For reasons sublime or pedestrian, the publication has always been a big hit. Not with everyone, mind you, but with most. Some readers consult VPV to find out what their neighbors’ houses and land have been assessed at, or the values of property owned by widely known seasonal residents. Some readers would rather the assessed values of their own houses were not listed, but they consult the list anyhow. But, however you approach this annual, comprehensive list, eagerly or bemusedly, and whether you are a year-round or seasonal property owner, you should know what Vineyard real estate is worth and how the towns compare.

The national increase in real estate values has not been uniform, and neither are the changes in value among the Island towns. Nationally, there are badly hurt regions, but there are also others where values have proven more durable and where prices are rising.

The six Vineyard towns have experienced virtually no increase in assessment values in the last few years. Using the most recent assessed values, those that were used to calculate tax bills for the 2015 fiscal year, taxable real estate in the six Island towns is worth $18.4 billion, up only six tenths of one percent over the values we reported last year. For fiscal 2010, total value was $19.03 billion, about 6.7 percent from the total value in the 2009 fiscal year in which the Great Recession began. So, after the initial shock, Vineyard real estate values have stabilized at diminished levels. This stabilization hints at better days to come, value-wise and an increase in the number of sales, year to date, is reason to think that the market may be improving. The volume of real estate sales for the first five months of 2014 increased over the same period last year from 115 to 198 but sales have not returned to the levels preceding the sharp decline that began in 2008, and the volume of properties for sale has stabilized.

Nevertheless, compared with real estate values elsewhere in the country, Island values held up during the housing bust and all but one of the six Vineyard towns have experienced modest increases in total value.

A look at average monthly median sales values for the first five months year over year finds that as of May, 2013, the median Island-wide value of closed sales was about $478,000. It rose in the same period in 2014 to $578,000. The average monthly selling price over the same period increased from $713,000 for the first five months of 2013 to $910,400 in 2014.

The assessed values we report in this edition of VPV, updated since the last edition was published a year ago, serve as the basis for property tax rates. The towns will use these values, updated by prices in actual sales, additions, remodels, new construction, and other factors to determine the tax base for the 2015 fiscal year, whose spending was determined at spring 2014 annual town meetings.

The combination of the swing in assessed values — modestly down and modestly up — during the downturn and the faltering recovery that the nation continues to experience, along with exceptionally low interest rates on municipal borrowing, plus determined efforts in most towns to rein in spending, has meant relatively stable tax rates over this difficult period. This is true, despite significant declines in state and federal revenue contributions.

Drastic changes in real estate values nationwide, and particularly in high flying parts of the country, don’t necessarily lead to corresponding calamity in small, desirable Martha’s Vineyard communities. For instance, Edgartown, worth $7.172 billion when we reported in last year, is worth $7.181 billion, roughly the same today. The county seat is the richest Island town. Oak Bluffs, $2.462 billion a year ago is slightly more at $2.522 billion. A total of about $281 million of Oak Bluffs real estate is tax exempt and not part of the tax rate calculation. That’s true for all of the tax-exempt properties in the six towns.

Chilmark, the richest of the up-Island towns and the second richest of all, is valued for the purpose of this report at $3.139 billion, slightly less than last year’s $3.144. West Tisbury, worth $2.353 billion last year, is now worth $2.354 billion. Tisbury’s real estate value, $2.432 billion when we last reported, is now $2.468 billion. Aquinnah real estate was assessed at $716 million last time, and is assessed at $732 million today.

Of course, not all the real estate in the six towns is taxable. Of the approximately $20 billion total value of property in the six Vineyard towns, roughly $1.9 billion, about 10 percent, is tax exempt, so that tax revenue lost to the six towns, based on the tax rates reported here, adds up to about $7 million. Edgartown has about 9 percent of its total value tax-exempt, West Tisbury, a whopping 20 percent, Oak Bluffs 10 percent, Tisbury seven percent, Aquinnah ten percent, and Chilmark about five percent. West Tisbury and Edgartown share ownership of the land occupied by the State Forest and the airport, which accounts for some of their large tax exempt totals.

How much a town’s real estate is worth is one measure of its borrowing ability, and that means whether new schools, emergency facilities buildings, or town halls may be financed. Vineyard towns, flush with real estate value, have built all of these municipal improvements in the last few years. Some of these projects have been undertaken in the teeth of the recession, and they have benefited from very low borrowing costs and typically favorable loan to value ratios, plus a historic caution about adding debt to town balance sheets.

Real estate values are also at the heart of home ownership, stimulating the Island’s largest industry. Typically, excluding the very depth of the recession, a little more than $500 million of Vineyard real estate changes hands in arm’s length transactions each year. Although that is a tiny fraction of total real estate value on the Island, about two percent, it is nevertheless a great deal of money, and it marks the starting point for a spiral of expenditures which contribute hugely to the Island economy. Architects, landscapers, and decorators, along with real estate brokers, lawyers, Island banks, builders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and excavators, all participate in the whirl of buying and selling that has real estate value at its core. The economic pressure on the real estate economy here has had some modest but measurably beneficial influence on the effort to create affordable housing here, lowering debt service, property values, and construction costs, but more powerfully the nation’s economic slowdown has diminished charitable giving for many important causes, including housing.

You should know that these values are more art than science. They are derived by examination of sales prices as they are revealed in house and property transactions recorded for your neighborhood at the Dukes County Registry of Deeds. As transaction values decline, so do assessed values. Market values affect neighborhood or like property assessed values for property that has not changed hands. These values, together with measurements of square footage of house and land, and quality of finish materials and workmanship, quality of views and waterfront are used to estimate value. Often, the location and nature of the land accounts for the largest part of total assessed value. Is it at the edge of the ocean, back from the edge but in view of the beach, in the woods, on a fashionable Edgartown street? All of these considerations affect the judgments of the assessors who visit each property before deciding on its value, and of course all of these characteristics are of significant influence.

But, because so little real estate changes hands each year, in 500 to 1,000 transactions, changes in assessed value, however carefully developed, rest upon a narrow base. And, if what smitten buyers pay for their dream houses or building sites — or, on the other hand, sharp pencil, bottom fishing buyers in this period of low values and increased inventory of property for sale  — is at the root of the calculation, then it is indeed an artful calculation. That’s why the annual list, for taxpayers and voters, is an important data resource.

To search for the latest property values online, click here for the MVT Property values database.

 

Aquinnah

July 14, Gennie Ruth Freeland sold a lot on Menemsha Pond to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission for $42,710.

Chilmark

July 17, Peter L. Falb sold lot 13, Black Point Beach to Lisa H. Kim and Eunu Chun for $307,000.

July 18, Gordon Gossage and Deborah Lotterman sold 36 Henry Hough Lane to Jon and Susan L. Weingarten for $915,000.

Edgartown

July 14, Ethan and Tracey Stead sold 4 Pamela’s Way to James J. and Barbara Camille Colantonio for $399,000.

July 18, Scout Harbor View Property 1 LLC sold Collins Cottage, Unit 21 Harbor View Suites Condo, 131 North Water St. to Nomora LLC for $713,500.

Oak Bluffs

July 14, Michael A. Vance and Judith D. Thomas-Vance sold 28 Towanticut Ave. to Seshagari Rao Mallampati for $345,000.

July 18, Stewart Robinson Kusinitz sold 8 Circuit Ave. Ext. Unit 5, Oak Bluffs Walk Condo to Lawrence Caccia for $90,000.

July 18, Zoe Neale sold 55 Samoset Ave. to Nopsaran Chaimattayompol and Stefanie Wong for $600,000.

Tisbury

July 18, Arthur P. Bergeron, trustee of the Robert Howard Corr Trust, sold 79 William St. to MV Land & Sea Inc. for $625,000.