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Is Traditional Cape Cod Disappearing?

If you're on Cape Cod, or recently returned from vacationing there, you may have noticed lots of "For sale" signs stuck in the sand. That's because, according to real estate agents, there's more Cape property on the market this summer than in the last three years.

This coincides with another trend that has recently intensified — tearing down old Cape homes to build new mansions, and turning old motels into luxury condominiums. Year-round residents complain the demolitions are slowly erasing the cape's traditional character. They say the new homes are out-of-place, blocking the sea breeze and casting shadows over neighbors' smaller cottages.

Susan Brauner owns a cottage on a half acre of land in Harwichport. Since buying it eight years ago, she's renovated and expanded it to three buildings with a total of 11 bedrooms, but preserved its traditional Cape Cod look. Now, she's moving to Boston, but refuses to sell the cottage to anyone who wants to tear it down and build a new home. With an asking price of $1,750,000, Brauner's had nine full-price tear down offers since March. But she's refused them all, saying she doesn't want her property sale to add to the building craze.

"I think that we teach our children also by example, and what you accept you teach, and I professionally don't want to add to what I consider a growing problem on the Cape," says Brauner.

Pamela Chatterton-Purdy of Harwich has also watched several cottages be torn down and replaced by large homes.

"It's the history of the Cape that's being ripped down, because these beautiful homes that were farmers' homes, summer cottages... the use of them is being changed," she says. Her husband, David, adds that the new home owners are bringing the suburban culture with them.

Despite the complaints, real estate experts say the building trend has no end in sight. One agent says the Cape has appeal internationally, and in comparison to other resort areas, its homes are under-priced. The median selling price for a Cape home is $388,000.

WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports.

This program aired on August 17, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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