PROVINCETOWN — Sales of the eight new condominiums at 30 Shank Painter Road were going briskly last fall — which was good news for the developers, who had undertaken 16 months of complex regulatory maneuvering to get them built. The project was the first to create an on-site affordable unit as part of the town’s inclusionary zoning bylaw, which awards a “density bonus” of extra market-rate units to developers who create income-restricted units in their projects.
Last August, developers Ted and Lisa Roach and Sophy Kao applied to have the property’s registration moved out of Land Court and over to the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds. Transferring property through the registry of deeds takes just a day, said Nathan Butera, who was the listing agent at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, whereas Land Court is “a bureaucratic nightmare.”
“You have to make an appointment with the judge to get anything done” in Land Court, Butera said. The increase in real estate sales during the pandemic has made the backlog even bigger, said Jennifer Donahue, spokeswoman for the state trial courts.
The agency has just gotten funds to add two more title examiners, Donahue said, but that was no help to the people who signed contracts last year for units at 30 Shank Painter.
“All these units went under contract and then they could not close,” said Butera. “These people were waiting and waiting.”
The new Provincetown Schools Principal Gerry Goyette, who is now serving as interim superintendent, was one of those people. He had sold his house just before his expected Oct. 15 closing date and wound up couch surfing for nearly the entire school year. He eventually gave up on the unit at 30 Shank Painter and accepted a refund of his earnest money.
Janielle Newland of Weymouth expected to close in December 2021. But as the months dragged on, her bank, Chase, informed her they could no longer honor her locked-in mortgage rate. The 2.75-percent rate would now be 5 percent — adding $1,000 to her monthly payment.
“We would not have been able to do it,” she said. “We were deeply invested, emotionally and financially. So I called the bank and went nuclear. This was not an investment property for us. We want to live here. And I told the mortgage company you cannot just throw people’s lives around like that.”
After about a week of negotiations, Newland got the bank to extend her original interest rate for another two months. She paid $10,000 in “points” to secure the lower rate. Right up until the end, she and her husband, Christopher, wondered if they were doubling down on a bad deal.
This June — 11 months after the developers requested it — a Land Court judge allowed the property registration to be moved to the county, Butera said. The transfer came just in time for the Newlands to keep their interest rate. Two other buyers had stayed with their contracts, while three had accepted the refund of their deposits and walked away. (The remaining two units are for the developers: one for the Roaches, one for Kao.)
During those 11 months though, the median price of a condo in Provincetown rose 22 percent, to $825,000, according to the Cape and Islands Association of Realtors. The three units that went back on the market were listed at prices higher than in 2021. One of them, at 584 square feet, is listed at $785,000, and another, at 616 square feet, is listed at $825,000.
The on-site affordable-ownership unit, meanwhile, was advertised last fall at $215,000, with eligibility limited to people earning 100 percent of area median income or less. (In 2021, that was $68,100 for one person and $77,750 for two people.) The lottery winner was also held up by the Land Court delays but should be moving in soon.
The only person in the entire story who was unaffected by the Land Court was the winner of the off-site affordable unit at 36 Nelson Ave. That person was able to close on the unit for a final price of $178,500 last July.