All photos/art by The Moseyer
Would you believe there are around 750 properties for sale on Martha’s Vineyard this year? Real estate activity is still slow out there. That’s why we called a friend of ours, Jon Hartzband, who specializes in affordable island properties.
By “affordable,” we mean under a half-million dollars. Could he show us some? His response: “Sure, come on out.”
Not long thereafter, we took the Steamship Authority ferry out of Woods Hole, heading for Vineyard Haven. From there we drove to Edgartown, where harborside property goes for seven or eight million dollars, and settled ourselves for the night in a wonderful, if a tad expensive, place called the Harbor View Hotel & Resort. Early the next morning we were in Jon’s car heading for the town of Oak Bluffs and a full day of moseying.
“Oak Bluffs is where the bargains are,” Jon said as we drove along next to the ocean on one side and the golf course President Obama likes on the other. “And our first stop,” he continued, flashing a smile, “will be our house! My wife, Skye–she’s a schoolteacher now–and I built it ourselves just three years ago.” Jon has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for more than 10 years; he met and married Skye there and now informally partners with her father, Jesse Sonneborn, in the real estate business.
But that’s far from all he does. He’s also a building contractor, house caretaker, real estate buyer’s representative, and landscaper; he runs a home-cleaning business, does tree work, and tends bar two nights a week. Oh, and he also owns and operates, with his brother, Michael, the Oak Bluffs General Store.
Jon and Skye are offering their new eight-room Oak Bluffs house (#1), located within an easy walk to town and an eight-minute bike ride to beaches. “If this or any of the properties I show you today were on the water, add about another $400,000 to the price,” Jon noted as he pulled into the driveway and parked in front of a small storage shed next to the backyard deck. “Also,” he continued, “2 percent of the selling price of any property on the island goes to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, which maintains hundreds of acres of open land here.”
After oohing and ahing over Jon and Skye’s little boy, Greyson, we walked through the spacious downstairs living/kitchen/dining area, plus bedroom/office and full bath, admiring the bamboo flooring throughout. We also saw the master bedroom with full bath and another sleeping area upstairs, and then the carpeted sleeping area/exercise room and laundry room in the basement. All in all, an impressive and, for Martha’s Vineyard, very reasonably priced property.
But the next property we saw was even less. Also in Oak Bluffs, built 12 years ago with three bedrooms and two bathrooms plus full basement, this place (#2) is owned by a local bank. Needs a little cosmetic work, but it has a nice backyard; it’s on a dead-end street, with the beach an easy walk away. “A good deal,” said Jon.
On the way to another property, we stopped at Jon and brother Michael’s Oak Bluffs General Store, which also has a three-bedroom condominium upstairs, with a view of the harbor (#3). Jon’s price covers the property, the inventory, and the business. We bought a T-shirt in there advertising the place nearby where Jon bartends. “Ale to the Chief!” it said.
After our visit to the store, Jon drove us slowly by all those famous and colorful gingerbread campground cottages in downtown Oak Bluffs, most of which surround an auditorium they call The Tabernacle. Some of those charming little houses, jammed up right next to one another, are available, Jon said, for anywhere from $260,000 to $700,000. But although you can own the house, you have to lease the land it sits on from a Protestant nonprofit religious organization known as the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association.
Although the next property Jon showed us wasn’t on the green surrounding The Tabernacle, it was nonetheless a “campground cottage” (#4). Only steps from Oak Bluffs Harbor, beaches, and the ferry, it has three bedrooms, one bath, and a spacious living area with a beautiful stained-glass window. In back is a good-sized deck. We found the “summer cottage” feeling about it to be charming.
The listing agent for the above as well as the next Oak Bluffs property on our tour wasn’t Jon; he’d represent the buyer. Rather, the listing agent was Marilyn Moses, who joined us, and who, like everyone else on Martha’s Vineyard, or so it seemed to us, knew Jon well. This was a four-room bungalow (#5), built in 1920, and also located within an easy walk to the ferry. The asking price includes the .14-acre lot. You’d have to upgrade the sewage disposal system, but otherwise it looked to be in good shape.
Our final Oak Bluffs property (#6) was a little pricier, probably because you can supposedly see the water from it. Sure enough, from the screened porch, through trees and shrubs, we could see “The Lagoon.” Built in 1960, the home has one bedroom (with outside space to add a couple more), one and a half baths, and an open living room with vaulted ceiling and exposed beams.
From there we headed “up island,” as the natives refer to the more rural southwestern half of Martha’s Vineyard, to West Tisbury, which, Jon told us, has wonderful beaches that only town residents and summer renters can use. The seven-room, two bathroom house we looked at (#7), a five-minute drive to one of those beaches, is on a lovely 1.57-acre lot, with a great deck as well as a screened-in porch. Abuts a state forest, too.
On our return drive, Jon pulled into Tisbury Antiques and Interiors and introduced us to the owner, Ann Vincola. She showed us her wares and then introduced us to her fiance, Alan Vottace, a distinguished-looking gentleman. “We were high-school sweethearts 45 years ago,” she said, giving him a hug. Seems they’d just met up again this year after all that time, as well as marriages to others. “This is the girl I should have married,” he said, laughing and hugging her back. Because they intend to live in South Carolina, Ann’s antiques shop (#8) is now available through Jon. The place was jammed with customers the day we were there.
The listing agent for our next property, in Vineyard Haven, was Doug Reece, another friend of Jon’s. He greeted us from the large second-floor deck of a three-level, eight-room house (#9) nestled among oak trees on a small lot that’s also quite close to the harbor. There are nice open living areas on both the first and second floors.
The last place Jon took us to that day was also in Vineyard Haven. It was a four-bedroom farmhouse (#10) with a spacious backyard and a huge eat-in kitchen, located within a 10-minute walk of Tashmoo Pond (a.k.a. Lake Tashmoo). Built in 1950, it was renovated in 2005, with full baths on both the first and second floors.
It was now getting to be late afternoon, but Jon could have continued showing us properties that day. He had plenty more–a few running into the millions. But we were tired and more than ready for a lobster dinner and some rest.
“There are no bad places to live on Martha’s Vineyard,” Jon said as we headed back to Edgartown via picturesque Beach Road. By this time, we didn’t need convincing.
For more articles on Martha’s Vineyard, go to: YankeeMagazine.com/10Things