Erosion Firesale: Nantucket Waterfront Home Assessed At Nearly $2 Million Sold For Just $200,000

Jason Graziadei •

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28 Sheep Pond Road, the house on the left, sold for just $200,000 last week. Photo by Peter Sutters

When Jane Carlin and her husband Ben Gifford purchased a summer home on Nantucket’s west end in 1988, there was a wide expanse between their new property and the Atlantic Ocean that included three neighboring homes closer to the shore, Sheep Pond Road, and an acre of land.

After years of erosion, those homes and the road itself are all gone, and the shoreline is now just a stone’s throw from Carlin's back porch.

“It’s about ready to go in,” Jane told the Current. “It has really been relentless. It used to be a neighborhood, and you knew who lived where. And now, if you take a drive out there, there's not much to see.”

The writing was on the wall, but Carlin and Gifford had hoped to have at least one more summer at the property where they had forged so many memories over nearly four decades. Mother Nature, however, had other plans. After the three successive storms that hit Nantucket out of the south over the winter ate away even more of their property, the Carlin and her husband cleared out the house and started investigating how they could move and donate the home to a local affordable housing non-profit.

“All winter I had been really frantically trying to see if any of the organizations would consider taking the house and moving it, and we would help with the cost of moving,” Jane said. “I didn’t want to see it fall into the ocean or get demolished. But I had no luck whatsoever.”

That’s when they got a call out of the blue. Don Vaccaro, a businessman who bought the property next door at 26 Sheep Pond Road ten years ago, was on the line with an offer.

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Photo by Peter Sutters

“We said ‘Whoa! We’re not going to say no’,” Carlin recalled. And so last week the property that includes a 1,700-square-foot home - which had been assessed by the town in 2024 at $1.9 million - was sold for the shockingly low price of just $200,000.

“You don't want to sell to someone when you know a storm could take it out next week,” Carlin said when asked why they didn’t put the house on the market. “We wanted to be ethical and honest about it. Then this miracle dropped from the sky above and we sold it to him for nothing.”

Don Vaccaro

Vaccaro, a businessman and philanthropist who co-founded Ticketnetwork Inc., has owned the adjacent property at 26 Sheep Pond Road since 2014 and rents it out by the week for prices ranging from $9,000 to $13,000 per week. Vaccaro told the Current he was under no illusions about the time he may have with his new $200,000 waterfront property.

“Basically, the house may not last more than six months,” Vaccaro said. “Inevitably the ocean will win. The house is only temporary, everything in life is temporary.”

Asked to put an over/under on how long the house would survive, Vaccaro set it at March 2025 - less than a year away. In the meantime, however, Vaccaro said he plans to make some efforts to extend its life.

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Photo by Peter Sutters

“Since we own 26 Sheep Pond Road there are some creative things we can do to extend the life of the house and even if the house is destroyed we may have additional land,” he said. “We also plan to implement some erosion mitigation strategies that will likely extend the time before the house becomes inhabitable. The easiest is sea grass planting – which should be done within weeks. The second is V-shaped, low-height (less than 1 foot) bio-degradable silt fencing, which has been successful in a few other areas to a degree.”

The $200,000 sale by Jane Carlin and Ben Gifford of their waterfront summer home is just the latest in a string of difficult decisions by property owners along Sheep Pond Road driven by the extreme erosion along Nantucket’s southwest shoreline.

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Photo by Peter Sutters

The meandering dirt road has been an erosion hot spot for decades, with numerous homes having succumbed to the waves.

Most recently, a combination of severe erosion and a motivated seller resulted in the asking price for 4 and 6 Sheep Pond Road dropping from $2.2 million down to $600,000 in a matter of months. It led to a frenzy of interest and one of the most unique real estate sales on Nantucket in recent memory.

Last October, a home just down the road at 21 Sheep Pond Road that had been condemned due to erosion was demolished. Several others are up on cribbing, waiting to be moved.

Fourteen years ago, the late Gene Ratner lost his long battle with erosion when his home at 19 Sheep Pond Road collapsed into the ocean. Today, the entirety of Ratner’s property is now submerged.

Carlin recalled that episode, as Ratner’s home was one of the properties in front of her lot on Sheep Pond Road.

Yet despite the abrupt sale at a number that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, Carlin said she was simply grateful for the time her family had at the property, and put it in the perspective of the housing challenges the island faces.

“It was so emotional the other day leaving the house for the last time,” she said. “But we are really just fortunate also. I'm not feeling sorry for myself at all. Given the dire housing situation on Nantucket, we’re just grateful for the time we had there.”

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The Carlins' property, outlined in blue, in 1998 with multiple homes, Sheep Pond Road, and an acre of land in front of it. All of which is now gone. Image via Nantucket GIS Department
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