"It's A Gamble" Beachfront Nantucket Home Threatened By Erosion Sells For Just $600,000

Jason Graziadei •

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The property at 6 Sheep Pond Road in January 2024. Photo by Jason Graziadei

A waterfront home on Nantucket sold for $600,000? That’s not a typo. While most properties with water views on the island are selling in the tens of millions of dollars, the home at 4 and 6 Sheep Pond Road changed hands late last month with a price tag so low that it turned heads. A combination of severe erosion and a motivated seller resulted in an asking price that dropped from $2.2 million down to $600,000 in a matter of months, leading to a frenzy of interest and one of the most unique real estate sales on Nantucket in recent memory.

The former owner, a limited liability company registered to Connecticut resident Lynn Tidgwell, is taking a haircut of more than $1 million on the sale, having purchased it just three years ago in 2021 for $1.65 million. While the home was being rented for $15,000 per week during the summer, the winter months brought storms that continued to chip away at the backyard. During Tidgwell’s brief ownership, erosion along the southwest shore of Nantucket was severe, with more than 30 feet of dune between the home and the ocean lost to the waves.

The new buyer of the property, Brendan Maddigan, a managing director at the real estate investment firm JLL, saw the risks but also saw an opportunity. Maddigan grew up in Woods Hole, Mass., and told the Current he has a longtime connection to Nantucket. He has been taking his family to the island on vacations for years, and they all love the Madaket area. So he had an eye on the property for some time, and when the price dropped to $600,000, he was the first to submit an offer in writing for the full asking price.

“It’s a gamble, but I got comfortable with the risk,” Maddigan said. “It’s a losing battle and I have no certainty around the time that it will eventually - or maybe not - that erosion will take out that house. I looked at it as, if I could have that spot for a few years, hopefully a little longer, and do everything I can to make it last, I’ll be happy.”

The home is already located up against the eastern border of the property, so there's no room to move it farther back from the eroding shoreline. Still, Maddigan hopes the home will be a place his children will remember - maybe even his grandchildren if he's lucky - but knows there are no guarantees.

Susan Shepherd, the listing broker for the property and the owner of Shepherd Real Estate, said the property went under contract in a matter of hours after the price dropped to $600,000. Due to several issues and hiccups, including the paperwork getting lost in the mail twice, there was a delay in the closing date. In the intervening period, Shepherd said she was completely swamped by potential buyers looking for information about the property.

“The floodgates opened, I kid you not” Shepherd recalled when she and the owner decided to drop the price to $600,000 in late December 2022. “People called me from all over the country. Not only did I personally field as many as 30 to 40 calls per day, but other brokers were also calling me saying that they were getting inundated. I anticipated it, but not that it would be a full-time job. I did nothing but field calls.”

Shepherd said the interest ranged from potential first-time homebuyers attracted by the lowest single-family home price on Nantucket, to those with “Vegas money” looking to gamble on a house that may not be long for this world. She told all of them the property was subject to erosion, and described the situation over the past three years on Sheep Pond Road. Still, many were undeterred.

“Some people said ‘Oh this isn’t so bad,’ and others said ‘holy crap’!” Shepherd said of potential buyers’ responses to the erosion at the property. “It was fascinating. There’s so much of the human element and psyche that plays into this. I knew there would be immediate interest, I just didn’t know the volume. There was the full range: a first-time home buyer to the opposite end - the retirement writer wanting to be away from it all. The full gamut. Someone said ‘Oh, I’ll put my chef out there. I’ll put my boat captain out there.’ For some, it was just ‘Vegas money’.”

Shepherd also emphasized that beyond the erosion, the price drop to $600,000 also reflected the motivation of the seller to unload the property.

"I said 'If we want to sell this in hours not days, where do we price it'?" Shepherd said. "Was there money left on the table? There might have been. But when I talk to people about pricing a property, timing is always a factor. The seller wanted to turn the page, and that had more to do with it than anything."

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Maddigan told the Current that he was well aware of the history of erosion, the risks involved based on the projections for sea level rise, and that any kind of hard armoring or substantial erosion-control method was likely not in the cards.

“Time will tell,” he said. “The property has some advantages but I don’t have a crystal ball, and who knows what nature will do. We know what the trends are. There are years with no erosion and other years where it’s significant. I’m planning on doing the best I can to hang onto this spot for as long as we can…But there’s nothing you can do to stop erosion.”

You won't see Maddigan before the Conservation Commission asking to install a geotube or anything like that. But there are some things he plans to do such as moving the septic system and other infrastructure on the property to ensure he has as much time as possible.

“Climate change is very real,” he added. “‘I’m hopeful, but I’m realistic.”

Nearly the entirety of Sheep Pond Road has been an erosion hot spot for decades, with numerous homes having succumbed to the waves. Shortly after the properties at 4 and 6 Sheep Pond Road were put on the market last fall, 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.

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