The real estate market on the Vineyard had already begun to see a sharp downturn this year, and the recent collapse in global financial markets and turmoil on Wall Street certainly has not made things better.

Statistical evidence gathered from Banker and Tradesman online, which compiles real estate figures from sale documents, shows the Dukes County housing market is off sharply from last year, with sales down almost 15 per cent and prices off by more than nine per cent.


After 30 years of operating the Island's largest oil and gas supplier, Ralph Packer is quite aware that many Islanders feel they pay way too much to heat their homes in the winter.

"I start to hear it every year when it gets cold; people think they're getting ripped off" Mr. Packer said. "They are automatically suspicious when their [oil bills] go up each year"

The real estate market on the Vineyard has swung strongly in favor of buyers, as record stocks of unsold properties force agents and owners to begin to heavily discount prices.

Figures for the first quarter of this year showed the total inventory of residential property up more than 40 per cent over the same period a year ago.

The median sale price also continued a decline which began last year. For the March quarter this year it was $688,750, compared with $705,000 in the same quarter last year and $702,000 at the end of last year.


Now is always a good time to market a quality product, say a number of Island entrepreneurs opening new businesses this summer.

"Our idea ... was to kind of seize the moment," said Frank Pellegrino, opening a Mexican restaurant where Lawry's seafood restaurant used to be in Edgartown.

He said that he and partner Denise Page didn't want uncertain economic times to deter them from taking the lease to a valuable piece of property: Not many businesses come with parking lots attached, he said.

Looking back over 2002, the Island's economy showed strength during a year of uncertainty and possible war.

Land, the Island's most formidable asset, held its value. According to James Lengyel, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank, land and housing values grew in 2002. Land bank revenues for the six-month period from July 1 to Dec. 31 were up 12 per cent over the first six months of 2001. Transactions were up four per cent.


Start talking to people about the state of the Vineyard economy, and you can detect an edginess, an air of concern that mirrors the condition of a nation in the midst of recession, war and ongoing fear of terrorism.