" " " Maine's Waterfront Real Estate News: What Your Dollar Is Worth in Maine

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Your Dollar Is Worth in Maine

Article from February 2010 Down East Magazine

* By: Joshua F. Moore

Fifty-six years ago, the very first issue of Down East featured five properties for sale, including a quarter-acre Colonial in Camden for what must have seemed the exorbitant sum of $10,500. Ten years later the Magazine of Maine featured thirty-seven available homes, and just last August we had twenty-five pages of house ads. Mainers and readers from away have found a thirst, whether based in real need or voyeuristic thrill, for learning what homes from Kittery to Calais and Fort Kent are worth. Such fancy now extends far beyond our pages — publications ranging from the New York Times to Seattle Metropolitan now regularly include columns explaining “What You Get For . . . Such-and-Such.”

These days, of course, as the Great Recession reels on, some homeowners might prefer not to know the current valuation of their homes. But our survey of Maine properties sold over the past year proves that they might be missing out on the best opportunity since, well, you could buy a magazine for less than five bucks. Although the median sales price of single-family homes in Maine declined nearly 9 percent last year to $164,000, the number of homes sold jumped by 10 percent. Maine beat the national statistics on both counts — total sales increased just 5 percent nationwide, and median sales price dropped 12 percent.

“There were plenty of sellers who were able to sell their homes last year — I sold a home and bought a new one myself — and while maybe they weren’t selling it for what they thought they could in 2006, they were able to get into another quality home,” says Marc Chadbourne, president of the Maine Association of Realtors. “It’s a yin and yang thing, because we didn’t get those appreciation levels that San Francisco or Florida got, but they had a lot farther to fall when the markets did decline.”

In a state as enormous as Maine, of course, where you decide to buy will have a huge impact on how much your budget will get you. In Piscataquis County, for instance, where the median sales price dropped 21 percent last year, you might be able to afford a couple of hundred acres and a stunning farmhouse. Dream of moving to coastal Knox County, though, where prices dropped just 3 percent, and that same money will see you in a much more modest home. And if your needs have you searching on the water someplace farther south, like York, you could have to shell out more than eight hundred dollars per square foot — nearly ten times what you might pay in Aroostook County.

As the economy shows signs of rebounding the demographics of Maine buyers has shifted due in part to federal stimulus funds. “The retired population has been the largest-growing group of buyers in Maine until recently, when the tax incentives for the first-time buyer came into play,” Chadbourne says. “ I assume that will continue, because Maine offers a quality of life and an affordability compared to other markets.”
Indeed, the Maine way of life seems to be the most important market condition for both buyers and sellers.

“I had a client tell me recently, ‘You know, we’ve always lived in kind of a down economy in Maine, so this is nothing new,’ ” Chadbourne says. “We’re a hardy bunch, and we do what we need to do to maintain the lifestyle that we’re used to. We like living here.”

And deal or no deal, boom or bust, isn’t that the name of the game when it comes to buying or selling real estate in Maine?

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