The glowing housing market in Maine is showing no signs of cooling, in part due to increased interest from outside of the state buyers.
In the first nine months of 2020, sales of existing single-family homes were 2.6% above the prior-year record, according to a report released Thursday by Maine Listings, a subsidiary of the Maine Association of Realtors.
The average price of Maine homes sold in September was $ 273,500 – a whopping 19.56% more than the same month last year when it was $ 228,750. The median price means that half of the houses were sold for more money and half for less.
In addition, the sales volume increased by 4.8% compared to September 2019, an increase of 22.8% compared to September 2019. The total number of Maine homes sold in September (2,291) is in Brunswick, according to Tom Cole, President of the Maine Association of Realtors and Managing Broker of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate / The Masiello Group.
According to Cole, demand is being driven by historically low mortgage rates, "combined with the appeal of the quality of life in Maine and the response to COVID-19 from across the country, while the supply of real estate for sale also remains historically low."
"With more buyers than sellers in most markets, we see strong competition, faster sales and rising prices," he said.
September sales data completed a third-quarter rebound after a pandemic-induced hiatus this spring in which April, May and June sales fell below 2019 levels, which turned out to be the highest year in Maine for both sales Times turned out volume and median price.
Despite the hiatus, the state had sold 347 more homes in the first nine months of this year (13,647 total) than in the same period in 2019.
Cole said that outside of the state of Maine buyers typically make up about one in four home purchases, but that ratio has grown to about one in three. 735 homes went to out-of-state buyers last month, compared to 445 in September 2019.
One such out of state buyer is Danielle Filosa, who returned to Maine after four years in Los Angeles.
Filosa closed a house in Bristol in late September after writing a heartfelt letter to salesman Peter Knauss, who built the place himself in 1978 after attending a class at the Shelter Institute.
"Just a wonderful, sweet letter," said Knauss. "It moved me to tears."
Filosa, 29, had lived in Portland for two years since 2014, but returned to California after her father's illness. She started saving money while on the west coast and kept dreaming of one day taking root in Maine.
Her father's death two years ago hastened the process, but her criteria (she wanted a pond on the property) and the fast pace of Maine's housing market – "houses I would look at the next day would be gone." – worked against them.
Lauren Jones, Associate Broker at F.O. Bailey Real Estate in Falmouth had been searching for homes online at Filosa since November. In August, Jones planned a day to visit five properties in person with Filosa, and shortly before their arrival, the Bristol house appeared on the market.
They saw it first thing one morning and Filosa immediately wanted to cancel the rest of their tour. There are two ponds on the 3.7 acre wooded property not far from Pemaquid Point Campground.
"I came in," said Filosa, "and said," Yes, it is. "It had this sense of soul and purpose. It just kind of stole my heart."
By the evening she had made a full-price offer of $ 335,000, and Knauss accepted. He even showed up for inspection, pointed out all the quirks of the house, and eventually installed a new heating system (replacing propane with kerosene) to complement the wood-burning stove and update the water system, with a floor being refinished. Also at the inspection, Filosa Knauss presented a friendship bracelet she had made, which contained the basic colors brown, beige and green of the house.
"Peter is such a nice person," said Filosa. "In the end, he fixed so many things that I didn't even ask for them."
After graduation, Filosa's mom treated everyone to a lobster dinner, including Kathy Leeman, the sales agent for Legacy Properties Sotheby's International Realty, based in Damariscotta. It was Leeman who tidied up the house, which hadn't been used that much since Knauss' moved to New Zealand three years ago.
"We became close friends," said Knauss, who was almost 74 years old. "We kind of walked around Kathy who told me that real estate in general doesn't work that way."
Jones, who sold real estate in New York City for three years before returning to her hometown of Falmouth in December, said she was involved in $ 53 million deals in Manhattan.
"And this was the coolest transaction I've ever worked on in my life," she said. "It was just a great story from Maine."
The July through September sales increases were most pronounced in the rural Maine counties. Counties of Franklin, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington grew more than 30% in the third quarter of 2019. Same-route prices in the third quarter rose across the state from a low of 9% in Aroostook County to a high of 27.6% in Washington County.
"Those numbers are not at all typical of rural Maine," said Aaron Bolster, president of Allied Realty, with offices in Rangeley, Wilton and Skowhegan. "It was the wildest ride ever in 2020."
Franklin County includes many single-family homes in the county town of Farmington, as well as a significant portion of the second homes in and around the Rangeley Lakes area, according to Bolster. He said both markets are equally strong.
"There are so many buyers waiting for a home to become available," he said. "It creates this great excitement exactly when it hits. That's why you see multiple offers, invisible offers, and offers that are above the asking price."
Two years ago, in September 2018, the average price of a house sold in Maine was $ 215,000. The jump in value to the current USD 273,500 corresponds to an increase of 27.2%. During the same period, the S&P 500 share index rose by 15.4%.
Across the Northeast, sales rose 22.9% to a similar level in September 2019, representing a price increase of 17.8% to a median of $ 354,600. Nationwide, September sales were up 21.8% from the same month last year, and the average price of $ 316,200 reflected a 15.2% increase.
Real estate is of course more than just a financial investment. Just ask Danielle Filosa and Peter Knauss.
"Doing something this big and making it so wonderful really solidified the feeling that it was the right move for me," she said. "I told him he was always welcome here."
Leeman has been selling real estate for a dozen years. She believes it can be helpful for buyers and sellers to meet and chat before closing, but had never seen friendship this quick.
"Of course we have this crazy market, so I almost didn't know if to trust if she was really as excited as she was," said Leeman. "But the letter was just a real expression of Danielle of who she was and what it meant to her."