Maine home sales surged in June but prices increased only slightly, according to one of the state’s largest real estate agencies.

Sales of existing single-family homes in Maine were up 19 percent in June compared with a year earlier, and the number of pending sales was up 28 percent, according to a report issued Tuesday by RE/MAX Integra New England.

Real estate agents attributed the sales increase in part to pent-up demand from a bitter winter and the rush to move in before kids go back to school.

About 2,020 existing homes in Maine were sold in June, compared with 1,700 a year earlier, and the number of sales under contract that had not yet closed was 2,046, up 28 percent from 1,594 pending sales a year earlier. Pending sales are a leading indicator of the next month’s sales.

The median sale price for the state was $190,000, up less than 3 percent from $185,000 in June 2014, RE/MAX reported. The median indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less. Additional home sale data are expected Wednesday from the Maine Association of Realtors.

The inventory of homes for sale in Maine fell by nearly 10 percent to 17,000 homes in June, the real estate agency said. The supply crunch did not have much effect on the median number of days on the market for a listed home, which fell slightly from 127 days in June 2014 to 123 days, RE/MAX said. Nor did it have much impact on the median price.

Lack of supply is not driving up prices the way it did before the recession because appraisers are following stricter guidelines now, said Ed Gardner, broker and owner of Ocean Gate Realty LLC in Portland.

Willing buyers are free to make offers above a home’s appraised value, but that means they must put in more cash, because mortgage lenders use the appraised value to determine how much they will lend.

Knowing this, real estate agents have been careful not to price homes or make offers above what they believe is a reasonable appraisal value, said Gardner, who is president-elect of the Maine Association of Realtors.

“The agent really has to do their homework and pick the right price for the homebuyer and the appraiser,” he said.

Higher-priced homes such as those in Cape Elizabeth are selling, but still not at the frenzied pace or exorbitant prices seen before the recession, said Vicki Kennedy, broker and owner of RE/MAX Oceanside in Cape Elizabeth.

The primary difference is that buyers no longer feel a sense of urgency to snap up the best home they can find right now, Kennedy said.

“They’ll wait if they don’t find what they want,” she said. “They’re not jumping like before the crash.”

The sales boost in June is partly the result of a harsh winter in which most prospective buyers and sellers didn’t want to leave their homes, Kennedy said. But don’t expect a repeat of June’s numbers this month, she said.

“July is typically a slower month because of vacations,” she said.

On a national level, home-buying activity has increased but still lags behind what it should be based on economic factors such as the country’s strengthening job market, according to a report by California-based title insurance company First American Financial Corp.

Still, that gap between housing market capacity and activity has been closing over the past year, the report said.

That may be due in part to first-time homebuyers jumping into the market because they expect mortgage rates to rise in the near future, or because rising rents are increasing the relative affordability of homeownership, it said. Last Wednesday the Federal Reserve signaled to Congress it might start to raise interest rates in September.

Gardner said part of the rise in Maine’s home sales can be attributed to the fact that more buyers have simply realized that the current selection of homes for sale, while relatively sparse, isn’t going to increase anytime soon.

“There isn’t going to be a huge glut of inventory next week or next month,” he said.

 


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