Maine’s housing market has rebounded from a pandemic-caused poor spring season and home sales are now running ahead of a record-setting 2019, the Maine Association of Realtors said Thursday.

October home sales were up nearly 27 percent from a year earlier and the median sales price was nearly 25 percent ahead of the same month last year, as low interest rates and sales to out-of-state residents helped boost the market. From January to October, 2020 home sales are running about 5.6 percent above the same time period in 2019, which was a record-setting year for the state’s housing market.

The continued growth in sales has fueled higher prices, with the median sales price for a home in Maine rising to $280,000 last month, an increase of 24.5 percent from October 2019. The median price indicates that half of homes sold for more than that figure and half for less.

The increase in home sales last month was widespread, with only two of the state’s 16 counties reporting modest declines in sales. Prices rose across the board, as a tight inventory pushed demand well above supply.

The strong sales are a sharp turnaround from April and May, when an expanding pandemic threw the market into a tailspin. Home sales in the state fell by more than 15 percent in April and more than 21 percent in May, compared with the same months a year earlier.

But since then, sales and prices have climbed.

So has the interest in Maine homes among people from out of state.

Typically, about three-quarters of Maine homes are sold to other Mainers, said Tom Cole, president the Maine Association of Realtors and managing broker of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group in Brunswick. But the percentage of homes sold to out-of-staters has swelled to about one-third, Cole said.

The buyers range from retirees with some ties to the state, Cole said, to people who can live anywhere because their jobs have shifted to work-from-home positions. Maine offers a more relaxed lifestyle, he said, but remains close enough to Massachusetts if someone who works for a company in the Boston area needs to go to the office occasionally while mostly working from home.

That has helped push the hot market out from some of the larger cities and towns in the state, Cole said. As long as there’s high-speed internet available, he said, homes in smaller towns are just as attractive as those in a city such as Portland, Brunswick or Bangor.

Judy Sedgewick said her family has vacationed on Great Diamond Island every summer for years. This year, as the summer drew to a close, they decided to make the move year-round, she said.

Sedgewick said the decision was driven by her daughter, who is a high school senior. Schools in Ipswich, Massachusetts, have switched to remote learning, and Sedgewick’s daughter wanted to be able to attend at least some classes in person during her final year before college.

“I left it up to her for her senior year,” said Sedgewick, whose family also owns property in Portland. When her daughter opted for Maine, Sedgewick said, she bought a condo in South Portland. Sedgewick’s husband will remain in Massachusetts, where he works, and a grown son also lives in and works in Massachusetts.

Sedgewick said she was priced out of the Portland market, but she increased her budget, found the place in South Portland and closed on it about a month ago for $240,000.

“Things were moving really quickly and prices were climbing, so I was fortunate to find this place,” she said, although the increasing spread of the pandemic means Sedgewick and her daughter will spend Thanksgiving together, but her husband and son will stay in Massachusetts.

Cole said that while out-of-staters account for a big part of the hot real estate market, low interest rates – the rate on a 30-year mortgage is around 3 percent – are also responsible. The rates are low enough that many renters can afford to buy and pay less than they do in rent, Cole said.

“Interest rates are amazing, and that really does help people afford a home.” he said.

That’s even taking into account the low inventory of houses on the market, Cole said. He said the number of houses on the market last month was about 38 percent lower than in October 2019, and that housing inventories have been tight all year long.

The low interest rates help people buy a little more expensive homes than they might have been able to afford a few years ago, he said.

The realtors’ association said 2,341 homes were sold in Maine last month, compared with 1,845 in October 2019. The median sales price of $280,000 was a sharp increase over the median price of $224,900 in October a year ago.

All but Penobscot and Kennebec Counties posted sharp increases in home sales for the three-month period ending Oct. 31, and every county recorded an increase in the median sales price, led by Lincoln County with an increase of nearly 50 percent, from $235,000 a year ago to $347,500.

The National Association of Realtors said sales around the country last month increased by 26.7 percent last month from a year earlier, with the national median sales price rising by 16 percent to $317,700. In the Northeast, sales increased by 30.4 percent in October from a year earlier, and the median sales price increased by 20.2 percent to $356,500.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.