Unfortunately, I do not have any good news to report on the Great Millennial House Hunt of 2022, except for the fact that at this point I have spent so much time with my real estate agent, looking at houses and writing up offers (only to be rejected), that my dog, Janey, has started to bond with her. And if you know anything about my dog, you know that she does not warm up to people quickly or easily. But three or four houses ago she stopped growling at Sandra and last weekend she actually licked her. I didn’t know you were allowed to take dogs with you to house showings, but Coldwell Banker in general and Sandra Fish in particular are very dog-friendly. Which is nice, since any house I buy will be Janey’s home and place of employment (she will be in charge of security).

I’m not an economist, so I’m not qualified to speak on macro market forces that are contributing to why the homebuying economy is so out of whack right now. But I have been on the Planning Board of the town of Buxton for two years now, so I am qualified to speak about one major factor contributing to the lack of homes to purchase; to use a highly technical term, the demand is way humongously larger than the supply. You might think of it as NIMBY-ism. I think of it as the HOME factor: Homeowners Oppose Most Everything.

Every time someone proposed building more than two houses at once in town, the neighbors would come before the Planning Board and swear up one side and down the other that it was going to ruin the neighborhood and would indeed be the first step down the slippery slope to Buxton “turning into Massachusetts.” (I’m not kidding, that was said once.) This opposition happened regardless of the type of house being proposed; I saw people get mad about a mobile home park and I saw people getting mad about a subdivision where houses would start at $300,000. I never saw people get mad about houses being built across town from where they currently lived.

I’m not mindlessly pro-development. I heard neighbors bring up legitimate concerns about new construction – traffic issues, stress on the local water table. And as a rule, I trust developers about as far as I can throw them. But from a financial standpoint, it makes sense to buy materials in bulk, and that applies to building supplies as well as groceries. And personally I have neither the time, the energy or the knowledge to build my own house. So I need someone to do that for me. And I certainly understand the reason a lot of current homeowners have a knee-jerk opposition to any new building in their area: For most people, their home is their biggest financial asset. We live in a country with a gossamer social safety net, so anything that might make your home’s value go down is liable to put you on the defensive. I have a great deal of sympathy for those people. (Note: Sympathy not applicable to the Cape Elizabeth residents who torpedoed that proposed affordable housing development. Come on, guys.)

As of this writing, there are exactly two houses for sale in Buxton on Maine’s central online MLS listing. Two. In a town of 8,300 people. A town that’s a 35-minute commute to Portland and that has so many empty fields just sitting there.

It makes me sad that I can’t afford to buy a home in the town I grew up in. Buxton was a great place to be a kid. And what’s worse is that I have literally heard people say, at board meetings, that they don’t want young families to be able to move to Buxton, because then the school taxes might go up. I suspect Buxton is not the only Maine community with this short-sighted mindset. And it’s possible that people just don’t want me specifically to live in Buxton with what I suspect will be very loud and annoying spawn (if they have the misfortune to take after me). But there are young families out there who need room to grow and who would make great neighbors.

I have no doubt that I will eventually succeed in buying a house. I’m not very ambitious but I’m extremely persistent. I also have no doubt that having an offer accepted will be bittersweet, because statistically speaking, it will probably come at the expense of another young person who has scraped their pennies together to try to buy 1,200 square feet of the American dream. It’s easy to blame developers, and Wall Street, and people from away for the housing crisis in Maine. But we all share some blame. The HOME factor is a real problem. I have asked my family to smack me upside the head if, once I become a homeowner (fingers crossed!), I start making it harder for the people who are following in my footsteps.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

Comments are no longer available on this story