Maine Realtors See Jump in Home Sales, Prices During Pandemic

“Interest in in-ground pools, even in Maine, has shot up about 500%,” said a former president of the Maine Association of Realtors

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Maine home prices are seeing a significant increase from last September to this one, a sign of a spike in demand for Maine housing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Home sales are up as well, up 22.8% this September compared to September 2019, while home values are up 19.6%, according to data from the Maine Association of Realtors.

The median home price in the state also jumped from $229,000 to $273,500 year over year.

“About early April the phone started ringing,” said Tina Lucas, co-owner of Lucas Real Estate in Portland.

From the spring on, demand has been high for homes in Maine, especially from people leaving cities in other states to come to suburban and rural areas where there are fewer COVID-19 cases and more outdoor activities, she said.

“Historically, we’ve seen our out-of-state buyers at 25% of market share. Right now as of the end of September, we’re at 33%,” Lucas added, explaining the sudden prevalence of remote work allowed for more people to be flexible with where they live.

Business butlers and an office with a view? Telecommuters are bringing their work all over the world and the tourism industry is starting to notice, with hotels in particular offering work and play packages to entice longer-term stays. Some countries even offer visas for remote workers.

“What we’ve never seen before is homebuyers understanding this new phenomenon that they can live wherever they want and bring their job with them,” she said.

Already in spring, realtors like Troy Wilkins of Benchmark Real Estate were seeing a spike in remote workers ready for a fresh start in Maine.

“We’re seeing buyers who have money, they’re well-qualified, maybe they’re not going to their job every day, they’re in their office but telecommuting, they don’t want to rent anymore,” he said.

Lucas, a former president of the Maine Association of Realtors, said she’s seen demand for all kinds of homes, from single-family houses to condos in Portland.

Walkability is a sought-after feature, reputable schools systems are an ask for parents and demand for pools is high too.

“Interest in in-ground pools, even in Maine, has shot up about 500%,” she said, adding that hot tubs, decks and proximity to walking trails were also desirable.

The question of how the increased demand and multiple offer scenarios, which Lucas does not see tapering off soon, affects home affordability in Maine is open.

While she expects properties north of greater Portland to remain affordable for most families, the area around the city and other popular spots in southern Maine may become tougher for current Maine residents to buy homes in, if trends continue.

“I’m wondering if that’s going to make it difficult for Mainers to be able to buy if prices continue to rise,” Lucas said.

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