Maine home sales have dipped almost 10 percent in a year, and the median home price has declined by about 6.5 percent, according to the September statistics from the Maine Association of Realtors.
The association compiles numbers from across the state, and things seem bleak for sellers almost everywhere — but that might be a boon for anyone planning to buy, according to area Realtors such as Phil Cormier of ERA Dawson-Bradford in Bangor.
“Who I’m selling to today are first-time buyers, and smart buyers,” Cormier said, “people with the resources to buy investment properties.”
Realtors in Penobscot County sold almost 21 percent fewer homes in the July 1 to Sept. 30 quarter in 2008 over the same period last year. The median sale price has dropped slightly, from $145,000 to $141,000.
The median sales price means that half the homes sold for more than the median and half sold for less.
In Hancock, Knox and Waldo counties, the quarterly sales plummet was even more precipitous. Hancock County tallied a 31 percent drop in sales — although the median home price jumped from $192,000 to $235,000. Down the coast in Waldo County, the Realtors association posted a 33 percent decline in sales and a 14 percent decrease in price. The median price of a home there dropped from $185,000 to $159,000 from 2007 to 2008. Knox County had a 47 percent decrease in home sales, and a 7 percent decrease in the median price, from $208,000 to $192,000.
Cormier, who got into the real estate business in 1982 when the market was paralyzed by 15.5 percent interest rates, said he’s trying to take the long view.
In comparison, a buyer today would be paying around a 6.5 percent interest rate on a home loan.
“The market was very similar to what we have today,” Cormier said. “There were not a lot of buyers looking around. But there is always a given amount of people that have to move.”
That kind of philosophy may be a necessity in this kind of weak housing market.
Cormier said he has been about as busy this fall as he was last fall, but that he knows of other Realtors who aren’t having as good luck.
“I know that there’s not as many buyers around feeling confident,” Cormier said. “But it’s a very good buyer’s market, because there are fewer of them. There’s a lot of houses to choose from.”
For instance, Cormier said, he just sold a five-bedroom house in Old Town for $25,000 to some people who plan to rent it to college students.
“A buyer right now can go out there and make offers on these things. If you have a seller who’s motivated, they’re going to try very hard to make it work,” he said.
The real estate scene in Washington County looks great for buyers, too. Realtor Jason Smith of Points East Real Estate in Machias compiles local statistics in his role as president of the Downeast Multiple Listing Service. He said sales in Washington County slid by almost a third in the July 1-Sept. 30 quarter from last year to this year.
“We’re not suffering like some areas in the state,” Smith said. “Good things are happening here — but we have seen a decline.”
The Maine Association of Realtors, which counts a smaller percentage of sales in Washington County, Smith said, had shown the county as posting a 31 percent increase in sales. The median price dropped 30 percent, from $110,000 to $77,000.
“This is where the bargains are; $250,000 can buy an ocean-front home,” Smith said.
He said he had an in-town Machias three-bedroom home on an acre for $89,900.
“We’re seeing out-of-area second and vacation home buyers, and local folks taking advantage of low interest rates,” Smith said. “I think there’s a very common misperception that folks up here are really desperate in the economy, but we’re not seeing the foreclosures of other areas.”
According to the Maine Association of Realtors, other counties are seeing sales slide, too:
- Aroostook County: 21.5 percent drop in sales over the July 1-Sept. 30 quarter from 2007 to 2008. But the median price jumped from $77,000 to $100,000.
- Piscataquis County: 32 percent drop in sales over the quarter. The median price dipped 10 percent from $120,000 to $108,000.
- Somerset County posted a nearly 9 percent gain in sales over the quarter. The median price increased by 4 percent, from $120,000 to $125,000.