Maine home sales in July jump year-over-year

Posted Aug. 19, 2011, at 10:35 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 19, 2011, at 1:02 p.m.

Maine home sales jumped 23.17 percent in July compared to the same period in 2010, Maine Real Estate Information System Inc. said Friday.

According to the group’s numbers, 994 single-family, existing homes were sold last month, compared to 807 in July 2010. The median sales price also edged up year-over-year, from $172,500 last year to $177,500 this year.

The Maine numbers also reflected a slight increase from June. In June, the group reported overall single-family home sales of 985, at a median sales price of $172,600.

“Buyers have been cautious in these fragile economic times, but the new statistics show buyers and sellers are indeed coming together. Buyers responded to good values, while sellers have priced to the market better,” said Realtor Mike LePage of RE/MAX Heritage in Yarmouth, president of the Maine Association of Realtors, in a Friday release. “Historically low interest rates make depressed home prices even more affordable. Home ownership, including second homes, is not only a financial investment, but a quality of life investment.”

Kim Swan, president of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty, with offices in Bar Harbor, Blue Hill and Northeast Harbor, told the Bangor Daily News that she’s seeing a lot of activity in the market. The under-$250,000 market is hot, she said, and her agency is experiencing multiple offers on listings.

“There are eight properties pending right now in Bar Harbor and four of them are under $250,000,” Swan said. “Three are between $300,000 and $500,000 and one is $2 million-plus. That really tells the story of the market in a nutshell.”

Angelia Levesque, president of the Bangor Board of Realtors, said that interest rates are low now, helping to drive the market.

“I had a buyer lock in at 4.25 percent for a 30-year-fixed [mortgage] — that’s just phenomenal,” she told the BDN.

Through August and September, Levesque said, the market is traditionally heavy with people who have been vacationing and are looking for second-homes on lakes or on the ocean. And there are normally a number of families trying to get into homes before school starts, she added.

Nationally, existing home sales dropped in July from June, but jumped up from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Month-over-month, sales dropped 3.5 percent from 4.84 million in June to 4.67 million in July, the group said Thursday.

But those July numbers reflected a 21 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The July 2010 numbers were a “cyclical low, immediately following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit, the group noted.”

“Affordability conditions this year have been the most favorable on record dating back to 1970, but many buyers are being held back because banks are offering financing to only the most highly qualified borrowers, ignoring a large share of otherwise creditworthy buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, the national group’s chief economist. “Those potential buyers represent the difference between an uneven recovery and a much more robust housing market that could stimulate additional economic activity and create jobs.”

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 2.7 percent to an annual level of 750,000 in July and are 19.0 percent above July 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $245,600, down 6.8 percent from a year ago.

The group said that contract failures held steady in July at 16 percent. Contract failures are home sale cancellations generally caused by declined mortgage applications or failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price. And 9 percent of Realtors reported a contract was delayed in the past three months due to low appraisals, and another 13 percent said a contract was renegotiated to a lower sales price because an appraisal was below the initially agreed price between buyer and seller, the group said.

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