The number of Maine homes sold in October increased by about 7 percent over the same period a year ago, while the prices continued their decline.
There were 945 homes sold last month compared to 885 in October 2010, according to a press release from the Maine Association of Realtors. The median sales price in October 2010 was $166,500; this October it was $165,000, a 0.9 percent decline.
Looking at three-year rolling quarter averages (taking into account sales from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31), home sales went up about 10 percent while prices declined 2.28 percent.
“The majority of Maine’s counties showed significant gains. The winner this [rolling quarter] is Somerset County with a 38.10 percent sales gain over last year; their median sales price rose 39.85 percent as well,” said Mike LePage, Maine Association of Realtors president and owner of RE/MAX Heritage in Yarmouth.
Looking at the rolling quarter averages, the number of homes sold increased in all counties except for Kennebec and Sagadahoc. The prices also dropped in all counties except for Hancock, Penobscot, Somerset and Washington.
“It looks like the year is ending on a strong note here in the greater Bangor area. We are still seeing first-time home buyers as well as people making lifestyle adjustments — some moving into larger homes, others downsizing,” Angelia Levesque, president of the Greater Bangor Association of Realtors, told the Bangor Daily News. “I would say now is the time to purchase that camp or ski condo, with a large selection to choose from and interest rates are still quite reasonable with all of the lenders saying they have money to lend.”
Kimberly Swan, president of the The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty, noted that the most recent home sales numbers illustrate that real estate markets are very local.
“It is nearly impossible to talk about statewide numbers and get the whole story,” Swan said.
For example, she said, year-to-date, there are 46 residential properties in Bar Harbor that are either pending or have sold, and 71 percent of those sold for less than $300,000. But in the neighboring town of Mount Desert, 32 residential properties are either pending or have sold, and 25 of them had asking prices of more than $1 million.
Nationwide, existing home sales in October were 13.5 percent above the 4.38 million unit level in October 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The group’s top economist, Lawrence Yun, noted in an NAR release that the market has been fairly steady but at a lower-than-desired level.
“Home sales have been stuck in a narrow range despite several improving factors that generally lead to higher home sales such as job creation, rising rents and high affordability conditions. Many people who are attempting to buy homes are thwarted in the process,” Yun said in the release.
Yun also added that NAR members are reporting a higher rate of “contract failures,” which are home sale cancellations caused by declined mortgage applications, failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price or other problems including home inspections and employment losses.
“A higher rate of contract failures has held back a sales recovery,” Yun said. “Contract failures reported by NAR members jumped to 33 percent in October from 18 percent in September, and were only 8 percent a year ago.”