PORTLAND, Maine — Sales of single-family, existing homes in Maine jumped by 24 percent in October over the same month last year, according to figures provided by the Maine Association of Realtors. The median sales price also increased year-to-year by 3.3 percent in October.
Agents believe the combination of several factors have led to the uptick in activity. Pent-up demand, years of historically low interest rates and low prices seem to be motivating buyers. Less certain is whether the numbers mean the housing market is rebounding for the long term, though an upward trend is evident in statistics for September 2012 which show an 8.4 percent increase in sales over September 2011.
In October 2011, 945 single-family homes were sold in Maine. Last month, 1,177 homes were sold. At the same time, the median sales price increased to $170,500, up from $165,000 last year in October.
The counties seeing the biggest increase in sales from last October to October 2012 were Washington (30 to 63); Sagadahoc (76 to 108); and Cumberland (710 to 871). The counties with the biggest jumps in median sales price were Piscataquis ($77,000 to $100,000); Oxford ($117,240 to $136,900) and Lincoln ($180,000 to $205,000).
Kathie Hooper, an agent with RE/MAX By The Bay in Portland, saw a perfect combination of factors producing the strong sales.
“People have been sitting on the sidelines for quite awhile,” she said Friday. But with “incredibly low interest rates” and sellers being realistic with their pricing, buyers seem to believe this is the time to jump in, she said.
“There’s some really good deals out there,” she said. In fact, one property she handled recently generated multiple offers.
Though she said Portland didn’t experience as much of a downturn when the housing bubble burst, Hooper is seeing more young singles and couples buying their first homes and wanting to be in the city proper, near amenities and jobs.
Out-of-state buyers also are returning to the agency, she said.
“We’re feeling pretty good about the market,” Hooper said.
In central Maine, Pamela Casavant of the Century 21-Surette Real Estate agency in Waterville also is seeing increased activity. She estimated that the office is seeing 15 to 20 percent more single-family home sales than last year.
“We’re always getting the first-time homebuyers,” Casavant said, but investors buying single-family houses also are part of the market. Larger, older homes are slower to move, with buyers concerned about heating costs, she said.
“Prices are reasonable,” Casavant said. “We’re not in the land of make-believe any more,” with sellers confronting the new market realities and pricing accordingly.
“I think we’re seeing a recovery,” rather than a one-time blip, she said.
Speaking as president of the Maine Association of Realtors, Portland-area agent Tina Lucas asserted that the market had taken a turn for the good.
“We are seeing across-the-board activity,” said Lucas in a statement issued on the October sales. Buyers include those purchasing first homes, investors buying multifamily properties and those purchasing higher-priced homes,” she said.
“I believe if this continues, as it appears poised to do, it will clearly demonstrate the bottom of the market has come and gone,” Lucas said.