The Maine Association of Realtors reports that Maine real estate sales took a positive turn last year. The association’s January 2014 press release revealed that annual sales of existing family homes were up 13.6 percent in 2013. The press release also stated that Maine Listings data showed 13,088 homes changed hands in Maine last year, and the statewide yearly median sales price (MSP) rose 2.94 percent to $175,000.
David Sleeper, who owns Realty of Maine, said that his agency sold more homes last year than it has ever sold. Realty of Maine has offices in Bangor, Belfast, Brownville, Ellsworth, Newport, South China, and Winter Harbor.
“Last year was my biggest year ever,” Sleeper said.
According to Dale Wilkes, director of advancement for Realty of Maine, the most popular type of homes that sold statewide were ranch-style homes, followed closely by capes. She said that ranch-style homes followed by colonials were most popular in the Bangor area. Wilkes also noted that the agency’s sales had risen 22 percent during the last two years.
According to Angelia Levesque, the 2014 president of the Maine Association of Realtors, “Last year started out very strong with buyers hoping to take advantage of historically low interest rates. With low inventory levels, homes that were priced right sold very quickly.
“This renewed interest sparked multiple-offer situations in certain markets and helped increase home prices. Sellers heard of this activity and started listing their homes,” she said.
Levesque, who is a realtor with Better Homes and Gardens/The Masiello Group, said that Penobscot County was the third most active county in the state last year with 1,200 transactions. The only counties with more transactions were Cumberland and York counties. Levesque commented that Cumberland County’s very active real estate market may be influenced by the large amount of national media coverage focusing on the Portland lifestyle.
During a recent meeting with the Maine Association of Realtors’ directors (who come from across the state), Levesque heard nothing but optimism expressed. “They reported that they’re seeing activity on the waterfront, second-home activity, first-time home buyers’ activity, and condo buyer activity,” she said.
Levesque reported that 30 homes went under contract in Bangor in January. She said that were listed at less than $100,000; nine were listed at $100,00-$150,000; nine more were listed at $150,000-200,000; four were listed at more than $200,000; and two houses were listed at more than $300,000.
Levesque said that the highest-priced sales generally represent people moving into the Bangor area for jobs; the median-range sales often represents first-time home buyers, and the lower-priced homes usually represent purchases by investors who will resell those homes for $100,000-$200,000. Twelve homes had already sold in January, with most of those in the $100,000-$200,000 range, but one was actually a $400,000 home.
Levesque has been encouraged by seeing more retirees recently choosing Maine as their primary state of residence. She said that real estate agents also been encouraged by the statewide increase in the higher-end condo market.
“It’s been consistent in southern Maine, the Midcoast region, and Bangor,” said Levesque.
She advises home owners to get their properties listed now rather than wait until spring. Tt’s to their advantage to list when the inventory is low, she believes.
“It’s a great time of year to sell homes because there’s a smaller pool of inventory. In the spring they’ll be going up against a lot more competition,” Levesque explained. “If someone’s willing to go out and bridge the water in January, they’re serious about buying.”
She added that some financial institutions are forecasting that interest rates may increase to 5 percent or higher this year, which is another reason for sellers to get their homes listed now.
“They should make sure their homes are neat, clean, and free of clutter,” said Levesque. “Somebody should go in and be able to imagine themselves living there.”