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BLUE HILL, Maine — With an asking price of $4.4 million, Ken Fox’s summer home is sumptuous.
The 1940 federal-style mansion is on 13.1 acres, has five fireplaces, a two-car garage, an estate barn, in-ground pool and a lovely view of Blue Hill Harbor. Yet it’s been on the market for two years.
“Lots of people have seen the house. Everybody says, ‘I can’t believe it hasn’t sold. If I had any money, I’d be buying it tomorrow,’ that kind of thing,” Fox said recently. “Undoubtedly, from a marketing perspective, it would go quicker if the house was on Mount Desert Island.”
When it comes to the highest of high-end properties in coastal Hancock County, Mount Desert Island is likely the first place to come to mind, particularly Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor.
But the Blue Hill Peninsula, just west of MDI, has its share of estates that rival those on the better-known island in a real estate market that attracts a different kind of individual, according to Fox and real estate broker Steve Shelton, who sells properties both on MDI and the Blue Hill Peninsula but is not handling the sale of Fox’s property.
“Blue Hill is very artistic in my opinion. A lot of social activities and art-related things go on there, especially for people of status who like to do those kind of things,” Shelton said.
Some sale prices on Blue Hill’s mansions rival MDI’s. But elegant homes on MDI generally go for more than those in Blue Hill, he said.
One Blue Hill estate Shelton sold, on Larchwood Lane, went for $2.8 million last December. The Old Yacht Club on Old Yacht Club Road sold for $1.1 million in June for use as a residential home despite needing considerable renovations, Shelton said.
“It was just a shell of a building,” he said.
This week, a home on Ellingwood Road was for sale for $3.2 million. Another mansion, on Florian Benson Way, had an asking price of $1.9 millon, according to local real estate listings. Meanwhile, in Bar Harbor, the waterfront East of Eden mansion, listed for $12.5 million, is soon going to auction after spending nearly two years on the market.
The biggest sale in Shelton’s 14-year career in real estate was, unsurprisingly, a mansion on South Graff Road in Bar Harbor that went for $4.1 million in January 2017. His second biggest was a home on Perkins Street in the Blue Hill Peninsula town of Castine, for $3.6 million, in 2013, Shelton said.
That house’s sale price “would have been $10 million if it was out of Northeast Harbor,” he said.
“I guess people want to be in Northeast Harbor because other people with status are in the town,” Shelton said. “Downeast Maine is an absolutely gorgeous place, but there are no neighborhoods there where there is that kind of status.”
MDI attracts celebrities among its well-to-do who seek privacy and don’t necessarily want to mix with locals, Shelton said. Summering celebrities include Martha Stewart, actors David Morse and Susan Sarandon and singer Win Butler of the band Arcade Fire.
Blue Hill Peninsula, meanwhile, has a history of attracting writers, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, the late E.B. White, Heidi Julavits, Ben Marcus, Edmund White and John Hodgman.
Fox and his wife, Jannelle Bedke, were drawn to Blue Hill as the place for a summer residence 30 years ago because they love the sea and wanted to interact with the town’s residents, he said. They have tried to be good citizens, allowing a local theatrical group to use their back yard for a production and hosting a silent auction there for charity.
They’re trying to sell now as they look to downsize.
“I must say I am comfortable with the local folks because I grew up in Maine,” said Fox, a retired engineer from Eddington who spends most of the year in California.
Bedke said she liked Blue Hill over all the other places where they looked for potential summer residences because it’s more low-key and has fewer tourists. Summertime traffic turns Bar Harbor into a zoo, she added.
Shelton suspects that it hasn’t sold because the market for multi-million-dollar houses is soft right now, although such homes seldom sell quickly, he said.
“All expensive properties take years to sell. It’s a numbers game. If you have a thousand people looking, you are going to sell,” Shelton said. “If you have one person looking, you have to get lucky.”