Maine real estate sales stay strong in February. Shown here is a home in Bangor on Nov. 24, 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Sales of existing homes across Maine remained strong in February with the biggest rises in rural counties, according to data released by the Maine Association of realtors on Monday.

Single-family home sales were up almost 23 percent compared to February 2020, while median sales prices rose nearly 13 percent to $244,900 comparing this February to last. That price indicates half the homes sold for more and half for less.

Buyers are snapping up homes as soon as they come on the market, with houses staying on the market only 21 days, less than half the time of the 52 days last February. The tight inventory is keeping prices high.

The Maine association hopes more sellers will come onto the market to ease the pent-up demand, Aaron Bolster, president of the association, said.

Sales and prices continued to rise in rural counties from December through February of this year compared to the same three months last year. Washington County saw the largest rise in sales, up 68 percent to 136 units. Sales in Hancock, Knox, Piscataquis, Somerset and Waldo counties all rose more than 50 percent.

Median sales prices in the three-month comparison period also jumped in rural parts of the state, with Lincoln County leading with a 46 percent rise to $317,000. Nine other of Maine’s 16 counties saw prices rise more than 20 percent.

Sales in more populated areas remained strong as well, but the jumps were not as dramatic. Cumberland County saw a 4 percent rise in homes sold with an average price rise of almost 17 percent to $370,000. Penobscot County saw home sales rise 11 percent and prices rise 8.6 percent to $168,500.

Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes rose 8 percent compared to the previous February, and the median sales price was up 16 percent to $317,100, according to the National Association of Realtors.

However, sales might slow down in the coming months as higher prices and rising mortgage rates cut into home affordability, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the national association, said. Still, he expects this year’s sales to be higher than last year’s as more vaccinations are made available.

“Many Americans have been saving money and there’s a strong possibility that once the country fully reopens, those reserves will be unleashed on the economy,” Yun said.