In April 2021, Robert Bonner and Dona Robins were hoping to stay in Belfast, but were having a difficult time finding a place to rent. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Lack of worker housing, fair housing and concerns about finding a home or apartment, especially for returning Mainers, topped your list of responses when we asked what you want to know about the real estate boom.

You wanted to know everything starting with the basics of the most affordable areas to live, which we answered on Wednesday. We will continue to write on the things you want to know about including the impact of Airbnbs, what the state and cities and towns are doing to increase affordable housing and how policies are affecting the supply of and demand for housing. Many of you are concerned about the effect of out-of-state residents, especially on small towns.

Barbara Acosta, a retired educational researcher living in Trenton, acknowledged she is part of the problem because she offers a short-term rental. She cannot find a cleaner because of the worker shortage and workers can’t find affordable houses near her and wants to know what solutions small tourist towns like Trenton have found.

“It’s not an easy fix and it can’t be up to small towns by themselves,” she said. “We need to ensure there is affordable housing and the funding to build it.”

Shlomit Auciello, a writer and administrative assistant at an adult education facility who lives in Thomaston, worries that Mainers who left the state for school or work and want to return won’t be able to because of the high housing costs.

“My daughter wants to move back to southern Maine from Medford, Massachusetts,” she said. “I told her it’s not less expensive here.”

Auciello had her own hard-knock experiences from the fast-paced Maine real estate market, where sales hit historic highs last year, with more than 20,000 single-family homes sold, according to the Maine Association of Realtors.

She listed her home in Rockland, where she lived and rented out spare rooms, just before prices took off in 2020. She had it under contract for $215,000, but by the time the transaction closed prices had escalated. Had it not been under agreement, she figures she could have sold it for 25 percent more.

She then tried to buy a new home, but faced some of the harsh realities in the market. In one case, an agent pitted her and two other buyers against each other. She walked away. Other potential homes she looked at had been seasonal homes or rentals and were in disrepair.

Auciello ultimately moved to Thomaston, where she found a subsidized apartment. She still peruses real estate ads out of curiosity, and bristles when she sees ones that say “perfect for yourself or to flip.” She worries that such buyers won’t be engaged in the community, something that is important to her.

“It’s hard enough for Maine people to find one home,” she said. “It’s a bit of an oxymoron.”