Home sales in Maine surge

October 22, 2013 in Articles

Author: Jessica Hall
Publication: Portland Press Herald

Sales of existing single-family homes in September rose almost 25 percent from last year.

Sales of existing single-family homes in Maine rose 24.59 percent in September, more than double the increase nationally.

click image to enlarge

A for sale sign is posted in front of a home on Fletcher Street in Kennebunk. Maine home sales jumped 24.59 percent in September 2013 over September 2012, doubling the pace seen nationally.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Statewide, 1,307 homes changed hands in September, up from 1,049 in September 2012, according to Maine Listings, a subsidiary of the Maine Association of Realtors.

The median sale price rose 1.76 percent, to $173,000. The median price is the point at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

The gains in September sales volume followed jumps of 20 percent in August and 31 percent in July, year over year.

The jump in Maine last month outpaced sales nationwide, where sales were up 10.9 percent in September. Nationally, the median sale price for an existing single-family home was $199,300 in September, 11.4 percent higher than a year ago.

In the Northeast, home sales jumped 15 percent, and the median sale price was up 2.3 percent, to $240,900.

“The extraordinarily busy summer season is beginning to wind down, and we now enter what many consider the second-busiest selling time of the year – fall,” said Bart Stevens, president of the Maine Association of Realtors. “Here in Maine, winter can sometimes be long, and many buyers want to be settled before the winter snows arrive. With continued low interest rates and plenty of inventory, this time of year is perfect for buyers.”

For the three months that ended Sept. 30, sales statewide rose 25.04 percent, to 4,239 homes, compared with 3,390 homes in the same three-month period of 2012. The biggest percentage gains came in Franklin, Lincoln and Knox counties.

In Cumberland and York counties, home sales over the three months rose 28.37 percent and 23.57 percent, respectively.

In the Portland area, limited inventory prompted buyers to act quickly in making purchase decisions, said Ed Gardner of Ocean Gate Realty and the Greater Portland Board of Realtors.

The Bangor area has more homes for sale, said Angelia Levesque of RE/MAX Advantage Realty Group in Bangor. “Fall is always a good time to buy. It’s always busy,” she said. “People want to be out of their home and into their new home before winter sets in.”

Nationally, homes are not selling as quickly as they did in the summer. A home’s median time on the market in September was 50 days, compared with 43 days in August. In September 2012, the time on market was more than 70 days, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The national association said higher home prices, stagnant salaries and rising mortgage rates are hurting affordability, which hit a five-year low in September, according to its gauge. The trade group said sales probably peaked in July and August.

Interest rates have risen sharply since May on expectations that the Federal Reserve will start cutting back on its monthly bond purchases this year, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate surging nearly a full percentage point. It hit 4.49 percent in September, the highest since July 2011, according to Freddie Mac.

The National Association of Realtors’ affordability index measures whether a typical family earns enough to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels.

Economists said they expect national home sales rates to decline in October, in part because the 16-day government shutdown hurt consumer confidence and likely delayed the processing of mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration.

“It had gotten a little quieter during the shutdown. Next month’s numbers may show some effect, of course, but not a lot because fall is still a major buying season for us,” said Tina Lucas of Lucas Real Estate in Portland.




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