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March 31, 2021

Biz Bites: Out-of-staters in, Travolta out; MEREDA spring conference set, more

Photo / Maureen Milliken Northern New England's charms are attracting an increasing number of out-of-staters, studies that back up the anecdotal information show. Pictured here is Long Pond, in Belgrade Lakes.

It's been clear for a while that out-of-staters looking for soothing sunsets, friendly people, decent Wi-Fi and (relatively) low housing costs are buying up Maine real estate, driving up prices and sales volume. It turns out it's happening next door, too. Buyer data collected by Better Homes and Gardens The Masiello Group show that during 2020's last six months, 35% of people who bought homes in New Hampshire, as well as in Maine, were from outside of northern New England.

Agents for the firm, which has 33 offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, have seen an increase in home buyers from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Florida, Arizona and pricey West Coast cities Seattle and San Francisco. A survey by the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy found that people have been moving to New Hampshire to be closer to their family, for work and to enjoy a higher quality of life, bolstering the anecdotal evidence many agents are hearing from people moving here from outside the region, Masiello said.

Chris Masiello, president and CEO, said, “What many of us who have made northern New England our home already know is that the lifestyle here can’t be beat. Maine and New Hampshire are a great choice for people who want those things, with more affordable housing, safe communities, close to urban centers and more, he said.

Median home price in the Northeast in February was $356,000, up 20.5% from February 2020; prices so far in 2021 are 23% higher than all of 2020 for single-family homes and 16% higher for condos, according to the National Association of Realtors. That conforms with Maine's most recent numbers, which Mainebiz reported last week. The Maine median is the same as the region — $356,000 — and February year-over-year sales increased 22.77%, with prices up 12.9%.

A very large three-story gray house with stone pillars and a gate
Courtesy / Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty
John Travolta's house in Isleboro is listed for $5 million.

At least one prominent out-of-stater is leaving Maine, though. If you haven't caught up with recently celebrity real estate news, John Travolta is selling his 50-acre property in Isleboro, listed by Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty for $5 million (although the listing is too classy to make hay about "the current owner," who is not named).

Travolta and wife Kelly Preston bought the 43-room, 20-bedroom 10,830-square-foot cottage at 299 Drexel Lane in 1991. They renovated the house, built in 1903, extensively, and it's been featured in Architectural Digest.

Travolta has described it as a “fairytale house," and the pair bought it for large family gatherings, so it may have lost its luster for Travolta after Preston's death from breast cancer in July. At least one listing says it's only accessible by boat, but anyone who follows celebrity news knows Travolta is an accomplished pilot and Isleboro has an airport perfect for private jets.

Other Maine real estate tidbits ...

MEREDA will hold its 2021 Virtual Spring Conference on Thursday, May 20. The event will unveil the 2021 MEREDA Index and recognize the 2020 Notable Project Recipients. Charles Colgan, the economist who prepares the Index, will discuss its three sectors — construction, residential and commercial. A panel discussion will include experts in each of the sectors, Roccy Risbara of Risbara Bros. Construction Company will cover construction, Joe Dasco of Reger Dasco Properties will cover residential and Cheri Bonawitz of Malone Commercial Brokers will cover commercial.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, met with MaineHousing leadership Wednesday to discuss the importance of supporting housing authorities across Maine amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “The dedicated staff at MaineHousing work hard to provide seniors, individuals with disabilities and low-income families across our state with access to an array of programs that help them improve their living conditions and achieve economic independence,” Collins, ranking member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, said. MaineHousing participants included Daniel Brennan, director; Peter Merrill, deputy director; and Erik Jorgensen, director of government relations. MaineHousing, the state's housing authority, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019.

Maine Preservation 2021 Honor Awards nominations are open. The awards celebrate excellence in historic preservation rehabilitation, craft and leadership and are open to projects that have substantially improved historic properties and have been completed within the past three years or are scheduled to be by September. The Yarmouth-based nonprofit also recently announced it's accepting nominations for Maine's Most Endangered Historic Places. More information on both can be found on the Maine Preservation website.

Two young girls, one white and one black, work on laptops at a table in a large room will other kids take part in activities in the background
Courtesy / Kennebec Valley Boys & Girls Club video
Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Kennebec Valley do homework in a fundraising video for the Gardiner organization, which hopes to break ground on a new $10 million building this summer.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kennebec Valley, in Gardiner, has been chipping away since 2016 at the $10 million cost for a new building to replace the current 70-year-old deteriorating one. The capital campaign got a major boost March 16 when the Gardiner City Council pledged $500,000 from revenue from the Libby Hill Tax Increment Financing district and the city's fund balance It doesn't kick in until the club reaches the $9.5 million mark, though, so the club has launched the "Why I love my club," community fundraising campaign with a video featuring staff and club members to raise another $650,000. The club is planning to break ground on the building this summer.

Closing on a home? There's an app for that. Norcom Mortgage, of Portland, Saco and 34 other East Coast locations, has announced the launch of its Easy Street App for iOS and Android mobile devices. Built by SimpleNexus, which develops real estate platforms, the app allows borrowers to apply for a loan, stay up to date on its progress and even close by smartphone.The app is a "game-changer," said Mike Dimech, Norcom mortgage executive vice president, allowing all elements of a home buy on one platform. It also has two-factor authentication and data encryption to protect financial data. Loan officers can share it with real estate agents and other referral partners, giving them access to mortgage calculators, automatic notifications and more.

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