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Updated: February 11, 2020

Comeback kid, dark horse are 1-2 in Maine's hottest towns for home sales

Photo / Maureen Milliken A revitalizing downtown helped boost Augusta to the second spot in this year's Maine Life Real Estate Co. "Maine's Hottest Towns" home sales list. Hampden was the top town.

As Maine's real estate market continues to boil with energy, the 2019 list of "Maine's Hottest Towns" for home sales, compiled by Maine Life Real Estate of Scarborough, looks much different than last year's.

This year's list, released Monday by the Scarborough firm, has an entirely new top 10, with Hampden leading the way. Meanwhile, many towns and cities in last year's top 10 aren't even in the year's top 20.

Hampden's increase in homes sold last year from 2019 was 17.6%. In second place, making a big entrance in its top 10 debut, is Augusta, where home sales increased 17.03%.

The list, in its fifth year, gathers data from the multiple listing service, operated by Maine Real Estate Information Services Inc., then calculates which cities and towns had the largest increase in the number of home and condominium sales over the previous year. The numbers include both existing homes and new construction. The list only looks at municipalities with a volume of 130 units or higher.

Overall, Maine had a record-breaking 2019, with sales for the year up 1.55%, to 18,140 from 17,864, the highest number ever sold in a year and the state. Overall median sales price also hit a record, rising 4.65%, to $225,000 from $215,000. The biggest increases were in rural and Downeast counties.

"With prices still rising, and demand strong, many towns in Maine saw growth in their markets," said a news release from Maine Life accompanying the list. "2019 provided new trends and surprises."

Hampden didn't make the top 10 last year after grabbing the third spot on the 2017 list; Augusta was 13th last year and the year before, and not in the top 20 the first two years of the list.

The rest of the 2019 top 10 are Kennebunk, with a 15.5% increase in home sales; Scarborough, 14.85%; Bridgton, 14.48%; Lewiston, 14.46%; Waterboro, 12.25%; Kittery, 9.12%; Cape Elizabeth, 8%; and Cumberland, 7.84%.

Turning down the heat

Other notable changes show a cooling in local markets.

Standish, last year's top town, isn't in the top 20, nor is Auburn, which was second. Biddeford, last year's third-place city, is 13th this year. Brunswick, last year's No. 4, is also not in the top 20. Also missing is Waterville, which debuted in the top spot in 2017 after not making the list its first two years, and dropped to fifth last year.

Gorham and Yarmouth, last years' sixth and seventh, are this year's 20th and 15th, respectively. Last year's eighth, Sanford, has also dropped out of the top 20. Last year's No. 9, Saco, is hanging on at 17 this year, and last year's 10th, Falmouth, isn't in the top 20.

Rob Edgerley, broker at Maine Life, told Mainebiz last year that with the low volume of sales, one big development or a small run on homes can boost a town in the list. That happened this year in both Scarborough and Kennebunk.

Aging inventory, too, can spell a slowdown for a municipality. In Waterville, the newest house sold in 2018 was built in 2012, Edgerley said last year. But he added that a slowdown in sales can be deceiving, and area can still be hot. "There's no growth in sales, but there's growth in price," he said.

One example this year is Topsham, 14th on the list, with a sales increase of 5.42%, but a median price increase of 10.32%. The only other two towns with double-digit sales increases were Hampden and 10th-place Cumberland.

Hot, hotter, hottest

Here's a closer look at the 2019 top 10.

1. Hampden. Some 163 homes were sold in the town of 7.200 last year compared to 139 sold in 2018, a 17.6% increase. Prices also rose, with a median sales price of $221,900, an 11.5% increase over 2018's $199,000. The town, on the banks of the Penobscot River, is a southern suburb of Bangor.

2. Augusta. Augusta's revitalizing downtown includes more than 100 residential units, both rental and condos, added in the last few years or under development. There were 268 home sales in the city of 18,500 in 2019, and 229 in 2018, for a 17.03% increase. Median price in the Capital City stayed relatively stable with a modest 1% increase, from $139,950 to $141,250.

3. Kennebunk. The York County coastal town of 11,300 made the top 10 for the first time since 2016, the list's first year, when it was 10th. Some 284 homes were sold in 2019, a 15.5% increase over the 246 sold in 2018. Homes built in 2018 and 2019 accounted for 16% of the sold homes last year, according to Maine LIfe. The median price dipped a little with the increased inventory, from $350,750 in 2018 to $348,750 last year.

4. Scarborough. The town, boosted by the redevelopment of Scarborough Downs into a 500-acre mixed-use village, boosted home sales to 464, up from 404 in 2018, a 14.85% increase. Of the homes sold in 2019, 90 were new construction, and 68 of those were in the Downs subdivison, according to Maine Life. The town of 19,900 just south of Portland had the biggest drop in median sales price of the top 10, from $395,000 in 2018 to $385,000 last year, a 5.06% decrease.

5. Bridgton. The town of 5,300 at the western edge of Cumberland County was second in 2017 sales, but dropped out of the top 10 on last year's list. Now it's back, with 166 homes sold last year, compared to 145 in 2018, a 14.48%. Median sales price rose to $216,000 from $205,600, a 5.05% increase. Many of the home sales are secondary or vacation homes, Maine Life reported.

6. Lewiston. The mill city of 36.200 on the Androscoggin River is getting a boost from a reviving downtown, and home sales are following, with 356 sold last year compared to 311 in 2018, a 14.46% increase. Median sales price is rising, too, to $155,000 in 2019, up 3.71% from $149,450 in 2018.

7. Waterboro. The town of 7,800 in western York County, just north of Sanford, held the eighth spot for 2017 sales, but dropped out of the top 10 on last year's list. In 2019, 174 homes sold, compared to 155 in 2018, for a 12.25% increase. The median sale price rose slightly, to $230,266 from $229,000, a 0.50% increase.

8. Kittery. Maine's southernmost town sold 144 homes in 2019, up from 130 in 2018, an 11% increase. The median sales price also climbed, to $422,000 from $386,700, an increase of 9.12%.

9. Cape Elizabeth. The seaside Cumberland County town had an 8% increase in home sales, to 188 from 174 the year before. Prices also increased 6.12%, with a median of $519,495 from $489,500 the previous year.

10. Cumberland. The town, nestled between last year's hotspots Falmouth and Yarmouth, had a 7.84% increase in sales, to 165 from 153. It also had the biggest increase in median sales price in the top 20, to $460,000 from $396,300, for 16.07%.

Rounding out the top 20 are, in order of sales increase, Portland, 7.66%; Bangor, 6.47%; Biddeford, 5.44%; Topsham, 5.42%; Yarmouth, 3.8%; Brewer, 3.12%; Saco, 2.05%; Wells, 1.79%; Windham, 1.77%; Gorham, 1.33%.

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