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February 4, 2013

MEREDA conference spotlights movement

Residential Retail Industrial

There aren't many brilliant sectors illuminating Maine's real estate market, but many of the presenters at the 2013 Maine Real Estate and Development Association forecasting conference saw glimmers of hope as the industry attempts to recover from its extended lull.

On the upside, in the third quarter of 2012, sales of single-family homes in Maine increased 18.6% compared to 2011, while the median price increased by 4.4%. Auburn and Bath were big local winners showing a 17% jump in median price from 2011 to 2012, while Brunswick and Falmouth dropped 9%.

Video: See what industry leaders forecast for the year ahead at this year's conference.

In the retail market, greater Portland closed out 2012 with a 5.9% vacancy rate, its lowest rate in five years and well below the national average of 11.2%. Mark Malone, principal of Malone Commercial Brokers in Portland, said bricks-and-mortar retailers are struggling for survival as their mature sector faces increasing competition from online retailers and each other. He predicts successful retailers will pursue new marketing tactics and technology. He also expects there will be a huge battle for grocery dollars as Market Basket moves into Maine and general merchandise retailers like Target expand grocery options.

For the most part it appeared to be a positive year for the industrial market in greater Portland as overall vacancies dropped 33 basis points, with Scarborough posting the lowest vacancy rate at 3.9% and Gorham topping the list at 12.3%, despite offering the lowest lease rate $4.95 per square foot.

Saco/Biddeford had its first real increase in activity and total sales volume in years in the multi- family sector, which is likely due to an 11% decrease in median sales prices. Portland continued to show a strong rental market with a less than 2% vacancy rate, which has encouraged new projects for the first time in years. And in Lewiston-Auburn, the average price per unit in 2012 was $20,200, up almost 10% from 2011.

"The data and the overall feel of 2012 was very positive," said Justin Lamontagne, an industrial real estate property specialist with NAI The Dunham Group. "The phones were ringing and deals were getting done. The momentum from the second half of 2012 was slightly inflated in anticipation of the changes to our tax system and we're probably poised to see a bit of a regression as a result. Bullish owner/users are poised to get the best value in 2013."

Click to see all five interviews in this series:

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