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Out-of-state buyers driving increase in home sales

Sales of luxury homes are on the rise. Buyers are showing up with cash offers.

PORTLAND, Maine — COVID-19 has crushed many businesses in the last two months. In real estate, it changed the very process of showing a home. 

The virus also had an impact nobody saw coming: luxury homes sales on the rise. Buyers are showing up with cash offers.  

Many of those buyers are from out of state, who are moving their families to Maine for good. 

Buyers are viewing properties from floor plans to three-dimensional videos without leaving the safety of their homes. Agents and buyers are using gloves, masks, and disposable booties when showing houses on a limited basis.

Despite new safety guidelines, concerns about the coronavirus led to a 15 percent drop in home sales in Cumberland County alone by mid-April. 

But ongoing lockdowns in New York, Massachusetts, and other states are now driving a surge of new home buyers. 

Maine's low number of cases, small population, natural beauty, and being able to telecommute is a huge draw. 

"Now they are saying we need to get out of our 900 square foot apartment that we share with our children, we need to move around a bit even during quaratine," Liam McCoy, a broker for Portside Real Estate Group, said.

RELATED: Real estate agents are adjusting to the 'new normal' amid the coronavirus outbreak in Maine

Out-of-state residents are competing with Mainers trying to land a home in the $250,000-$450,000 price range—a price point that often brings multiple offers. 

And now, there's a new twist.

"You are competing with people who aren't even here to see it and are willing to make an offer just by what we provide online and face time, that's very unusual," McCoy said.

The demand from out-of-state buyers is spilling over into the luxury market,  driven by the same concern.

"They are trying to find a place for their families to be safe," Bridgette Vermette said.

Vermette is a broker and owner of the Bridgette Vermette Team and Properties By the Sea at Keller Williams Realty.  According to the Multiple Listing Service, 104 properties half a million dollars and higher sold in April statewide, compared to 89 for the same period last year. Vermette's team has sold 14 luxury properties since January, half of the buyers were from out of state. Some are moving here permanently, others are up-sizing their second homes. 

"A $4.8 million home, it was on the market for one day, the first buyer flew in from North Carolina on his private jet bought it," Vermette said.

Heather Mitchell and her husband from Jupiter, Fla. bought a luxury home in Cape Elizabeth at the end of January. 

"This was our dream to move to Maine," Heather said. "We just happened to do it at a really crazy time."

They planned to relocate in June, but COVID-19 sped things up. Their quarantine ends Friday and they are looking forward to hitting the hiking trails while practicing social distancing.

Brokers hope with all the additional precautions from showings to closing -- will reassure sellers that the process is safe

Guidelines from the Maine Realtor's Association including the Governor's Executive Order concerning real estate can be found here

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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