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Short supply a nightmare for Maine homebuyers

The median price of a single-family existing home in Maine in February 2022 was $297,500.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Life is rarely boring at Patrick Spiotta's home in Augusta. He and his wife have eight kids and are looking to move into a bigger house. The problem has been finding one.

“Looking for a house is a part-time job," Spiotta said, expressing his frustration. 

His family has been on the hunt since October, checking out more than 30 houses and making eight offers so far. The Spiottas are waiting to hear back on the most recent one, but a competitive market has made the search challenging. They've branched out their search, looking in central Maine towns outside of Augusta, but still haven't had any luck. 

"Every time we get the call that says no. It's just more stress," Spiotta said.

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Spiotta said he thinks part of the reason for this problem is out-of-staters doing showings over the phone and making offers that locals can't match. Spiotta said in some cases, he has offered people $30,000 over the asking price, and that still hasn't been enough.

"The prices people are asking are unattainable for ... most blue-collar workers," Spiotta said.

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The Maine Association of Realtors released a study in March, indicating despite a big demand for real estate in Maine, there's a lower-than-normal supply of single-family existing homes. The study said, according to Maine Listings, sales in February of 2022 declined by 17.33 percent, compared to February of 2021. The median sales price, on the other hand, increased by 21.48 percent to $297,500. 

"Six years ago, buyers often had their pick of the litter for properties, and now that's just not the case," according to Tyler Gaudet, broker and partner of Sprague & Curtis Real Estate, reflecting on how the industry has changed since he entered it.

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Gaudet said he thinks the market this year will "definitely" favor sellers, and it will likely take a couple of years to "climb out" of the inventory crunch, as new construction catches up. It had slowed down because of labor and material shortages.

"As a buyer in this market, it's pretty challenging," Gaudet said. "Folks are having to look harder. They're having to look in a wider area they might not have been looking at originally. They've had to really expand their search, especially on the lower-priced homes for first-time homebuyers – it's very, very competitive."

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Gaudet said low interest rates and a new focus on working from home during COVID-19 helped to create this situation. The current market means contractors are busier than usual, too, as they do projects on newly bought houses that homeowners are looking to touch up.

"[For] interior re-modeling – like if you wanted to remodel your bathroom – we're out until probably September before we can take on any other projects," said Michael Mallar, co-owner of Home Improvements of Augusta.

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The Maine Association of Realtors has a "10 Steps to Homeownership" guide for buyers here

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