Million-dollar market

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Save your pennies: More than 400 homes for sale in Maine come with have-a-seat price tags.

POLAND – In Rose Aikman’s home, there’s lots of plush four-poster beds, hardwood floors and opulent maroons and golds. There are 13 baths and even more deep whirlpools for soaking. Rooms have names like Delphinium and Calla Lily.

It’s something out of House Beautiful. So’s the view: the east shore of Tripp Lake.

She converted her home to a bed and breakfast in 1996. The kids were gone, it was a fun business. Now, she’s ready for a rest, so the house has been on the market for six months. Asking price (includes furniture, linen, china): just shy of $1.5 million.

It’s a lot to clean, Aikman admitted Friday in the middle of a tour. Real estate agent Terry Hewitt was pragmatic:

“If you’re buying a million-and-a-half house, you’ll hire someone to clean for you.”

This week Home & Garden Television featured a house up the road in Newry on its “What You Get for the Money” show for $1.55 million.

Turns out there’s quite a market in Maine for the million-dollar buy – and they’re selling at a pretty pace.

According to Colon Durrell, president of the Maine Real Estate Information System and an East Wilton real estate agent, 416 houses for sale in Maine right now have price tags of $1 million-plus.

Another 28 have sales pending.

In the last year, 196 million-dollar-plus mansions have sold.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Valarie Lamont, director of the Institute for Real Estate Research and Business at the University of Southern Maine. “Part of that is the baby-boom generation looking at ways to invest their money. Second homes with potential to become year-round homes” are tempting.

“Certainly the limited discussions I’ve had suggest it’s the out-of-starters pushing this market,” Lamont added.

Matt Hiebert, associate broker and director of marketing at Mahoosuc Realty – the agents who have the HGTV house – said he’s noticed an upswing in pricey listings during the last few years.

“It seemed three or four years ago, that a $300,000 house was a lot of money,” he said.

After the show ran, he got several calls Thursday morning from other real estate pros offering congratulations on the coverage. But none from potential buyers.

These sort of homes take longer to sell, Hiebert said. Not so many people can afford the $5,000-plus a month mortgage.

“Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut is really where we focus our advertising,” he said. “It’s amazing to be able to think what their primary home is like if this is their second home.”

There are definite trends among million-dollar listings: almost every one boasts water access or a mountain view, as well as amenities that range from media rooms to heated garages to a “state-of-the-art bathroom.”

“They need to have, obviously, something that sets it apart from a usual house,” said Hewitt.

She’s shown Aikman’s 8,000-square-foot home to some people interested in using it for a single-family and others wanting to keep it an inn.

The house, built in 1890, spent time as a restaurant called Lobsterland in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s got three floors. Ten bedrooms take up the top two.

In one room that looks all satin and soft white, Aikman said, “You can see the fireplace from the tub and from the bed, which is a big thing. You’re selling romance on the third floor.”

She’s hosted lots of businesspeople. Members of the Secret Service in the area to protect President George Bush’s departing chief of staff, Andrew Card, have spent the night. Card’s son had his wedding in the house.

Walking on the perfect, slightly wooded grounds outside, Aikman said it’s taken a lot of work to keep the flower beds and lawns well kept.

For the right price, she joked, she’ll throw in the riding lawn mower.

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