Too few homes, too many buyers.

In a nutshell, that appears to sum up the region’s housing situation.

In Androscoggin and Oxford counties, the number of homes sold between March and May fell this year compared to the same period last year. Androscoggin County saw sales decline by 3.69 percent, according to figures provided by the Maine Association of Realtors. Oxford’s sales drop was greater, 9.41 percent.

Franklin County, meanwhile, showed a 1.49 percent increase in sales and a whopping 28.84 percent increase in prices. A house sold there a year ago typically fetched $107,500. As of the end of May, that same house would have sold for $138,500.

That price growth, while high, isn’t unique.

Androscoggin saw nearly a 20 percent gain, from a median sales price of $126,750 last March to May to $152,000 this year.

Oxford’s gain was less, 8.84 percent, bringing the median sales price to $138,450 from $127,200 a year ago.

Frustrating for buyers

“It’s a combination of things,” said Bob Bizier of Biz Realty in Paris.

Sales in Oxford County and some other places are down “because of a lack of inventory,” he said. “It’s frustrating, for us and for buyers.”

Low supply coupled with a high demand is driving the price increases on the homes that do come to market, Bizier said.

“The buyers are still here, pounding on the door. They want to buy,” but are being stymied by the tight inventory of available properties, he said.

That’s becoming a statewide phenomenon, according to the state association.

“More buyers exist than quality housing is available, thus driving up prices,” said Sheryl Gregory of Homestead Realty in Winthrop.

Despite that, she says it isn’t yet a true seller’s market.

Over-the-moon tactic

Any would-be sellers inflating their asking prices beyond reason have found the tactic didn’t pan out. “Those over-the-moon prices have reduced to market rate in order to close,” Gregory said. “Sellers are learning that … buyers are not at a point where they will just pay any price.”

Statewide, the association said sales fell 1.08 percent from March to May 2005 when compared with a year earlier, but prices rose 11.83 percent. The median sales price for a home went from $169,000 to $189,000 during that period.

The cheapest place to buy a home is in rural Piscataquis County, where sales fell nearly 21 percent from a year earlier and prices rose 5.88 percent. A typical house there could be had for $72,000, up $4,000 from a year ago.

Aroostook County, where home prices had stagnated, posted the largest sales jump in the state, 73.68 percent, and largest price increase, 49.27 percent. Houses that sold for $51,250 a year ago were selling for $76,500 as of the end of May.

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