Maine’s sizzling housing market is showing no signs of slowing down, with median sales prices up almost 24% in Androscoggin County the past three months, according to the Maine Association of Realtors, and even mobile homes going for wildly above asking price — 17 offers and $47,000 over in Auburn, we’re looking at you.

“If you’re buying in this market, bring your shield and sword because you are going into battle,” quipped one Poland real estate agent.

So, what to do?

We asked six agents their best advice for those looking to buy or sell a home right now.

Buyers, get prequalified and don’t sleep on new listings. Sellers, don’t accept that first offer — and maybe don’t accept the highest.

SHOP YOUR PRICE RANGE: Crystal Fontaine-Bergeron, broker/owner, Fontaine Family-The Real Estate Leader

Crystal Fontaine-Bergeron of Fontaine Family – The Real Estate Leader Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Fontaine-Bergeron has had her real estate license since she was 18 and now owns the family business with her twin sisters, Melissa and Angie. Her husband, Bill, is an agent, too.

One of the most eye-popping things she’s seen in this market: On one Lewiston home there were “over 40 showings in a 48-hour window with over 25 offers. It sold for $40,000 over the asking price.”

Her advice for buyers:

• If you’re a cash buyer, get your proof of funds so you can attach it to your offer.

• Don’t waive inspections. Just add a cap on how much you’re willing to pay for any unexpected repairs.

• Don’t shop out of your price range, actually shop under your budget.

And for sellers:

It’s a great time to sell because they are getting even more than the appraised value. (Since most lenders won’t loan more than the appraised value, she’s seen some buyers simply give the sellers thousands in cash to pay for the difference between the appraised value and sales price.)

• Interest rates can’t get much lower so this could be the best time ever.

GET OUT OF TOWN: Linda Beaulieu, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, The Masiello Group

Linda Beaulieu of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Beaulieu, who has worked 16 years in real estate and in the medical field before that, said it’s not a market to go into without an agent.

Her advice to buyers:

• Full price no longer works. Talk to your agent about what a good offer price will be.

And to sellers:

• Make sure you don’t take the first offer on your home, even if you feel it’s a good offer.

• A good real estate agent will list your home and put a four- to five-day showing period, including weekdays and a weekend, like Thursday to Sunday, with offers to be reviewed on Monday late afternoon so the buyers can see the home. Sellers, your house will be very busy with showings so it would be nice if you left for a few days. That’s how crazy the market is . . .

MIND THE DETAILS: Madeleine Hill, Roxanne York Real Estate

Madeleine Hill of Roxanne York Real Estate Submitted photo

Based out of Harpswell and specializing in waterfront properties, Hill is president-elect of the Maine Association of Realtors.

Her advice to buyers:

• It is imperative to work with a local agent, someone who is an expert in their market. They will advise you on best practices to help your offer stand out in this highly competitive environment. You can be more creative than you might realize in writing an attractive offer!

And to sellers:

• There are many things to consider, for example, the REW-5 application for non-Maine residents to apply for a reduction or waiver of real estate withholding costs. Or a 1031 Tax Exchange that allows you to avoid paying capital gains taxes when you sell an investment property and reinvest the proceeds in a like kind or greater valued purchase.

• Consider improvements to conform your property to all loan types. Making sure your home will comply with VA and RD (Rural Development) mortgages, for example, will position your property to convey to all buyers, versus only those with cash or conventional loans.

GET CREATIVE: Cindy Powell, Tim Dunham Realty

Cindy Powell of Tim Dunham Realty Submitted photo

Powell, who lives in Poland, said some of her biggest surprises in the current market included seeing a check attached to an offer to pay for a house in full — and the only contingency was a clear title. There was also a Litchfield home that sold for $120,000 over asking.

“In Durham, we received numerous offers on one house,” she said. “The winning cash offer included no contingencies with an escalation addendum where they would beat any offer by $5,000 up to $250,000 over the asking price of $435,000! They ended up paying $90,000 over the asking price and closing at $525,000.”

Her advice for buyers:

• Work with a reputable local lender — it’s little things like this that make a difference. Sellers have been known to choose one offer over another solely based on the lender the buyer was using.

And for both:

• Find a real estate agent who is quick to respond. In this market, minutes count.

‘TERMS MATTER’: Kevin Fletcher, certified commercial investment member, The Fletcher Group, Keller Williams Realty

Kevin Fletcher of The Fletcher Group, Keller Williams Realty Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Fletcher, past president of the Maine Commercial Association of Realtors, specializes in commercial and investment properties from Bangor to Seabrook, New Hampshire.

His advice to buyers:

• Terms matter: In this incredible market, the terms associated with an offer matter just as much as price, sometimes even more. I have had clients accept an offer of less money to accept an offer with better terms.

• Consider a longer commute. Moving a town or two outside of your market area may find you the ability to purchase a nicer home in your price range. $300,000 buys you more home in Auburn vs. Portland. Likewise, $200,000 buys you more in Livermore Falls or Jay versus Turner.

ASK QUESTIONS: Jon Mercier, designated broker, Maine Source Realty

Jon Mercier of Maine Source Realty Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Mercier, who focuses on towns and cities around Lewiston-Auburn and central Maine, has been an agent since 2007.

In this wild market, he sold a house in Falmouth sight-unseen an hour after telling someone in his office about the property.

“Of course, with technology, you can go online and know just about everything about everything, but they didn’t take a single step in the house,” he said.

His advice for buyers:

• Be patient. Things have a way of changing quickly and you certainly don’t have a shot at something if you don’t try. I see a lot of people giving up when that opportunity was just around the corner.

• It’s important to interview (agents), to ask a lot of questions. “What’s our strategy? Is our strategy maybe saving up a little more money, coming up with a little better financing to make our offer stand out? Are we going to be the first in, first offer?”

• Finding that right fit (for an agent) might be someone who is newer and has a lot of time. It’s about finding that real estate agent who can meet your schedule, who is available when you need them and who has a backup plan so if they’re not available today, someone else can help you. You don’t want to be stranded when that perfect house pops up.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: