Central Maine Real Estate Weathering Pandemic, Poised For Growth

By Frank Carr, Assistant Broker, MRA

The 2020 real estate market in central Maine has faced pandemic-related challenges just like the rest of the world.  The good news: while the market faced many challenges in 2020, central Maine is in a position to come out of a tough year and make 2021 a year to remember.

Last year’s market was highlighted by low leased vacancy and low workforce occupancy. In Lewiston, for example, TD Bank and Maine Community Health Options are still paying rent, but workers are at home. The same thing is happening in Augusta with the Maine State buildings and also the Waterville Colby properties.

Driving the market are smaller users, 3,500-sq.-ft. and below. At MRA, agents are working hard to place these tenants because the bigger entities aren’t making decisions quite yet.

In central Maine, residential is really driving the market. (I call it “flight to isolation” as more and more people leave denser population areas especially in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut.) It’s also a “flight to quality/commute” that’s changing the face of residential real estate in our state.

Look At The Data: Lewiston/Auburn

Lewiston/Auburn experienced a relatively flat office market in 2020, including the University of Southern Maine’s decision to delay their highly anticipated move to downtown.

In these two highly connected Maine cities, it’s again residential driving the market with companies like Chinberg Properties working on major projects like the Continental Mill, as well as Pineland Lumber (a 250-unit development for medical workforce housing) and more. One major goal in this area: connect the new Auburn area down to the Mill District in Lewiston, which will set the entire area up for further growth.

“Thankfully we haven’t heard any huge changes to businesses office space plans,” says Misty Parker, Lewiston’s economic development manager. “The next six months will really be telling. A lot of businesses are looking at 2021 as a planning year to come back. There’s definitely a need for smaller offices for smaller businesses. People have been cooped up for so long that having an independent, safe space to conduct business is valuable.”

L/A Forecast: Lewiston/Auburn will make a swift and speedy return. When USM resumes their search for downtown space, the market is going to escalate quickly. The entire area is looking at major office movement this year. In residential, it’s going to be important to offer a premium product to capture renters’ attention. The multiple new projects coming online in the next year will make residential absorption a little flat because there’s so much product coming online, but it will happen.

Pro Tip: Small is good. In summer 2020, MRA took a large professional office building (The Professional Building on Lisbon Street) and subdivided it to give professionals working at home a chance to get out of the house. The entire property hit full occupancy within a month of acquisition.

Look At The Data: Augusta

Due to so many readily apparent factors, vacancies are popping up in the office market, but local users remain engaged.

The good news: sales are happening, including the monster sale of space developed by FD Stonewater for Maine DHHS and PERS to Winthrop Advisors out of Boston for $39-million dollars—a clear record for 2020. Another mega transaction for central Maine, 442 Civic Center Drive for $8.7-million dollars.

“We’re coming off one of the historically biggest economic cliff drops in recorded history,” says Keith Luke, Augusta’s economic development director. “Here in Augusta, remarkably, the development picture has remained hot and there’s certainly lots of untapped development potential here.”

Augusta Forecast: There is activity in the market. Multifamily is fueling the growth in Augusta, as well, with quality developments keeping the market here on track. Slow office absorption and flat rent increases are facts on the ground that will hinge on the country and state’s ongoing response to and management of coronavirus.

Pro Tip: Even though smaller deals are happening in Augusta, there is activity. Look out for smaller buyers and renters to get a return on investment. When it comes to industrial, look at land development projects with 5,000-25,000-sq.-ft. of industrial space. Install necessities including docks and floor drains to create demand.

Look At The Data: Waterville

Don’t forget about Waterville! It’s been a year on pause with Colby College and other major players taking time to get back on track post-pandemic. As students go back to school and companies kick back into gear, Waterville is going to be just fine.

Waterville is hot right now! The industrial market is benefitting from cannabis industry growth, and residential is absolutely on fire with multifamily transactions closing at an all-time high rate.

Waterville Forecast: Look for rents across all sectors to go up in this area considerably as the inventory is reduced and existing product is leased up. Sales are happening in Waterville, though on a much smaller scale as far as space and price.

Pro Tip: Waterville is a tough market to move into, but there are opportunities in smaller developments. There are deals going through left and right, including two big projects under development, The Seton Project (68 residential units, 35,000-sq.-ft. of development–the old Maine General Hospital); and FirstPark has industrial lots available with excellent infrastructure in place.

Summing It Up

Overall, all of the players in the central Maine real estate market have been biding their time on breaking new ground while keeping existing projects on-time and -budget. Surprisingly given the pandemic, there’s a well-grounded optimism at play that speaks to the

“It’s a scary, yet promising time to be involved in central Maine,” says Parker. “Our planning department is hoping to analyze current zoning standards to see where we can support additional commercial, industrial and residential housing opportunities by encouraging density where it makes sense while not changing the character of neighborhoods”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Central Maine Real Estate Weathering Pandemic, Poised For Growth

MEREDA’s 2021 Spring Conference is May 20th! – Unveiling of the 2021 MEREDA Index & Recognition of 2020 Notable Project Recipients

Virtual Event
May 20, 2021
8:30 – 11:00 AM

The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) is excited to virtually bring you its 2021 Spring Conference from 8:30 AM – 11:00 AM on May 20, 2021. Not our typical “spring conference”, this year’s virtual event will combine the unveiling of the 2021 MEREDA Index, as well as recognition of our 2020 Notable Project Recipients!

MEREDA Index: The current MEREDA Index contains a measurement and presentation of the real estate market in Maine, and its various components for all of 2020. Dr. Charles Colgan, the economist who prepares the Index, will be on hand to discuss the three sectors of the Index, followed by a panel discussion between three experts in each of those sectors.

MEREDA Celebrates Real Estate Development in Maine: MEREDA is thrilled to recognize some of the state’s most noteworthy and significant real estate projects. All not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible development, but also involved a significant investment of resources and job creation statewide The Top 6 Notable Projects for 2020 have been chosen and will be recognized at this event.

Registration information is at www.mereda.org

Ticket Prices: Members: $45 pp | Non-Members: $75 pp

Early-Bird pricing: Register before May 13th for discounted pricing!

Approved for 2.00 clock hours of Broker Continuing Education Credits.  Approval for Legal Credits are pending. 

REFUND POLICY:  No refunds will be issued unless the originating stream fails and the program can’t take place. 

Posted in Business, Events | Comments Off on MEREDA’s 2021 Spring Conference is May 20th! – Unveiling of the 2021 MEREDA Index & Recognition of 2020 Notable Project Recipients

Midcoast Maine Market Forecast

By Dave Holman, Broker, RE/MAX Riverside Commercial

On January 21st Dave Holman, Broker at RE/MAX Riverside Commercial, presented the “Midcoast Maine Market Forecast” at the Maine Real Estate & Development Association’s (MEREDA’s) 2021 Virtual Forecast Conference. Below is a synopsis of his presentation.

There’s something exciting happening in Maine’s Midcoast. While much of the fervor in Maine’s real estate market has focused around Portland and areas to the south like Biddeford, the markets of Brunswick, Topsham and Bath have quietly gone from a steady simmer to a rolling boil. At a glance the multifamily numbers might not impress- 43 building sales in 2016 and 40 in 2020.

However, eyebrows should raise when one realizes that prices per apartment unit have gone from averaging $63,779 in 2016 to $101,757 in 2020 with no sign of slackening. That represents a 13% annual growth rate that has only accelerated during COVID. Residential price growth averaged 9% over the same 5-year period- far surpassing state and national averages.

Why has the Midcoast got wind in its sails? There are the usual suspects like great schools, lots of scenic coastline just a short drive from Portland, and long-time employers like Bowdoin College and BIW. However, there is new energy in the Midcoast- much of it coming from Brunswick Landing- Maine’s largest business park which has grown out of the ashes of the former Naval Air base which closed in 2011. In just 9 years Brunswick landing has created over 2,300 new jobs in over 2,000,000 square feet of real estate and built over 500,000 square feet of new construction.

Brunswick Landing hosts a mix of high tech and biotech firms from Wayfair and SMCC to Savilinx and Mölnlycke which are helping in the fight against COVID. Local favorites like Wild Oats Bakery and Flight Deck Brewing have broken ground in recent years and kept workers well fed and content. Hundreds of existing housing units at Brunswick Landing have slowly filled up and now over 100 new multifamily units and 100 single family homes are under construction.   

Both the Topsham Fair Mall and Cooks Corner have seen brisk business, new construction on multiple sites and new arrivals to the area. All three towns have recently invested tens of millions into new school buildings. Located on the 295 and Route 1 highway corridors, these towns are poised for growth as Portland prices out its workforce with every new condo conversion. Additionally, Brunswick is the northern terminus of the Amtrak Downeaster that takes remote workers, students and super commuters to Boston every day.  

Up in Bath, the historic downtown has seen a boom of new building ownership as the Morse family has gracefully transitioned ownership of over a dozen buildings in the hands of their small business tenants. The Szanton company is building 50 new housing units in the downtown and there is a distinct feeling of revitalization in the air on the Kennebec River. As growth spreads up from Boston into York and Cumberland counties, Maine’s quaint Midcoast is feeling the heat and charting its own future. The growth is fueled by a higher percentage of out of state buyers and new residents coming for jobs. After all, in times when people can increasingly work from anywhere, wouldn’t you want to live and work in a great small town on the Maine coast that embodies our state motto, ‘the way life should be.’

Posted in Member Articles | Comments Off on Midcoast Maine Market Forecast

Virtual Event – Senior Housing in Maine: Today, Tomorrow, & Beyond

Virtual Event
Thursday, April 8, 2021
8:30 – 9:30 AM

About the Event:

Maine Designers, Developers, Contractors and Business Owners are already working for the AGING BABY BOOMERS!

Older adults are the biggest part of our Maine population, by far, and they need INTELLIGENT AND APPROPRIATE HOUSING SOLUTIONS!

What does it mean to be “Aging in Maine”?  What are we doing today and who is making important decisions about the practices, care and future of our housing needs?

Join us on April 8th to hear from three deeply embedded and important contributors to this statewide issue. 

Wendy Nowokunski,  Co-Founder and President of Northbridge Companies, an organization that developed, owns and operates 18 facilities in New England. 

Deb Fournier, Chief Operations Officer of Maine Veterans’ Homes which supports our veterans and spouses of veterans with subsidized housing and six facilities here in Maine.

Denise Lord, Senior Director of Communications and Planning from Maine Housing, a financing agency commissioned by the State of Maine, which supports our Mainers that are aging in place with energy assistance programs and home improvement programs.  

Craig Young, Partner at The Boulos Company, and Vice President of MEREDA, will moderate the program.

FMI and to Register, visit www.mereda.org

If you plan to purchase tickets, please use Google ChromeTo avoid registration issues, we have found that Chrome interacts the best with our website.


Members:  Suggested Donations of $0, $10, $15, or $20
Non-Members: $25 pp

In addition to your confirmation email, a day before the event you will receive a separate email providing the link you will need to access the session. Please be watching for this 2nd email.

REFUND POLICY:  No refunds will be issued unless the originating stream fails and the program can’t take place. 

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Series is Sponsored by Norway Savings Bank

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Virtual Event – Senior Housing in Maine: Today, Tomorrow, & Beyond

The Greater Portland Retail Forecast

By Peter Harrington, Partner & Associate Broker, Malone Commercial Brokers

On January 21st Peter Harrington, Malone Commercial Brokers, presented the “Greater Portland Retail Forecast” at the Maine Real Estate & Development Association’s (MEREDA’s) 2021 Virtual Forecast Conference. Below is a synopsis of his presentation.

2020 brought rapid, unprecedented change across the retail industry, potentially altering the way customers shop going forward.  And, retailers are necessarily adapting to these changes and the resulting trends for the coming year in order to maintain a competitive edge in 2021. 

Certainly, 2020 was a challenge in all respects due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in March and subsequent phased re-openings that began during the summer months in Maine.  As expected, vacancy rates increased as some retail businesses failed and closed.  Landlords and tenants both were challenged to manage and remain competitive in a constantly shifting market.

Many sectors of retail struggled, especially bars, dine-in restaurants, gyms, small and boutique retailers, wedding businesses, hotels and most tourism related operations, a mainstay of Maine’s economy.

In Greater Portland, the Maine Mall has been stung by many retail closings (Sears, Williams Sonoma and more) but others opened (notably Jordan’s Furniture at the Mall and Planet Fitness nearby). Other retailers throughout Southern Maine appear to be in jeopardy and are attempting to stay afloat in the coming months, 2021 could see a larger rise in the retail vacancy rate.

However, many were successful; grocery and small markets, liquor, take-out and home delivery food outlets, outdoor athletic and sporting goods, drugstores, home goods (furniture to building supply stores) bank branches, and large on-line retailers.

In Portland’s Old Port and Waterfront districts there was quite a bit of activity:  Sea Bags moved into the former Company C space; Chilton Furniture opened a showroom at 100 Commercial; Mexicali Blues relocated, and Bobbles & Lace, Uncommon Paws, Kate Nelligan/Local Color all opened new doors.

Notable because of COVID-19, new restaurants opened.  Broken Arrow in Portland, and in the suburbs Clean Eatz, Tacos Y Tequila, SoPo Seafood, Café Louis.

An important, trending driver is residential Maine home sales. January through November was 7.9% ahead of the comparable time-period for 2019 – Maine’s best year ever! A third of November sales were to out-of-state buyers compared to 1/4 in 2019.  As a matter of fact, real estate accounted for $12.2 B (18% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) in 2019; in 2020 the real estate GDP was $1.2B higher in sales (thru Nov. 2020).

Add to this that everyone was sitting at home during the lockdowns in their existing homes, deciding to improve their home/backyard in some shape or form.  This was a MAJOR driver of the retailers who were successful in 2020.  It cannot be underestimated the tremendous impact this has had on the Maine economy and on retail sales during the past year.

Not only was this a boom for retailers, but it was also a boom for homeowners whose increased wealth effect of 22% increased their confidence in the economy.  This has a huge positive impact on contractors and subcontractors – good luck finding an electrician, carpenter, or plumber!

As we enter 2021, we can expect the challenge and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to be felt in the retail industry for months to come.   To be sure, e-commerce will continue to grow to meet people’s needs and desire for “contactless” shopping.  And there will be resurging focus on “local” in both sourcing and shopping as well as take-out and same day food delivery.

Looking ahead are trends we see that will endure, grow and transform the Greater Portland market and throughout Maine:

Retail Marijuana – Portland alone approved 32 retail licenses, not all will open, but many will.

Restaurants – As the country reopens and vaccinations expand, restaurants will rebound. Restaurants are an integral part of the Portland and Maine’s economy. This will bring much needed relief to restaurant owners and employees.

ROCK ROW – Music venue and new retail center in Westbrook, Market Basket opened in 2020 with more retailers to open here soon including Chick-Fil-A.

Brick & Mortar Retail – It should rally in 2021, as vaccinations increase. Businesses spent more in 2020 on everything other than physical space. This should change, but by how much remains to be seen.

Online Shopping – Tries to mimic reality but lacks the experience of in-person shopping. We haven’t evolved to be people who sit at home in isolation. We need the physical connection to each other and many of the products we use! To what extent brick & mortar retail recovers will depend on COVID-19 and the economy.

Flexibility – Tenants and landlords will need to be flexible. Not many retailers are signing long-term leases with the inherent risk in them. There will likely be a common risk approach, i.e. break point leases: if a tenant does well, they pay more. This is becoming more popular nationally and moving forward that trend will be seen more in Maine.

Lease Rates – Future rates, looking ahead, will begin to moderate.

As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and vaccinations expand, Old Port sidewalks will once again be streaming with shoppers. Retailers will fling open their doors; and our wonderful restaurants will once again be teeming with Life!

Posted in Member Articles | Comments Off on The Greater Portland Retail Forecast

How to comply with Maine’s new paid leave law

by Laura A. Rideout, Partner, Preti Flaherty

Article originally published on November 13, 2020

Fittingly, “Vacation Land” is among a small contingent of states that have a paid leave law on the books.  Maine, however, is somewhat unique in that the paid leave afforded under the new law can be used for any purpose, including emergency, illness, birth of a child, sudden necessity, planned vacation, etc.  The law has been on the books since 2019 and goes into effect on January 1, 2021.  The law applies across industries (except seasonal industries) to all employers in the state with more than 10 employees for more than 120 days in any calendar year.  Further, the law applies to all employees, whether full-time, part-time, temporary, or per diem. 

While many Maine employers already offer a paid leave benefit to employees, it will be necessary to audit existing policies and practices to make sure that they are in line with the new requirements.  Other employers that currently do not offer any type of paid leave will need to develop a brand-new policy or protocol to ensure compliance. 

This high-level overview is designed to serve as a helpful checklist so that Maine employers can ensure that they have policies and procedures in place to comply with the new paid leave law:


Under the new law, employees accrue one hour of “Earned Paid Leave” for every forty hours worked, up to forty hours in a defined year.  This is a minimum requirement and employees can bargain for, or employers can offer, a more generous benefit.  Employees are entitled to start using this leave once they have been employed for 120 days, but employers can allow employees to access paid leave sooner, if desired.  Employers can also choose to front load Earned Paid Leave so that it is available to employees at the beginning of the year. 


Employers can require employees to give up to four weeks of advance notice to use Earned Paid Leave for any reason other than an emergency, illness, or sudden necessity.  Employers can also place reasonable limits on scheduling of leave to prevent undue hardship.   It is helpful to evaluate operational needs and outline when there may be restrictions on an employee’s ability to take Earned Paid Leave.  In the case of emergency, illness, or sudden necessity, employees must provide notice as soon as practicable under the circumstances.  Employers must be able to prove undue hardship (significant operational impact or expense) if requested Earned Paid Leave is denied.

Time Increments

Employers may require use of Earned Paid Leave in at least one-hour increments or can choose to allow employees to use leave in smaller time increments. 

Roll Over

Employees can carry over up to forty hours of Earned Paid Leave from one year to the next, but the maximum amount of Earned Paid Leave available in any year under the statute does not exceed forty hours. 


Employers that allow front loading of Earned Paid Leave can withhold from the last paycheck any amount of leave that was used but that had not yet accrued.  Employers are not required to pay out the unused balance of Earned Paid Leave when an employee separates unless that practice exists related to another existing policy (i.e., vacation time).  If Earned Paid Leave is not paid out at separation and the employee returns to work within the same year, the employee must be allowed to use any accrued but unused Earned Paid Leave.


Download and post the most current Bureau of Labor Standard’s “Regulation of Employment” poster.

Collective Bargaining

The law does not apply to employees covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement during the period between 1/1/2021 and when the agreement expires. 

There are additional nuances that may apply to your business or workforce. Consult Maine Department of Labor regulations and guidance for more information.

Article originally published on November 13, 2020 https://www.preti.com/laura-a-rideout/publications/how-to-comply-with-maines-new-paid-leave-law/

Posted in Member Articles | Comments Off on How to comply with Maine’s new paid leave law

Pandemic brings new realtors and new perspectives to Maine

By Dava Davin, Founder + CEO, Portside Real Estate Group

Article submitted December 4, 2020

When we first saw headlines about COVID-19 in early 2020, we had no idea what it would mean for Maine and the immense ways it would change our lives. We have seen loss, and wrestled with hard choices for our families and our businesses. 

But – we have seen bright spots, too – far beyond the record home sale price headlines. Neighbors getting to know each other, local companies stepping up to support those in need, and new realtors bringing fresh ideas to meet today’s market challenges.

At Portside, we’ve been lucky to welcome some of these new faces, including Alexandra Diaz, Associate Broker and Jesse Fifield, Associate Broker. Both Alexandra and Jesse spent summers visiting Maine and had strong family ties to the area. When COVID-19 hit Manhattan and Boston, they each decided it was time to make the place they vacationed their permanent home. 

1 in 3 

The latest stats show what we have all seen in our own offices: Maine is experiencing a boom of out-of-state buyers. One in every three buyers right now are from away/ These new buyers are bringing enthusiasm for life in Maine, and unique challenges that Alexandra knows firsthand. 

“With a growing family at the time of the first lockdown in March, we found ourselves reevaluating our lives in Manhattan and wanting more nature, space and a slower pace.”

Alexandra notes that Maine realtors need to understand the motivations behind these moves, the markets that buyers are coming from and the logistical challenges of purchasing a new home during a pandemic.

“These buyers are not moving because they need another bedroom or because they’re empty nesters,” said Diaz. “They are moving because life as they know it has been upended. They may finally be able to make their dream move come true or they could be leaving a metropolis that feels empty after so much loss.”


With more buyers viewing properties from afar, and social distancing limiting how realtors can show homes in person, technology has become vital in real estate selling and buying. 

While most realtors in Maine have long since mastered online listings and know the importance of professional photography, those tactics have always been focused on getting buyers to see a home. Now, technology needs to sell the home as well, and that requires a different skill set.

Working for the past decade in Boston, Jesse has frequently represented international buyers and marketed properties directly to international buyers and investors. 

“It is surprising how comfortable buyers are these days with sight unseen purchases”

Jesse recommends that Maine realtors invest in video technology and become comfortable with hosting tours via Zoom and FaceTime. To kick technology offerings up a notch, realtors can create short video segments and resource guides about the communities they work in. These should be designed to give buyers a feel for what it would be like to live and be a part of that community and offer connections for relocation needs like schools, doctors and pet services.  

Bidding Wars

Maine’s real estate market has been on the upswing for the past ten years, but we have never seen anything like our current situation. Inventory is low and demand is high, with home prices jumping 15 percent in the past year. These market conditions are challenging for buyers, who will likely need to compete to purchase a home. 

Throwing contingencies and all-cash offers are common in major real estate markets but have not been the norm in Maine. Both Jesse and Alexandra have navigated these dynamics and share that preparing buyers is crucial.

“Realtors need to be upfront in the beginning of the process and set reasonable expectations with buyers,” said Diaz. “The buyer should know if a home is likely to go over asking price, be prepared to make fast decisions and know that it could take some time.”

These factors can create extra emotional tension as buyers weigh their options and comfort level with their housing needs. Knowing your clients well can help navigate this dynamic and make for smoother transactions. 

“Buying is always an emotional process, but when people feel rushed or that their budget is getting pushed to the max, things can get heated,” said Fifield. “I like to take time to know my buyers, their personal situation and comfort level. This can help weed out opportunities that are likely to be a bad fit.”

Looking forward

2020 has been a wild ride for the real estate industry and these trends will no doubt carry over into 2021. As we start the new year, I know we can thrive as an industry if we bring together the rooted knowledge of our seasoned Maine realtors with the fresh ideas of our new colleagues. 

Posted in Member Articles | Comments Off on Pandemic brings new realtors and new perspectives to Maine

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Virtual Event – Cannabis Industry Update

Virtual Event
March 18, 2021
8:30 – 9:30 AM

The cannabis industry is proving to be a cash crop for the State of Maine.  Join us on the 18th of March, 2021 for a virtual discussion and deep dive into a SNAPSHOT LOOK AT WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!

We are thrilled to have Hannah King, Attorney from Drummond Woodsum, speaking to the legal, regulatory and licensing issues.  Her clients span the United States and several tribal nations, and she is an authority on what it takes to move plans through our Maine municipalities .  Tim Gibb, Managing Partner of Tradecraft Farms, will drill into the national trends, highlighting what he sees happening in California, what we can expect to see soon here – and going forward.  Jim Henry, CEO of Sweet Dirt, will speak to the obstacles and challenges of acquiring and managing real estate transactions for the cannabis industry.  Craig Young, Partner at The Boulos Company, and Vice President of MEREDA, will moderate the program.

We are excited to present this timely topic to our members.  Please join us! 

FMI and to Register, visit www.mereda.org


Members:  Suggested Donations of $0, $10, $15, or $20
Non-Members: $25 pp

If you plan to purchase tickets, please use either Microsoft EdgeFirefox or Google Chrome. Our software isn’t compatible with Internet Explorer.

Registration is Open at www.mereda.org

In addition to your confirmation email, a day before the event you will receive a separate email providing the link you will need to access the session. Please be watching for this 2nd email.

REFUND POLICY:  No refunds will be issued unless the originating stream fails and the program can’t take place. 

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Series is Sponsored by Norway Savings Bank

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on MEREDA’s Morning Menu Virtual Event – Cannabis Industry Update

How COVID 19 Affected Commercial Lending

By Craig Young, CCIM, Partner, The Boulos Company

Article originally published November 17, 2020 –  https://boulos.com/how-covid-19-affected-commercial-lending/

In many ways, the beginning of 2020 was the best of times for commercial lenders – stable rates, lots of deal flow and few loan delinquencies. That would quickly deteriorate by March/April due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, to one of the worst public health and economic crises in modern history. “Coming into the pandemic, the bank was busier than it had ever been,” said Kim Twitchell, Maine Regional President for NBT Bank. “Once the pandemic hit, the bank made a concerted effort to put the health and wellbeing of all of its clients and employees first.”  Like most businesses, commercial banks closed their doors and sent their people home on or about Friday the 13th of March 2020. But while the doors were locked, business would need to continue.

As busy as lenders were in the first quarter completing existing deal flow, the second quarter would be consumed with processing PPP loans as a result of the government sponsored Cares Act. Lenders offered clients the right to defer two months mortgage payments or to pay interest only on their loans for up to six months. Bankers were busy servicing their business clients’ needs, and new loan closings were often delayed. Nationally, commercial loan closings between Q1 and Q2 decreased by 29.3%. As part of the Cares Act, if you had a loan with SBA that closed on or before April 2020, and funded by September 2020, then SBA automatically forgave (not just deferred) 100% of all payments for 6 months on all 504 and 7A loans – not the commercial banking part of the loan, but just the SBA portion. Reportedly, the Hero’s Act, the second stimulus package which is still in negotiations in Congress, will include another six months of loan forgiveness to all SBA loans covered in the 504 and 7A programs.

According to the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, by June 2020 79% of community banks increased lending to small business and farms – a 40% year-on-year increase. Commercial loan growth was accompanied by a 33% surge in banking deposits. “While deposits are generally seen as good for banks”, said Matt Early of Gorham Savings Bank, “this also created an issue for us to put the new deposits to work. Banks could either lend more money to the community, which historically provides a better return for the bank, but today is seen as riskier, or take a lesser return and invest in U.S. Treasuries. We choose to lend more.”

Today, many bankers have returned to their physical offices, and conventional and SBA loan volume has increased substantially. Interest rates have decreased by approximately 100 basis points (or roughly 1%). Commercial lending rates are harder to gauge, due to the varying types of loans, terms, size, etc., but loans through SBA all have the same interest rate regardless of industry or size and are only dependent on loan term. For example, in January 2020, a 20-year fixed SBA loan was 3.78%. By August, rates dropped to a low of 2.33%, and today, SBA’s rate is 2.65%. Comparatively, that same SBA loan in November 2018 was 5.39%. That’s more than a 50% reduction in the rate in two years. According to Paul Collins, VP at Granite State Development Corp, loan volume with his company has increased 25% in Maine and 14% in New England. “The market is ultra-competitive”, says Collins. “Any deal that is deemed strong is shopped between several banks, and banks are winning deals by including the lower rates of SBA 504 program while also reducing the bank risk. It’s a deal.”

So, what can you expect from your friendly neighborhood banker today? In addition to lower interest rates, there are more Zoom calls and less in person meetings; you’ll complete more banking transactions virtually through DocuSign and email and there are many more questions and scrutiny of how the COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting your business or potentially how will it will impact your business in the future, particularly in the Hospitality sector. But, the banks have money to lend and are actively looking for good deals with good business plans.

Posted in Member Articles | Comments Off on How COVID 19 Affected Commercial Lending

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event – Cutting Edge Tech: The University of Maine Composites Center

Virtual Event
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
8:30 – 9:30 AM

About the Event:

Dr. Habib Dagher, P.E. is the founding Executive Director of the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, a National Science Foundation funded research center housed in an 100,000 ft2 laboratory with more than 220 full and part-time personnel. The UMaine Composites Center is a world leader in the development of low-cost, high-performance structural composites for construction. The Center has served more than 500 clients worldwide, and has received top national awards for its research.

A world-leading advocate for developing advanced structural systems which simultaneously optimize structures, materials, and construction, we are excited to hear about the work he and his team are working on at the University of Maine at Orono.

Joining Dr. Dagher will be Caleb Johnson, a Licensed Architect at Caleb Johnson Studio. He has a studio in Portland, a custom millwork shop in Brunswick and a construction company. The two will be discussing Dr. Dagher’s building science and energy research, and the implicit benefits and impacts of his work.

Vice President of MEREDA, Shannon Richards of Hay Runner, will be moderating the program.


Members:  Suggested Donations of $0, $10, $15, or $20
Non-Members: $25 pp

If you plan to purchase tickets, please use either Microsoft EdgeFirefox or Google Chrome. Our software isn’t compatible with Internet Explorer.

Registration is Open at www.mereda.org

In addition to your confirmation email, a day before the event you will receive a separate email providing the link you will need to access the session. Please be watching for this 2nd email.

REFUND POLICY:  No refunds will be issued unless the originating stream fails and the program can’t take place. 

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Series is Sponsored by Norway Savings Bank

Posted in Business, Events | Comments Off on MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event – Cutting Edge Tech: The University of Maine Composites Center