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.’