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.
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.”
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.