AUBURN — Newly released rankings show a real estate market in Auburn that is sizzling.
Maine Life Real Estate Co. of Scarborough compiles a yearly list of communities with the biggest increases in home and condominium sales, pulling data from a listing service operated by Maine Real Estate Information Services Inc.
The latest listing shows Auburn second in Maine, behind Standish and ahead of Biddeford.
“Auburn posted an impressive 14.96% increase in number of sales, as well as a 12.97% gain in median price over last year,” according to the report.
The median price is the middle point for real estate prices.
Local brokers say they are feeling the heat.
Brian DuBois, an associate broker at the DuBois Realty Group, a Keller Williams Realty company on Center Street, said the statistics accurately reflect local real estate activity.
According to data DuBois pulled from a multiple listing service, there was a 12 percent increase in the median sale price in Auburn in 2018.
Statewide, there were more homes sold in 2018 than in 2017, and sale prices increased by about 6 percent.
The ratio of list prices to sales prices also increased, by 1 percent — a significant gain.
“In a different market, (buyers) might say, ‘I don’t need this house because there will be another one on the market pretty soon,’” DuBois said.
“People know when they lowball, or try to get a bargain on a property, they could lose it to another buyer. It’s about the seller in this market cycle.”
Jon Mercier, owner and designated broker of Maine Source Home & Realty on Center Street in Auburn, said the residential housing market in Auburn has seen sales gains over the past few years.
“It’s been increasing for the last three years,” Mercier said. “The last two years, our inventory has been as low as we’ve seen it.”
Why the boom? Location, location, location.
“We (Auburn) have a turnpike exit,” Mercier said. “We’re 30 minutes away (from Portland). The property values of Gray and New Gloucester have climbed.”
Fueling Auburn’s growth is the current housing crunch and high prices in the Portland market.
“The number-one reason is driven by the Portland market,” Mercier said.
“The Portland market is absurd,” he said.
DuBois said the median sales price in 2018 of a residential house in Auburn was $159,900. Portland’s median sales price was $316,500.
“The question becomes, ‘If I can’t afford the house that I want in Portland, where can I afford it,’” DuBois said.
For many, the answer is Auburn.
“The turnpike access to Auburn is very attractive at that point,” DuBois said. “Even if you include gas and tolls, financially, you’re so far ahead of the game by coming to Auburn.”
Mercier said another factor contributing to Auburn’s real estate boom is the diversity of homes available in the city.
“Auburn’s got a really good amount of housing compared to these smaller towns. You can find what you want,” he said. “If you need a three-bedroom, two-bath home with an acre, Auburn’s got it.
“If you want something with city water and sewer, Auburn’s got it. If you want something with water frontage, we’ve got Taylor Pond. We’ve got a lot of rural land, if you want farmland, we’ve got it.”
The boom does not quite extend throughout the Twin Cities. Notably absent of the latest rankings: Lewiston.
According to the list, Lewiston appeared two straight years, ranking sixth in 2017.
Mercier said the difference could be attributed to Lewiston’s getting a bad rap.
“(Lewiston) has a big diversity of housing available, and it’s demographically pretty much the same as Auburn,” Mercier said. “But you will find that Auburn will always have an edge because of reputation, and that type of factor.”
DuBois, however, said Auburn and Lewiston share similar markets, despite the latest rankings.
“If we stay true to the Portland-versus-Lewiston-Auburn benefits, I would put them in the same category,” DuBois said.
“Whether it’s Lewiston at six in previous years and Auburn at two this year, I think the fact that it’s a short commute, we’ve got two wonderful hospitals, two college campuses, wonderful restaurants and our downtowns are thriving are a lot of great selling features.”
Brian DuBois outside the Keller Williams Realty office in Auburn. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover)