Real estate signs for home sales in Bangor, Maine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Existing home sales in Maine continued on a hot streak in May, especially in rural counties, showing a contrast to a slight decrease in sales nationally, according to data from state and national real estate groups.

High demand from buyers continues to drive sales. More than 1,600 Maine homes changed hands, up 28 percent from the previous May, according to data released Tuesday by the Maine Association of Realtors. Sales also rose compared with April, when 1,445 homes were sold. Nationally, sales were down almost 1 percent month-to-month when comparing May to April, although on an annual basis they were up 39 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Median sales prices were up in Maine and the U.S.. In Maine, the median sales price, which indicates half of the homes were sold for more and half for less, rose 28 percent to $305,000 in May compared with the same month last year. Nationally, the median price was up almost 24 percent to $350,300, and homes typically sold in 17 days, almost triple the six days in Maine.

“May 2020 was the low point for Maine’s residential real estate market due to the COVID shutdown,” Aaron Bolster, president of the Maine Association of Realtors, said. Sales and prices have rebounded and continue to be strong, with May sales volume on par with pre-pandemic levels, Bolster said.

Lack of inventory continues to hold back some home sales, but more homes will come onto the market going forward, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said. Affordability is also falling, squeezing some first-time buyers out of the market.  

Rural Maine counties continued to experience strong sales, with the number of homes sold rising 72 percent in Washington County to 155 units in the three months from March to May comparing this and last year. Aroostook and Hancock counties each saw unit sales rise upward of 60 percent.

The median sales price rose 43 percent in Sagadahoc County to $360,000 and close to 40 percent in Kennebec County to $250,000, while 10 other counties saw pieces rise more than 20 percent.

Sales in Cumberland County rose nearly 13 percent to 828 units in the three-month comparison period, while the median sales price was up more than 27 percent to $433,750. In Penobscot County, sales rose almost 36 percent to 473 units sold, and the median sales price was up about 28 percent to $198,000.