With the pandemic fueling high demand for Maine homes, the Bangor and Portland-South Portland metropolitan areas have been named among the nation’s top 20 emerging housing markets.
That’s according to a new analysis from the Wall Street Journal and Realtor.com that reviewed 300 metropolitan areas across the country.
In that ranking, Bangor came in at No. 9, while the Portland-South Portland metropolitan area fell just shy of the top 5 at No. 6.
Those ranks were based on rising housing prices, high demand and supply scores, and other economic indicators, such as real estate taxes.
It comes as Maine, particularly many rural towns, have seen an unprecedented demand for homes, which is being largely driven by out-of-staters fleeing from cities where they lived under strict COVID-19 guidelines since March 2020 and the virus spread more quickly.
Home sales in May, the most recent month for which data are available, were up nearly 11 percent from April at more than 1,600 and up 28 percent from May 2020. The median sale price that month was $305,000, also up 28 percent from May 2020.
That followed a very hot year for Maine real estate, with a record 19,931 sales and a median home price of $256,000, up 10 percent and 14 percent, respectively, over 2019.
The hot market has left many prospective homebuyers shut out, prompting some to scoop up tracts of land instead.
“While the pandemic has boosted buyer willingness to look elsewhere across the country, these emerging housing market areas have seen bigger gains in outside interest,” Danielle Hale, a chief economist for Realtor.com, wrote in the analysis.
Despite the influx into rural Maine of out-of-state homebuyers, Maine isn’t yet seeing a population bump, with more people leaving Maine than setting down roots last year, according to one analysis.
The top tier markets also sported generally better economic indicators than other metropolitan areas. For instance, they have lower unemployment rates (below 4 percent) than those outside the top 20 (5.5. percent). The Bangor metropolitan area’s unemployment rate came in above the average for the top 20 markets at 4.4 percent, slightly higher than the Portland-South Portland metropolitan area’s 4.2 percent, as of May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other indicators, however, were more mixed, with median weekly earnings being $40 lower across the emerging markets ($1,093 versus $1,133). The Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com analysis attributed that disparity to the size of the emerging markets.
Bangor’s median weekly wage ($896) was markedly lower compared with other emerging markets and those outside the top tier, while Portland’s median weekly wage ($1,162) was actually higher than both emerging markets and those outside the top tier, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Portland’s median weekly wage. It has been corrected.