The rocky coast attracts visitors to a scenic overlook in South Portland, Maine, not far from the iconic Portland Head Light, background, on Monday, May 18, 2020. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty

Second home prices in Cumberland County almost doubled over the past year as cash buyers and remote workers flocked to Maine, snapping up year-round residences in addition to seasonal ones.

The median price for a second home was up 91.3 percent in Cumberland County in the first quarter of this year compared with last year, a recent study by real estate marketplace Pacaso found. That is the second highest rise in the country following Valley County, Idaho, a weekend escape for Boise residents that includes McCall, a lake and ski resort town. York County also made Pacaso’s top 10 with a 45.8 percent rise in prices.

The high demand for second homes in Maine started with people trying to get away from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has escalated with buyers realizing they can work remotely and access city life in Portland, said Bethany Angle, owner of Angle Associates in Cape Elizabeth. Demand and the shortage of available homes for sale have driven prices up sharply over the past couple years, decreasing affordability for many.

“Properties are so high that no Mainer can afford to buy them,” Angle said.

That is the case in many areas of the state’s coastline and along lakes, she said. She recently created a report on the value of two cottages on an estate by assessing comparable sales nearby. A year ago, each could have sold for $350,000, but this year the value came in at $600,000 each, she said.

Buyers are looking for year-round homes near the ocean, lakes or rivers. Many homes are drawing 20 or more offers, including from buyers over the internet.

About 40 percent of the second-home buyers in her area are from out of state, Angle estimated. Camps and seasonal home prices also are rising, but at a lesser rate than for year-round homes, she said.

Communities within a short drive from major metropolitan areas are getting more interest as families look for a second home, Austin Allison, CEO of Pacaso, said.

“The permanent shift toward work from home has forever changed the way people work and is giving second home buyers more flexibility to spend time away from their primary home and office,” he said.

Cumberland County includes coastal Cape Elizabeth, which is a 20-minute drive from Portland on Casco Bay. Pacaso said the area draws people because of its rich history, lighthouses and New England charm.

Five other U.S. counties experienced more than 50 percent growth in the median second home price last year. Nationwide, the median price for second homes was up almost 20 percent in the first quarter of 2022 compared with last year. It also outpaced the rise in median primary home prices, which was up a little more than 15 percent nationally.

“There’s not enough for sale,” Angle said of the ongoing price rises.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...