Clockwise from left: downtown Portland, Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston; downtown Waterville; and downtown Bangor. Credit: BDN composite

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More people than ever are looking to buy a home in Maine. Whether you are from out of state or looking to move within Maine, there are several things you can look at before choosing where to live.

Most Mainers live in one of four metropolitan and micropolitan areas across the state: the Augusta-Waterville micropolitan area, Bangor metro, Lewiston-Auburn metro and the Portland-South Portland metro. We looked at how each of them ranks on various metrics.

Housing Cost

Most Expensive Housing Costs: Portland

Least Expensive Housing Costs: Bangor

Financial considerations are often the leading characteristics of homebuying, and the different regions of Maine vary significantly.

It is no secret that buying a home in the Portland area is no easy task. Although the housing market appears to be cooling statewide, the supply is still low and demand high in and around Portland. Those factors add up to make it by far the most expensive place in Maine to buy a home. The median house is valued at over $466,000, according to Zillow data for April.

That is almost $200,000 more than the next most expensive area, Lewiston-Auburn, where the median home is worth $285,000.

The Augusta-Waterville metro’s median home is worth $264,000. A home in the Augusta area was cheaper than in the Bangor metro at the beginning of 2000 but that’s changed. Homes near the state capital have never been pricier than today.

Homes in the Bangor metro area are the cheapest at a median value of $235,000, with some especially cheap places closer to Aroostook County.


Most Populous: Portland

Least Populous: Lewiston-Auburn

Most Densely-Populated: Portland

Least Densely-Populated: Bangor

The Portland metro has the most people, with 552,000 as of 2020, according to U.S. Census data. That’s far more than the other three areas combined and accounts for over 40 percent of the state’s population.

Fit within 2,100 square miles, that makes it the most densely populated metro or micro area in Maine with 265 people per square mile. Though significantly smaller than nearby metros like Boston and New York City, it remains the ideal place for someone who wants the hustle and bustle of city life within Maine

Though the least populous of the four areas, the Lewiston metro is not far off with its 111,000 people, with a density of 237 people per square mile. Augusta follows with its population of 124,000, or 143 people per square mile.

Bangor is by far the least dense at just 45 people per square mile, making it six times less dense than the Portland area. Though it has 152,000 people, more than the Lewiston and Augusta metro and micro areas, the Bangor metro is a huge 3,400 square miles.

Unlike the Portland metro area, there is a substantial section of land near Bangor that is primarily undeveloped, including Penobscot County’s vast unorganized territories. The Bangor area is the best bet for a family that wants access to a fairly rural community while having access to a significant Maine service center in Bangor.

Economic Opportunity

Highest Median Household Income: Portland

Lowest Median Household Income: Bangor

Portland is the economic capital of Maine, and it is unrivaled in terms of economic opportunity. The Portland metro has by far the highest median household income of $73,000 and the lowest poverty rate of 8.1 percent. Typical incomes in the city of Portland itself are more than $10,000 lower than across the Portland metro area, according to 2020 American Community Survey data.

Median household incomes in the state’s three other metro and micropolitan areas are fairly similar at $55,400 in Augusta-Waterville, $55,000 in Lewiston-Auburn and $52,000 in Bangor. Though Bangor’s is the lowest, there are still a number of high-paying jobs with a number of successful blue-collar and white-collar professionals across the metro area.


Most violent crime per capita: Lewiston-Auburn

Least violent crime per capita: Bangor

Everyone wants to live in a place that is safe, and it’s a consideration that will undoubtedly go into where one chooses to live.

National reports have often estimated that Maine is one of the safest states in the nation, and it is sometimes given the moniker of “safest state in the U.S.” But there are sections that see higher cases of crimes compared to others.

The Bangor metro has by far the lowest rate of violent crime for any metro or micro area in the state, according to FBI statistics from 2019 for several communities in each metro – the most recent numbers readily available by municipality. Its rate of 6.9 violent crimes per 10,000 people was nearly half of Portland’s rate of 13.8 and less than one-third of Lewison’s 21.8 rate. Augusta’s rate was 17.8 per 10,000, above Portland’s but below Lewiston’s.

Other crimes can depend more on the community. For example, property crimes were most common in Bangor while Portland had a slightly higher rate of aggravated assault than Augusta.

Cost of Living

Highest cost of living: Portland

Lowest cost of living: Augusta-Waterville 

Of the four primary cities making up the metro and micro areas, Portland has by far the highest cost of living, according to, which tracks the cost of living for communities across the United States. That statistic includes the cost of groceries, health care, housing, utilities and transportation.

Portland is the only one of the four metro hubs that has a cost of living higher than the national average, by 8 percent. The next-highest cost of living was the city of Lewiston, although it is 15 percent below the national average, followed by Bangor at 17 percent below and Augusta at 19 percent below.

Portland had the priciest groceries, Lewiston the priciest transportation and Bangor the most expensive utilities and health care.