Long Lake in Naples. Homes on the lake, which runs through three towns, carry a price premium over those that aren't lakefront. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Real Estate Choice

The BDN is exploring Maine’s housing crisis from every possible angle, from how it affects home prices, to what it means for Mainers across the state. Read our ongoing coverage here and fill out this form to tell us what you want to know.

Loons, dragonflies and lapping water are drawing buyers to Maine’s lakefront properties, which are seeing strong sales at up to double the price of homes not on the water.

Comprising 60 lakes across 20 towns, the Lakes Region of southwestern Maine saw all lakefront homes sell for over the asking price in 2021 for the first time, said real estate agent Diane Monaco, who compiled data on the region for her employer, Maine Real Estate Choice. The region includes Sebago Lake, Maine’s second-largest lake after Moosehead.

“People want to boat and sit out on their dock and enjoy the peace and quiet,” she said. “It’s a year-round location with skiing and snowmobiling, too.”

Last week, 35 lakefront homes in the region were on the market, 20 of them for more than $1 million, she said. Another 28 home sales were pending, and most of those were on the market for less than seven days.

Lack of inventory, which exists across Maine’s real estate market, is keeping prices high. In May, 151 homes sold statewide were on a lake or pond compared with 190 homes in May 2021, according to Maine Listings.

The state has nearly 5,800 lakes, many with a mix of luxury homes and camps, but the well-kept lakefront properties are selling the fastest, Elise Kiely, senior vice president at Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, said.

Kiely just listed a $4.2 million property on Long Lake in Harrison. The location is a former boys’ summer camp that has retained the arts and crafts building on the water’s edge. It could be an additional living space to the 3,757-square-foot main house on 1.7 acres, with 183 feet of water frontage, Kiely said.

This home listed for sale at $4.2 million is on Long Lake in Harrison and has 183 feet of water frontage. Credit: Courtesy of Peter G. Morneau

She said oceanfront properties still tend to be more expensive than ones on a lake, but lakefront homes in good condition come at a premium relative to those not on the water.

Waterfront properties consistently sell for higher prices, and larger lakes tend to have higher prices than smaller ones, according to a study by Black Knight Inc., a homeownership analytics firm. Proximity to the water matters in the pricing.

Different people opt for a lakefront home than for one on the ocean, Kiely said. Rather than craving the views and crashing waves of the ocean, lakefront dwellers like to recreate in the water, which tends to be warmer than the ocean and easier to access.

“The lake brings family and friends together,” she said.

In the Lakes Region, for which the Maine Real Estate Choice study included Naples, Bridgton, Windham and other towns, 240 lakefront homes sold last year compared with 285 in 2020, according to Maine Real Estate Choice. One-third of those sold for more than $1 million. The average sales price was just under $885,000.

Some 183 homes with water access sold in 2021, up from 169 the year before, with an average price above $390,000. Those could be behind a waterfront property in an association, Monaco said. Almost all of them sold for near list price.

Some 1,300 total homes sold in the region with an average price above $328,000, less than half of a lakefront home.

The average lakefront land parcel sold for $296,080, a high price because of the scarcity of land. Parcels with water access were a bit more affordable at an average price of $115,067.

Kiely said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the demand for homes on Maine lakes and the appreciating value of lakefront property, because a lot of people reevaluated what was important to them.

“Why wait until the next job or the children are older?” she said. “One of the ways people enjoy their lifestyle is by living on a lake. It gives people an outlet and tranquility.”

 Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that all lakefront homes in the Lakes Region sold for over list price in 2021.