A sign points toward building lots at an Augusta housing development on Friday, April 1, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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In a housing market that has been difficult for many ordinary Mainers, help may be on the way.

The number of houses for sale nationally grew 16 percent in May compared with April, according to the May report from real estate company RE/MAX

It was the first month this year that the rate had grown compared with the corresponding month in 2021. In a market that has seen a lengthy period of high demand and low supply that has caused record prices, it was also the second consecutive month that inventory had grown.

Trends in the national housing market, which generally end up trickling down to Maine at some level, look to be positive news in a state housing market that has shown signs of cooling down. The supply of housing could increase further after the Federal Reserve decided to hike interest rates last week.

“The gains in inventory are welcome news for buyers who are now starting to see a few more listings come onto the market during their home search,” said RE/MAX President Nick Bailey.

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Piscataquis County has the largest supply per capita in Maine right now, according to active listings from Redfin, with 202 active listings as of Tuesday morning. That’s 120 listings for every 10,000 people in that county. Washington County (113 per 10,000) and Franklin County (88 per 10,000) also had high supplies.

Cumberland County had the lowest supply by that measure, with 562 active listings or 19 properties for every 10,000 people. Androscoggin County (20 listings per 10,000) as well as both York and Sagadahoc counties (both 24 per 10,000) also had the lowest supplies in Maine.

There still are signs of difficulty nationally. Total closings were still 9 percent lower than in May 2021. And the median sales price of homes continued to grow, from $425,000 in April to $430,000.

Though no metro or micropolitan areas in Maine were mentioned in the report, some regional neighbors were: the Manchester, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont, areas were recorded as having some of the highest increases in sales since last year. Manchester also saw among the lowest rates of supply in May.

Supply is still not meeting the strength of demand right now, something especially present in the most desirable sections of the country. Homes spent an average of 23 days on the market in May, which is three days shorter than in April.

The Maine Association of Realtors has not yet released data for May, but its report for April noticed that Maine had seen a slight increase in supply in April and May.

“An increasing supply will continue to address the pent-up demand and may relieve some of the upward pricing pressures,” said Madeleine Hill, the association’s president.