View of Main Street in Mexico, Maine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Mexico was among the cheapest places to live in Maine before the pandemic, with typical homes valued at $60,000. This year, four homes there sold for more than $300,000.

While the desirable spots in southern Maine like Cape Elizabeth and Portland have seen the hottest markets during the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities like Mexico, which is just across the Androscoggin River from the mill town of Rumford, are also seeing homes sell like they never have before.

The typical home in Mexico was worth $59,600, the lowest for any community in Maine with 1,000 people or more, as of the most recently available American Community Survey numbers from 2020. Most of the only communities that were below were plantations and townships of fewer than 100 people.

That valuation has risen since the pandemic began, as has the median sales price of a home on the market. It was $60,000 in 2018, $65,000 in 2019, $77,000 in 2020 and $93,900 in 2021, according to Redfin records of sold homes.

Mason Milligan, a 26-year-old welder, grew up in Rumford and lived in Maine all his life before buying a two-bedroom home in Mexico in March. He decided to try for it after being outbid on one in Rumford, attracted to a sizable garage and a desire to leave more rural Andover.

Milligan said he was “not entirely happy” with the $179,000 price for the home, but noted that the market was high. That was the second priciest of the six two-bedrooms sold in Mexico this year. He was able to buy the home with the help of a Federal Housing Administration loan.

The median sales price for two-bedroom homes in Mexico from 2018 to 2020 was $75,000. Overall, the median sales price so far in 2022 was $159,900, though that number is still far below prices in most of Maine.

Back in January, a four-bedroom with around 100 acres became the most expensive home sold in Mexico in the past five years, according to Redfin data. It went for $599,000 after 77 days on the market. It was bought by two people who listed their address as a home in Los Angeles.

The town is most known in Maine for its unique name, which came from local sympathy for Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain at the time of the town’s incorporation in 1818.

It has long housed employees of the ND Paper mill in Rumford. When that mill saw drawdowns with changes in the economy, Mexico’s population shrunk. After peaking at 5,000 in 1960, it has nearly halved in size since then. But the year 2020 was the first time the U.S. Census recorded a population increase in 60 years, with 2,800 living there.

Some of those new residents are buying homes there, including 24-year-old landscaper Evan Dore, formerly of Farmington, New Hampshire, around 2 1/2 hours away. Dore, who bought a home for $190,000 last January, had never been to Mexico before he began his search.

He began looking at moving to Maine due to prices spiking around him in New Hampshire. He initially looked at moving to southern Maine but found that it was also too expensive for him.

So he looked farther north. He found the area attractive because of the number of recreational opportunities, including hiking and fishing spots as well as nearby skiing.

“As a first-time homebuyer, I wasn’t super picky and just wanted a nice, clean place to call home,” Dore said.

While it is unclear how long new residents will stay in Mexico, rural life away from the busyness of cities remains appealing to many. Since moving into his four-bedroom, Dore has found his neighborhood calm, locals nice and recreational spots enjoyable.

“It is a nice change to not have all the hiking and outdoor spots overcrowded during the summertime,” Dore said.