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Whether they’re from Alaska or New Hampshire, people have seen Maine as an increasingly desirable place to live since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
People have a multitude of reasons for moving to Maine, from cultural to political to a simple love of the outdoors. Often a move involves multiple factors and also hinges on the ability to navigate the skyrocketing costs of Maine’s housing market.
We spoke to several people who had recently moved to greater Portland about why they did so and what their experience was renting or buying in Maine. Their reasons ran the gamut, including politics, a beloved TV show and pure chance.
‘It hit all the boxes’ for a New Jersey family
Christopher Andersson, a 44-year-old software designer, moved to Maine from West Orange, New Jersey, with his fiancee and 6-year-old daughter in December 2020. They were soon joined by Andersson’s parents, for whom they bought a house in North Yarmouth that summer.
The couple had left Brooklyn for New Jersey in 2016. But they never fell in love with the area. Both working remote, they could live anywhere they pleased. They began looking into Maine, and were impressed when they came on a camping trip.
They wanted a city with a strong food culture, but one that had less people than, say, New York. They also desired a place closer to the ocean that didn’t have a very hot climate, Andersson said. Portland had all of that.
“It kind of hit all the boxes for us,” Andersson said.
Moving to a rental in Cape Elizabeth in December 2020, the couple spent countless hours on weekends working with an agent on buying a house. They were priced out of many homes during the bidding process. One even sold for $1.3 million, far over their budget.
Their Yarmouth house was listed at $799,000, and they ended up purchasing it for $860,000. Since moving in, they have never been happier, Andersson said, liking the low-stress lifestyle, friendliness of neighbors and a food scene in the region that delivered on expectations.
Just a few weeks ago, the couple welcomed their second child, a boy. Andersson suspects he will be in Maine for a long time.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Andersson said. “We plan on being here forever.”
A political exodus from South Carolina
Megan Drew, 40, moved to Portland with her husband and two teenage daughters just after last Christmas. Drew, who works in health care, was able to move and stay with the company she worked for in Fort Mill, South Carolina, where she had lived with her husband for six years.
Politics played a significant role in their decision to leave South Carolina. She knew she had to leave around last August, when school was starting up again and coronavirus cases were spiking in South Carolina due to the delta variant.
After South Carolina’s Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning the use of state funds to impose mask requirements in schools, she felt like many in South Carolina acted like the virus did not exist.
“After living in the South for the Trump presidency and the coronavirus, we were done,” said Drew, who has lived in several parts of the country. “We did not want to raise our children there anymore.”
Drew and her husband sold their South Carolina home and bought a new one in Portland in early December. It was the fifth house they bid on: they toured it over FaceTime before buying it without seeing it physically. She estimated that moving still cost her family $60,000.
She and her family have loved it in Portland, enjoying the outdoor opportunity available and the food scene. She is familiar with cold weather having lived in Wisconsin for more than a decade and didn’t see it as too much of a negative.
“It gets long,” Drew said. “But the summers here are incredible.”
‘Gilmore Girls’ woos Illinois couple
Chloe Minagawa and her husband, both 25, ended up in Portland after an unsuccessful attempt to become RV nomads, she said.
Minagawa is originally from Seattle and her husband from New Jersey, but they lived together in Chicago before moving to Portland two years ago. Her husband had always been interested in living there despite never visiting.
“He pointed out that ‘Gilmore Girls’ is based in New England,” Minagawa said. “And I was sold.”
They purchased their house in South Portland in October 2020, in a process she described as “painless.” She said she had been most appreciative of the community support. When she recently contracted COVID-19, she found several people offering her help with groceries.
“We came looking for a sense of community and connection and we’re finding it slowly but surely,” Minagawa said. “When asked, ‘Why Maine?’ I always say, ‘the people.’”
Flipping a coin between Maine and Colorado
Anevay Osuna and her fiance, Andrew, had a novel way of choosing where to live: they flipped a coin between Maine and Colorado. He picked Maine because of the ocean and his love of the outdoors. She picked Colorado because of the scenery and mountains.
Maine won the toss. The couple are from Grand Ledge, Michigan, a town of around 8,000 a bit west of Lansing. Renting was far cheaper there, Osuna noted.
After having a negative experience with the first apartment she lived in in Portland, they now pay nearly $3,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in Portland that she described as “older.” She has found the cost of housing in Maine to be prohibitive.
“We’re slowly starting the ball to purchase a home now,” Osuna said. “But I am very undecided as Portland is so expensive compared to what I grew up with.”