Camden Jalbert, a 23-year-old accountant who just bought a home in Lewiston this month, is pictured in a professional photo. Credit: Courtesy of Camden Jalbert

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The American dream is alive in Lewiston for Camden Jalbert, a 23-year-old accountant who was able to buy his first home for $225,000 this month.

But his story would be unsurprising to researchers at Harvard University, who found in a report released last week that the Lewiston-Auburn metropolitan area had grown more affordable over the past 30 years than nearly every other area of the U.S.

That is based on a ratio of median home price to median annual household income. In 1990, it took 3.19 years of the median household income in the Lewiston area to purchase a single-family home there. That number was 3.31 in 2021.

Homes got more costly over the period, but the ratio has grown larger nationally. The Lewiston area saw less growth in that ratio than 376 out of 381 American metro areas during that three-decade period. At a time when the median growth rate was 60 percent, Lewiston grew just 4 percent.

Though it has faced problems in the past, including the loss of manufacturing, many leaders see the area as being on the up with new developments on the horizon. Only around 45 minutes from Portland, Lewiston and the surrounding area could also provide a cheaper alternative for people looking to relocate to the vicinity of Portland while avoiding its skyrocketing prices.

Jalbert, who has lived in Lewiston nearly his entire life, was more than satisfied with his purchase, but said the process wasn’t an easy one.  He works in Portland and had hoped to buy a home there. After several unsuccessful bids, he decided to take a look at his hometown.

“I just eventually became priced out of that market,” Jalbert said. “I grew up here, the commute is not too bad, and it was just more affordable.”

Success wasn’t easy in the Lewiston market. There were times where he would go to an open house and immediately start drafting an offer with his real estate agent. The home would be sold only minutes after the open house.

After viewing 20-plus homes and putting an offer on 13, he lucked out on a two-family home that he will be able to partially rent to supplement his mortgage.

He didn’t feel that the listed prices for the homes were out of his range, but it was the expectation to go over that often was. The home he purchased had been listed for $194,900 before he bought it for $225,000, around $30,000 more.

“Was the final price of the home more than I wanted to pay? Yes, it was,” Jalbert said. “I wish I could have paid less. But overall, I can afford this home.”

The only metro areas that saw their community get more affordable than Lewiston from 1990 to 2021 were those based in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (7 percent decrease), Cumberland, Maryland (0.7 percent decrease), Laredo, Texas (0.3 percent increase) and Beckley, West Virginia (0.8 percent increase).

The Portland metro’s rate grew by a whopping 81 percent – from 3.25 years of income to purchase a home in 1990 to 5.89 in 2021. The Bangor metro’s rate grew 43 percent (from 2.55 years of income to purchase a home to 3.65).

The area that saw the highest increase was the Missoula, Montana, metropolitan area, which saw a 220 percent increase. Spokane, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Salem, Oregon also saw significant increases.

Of the 148 residential properties purchased in Androscoggin County this month, the median price was $272,750 as of Tuesday, according to property records. That did not include apartments with two to four units.

Caitlyn Susi, a 36-year-old special education teacher, and her husband purchased a $350,000 property in Minot, about 15 minutes northwest of Lewiston. After living in Lewiston, she wanted her children to be able to attend the Minot Consolidated School. She teaches in the town.

Susi described the process as intense, far more so than buying a home in Lewiston some five years before. That home was priced at $129,900, according to property records. They ended up buying the home for $30,100 over the list price.

The couple, who will live in the home with their two kids, found the price to be reasonable though knew it would probably have been less in a different market.

“We loved the home and the area and were willing to pay,” Susi said.