Portland prices may seem high within Maine, but buyers from more expensive areas, like Boston, see them as a bargain.
In this Sept. 8, 2022, file photo, a grid of photographs depicting young local people adorns a bus shelter near Deering High School in Portland. The shelter was designed by Jocelyn Lee. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Portland ranked 10th among U.S. cities that prospective homebuyers want to move to, with Boston-area residents topping the list of property searches in Maine’s largest city on the real estate website Redfin.

Portland prices may seem high within Maine, but buyers from more expensive areas see them as a bargain. As mortgage interest rates have topped 7 percent, double those over the past couple years, and inflation has eaten into housing budgets, homebuyers are considering a move to a more affordable place.

Portland could benefit from a potential inflow of 3,300 people, the highest number of which are from the Boston area, the report said. It analyzed searches by 2 million Redfin website users who viewed for-sale homes online across more than 100 metropolitan areas in the third quarter.

Sacramento topped the list of the metropolitan area with the most searchers looking to move there. The median sales price of a home there was $468,000 in September, with Portland last among the top 10 metropolitan areas with a median home price of $522,000, according to Redfin. That still is inexpensive compared with Boston’s median sales price of $2.8 million, according to The Warren Group.

One of Maine’s top real estate agencies is seeing the migration from Boston bear out, notably in a new development — the 54-unit Daymark condominium complex still under construction in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, said Erin Oldham, associate broker at Portside Real Estate.

Some 23 percent of the close to 300 queries about the property that came in recently were from the Boston area. About half that percentage were from New York. Most of the Daymark condos are priced between $550,000 and $800,000, but they run up to $1.1 million.

“Portland has everything you want in a city, but it’s a smaller, more manageable city,” Oldham said. “People from a bigger city don’t see any of our city problems as being significant, whereas if you’ve lived in northern Maine and come to Portland it could be a totally different view of what you enjoy.”

Nearly a quarte of homebuyers nationally looked to move to a different metropolitan area in the third quarter, a record high that is up from about 23 percent in the second quarter and up from 18 percent before the pandemic.

“Those who are still in the market are likely to prioritize living somewhere relatively affordable,” the report said. “The uptick in remote work — more than one-third of American jobholders can work from home full time — means relocating for lower home prices is feasible.”

Boston is one area people are looking to leave, with 19 percent of Redfin users looking to exit the city, with the top destination of Portland. It ranked fifth in the top 10 list of metropolitan areas where web searchers were looking to leave. No other cities in New England were in the top 10.

The migration trend is likely to slow in the coming months because of the softening labor market and job losses, which will cause more people to stay put or move in with family, Redfin economist Chen Zhao said.

“Plus, many remote workers who wanted to relocate already have,” Zhao said.