This cabin in Orient, located on the Canadian border between Houlton and Danforth, sold for $269,000 in early 2023, one of several sales that pushed up property values in this town of 156 residents. Credit: Courtesy of Rick Theriault

Home prices throughout the state have risen the most over the past year in an unexpected place: the remote East Grand Lake area of northeastern Maine near the Canadian border.

That lake and others nearby drove up prices in Orient, a town of 156 residents located between Houlton and Danforth, almost 30 percent from June 2022 until this year to nearly $227,000 for an average home, according to Zillow data.

The median sales price for a home in Aroostook County from April to June was $155,000, according to the Maine Association of Realtors. At least two homes in Orient sold for more than that over the past year at $269,000 and at $330,000.

The high prices in such a remote area show how waterfront homes continue to sell at a premium throughout the state, even in remote areas like the Grand Lake region that have long been dominated by locals and are not as built up as many inland areas.

The towns around East Grand Lake, one of Maine’s largest lakes, are attracting buyers that are helping push up prices. Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Mooers

“This is being driven by East Grand Lake,” said Wade Hanson, an agent at Keller Williams Realty who sold the $330,000 home. “It’s very accessible for all four seasons and is close enough to services in Houlton and Danforth.”

The buyer for that property, who moved there from Houlton, is using it year round to have access to the lakefront, he said. Other towns in the area, including Danforth and Weston, are seeing similar price rises, although Zillow did not have price estimates for them.

Part of the reason for the sales of the hard-to-come-by properties is that local residents who have long owned them are selling because they are aging and their children don’t want a place so far north, he said.

Orient, located on Route 1, is about a two-hour drive from Bangor and a 3 1/2-hour drive from Portland. The town is quiet, a good place for recreation and fishing, but people who want to go out to eat or to shop usually drive to Houlton or Danforth, both within a half-hour’s drive, Hanson said.

The area is starting to see some short-term rentals by part-time residents. For the most part, though, people who live there part time or full time want a quiet place where they can be left alone, said Rick Theriault, an agent at United Country Lifestyle Properties of Maine.

He sells what he calls “niche” properties including lake houses and cabins in the woods. Theriault sold the $269,000 property, a log home on Longfellow Lake in Orient, to a buyer from Maine who wanted a home on a lake.

This property in Orient on Longfellow Lake has its own boat launch. Credit: Courtesy of Rick Theriault

“It sold quickly for the full asking price,” he said. “Lakes and log homes are very hot sellers right now.”

Land and homes not on the lake also are selling. A four-acre property in Orient with a small pond, concrete foundation pad, private well and septic system recently sold for $46,000. A home on 47 acres of land sold for $59,500. People buy those lots to be away from crowds, Andrew Mooers, an agent at Mooers Realty, said.

“It’s just wildlife, woods, water and a few people,” he said. “It’s a different approach to life.”

Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...