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Buyers priced out of Maine’s hot housing market are grabbing rural land



Last year Scott Merrill outbid a house in Greenville and bought land to build a house instead.

Merrill, a trucker from Berwick, said he and his wife, Stacy, spent a few years looking for homes in Greenville because he loves snowmobiling and hunting and they have friends in the area. They plan to retire at some point on the 3.5 acre wooded property they bought for a little less than the asking price and start building in the spring.

“I do what everyone else wants to do,” said Merrill.

This type of decision was more popular as the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine resulted in record home sales and prices, especially in rural areas, resulting in a housing shortage. According to data from Maine Listings, a subsidiary of the Maine Association of Realtors, more than 3,000 non-commercial properties were sold from January through June of this year, roughly twice as many as in the same months of 2020 sold more than $ 193 million on land, more than three times the amount at the same time last year.

Strong sales cross the state, with more rural tourist spots like Rangeley, Bridgton, and Greenville seeing the highest demand for land from both mainers and off-state buyers. Cities even more remote, including Whiting, are seeing plenty of deals and quick sales. That demand has spread across the market to lenders and builders, and many buyers looking to build new homes are told it will take a year or more.

Mark Doherty, a Massachusetts dentist, took a similar path that Merrill did to a land purchase. After unsuccessful efforts to buy a home, he bought 2.25 acres in a new neighborhood in Greenville near the home of his college football coach and near “the best snowmobile in the Northeast.” He hopes to have his house built in about a year.

Doherty bought his land from Scott Harding, an agent at NextHome Experience in Greenville who also developed the 14-lot subdivision near Moosehead Lake where Doherty’s land is located. Harding said it normally would have taken up to three years for the subdivision to sell out, but the lots were bought up by buyers in and outside of the state in search of getaways and future retirement homes within 30 days of entering the market last year.

“There’s no inventory of apartments, so you either buy a piece of land and build it yourself or you go home,” Harding said.

Although there are offerings on some lots, prices near water or other features can be 30 percent higher than before the pandemic, said Joe DiAngelo, owner of Century 21 Moose Country in Greenville. This is in stark contrast to a decade ago in rural Maine, when DiAngelo advised sellers in Rangeley not to bring land to market.

The town of Rangeley, in western Maine, is experiencing a real estate boom sparked by people seeking safe haven from the pandemic. Photo credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

“They could have put up a ‘free’ sign and no one would have taken it in this rural part of Maine,” he said. “But that’s not the case today. It’s amazing to watch. “

The strong stock market and low interest rates encourage land sales. Buyers also want a safe spot in the same kind of land frenzy DiAngelo saw after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, saying people “want to be hidden in the Maine forests.”

Jason Smith, owner of Points East Real Estate in Machias, recalled potential buyers who told him they followed a map of COVID-19 outbreaks along the Maine coast until they found Washington County, an area with a small number of cases. The combination of safety, good prices, and available land overshadows a six-hour drive from Boston to the Machias area. So far, buyers have only been willing to drive for up to three hours.

“There were good deals here in terms of what to buy, too,” he said.

Smith’s sales area includes nearby Whiting, which, according to Maine Listings, has one of the most heavily for sale properties in Maine cities. Smith said that’s because the city of nearly 500 people has land that borders rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

Loan officers across the state are being assisted with outstanding construction loans, said Aaron Bolster, president of the brokers’ association.

The only downsides now are that the cost of building materials is high and the demand for land surveyors, architects, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and others involved in house building is so great that many projects only take on a year or more.

“We’re trying to educate people that they’re realistic about when they can have a property to move into,” said DiAngelo of Century 21.

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Meta, formerly Facebook, leases huge tech campus in Sunnyvale



SUNNYVALE – Meta, the tech titan whose apps include the social network Facebook, has signed a major lease in Sunnyvale that represents a major expansion for the company.

In the largest private office rental of this year – nationwide – Meta rented 719,000 square feet on a campus near the corner of Crossman Avenue and Caribbean Drive in northern Sunnyvale, which is also on East Java Drive.

In a separate transaction indicating significant expansion for Meta, the tech company rented 520,000 square feet in Burlingame on Airport Boulevard in a project known as the Peninsula Innovation Point.

The Sunnyvale lease turns out to be a huge win for Tishman Speyer, a seasoned developer who bought the campus with four buildings and tempting open spaces just seven months ago.

“We are delighted that Meta has chosen Tishman Speyer and our Sunnyvale campus,” said Rob Speyer, CEO of Tishman Speyer.

Newmark commercial real estate agents Phil Mahoney, Michael Saign and Jon Mackey represented Tishman Speyer on what Tishman Speyer believes will be the largest commercial real estate lease in the country in 2021.

“I can confirm that we have signed new leases in Burlingame and Sunnyvale totaling over 1 million square feet,” said Chloe Meyere, a spokeswoman for Meta. “These offices will help support the changing staffing needs of our employees.”

Tishman Speyer’s Sunnyvale Campus offers a range of amenities including a gym with basketball court, lockers, showers, an outdoor volleyball court, an executive information center, a full-service cafeteria, multiple kitchens, break centers, telephone rooms, and other common areas.

Meta’s mega-lease in Sunnyvale contradicts dire predictions that tech companies would flee Silicon Valley and that tech companies wanted to focus on leaving their employees to work from home rather than returning to their offices.

“Silicon Valley remains the global innovation center and its importance will continue to grow, even if other innovation centers emerge,” said Speyer.

It was only in April of last year that Tishman Speyer bought the four-building Sunnyvale Campus from NetApp and paid the technology company $ 365 million for the complex, including the parking garage.

NetApp had decided to move its headquarters to a large office building on Santana Row in San Jose.

At the time, some experts feared that Tishman Speyer was taking a high risk by buying an office complex that would quickly become empty with the departure of NetApp. Others warned that companies are reluctant to return to offices and will not need large buildings like Meta’s to be rented.

Instead, Tishman made his move into one of the biggest leasing triumphs of the year.

“We have always been convinced that the tech industry will have a strong appetite for high-quality collaborative spaces,” said Speyer.

Mahoney, executive vice chairman at Newmark, believes that while tech companies could set up outposts in other states, Silicon Valley is still where they want to be.

“Tech companies are voting with their feet and showing that they want to stay in Silicon Valley,” said Mahoney.

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Rancho Santa Fe, Coronado and Del Mar’s ‘cheapest’ homes



SAN DIEGO – Three San Diego zip codes recently compiled a list of the most expensive residential areas in the country – but what does a “bargain” mean in these expensive neighborhoods?

A study by analysts at Point 2 Homes, a subsidiary of real estate and investment company Yardi Systems, recently identified the cheapest real estate deals in the country’s 100 most expensive zip codes, including the three in San Diego County.

Man wins $ 1 million jackpot at Sycuan Casino Resort

Unsurprisingly, they all had one thing in common: condominium living is the way to find cheaper to own when buying in a hot zip code.

Rancho Santa Fe 92067 is the 18th most expensive market in the US and the most expensive in San Diego, with an average retail price of $ 3,399,000 in 2021. But a condo in El Tordo near the golf course will cost you “only” US1,995,000 -Dollar.

The 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom single-family home is 2,190 square feet and is part of a 7-unit condominium community, according to MLS Listings. It has converted amenities, a deck, and a garage that has been converted to accommodate one of the beds / tubs. “Begin retreating for a daily golf cart ride to the beautiful RSF golf course,” writes one agent.

Then there is 92118 in Coronado, ranks 63rd among the most expensive in the US with an average retail price of $ 1,940,000. Life on the “island” isn’t cheap, but the El Alhambra building near Spreckles Park and the library have a condominium for $ 995,000.

The top floor apartment has 2 beds and 2 bathrooms on 1,299 m². According to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, the apartment has a laundry room, “spacious open plan living area and large kitchen”. The master bedroom opens to a balcony. “Cool off in the swimming pool and head over to the Concert in the Park or relax on your balcony overlooking the Point Loma sunset,” the listing says.

Chaotic chase ends with driver in custody

Del Mar’s 92014 is the last postcode of the San Diego area in the top 100 and ranks 74th with an average retail price of $ 1,850,000 in 2021. Drive a few minutes inland from the city’s beach houses to the Del Mar Heights community where it a condo on Ruette Le Parc for $ 667,300.

This 2 bed, 2 bath unit is 1,164 square feet on the lower level of a building in a larger condominium, according to Active Realty. There are tile floors, a fireplace, and a kitchen with stone countertops and stainless steel appliances. The unit has sliding doors to the outside patio and a view of the communal pool.

And what about the best “bargain” on the country’s most expensive real estate market overall? Point 2 found a home in Atherton, California that was available for $ 5 million – $ 2.5 million below the average price for the area.

What a theft.

You can see the full list of the “cheapest” spots in expensive zip codes and learn about the methodology of the study on the Point 2 Homes website.


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As Florida house prices climb, demand increases for manufactured homes



For Jim Ayotte, it just makes sense to build a house in a factory. You wouldn’t drive to one location trying to coordinate the schedules of different subcontractors to build a car in a driveway. So why with a house?

Ayotte is the executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, a Tallahassee-based group that works nationwide for home builders, retailers, and other parts of the industry.

Prefab home used to be synonymous with rectangular RVs, but Ayotte said it encompasses a lot more today. He spoke to the Tampa Bay Times about how he believes factory-built homes can help alleviate the need for affordable housing. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is a prefabricated house? Is it the same or different from RVs?

It’s different and that’s one of the problems we face as an industry. People say, ‘Oh RVs, those old things? We don’t want them in our neighborhood. You are not really sure. ‘

A motorhome has not been built since 1976. Prefabricated houses are built in a factory, it is built according to the standards administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today’s prefabricated houses are comparable to construction sites in terms of energy efficiency, wind safety and everything else.

Today’s prefabricated houses come in all shapes and sizes. We have houses with steeper pitched roofs, they have built-in verandas, they have garages. Today’s high-end prefabricated houses are indistinguishable from a home. And you still have a lot to choose from, so a cheaper option might not have all of these features.

A rendering of a modern prefabricated house that includes a garage. [ Genesis, Courtesy of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association ]

What we are building today are really workers’ housing. It’s housing that people in the community can afford, whether you’re a firefighter, police officer, or healthcare professional.

My whole point is this: if people haven’t seen a prefabricated house in the last half a dozen years or so, they really owe it to themselves to look. And there are plenty of places in the Tampa Bay area to do this.

These homes are super built because you are building them in a factory and shipping them over the highway to their final destination, where they are installed on site and ready to move into.

So RVs are still manufactured homes, but are they the old model of doing things?

That’s right. Here’s what really happened: I think the industry harmed itself because RVs didn’t have a good perception. In all honesty, the federal government then stepped in and said, ‘Hey, we have to regulate this industry.’ They weren’t built according to uniform building codes and that became a problem. When the government came in, they changed the name to “Manufactory House”.

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The prefabricated houses of the early era were nowhere near strong enough. And we all realized that when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992. Not only the factory-built housing industry, but also the location-based housing industry has recognized that we simply do not build our houses with enough wind resistance. So we immediately went in and updated our building codes. Today, manufactured homes are built to wind standards that are the same height or higher than homes built to Florida building codes.

Then, the second thing that happened to the industry in 1999, the state introduced nationwide installation requirements. Florida has the strictest installation requirements in the country due to our storm here. And what we found between the updated building code and installation standards is that prefabricated houses do really well when it comes to severe weather.

And so we have all of this great information and evidence. But the problem is, the public doesn’t really know.

Can you get a traditional 30 year prefabricated home mortgage?

One of the problems we have always faced had to do with home finance. So we went to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and said, ‘Hey, we want you to provide a secondary market in prefabricated finance.’ They came back with a program saying, “If you build homes to these specifications, we’ll be providing conventional finance for your homes for 30 years,” which is just a huge step up in the industry.

Jim AyotteJim Ayotte [ Courtesy of Jim Ayotte ]

(It’s) a great opportunity for the industry as every city and county in Florida struggles with affordable housing. We need more affordable housing. Well, prefabricated homes are the largest form of unsubsidized, affordable housing in the state. What we need to do is educate home buyers and government officials on the current state of the industry.

What kinds of increases in demand for prefabricated homes have you seen in the last year or two as house prices have skyrocketed?

Between 2020 and 2021, Hillsborough County home deliveries of finished products rose 18 percent, Pasco County rose 10 percent, pinellas rose 9 percent, and citrus rose 26 percent. There is much more interest and demand for prefabricated houses. On the production side, production in Florida increased by around 30 percent from 2020 to 2021 (buildings).

Our nine buildings, each of which has some catching up to do. It can (take) only six months or up to 14 months. So the demand for factory built prefabricated houses is basically going through the roof and the struggle our home builders are having is supply chain issues.

Tell me more about it.

It’s a huge problem that is supposed to be getting better. Not only do we build houses more efficiently, we also buy materials more efficiently. So our home builders will be buying truckloads of lumber and drywall. The problem they are facing is getting these materials now.

Household appliances were also a big issue. Manufacturers usually put together equipment packages, people buy dishwashers and stoves and refrigerators, and we don’t get them any more.

The wood prices have gone through the roof. Now they’re starting to come back a little. But the problem with a lot of things is that when prices go up, they go down very slowly, if at all. And it’s really hard to sell a house to say, ‘Hey, by the way, if you order a house today the price will be X, but we can’t guarantee that price because we don’t know what our material is costing will be.’ That makes it really difficult for both consumers and retailers and builders. So there is a lot of demand but instability in the market.

The average price of a prefabricated house in Florida was $ 84,672 in 2019. I would think at this point that this price is well over $ 100,000, probably around $ 101,000 or $ 102,000.

Another model of a modern prefabricated house.Another model of a modern prefabricated house. [ Jacobsen, Courtesy of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association ]

How much do people save on average by buying a prefabricated house compared to a house built on site?

If you look at the numbers, I would say that prefabricated houses are about 20 percent less. And why is that Due to the efficient construction process, purchase of materials in bulk. I would like to emphasize that the construction quality of both factory-made prefabricated houses and construction site houses is comparable. It doesn’t mean that housing is cheaper because it is cheap. No, housing is cheaper because it is built more efficiently.

Can you put a prefabricated house on any plot of land or does it need a certain zoning?

Some counties and cities (restrict) in earlier times produced apartments for land lease communities, produced residential parks or mobile home parks. Other counties have opened up land use to allow prefabricated houses. The concern for the local government and the neighbors was always the same. They say, ‘Hey, I don’t want this home because it doesn’t look like my home.’ That is why, in collaboration with local governments, we have developed aesthetic requirements that ensure that prefabricated houses are comparable to neighboring houses. Local governments are very receptive to this.

I believe both Hillsborough and Pinellas would be receptive to allowing prefabricated homes that are compatible with other existing single family homes. I’ve had some conversations with Pinellas County. My goal is to go outside and expand the land use, but to make sure that we act responsibly, that the neighbors are comfortable, that the local government is also comfortable, that the houses add value to the community and not affect it.

I think people perceive RVs as living primarily for seniors. Are Seniors Still the Main Working Population for Prefabricated Homes?

About 60 percent of the prefabricated homes sold in the state are on private property. These are first-time home buyers. They can also be senior homebuyers.

What we still see with such an influx of retirees coming to Florida is really a huge demand for over 55 communities out there. Someone goes in and buys a house, they don’t buy land, they have a lease, but they have access to all of these great amenities, be it swimming pools, pickleball courts, hiking trails, or fitness centers. We have seen people flock to Florida, and we are actually seeing some new 55-plus, heavily amenitized shared apartments being built.

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