For anyone that has been working hard to buy a new home over the past few years, the real estate market in Maine has been rough. A lot of factors have been at play, from interest rates to overbidding and a lack of inventory. Every real estate transaction in Maine has seemingly been competitive.

But the inventory issue in Maine is plagued by another factor not often discussed. According to the Bangor Daily News, Maine currently leads the nation in vacancy rate amongst homes in the state.

What Does Vacancy Rate Mean, Exactly?

If you've only run into vacancy when thinking about hotels and motels, you wouldn't be alone. The U.S. Census defines vacancy for homes as "a housing unit that is uninhabited or inhabited by someone with another primary residence.

Blank Real Estate Sign in Front of Beautiful New House.

In terms of what vacancy rate means for Maine, it goes like this. Maine has more homes unoccupied by their owners for the majority of the year than any other state in the nation. Not only that, while those homes are unoccupied, they are not available to rent, leaving them vacant.

Where is Vacancy Happening the Most in Maine?

The 2020 U.S. Census data showed some staggering findings when it came to vacant homes in Maine. Predictably, some of the state's most popular coastal destinations like Mount Desert Island, Old Orchard Beach, Camden, Rockland, Wells, and Portland have significant vacancy rates amongst homes. It's Maine ski areas that are the worst offenders. Nearly two-thirds of the homes in the Sugarloaf area remain vacant for the majority of the year.


The Implications of Vacancy in Maine Are Significant

With Maine becoming a destination for the wealthy and super wealthy, the ripple effects for people in lower income brackets is legitimate. For instance, vacancy rates in Portland are a contributing factor to housing costs, as well as the rising rental prices. Less units means less supply, even as demand stays the same.

Monument Square in Portland, Maine, on June 21, 2019.
Townsquare Media

With less rental units available, restaurants and other businesses have had trouble with staffing. People who used to walk to work in Portland can no longer find affordable housing in the city, forcing them to look elsewhere for housing and for work.

A Change in Vacancy Rate is Unlikely to Happen

Maine's rise to the nation's leader in vacancy rate has been steady, surpassing another New England state, Vermont, last year. It's also unlikely to change any time soon. Maine continues to struggle with building new homes to offset the existing homes that become vacation homes for others. Maine's real estate market will likely see the same challenges of condensed inventory and competitive offers for years to come.

Home for sale
Joe Belanger


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