Is It Finally The Right Time To Buy A House?

I think that home sales and prices might finally be on their way up in Washington County (and, in fact, perhaps all of Maine).  It might finally be ‘the right time’ to invest in your weekend getaway, your retirement dream or your summer vacation home.  Prices are up only slightly…not dramatically — according to the Maine Real Estate Information System, Inc., the average price of a single family home in Maine has increased only a modest 3.14% during 2015.  However the number of sales of single family homes was up over 10%.  I’ve noticed it.  I’m kind of a real estate geek and I follow homes and sale prices and days on the market and boring stuff like that.  I’ve made observations — most of the homes that I have profiled on this blog have sold.  (And yes, I got caught up in it, too…. I bought one of the houses that I profiled).  AND… I know several homes in Washington County that sold or are pending for FULL PRICE.

If you have been considering purchasing a vacation or retirement home, now could be a great time.  The stock market is…well…the stock market is going crazy — I used to watch my IRA daily, now I cringe when I hear about the market fluctuations.  I haven’t made my 2016 contribution yet, although I usually do that first thing in January.  I’m taking a wait and see attitude before I invest this year.  Little interest is better than losing principle, at least for now.  But I still think real estate, especially in an area that can appeal to both year-round residents and vacationers and retirees is still a smart idea.  There is only a limited amount of waterfront or water view real estate out there.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I’ve always had a love for real estate and residential architecture. In the 50’s, my mother, still single, went on vacation to Cape Cod.   She told me about looking at an oceanfront property while on vacation in Falmouth on Cape Cod.  The one-acre lot was $20,000.  That same lot is probably worth well over $1million now.  Then, in 1980, I vacationed with my parents on Long Island.  There was a home for sale on the beach (I still have a picture of it somewhere).  It was a very modest, pine-tree green split level house with one car garage under.  I remember dragging my father into the real estate office in town to find out the price.  $92,000.  My dad rolled his eyes saying, “We can’t even come close to affording a $92,000 vacation home”.  But even then I had it all figured out.  My mother had 7 brothers and sisters who she was very close to.  If we divided it eight ways, it would only be about $12,000 each.  It would be the family vacation house.  Well, that didn’t work either so I never owned my own piece of waterfront until I owned my own house.  But think of it…  that $92,000 house down the tip of Long Island, just down the road from the Hamptons.  What is that piece of real estate worth now?  I’m sure the little green house is gone and there is a mega mansion there, but I’m sure the value of the lot is in the ‘multi-millions’.

So what I’m saying is that now might be the time to buy — prices are up, but not skyrocketing and heading towards a bubble.  Interest rates are still historically low.  Lenders have eased up somewhat on loan qualifications.  And finally, all of those homeowners who have been waiting for years to put their homes on the market are now ready (and weary of waiting and waiting).  Good deals can still be had for those who look for them.

Anyway, one of the homes that I profiled last year is still on the market, now with a price reduction.  I’ll repost that article below — it’s a great house (compound really) — a majestic sea captains house, restored and well taken care of.  Along with the main house is a delightful knotty pine cottage reminescent of the 1950’s and a huge barn/workshop.  This is definitely a home that could appeal to either a year round resident (the house just screams “I’m perfect for a home business!” — can you hear it?), or a summer vacationer (with the ability to make some money with the cottage rental).  And with such a great price — it’s certainly worth another look:


I had the opportunity recently to tour a water-view sea captain’s home for sale in Washington County.  Yes, I have a great appreciation of old houses and have a bad habit of falling in love with every old house that I visit.

In this case, it was a  big and mighty home build in the 19th century.  It has a huge barn and also includes a smaller home which can possibly provide extra income.  

front entry porch

Lovely sunporch entryway

The Captain’s House  is located in the heart of East Machias.  Built in 1820, it has been lovingly restored with so many updates, I can’t list them all here – new windows, wiring, furnace, on-demand hot water system, just to name a few.  To me, it’s perfect – the systems are updated but the artist owners kept the antique charm of the house.  The kitchen/keeping room is inviting with just the perfect blend of modern and vintage – no need to change a thing.  Just off of the kitchen is a walk-in pantry/utility room (how can you not love a walk-in pantry?). There is a first floor bedroom with a door to the outdoors making the room versatile – if not used as a bedroom, it could be a small gallery or even an in-law or au pair quarters.   The bathroom has early 20th century charm with a beautiful vintage pedestal sink that I was drooling over.


I wouldn’t change a thing about this kitchen — perfectly vintage

Upstairs there are two good-sized bedrooms and a small, delightful home office (with a view of the river).  Actually, I say two bedrooms, but there is a ‘secret’, third upstairs bedroom – currently used for storage.  I would probably see if it could be converted to a bathroom (the only obvious negative to this home that I concluded is that there is only one bathroom).

bedroom east 1

Sunny waterviews.


Next door to the house is the giant, two-story barn/garage.  There is an extra-large, 9’x11’ garage door in case the new owner needs boat parking – perfect for the maritime lifestyle.  Large windows with lots of light lend itself to the wonderful artist studio upstairs in the loft.

The third building on the property is a mid-century cottage.  Even this cottage is retro-perfect.  It’s a cozy, but light filled, knotty pine cabin with one bedroom and bath.  The current owners have it consistently rented by year-round tenant, but also would be ideal accommodations  as a vacation rental, guest house or even as owner’s quarters if someone were to use the main house as a bed and breakfast.  The property is across the street from the river and abuts a babbling spring so the melodious lilt of the water can always be heard.

More information on Sea Captain John Brown’s house can be found here.  The list price for this move-in-ready home – which is “for sale by owner” – recently reduced to $229,000.

Maria Lamb

About Maria Lamb

Maria is the owner of Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals based in beautiful Washington County, Maine.