What’s the Most Stressful City to Buy a Home?
A triple whammy of low inventory, supercharged migration, and rocketing prices cause high stress for home buyers.
If you are looking for a home, you might want to look outside those quaint small towns you’ve been gushing over on Instagram. Turns out it’s less stressful to buy a home in Miami Beach, Fla., or really anywhere in Florida, then it is to buy a home in the state of Maine.
While home buying in Maine might be a stressful experience, those who survive the gauntlet and land a home tend to express high satisfaction with their new place.
A recent survey from HouseFresh put Bangor, Maine, at the top of the “most stressful cities” list. Overall, the state of Maine ranked 4th in the union for most stressful places to buy a home. The reasons for this dismal ranking are deep and many.
First comes the obvious problem: There aren’t enough homes. Building costs have increased since 2019. In fact, one Bloomberg study from earlier this year found it cost almost 60% more to build a new home than it had pre-pandemic. Add to this Maine’s shallow labor pool, unfriendly geography, haphazard infrastructure, and aggressive municipal regulations, and the result is a state where it’s tough to build new.
Second, increased prices. Although home prices everywhere have gone sky high since 2019, Bangor has seen an increase of the median price of more than 25%—from $166,000 to around $215,000. Young locals who were waiting until they had a large down payment are now having homes bought out from under them by people who are relocating to get more square footing and amenities at much lower costs than the cities they are migrating out of.
One local real estate broker told me 30% of her buyers were out-of-state shoppers. But even people relocating from more urban Portland are able to get a better deal in Bangor. Recently one family I know traded a Portland condo purchased pre-pandemic for $300,000 for a larger single-family home in Bangor at the same price.
Third, the market itself: unregulated and unashamed. The July 2021 Emerging Markets Index found that about 14% of homes sold in Portland were vacation homes. Those sellers went somewhere and many were part of the 70% who needed to relocate somewhere affordable (like my friends). This isn’t unique to Maine: Approximately one of every six homes in the United States is being bought by investment firms for long-term gains.
It’s no wonder home buying in Maine (and elsewhere) is not nearly as idyllic as a sunrise hike to the ocean. (Actually, hiking to the ocean is increasingly less idyllic, with Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor seeing 500 cars competing for 150 parking spots, and on track for more than 4 million visitors this year.)
The problem isn’t likely to go away. With cities like Portland making it more challenging to build, and others like Falmouth restricting the number of building permits issued, the demand will stay high, prices will keep rising, and locals who want to stay will be forced farther afield.
The demand for second homes has continued to rise throughout 2021. Idyllic towns and cities where the cost of living is low are in the home buyer's cross-hairs.
HouseFresh’s map of stressful places for home buying shows Oregon, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Maine as hot spots. Read more about the methodology here.
Maine homes are being snapped up at a clip, many of them sight unseen.