Hint: It starts with finding a trusted local banker.
Maine is having a moment. Banker Pamela Kenniston is seeing demand for property here swell from retirees, second-home buyers, and young families eager to trade the chaos and crazy price tags in big cities for Maine’s unspoiled natural treasures and relatively low cost of living. House hunters are flooding her office with requests for pre-approval letters just in case their dream retreat hits the market. Sellers are getting multiple offers above list prices. “It’s extremely hot right now,” says Kenniston, a senior mortgage officer with Camden National Bank. But even in such frothy conditions, you can stick to your home-buying budget. Kenniston shares her top tips for how to do it.
Talk early. Connect with a banker as soon as you start considering a purchase — especially if you’re out of state, Kenniston says. A lender on the ground can keep you apprised of local market dynamics, like upcoming changes in zoning, that can dramatically impact expenses. “Ideally, we start talking to buyers a year before they find a house, to make the process smooth and successful for them.”
Keep an open mind. Markets like Portland and Camden grab headlines for their cultural and cutting-edge culinary offerings. But Maine is teeming with under-the-radar communities that offer convenient access to coveted amenities and a vastly lower cost of living. “Often, just one town over, you can get a bigger house with more land and lower taxes,” Kenniston says. A resident banker can help you dig deep into the nuances of affordability in different neighborhoods and offer personalized guidance based on your needs.
Consider your post-buy spend. Maine’s waterfront properties and charming historic homes seem like bargains compared to what they’d fetch in Boston or New York. But it’s easy to underestimate the cost of heating a place here or transforming a fixer-upper into your dream home — particularly as the current building boom and labor shortage push up prices. Work with your banker to hammer out a realistic budget. If you’re building new or embarking on a major renovation, he or she can help you break down costs to figure out what factors are driving up the overall price, and what tradeoffs you can make to stay on budget.
Plug into the community network. A local banker can provide names of trusted contractors and vendors that you can’t get from online reviews. She’ll also give you her cell number in case something comes up at night or on the weekend, even years after the sale closes. Big multinational banks can’t match this level of personal service. “We’re developing a long-term relationship,” Kenniston says. “That’s the advantage of a local bank.”
For every home mortgage Camden National Bank originates, it donates $100 to a local homeless shelter through its [email protected] program. The bank has donated more than $380,000 since launching the program in 2015.