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Thread: There's Gold in Then Thar Hills!

  1. #1
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    There's Gold in Then Thar Hills!

    Here's a frightening story about the real estate market in rural Maine.

    Let's get this bidding war started!
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
    Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama
    .

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    The one transaction they talked about the most sounded absolutely dreamy. I wish my home buying/selling experiences had been like that. But mine so far have all been with M****oles. Sigh. The last house we sold - we had a young couple write us a very nice letter. I wish we could have sold it to them, but cash is king...

    Any of you watch Maine Cabin Masters? We've watched several seasons as a family. Periodically my wife and I scan the listings of camps way out in the middle of nowhere Maine. I figure the camp has to be on water. Good water. And I don't want to be able to see my neighbors from the yard. Preferably not from the dock either. It has to require little or no maintenance, have very low taxes, have a toilet inside, and running water, and a wood stove. Alternatively, it could be just a plot of land as long as it's accessible. I'm pretty sure the sorts of spots I'd actually like don't come cheap. At least I haven't found one yet. At this point in my life, the prospect of having ANOTHER house to maintain is nauseating. I'll stick to the tent.
    Sure. Why not.

  3. #3
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    I do get a chuckle about the featured home. I know that area and the Shelter Institute. It originally started as a method of building a low cost home on lots that were cheap because in some cases they were economically unbuildable at the time. They didnt believe in conventional foundations, they advocated building on wooden posts and despite their arguments to the contrary the posts did not last as long as many expected and frost heaving was an issue. With the house up off the ground keeping pipes from freezing was a challenge. That area of seacoast tends to have marine clay soils with a very shallow water table. That is probably why there are ponds on the lot. If you notice the interior shots with the walls covered with rough swan wood, the reason is that many of the homes moved so much due to frost issues that conventional dry wall would crack. There rarely is city sewer and building a septic system is an expensive challenge in high groundwater areas. The state did not regulate and inspect the installation of these systems very well and given the age of the home, my guess is that the new owners will be looking at an expensive replacement in year or two. Sure there may be shallow ground water but frequently its not great and requires treatment. Drilled wells into the underlying granite will usually provide good quality but its almost a guarantee that a radon mitigation system has to be installed on the water supply.

    I am seeing a Covid housing boom in Gorham, In my development there have been vacant lots for sale since I built my house 30 years ago. There have been people with out of state plates roaming the neighborhood looking at the lots and in the last 2 months 3 lots have been sold and two houses are racing to do site work and one just got a foundation in while a third looks to be getting ready for construction next summer. Down in the river valley in Berlin and Gorham, cheap homes are being snapped up by folks from Mass so they can come up for weekends to go out on their ATV with the plan to retire up here in the future.

    There are lots and places like Brian are looking at but there does have to be some flexibility on the buyers side or an unlimited checkbook and the buyer needs to be educated and be realistic. The realtors around here may look like "country hicks" to out of town buyers but most know how to market to out of staters. Despite a written warning to the contrary when dealing with a realtor its only natural for a potential buyer to rely on the brokers word about the area and the property. The realtors work for the sellers and are very good at not disclosing the downsides, so its caveat emptor. Owners supply a property disclosure that buyers think is protection against surprises but the reality is its pretty rare that a failure to disclose can lead to recourse against the prior owner. In a hot market most sales are as is where is so the buyer owns the defects anyhow.

    The reality is that the remoteness you are looking for comes with some significant downsides, many camp roads around remote ponds and lakes are not plowed or maintained. Its frequently up to a "voluntary association" and rarely does everyone pay their fair share. Most are seasonal owners so the are not going to be interested in plowing the roads or making it passable during mud season. Unless someone is lucky shopping options are limited. Along and north of RT2 Walmart is normally the only grocery store (or Dollar General) and they tend to stock what sells to the locals. I need to travel a minimum of 40 minutes to access a slightly higher end food store. If there is a fire department its volunteer and mostly exist to put the coals out after the structure has burned to the ground. No local police, camp break ins are frequent off season and in some rural areas the locals are still breaking into homes and camps and stripping the copper out of them. No Ambulance, if you get hurt hopefully there is someone around to get you in the car and haul you to the hospital an hour away. No trash pick up, you either pay a local contractor to pick it up or you go to the local transfer station that is only open limited hours so there goes Saturday morning.

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    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Maine used to be part of Massachusetts...and they have been buying it back one house lot at a time

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    Make it in Mass, spend it in Maine

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Peakbagger, that is a great synopsis, I really appreciate it. It's hard enough being informed about the house you're considering right down the street in a town you've lived in for years! The prospect of doing the research necessary to get the odds in my favor as an out of stater, just to not be at the mercy of the selling agent's goodwill - it's daunting. A really nice tent and associated backpacking gear makes for a pretty comfortable retreat and one can take it to some pretty interesting places in a highly noncommittal way. I suspect that'll get my vote for a long time to come.

    maineguy, that is really funny. :-)
    Sure. Why not.

  7. #7
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    I was on the cusp of a lot on an nearly undeveloped lot that almost met your criteria. There was one neighbor and then the nearest on that side of the lake was 13 miles away. There was one house visible on a ridge line on the other side of the lake. Two hundred fifty feet of frontage and 3 acres of land. It was 275K about 5 years ago. Access was via a main logging road with shared driveway. At the time I figured the site work was going to be around 100K to get driveway to the buildable part of the lot. The frontage was grown in with trees. Maine law is pretty strict on new lots, the owner is allowed to cut a path no wider than I think 10 feet (possibly 5') for the first 75 feet and the path must be curved or an angle installed in it so that someone on the water can not see the past the 75 feet. There some thinning allowed of the 75' wide strip but every trees and bush has to be surveyed and then using a formula there is an allowable percentage reduction. It was a hour and half drive from my place. I decided that I would rather go different place and invest to money so I could retire early. There was also a sale of another 3 acre lot with frontage on another nearly undeveloped lake. I was keeping an eye out, that was 450K. It was about 18 miles in on a dirt road, there was hydro dam nearby so it in theory it would be plowed and maintained by the owner.

    I did pick up 83 acres in Randolph a couple of years ago as woodlot and an investment. It has one very nice view lot and at least one more with potential or one million dollar view lot. A five acre house lot just sold for 100K in Randolph. The odd thing is that forest lands are only currently worth five or six hundred dollars and acre but recreational buyers will pay far more. Some of the former Berlin pulp mill forest land has been clearcut and then the remaining lot s are sold as recreational lots for more than they sold as timberland. The new owners dont realize that they are looking at 30 to 40 years before the woods grow up appreciably and even if there was an interest in forestry there will need to be a couple of prescriptive cuts before a commercial cut.

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    Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
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    Fascinating stuff peakbagger. I've love to be able to pick up stakes and surrender to my destiny but I'll likely be stuck here in Rhode Island for the foreseeable future.

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    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    Peakbagger, that is a great synopsis, I really appreciate it. It's hard enough being informed about the house you're considering right down the street in a town you've lived in for years! The prospect of doing the research necessary to get the odds in my favor as an out of stater, just to not be at the mercy of the selling agent's goodwill - it's daunting. A really nice tent and associated backpacking gear makes for a pretty comfortable retreat and one can take it to some pretty interesting places in a highly noncommittal way. I suspect that'll get my vote for a long time to come.
    If anyone ever wants to move to New Hampshire, some of us here on this board are pretty well versed in NH land use law -- the stuff that can take a couple of decades to wrap one's head around and more often than not contradicts what a real estate agent will tell you about what you can and cannot do when building on your new lot or expanding an existing property. So, feel free to ask...

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    A VFTT member for several years, Chip, from CT I believe made an extended search for a low cost "camp" up in NH. He ended up buying an older home that needed TLC on the outskirts of Bethlehem . I havent seen him post for awhile.

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    There was a broadcast article on this recently. I had to laugh. People from NYC were selling their multi-million dollar apartments and condos and buying property in Aroostook county for "cheap". They wanted a house anywhere in Maine, didn't care the condition. They interviewed a couple that bought their house in Camden in May and talked about how wonderful it was. There was another couple who bought some property outside Millinocket and talked about how nice and secluded its been. Nothing like New York. I give these out-of-staters two Winters and they will be clamoring to get back to civilization.

    I know NH has seen the same phenomenon, where people from away come up to escape what they had, only to bring what they had and destroy what attracted them to the area to begin with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    They interviewed a couple that bought their house in Camden in May and talked about how wonderful it was. There was another couple who bought some property outside Millinocket and talked about how nice and secluded its been. Nothing like New York. I give these out-of-staters two Winters and they will be clamoring to get back to civilization.
    I'll grant you that Millinocket is a big transition from New York, but the winters in Camden aren't scaring anybody and there are already plenty of galleries and places to get a latte.

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