New homes pop up in greater Portland, but only as fast as they can sell

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FALMOUTH — The ballroom of the Portland Country Club was packed last week with real estate agents hoping to drum up interest in recently built, unsold and not-yet-built homes in new developments.

Brokers Bruce Lewis and David Banks said they decided to put the event together after realizing they were not aware of many of the new developments in the area.

“A lot of brokers don’t know about each other’s real estate,” Lewis said.

He said there is about $500 million worth of homes for sale in the greater Portland market, and that many brokers just don’t know about everything that is available.

“We’re so competitive, we operate out of our own desks, primarily,” Lewis said.

The event on Dec. 7 brought real estate brokers, mortgage brokers and even home staging experts together to see each other’s properties and talk shop.

“I think new construction is the deal now,” said Jessica Vamvakias, who works with Lewis. “People want neighborhoods. People want to know their neighbors, they’re not just looking for that house far out in the woods. That’s new for Maine.”

Several brokers pointed to the success of the Tidewater neighborhood in Falmouth, which is 90 percent sold. The Tidewater model – attractively priced single-family homes that aren’t built until a contract is signed – is being followed by other subdivisions around the area, including the partially built Dunstan Crossing in Scarborough, a new development in Cumberland called Village Green and another in Freeport called Newfield Ridge.

“Developers don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves,” said agent Kathie Hooper, who was showing off a Gorham condo development called Ridgefield at Pheasant Knoll, for residents 55 and older.

She said in the Ridgefield development, each new building has four condos, and construction doesn’t begin until two of the four condos are sold.

“Everything that’s been built has been sold,” Hooper said.

Mortgage brokers Kim Brown and Lili Richmond said they’ve become specialists in finding financing, and that they work for both buyers and sellers.

“In this industry, people have to document the whole financial picture. We show them what’s available for financing,” Brown said.

The pair will help condo associations apply for Housing and Urban Development programs that make financing more available for buyers, identify local underwriters and even make videos of a property and its financing options.

“We’re the only ones in Maine doing this,” Brown said.

Elizabeth Polansky and Monique Jeffries said they have their own way of helping sellers get ahead in a buyer’s market: They’ll “stage” the home for a photo shoot, providing their own furniture if necessary, or “editing,” when that’s necessary.

“Ninety percent of today’s shoppers are looking at homes online,” Polansky said.

She said she has been shocked to see how many real estate agents take photos of messy and cluttered rooms, then post them online for potential buyers to view. With a host of television programs that making staging and selling homes entertainment, Polansky and Jeffries said they are still surprised by how often sellers skip this step.

“We try to educate both Realtors and sellers. Staging should be part of the marketing plans,” Jeffries said.

Portland broker Bob Knecht said what’s happening in the market in greater Portland is different than what’s been happening in the national market.

“It’s an extremely local market,” he said. “Portland and Auburn are different. Portland and York are different. It’s that local.”

He said there is plenty of money available for buyers and there are plenty of properties for sale. What’s missing, Knecht believes, is confidence.

“But it’s coming back quietly,” he said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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Real estate and mortgage brokers view and discuss residential properties for sale around greater Portland at an event at the Portland Country Club in Falmouth last week.