ST. AGATHA – Selling homes seems to have become a bustling enterprise in this small community, which hugs the northern and eastern shores of Long Lake, just a few miles from the Canadian border.
Homes and property have been selling briskly and for values that are two and three times higher than the local property tax valuation. It used to be a rarity to see a home sell for $100,000 in the small community, but now sales are edging up toward the $300,000 mark.
The National Association of Realtors said in the past week that home sales nationally were on the wane. The pace of the last couple of months was the slowest in years, and prices have been falling at the same time.
In St. Agatha, the average home is selling for twice its tax value, and some sales are showing up at three times the value. Twenty sales have been registered in the small town since April 1.
Town Manager Ryan Pelletier said recent sales included a home that was assessed at $75,000 but which sold for $205,000, one that was assessed at $119,000 selling for $270,000, and another assessed at $85,000 selling for $133,000.
“Of the 20 sales registered since April 1, only one home sold below its assessed value and that sold for 90 percent of the taxable value,” Pelletier said. “Other sales have been high.
“We are concerned with the rising values,” he said. “It could mean a revaluation for the town.”
If the current trend continues, the town may need to be revaluated because the local valuation could become skewed in relation to the state valuation.
Pelletier said most homes in St. Agatha are being bought by people from out of town, quite a few by people from out of state. He said not a lot of local people, including people from Aroostook County, are buying property in St. Agatha.
He said people from away are paying higher prices for places by the lake or along snowmobile trails.
“People from away are finding property that is relatively inexpensive, even off the lake,” Pelletier said. “A lot of baby boomers are selling their homes, wherever they lived, pocketing some of the money and using the rest of it to buy what they consider relatively inexpensive homes here.
“To them these prices – [which] we consider high – are good deals for them,” he said. “The prices are outpricing the local market.”
It’s to the point that local people can no longer afford to buy homes along the rim of Long Lake.
According to Pelletier, more than 50 percent of the town’s tax bills are mailed to people who live outside of the local ZIP code area. Some are as far away as Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and other parts of New England.
Some of the homeowners fly into northern Maine and rent automobiles, or have automobiles here. Some drive, bringing their snow machines or ATVs with them on trailers.
Pelletier said they bring their friends, who in turn like it here and buy property themselves.
“It’s a domino effect,” he said. “The national trend is not prevalent in St. Agatha.
“I started noticing this in 2002, and it’s really kicked off this year,” the town manager said Friday. “It’s literally off the charts in the last year.”
He said people see these places advertised on the Internet and buy.