Coronavirus exodus in New York fuels Maine real estate boom


When asked if it was COVID-19 that forced him to flee New York City for Maine in March, Jordan Cohen didn’t make waffles.”One hundred percent,” the Greenwich Village native, 40, told the Post. “It was when things looked precarious and we didn’t know if we would get out of it.”

Jordan grew up near Grace Church, attended Bronx Science, and has family ties dating back to the Ellis Island Arrivals. But he also has warm memories of summer camp and family vacations in Maine. This is where he took his girlfriend, Elisabeth, on their first trip together. This is also where, a year later, he proposed to Acadia National Park. So when it was time to rush back from the coronavirus, Jordan looked north.

“I always dreamed of living in Maine,” he said, “but it wasn’t possible because of the job.”

Then the pandemic hit and Jordan lost his tech job. He and his now wife, Elisabeth, made the trip, intending to “get out” COVID in more rustic climates – but ultimately stayed.

After renting in Searsmont, a town of some 1,617 people inland on the Camden Coast, they bought a historic 1925 house on the highly prized Chestnut Street in Camden itself for $ 725,000. Elisabeth, 35, handles remote sales from the finished attic (with a view of Mount Battie), while Jordan has started her own marketing agency, the Fox Hill Group.

Elisabeth Cohen, seen here with her puppy Juju, and her husband Jordan have purchased a $ 725,000 home in scenic Camden.
Elisabeth Cohen, seen here with her puppy Juju, and her husband Jordan bought a $ 725,000 home in Camden, Maine that has a cozy fireplaceJordan Cohen

“Life here is great,” he says. “I walk every morning. I lost 30 pounds. It’s much more relaxed, but still productive. ”

Other residents of the tri-state region have decamped to the Pine Tree State for peace – and peace of mind.

“Probably 70% of my guests this summer were New Yorkers,” said James Lott, of vacation rental company Camden Accommodation. “Usually it’s sporadic, but New York was definitely in Maine this summer.”

Jordan, Juju and Elisabeth Cohen in front of their historic home built in 1925 in Camden.
Jordan, Juju and Elisabeth Cohen in front of their historic Camden home built in 1925.Jordan Cohen

Tenants and potential buyers were desperate, according to frontline brokers. “People called and said, ‘Give me any house in Maine,’” said Gwyneth Freeman of Better Homes & Gardens, The Masiello Group.

A strong economy and low interest rates made 2019 a historically good year for real estate in Maine, resulting in a 40% decrease in inventory in 2020, representing a large volume of closed sales.

“Due to COVID, April and May sales were down,” said Tom Cole, president of the Maine Association of Realtors. “But June has picked up, and July was a month of gangbusters, with almost 6 percent more buyers than last year. In August, out-of-state sales rose almost 10%, which is a clear indication of what is happening. ”

“It’s the craziest market I’ve seen,” added Nancy Hughes of Camden Coast Real Estate. “There is a very high demand, with people willing to pay high prices, but the lack of inventory has pushed the prices up even more.”

As a result, it is common for a property to attract multiple bids; in fact, a “quaint three bedroom” in Brunswick (home to Bowdoin College) has attracted 12 homes. Needless to say, homes don’t stay on the market for long. The Brunswick home sold within four days of listing for $ 274,900 to a Nashville couple who paid well above demand: the hefty sum of $ 305,000.

Homes like this one in beautiful Brunswick, Maine, sparks bidding wars.
Houses like this naval wonder in beautiful Brunswick spark fierce bidding wars.Mike Snow de Coldwell Banker Realty à Brunswick

“We were seeing something that we loved and revisited a day later and it would be under contract,” said Rich G., a 37-year-old lawyer who moved with his girlfriend from Toms River, New Jersey, to County of Aroostook.

The couple paid $ 159,000 for a three-bedroom ranch in Caribou, in the northeastern corner of the state, near the Canadian border. But they had to act fast.

“We made an offer in a day or two because we really liked the house,” said Rich, who asked not to publish his last name. “We acted quickly because we knew what was going on in the market.”

The coronavirus has led to more anxiety and claustrophobia in dense urban areas, low interest rates and job losses. “It’s COVID and all of its tentacles that make this market,” Hughes said in Camden.

Larry Cohen, his partner and their dog, Wilbur, inset on their Rockport fixer.
Larry Cohen, her husband and their dog, Wilbur (inset), discovered a Rockport fixer on their way to an Airbnb. They paid $ 1 million.Larry Cohen

Another of those tentacles – travel bans – drove Larry Cohen and her husband to Maine. The married couple had planned to travel to Sicily in June, but when the coronavirus canceled that, the couple booked an Airbnb in Machiasport, a sparsely populated coastal enclave in Maine’s “Down East” near the Canadian border. Along the way, they stumbled across the beautiful village of Rockport, which is similarly on the shore but closer to the rest of the Americas.

“I said to my husband, ‘This is the most beautiful city I have ever seen,’ recalls Cohen, a 47-year-old nonprofit CEO.

Although Cohen and her husband once shared an East Village studio, they reside in a Brown Stone in Bed-Stuy. But for their vacation home, they bought a harbor view “fixer” for just over a million dollars in Rockport.

“We wanted a place to socially distance ourselves and spend time comfortably,” Cohen said, planning more COVID-19 quarantines. “If we’re stuck at home, we could watch the water and relax. ”

Freeman of Better Homes & Gardens believes the pandemic has allowed the now-remote workforce to entertain other places to live.

“Without the pandemic, people might not have thought outside the box,” the Bangor-based real estate agent said. “But now they realize they don’t have to go to the office and can work anywhere.”

Morgan and Hayley Greenlaw-Morrow in front of their A-frame on Big Indian Lake.
Partly because Morgan and Hayley Greenlaw-Morrow can work remotely, they sold their home in Connecticut and bought a wooded A-frame on Big Indian Lake.Morgan Greenlaw

This is one of the reasons Morgan and Hayley Greenlaw-Morrow sold their home in Connecticut and moved to a location on Big Indian Lake in St. Alban’s, right in the middle of the state. The married couple cheekily dubbed their waterfront A-frame “Camp Beaverwood”. While they love the tranquility of “lake life”, they also realize its financial benefits. The two women now work remotely, which means they earn wages in New York City but live in the woods of Maine.

“It has become more and more evident with a healthy income and a drastically reduced cost of living that we would be really stupid to leave,” said Morgan, 33, a corporate events manager. Hayley, 45, is in the business of product development for a shoe company.

The mainstream seems to be divided over who is buying local real estate “far away”. Many drivers with New York license plates report being the target of unexpected majorities, but other transplants tell a different story.

Williamsburg's Will and Deb Wood (inset) bought a dilapidated cabin on Lake Sebec as a second home. Dover-Foxcroft's neighbors greeted them via the cinema marquee.
Williamsburg’s Will and Deb Wood (inset) bought a dilapidated cabin on Lake Sebec as a second home. Dover-Foxcroft’s neighbors greeted them via the cinema marquee.Will Wood

After Will Wood (with his wife Deb and teenage Winnie) purchased over 2 acres near Lake Sebec in Dover-Foxcroft – about 30 miles north of Greenlaw-Morrows – the town posted a welcome sign on the marquee of the local cinema.

And when it was time to prop up their dilapidated chalet, to be used as a second home, the neighbors spontaneously jumped in: one was helping deliver heavy beams for free, while another seemed to help them slide them under the house. .

“I found our neighbors in Piscataquis County to be almost comically helpful,” said Wood, 55, a former bike shop owner.

A silent Mainer told The Post his opinion on the matter, if not his name. “We are okay with people moving here,” said the longtime local. “It’s just when they want to change everything that we might have a problem.”


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