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County shoppers finding it cheaper to buy existing homes than land to build on

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After more than 35 years of living away from Aroostook County, Tara Thomas and her husband, Jeffrey, decided three months ago to move back to the area from Massachusetts and retire.

Currently, they are living in a small recreational vehicle while they decide whether to build a home or buy one.

It is a decision, Thomas said Monday, that is more difficult than she thought it would be.

“My husband and I always thought that we would eventually retire and come back to Aroostook County and build ourselves a little house,” she said Monday. “But we really didn’t take into account the price of building materials and the changes in the housing market.”

Realtors throughout The County said Monday that most customers who are seeking new places to live in the area are not seeking land, but they are looking for dwellings already built on them.

Jane Towle, an owner of RE/MAX in Presque Isle, said Monday that most of her customers are buying existing homes.

“It is expensive to build a home,” she said. “Labor costs for building a home are quite high. People would rather purchase a home that has already been built and lived in, in my experience. They want that home that has good bones.”

She said that in central Aroostook, there also is not as much land for sale as there was 20 years ago.

Steven Johnson, a real estate agent at St. John Valley Realty Co. in Fort Kent, said he is experiencing the same phenomenon in that region.

“Currently, we are not seeing too many people who are interested in building on land,” he said. “They want the house that has already been built for someone else.”

He said that the biggest obstacle for those looking to build on land is the expense of installing water, sewer and the cost of materials.

“It takes quite a while to get your investment into a home back,” said Johnson. “That is why most people are just looking for something that has already been built.”

Down in Houlton, Greg Miller at Northern Maine Realty said his experience is a bit different.

“I am seeing a few people who are more interested in purchasing land,” he said Monday. “I think the cost of land is more moderate is some areas than it is in others. But it is also more expensive to build in some areas than it is in others, such as along the lakes.”

While Thomas said Monday that she and her husband might end up remaining in their recreational vehicle for a few more months, she is confident that they will find a home by the end of July or August.

“We’ll find something,” she said. “There are plenty of options to choose from.”

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