Last week’s column described the recent transformation of our real estate market, where despite the pandemic, out-of-state buyers have created a housing market running on steroids.

Maine, though tucked up into the country’s northeastern corner, historically has drawn a steady stream of newcomers. It’s not news that for centuries, most have come from Massachusetts.

The current market frenzy has some age on it now, so unique challenges are emerging for sellers and buyers.

Many of these sellers have cashed in the Golden Egg, but reading the fine print, realize they’re now in troubled waters. Cash buyers want to close in weeks, not months. “Where are we going to live?”

There’s substantial cash stashed in the bank, but can they successfully re-enter this competitive market with its limited pool of properties and inflated prices? Can they find a comparable house without wiping out that cash and not having to take out a new mortgage bigger than their old one?

Sure, winners are the sellers who earlier decided they no longer wanted to own two homes — here and down south. The cost is losing the “best of the two seasons” lifestyle. When their southern neighbors flee north to escape summer’s humidity-saturated heat, they’ll be hugging their on- full-blast air conditioners.


Some sellers still own Maine lakefront camps that they could winterize into their new year-round home. The downside is that what was once welcome summer-time privacy could turn into winter-time isolation, 911 rescue calls, and sitting on a hot Maine woodstove.

We’ve heard of one recent Kennebunk sale where the sellers headed farther south to permanently move in with the kids, a reversal of the 30-year old still living in the parents’ basement.

On the other side of the transaction, the cash buyer often has a costly reckoning of their own making. By eliminating the bank appraisal and inserting the escalator clause, disclosing how high they’re willing to bid, the buyers will always question if they overpaid.

The neighbors, using pre-rush valuations, say “yes.” The new owner, though ruminates, “How lucky can I be. I get to work from home via the internet, still receive my Boston-sized paycheck, and live here on the beautiful coast of Maine. Do they know what this house would sell for in the Boston suburbs?”

Another dark cloud on the horizon could be the agreement to sell as is, leaving the new owner responsible one day one for all repairs — possibly an over-the-hill furnace or a failed septic system.

The neighbors patiently wait for the neighborhood grapevine to telegraph if the house will be owner-occupied — full time, seasonally, or sporadically. If not, will it be a much needed long-term rental? They dread another Airbnb rental gobbling up our neighborhoods.


Most of our new “rush” residents would normally begin a settling in and assimilation process that is more than 350 years old, but new Delta case counts are rapidly climbing during this fourth wave of this pandemic. Masks are going back on and locals are again reducing their personal contacts and hunkering down into familiar cocoons. It’s hard to make new friends in that fearful environment.

Many of us believe September- and October-plus are the best months on the Maine calendar. You’ll soon have those Vacationland plates on your car and we’d like to encourage you to join us in enjoying our beautiful fall outdoors, one of the safest places during a pandemic. To be really safe, we urge you to splurge and buy a hunter orange hat, vest, or chamois shirt.

Two local land conservation trusts — Kennebunk Land Trust and Kennebunkport Conservation Trust have easy-walking, fee-free, extensive trail systems. Check their websites for trail locations and parking.

Arundel and Kennebunk host a long stretch of the Eastern Trail for walkers and bike riders. There’s access in Arundel and at the parking lot of Kennebunk Elementary School. Bring bug spray, and if your walking companion is man’s best friend, use a leash and bring a dog poop bag.

Kennebunk Land Trust’s Wonder Brook Preserve features a 2.5-mile, moderate trail. Dan King photo

Our golf courses will now be less crowded and you’ve three prime choices — historic Webhannet at Kennebunk Beach, Dutch Elm with its wide fairways, and Cape Arundel in Kennebunkport, made even more famous by two presidents — 41 and 43.

Call the clubhouses for play hours and the greens and cart fees.


You don’t have to worry about alligators or poisonous snakes on our courses. Maybe, a moose. Speaking of exotic creatures, families love the new miniature golf at Raptor Falls on Route 1 in Arundel. Your golfing companions will be T-Rex and other ancient creatures whose names I can’t pronounce or spell.

Kennebunk is bisected by two beautiful, scenic rivers — the Mousam and Kennebunk, giving you the opportunity to appreciate the spectacular fall colors.

The Mousam River in Kennebunk can be accessed for canoes, kayaks and paddle boards at four Kennebunk locations. Dan King photo

The Mousam can be accessed for canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards at four Kennebunk locations—downtown’s Lafayette Center parking lot, upriver at the Intervale town park or at two dam locations in West Kennebunk.

The tidal portion of the Mousam is accessed at the Route 9 bridge, just before it enters the ocean. The nearby old trolley right-of-way is one of the most scenic river walks in southern Maine.

The tidal Kennebunk can be accessed at Kennebunk Land Trust’s Butler Preserve on the Old Port Road, various locations in the Kennebunkport, and a few roadside pull-over spaces at Durrell’s Bridge.

Check the tide chart, so the river can help you with the paddling.


Our Murphy family came to Kennebunk from Cape Cod, yes, Massachusetts, during an earlier real estate wave in 1972. This small stretch of coastal Maine had met and exceeded all of our hopes and expectations. This is home.

As you settle into exploring our great outdoors and learning more about those who came before us over the past 350 years, you’ll see we’re standing on their shoulders. They’ve made it the best place to live, work, play and raise a family. We hope that your recent decision will lead to your own love affair with Maine.


Tom Murphy is a retired history teacher and state representative. He is a Kennebunk Landing resident and can be reached at

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