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Economic report

Waldo County sees sharp rise in home sales, prices

Retail sales up; restaurant, lodging revenues drop
By Fran Gonzalez | Jan 08, 2021
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Downtown Belfast, April 2020.

In line with other parts of the state, Waldo County real estate sales are heating up.

Real estate data shows home sales and median home prices have increased significantly compared to last year. November's unemployment data shows Waldo County fared better than the national average. And in spite of the pandemic, many retail stores saw an increase in revenues, though restaurant and lodging revenues decreased.

In real estate sales, Waldo County saw a 43% increase in homes sold in the month of October, compared to a year ago.

The Maine Association of Realtors released figures showing that 226 homes were sold countywide in October, up from 158 in October 2019. The median sale price rose to $258,750 in October, an increase of 32%.

By comparison, the median home sale price across the state reached $280,000, a 24% increase over October 2019.

The largest October increase in home sales occurred in Washington County, with an 80% rise, followed by Hancock County with 68%, Piscataquis with 59%, Aroostook with 54% and Knox with a 50% increase.

Statewide, November Maine listings showed 1,965 single-family existing homes sold, a 31% increase from the same time last year.

Other economic results mixed

In other sectors of the economy, the picture in the county was more mixed. Food stores' taxable revenues for the economic region that includes the Waldo County municipalities of Bayside, Belfast, Belmont, Brooks, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Swanville and Waldo were virtually unchanged, rising slightly to $3.243 million from $3.236 million in October 2019. Most food is exempt from the state's sales tax and is not included in the figures.

Building supply stores reported sales of $5.8 million, a 5.5% decrease compared to $6.1 million a year ago, while auto sales for the month increased by 16.7%, to $3.5 million from $3 million in October 2019.

Restaurants saw a decline in October from the previous year. Sales went from $2.5 million to $2.1 million, a 16% drop, and lodging recorded the biggest decline, from $586,400 to $400,600, a 31.6% decrease.

Sales at general merchandise stores totaled $2.3 million in October, an increase of 16% from around $2 million a year ago.

Other retail, a miscellaneous category of businesses — such as gift shops, antiques stores, jewelers, pharmacies and sporting goods —  saw a 33% increase from $1.5 million to $2 million for the month of October, the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services reported.

Total retail sales in the region increased slightly for October 2020 with $20.5 million reported. This marks a 2.8% jump from just over $20 million a year earlier.

The unemployment rate in Waldo County fared better than the national average in November 2020, edging down to 4.6% for the month, compared to 2.9% in 2019, and 3% in 2018 for the same month. The national unemployment rate in November 2020 was 6.7%.

At the height of the pandemic in April, the county's unemployment rate soared to 9.8%, according to the Center for Workforce Research and Information.

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