Homebuyers flocking to rural Maine towns like Rangeley and Houlton during the coronavirus pandemic fueled a buzzing real estate market and made headlines, but the balance of people entering and leaving the state did has not significantly changed the slow population growth here.
Slightly more Mainers have left the state than they moved there in 2020, and some counties in Maine have seen fewer people from out of state moving there, according to a recent study by the real estate company CBRE, who analyzed the U.S. Postal Service’s change of address forms in 2020 compared to the previous year, leaving out temporary moves.
The populated and southern counties of Cumberland and York continued to see the most moves from outside Maine. Rural counties led by Lincoln, Franklin and Washington had the largest percentage gains from 2019, but their moves still only accounted for less than 4% of the statewide total. Aroostook and Piscataquis counties have seen fewer people settle.
People make big changes in their lives, like moving during events like the pandemic or the Great Recession, said Matt Mowell, senior economist at CBRE in Boston. Maine is also part of a larger trend in the United States for people leaving large cities with high population density and high cost of living, particularly New York and San Francisco.
The promise to telecommute to work from anywhere has prompted some people to relocate, while others have decided to retire during the pandemic and relocate, he said.
“Many Mainers are staying put, delaying moves during the pandemic and choosing to stay close to their families,” Mowell said. “This is consistent with what we are seeing in other rural states. “
The largest share of moves in Maine came from Massachusetts, up nearly 1,400 or 33% in 2020 from 2019. New York was next with 839, up 106%. Maine has also seen immigration from Florida, California, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
The state’s four population centers all saw people move in 2019, but in 2020 the Lewiston-Auburn area saw 182 more moves than moves, and Portland-South Portland saw a net increase of 2 239 despite high house prices. The Augusta-Waterville area saw a minor decline of 6 more moves than moves, while Bangor saw 247 more moves than people entering the area.
The Bangor area has seen an influx of people from Florida, Connecticut, and New York, and even from the Portland area and South Portland. Portland and South Portland have seen newcomers mainly from New Hampshire and New York.
In a separate study published in January, United Van Lines found Maine ranked 14th nationally as a moving destination in 2020, with 445 shipments entering the state and 354 outgoing. It was in the top 10 states for people retiring (9th), for health reasons (5th) or for a change in lifestyle (4th).
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