Lighthouse on the cliffs at sunrise, Portland, U.S.
Agent Insights Property Market Insights

Property Market Insights: The Charm of New England

Historic New England offers skiing, seaside, and a desirable quality of life—it’s no wonder buyers are flocking to the area, say our property experts

New England has certainly performed well in the face of the seismic shifts that have taken place over the past three years, and while the Boston Herald reported in August that the “fevered Massachusetts house market was on track to simmer down” with slowing sales, Christie’s International Real Estate professionals in the region say that continuing elevated listings prices and limited inventory are testament to the desirability not just of Massachusetts, but also many of its New England neighbors.

One of the biggest reasons I think New England is so attractive is the uniqueness of many areas that are steeped in history, from the cities like Providence and Boston, to the small ski villages including Bethel, Maine and Woodstock, Vermont,” says Matt Hadfield of Hogan Associates.

Commercial Street in Provincetown, Cape Cod
Cape Cod is known for picturesque villages, delicious seafood, and sweeping ocean beaches. Lively Commercial Street (pictured above) in Provincetown features art galleries, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and shops. Credit: Alamy

“The Chatham, Cape Cod, and Nantucket markets are still experiencing a strong market, derived from lack of inventory and buyer demand,” says Doug Grattan, president and owner of Christie’s International Real Estate Atlantic Brokerage. “As you can imagine, we are not impacted by the increase or fluctuation of interest rates as a majority of our buyers are cash- and asset-heavy. Most of coastal Massachusetts, Boston, and the suburbs surrounding the city are experiencing the same market as we are.”

Slater Anderson, managing director at LandVest, Inc., is similarly persuasive. “Northern New England and Portland, Maine, in particular, were both very desirable pre-COVID, but the pandemic was an accelerant to a lifestyle migration because it allowed people to work remotely in ways they never could before.”

“Many jobs have shifted to what seems to be a permanent transition of working remotely, which serves real estate markets in desirable areas farther from practical commuting distances from the city,” observes Hadfield.

“Newport County is a big benefactor of this trend as those with second homes are making them more permanent, and buyers who couldn’t practically live in the location they love now can with remote work, and buy farther away from their city office.” Hadfield also notes that there are still more buyers than sellers, “so until that changes we don’t expect any major price declines or shifts in the market.”

Boats moored in the coastal town of Rhode Island, Newport, U.S.A.
From visiting mansions that were once the summer homes of the Astor, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt families, to foodie tours of Narragansett Bay, the charming coastal town of Newport offers many experiences to visitors and locals alike. Credit: Alamy

As for Rhode Island, Hadfield also identifies it as an increasingly desirable market. “The location has ‘been discovered,’ and is now a strong consideration for those who may have in the past only looked at Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard or the Hamptons.” There has, he reports, been an influx of ultra-high-net-worth buyers, “which has made truly unique waterfront property prices soar.”

Grattan expands on how the pandemic affected demand for homes in the region: “Buyers from all over the world have diverged on the Cape and islands to escape the confines of the cities and suburbia. I found most buyers wanted to be in a location that they enjoyed spending time in and did not want to be in the city environment, especially during a lockdown.”

While he has “buyers from across the globe,” Grattan also notes that he has welcomed many investors from across the U.S. “A lot of people from Boston, New York, New Jersey, and San Francisco have purchased property here. We are seeing a lot of corporate buyers who are working from home and will travel to the office once or twice a month. We are seeing families who can work from home full-time as well.”

Menemsha Beach, Martha's Vineyard, New England
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, is a New England summer colony, accessible only by boat or plane. Surf beach Menemsha (pictured above) is thought to have the best sunset on the island. Credit: Alamy

Anderson goes beyond the pandemic and its lockdowns in explaining an influx of high-net-worth property investors into the region. “Climate factors have definitely come into play,” he says. “Buyers from the West Coast, are reaching the end of their rope with the droughts and water issues. Then there’s the issue of fires, tied to droughts and extreme weather events.” A quick Google search will suggest that New England and the Midwest Upper Lakes region are likely to be less affected by these events in the near future.

Wherever buyers come from and for whatever reason, Grattan reports that “one of the highest demands we have seen since the pandemic is for swimming pools. Prior to the pandemic a pool was a nice feature, but now a property with an in-ground swimming pool is in high demand and sells for a premium—and buyers don’t mind paying. They have the means to do so.” He also notes that investors increasingly want homes that don’t need work. “Buyers want turnkey!”

Anderson adds home offices, fitness spaces and mud rooms to the list of buyer requests and expectations. “People are spending more time in what were traditionally second-home markets, so a home office is important, as is a fitness space to work out in. And, if it’s a multigenerational home somewhere where there’s a lot of recreation, where you’ve got a whole lot of summer gear and a whole lot of winter gear, people want mud rooms and storage with the ability to swap out equipment seasonally.”

Of that recreation, Hadfield concludes, “Every season the flavor and activities of each community keep changing, which means there are many things to look forward to year-round, here.”

On the Market

Magnificent views from the front of a property looking across mountains and greenery
Built in 1994, the kitchen, dining, and living areas in this family home are one linear space with a commanding floor-to-ceiling slate fireplace. The property also has two bedrooms, two full baths, and one half bath. Credit: Brittany Schones, courtesy of LandVest

This special estate in Stowe offers 239 acres (97 ha) of private rolling meadows with Worcester Range views, woodlands, five ponds, a tennis court, extensive gardens with sculptures, and an orchard. Its crowning glory is the main residence, which extends over more than 4,800 square feet (446 sq m) and is designed to echo the traditional covered bridges that dot the surrounding New England landscape, but with a contemporary look and feel. Standout features of the two-bedroom home include a peaked interior ceiling, supported by a series of exposed trusses, and a spiral staircase. The house is flanked on either side by decks bounded by 12-foot-high (3.7 m) fir trusses that run their entire 140-foot (43 m) length. Miles of cut trails meander throughout the property and lead to the guest house and caretaker’s apartment along the tree-lined driveway.

Beachfront Home in Kennebunkport, Maine

Lounge area with beach and sea views through floor-to-ceiling windows
With views from Timber to Stage Harbor Islands, this magnificent property consists of a main house and beach pavilion. Altogether the compound has five bedrooms, four full baths, and three half baths. Francois Gagne, courtesy of LandVest

Grand and extraordinary, Goose Rocks compound is privately sited to take advantage of sweeping views from north to south on one of Maine’s longest stretches of sand beach, and consists of a main house and a pavilion built with the finest custom finishes. The primary home covers 3,300 square feet (307 sq m) over three floors that feature three bedrooms and four baths. A third-floor deck with fireplace opens from an entertainment area with home theater, bar, and wine storage. Also spanning three stories, across 2,100 square feet (195 sq m), the beach pavilion and has two bedrooms, three baths, and a third-floor office that could also be used for additional bedroom space. Both buildings are just steps from the shore and can be divided if required.

Magnificent Manor House with Water Views, Newport, Rhode Island

Manor House with wonderful views across the water filled with small boats
This Newport property, designed by John Russell Pope for Stuart Duncan, a Midwest banker and chairman of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce company, includes a shared pool, tennis courts, and a dock for residents to enjoy.

A wonderful two-bedroom condo, this home is set in a manor house with views of Newport Harbor and Pell Bridge. Offered for the first time in 40 years, this stately residence has showstopping potential with a private, gated entrance, a grand foyer, high ceilings, three fireplaces, leaded-glass windows, and original hardwood floors. The surrounding 12 acres (4.9 ha) were landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers, sons of famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Banner image: Portland Head Light at sunrise in Maine, New England, U.S.A. Credit: Alamy