Facing a big rent hike at their Portland apartment, Jennifer Wolfe and Chase Dolloff embarked on a harrowing house-hunting journey that took 14 offers until they met a seller willing to give them a break.
Rejected offers paint a common theme for would-be buyers who rely on first-time homebuyer programs, particularly in the Portland area, where the engaged couple competed with cash buyers offering $50,000 or more over asking prices for homes that sell within days of listing.
But their determination and willingness to compromise, coupled with a seller who sympathized with their plight despite higher offers, shows it can be done in the most competitive area in Maine’s tight real estate market.
Wolfe and Dolloff, both in their early 30s, were trying to save for a house when their rent increased to an amount that equaled a monthly mortgage payment on a house in their price range. They started looking for houses in January 2021, knowing they could not afford Portland but with a goal of being within a 20-minute drive of their jobs there.
“I knew it would be tough, but it was worse than expected,” said Wolfe, a health care referral specialist. “When we got to the eighth offer, we were wondering if we should stop looking and try to save more money. We even started looking further away than we wanted.”
Like many first-time homebuyers, Wolfe, a Windham native, and Dolloff, who grew up in Cumberland, were working from a deficit. They did not have enough savings for a big down payment or cash offer.
It meant they had to go with a no-money-down federal rural development loan, which limited their home choices to areas outside a major city. Loans typically require an appraisal that cash buyers can avoid. With a budget of $300,000, they were in the middle of the hottest price bracket for first-time-buyer homes. They also have different work schedules, which made it hard to tour a home at the same time.
“I told them this may take a while,” said Faith Morse, their agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Auburn. “Buyers are so desperate to get properties that they make offers well above the asking price and waive inspections, which I don’t recommend.”
Dolloff, a production worker at IDEXX Labs, said the first home they saw in Standish was perfect. It had three bedrooms with an ample yard and privacy. The couple fell in love with the place, but soon realized they were going to be outbid on that home and others, because buyers with cash handy wanted the same amenities and could pay more.
“It’s not good to get your hopes up and start envisioning your life …….