By: Reese Remington, Contributing Writer.
Farmington, ME – Earlier this year, the announcement came that classes would return in person. This brought an influx of students back to campus, which also meant more students looking for housing. Despite students’ eagerness to live off-campus this year, it was going to be an uphill battle with Farmington’s small real estate pool and competitive market.
One student, Riley Bartell, a fifth-year senior, had a rough time finding housing around Farmington. He even considered living in neighboring towns. After searching all summer, he was only able to find an apartment in Livermore Falls but it fell through.
“There were over 500 applications for this apartment, but I never heard back about it,” Bartell said.
Thankfully, a couple of friends from the baseball team had a room available near campus. Now Bartell doesn’t have to commute to school for his last year.
Roommates, Bailey Blow and Julia Halley are first-time off-campus living students. Their experiences also had obstacles. Both Blow and Halley lived on campus last year and knew it was time to transition to an apartment this year.
“It’s been great. I like that we have roommate dinners – it’s like have a little family. It’s cute. The dining hall was a reason for moving off-campus, so it’s nice having a kitchen and cooking.” Halley said.
Living off-campus doesn’t come easily though. Planning is key to work with how competitive the market is. For Blow and Halley, finding an apartment took months in advance.
“Look early. It was really hard to find this place. Make sure you can financially do it, too because it is a really big commitment. We started looking over winter break (Dec. 2020) for this apartment because three and four bedrooms are a lot harder to find.” Blow said.
While residents in Farmington are calling it a housing crisis, realtor Byron Staples at Foothills Management isn’t as quick to call it that. He sees it as more of a competitive market right now due to a couple of factors. Two large issues that are contributing to the market are the lack of residents moving out of their current residence, and “outside people” coming in. Staples said about “two-thirds of apartments” that typically would go on the market during the season, didn’t.
Currently, there is a solar farm project in Farmington that began in July 2020. The project employed over 300 out-of-state employees all of whom took up any available housing in the area, whether it was hotels or residences.
However, the project should be slowing down by winter this year. With limited housing, it’s important to be sure and proactive while looking for housing, according to Staples.
“In this area, companies market June availability in Jan. and Feb. This means you have to be proactive. Don’t hesitate, and when a landlord reaches out, consider it as a job interview.” Staples said.
It would seem that the competitive market in Farmington may be opening up soon. Though with the pandemic still ongoing, it’s uncertain just how much will change.
For students looking to transition from on-campus to off-campus housing next year, being proactive during the process is key.