MDI Mansion (Finally) Sells

It’s been no secret that, while the economy has languished the past several years, one of the sectors that has languished the most is the housing market. Luxury homes, especially, have not been a hot commodity.

One in particular, in Bar Harbor overlooking Frenchman Bay, has been on the market for several years but, according to the listing agent, it has finally sold – for about $1 million less than the owner originally wanted.

Former state senator W. Tom Sawyer had asked for $4.9 million for the home in 2009 (I’ve been keeping track), but according to this post on the listing agent’s Facebook page, it sold late last month for $3,975,000.

That would seem like a big hit, but according to the town’s property tax records, the 3.3-acre shorefront property has an assessed value of $3.2 million. Sawyer bought the land in 2000 for less than $1 million and now it (the land) has an assessed value of over $700,000. The assessed value of the house, which was built in 2003, is $2.5 million. The $4.9 million price tag in 2009 may have been more a lingering reflection of the now-popped housing bubble than of anything else.

But I have no idea what the 2003 construction bill amounted to, or what kind of intangibles may have contributed to Sawyer’s former $4.9 million asking price. It can be hard to put a price on a labor of love which – given the name of “Highland Rose” that Sawyer bestowed upon the property and his outward affection for his Scottish heritage – is what the project seems to have been. (Check out this property slide show – that painting over the fireplace of a Highland drum major may well be a portrait of the erstwhile owner).

Housing bubbles aren’t a good thing – not for the millionaires and billionaires who own seasonal vacation homes on Mount Desert Island, and not for working people who get priced out of communities where they would like to live. Modest home prices on MDI might be more affordable now than they were five or six years ago, but it can be tough to buy if you work as a caretaker, carpenter or (as my wife used to) an estate gardener and the “big” houses are shuttered or left unimproved while the owners try to unload them.

So perhaps the sale of Highland Rose bodes well for the real estate and related sectors on MDI and elsewhere along the coast. Whether it does or not, I am sure the debate about the availability of affordable housing on the island will continue.


Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors. He writes about fisheries, marine-related topics, eastern coastal Maine communities and more for the BDN. He lives in Ellsworth. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.