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After moving from Alabama to Portland, it did not take long for Angel Salmons, her husband and two children to want a more rural setting.
They bought a home in Hanover in 2020 after being attracted to the town for its scenic beauty, “village life” and access to the water, she said. The Oxford County town of 286 people straddles the Androscoggin River in the south while also featuring the large Howard Pond in the north, lying 15 minutes west of Rumford and 15 minutes east of the Sunday River ski resort in Newry.
She said new people were coming into town because it is a “real life Mayberry,” referring to the idyllic small town that was the setting of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“It wasn’t difficult to find a place to buy,” Salmons said. “We were ahead of the COVID rush.”
With many attracted to its rural nature and scenery, 3 out of 10 residents of Hanover moved from another state between 2019 and 2020, according to census data. That was by far the highest share for a municipality in Maine, eclipsing Orono, which is the home of the University of Maine, and the state’s major vacation destinations.
Maine communities big and small have seen new out-of-state residents amid the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the rise of remote work and a desire to escape places hit harder early in the pandemic. Other rural towns that saw big influxes of out-of-state residents include Jackman in Somerset County, Mattawamkeag in Penobscot County and Medford in Piscataquis County.
With Maine having a median household income below the U.S. average, out-of-state residents hold a financial advantage as they bid for a home. They are also more likely to be able to pay in cash upfront. The average value of a home in Hanover is $242,000 compared with $355,000 across the rest of the state, according to Zillow. That has gone up more than 18 percent in Hanover compared with 20 percent in all of Maine over the past year.
The area was once the site of around a dozen mills. However, the last one closed in the early 1950s, and the town saw a period of decline. The 286 people reported in the 2020 U.S. Census is the highest population the town has ever had, and a 20 percent increase from 2010.
In 2007, Hanover resident John Booth bought a 300-acre parcel on a small mountainside. He developed and expanded the plot, building the road and trail system himself.
He has sold all the lots available in the Hanover Pines subdivision in the past 18 months, primarily to out-of-state residents who have built new homes in Hanover. Most are not full-time residents, he said.
From his interactions, Booth gathered that many out-of-state residents from Massachusetts and Rhode Island were attracted to Maine because it has fewer regulations than their home states. In Hanover, they found a community that could grant them anonymity.
“The place doesn’t change,” Booth said. “The taxes are reasonable and nobody bothers anyone else.”