Real estate


Finding love on the rocks, our home in coastal Maine

Alison Seiffer for the boston globe

‘Was there a fire?” I asked, pointing to the charred beams poking through the living room ceiling. Living in Massachusetts, my husband and I were in search of our first home along Maine’s Midcoast, and, standing in the hallway of an old beauty in Thomaston, we’d found love.

“I’ll talk to the owner,” said the broker.

The house needed a major gut, but it sang to me. Built in 1875, it had views of the Saint George River , a corner lot with southern sun, and floor-to-ceiling windows, thick with intricate moldings. It also had frost heaves in the old pine floors, mildew in the air vents, and dead spiders hanging from the cellar pipes. Not to mention those burned beams.


The owner, annoyed at suggestions that the property needed work, appeared positively apoplectic at questions about fires and would not budge on his price. Our broker then asked us, “How many houses have you looked at?”

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On to Friendship, home of the famed Friendship sloop and lobster wars. The property we toured was a charmer, with an art studio, cedar shakes, and a kitchen that smelled like the Vineyard in summer.

But inspections uncovered remnants of a fossilized “septic” — pipes extending from a basement crawl space to a creek running through the backyard and into the harbor. This system worked fine for the owners (who had decamped to Florida), said their broker. Where did they conduct bathroom business, we wondered, the general store?

The septic guys recommended trucking in fill, building a driveway into the backyard to deposit said fill, then installing a system aligned with the 21st century. In the end, we took the final advice of the septic guys, the furnace guys, even the heating oil guy: This is a money pit. Get out.

After disappointments one and two, we decided to go with something rock solid — an old house (we had to have old) needing minimal renovation and in town, to take advantage of septic and water hookups.


After making an offer on a “New Englander” in Rockland’s eclectic South End, the realtor sent us an e-mail. The owners were neither accepting our offer nor countering it; they felt the house would get close to asking price. Turning up our noses, we decided the house was a rebound from our last property relationship and moved on.

The cozy turn-of-the-century bungalow in Tenants Harbor on six acres? Lost the property to a cash buyer.

The 1950s hippie house in Martinsville, tucked into the woods with three right of ways to the water? Yes, until the owner pulled a U-turn. He’d priced the house too low and couldn’t cover his mortgage with our agreed-upon price. We “could have the property at the original price,” he said. What?

Maybe a first home on the coast of Maine was not meant to be. But having gone this far, we refused to give up.

Finally, as summer faded, we spied a funky 1970s contemporary along a beautiful stretch of road in Owls Head. No, an 1800s farmhouse it wasn’t, but it did have an ancient apple orchard in the backyard. Plus a cozy barn for art projects and an animal or two. It was to become our sweet Maine home.

Nancy Gallant teaches language arts in the Lowell Public Schools and will move back to Owls Head, Maine, this summer. Send comments to Send a 550-word essay about your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.