When I posted Gadabout Maine’s first greeting card (the delicious Red’s Ice Cream) April Cohen was my very first customer. Not only was she the first one to buy it, she was also the first person to share it on her instagram. We had never met before, and I’ll never forget getting that first purchase and “share” from someone that I didn’t know. And since then, she has continued to champion everything I put out into the world, without expecting anything in return.
April is one of Maine’s unofficial cheerleaders. She celebrates the people, the makers and the small businesses that make our community vibrant, whole, remarkable. Almost always when I meet someone new, the first connection we have is because we both know April Cohen. When I’m wondering what is going to go into a building that proudly proclaims a new “Under Contract” sign, I message April to get the deets. And she always knows.
Cut to a short weekend getaway I took with my family to Carrabassett Valley. We booked an AirBnB totally last minute and I didn’t pay attention to much of the details in my hurried haste. As we checked into our cute condo minutes from Sugarloaf, I noticed a magnet on the fridge with April’s face. Without knowing, I had booked her rental and our paths crossed yet again.
We finally met in real life - something pretty novel these days - when I asked her if she’d be willing to appraise our house before we went forward with putting on an addition. She put aside her busy schedule that week, popped over, gave us her advice, and despite my begging, she refused to let us compensate her for her time.
A Real Estate Agent should be a people’s person and out and about in their community, of course. Making connections, building the trust of the community. And April is no exception to this, she’s a pro. But what I think separates her from others I have met or worked with, is that everything she does comes from a place of total, complete genuineness. In the past, I’ve sometimes left meetings with real estate agents that often had me questioning if their advice was to ultimately benefit and support me...or them. Advice from April will be the advice she’d give herself in your situation. It’s honest, valuable and pure.
And about her job - she loves it. There is always something just totally refreshing talking to someone who absolutely loves what they do. Selling Maine isn’t hard for April.
This year the real estate world went totally bonkers. What was this year like for you? Do you see this changing much in 2021?
I do feel like a switch went off all of a sudden. My company had to lay off this girl because, you know, they didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID and when I found out and I was like, I'm on my way to the office, we'll talk about this. I literally said to her: give me two weeks. I’ll have this figured out. Clearly, we didn’t and then within the next week and a half, our clients didn’t want anyone in their homes and they didn’t feel comfortable going into other people’s homes.
And I was like we're toast, you know. I don't know what to do. We have to stay home. So we spent a good month working from home. There wasn't a lot of property to be shown because our buyers were backing out so much. So, I remember sending my buyer’s agents books to read to prepare them because you know, this won’t last forever. So I needed them to still keep up with things. But honestly, that really only lasted about a month. When May hit we were off and running again.
People were like, okay, I think I'm more comfortable going outside again. We then started to wear masks as they were starting to roll out some new protocols. And we were like, okay, people need homes, so we need to sell them. So it went from being totally freaked out to let’s dip our toes back in again.
We made “Sani Packs” - we bottled sanitizer from Maine Craft Distilling and put a mask with a happy note in it. And we gave those out to a bunch of neighborhoods and our clients. We wanted to try to continue as “normal” but prepare our clients for what we thought they needed to do to be protected. Then we started putting booties, gloves and masks in bags at our listings - we just wanted to make people feel as comfortable as possible going into our listings.
But yes, I feel like the market is going to stay the same over the next year. Our inventory is going to be even lower. There’s this pandemic vibe out there, and it's not a good one. Emotions are high and it's like a full moon 24/7 out there. We try to calm people down, but it’s hard. They get hurt when they can't find housing but people don't want to make moves right now, you know, they're refinancing because rates are still low and since they’ve been home, I think they have found a new appreciation for their homes. If it’s the right size for them to live and work, they're staying. And if it's not they are either renovating or they're thinking of making the move - but making the move is not the first choice anymore.
What’s your best advice for people looking to buy in this market?
All I can say is just be patient. A lot of people’s first question when they don’t get a house is what did I do wrong in my offer? I try to say to them, it's going to happen when it's meant to happen for you, and this house for some reason is not your house. And I have to remind people that inventory is low. So there's 50 buyers out there and now there's only four houses to look at - so all of those buyers are going for that one house. Don't let that outside pressure get to you. In 2021, patience is the word.
What are the top three things that you believe make Maine the best place to live?
The people, the ocean and the views. The people that live here are kind and down to earth, it’s just the Maine way. And then, of course, the ocean. Like, hello! You can get different views of it every day. And it’s not just the views of the ocean that are amazing. It's just so gorgeous here.
On a different topic, your Instagram is essentially a giant celebration of shopping small and supporting local businesses. You always share your great finds and truly celebrate the makers and people of Maine. What is the last thing you bought from a local business that totally blew you away?
I fell down the rabbit hole of a hashtag last week and stumbled upon Conture Designs by Holly Kelley and she makes these cute masks - and I find masks to be like jeans, you have to find the right one to fit your face or it's going to fall down below your nose or it's going to be too small. So, I messaged this woman because she had this bag with these little lobsters on it - and was like can you make me a mask? And she said sure! So I had her make four. And when they arrived, I was like gah! Story time! I’ve got to let everybody know about her.
I used to be the president of the Buy Local in South Portland. And I learned what it's like to own a small business and how important it is to shop small.
Okay, it’s a beautiful Saturday in the summer. What does your day look like?
I'm probably training for something. The previous three years I was training for a triathlon - a half Ironman or an Ironman. So, I was on my bike or on a run - or both - in the morning and then I'd go to Scarborough Beach and I would house a burger from the Mainly Burger Truck because by the time I’m done I'm famished. So I would get my classic burger from the truck and then just sit on the beach - sometimes fall asleep, sometimes try to read but just try to zone out. And then I’d head home to walk my dog Lucy - we’d go to Bug Light a lot. So, yeah, running, biking, Scarborough Beach, Burger. I’m going to probably sign up for the MDI Marathon, so this summer will probably be the same thing!
What would your last meal on earth be?
I'll say what I miss the most and if somebody was like, April, you can have anything you want it would be from Joe's Boathouse, which is no longer here. They had a Peaks Island French toast on Sunday mornings and it was delicious. And also the French Toast from The Front Room as well!
Hey! I'm Chelsea.