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Condo Laughs in Maine

People Have a Unique Sense of Humor Here

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media, August 2014

Up here in Maine the winters are too long, the summers too short, and we love to see a large summer full of tourists leave a little bit early in August. Though all will agree Maine is "the way life should be," it does come with its own challenges, and condo property managers know Maine's mix of year round unit owners, snowbirds, and growing senior demographic populations create their own interesting humorous stories. Perhaps for this reason in my travels throughout the country, I find Maine has a unique sense of dry humor in the air.
I recall I was engaged in a transition study for a new condominium complex in a town bordering New Hampshire and Maine. One of the interesting aspects of the study was a recent U.S. Geographical Survey revealed some adjacent farmland was actually in New Hampshire and not Maine, as all supposed. When walking this new border line, I spotted a farmer on his tractor tilling the soil on the new "New Hampshire'" land. I waved him down and asked him how he liked to be in New Hampshire now. He paused and grunted in a thick Downeast accent, "It's wicked good! I couldn't take another of those Maine winters."
Let's face it, you know you're in Maine if you own more than four sets of gloves or you're delighted on Valentine's Day to receive a set of snow tires as a present. It's the only place I know where property managers tell of getting snow blowers stuck on roofs. And, of course, summers have their own perils, as it's the only state where mosquitoes have landing lights.
Coastal condo communities like Old Orchard Beach unit owners deal with tracking in sand from the beach in the summer and then again in the winter from the roads and sidewalks. New condo buyers "from away" are always surprised to find listed in the condo  documents an amenity called '''fried clam shack." They also don't understand why the units and their garages have security lights but neither is ever locked.
These days new Maine condo buyers are paying more attention in their due diligence process in their review of the operating and reserve fund statements. The out-of-staters are particularly surprised when they note the various line items on the operating expense charts with large budgets for "mailbox replacement due to plow" or "facade repair: duct tape." They're truly mystified when they read the major maintenance supplier is "Uncle Henry's."
Speaking of maintenance, condo real estate advertising is getting out ofcontrol here in Maine. I had just finished inspecting a condo complex during a reserve fund project where I observed a lot of deferred maintenance. Later that weekend, I read in the Sunday paper's real estate section an ad for one of the units in this same condominium. One of the ad's superlative adjectives described the condo as "maintenance free." How could I argue?
As I mentioned, property managers are a great source of humorous tales of condo living. Some of their emergency call logs alone could feed a new TV sitcom called "All Condos Great and Small."
Here's a sampling of these unit owner emergency voicemails:
  • "The toilet is broke, where do I stand?"
  • "There is a smell coming from the man in the next unit.
  • "The toilet is blocked, and we can't bathe until it is cleared."

Of course, Maine general unit owner meetings can be a real hoot. You know you are at a meeting with serious issues on the agenda when all the board members are in formal attire with the directors all wearing ties with their flannel shirts including the women. And you know you are reading Maine condo board meeting minutes when the word "wicked" appears more than five times. 

We Mainers love to poke fun at ourselves not to mention our visitors from south of the Piscataqua River. I recall standing on the main street in Kittery when an out-of-state licensed car rolled its window down and the driver yelled at a passing Mainer, "Where can I find Kittery?" and of course the reply was, "Don't move an inch."