APPLETON — Select Board members looking to sell of a piece of town-owned land in Appleton for the best price heard bad news and good at their Aug. 30 meeting.

The bad news: 17 heavily-wooded acres on West Appleton Road would fetch between $49,500 and $55,000 in today’s real estate market.

The good news: The land’s really worth a whole lot more —  perhaps as much as $149,000.

The wildly different numbers — roughly $3,200 vs. $8,500 per acre — are in sales recommendations solicited by the board from real estate firms.

Two firms each provided a market analysis to assist town leaders as they follow up on the voter approved sale of public land.

“It’s interesting that there’s such a wide gap between the two,” board member Scott Esancy said, echoing colleagues’ apparent surprise at the huge difference is recommended listing prices.

The firm with the lower recommended listing price, Camden Real Estate Company,  came up with its number using three comparable sales of vacant land in Appleton over the past two years, according to the written analysis sent by the firm’s Kessler Horty.

Those unimproved parcels ranged in size from 10 to 44 acres and were listed from $39,000 for the former to  $65,000 for the latter. The middle listing price was $49,500 for 15 acres.

They sold for $39,000, $64,000 and $55,000, respectively.

Select Board members several weeks ago also discussed maybe subdividing the land, thinking that could increase total revenue, and they set in motion securing a bid on harvesting timber from the property before it’s sold.

In the end, they decided to wait on making final decisions on both matters until they’d heard back from the real estate experts.

Horty wrote, “I think the best way to sell the property would be as a whole and not harvest it.”

In that regard, the two analyses agreed.

In the letter from Nancy Hughes at Camden Coast Real Estate, the broker/owner wrote in more detail on the subdivision and timber harvest matters.

“The subject property…has been uncut for numerous years; the land is heavily wooded yet without very large hard or softwood trees. The highest and best value for the owner/town Appleton is to sell the whole parcel as is.”

She goes on to advise that harvesting can decrease rather than enhance the aesthetic value of the land and gave her reasons for advising against subdividing.

Selling the parcel as is, she wrote, “appears to be the highest and best value return over that of subdividing.”

The costs associated with splitting the land into multiple parcels “outweighs the smaller potential gain that subdividing may bring in return,” she wrote, adding that “The number of new home construction is also down due to supply costs, increased interest rates and labor shortages.”

Hughes’ analysis also looked for comparable plots in a wider area in reaching its recommended listing price of between $139,000 and $149,000 for the 17 acres.

Her firm reviewed 36 land sales over the past year in Appleton, Hope, Searsmont, Washington and Union.

The three best, she reported, were as follows: 17 acres on Barrett Hill Road in Union sold for $149,000 in September 2021; Just over 10.5 acres on Mountain Road in Searsmont sold for $78,000 in June of 2022; and in the same month, 29 acres on Appleton Road in Union went for $135,000.

She also listed the three best comparable current listing as follows: 42.5 acres on Jones Hill Road in Appleton listed at $159,000; on Whitney Road in Appleton, 45 acres priced at $145,000; and 27 acres on New England Road in Searsmont going for $85,000.

The Camden Coast Real Estate analysis also included part of a Maine statistical housing report compiled by the Maine Real Estate Information System. It compared sales data from April through June of 2021 to the same period this year.

It showed that while the number of home sales in Knox County was down nearly 13 percent, median sales prices rose by nearly 26 percent over last year.

The median sales price in Knox County between July 1 and June 30 of this year was $425,000. It means that half the houses sold for more than that and half for less.

Similar down-and-up patterns to one degree or another were found in every county in the state with the exception of Sagadahoc, where the number of homes sold was up by just under one percent, according the materials presented to the Appleton Select Board.

Board member Marci Moody Blakely noted that Camden Coast Real Estate had done a similar “very thorough” analysis for the town of Lincolnville when it decided to sell public land.

“I think we have met all the criteria passed by voters, it’d be a great idea to move forward,” board member Scott Esancy said.

The board decided unanimously to let Camden Coast Real Estate handle the land sale.