Friday, September 17, 2021

Real Estate: Considerations before buying new construction

By Carrie Colby

There are many things to think about when buying new construction, and it can be a daunting prospect. You are making a huge financial commitment that could have a significant effect on your future. There are some truly essential considerations when buying a new construction home.

Setting Your Price
Whatever type of home you are looking to build, you need to set your budget. Do you know how much you can afford to spend? Getting preapproved for a mortgage should make things clearer so that you know your spending limit. If you have realistic expectations of what you can afford, you won’t waste your time on home plans that stretch you too far financially. It isn’t just the mortgage payments you need to consider. There are utility bills, property taxes, maintenance costs, and living expenses, to name just a few. And don’t overlook your moving expenses either.

Picking Your Location
You are likely to have many things that influence your choice of location. Perhaps you want to be near friends or family, maybe your journey to work is an important consideration, or you are looking to live in a certain school district. If you have many competing reasons that pull you in one direction or another, you may need to compromise the location. This could mean buying a new house in an area you know well or making a fresh start in a new neighborhood. If you don’t know the neighborhood you are thinking of moving to, you need to be more careful to make sure it is right for you. Visit the neighborhood at different times of the day and the evening to find out what it’s really like living there.


Do You Buy Land Or Purchase From a Builder?
One of the more significant decisions when buying new construction is whether you buy land and build your own custom home or go with a builder currently constructing homes. Of course, there are pros and cons to each of these choices. When hiring your own builder, you have the ability to construct exactly the way you want things. While some builders offer custom features, not every builder will let you do things exactly the way you want them. The builder you like might not want to build on your land. Some builders shy away from that. Maybe the builder you like only has homes available in a subdivision, and you would prefer a more private setting?

What Size House Do You Need?
If you are buying new construction, you might have more say in the size of rooms and number of bedrooms, but whatever type of home you are buying, you will need to know how much space you require.

Buying New Construction Homes
When buying new construction homes, you can have a lot of influence on how the house turns out. Changes can be made so that the property better fits what you want from a home. There can be downsides to new construction, though. If you aren’t careful, however, the finished product might not meet your expectations. If this is the case, costs could increase if you need to make changes or alterations after the home should have been finished. This scenario can be avoided if you have good communication with your architect and contractor. If your new construction is part of a larger development, you might find you have less say in how things turn out. This could be more of a problem if the home is a townhouse or a unit in a complex.

How Long Do You Want to Live in the Home?
If you intend to live in the home for a very long time, you should probably do more to make sure you build exactly the right home. But if you only anticipate being in the home for a year or two, perhaps you can be more flexible in your choice.

Final Thoughts
 
Buying a new house can either be an exciting experience or a real nightmare. If you are working with a builder, it is imperative to do lots of due diligence. Most of the downsides of building a home happens when you go with the wrong building contractor. <

Carrie Colby is a Broker with Allied Real Estate, 909 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Real Estate: Million Dollar Question, how much is my home worth in this seller’s market?

By Lisa DiBiase

One of the challenges of determining your home’s value is that “value” is subjective; one buyer may be willing to pay more than another. Buyers determine value by comparison shopping. 

They will look at the price of your home based on its features and benefits and compare it with similar homes that have recently sold or are currently on the market. So how do you find that sweet spot, meaning a listing price that will attract buyers and help you reach your goals?

In order to create value in the eyes of the buyer you either need to have a competitive list price or have more features and benefits for the same price! Most homeowners getting ready to sell their home are not looking to add any new features to their property.

Let me be clear, I am talking about adding a new feature, not simply making repairs to bring the property to today's current standard! Every home is going to have a kitchen, bathroom, etc. (at least we hope)!

Here are a few factors that influence the value of a property:

● Square footage of home, property acreage and age

● Location and local market conditions

● Comparable homes that have sold recently

● Economic conditions, including but not limited to interest rate environment

● Renovations and repairs

Realtors have their own techniques for determining a home’s value. The process many realtors use to estimate a home’s value is called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA includes information about comparable homes (also known as “comps”) in your area. The data is typically pulled from the Multiple Listing Service, the Realtors® database of properties in a given area that are listed for sale or have a sale pending.

If done properly, a CMA can tell you what homes similar to yours are selling for, how long it’s taking them to sell, and what homes sold for compared to their original list price.

What to look for in a CMA:

● Size

● Location

● Number of bedrooms/bathrooms

● Style and view

● Home type (e.g. single-family home, condo, townhome, etc.)

● Recent sales price

When a buyer purchases a home, the bank requires them to get an appraisal at some point before underwriting of the loan can be completed. As the seller, you’re not required to get an appraisal prior to listing the property, however it may be a good idea if you don’t want there to be any second-guessing about your home’s value when you’re ready to list.

It’s the appraiser’s job to provide an impartial, thoroughly researched estimate of a home’s value. They do that by visiting the property and reviewing recently sold or pending sale comps.

Appraisers use Fannie Mae’s Uniform Residential Appraisal Report as a guide for conducting an appraisal.

This report is a checklist of things appraisers should look for, such as:

● Where the home is located

● Whether the home is in a FEMA flood zone

● The condition of the utility services and fixtures on the property

● When the home was built

● The type of foundation

● The condition of the attic and basement, heating and air systems, walls, windows and doors

● Additional amenities, such as a pool, deck or fireplace

● Any structural improvements or repairs that have been made

● Whether any additional repairs or improvements are needed

● The condition of any appliances in the home

● Signs of damage that would compromise the structural soundness of the home.

In addition to using this report as a guideline, an appraiser would consider the sales history of the home and the approximate replacement cost to rebuild the home.

According to Opendoor.com: There are three types of home values you need to be familiar with as a seller:

● Appraised value: According to Investopedia, appraised value is a home’s value as determined by a professional appraiser at a given point in time. Appraised value is used by mortgage lenders during the underwriting process to determine how much a buyer can borrow.

●Assessed value: Assessed values are used to determine how much property tax is owed on a home. Assessed value is set by a municipal or county tax assessor, who evaluates the home’s features and those of comparable properties to arrive at a valuation. It’s usually a lower number than fair market value.

●Fair market value: Fair market value refers to how a home is valued when both the buyer and seller are reasonably knowledgeable about the property and neither is under any pressure to buy or sell.

According to Realtor.com, fair market value tends to be the truest measure of a home’s value overall, since it’s based primarily on supply and demand. This information is presented for informational purposes. As I have said before, please call a local REALTOR for all your real estate needs no matter how big or small. We are trained professionals here to make your life easier. It's best to surround yourself with the right team that can continuously give you the right advice for all your circumstances. <

Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner of Landing Real Estate. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact Lisa at 207-653-0823 or lisa@landinghomesmaine.com

Friday, September 3, 2021

Windham Maine 15th Hottest Zip Code in 2021

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

In August the zip code 04062, which covers the majority of Windham, was ranked by Realtor.com’s Hottest Zip Codes of 2021 as #15 of the nation’s 42,000 zip codes. Rankings were based on sales data from January through June of this year using an algorithm including two factors: market demand as measured by unique viewers per property and the number of days the listing remained active on the site. 

The top 10 zip codes in the report show there is a huge demand for buyers wanting to get further away from densely populated urban areas. Half of the 50 zip codes listed were located in the northeast and all shared similar market conditions with homes selling fast and limited inventory. 

This year in Windham the average number of days on the market for listed homes is only 5 days and the homes on average are selling for over 107 percent of their list price. What this means is the average list price for Windham single family homes this year is up to $349,900 but they then are closing out and selling for closer to an average of $375,000.

The overwhelming majority of the single-family homes purchased in Windham this year have used Conventional financing with only just over 15 percent being cash sales. The number of buyers using government backed loan products such as FHA, VA or Rural Development combined is just over 10 percent. With climbing home prices some prospective buyers may be pushed out once mortgage interest rates reach 3.5 percent on a 30-year fixed mortgage as the economy improves and inflation rises, likely by next spring.  If both home mortgage interest rates continue to creep up while home prices continue to rise we could see less competition next year, but the inventory has remained so tight it could have little impact. 

For years now we have been working around limited inventory, but the pandemic has caused this issue to soar to new heights. So far this year the number of listed, single-family homes in Windham which have sold both below $200,000 and over $900,000 are exactly the same with only 7 homes selling in each of those two contrasting price points (as of 8/23/21). This number would be far greater if our current supply of inventory could meet the growing demand of buyers who are currently shopping for homes. During the pandemic people began to upsize and look for larger homes offering more space. Loan applications for mortgages larger than $766,000 jumped to 55 percent while loan applications in the range of $150,000 - $300,000 fell by 2 percent according to Mortgage Bankers Association.

2021 Windham Single Family Home Sales

Sale Price           Sold

0 - $200,000         7

$201K - $300K  31

$301K - $400K  71

$401K - $500K  42

$501K - $600K  15

$601K - $700K     4

$701K - $800K     3

$801K - $900K     2

$900K - $1million   2

$1M -   $2M           2

Over $2M              1

Land sales across the state have continued to surge as buyers look to face less competition by building their dream home and developers look for ways to create more inventory. Total land sales year over year in Maine has jumped to a staggering increase of 138 percent.  Many are speculating that the best way to meet the rising buyer demand for housing will be to build more homes, which will take some time. Those looking to downsize by purchasing a condominium will need to be prepared to face similar market conditions with possibly even tighter inventory and greater competition with sales increasing two-fold over single family homes so far this year.

If you are a homeowner currently struggling with the logistics of wanting to sell but not knowing where you will go, you are not alone.  We have a growing list of “shadow inventory” of would be sellers who simply cannot find their next place and many are getting creative. This is a unique time for homeowners who want to capitalize on both the leverage and prices they can demand. Sellers might walk away with tens of thousands of dollars more than what they owe on their home by listing right now. These market conditions are creating life changing scenarios for some people, some will be able to retire sooner, pay off their college loans before they had planned or help their families more than they were prepared to. <

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker at Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth specializing in single family residential new construction since 2006 and a Windham resident.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Commercial Real Estate Trends for Windham 2021 and into 2022

By Larry Eliason

Currently, there is a very strong demand for commercial warehouse, commercial garage service, commercial land, and light industrial properties in the Windham area.  However, there continues to be very low inventory levels. And most of the existing commercial/light industrial buildings that had been vacant, have been renovated and leased-up over the past few years. There is certainly an opportunity for developers and investors to build new 5,000- to 20,000-square-foot structures in business parks like Quarry Ridge Business Park on Enterprise Drive and along major traffic corridors.  These commercial properties are a win for Windham with added jobs and increased commercial tax base.

Traditional retail properties will more than likely need to evolve and adapt in the near future.  No other commercial real estate properties have changed more than the retail space. The pandemic has dramatically altered the shopping behavior of consumers and the behavior of the retailers as well. Future space offerings should differentiate the shopping experiences with niche businesses with solid business models that support consumer needs and wants.

In many cases, the retailer is no longer solely dependent on the storefront for generating sales. The shopping experience is now optimized for the digital world. This means the retailers now must go through both the online channels in addition to their storefronts. This requires a significant investment in the digital platforms and an expansion of the sales strategy to capture storefront and web-based sales.  And, with web-based sales, a 24/7 operating system presence.

To fulfill all the orders coming from multiple sources, the retailers, especially the smaller niche ones, may find the need to convert sales floor space into stock room space due to the growth in online orders.  There should be a more demand for commercial storage space and commercial stock room space in the near future.

A lot of consumers of retail stores and restaurants will continue to expect an enhanced wellness and safety protocol to reduce the risk of entering a public shopping space. The precautions will vary depending upon the property type, market, store, or restaurant.  Disinfecting shopping carts, consistent cleaning, credit card keypad, upgraded air filtration system sanitization are just a few.  In many cases, the customer will not interact with a cashier at all.  Temporary outdoor seating at restaurants may need to become permanent to accommodate the consumer and help the restaurant businesses survive.

The local office inventory has been absorbed well in recent years as inventory levels are fairly low and the size of the office suites in the marketplace tend to be under 3,000-square-foot. In and around Windham, several Office Tenants have become office condo owners as prices have remained reasonable with low interest rates and lenders have been readily issuing small commercial real estate loans.  

The multifamily sector will continue to grow during economic distress, and housing is a primary need in a community like Windham. Because multifamily properties are a housing option with the lowest entry barriers, there will be a great demand in the future.  Absorption of available apartments in Windham is very brisk.

Affordable housing is still a significant concern as stagnating wages and increased rental prices reduce affordability in most areas.   Windham can grow smart and find balance with all the different real estate sectors, especially the housing sectors that include single family homes, multi-family projects, senior living projects and to direct the growth to areas where we want the growth.

Commercial and mortgage interest rates should remain low to stimulate the local economy and the Federal Reserve has reduced interest rates to all-time lows. The Fed’s should continue maintain low levels of interest though 2021, and into 2022, which is very favorable.

Some of the advanced retailers are upgrading their game to augmented reality as a part of the omnichannel sales strategy, especially to the millennials. They are making use of the technology now to allow the consumers to try on the clothes virtually as one prime example.  Businesses need to be smart phone friendly these days and it should be at the top of every business owner’s to-do list!

Builders, developers, and investors should consider these trends and think about how they will renovate or build the space.  For example, what extra precautions will they take to attract inbound sales in a store while at the same time, keeping in mind all the safety precautions.   Developers should have a better chance to ensure high demand for their rental spaces and investment properties with consideration of trends and planning for the new build or build-out of space.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought in a significant change in the commercial real estate sector. It has been quite a challenging period for private businesses to survive. Landlords need to take proper measures to ensure success for their investments.

From a real estate investment standpoint, it is essential to return to the fundamentals of cash flow analysis.  This should ensure that the tenants in the future will have the financial resources to make the rent payments.  Landlords should be evaluating the business models thoroughly to ensure the tenants stay consistent with the emerging trends and to remain relevant.

As the Town of Windham plans for and directs growth, continues to work on bringing public sewer and lateral access/service roads as well as interconnectivity via some of the private roads and shopping center drives to the North Windham Shopping District, residents of our town should see the added benefits of these infrastructure investments through strategically planned growth, improved traffic movement, a well-diversified tax base and a positive experience for consumers and businesses.

The Town of Windham investing in infrastructure for our future is key to the continued success of all of our Windham-based businesses. <

This article was brought to you by Larry Eliason, Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond. You can reach him at 207-415-2112. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Real Estate: Protect your family and your investment – Read Your Deed

By Richie Vraux

When you purchase your home, you should read your deed thoroughly because it could be costly to you if it is incorrect and make sure you understand all the wording in your deed. Your title company always has a lawyer on staff that reviews the deed. 

If you use your family lawyer, make she they are familiar with Real Estate Law because it may not be their specialty. There could be things listed in your deed that you may not be aware of or understand. For instance, there could be an easement and restrictions and or a right-of-way (ROW) that you might not have been aware of. There are some factors that show up in a deed, and if you don’t understand what something- ALWAYS ASK.

What is an easement: It is an agreed upon use of land by someone other than the owner of the property. It allows access, mostly to the utility companies for passage onto your property to maintain public services. There are two types of easements.

Gross Easement: This type usually allows for an individual to get to his or her property, that is land locked. It would be the only way to get to their property. This of course may cost you something but maybe the only way to get to their property. This type of easement passes on to the new owner when the owners sell the property.

Appurtenant easement: This type of easement will usually join two properties. Usually the land with the higher acreage will be the prominent party here. This owner will have more leverage and will usually set the rules moving forward.

ROW-(right-of-way)

A ROW allows an abutter to pass over your land to get to theirs. But, to be clear here, a right -of-way is given to allow an owner of an abutting property to pass over your property to get to theirs. It does not allow you to park your vehicle, stow your boat or anything else on that right-of-way. For instance, if a right-of-way is given to an abutter to get to a lake, you cannot store your canoe or kayak for future use without written permission from the owner. Also, some people think, because they have a ROW they can build a dock or a slip for their boat. It is only with written permission that they can do so.

Be prepared and be knowledgeable about what could affect your quality of living. Always be aware of your limitations and requirements of your easements or rights- of-way. You may require legal services.  Not all lawyers specialize in real estate, so know who to call when you have real estate questions. If you are unsure of where your deed may be, you can always go on-line to the registry of deeds to look up your property.

About the author: Richie Vraux is a partner with Maine’s Premier Team at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate with locations in Windham and Gorham offices. If you need real estate advice, Call Richie at 207- 317-1297.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Real Estate: As August heats up, so does the market

By Matthew Trudel

Prices continue to rise across the entire State of Maine, and just in the last few weeks the median home price has increased $5,000 to $10,000 depending on which county you look at. 

What is driving this market to highs we have never really seen?  Buyers are frustrated by being outbid by other buyers time and time again.  As realtors it is also just as frustrating showing countless houses, writing numerous offers, and having our clients miss out on a home they really liked and wanted. 

Here a few things that I feel are driving the prices up and/or at least keeping this frenzy of a market going.

There is a lot of out-of-state money coming into Maine for several reasons.  With everything that has happened over the last year or so, many original Mainers who had moved away for better paying jobs are opting to move back to Maine for a better quality of life and they can work remotely from about anywhere in the state. 

Maine also has the most affordable housing prices comparatively in the New England area.  On average you will spend $75,000 to $100,000 less on a house here in Maine than a similar home with our neighbors to the left, The Granite State of New Hampshire.

Lack of inventory is a major factor in prices climbing steadily over the past five years.  There just are not enough homes available to fill the demand. 

So why not just build more homes quicker and create more inventory?  Some towns are very much against this for many reasons from overcrowding the school system to increased traffic and infrastructure problems. 

Our local labor force has dwindled across the board in all fields of work, and contractors, builders, and developers are struggling to find and keep workers.  This is true for all our local restaurants in town as well.  The labor force just is not available or is choosing to not work.

Interest rates are still extremely low and dropped a little bit the last couple weeks.  This is giving buyers more buying power when they put in their offers and allowing for them to go considerably over the asking price. 

A lot of potential buyers are thinking they should wait because the housing prices will come down in a few years and they can save $25,000 to $35,000 on the purchase price. 

Possibly true, but you will also likely have an interest rate of 5 ½ to 6 ½ percent.  You are better off purchasing a house now at 3.5 percent interest rate because you will save more than the $25,000 in interest payment in the first five years of ownership compared to what you would pay at the higher interest rate.

At this point it doesn’t seem like this market is showing any signs of slowing down.  Houses that are priced right are under contract in less than 10 days.  Many times, there are multiple offers.  Trying to get your offer accepted takes a lot of thought and sometimes some clever negotiations. 

Work closely with your realtor on researching how to make your offer stand out from the others.  The highest offer is not always the best one for the seller. <

This article was written by Matthew Trudel, the owner of Five Star Realty, Windham. Call him at 207-939-6971.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Real Estate: Should I have my home inspected prior to listing it for sale?

By Richie Vraux

So, when you are ready to sell your home, your listing agent should recommend a pre- home inspection.

There are several reasons why the answer should always be- YES! It may be a little costly up-front, (usually between $500 and $1000, but by knowing what your homes issues are in advance, can save you thousands later. Your agent can recommend a Home Inspector or two, but ultimately it is your decision.

Sometimes minor problems, fixed in advance will reduce the liability for both, the buyer, and the seller. Having done that will raise the seller’s confidence that the potential issues are fixed and will minimize the issues that the buyer can come back at you with. It just gives all parties peace of mind knowing they will not need to dole out large amounts of money in advance to selling your home.

Minor deficiencies, such as, a missing light switch plate cover or exposed wiring out of an electrical box could mean you would have to hire a licensed electrician to close it up, and we all know how expensive they might run you for a bill. It is always better to find out what your deficiencies are in advance, correct those problems in advance, rather than to hire a professional to fix it after the inspector points out all the issues in his report.

Having a pre-inspection report and fixing the issues can reduce the liability for the seller, get it sold in a timelier manner and might even award him top dollar, even more than asking price.

Also, it will reduce any chance of having to negotiate the price due to the corrections that might need to be made and the potential risk of not closing on time. It just keeps the seller on target and the buyer happy so there are not any obstacles to slow down the process.

When the inspector goes to the house, he looks at all the home’s systems: electrical, plumbing, roof, basement, structure, water leakage, signs of insect/ rodent presence both inside the home and out. He looks for any and all defects and writes a report.

If you so desire, he will check for radon air and water, water test, septic inspection, and all other systems in the home. All homes, older and new, have issues, but an inspector will look at all systems.

While newer homes have to be kept up to current municipal, state and federal code guidelines, older homes most likely are not up to current codes and standards of today, and do not need to be.

The older homes were built to municipal code when it was built. Your inspector will know this. An inspector will write his report, which usually will be accompanied with pictures showing the defects listed on a scale 1-5, with 5, being the most important to address first.

This is a good way of seeing the issues first-hand to know what order of things need to be dealt with immediately and what problems are not as extreme. An inspector will check for leakage both in the basement and in the roof. Remember, an inspector cannot inspect anything that is not visible. Ask your agent who he would recommend as an inspector and is he licensed, does he have liability insurance, E/O insurance and does he have third party coverage. These are all good questions to ask.

The agent will recommend a few inspectors they have worked with and someone they can trust. Listen to your agent here- He is the professional here. <

Richie Vraux is a broker at Maine’s Premier Team at Better Homes and Gardens-The Masiello Group With offices in Gorham and Windham. Call Richie to seek professional advice for buyers and sellers at 207-317-1297.