Friday, July 23, 2021

Real Estate: Making a list and checking it twice

By Jonathan Priest

It’s Christmas in July!  OK, not really, but in this exciting installment of “I’m Licensed To Sell Insurance So You Should Listen To Me,” I DO want you to make a list and check it twice!  Why?  Because as a renter or homeowner, part of your responsibility as a policyowner or “named insured” is to keep accurate information as to the inventory of your personal belongings!  

Back in the Golden Age of Insurance, before computers were widespread and commonly used, a decimal point was an underwriter’s best friend.  Premiums were calculated manually, and insurance companies would send out small, mostly blank ruled pamphlets for their customers to notate the items that they owned, in order to more easily facilitate replacement of items that were damaged in a covered claim.

While we’ve moved away from ledger books as a society, it still makes sense to keep a record of the things that you own in your home, your shed and your garage.  Now that most of us have a video recording device that fits in our pocket, and remote storage capability for said videos, it’s never been easier to take a few minutes and stroll through your house, taking video of all the items in your possession!

Picture this:

It’s family reunion time!  Uncle Ray really wants to run the grill, and against your better judgement (he did swap a Hemi into his John Deere back in 2002, but surely his judgement’s improved since then, right?) you allow him to turn on the propane, watching as he carefully thumbs the spark switch and the burners ignite. 

“I got this under control,” he says.  “Go finish up the deviled eggs and the ambrosia salad!”  You turn your back… and as soon as you’re around the side of the garage, he grabs his new turkey fryer out of the back of his RAM 2500 and sets it square on the grill, perilously close to your vinyl siding…

You see where I’m going with this, right?

You might say to yourself, “I know what I have, I don’t need to bother with that foolishness!”  I beg to disagree.  I have had customers come to me months and even years after a loss to file a supplemental claim, as they forgot about the item or items during their first attempt to notify the insurance company of all of the damaged (or stolen) property. 

Speaking of stolen property, that can be the toughest loss to come back from and be made whole again; it sometimes takes several weeks or months to realize that you’ve been burgled, if you don’t catch the perpetrator in the act!  A great and inexpensive way to help protect against theft is by installing a security camera or a Ring-style doorbell camera, particularly in this age of “Porch Pirates” who cruise through neighborhoods looking for newly delivered packages to steal off folks’ front steps!  These can also very often give you additional discounts on your home insurance.

When it comes to specialized items like jewelry, firearms, antiques and musical instruments, I highly recommend adding scheduled personal property coverage to your home or renter’s policy.  For a relatively small additional cost, additional protection is afforded on these items, provided the company has received evidence of value like an appraisal, bill of sale or similar documents. 

In many cases, there is no deductible in the event of a loss of a scheduled item, and the coverage is much more comprehensive, with additional benefits like “Pair and Set” on items like earrings, so that if one goes missing or a stone falls out, the company will provide multiple replacement options to choose from in order to make sure you get the closest possible “twin” to match the remaining piece.

There are also many specialized additional coverages available for cell phones, tablets and computers, and home office equipment as well!  When your insurance agent calls looking for you to schedule an annual policy review, ask them about these additional benefits, discounts and coverages so you are as informed a consumer as you can be! <

Jonathan Priest is a MetLife property and casualty specialist in Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 for your home, auto, life or business insurance needs.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Real Estate: Let’s talk refinance

By Skylar Welch

Let’s talk refinances. When someone thinks of a refinance, they usually think of lowering their monthly payment or cutting the term of their loan, however there are so many other uses of a refinance.

2020 was a difficult year for so many people for so many reasons. One of which was the financial burden that people incurred when their work shut down, they were furloughed, or their hours were cut. Many couples were forced to have one parent leave their job or cut hours to stay home and homeschool their children. During this time, people racked up credit card debt, took out personal loans, and financially over-extended themselves. Now, they are having a difficult time digging themselves out from under the high interest debt and keep their heads above water.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? If you currently own a home, a great option for you, may be a cash out refinance. Interest rates are still extremely low and with a cash out refinance, you can take cash out of the equity you have in your home, to pay off all of the debt you have, whether it be credit card debt, a second mortgage, installment loans or student loans, while locking in at a low, fixed interest rate, amortized over a longer period of time. This way, you pay off your debt, and lower your monthly payments, to put yourself financially in a much better place!   

If you haven’t noticed lately, the market is crazy.  Properties are flying off of the market as fast as they are listed, and buyers are having difficulty putting properties under contract. A lot of people want to sell their home, but they have nowhere to go, causing a stalemate in the market. An option that homeowners have, is taking a cash out refinance, to make the improvements or fix what is needed, to turn their current home, into their forever home, rather than trying to throw themselves into this difficult market. Home values are higher than ever, so there is no better time to make this happen.

Another common trend during the last year, is a lot of people have found themselves spending a lot more time at home, leading to a lot of home improvement projects! Whether it be to add a garage, put on an addition or create a pool and patio oasis, coming up with the funds to make these dreams a reality, can be difficult.

However, if you currently own your home, taking a cash out refinance, to take equity out on your existing home, can be a great option! Again, you can lock in at a low interest rate and receive the cash you need to make the improvements you want, while adding value to your home!

One last way to use a cash out refinance, is to pull some equity that you have in your home, to use as a down payment on another property.

Whether you have been looking to purchase a second home at the lake or on the ski mountain, or if your dream is to start investing in real estate, coming up with the down payment, can sometimes be tricky. A cash out refinance can be a great option to obtain the cash, rather than having to pull out of your retirement or take out a high interest personal loan.

These are all some great ideas on how to use the equity you have in your home, as a financial tool. Next time you think of a refinance, don’t just think of it as a way to lower your interest rate (because lets face it, if you have purchased a home in the last three to five years, you likely have a great interest rate), but start thinking of it, as a way to put yourself in a better financial situation or to add value to your home. <

Skylar Welch owns Maine Pointe Lending is at 202 US Route 1, Suite 102 in Falmouth. Call 207-949-3568 or find them online at www.mainepointelending.com. They’re also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skyeclosesmaine/

Friday, July 9, 2021

Real Estate: Waiting on Bated Breath, The Appraisal

Submitted by Lisa DiBiase 

What is an appraisal?

When buying and selling a home, there’s no getting around the home appraisal if the buyer is taking out a mortgage to purchase the home. You can’t wave a magic wand to raise the fair market value of any property. My favorite quote is “you are what you are” which means it’s worth what it’s worth. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn't educate yourself about the appraisal process. The objective of an appraisal is to provide an independent and impartial cost analysis of real property according to the National Association of Realtors®, NAR. The appraiser’s client is the lender. However, the appraisal protects a buyer against paying more for a home than it’s worth, which could put their financial future in jeopardy. For example, if the buyer loses their job a year later after purchasing the property then they are “upside down”. This means they can’t sell the house for the amount owed on the mortgage, which leads to foreclosure. However, if they buy it at the right value and something happens a year or two into it they can get out without losing their skin. They may not make any profit, but they may not suffer any loss or at least as big a loss. To come up with an accurate value gauge, the appraiser conducts deep research of the comparable sales data and uses an on-site visit to verify the home’s size, features, and condition.

How does the appraisal impact a real estate transaction?

There are a few primary reasons homes fail to appraise. Let’s explore a few options:

1. The contract price is over appraisal value. In rising real estate markets it’s common for buyers to compete for a house and drive up the price above market value. At that point the biggest mistake sellers make is assuming that the buyer will bring extra cash to the table as needed. The reality is traditionally the buyer has saved all the money they have for closing costs and down payment and usually not much more than that. On the other hand, there are buyers out there who do have cash on hand and can cover the difference between the contract price and appraisal value. This is known as “bridging the gap”.

If the appraisal comes in below the contract price, there are still options.

1. Seller can lower the price.

2. Buyer can bring the additional cash to bridge the gap between the contract price and appraisal value.

3. Buyer and Seller can renegotiate the purchase price and terms of the contract to work in the favor of both parties. This is also why pricing your house right from the start is so key. Don’t hire the agent who is going to flatter you with an empty promise to sell your house for more. Find one who’s done their homework and has the comps to prove it.

2. An appraiser finds an issue with the house that impacts its value.

 In some cases, an appraiser will identify an issue with the property that must be factored into the appraisal. This could be a room addition that doesn’t have a permit. In that case the appraiser may mark the room as a “cost to cure” line item on the report, which could lower the appraised value for a given amount. Some types of loans like FHA (Federal Housing Administration) also require specific problems like broken or cracked windows or peeling and flaking paint to be corrected before a house can appraise.

3. The appraiser was inexperienced or doesn’t know the area.

There are a lot of nuanced factors that go into appraising a property accurately. “Geographic competency” or an appraiser’s knowledge of the local area can make a big difference in whether an appraisal arrives at the true market value of a home. Other issues can be as simple as the appraiser rushing through the data compilation or applies short cuts. Lastly, If the appraisal value does not come in at contract price, there is one last ditch effort and usually the very last resort. Appeal the appraisal. This is not a guarantee and the appraisers are typically not thrilled when their professional opinion is being questioned. If you plan to appeal the appraisal, here are a few tips:

1. Contact your lender and find out what the steps are for their appeal process. Each lender has different processes.

2. Study the appraisal carefully. Review the basic information used in the appraisal for your home's actual features. Does it have the correct number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage etc.

3. Research the comparables used in the appraisal. Note any advantages that your house has over the comps used. Do you have a larger kitchen or perhaps it has upgraded finishes. Whatever advantages you can find, they should be able to prove that your home has a higher market value than the comps and that it is properly adjusted in the appraisal. Run the most recent sales in the last 6 months and sooner to make sure that a sale that supports your market value didn’t just recently close and perhaps was missed during the time the appraisal was being completed.

4. Last resort would be to order a new appraisal, but that can be costly with no guarantee of a different outcome.

You can present this information to your lender who will then forward to the appraiser for review. Hopefully the new information you bring to the table will help the appraiser reassess their opinion of value.

What can you do to prepare for the appraisal?

Here’s a short list of things you can do to prepare for an appraisal:

1. Deep clean the inside of your home. Act like you are showing the house all over again to buyers. Definitely make sure you’ve dealt with any issues related to pests and pets. First impressions are so important.

2. Secure your pets. This allows the appraiser to work more efficiently and can focus on your property without any distractions.

3. Spend an afternoon cleaning up the yard. No need to get too fancy. Just make sure the front of the house looks nice and tidy. Pull any weeds, mow the lawn, trim the hedges, edge the grass, brush away cobwebs, and clear leaves and debris. You can’t necessarily put a price on curb appeal, but appraisers can take it into account when reconciling that final value.

4. Touch up your paint on the outside of your home. It may not seem like a big deal, but appraisers will factor peeling paint into their evaluation, especially if they are doing an FHA mortgage appraisal. No need to repaint the whole house, just touch up the few places to make it shine.

Getting through the appraisal process is the last hurdle of the sale of a home. Working with a local Realtor® who knows the area is critical to having well-informed choices available to you as a consumer and ultimately guiding you successfully through the sale. 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 of professionals that can continuously give you the right advice for all your circumstances. <

Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact lisa@landinghomesmaine.com

Friday, July 2, 2021

Real Estate: Defending your home against moisture, dampness and humidity

 By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

Moisture can be one of the most damaging problems for a home and when left untreated can result in costly repairs and unhealthy living conditions. It is important for homeowners to objectively evaluate their property during the summer months to check for repairs that should be completed and upgrades that can be budgeted for such as storm doors or rain gutters to direct water away from surfaces.

Outside

Walk across the street or find a place where you can view your roof and bring binoculars if helpful. Inspect for missing shingles which may have blown off in a storm, and look for any that are curling or lifting. Even one missing shingle can be a source for eventual water intrusion and damage. A roof with dark streaks from algae, moss, mold or mildew growth can appear unsightly and compromise the life span of your shingles. It is easy to remove the growth using equal parts bleach and water (pressure washers can damage shingles so are not recommended) but you will need to pre and post rinse any plants around your foundation to prevent damage. There are products which you can purchase designed for this purpose that you can purchase locally or online. Branches from nearby trees close enough to drop leaves or pine needles onto your roof should be cut back and removing select trees can help to allow a greater passage of sunlight on and in your home. Make sure to clean out rain gutters which may fill with leaves so they can properly function, as well.

Exterior paint is what protects wooden surfaces from rotting. Areas with flaking or peeling paint should be sanded and fresh paint applied to prevent further damage.

Power washing can be a highly effective way to remove damaging staining and discoloration from mildew and mold, bird droppings, pollen and other grime which accumulates over time on outdoor surfaces like exterior siding, decking, driveway and walkways. Help to keep your home looking fresh by purchasing a pressure washer for several hundred dollars or hiring a professional company to help with this. If you are a new homeowner doing this yourself be cautioned that you should begin at the lowest setting and use the least force possible to avoid permanent damage to wood surfaces, windows and screens, brick mortar or even personal injury.

Incorporate a perimeter of crushed stone or brick surrounding the foundation of your home instead of using wood mulch which holds in moisture.

Indoors

 “It’s not the heat…. it’s the humidity.” Once the temperature reaches above 60 degrees it is time to turn on the dehumidifier for optimal indoor air quality. “When humidity levels are high, molds can be a problem in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Make sure these areas have good air circulation and are cleaned often. The basement, in particular, may need a dehumidifier.” according to the American Lung Association. Dehumidifiers work by removing the excess moisture from the air and collecting it in a bin or dumping it down a drain depending on your model. Keep the humidity in your home below 50% to reduce the growth of dust mites, molds, bacteria and other organisms as well as combat musty odors and feel more comfortable.

Turning your air conditioning unit to “Auto” instead of the “On” setting can help to reduce condensation and remember to clean drip pans and filters.

Many of the tasks that we do each day create moisture and disburse it into the air including cooking, drying clothes by using a gas or electric dryer as well as indoor line drying of clothes, showering and more. Make sure you are using the necessary ventilation by running the bathroom fan for 20 minutes after showering, using range hood fans when cooking and opening windows when possible. Clean out your dryer vent by removing the cover and vacuuming out as much as possible or purchasing a cleaning kit with brushes and check to make sure there are no loose fittings or blockage causing moisture to build inside your home when using.

Check for indoor plumbing leaks which may have developed under bathroom and kitchen sinks or laundry area that could be contributing to overall indoor moisture, as well. <

Nicole Foster is a Broker and Windham resident specializing in new construction since 2006.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Real Estate: Enterprise Development District attracts attention in Windham

By Larry Eliason

The Enterprise Development District (ED Zone) is the home of the Quarry Ridge Business Park located right off Route 302 on Enterprise Drive in North Windham.  The ED Zone offers Business Owners and Developers a wide variety of commercial uses and land area for large commercial buildings and large-scale projects.  The Business Park is served by public water, electric including three-phase and natural gas. For easy reference, you can access Enterprise Drive directly off Route 302.  The Dugout Ice Cream is at the corner for reference. 

The intent of the Enterprise Development District (ED Zone) is to provide a unique area within the Town of Windham to allow manufacturing, processing, treatment, warehousing, storage, research, and distribution with safe, well-regulated vehicle access located off a major street which can conform to the performance standards set forth in this section and in all other applicable ordinances of the Town of Windham.

Since February of this year, four (4) commercial lots have sold in the Quarry Ridge Business Park along Enterprise Drive and Bedrock Terrace; Lot 3A, Lot 3B, Lot # 8 and Lot # 9.  One of the lots sold, Lot # 3A at the corner of Enterprise Drive and Bedrock Terrace has a new 12,500-plus square foot Commercial Building under construction.  This new building when completed will be the new home of Paul’s Boutique and Nursery Grow and Processing Facility.  Paul’s Boutique was one of two Windham companies to apply for and receive an Adult Use Cannabis License.  This new facility will add good paying jobs and additional commercial tax base for Windham. 

In addition to the four (4) Commercial Lots that sold, a ½-acre Commercial Lot on Storm Drive and Enterprise Drive sold this spring.  And there is a large scale 25-acre land sale and project pending out behind Genest Concrete.  

The following uses shall be permitted in the Enterprise Development District as a matter of right; Auction House; Automobile Auction Facility; Automobile Repair Services; Building; Accessory; Business and Professional Office; Contractor Services; Contractor Storage Yard; Construction Services; Heavy, Major, Construction Services; Heavy, Convention Center; Distribution Facility; Forestry; Hotel; Industry; Heavy, Industry, Light; Marijuana Cultivation Facility; Marijuana Manufacturing, Facility; Marijuana Testing Facility; Mineral Extraction; Motel; Public Utility Facility; Retail Sales, Accessory; Small Engine Repair, Use, Accessory; Warehousing; Private, Warehousing, Public; Wireless Telecommunications Tower and Facility.

In addition to the permitted uses, there are a couple of Conditional Uses that may be an option as well, including Automobile Storage Lot and Shipping Containers.

Back in 2010, Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers made recommendations for improvements to Route 302 from Whites Bridge Road out to Mineral Spring Road that was referred to as the 302 Corridor Plan. The 302 Corridor Plan specifically addressed the full signalization of the intersection at Enterprise Drive and Route 302 once the warrants for signalization are met in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the MaineDOT approves the project.

There is an existing Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) traffic movement plan in place that will eventually include a much-needed traffic signal at the intersection of Enterprise Drive and Route 302.   Many hours of the day it is exceedingly difficult to make a left-hand turn onto Route 302 due to oncoming traffic, especially in the summer months.  There is a “trips per day” generated threshold to trigger the signal installation which is still relatively far away per MDOT standards.   

As new Commercial Development comes to the Quarry Ridge Business Park, the closer we get to having a signalized intersection at Enterprise Drive and Route 302. This will provide convenience and efficiency for the existing businesses and their customers in the business park, attracting new commercial development and most importantly making safety a priority for everyone turning left out of Enterprise Drive onto Route 302.

When considering the acquisition of Commercial Land for new commercial development, you should always engage a team of professionals to assist you with the process.  Working with an experienced Commercial Broker is recommended as they are one of those instrumental team members that can help guide you.

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, June 18, 2021

Real Estate: Waiving inspections?

By Kristin Piccone

It is no secret that we are well into a seller’s market across the nation. Record low mortgage rates, record low home inventory are some of the contributing factors to this competitive real estate market. More times than not, buyers are experiencing multiple offer situations on more than just one occasion. Depending on the property and the buyers experience, knowledge and comfort level, inspections are being waived~ but is that the smart choice? 

When I represent a seller in a real estate transaction, I always explain that there is more than just price within a purchase and sale agreement (P&S). A learned trait in presenting offers to my seller clients is to, “start from the bottom”. In today’s world, there are five pages to a P&S. Within, there are many conditions and contingencies, and price is on page 1. To give my seller clients a full understanding of the offer, I start on page 5 to ensure they are fully aware of its contents and not just waiting to hear the price; other conditions is on page 4, seller concessions is on page 3, financing is on page 3, due diligence or inspections is on page 2, and finally, price, earnest money and closing date are on page 1.

Previously, I have explained to seller clients that an inspection waiver could be “worth its weight in gold.”

Now, where it is more and more common to have several offers with the same waiver, it can make for a more difficult decision and the other contingencies are taken into consideration.

For example, amount of earnest money deposit, non-refundable deposit, seller concessions, financing type and down payment, to name a few. The point here is, that it may not always be in the seller’s best interest to accept an offer just because of an inspection waiver. Looking at the other contents of the P&S and having a clue as to the strength of the buyer is really what I would recommend. With this, you know that all parties are aiming to reach the closing table and you, as a seller, are giving the buyer an opportunity to learn more about the home and how to maintain it.

A seller is able to have their home pre-inspected prior to listing their home actively in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), as well.

Personally, I love coming across a home that has been pre-inspected, for my buyers, and, I always recommend to my seller clients that it is an option that they can take advantage of if they have any uncertainties or unknowns and do not want to face any surprises later on in the transaction that could impact the sale altogether.

When I represent a buyer in a real estate transaction, I learn about them, their knowledge and experience in regard to real estate. If I am working with a buyer or investor who has purchased real estate a time or two, and maybe they are going to renovate anyway, it may not be as bad, if they decide to waive inspections.

Any other buyer, on the other hand, shouldn’t always react and waive the inspection. There are strategies, even, that I have experienced where a buyer can have an inspection of the home, however, let it be understood by the seller that unless there is a structural, health or safety concern, you, as the buyer are simply looking to learn more about the home and what it may need for maintenance.

During what is the largest transaction in one’s life, if a buyer can have their fair share and opportunities at the home( i.e. due diligence), they feel much better during the transaction and can make other negotiable items go that much smoother further along in the transaction.

If you have any questions or want to talk about how you can be competitive in this market as a buyer or seller, I am always happy to help!

Call and text friendly 207-951-1393 or email: kpiccone@landinghomesmaine.com. Be well and I look forward to hearing from you soon! <

Friday, June 11, 2021

Real Estate: When will the market slow down?

By Matt Trudel 

That is a question many people are asking these days.  How long can this market sustain at this increasing pace it has been on?  Market values have been escalating consistently for the past 4 years and the last year and a half we have seen a solid 15 to 20 percent increase.  This of course means it is a great time to sell and cash in on your equity, but you have to have a place to live.  Renting may be an option if you can find one.  Just like the supply of houses on the market are low, rentals are hard to find.

The number of buyers that are out competing for homes is at an all time high because the inventory is so low.  More companies have learned that having employees working remotely is cost effective, and this has led to a lot of out of state people purchasing homes here in Maine.  The more buyers competing drives up the price and it turns into a bidding war.  A year ago, approximately 20 percent of homes would sell for more than the listing price.  This past month over 57 percent of homes sold for more than the listing price.

In order for things to slow down we really need more inventory.  There are a lot of houses being built right now, but most of those are already under contract.  Even with the cost of building materials skyrocketing, builders have no problem selling new homes.  Getting a building permit is a different story, especially in Windham.  That’s another article for another day perhaps.  Well, let’s just give you a quick explanation of what is slowing builders down.

In Windham, they only hand out a certain number of “Growth Permits” per month.  You need a growth permit in order to be able to turn that into a building permit.  The growth permits are not handed out on a first come, first serve basis.  It is done by a point system method.  If you are a resident of Windham, you get more points for every year you have been a resident.  I know someone from Casco who bought a lot in Windham in February to build a house on.  Early March he applied for a growth permit, and today he still doesn’t have one.   That’s four months he has been waiting, and the cost of building his house has gone up probably 20 percent.  He should be finishing the final touches and moving in, but instead he just has to wait while others get their growth permits because he lives in Casco.

I do not see any slowing down of this market anytime soon, and definitely not this year and it is very unlikely to slow down next year.  The demand is just too strong right now, and interest rates are still low.  When interest rates get up around 6.5 percent, that will likely slow things down, but we are a couple years away from that happening in my opinion.

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