Friday, February 23, 2018

Don't “go big or go home”- go tiny! By Amy Krikken

Inside a well built tiny home.
"Tiny homes are just like trailers,” some believe. However, the tide is turning as more people understand that tiny homes are anything but today’s mobile homes.

Quality, style and expense vary across the country; some tiny homes are built by laymen home builders and others are built by contractors with years of experience. Speaking of the latter, the quality is undeniable, and can be seen and felt with one step over the threshold of a tiny home. 

Stick built, super insulated with the best available materials, they do not even remotely resemble a
mobile home. Simply put, when built by professionals, these homes rival their bigger counterparts; in essence they are their counterparts - only they are tiny.

The general the definition of a tiny home is any home that is 400 ft. or less. They can be on wheels and mobile, or not. They can be on the power grid or have a generator that provides power.

Some tiny homes are elaborate, designed in such a way that every square inch of space is used to maximize utility; smart design can't be underestimated when we are talking about living in such a small space. Still for other tiny homes, design may be an afterthought, as the owners aren't planning to live in their tiny home, but merely use it as a getaway on the weekends. do people choose to live tiny?

Several reasons, but many first-time home buyers are attracted to them because they allow a frugal lifestyle. Others love that tiny homes minimize their impact on the environment as many tiny homes are net zero; meaning that they create all of the energy that they use. Some need a place to put their aging parents or their college age student and the tiny home allows this flexibility, as it can be plugged into the main home for its water and power needs. Still others may use it as an office, or
if built on a trailer, it can serve as a food truck. 

I had the pleasure of visiting a woman in her tiny home that she built with the help of friends, her motivation was to be able to live without a mortgage, so that she would not have to work a 40-hour work week and could pursue her passion for travel. She wanted a place to call home, and a community to lay down her roots. She found Southern Maine to be just that spot, but it was not without challenges. 

As with anything new, there were gray areas in terms of living in a town that had not yet adopted codes that addressed tiny homes. They asked her to move. She moved her tiny home and is now living happily in another Southern Maine town. 

The gray area turned a bit more black and white when just last month, the State adopted new code directed at tiny homes in particular. This makes it easier for towns in Maine to adopt their own policies concerning tiny homes. 

"This is a big win for the tiny home community" says Corinne Watson, owner of Tiny Homes of Maine LLC. Corinne dreams of the day when clients can come to her and know that there is a well-established path for them to take toward their dream of owning a tiny home.  

A day when towns are ready to welcome tiny home owners, banks are ready to lend, deeds can be issued, and people can claim their piece of the American dream of home ownership.

We aren't quite there yet but change is coming and when it does, it’s going to be BIG, by being tiny. 

Amy Krikken is an Associate Broker at Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello. She can help you buy or sell a tiny home, or a regular sized one, or 207-317-1338.   

Friday, February 9, 2018

This year looks promising - So why rent when you can own by Matt Trudel

We are well under way into the new real estate market for 2018 and all signs are pointing to another good year of positive growth for home sales. Even with the expectation of slightly higher mortgage rates than last year, home ownership is still more affordable and a better economic choice then renting. 
If you think you can’t afford to buy a home, think again. The percentage of your income needed to
own a home is generally 10 to 15 percent less than renting. Now is the time to find yourself an experienced knowledgeable Realtor® to work with so you have time to lay out a strategic plan whether you are buying or selling.

Inventory is a little low at this point and that is likely do to the fact many people take their homes off the market during the holidays and winter months. We will certainly see those homes coming back on the market over the next month or so. Also, new construction tends to slow down slightly over the winter, depending on the cold and snowfall. That will also be ramping up soon and new homes and condos will be hitting the market.  Condominiums appear to be back in high demand and can make
for a nice transition from renting to home ownership without all of the maintenance.

If you are planning on buying this year or would like to know where you stand financially with your ability to purchase, you should contact one of us experienced Realtors® to assist you through the process. the process is not overwhelmingly difficult, it is extremely helpful to have someone with years of knowledge to guide you along the way. From negotiations to inspections to all the issues that can arise, having a professional on your team is key. It will also greatly increase the likelihood of your success rate in obtaining your goals of homeownership at an affordable price.

Buyers should be planning now so they are ready to go with all of their “ducks in a row”.  Sellers are preparing now to have their homes ready to come on the market and with inventory low, buyers need to be ready, willing, and able to put their offer in; or be prepared to miss out on that dream home. Properties that are priced correctly are often selling for more than the asking price because of the low inventory and high demand. Buyers should be working with a Buyer’s Agent and that agent should know the market value of the house their buyers are looking at. Buyer’s Agent should help you with many things besides just showing you the property and writing the offer. The list of things range from going over different financing options and different lenders and knowing which title company is offering discounts, to what inspection companies charge, and which ones are more thorough, and the list goes on and on.  

You cannot buy experience, but you can hire experience and that is exactly what you should do, especially if you are a First Time Home Buyer! 

This article was written by Matt Trudel, Owner of Five Star Realty, Windham. 207-939-6971

Friday, February 2, 2018

House hunting mistakes by Rick Yost

Buying a home is an exciting and emotional experience. Our homes make up such a big part of who we are and how we live, but it is important to not let your emotional side lead you into house buying mistakes. 
It is very easy to get caught up in the moment and the excitement of buying a home; but putting the emotions aside and making the most rational decision possible is imperative. After all, you will be there awhile.

There are several common mistakes that home buyers make when making an emotional decision. By
being aware of these mistakes and avoiding them, you will be much happier in your home in the long run.

Don’t look at homes you cannot afford. It is easy to fall in love with a home that is 10, 20, or even 30 thousand dollars beyond your price range but this puts you in a position of stretching to buy a house you love. Often this leaves buyers “house poor,” a term used to describe having a house payment so large that you cannot afford life’s other pleasures.    

If your budget allows for a $1500 per month payment, but you fall in love with a home that requires a $1800 a month payment, sacrifices must be made. Some of those sacrifices may be more than you want to make after living in your home a few months. a market that is low on inventory, like Windham is right now, it might be necessary to make an offer quickly. Do not let the need to make a quick offer rush your decision. Ask your buyer broker to monitor any offers and request a day to make an offer. Sleep on the offer you want to make and make a rational decision the next day. This allows you to contemplate living in the house and the home’s true value to you.

While sleeping on your offer, determine the absolute highest price you are willing to pay for the home you are considering and do not go over that amount if a bidding war ensues.

The flip side of that situation is getting too deliberative in your approach. Some people freeze when it comes time to make such a big decision. When a market is hot, you will not have weeks to decide whether to make an offer or not. Well priced homes will be under contract before you even make an offer. This is an important time to rely on your buyer broker to help you make a rational decision. A good buyer broker should be able to intelligently speak to how long the home will be on the market and what a good offer price would be. They will not always be 100 percent correct, but they should be able to speak from experience on similar situations. 
The second part of decision making in a low inventory market is to not offer to pay too much.  
There is a ton of competition out there for well-priced homes and it is easy to get caught up in a bidding war on a desirable property. You can find yourself in a position of having a home under contact that will not get the appraised value necessary to close the loan. emotional mistake that buyers make in a hot market is to get desperate. Buyers start to assume that there is nothing better out there and want to jump at the very next house they see because they haven’t found what they want yet.  

New houses come on to the market every week. A buyer broker can create an auto search that notifies home buyers when a new home hits the market that fits the criteria they are looking for.  
This is a very important tool in a hot market. It is easy for a home to go on the market and already be under contract before a buyer is even aware of it if they are not on an auto search.

The last emotional mistake buyers make that I will talk about is overlooking serious issues and overestimating how handy they are. It is easy to get caught up in a low inventory market and make an offer on a house that does not really meet your needs. It is easy to say you are willing to commute forthe right house, until you start driving it five days a week. It is easy to say, I don’t need to be near schools, until your kids start activities.  

The second part is saying you can change out windows, fix a porch, or repair anything else.   These decisions turn into nightmares after moving into a new home. Make sure that home is what and where you want and any repairs that you plan to do yourself are in your skill set.

If you avoid these emotional mistakes when buying your home, you should have a pleasant buying experience and avoid home buyers regret.

Rick Yost is a Realtor®, real estate author, and a long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with any of your real estate questions or needs at

Friday, January 26, 2018

New construction - It’s simpler than you think by Cari Turnbull

With inventory in Greater Portland currently at an all-time low, many of my buyer clients are turning to new construction for their home purchase. New construction is great because you can get the home that you want, in a location of your choice, with the finishes you choose. 
If building a new home is of interest to you, make sure you choose a realtor who has experience with new construction to guide you through the process. We are very fortunate to have some great builders in this area who are able to do what we call a “turn key” build package. What this means is that you no longer have to take out an expensive and hard to come by construction loan; these builders will front the money for the project and you will close one time on the house when it is completed using low and no money down mortgage options.

During the process you can be as involved (or not involved) as you would like to be. Most buyers love the fact that they can choose every aspect of the home from the lot, home style, siding color to kitchen design. construction does differ in a few ways. One is that the builder will likely require a significant non-refundable deposit to start the project. Since they are fronting all of the money, they want assurance that you will make every effort to close on the property. The deposit can range from 3-20 percent depending on the builder and the cost of the home. 

The next difference is that there will be two appraisals done, one at the beginning of the process once you are under contract, to ensure that the home is worth the amount that you are under contract for. The second appraisal will happen when the home is completed to ensure it was finished according to the specifications. 

The third difference with new construction is that you receive a one-year home warranty with all new construction projects in the state of Maine. This gives you peace of mind knowing that if something happens within the first year you are covered.
If you’re not finding a home you like on the market or have always dreamed of building a new home you should absolutely explore this option. 

Cari Turnbull is top real estate agent in Greater Portland; she and her team represent buyers, sellers and investors.

For all your real estate needs contact Cari at

Friday, January 19, 2018

Selling your home in the winter can be the right decision by Kevin Ronan

Are you thinking about selling your home this winter? Winter brings some unique challenges when selling, which are different than other seasons. 
Don’t lose hope, winter can also be a great time to sell. Why sell now? You beat the spring rush to list your home, local housing inventory levels continue be low and interest rate continue to be favorable for buyers. 

Be assured, you can make your home stand out from other houses on the market during those long,
gray winter days when sunlight is in short supply.  

Curb appeal is just as important in the winter, when snow is on the ground, as in the warm weather months. I spoke to Rhonda at Windham Flower Shop (892-5459) on how to improve your home’s curb appeal.  She suggested some great inexpensive ideas that will spruce up your home even in the dead of winter.  

Consider wreaths and hanging arrangements of fresh cut greens and berries. A front door wreath is a must but also consider a wreath on your mail box post or even the For Sale sign.  

Colorful birdfeeders that attract Maine’s wild birds in front of a kitchen window or by the back porch also adds a nice touch. Remember curb appeal may be a little harder in the cold months but is well worth the effort.
As the days get shorter exterior and interior lighting becomes more important. Lights are a great way to highlight your home’s best features. When someone drives up to the house what do they see? Hopefully the exterior lighting is both inviting and sufficient for buyers to view the house safely.  

Take the time to upgrade any light bulbs that are out or not of suggested wattage as well as add lighting in areas that appear to be too dark. Keep in mind, lighting is not only a great for curb appeal but is also necessary for safety.

I now wish to discuss the “S” word. Shoveling! This would all include walking surfaces including driveways, sidewalks and any exterior decks or balconies you want buyers to view. 

It may be challenging for a buyer to visualize their furnishings in a house with a couple of feet of snow on the ground and a deck that is totally immersed in snow. In addition, it can be very challenging for prospective buyers to visualize the beauty of your home’s landscaping and gardens during the winter. Why not include pictures of your landscaping taken during spring and summer? How inviting pictures of flower gardens in bloom can be! 

As you prepare for a showing or open house let’s consider what you can do to create a cozy inviting atmosphere.  

This is the time to turn up the thermostat and possibly light the fireplace. One safety note, if you light your fireplace it should be attended to at all times. You want the temperature to be comfortable and give buyers the opportunity to enjoy the warmth during the cold winter days. 

Let the light in on the inside.  As always turn on all the lights and open any curtains or shades. Fresh baked cookies, hot chocolate or cider are always welcoming. closing, although many would never consider selling during a New England winter, I suggest this can be done successfully with some simple, inexpensive activities.
If you have any questions please contact Kevin or your local realtor.
Kevin Ronan, Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgton Road in Westbrook can be reached at 207-838-4855 or

Friday, January 12, 2018

Tips to keep your home warm in the winter by Mel Oldakowski

To say it's freezing outside would be an understatement. We're all feeling the effects of this brutal Maine winter; and for those looking to reduce your heating bill without a big investment, here are a few tips.  
Be sure to use the correct ventilation.
Replace bathroom exhaust vent switches with timer switches so vents will not be left on accidently and vent only when needed. 

Winter air tends to be dry, so if you don't mind a little less privacy, open your bathroom door and let
the steam escape into the house instead. Make sure bathroom fans/vents have baffles/draft blockers on the outside so you don't have cold air blowing back into the house.

Switch ceiling fans (reverse them) spring and fall.
If you have heated floors turn off the ceiling fans but if you have forced air heat, turn them on. 
Close the doors and vents in unused rooms if you are trying to reduce heating costs or keep your living space warmer in an emergency.

Get heat where it’s needed.
If you have radiators, line the inside of the exterior wall with tinfoil. This will reflect some heat back inside.  

Double check to make sure you aren't blocking airflow from forced air vents with furniture or other objects, and that the vents are open where you need heat. 

If you have a chimney and are not using it, make sure its flue and draft (if it has both) are closed. Open chimneys can suck the heat right out of your home. This is one of the biggest issues with open fireplaces – too much heat loss from the room. Consider blocking the chimney with a fireplace insert for insulation to reduce heat loss if it will be unused indefinitely – just don't forget to take it out if you use it again.
Insulate inside.
Insulate hot water/radiator pipes and duct work running through non-living areas. You don't want that heat dumped in a crawl space or utility area you want it to get your house warm.  

Attic access can be the source of large amounts of heat loss so make sure your attic access is well insulated.  

Don't let the cold radiate up from your floor. A non-insulated floor can cause more than 10 percent heat loss in a home. This is especially important if your home is on a slab. Insulate the floor with warm rugs or carpets.  

In extreme cold, hang blankets along the wall, even where there aren't windows because the wall can radiate cold through it if the insulation isn't good enough. If this happens regularly you need to check
your wall insulation.

Reduce window heat loss.
Uncover the south facing windows to let in solar heat on sunny days.

Add interior window insulating kits, insulating shades, and curtains. You can purchase these items inexpensively online and in most major stores. If you have very large window, you can tape a large clear shower curtain to the inside (just past the frame).  It will allow sun in during the day and still provide an air gap to reduce heat loss.

Never forget your Realtor can always be a great resource, and may have pull, should you need an experienced contractor. We are always available and willing to help.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Owning your own home in 2018 by Carrie Colby

Being a homeowner gives you the security of owning the roof over your head, the feeling of contentment, satisfaction, fulfillment and it is the wish of most, if not all, Americans.

Homeownership is the American Dream. 

Homeownership is also the best investment. The value of your home appreciates, which means that if you decide to sell it, its price will be much higher than your purchase price. Homes appreciate about 5 percent every year (of course some areas appreciate more than others).  And as we have seen in our area in the last few years, appreciation is not always the case but just like all investments, if you hold onto them for the long term they will appreciate. Try, if you can to wait out the market and only sell when you will make a profit.

Homeownership, in a way, is a form of forced savings because you’ll have to allot a certain amount of money for monthly payments or risk losing your home. You also need to set aside money for future repairs or improvements.

Homeownership gives a sense of permanence where your family can live and grow. Emotional security goes with this. It gives you and your family security and peace of mind knowing that you have a home to call your own. 
You will develop lifelong friendships and a sense of roots and community for you and your family. Homeowners become attached to neighbors, become interested and involved in events and work towards the betterment of the community to protect and preserve property.

Homeownership eliminates landlord hassles. You will have no more worries with regard to a lease have pets, or change the color or the d├ęcor of your home to your own taste as you desire. It also gives you privacy; it’s not like renters wherein landlords can have access to the place.
not being renewed or an increase in rent. It gives you the freedom to redecorate, remodel, make improvements,

Keeping up on maintenance is crucial to making sure your home does appreciate and also keeps your family safe while living in your house. Maintaining your house on a regular basis also eliminates costly big-ticket repairs. For an example, if you have a septic, it is important to having it pumped every couple years as it will help you prevent costly back-ups and extends the life of your septic. The same goes for your furnace. 

Painting your house every few years keeps your home from needing costly repairs; like if the wood rots and it helps prevent leaks around windows and doors. 

You also save on taxes. All the interest and property taxes (up to $10,000 per year as of 2018) you pay in a given year can be deducted from your gross income to reduce your taxable income. You can borrow against your equity because the value of your home increases against what you owe on it. You may also have a better credit rating. Mortgage payments paid on time contributes to an outstanding credit history.

Owning a home is the biggest and best investment a person can ever make and, so you have to manage that investment to the best of your ability. It requires extraordinary commitment not only of funds, but time and attention as well.