Friday, December 4, 2020

Real Estate: Holiday and Winter Fire Safety

Submitted by Brandon Lussier

Special to The Windham Eagle

With the winter and the holiday season arriving, now is a good time for homeowners to take some simple precautions to help protect their family and property from fire. Here are some tips that can help prevent fire hazards in the home and can save property and more importantly the lives of the people and pets you love.

  • Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many strands can be joined together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home and turn it off before going to bed.
  • Candles add lovely ambience to a holiday home. Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time. For peace of mind, use battery-operated LED candles for a realistic-looking alternative that is safe for all.
  • Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Brown or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree that could catch on fire easily and quickly and should be discarded immediately.
  • Lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpets or rugs even temporarily as this creates a fire hazard.
  • Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary, to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
  • When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, paper – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.
  • Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60 percent of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms.
  • Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
  • Kitchen fires know no season. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are widely available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
  • Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a plan. Make sure all family members know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency. Don’t forget your pets, have a plan for them too!

Your local Pillar To Post Home Inspectors office wishes you and your clients a happy and safe holiday season!

This article is brought to you courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors. Contact Brandon with The Lussier Team at (207) 749-3775 for your next home inspection. <

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Real Estate: Preparing for the hottest winter market ever recorded

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

The Maine Association of REALTORS Nov. 19, 2020 press release reported a statewide jump in sales of 26.88 percent from October 2019 to October 2020 and the median sale price climbed 24.5 percent during that time.

All indications are this could be one of the strongest winter markets on record here in Maine, even with the pandemic continuing to surge. There is a possibility for an increase in foreclosures in 2021 with the end of any pandemic related forbearance programs and moratoriums; however, the inventory is so short that these properties will likely be absorbed quickly, having little negative impact on property values.

Homeowners are predicted to continue gain housing wealth through equity at the same pace. What do these forecasts mean for buyers and sellers? Whether you are considering purchasing an investment property, selling your current home or planning to purchase your first property be sure to work with an experienced REALTOR.

Buyers

It is going to take much more than patience and persistence to get the home you want in the current
market conditions. Listen to your buyer agent’s advice and allow their leverage to help you be successful by building a team of professionals and to develop a solid offering strategy. Be sure to let your buyer agent know of any For Sale By Owner properties that you would like to see as well. Between October 2019 and October 2020, the number of buyers coming from out of the state grew at least 11 percent and that number is expected to climb, so buyers will now be competing in a larger pool than in previous years.

Sellers

Right now, many sellers are really feeling caught between the media hype, which is absolutely true and mind boggling to witness, and their current assessed value (which is not market value).  Is the sky the limit with pricing these days? Is it true what you’ve heard about homes essentially “selling themselves”? Even in the hottest market ever we are still seeing price reductions and properties not appraising for the agreed purchase price every single day. An experienced REALTOR will help you to take the necessary steps to position your property where it needs to be to reach your selling objectives in the timeframe you want. It is absolutely a unique time for sellers who have gained a significant amount of negotiating power if used properly and we are seeing fewer seller concessions than we are used to.

Everyone has been closely watching mortgage interest rates, as their record low pricing is one of the key ingredients for what we are currently experiencing. Housing affordability could become a greater issue when rates do increase, but many are expecting rates to remain low into 2021.

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth and a Windham parent and resident who has been helping buyers and sellers since 2006. <

Friday, November 20, 2020

Real Estate: Tips for choosing a home you can afford

By Carrie Colby 

It may take a while for you to save for a down payment, lower your debt to income ratio or improve your credit scores. But if you work hard and stick with it over time, you may begin to see some rewards, like easier loan approval and better loan terms.

In the meantime, here are some things to consider as you think about what home you’d like once your finances are ready.

Set a budget

To figure out how much you can afford, consider getting preapproved for a mortgage. But when you do, remember that the lender is making a mostly mathematical calculation and not taking into account your comfort level or preferences. Make sure you’re comfortable with the amount you plan to borrow, even if the lender says you can borrow more.

Your mortgage payment isn’t the only expense you’re responsible for. Don’t forget to budget for real estate taxes, homeowner insurance and if there are homeowner association fees.

Narrow down location and neighborhood

Before you begin looking for a home, take some time to think about the type of environment you want to live in — city, suburbs or rural.

Next, narrow your search to a few neighborhoods. Here are some things to consider:

Safety — Some websites offer crime statistics by area. If you’re especially concerned about crime,
check with the local police department.

School district — Houses in good school districts typically have higher property values. Look up ratings of schools in the area. But don’t rely on ratings alone. Check out online reviews or talk to parents who send their children to local schools.

Activities — Find out whether there’s a park nearby. Can you get to hiking trails quickly? What about playgrounds, beaches or playing fields?

Convenience — Do a test run of your morning commute and check the drive time to the local grocery store. Time spent driving to the store adds up and will affect how you spend your time when you move into your new home.

Type of home and other considerations

You’ve got the location and neighborhoods. But what type of home do you want — single-family, townhouse or condo. Here are some other considerations:

Condition — Move-in ready or fixer-upper? Consider how much you’re spending, whether you’re
handy or hate the sight of a screwdriver, and how long you’re willing to wait to move in.

Resale — If you’re planning to stay in your home for a shorter time period, resale value will be more important than if you’re planning to stay long term.

Other features — Central air conditioning, swimming pool, garage, granite countertops, hardwood floors, walk-in closets. Have some fun figuring out what you can and can’t live without — and how much it will cost you. Can't find what you're looking for in your price range? 

A good real estate agent can help you determine whether your wish list is realistic.

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

Real Estate: Buyer Turnoffs

By Rick Yost

Even in a hot market, some homes take time to sell and even fail to sell. These homes usually have a contributing factor that I refer to as a buyer turnoff. Home sellers often overlook the most common complaints from potential buyers. The things that the ho e seller has grown used to, or even to love, are exactly what is killing their home sale. Buyers do not love speckled red cabinets, no matter how much the home seller does.

The best way to a quick and profitable sale of a home is to eliminate as many buyer turnoffs as possible.

As a REALTOR®, I see and hear about many buyer turnoffs that home sellers are not aware of or chose to ignore. Of all the buyer turnoffs that I am aware of, there are four that universally get noticed and commented on. These four buyer turnoffs should be addressed in order to maximize price and minimize time on the market for a home.

The first and foremost buyer turnoff is a so the easiest to fix. Clutter, disarray, and mess turnoff many buyers. Buyers can be quick to assume that the clutter and mess are signs of a home that had not been well cared for. Rooms that are full of clutter or repurposed to store clutter look smaller and seem to have less utility than organized rooms do. Home sellers should pack everything they can away in boxes and store them in a garage, basement or even a storage locker. Removing all clutter, organizing all rooms, and cleaning the home thorough! should be priority one for home sellers.

The next big turnoff that home seller may miss or ignore is pets. News flash, not everyone loves pets.
Some people have phobias, others have allergies, and some just don’t like pets. Home sellers should always have a plan to get pets out of the house during showing. A barking dog can be a big distraction and a bigger turnoff to potential home buyers. Home sellers should also make sure that litter boxes are emptied, feeding areas are tidy, and pet odors are eliminated or at least minimized. As wonderful a dog as Fido is, he won’t help sell the house and at hair does not make the furniture more attractive. Sorry pet lovers, but this is the harsh reality. Please don’t shoot the messenger.

If a home seller had made their house “Me,” they need to make it less “Me” before putting it on the market. Home buyers are turned off by homes that they cannot picture themselves in. Home sellers should create a blank canvas impression for potential buyers. Children’s artwork, family pictures, unique furnishings, and unusual decorations are all things that make a home unique. They are also the things that ma e it more difficult for buyers to picture the home as their own. Home sellers should take down and remove as many of these items as possible.

Outdated decor is another big turnoff for home buyers. Some finishes just scream 70s, 80s, or 90s to potential buyers. Some of the most common dated finishes that buyers comment on are textured ceilings (popcorn or swirls), floral wallpaper, wood paneling and brass doorknobs, cabinet knobs and light fixtures. This ty e of decor can make a home appear older than it is and less appealing to potential
buyers. Textured ceilings can be removed by paint contractors or even by the homeowner. It is messy and tedious, but worthwhile. Removing or painting wallpaper and paneling makes rooms more appealing to most buyers. Changing brass cabinet knobs to brushed nickel and brass light fixtures to more modern styles is an expensive way to change the feel of a home.

Home sellers that avoid the big our buyer turnoffs should realize higher sale prices and shorter sales periods for their homes. Small changes can make a big difference. Home sellers should always ask for their REALTORS® honest opinion on what to do to make the home more attractive to buyers. More importantly, home sellers should take that advice and not be offended.

This article was brought to you by Rick Yost, a REALTOR®, real estate author and longtime Windham resident. You can reach Rick with all your real estate needs and questions at 207-838-7773. < 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Real Estate: Insure the wellbeing of your family with life and mortgage insurance

By Jonathan Priest

It happened, it’s happening, or it’s about to happen!  You’re a homeowner, in the process of qualifying for a mortgage, or maybe you just took advantage of these super-low interest rates to refinance.  There are a million pieces of paperwork to review and file, and offers from companies to replace your windows, pave your driveway and install the latest greatest internet service.  Odds are, there’s even been a document or two that surfaced mentioning... Mortgage Insurance. 

Naturally, a question or two might arise; what is it, what is it for, what does it do, and how would it help you, the new or current homeowner?  First, it is generally offered by the lender of the financing to you, to pay off the loan if you or a co-borrower die during the term of the mortgage.  I know what you’re thinking... “Isn’t that life insurance?”  The short answer?  Yes.  However, there are a couple of important things to consider when comparing mortgage insurance to a traditional life insurance policy. 

When you purchase mortgage insurance, you pay a set amount for that coverage for the entire term of the loan, despite the fact that over time, you owe less and less to the lender as you pay down that balance. 
When an insured dies and the policy pays out, all proceeds go to the lender to pay off that loan.  No funds are made available to survivors of the deceased for funeral costs or any other bills that might need to be paid. 

What is the solution to this problem?  Life insurance that is issued to (and owned by) you, the owner of
the home.  You are able to choose who your policy proceeds would go to in the event of your death, and you are able to update this information at any time, should your needs or your financial situation change.  The money passes to this person or these persons tax-free, who are then able to pay for your final expenses, pay down the mortgage, or set funds aside for loved ones as they see fit. 

Question in the back?  Isn’t Life Insurance expensive?  Actually, life insurance has gotten less expensive, dollar-for-dollar, as people are living longer and making healthier life choices!  Rates are based on an insured’s health, age and gender, so it makes sense to get coverage as early as possible.  As a reference, I just quoted a couple in their early 30s $750,000 in coverage each, locked in rates for 30 years, for less than $100 per month!

The first step is to find an agent who is licensed to sell Life Insurance to help you ask and answer
questions about what your needs and goals are, to make certain you are purchasing the right amount of coverage for your specific situation.  If you have a good relationship with the agent who insures your cars and home, start there!  They will already have a good understanding of your financials, and it will benefit both of you in the long run to have your policies handled by one trusted advisor.  There is nothing sadder as an agent than trying to help a person who just lost a loved one track down a life insurance policy that they cannot find, because there was paperwork from half a dozen companies mixed up in the bottom of a desk drawer.

The second step is to calculate your life insurance needs, running through a quick and easy-to-remember acronym, LIFE.  This stands for: Loans (outstanding mortgages, auto loans, student loans, etc.), Income (how many years of the deceased’s income would help the surviving spouse, family member or other loved ones get back on their feet?), Family (money left to loved ones as part of the deceased’s legacy), and Education (are there children whose further education you’d like to help support?).

The third step is to use your agent’s help to pick a financially strong company to purchase coverage from.  I would discourage purchase of a policy with “no medical underwriting”.  In most cases, these companies will deny payment if a pre-existing condition” is found.  There are three basic types of Life Insurance.  Term is the least expensive, and locks in a rate from 1 to up to 40 years.  It will pay out a death benefit if you pass away during the term of the policy.  Permanent policies are more expensive and may earn cash value in addition to paying out a death benefit.  They will run for as long as you continue to pay the premiums.  Return of premium term policies are term policies that are more costly than term but less expensive than permanent policies, and will refund 100% of the premiums you paid in if you keep them until the end of the specified term. <

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, October 30, 2020

Real Estate: Trends in 2020

By Lisa DiBiase

Real Estate Trend #1: Home Prices Are Still Rising Despite a Short Pause in our Spring Market

Through the first nine months of 2020, sales of existing single-family homes were running 2.6% ahead of last year’s record pace. With historically low interest rates, and more buyers than sellers, sales of single-family existing homes increased 22.78 percent comparing September 2020 to September 2019. According to statistics released by Maine Listings, the median sales price (MSP) for homes sold in September 2020 rose 19.56 percent to $273,500, compared to September 2019. With more buyers than sellers in most local markets, we are seeing strong competition, faster sales and increasing pricing. Even with the pause, the state has seen 347 more homes sold through the first nine months of this year over last year.

Real Estate Trend #2: Mortgage Interest Rates Remain Extremely Low

Mortgage interest rates have been trending down—even before the pandemic. Economists think interest rates will continue to stay low until the economy is close to normal again. But interest rates probably won’t hit rock bottom as lenders still have such a high demand from current homeowners to refinance their mortgages into lower terms and rates. 86 percent of recent buyers financed their home purchase. Real estate experts suggest the current low rates are worth capitalizing on. While they may dip lower, there’s a risk to waiting too. Mortgage rates could shoot up overnight if, for example, scientists make speedy work with developing a vaccine that could point to the end of the outbreak. On the other hand, interest rates could further fluctuate if the economy worsens. Given the increase in mortgage applications, prospective buyers should act quickly to get in line to lock in the low rate.

Borrowers should anticipate waiting about eight to 10 days longer than average to close on their loans. This could result in up to 55 days or more to close a loan.

Real Estate Trend #3: Millennial Home Buyers Are the Majority

According to NAR, millennials took the lead as the largest group (38 percent) of home buyers last year. Older Millennials at 25 percent and Younger Millennials at 13 percent of the share of home buyers. 86 percent of Younger Millennials and 52 percent of Older Millennials were first-time home buyers, more than other age groups. Older Millennials had the highest share of married couples (67 percent), while Younger Millennials had the highest share of unmarried couples (21 percent) buying homes. Older Millennials were the most educated age group, with 79 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree, followed by Younger Millennials. They were most likely to purchase a previously owned home and a townhouse. Convenience to their job and commuting costs were both more important to this group, and they were most likely to find their home online and to use the internet in their home search.

Real Estate Trend #4: Out-of-State Buyers Are Coming to Maine

The allure of Maine’s quality of life and response to COVID-19 from across the country has added to the puzzle of our Maine real estate market. Typically, about 25 percent of home purchases in Maine are made by out-of-state buyers, and we are now seeing that percentage increase to around 33 percent. In September of 2019, Maine had 445 single family homes purchased by out of state buyers. In September 2020, that number was 735.

What if I’m Not Buying or Selling a Home This Year?

Everyone can take a deep breath. From what we can see, the real estate market is not going to crash anytime soon. While low mortgage rates are motivating buyers to enter the market, this increases demand. But there’s still a record-low supply of home listings. This is keeping home buying somewhat competitive and allowing home price growth to stay steady. Regardless of where you are located here in Maine, buyers remain interested. As we continue through 2020 homeowners’ equity is here to stay. <

This article provided by Lisa DiBiase, Owner of Landing Real Estate located in Portland and Windham. Call 207-653-0823.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Real Estate: Winter well preparation an essential component for homeowners

By Kam Berry

As winter approaches in Maine, well owners across the state are recovering from a dry summer, with many dug wells running dry. The dry weather also affected some drilled wells, which are providing irrigation water at a higher demand. As summer winds down and we prepare for winter, it is a great time to think about seasonal well upkeep, as well as regular testing after a busy summer. We are seeing many recent real estate transactions expose water conditions that have gone undetected, so we stress the importance of testing.

Many dug wells across the state had water production issues all summer, and some even went totally dry- even if the homeowners did nothing wrong. The water table was so low due to the lack of rain, lowering water below the pump intakes. We took many calls at the end of the summer for dry dug wells, and unfortunately not much could be done in many cases. Well drilling contractors across the state can provide estimates on well drilling, which is a much more reliable water source.  A drilled well will not be as affected by lack of rain.

Winter preparation for a well system is very important, in many regards. Knowing where your well is located is highly important, since many wells are out of sight once the snow falls. A small reflective stake can help, or even a photo to reference if we have to dig to find it in the winter. It sounds funny, but I have gone around many yards with a metal detector and shovel!!! Well pumps have an estimated lifespan of 15 to 20 years, but that lifespan can be cut way short if a defective pressure tank, defective pump or wiring issue to the pump appears. When a pump fails, pump replacement involves accessing the well, typically with a truck using a special tool to pull the pump out of the well and wind up the pipe and wire. Difficulty locating the well makes the process take longer than required.

Well water testing should be done on an annual basis, according to the National Groundwater Association. The importance of water testing has become more publicized in recent years, and it is great for the health of the community. We have seen many cases of elevated Radon, Uranium, and Arsenic in local areas through testing, but these contaminates have likely been present for years. A frequent question we are asked is regarding any obligation to treat the water if a test fails, and there is no obligation if the test is done for personal information.

When it comes to purchasing a home on a well, it is important to consider all of the aspects. Is the well location known? Is the pump at the age where failure is imminent, or showing high amp draw? In regards to water testing, it is very important to make sure the water passes an independent lab test, since even innocent enough issues like a low PH can corrode piping and cause leaks. If you are listing your home with one of our great local real estate agents, there are things that can be done to avoid surprises in the transaction. A sanitary well cap without any cracks can prevent unnecessary bacteria concerns, as
well as having annual service performed on existing water treatment systems to make sure they are functioning properly.

Throughout the winter months, an accessible well will assist in quick repair, while preventative care and regular testing can avoid surprises while selling your home. Preventative care also provides the opportunity to ask around to find the best pricing and practices, without an emergency situation adding pressure. Many local well contractors also provide well inspection services, which is a great tool if buying a home on a well. <

Kam Berry is the owner and operator of Berry Water Solutions, Inc. Call him for all of your water system needs at 207-383-5153 or visit BerryWaterSolutions.com