Friday, November 19, 2021

Real Estate: A homeowner’s guide to fall home maintenance

By Jonathan Priest

Fall brings colorful leaves and cooler temperatures, but seasonal home care should also be on the calendar because winter has no mercy on homes unprepared for its surprises. 

Roof and Exterior

A visual inspection of a home, from the chimney to the foundation, can help reveal vulnerabilities that lead to trouble when wind, freezing temperatures, snow or winter rains rule. Homeowners can use a drone or binoculars to look for debris, which will need to be cleaned up, and missing or loose shingles, which should be fixed or replaced before they lead to leaks. Overhanging tree limbs should be trimmed, so they can’t come down, potentially puncturing the roof and causing leaks, water damage and mold.

Gutters

To keep gutters running well, check them monthly for twigs, leaves and other debris. Plan bigger cleanings — including running water down all the downspouts — both before autumn leaves fall and again after trees are bare, to be sure fall and winter rain and snowmelt can flow down and away from the house — instead of into the walls, which can cause rot and mold and invite insects.

Landscaping

Some experts note that grass will fare better if it is fertilized after the hottest days of summer are over, when the fertilizer can encourage blade growth and strengthen the root system for winter. Rake off all leaves and give the lawn a final mowing once it stops growing. (A local garden center can guide you on fertilizer formulas suited to your climate and lawn.)

Outdoor pipes and water sources

Frozen water can burst pipes and hoses. Garden hoses should be detached and drained. Outdoor faucets can be left on to drain after water to the outside is shut off, says Mark Dawson, chief operating officer of a chain plumbing business. He notes that irrigation systems should be blown out using an air compressor or risk freezing — and having to replace irrigation lines come spring.

Deck

Sealing a deck can help prevent damage from rain and snow. That means repairing or replacing loose or cracked boards, washing off dirt and mildew, vacuuming and applying a wood sealer. If a path through the snow on a deck is needed, consider using a shovel with a plastic or rubber blade to avoid damaging the wood.

Outdoor furniture

Umbrellas and furniture that could be blown over can be brought inside or stacked and weighted down, to reduce the risk of damage. Grills should be moved indoors and outdoors appliances such as mini fridges should be unplugged.

Indoor Maintenance

Doors, windows and other drafty spots

To keep houses warm without sending heating bills through the roof, and to save energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends sealing spots where cold air can sneak in, focusing on the attic, foundation and around windows and doors. Caulking, weather stripping and door draft guards can be inexpensive DIY fixes.

Attic

Insulating the attic and sealing all gaps and cracks around recessed lighting, plumbing, chimneys and other breaks in the attic floor — any place where warm air can escape and cold air can sneak in — is the top recommendation of the nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment. It pays for itself quickly in reduced heating costs.

Heating

A good time for an annual HVAC system check — to look for wear in parts like the blower motor — is before having to turn on the heat, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Also, check with local utilities to see if they offer free energy audits or rebates for energy-efficient appliances, including furnaces. It is also good practice to change furnace filters every 60 to 90 days.

Basement

Along with cleaning gutters, making sure a basement is ready for winter means checking the foundation for cracks, which freezing water can widen and make for a very expensive repair. Sump pumps need to be checked for wear.

Miscellaneous

Fall is a good time to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Update first-aid kits for home and vehicles, replace flashlight batteries and check that emergency go-bags are stocked with fresh water, food, medicines and weather-resistant supplies to last at least 72 hours.

The big payoff is savings on repairs — and peace of mind. <

This article was brought to you courtesy of Farmers Insurance agent, Jonathan Priest with an office at 57 Tandberg Trail, Suite 7, Windham.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Real Estate: How to move during the holidays!

By Lisa DiBiase

One of the most stressful moments in life is moving. Both the holidays and moving can be stressful. Combine these two events together and your level of stress will shoot through the roof. But certain circumstances can make a holiday move necessary, and some people prefer to move during the holidays as they can more easily take time away from work and school. 

If you are planning a residential move during the holiday season, take extra measures to reduce your stress and make the move a joyous journey toward a new beginning.

Here are a few tips to help:

● If you are moving right before Christmas, put extra thought into packing. When combining the busy holiday season with a move, you may prefer to only unpack necessary household items in your new home until after the holidays pass. If that's the case, pack and label those items separately from ones you won’t likely need until after the holidays. Keep holiday decorations and gift-wrapping materials in boxes separate from your household items. If you already started shopping for gifts, make sure those are separate, too, along with your decorations and wrapping materials.

● Purchase moving supplies during sales like Black Friday.

● Don’t let the moving process dampen your spirit. Play holiday music while packing and do your best to create a festive atmosphere!

● If you have young children, put together a box of holiday coloring books, puzzles and other activities to keep them occupied. Also make sure they understand that Santa will find them in their new home. They may be worried without ever telling you.

● Create personalized moving announcement holiday cards to send to friends and relatives. A couple ideas would be to take a picture of the exterior of the home, or your family on the doorsteps and provide your new address.

● Take time out to relax, watch a holiday film, bake cookies, or simply soak in the tub. Although moving during the holiday season creates more chaos than normal, it helps to keep the quote in mind.

● Lastly, hire a mover if it makes sense to help pack and move. If you plan to hire a mover, you must contact them as early as possible to set the date. No matter what you decide, just understand this is a stressful time for everyone involved. Have lots of patience and remember the time of year and what the holidays are for!

As I have mentioned 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 the process easier for you. It is best to surround yourself with the right team of professionals that can give you the best advice for your circumstances. <

Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner. She and her company represent buyers and sellers throughout the great state of Maine. For all your real estate needs contact lisa@landinghomesmaine.com or 207-653-0823.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Real estate: Are you buying a FLIP or a FLOP?

By Carrie Colby

When properties are “flipped” for a quick profit, the sellers usually make out OK. But what about the buyers? How can they be sure you’re not buying a flop? 

Buying a flipped house has a lot of appeal: They’re usually attractive, move-in ready homes with updated fixtures, appliances, and finishes. However, the quality of renovations done during the flipping process is a big factor for a potential buyer to consider. While some home flippers do top-notch jobs and pay attention to every detail while updating a property, others do it in a rush to make a quick buck — sometimes with subpar work.

While an inspector should point out the major flaws in a home before you buy it, such as roof or foundation issues, there are smaller red flags you can look for while touring a property that indicate it may have been flipped in a hurry.

Some surefire signs of a too-quick flip include loose railings that have been poorly reinforced, painted-over water damage under sinks or on ceilings, painted-over dust in air vents, smoke detectors that weren’t replaced, or leftover renovation debris remaining in the home.

Here are a few other things to watch out for.

Flaws in the new flooring
If you want an immediate assessment of the overall quality of a flip, just look down — at the flooring. Poor workmanship on new flooring is a warning sign. You might spot a cracked tile and figure that’s an easy fix. However, it could indicate a much bigger problem: the flipper might not have laid the subfloor correctly. If it just doesn’t look right, particularly at the trim, that’s going to be the most obvious to a potential buyer. If there is flooring butted up to base molding and butted up to door jambs, that’s a big red flag. The proper method is to remove the base molding and cut out the bottoms of the door jambs and lay the flooring beneath them.

Crooked cabinets
In the kitchen, don’t just look at the amount of cabinet space or the quality of the hardware. Check to see if the cabinets are properly aligned vertically and horizontally. If not, that’s a sure sign they weren’t level and even all around.

Ceiling spots
Always look at the ceilings for signs of water damage, If there’s been a leak, you can usually tell by spots, patches, or discolored paint. Be sure to check around light fixtures, where water is likely to pool. If you see signs of water damage, ask the seller what happened, because it could indicate a problem with the roof that might not have been properly addressed — leading to costly expenses down the road. Go to the attic, and look up at the inside of the roof, if you can. Roofs are expensive to replace, and if there’s a leak, you’ll see it there.

Shoddy painting
If the flipper spent the time and money on a proper paint job, you shouldn’t notice things like uneven edges, errant drips of paint on fixtures or the floor, or electrical outlets and light switches that have been painted over instead of removed first. These items are really cheap to buy and easy to change out, so I don’t know why some people do this. Also look closely at the baseboards and check to see if they were cleaned before being painted.

These are just a few items to look for on your own. The best practice is to hire an experienced home inspector. Perhaps one who specializes in inspecting recently renovated “flipped” homes. <

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

Friday, October 29, 2021

Real Estate: Buyer’s Remorse on the Rise

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

A growing side effect from the pandemic real estate frenzy has been an uptick in reports of buyers who have regrets about their home purchase. Many who recently bought now feel that they have overpaid for their homes or have found that they were not prepared for the maintenance needs and costs associated with repairs and renovations. 

It is easy to get caught up in the extremely fast moving pace this market demands at times and to deviate from your original home buying plan or intentions. We move the goal post by expanding your search to less familiar areas or stretch your maximum offering price to find more inventory. You feel pressure to compete so you remove any contingency that you’re able to when writing your offer(s) just to get a house. When you do finally get the news that your offer has been accepted, perhaps you are feeling a bit disadvantaged having given up so much, but relieved to have something under contract. Given the circumstances and uncertainty we were faced with during the pandemic it is not surprising that so many people have possibly not been making their best decisions.

Even the most seasoned industry professionals have found the market conditions to be challenging times to help and advise their buyer clients. With prices seemingly on steroids, timeframes pumped up to hyper speeds and the normal course of events for residential real estate transactions bypassed entirely or drastically altered, many agents are seeing that their buyer clients are becoming fatigued. Home prices will continue to rise, though at a slower pace, and inventory is projected to remain tight in the foreseeable future. If you are shopping for a home and you want to feel good about your home purchase as an asset and not have it weighing on you as a liability, then you must stay centered.

Moving forward with submitting an offer should only be done after thorough examination of your overall financial position.  Is it necessary that you make a move right now or should you work on your credit score and save up more for your closing costs and a higher down payment for one more year? You should not be moving forward with submitting an offer because you feel bad about wasting the time of your agent or lender or because your friends have been talking about buying. Ideally, you should be fully prepared to purchase this specific property for the price you’ve offered no matter how many other offers you have already written on other properties because this could wind up being THE ONE every time you put an offer in.

If your situation permits, then allow yourself plenty of time to look for what you need to have and remain patient in your search. Keep the end result in the forefront of your mind and know what details you are unwilling to compromise on or settle for. Sometimes buyers will continue to visit properties during the evenings and weekends when they are available to for many months, a year or longer. If you need to take a few months off to regroup or place your attention elsewhere then do so and resume your search with fresh enthusiasm, and perhaps wisdom.

Keep your expectations in check by searching in a price point lower than your upper limit of what you are willing to spend (which may be a different amount than what you are eligible to spend) so you have room to go over the asking price when necessary to compete. We have seen an exponential increase in the usage of escalatory verbiage included in agreements. This clause is used in a multiple offer situation as a buyer strategy to outbid all of the other offers. A purchase price is offered, and the buyer then discloses their escalated offering price to meet and exceed any other higher offers.  Buyers should use caution when using an escalator and it’s also worth noting that many sellers prefer to work with offers which do not have an escalated price and have the buyer instead understand the price they are offering to pay for the property.

Maintaining clarity of purpose and a forward-thinking attitude will help to sustain you during your search and assure you do not wind up regretting your home buying decisions.

Nicole Foster has been serving buyer and seller clients in Southern Maine since 2005 and is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Real Estate: Commercial Leasing Basics

By Larry Eliason

A commercial lease can be a large expense for any business. Commercial leases are a lot different from residential leases as they have provisions that could impact your business from an economic standpoint to the practical use of the space.

Whether it is for a small office, retail, warehouse, commercial garage or a ground lease, a Tenant should perform some due diligence to assure that the space and the site are properly zoned for the proposed use. In many towns, Building and Life Safety Codes will certainly be part of the discussion for occupancy.

Below you will see some highlights of what to expect in a commercial lease agreement.

AGREEMENT of Lease made this 22nd day of October 2021, by and between ABC, LLC (hereinafter “Landlord”) and XYZ, LLC (Hereinafter “Tenant”).

WITNESSETH That Landlord for and in consideration of the rent reserved, covenants and agreements hereinafter set forth to be kept, observed, and performed by Tenant…

Description Leased Premises. Landlord does hereby lease and rent unto Tenant, one commercial building…

Terms. The term of this Lease shall be for a period of Five (5) years commencing on November 1, 2021…

Rental. Tenant agrees to pay to Landlord as rent, the sums as set forth in Schedule “A”…

Renewal. At the expiration of the term of this Lease, said Lease may be renewed at the option of the Tenant for two (5) year options.

Specific Use. The Tenant may use the Premises for Commercial Uses allowed by Local and State Laws.

Personal Property Taxes. Tenant will pay all personal property taxes levied or assessed on personal property used by the Tenant.

Real Estate Taxes. Tenant shall pay all real estate taxes assessed against the Demised Premises.
Insurance by Landlord. Tenant shall, at his expense, maintain extended fire insurance protection for the Demised Premises.

Insurance by Tenant. Tenant shall maintain, at his/her expense, insurance protection for his/her own personal property and his/her leasehold improvements…

Utilities - Refuse. Tenant shall, at his/her expense, provide for reasonable electricity used of consumed at the Demised Premises…

Assignment - Sublease. Tenant shall have the right to sublet the Demised Premises with Landlord’s express written consent.

Signs. Tenant may not place any signs on the building or in or on windows or doors without Landlord’s express written consent…

Alterations and Improvements. Tenant will not make any interior or exterior improvements, modifications, or alterations without the prior written approval of the Landlord…

Trade Fixtures. All trade fixtures including shelving, light fixtures, and other equipment shall be installed at the expense of Tenant.

Repairs and Maintenance. Tenant shall repair, renovate, and maintain at their own expense.

Indemnity - Security. Tenant agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Landlord from and against all claims and demands
arising from negligence of Tenant.

Maintenance of Common Areas - Contribution. Landlord shall maintain all common areas in the building including the walkways and parking lot in good repair and condition.

Access. Landlord shall have access to the Demised Premises during reasonable hours for the purpose of insuring compliance with this Lease…

Requirements of Law - Insurance Rates. Tenant shall comply with all laws of Federal, State, County and Municipal authorities.

Insurance. Landlord and Tenant mutually agree that with respect to any loss which is covered by insurance then being carried by them respectively…

Fire Clause. If the Demised Premises are destroyed or damaged by fire or other unavoidable casualty, then the rent herein before is reserved.

Condemnation. If any portion of the Demised Premises shall be condemned for any public use by any legally constituted authority, then this Lease shall terminate.

Default and Landlord’s Remedies. If the Tenant shall neglect or fail to perform or observe any of the conditions contained in the Lease, the estate hereby created shall be taken on execution or by other process of law.

Subordination. This Lease is and shall be subordinate to the lien of any mortgage or mortgages.

Waiver. Failure of Landlord to complain of any act or omission on the part of the other shall not be deemed to be a waiver by Landlord of any of his rights.

Quiet Enjoyment. So long as Tenant pays the rent and performs the covenants required Tenant may peacefully hold and enjoy the premises during the term.

Late Fee. All rent payments received after the 10th of each month will be subject to a 5 percent late fee of the total rent.

Tenants today should consider engaging a Commercial Real Estate Agent Broker assist them with the leasing process including market conditions so expectations can be met.

And in most cases, a Real Estate Attorney should also be engaged to review and negotiate some of the terms of the lease agreement depending on the size, scope, and complexity of the lease. <

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, October 15, 2021

Real Estate: Strong seller’s market continues

By Matthew Trudel

Heading into the holiday season the strong seller’s market continues to thrive as buyers are offering well over the listing price and multiple offers are common and becoming the norm.   

Selling a house offers challenges all on its own.  You need to prepare the home and generally make several repairs.  Then there is the search for an experienced Realtor to assist you with finding the optimum list price for your house and creating a marketing plan to bring in the most buyers.  Another potential issue is figuring out where you are going to move to once your house sells.  Many sellers need to sell their home in order to purchase another home. 

This presents a little timing issue so sellers only have to move once. So which one does a seller do first? Do you list the home and then find the house you want to purchase? Or do you find the house you want to purchase, put it under contract, and then put your home on the market 

Both options work and I will go over each, but regardless of which option you choose there are a couple steps that should happen before you decide.  One of those steps is deciding on an accurate listing price that will bring in the most buyers and create competition amongst the buyers.  This will also include a marketing strategy to get your home sold quickly.  Another step is getting pre-qualified so that you know exactly what your purchasing power is.  This way you are all set up when you go to make an offer on your next home.  Once you have all this in place you are ready to make a decision on whether to list first and buy second or put your new house under contract first and then list.

If you choose to list your house first before finding your house, you will need to let all the potential buyers know how much time you would like to locate a suitable property.  This will also mean that the closing date will likely need to be 60 days from the time of going under contract on the house you are selling.  That date can be moved up after you have located the house you want to purchase and put it under contract.  One advantage to this method is that you know exactly what you are getting for your home and know exactly how much money you are going to have to put toward your new home.

If you choose to try to put your new home under contract and then list, this option is fine but sometimes a bit tougher in this type of seller’s market.  Putting in an offer contingent upon the sale of your house when it isn’t on the market puts you at a disadvantage when going up against other offers.  There are several ways to make your offer desirable in other ways.  The most obvious is of course the price you are offering on the new house.  How much over asking price are you willing to go in order to make your offer good enough for a seller to consider your offer with the condition of listing and selling your home?

There is another option that is not very common, but I have used it a few times over my 20-plus years of selling real estate.  This option is listing your home and selling it with the condition that you can lease the home back from the buyers after you close.  This time period is generally 60 days if need be.  The terms of the lease all need to be figured out ahead of time.  The upside is it allows you more time to find the home you want to purchase.  It also allows for more flexibility in moving into your new home.  This option works particularly well when someone is having a new home built but isn’t exactly sure when it will be finished. 

This article was written by Matthew Trudel, the owner of Five Star Realty here in Windham.  Call to find out how Five Star Realty can assist you in all your real estate needs. 207-939-6971.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Real Estate: Should I sell my home this fall?

By Richie Vraux

Well, you have decided to sell your home, but now we are going into the fall season. Yes, you could have listed your home in the Spring/ Summer season and yes, you might have sold it quick, but life throws us curve balls; you get a job offer in another town and need to move, you need to downsize/ up-size due to family, a change in your families’ lives, a family member passes and you just need to move. There are a thousand reasons why the fall is still a good time to sell. Find a real estate broker that is experienced with selling in the different seasons and long enough to know the market is different by season.

First off, make sure the grounds are clear from fallen leaves and debris from plants or flowers that have gone by and are encroaching on your foot path. Those flowers were beautiful during the early spring and summer but now are wilting, turning brown and not so attractive anymore.

So, at this time of year you want bright colorful flowers to stand out and command your walkway. Pick the doorway you want to direct the flow of buyers through- That’s where to make the best example of showing your colors. Make sure you put away all your gardening tools, your lawn mowers, shovels, rakes, etc. are out of sight. Make sure your roof is cleared from branches, moss, acorns and whatever else those pesky varmints leave behind.

Make sure your chimney is swept (Call a chimney sweep to do it right).

Make sure it is wide open and cleaned of any and all creosote. Also – make sure you have a chimney cap that fits your chimney opening. It prevents snow, rain, and animals coming down your chimney to get into your nice warm house. Make sure your windows are functioning correctly and are sparkling clean. It makes a difference. Make sure you have your furnace serviced and cleaned. Make sure your burner has a service tag showing when and how the furnace has been maintained over the years.

Make sure your fireplace, pellet stove, wood burning stove has been cleaned and serviced as needed.

Before actual buyers show up to view your home, make sure it has the smells of fall; an apple pie and cinnamon- maybe the plug ins. Yankee Candle sells wonderful, scented plug ins giving you the smells appropriate with the season. Usually, these scents of the season will cover the remaining lingering, unpleasant smells. Make sure your lighting is adequate.

During showings you want to put all the lighting on. Bright is always better. Decorate for the many festive seasons coming up; Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Display colorful throws over your chair, couch. Make sure your home looks warm and cozy. Remember, a clean house always sells better.

The holiday season is coming upon us real soon. Use your holiday d├ęcor to promote the reason a buyer will buy your home over others listed on the market.

Remember, you only get one chance to make the best impression. Make sure it is not cluttered with stuff you don’t need now. You are moving so put it away. Make sure all your personal items are gone off the walls. These buyers want to take possession of your house in their mind, and with your personal stuff there – it is hard to imagine. Good luck with selling your home in the fall market. <

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.