Friday, January 18, 2019

Why you should use a real estate agent

By Carrie Colby

There are myriad reasons to use the services of a Real Estate Broker®. While doing the work yourself can save you the significant commission rates many real estate agents command, for many, flying solo may not be the way to go--and could end up being more costly than a realtor’s commission in the long run. Buying or selling a home is a major financial (and emotional) undertaking. Find out why you shouldn’t discard the notion of hiring an agent just yet.

A real estate agent’s full-time job is to act as a liaison between buyers and sellers. Both the buyer’s and seller’s agent work full time as real estate agents and they know what needs to be done to get a deal together. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a real estate agent will track down homes that meet your criteria, get in touch with sellers’ agents and make appointments for you to view the homes. If you are buying on your own, you will have to play this telephone tag yourself. 

This may be especially difficult if you’re shopping for homes that are for sale by owner.
Similarly, if you are looking to sell your home yourself, you will have to solicit calls from interested parties, answer questions and make appointments. Keep in mind that potential buyers are likely to move on if you tend to be busy or don’t respond quickly enough. Alternatively, you may find yourself making an appointment and rushing home, only to find that no one shows up.

Negotiating is tricky
Many people feel that direct negotiation between buyers and sellers is more transparent and allows the parties to better look after their own best interests. This is probably true--assuming that both the buyer and seller in a given transaction are reasonable people who are able to get along. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an easy relationship.

What if you, as a buyer, like a home but despise the shag carpet and pink bathrooms? If you are working with an agent, you can express your hatred for the current owner’s decorating skills and complain about how much it’ll cost you to upgrade the home without insulting the owner. Your real estate agent can convey your concerns to the sellers’ agent. Acting as a messenger, the agent may be in a better position to negotiate a discount without ruffling the homeowner’s feathers.

A real estate agent can also play the “bad guy” in a transaction, preventing the bad blood between a buyer and seller that can kill a deal. Keep in mind that a seller can reject a potential buyer’s offer for any reason--including just because they hate him. An agent can help by speaking for you in tough transactions and smoothing things over to keep them from getting too personal. This can put you in a better position to get the house you want. The same is true for the seller, who can benefit from a hard-nosed real estate agent who will represent their interests without turning off potential buyers who want to haggle about the price.

Contracts can be hard to handle
If you decide to buy or sell a home, the offer to purchase contract is there to protect you and ensure that you are able to back out of the deal if certain conditions aren’t met. For example, if you plan to buy a home with a mortgage but you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale--and you aren’t approved for the mortgage--you can lose your deposit on the home and could even be sued by the seller for failing to fulfill your end of the contract.

An experienced real estate agent deals with the same contracts and conditions on a regular basis, and is familiar with which conditions should be used, when they can safely be removed and how to use the contract to protect you, whether you’re buying or selling your home. estate agents can’t lie
Because they are licensed professionals there are more repercussions if they do than for a private buyer or seller. If you are working with a licensed real estate agent under an agency agreement, (i.e., a conventional, full-service commission agreement in which the agent agrees to represent you), your agent will be their fiduciary duty. In other words, the agent is bound by license law to act in their clients’ best interest (not his or her own).

In addition, most Realtors® rely on referrals and repeat business to build the kind of clientele base they’ll need to survive in the business. This means that doing what’s best for their clients should be as important to them as any individual sale.

They have connections
Most real estate agents have certain people they use in a transaction on a regular basis because they are tried and true. For instance, the building inspector is a very important piece of the transaction. 

The bottom line
While there are certainly people who are qualified to sell their own homes, taking a quick look at the long list of frequently asked questions on most “for sale by owner” websites suggest the process isn’t as simple as many people assume. And when you get into a difficult situation, it can really pay to have a professional on your side.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Safety in the home

By Richie Vraux

Did you know that more than 18,000 injuries or deaths take place right in your own home every year?
The most common are everyday accidents, slip and falls. Falling down stairs or falling because you trip over something are two examples. Make sure your home has adequate rails and banisters and are tightly secured to the walls so they will help thwart your fall if you become unsteady.

Make your walkways safe. Something as simple as a higher wattage bulb in the hallways or stairwells will prevent an unexpected slip or fall. The risks are far greater with senior citizens because reflexes are not as quick as we get older.

Another type of fall might be if you are brave enough to go up a ladder on your roof to do repairs. If you need to do repairs to your roof, clean leaves and pine needles from your gutters or  replace burnt out light bulbs, it is always best to be as careful as possible. Nobody ever expects the worst, but it can happen, even to the best of us. Using a safety belt to help secure yourself is the best possible preventative measure.

Children are at high risk of household injuries which may include: choking, falls, being scalded, poisoning, drowning or playing with a gun. As you know, kids get into everything, and you can’t watch then 24 hours a day. Make sure they never get access to your medicines or your cleaning products. They  have a tendency to stick everything in their mouth.  
           is always a health issue with children. Make sure all outlets are covered with a safety switch plate cover and, without a doubt, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are imperative. If these alarms are not hard wired into your electrical panel, make sure you change the batteries at least once a year.      
Another issue may be not having a Disaster Readiness Plan. Be prepared to have at least a three-day supply of food and water for each family member as well as stocking up on batteries and  first aid kits - all in the event of an unforeseen disaster.

You may want to go to FEMA’s website at ( to get an updated list of what they recommend to have for you and your family in the event you would ever need it  Remember the Boy/Girl Scout Motto “Be Prepared”.

There are also seasonal safety issues. Make sure your pool and surroundings are safe and no pool chemicals are left unsecured. There are also potential seasonal hazards around the house. Dimly lit walkways especially during times children will be coming to your house; trick or treaters, Christmas walkways lit ornaments and extension cords, etc.

As you can see, we are all at risk for an accident in the home. Do a room by room inspection of your home. Look for any potential hazard before it affects you and your family and repair or replace if it might affect your well-being.

Richie is a Realtor®/ Broker® with over 20 years’ experience
If you need advice with any aspect of real estate, feel free to give Richie a call at 317-1297.

Friday, January 4, 2019

A look ahead to the 2019 Maine real estate market

By Kevin Ronan

Happy New Year. The cold weather is not cooling down the real estate market in the State of Maine. In 2019 real estate buyers, sellers and investors can anticipate higher interest rates as the Federal Reserve continues to control economic growth. Those of us who have bought or sold real estate in recent years have been spoiled with paying modest interest rates. Now is not time to panic.

Before we discuss some strategies for 2019, I wish to share with you some residential property sales news about our backyard, Cumberland County. In November 2018 it was reported that the number of residential properties sold declined by -1.46% due primarily to lower inventory while the median sales price increased by 8.79% from $279,450 in 2017 to $304,000 in 2018. 

Let's now discuss some strategies in 2019 to consider whether you are a buyer or a seller. Higher interest rates may deter some people from entering the market now which may benefit active buyers and sellers since less competition in the local market will create opportunities.

Your Realtor® can assist you in accessing some helpful local market information including foreclosures, short sales, for sale by owner (FISBO) and properties listed on the market for extended periods. Access to some of this information may take some legwork, but it may be worth it. 

Recently I viewed an interesting interview with a Wall Street investment guru, Jim Cramer, who suggested to buyers to delay purchasing until they have a sufficient deposit in order to eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI). Check with local lenders what their requirements are. Let's remember higher interest rates improve certificates of deposit and money market accounts. Don't count them out.

If you are rattled by recent interest rate hikes, one easy step is to start checking mortgage interest rates at local banks and credit unions. Rates change constantly, and many lenders have lock-in rates but once you initiate a mortgage application, it will cost you.

To those of you selling a property, do not despair. As interest rates inch higher, in the short term, inventory levels will continue to remain low in Cumberland County. The demand is expected to remain consistent. Prices will remain strong.

Here are important closing thoughts: With change and uncertainty in the financial markets, consumers can expect change and turmoil to affect their decisions. Real estate in Maine will continue to be desirable and owning a home is still a good financial decision.

Kevin Ronan is an Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgeton Road in Westbrook, Maine. He can be contacted at, 207-838-4855.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Love where you live in 2019

By Nicole Foster

It has happened more than once in my career that I have met with people who were wanting to sell their home and we went through the normal course of events including meeting several times to review and complete the listing paperwork and to create a listing strategy.

For some this can be a tremendous amount of preparation and work that can take time, often months, but everyone stays on task and in the end are ready for the photographs and a sign to be installed and officially hit the market.  However, at some point along the way of getting their home ready to list, compounded with looking at the existing inventory in an effort to identify their next home, they have fallen back in love with their current home and can now see the potential which had been buried in clutter or neglect all of the years they have lived there. In each circumstance they were hesitant to “confess” to me that they no longer really WANTED to sell, and instead just wanted a “second chance” at loving where they live now.

These are success stories for me just as much as the homes I was able to get a contract on in one day on the market for over asking price, or the buyers who I’ve helped to beat other offers and get the home they want. I know that these people made the very best decision which was right for them at the time and that is my main objective, not closing a singular transaction but serving as a resource for life.

Make 2019 the year you feel better in your own space, don’t wait to sell to love where you live! Here are some tips to help you to get started, and if you find yourself not sticking with it then just get right back to where you left off when you are able.

1.      Take the time to look around the rooms of your home objectively. Ask yourself if you were to move, what would you take with you and what would you get rid of? Make a real plan to eliminate the items which no longer are serving your regular purposes.

2.      Does the use of space make sense? Sometimes we get so used to things the way they are that we forget what the spaces were actually intended for. Are you not being afforded the use of an entire shelf or drawer because it’s full of things not often used like empty jars or old chargers?

3.      Has your mudroom been converted over the years to storage? If so then try placing an imaginary dollar value on the precious limited real estate within your home and seeing if “dollar-for-dollar” it adds up any longer or if you’ve just become “blind” to your surroundings.

4.       Make part of decluttering a part of your daily or weekly routine instead of waiting for a big event to clean out. Looking around it may seem like an overwhelming or daunting task but even a few minutes each day will make a huge difference as long as you keep at it and don’t get distracted or give up!

5.      Buy nothing.  Try incentivizing yourself with purchases by Goal Setting, for example: “I will not buy the new “X” until I get rid of “Y &Z”.

6.      Put aesthetic projects on hold and make maintenance issues a priority. (Steps #1throught #3 are the aesthetic focus which will pay off big time once finished.) you have ever considered selling but are too overwhelmed to break it down into steps or can’t begin to wrap your mind around how to approach it then call an experienced Reator®.  It costs you nothing to meet and have us take a look at your property and give a professional opinion of value based on its current condition or with improvements and upgrades. You may decide to create a plan and be surprised where the journey leads you!

Nicole Foster is a real estate Broker and Realtor with Locations Real Estate Group and a Windham resident.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Understand the terms your agent is using

By Lisa DiBiase

For home buyers and sellers, the real estate jargon can be intimidating. Some people are not comfortable asking what it means, therefore I have put together a list of the most common acronyms and real estate terms we use daily.

As-is”: A contract or offer clause stating that the seller will not repair or correct any problems with the property. Also used in listings and marketing materials.

Back on market (BOM): When a property or listing is placed back on the market after being removed from the market recently. This typically occurs when a listing was previously under contract and the buyers terminated the purchase and sale contract.

Back-up offer: When an offer is accepted contingent on the fall through or voiding of an accepted first offer on a property.

Broker’s price opinion (BPO): The real estate broker’s opinion of the expected final net sale price, determined prior to the acquisition of the property. Agents will perform this upon the request of a bank, typically when a property is in the foreclosure process.

Clear to Close: A term used by a lender when all conditions have been met by the buyer for the loan to be funded at closing.

Closing: The end of a transaction process where the deed is delivered, documents are signed, and funds are dispersed.

Commission: The compensation paid to the listing brokerage by the seller for selling the property. A buyer agency agreement may require the buyer to pay a commission to his or her agent.

Commission split: The percentage split of commission compensation between the real estate sales brokerage and the real estate sales agent or broker.

Competitive market analysis (CMA): An analysis done by real estate sales agents and brokers using active, pending, and sold comparable properties to estimate a listing price for a property.

Contingency: A provision in a contract requiring certain acts to be completed before the contract is binding.

Continue to show: When a property is under contract with contingencies, but the seller requests that the property continue to be shown to prospective buyers until contingencies are released.

Cooperative (Co-op): Where the shareholders of the corporation are the inhabitants of the building. Each shareholder has the right to lease a specific unit. The difference between a co-op and a condo is in a co-op, one owns shares in a corporation; in a condo one owns the unit fee simple.
Counteroffer: The response to an offer or a bid by the seller or buyer after the original offer or bid.

Credit report: Includes all of the history for a borrower’s credit accounts, outstanding debts, and payment timelines on past or current debts.

Credit score: A score assigned to a borrower’s credit report based on information contained therein.

Days on market (DOM): The number of days a property has been on the market.

Dual agent: A state-licensed individual who represents the seller and the buyer in a single transaction.

Earnest money deposit (EMD): The money given to the seller at the time the offer is made as a sign of the buyer’s good faith.

Escrow account: An account for real estate taxes and insurance which borrowers pay monthly prorations for real estate taxes and property insurance.

Expired (listing): A property listing that has expired per the terms of the listing agreement.

Fee Simple: Absolute title to land, free of any other claims against the title, which one can sell to another by will or inheritance.  

FHA: Federal Housing Administration.

For sale by owner (FSBO): A property that is for sale by the owner of the property.

Gift letter: A letter to a lender stating that a gift of cash has been made to the buyer(s) and that the person gifting the cash to the buyer is not expecting the gift to be repaid. The exact wording of the gift letter should be requested of the lender.

Good faith estimate: Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, within three days of an application submission, lenders are required to provide in writing to potential borrowers a good faith estimate of closing costs.

Homeowner’s insurance: Coverage that includes personal liability and theft insurance in addition to hazard insurance.

HUD: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Interest rate lock: When the borrower and lender agree to lock a rate on loan. Can have terms and conditions attached to the lock.

Listing: Brokers written agreement to represent a seller and their property. Agents refer to their inventory of agreements with sellers as listings.

Listing agreement: A document that establishes the real estate agent’s agreement with the sellers to represent their property in the market.

Loan application: A document that buyers who are requesting a loan fill out and submit to their lender.

Loan closing costs: The costs a lender charges to close a borrower’s loan. These costs vary from lender to lender and from market to market.

Loan commitment: A written document telling the borrowers that the mortgage company has agreed to lend them a specific amount of money at a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. The loan commitment may also contain conditions upon which the loan commitment is based.

Loan package: The group of mortgage documents that the borrower’s lender sends to the closing or escrow.

Loan processor: An administrative individual who is assigned to check, verify, and assemble all of the documents and the buyer’s funds and the borrower’s loan for closing.

Loan underwriter: One who underwrites a loan for another. Some lenders have investors underwrite a buyer’s loan.

Mortgage: A legal agreement by which a bank or other creditor lends money at interest in exchange for taking title of the debtor's property, with the condition that the conveyance of title becomes void upon the payment of the debt.

Mortgage broker: A business that or an individual who unites lenders and borrowers and processes mortgage applications.

 Mortgage loan servicing company: A company that collects monthly mortgage payments from borrowers.

Multiple listing service (MLS): A service that compiles available properties for sale by member brokers.

Multiple Offers: More than one buyer broker present an offer on one property where the offers are negotiated at the same time.

Off market: A property listing that has been removed from the sale inventory in a market. A property can be temporarily or permanently off market.

Payoff letter: A written document from a seller’s mortgage company stating the amount of money needed to pay the loan in full.

Pre-approval: A higher level of buyer/borrower pre-qualification required by a mortgage lender. Some pre-approvals have conditions the borrower must meet.
Prepaid interest: Funds paid by the borrower at closing based on the number of days left in the month of closing.

Prepayment penalty: A fine imposed on the borrower by the lender when the loan is paid off before it comes due.

Pre-qualification: The mortgage company tells a buyer in advance of the formal mortgage application, how much money the borrower can afford to borrow. Some pre-qualifications have conditions that the borrower must meet.

Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI): The four parts that make up a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI): A special insurance paid by a borrower in monthly installments, typically of loans of more than 80 percent of the value of the property.

Promissory note: A promise-to-pay document used with a contract or an offer to purchase.

Purchase and Sale Agreement: A real estate contract between a Seller and a Buyer who have agreed to specific terms on a specific listing/property.

Special assessment: A special and additional charge to a unit in a condominium or cooperative.
Also, a special real estate tax for improvements that benefit a property.

Under contract/Pending: A property that has an accepted real estate contract between seller and buyer.

VA: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Walk-through: A showing before closing or escrow that permits the buyers one final tour of the property they are purchasing.

Agents have a big responsibility to handle your largest asset in most cases, please always have open communication to understand what your options are. 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 of Landing Real Estate. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact Lisa at 207-653-0823 or

Friday, December 14, 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, December 7, 2018

All about easements

By Randee McDonald

The word easement is defined as, “a right to cross or otherwise use someone else’s land for a specified purpose.” In its simplest terms, a property easement allows for a third party to use a portion of someone else’s property for a specific use. Most commonly we see this as a “right of way” issue or to allow service maintenance – such as utility companies – to access a certain piece of land.

Easements can also exist to address a number of issues. Reasons for easements can differ depending on the situation, such as an easement of necessity, a private easement, or a utility easement.

One example would be if the only way to access property B from a main road is to go through an alley or driveway that is located on a neighboring property A, then property A would most likely be burdened with an easement that benefits property B.

Another example would be if electric lines are located above property A and property B, then both properties would most likely be burdened with easements that benefit the electric company so that they can access either property in the event they need to repair or maintain those electric lines.

But what does this all actually mean to the homeowner who has the easement attached to their property?

If you have an easement attached to your land, you are not permitted to build any structure on or over the easement land, or to use it in any way that interferes with the rights of the party benefitting from the easement. Failure to comply could actually result in the new structure built on the easement to be destroyed, or the homeowner could even be sued.

When you work with Cumberland Title, you can be confident that we conduct thorough title searches and will disclose if we find any easements – as well as liens or encroachments – and we will share that information on the title report prior to closing. And as always, we are here to answer any questions you may have about the title search process, or any other aspect of your real estate transaction and closing.