Friday, October 18, 2019

Buying or selling a home with unpermitted work

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR®

Maine is home to much of our nation’s oldest housing stock, which is evident when you look around. As real estate professionals we are seeing daily the building trends of years gone by and how they have either stood the test of time or not at all as well as everything in between. Would you rather purchase a home constructed in the 1920’s or the 1970’s?  Ask a local REALTOR® and they can help by explaining some of the current market inventory distinctions and their most common upgrades.

Homeowners are held responsible
Any change or improvement to a property’s original size or condition other than very minor upgrades (i.e. new sink faucet, interior paint) requires a permit from your local municipality, regardless if the homeowner is doing the work themselves or hiring a contractor. You or the contractor doing the work will need to complete the application and pay the required fee (if curious about permit costs then you can view the fee schedule online for most municipalities). When interviewing contractors to do home renovations do not just assume that they are pulling the required permits that YOU the homeowner are required to. Ask them if they will handle this and then take a moment to confirm that they did by either calling the Code Enforcement Officer or looking in the file yourself because you, the homeowner, are the one responsible, not the contractor.

http://locationsinmaine.com/I’ve recently seen a very expensive home using a high end, professional contracting company who
simply forgot to pull the necessary permits on a kitchen remodel and the seller was not made aware until they were selling. Also, recently I learned of a local case where a homeowner was denied an
insurance claim after experiencing a fire due to an electrical issue after it was confirmed the electrician they hired forgot to get the necessary permits for a small job.

Reasons homeowners do not get a permit
It is possible that the homeowners do not want to have their property taxes increased and if they can keep the improvements unknown to the Tax Assessor then they can continue to pay the same amount. Sometimes the homeowners are concerned that the work would not be allowed how they want it to be done or that the requirements will be to a standard they do not want to have imposed on them.

A homeowner may not want to spend the extra money on the cost of the permit fees, or they may feel that welcoming the Town into their home could reveal other potential violations so want to avoid a visit. Some just don’t realize that they were supposed to get one.

How do you recognize if work was done without a permit?
There are instances where it is quite apparent that work was done “on the cheap” and you can assume that you will not find the permits for it in the Town’s file at first glance. However, there are other properties where the quality looks like or is professionally done but the permits were never pulled, either intentionally or accidentally, so it can be quite difficult to recognize. Often, we compare what we see visually to what is reflected in the public records for the home. A professional and well-seasoned building inspector can help to identify areas that you should be concerned about but may not always be able to determine if work was permitted or not by visual inspection necessarily.

Buying or selling
Work closely with a local real estate professional who can provide you with a steady stream of information regarding what options exist for your particular situation and then advocate strongly for your best interests through this complicated process.

Sellers are required to disclose any work which was done without a permit during their ownership to prospective buyers when selling.  Buyers may be unable to obtain their financing from their bank if unpermitted work is flagged either by the underwriter or appraiser.

Each Town has their own approach and fee structure for how they deal with work after it’s already been completed and depending on the scope of the work can be cooperative or punitive. Unpermitted improvements may not bring the increase in valuation and appeal that competitive homes with all the permits will.

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate in Falmouth and a Windham resident who loves people and real estate.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Getting your home ready for the cold season

By Mel Oldakowski

The cool autumn air and changing colors are upon us! This serves as a reminder to start prepping for the cold season ahead. Yes, it’s coming! Imagine, on the coldest winter day, you get out of bed and realize you can see your breath. You check the thermostat, only to realize the furnace has stopped working. That’s why fall and winter home maintenance is so important! Letting it go until it’s too late can lead to bigger problems and big-time headaches. Here’s a few things you can tackle while the weather is still nice.

Service your heating system. 
Early fall is a great time to beat the rush and have a heating specialist come out to look at your furnace. To keep your furnace from failing when you need it most, you should have it serviced at least once a year. These tune-ups keep it running longer and can identify deadly carbon monoxide leaks. It’s always best to have a professional give your entire furnace system an overview. Don’t be a jack of all trades!

Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned professionally. 
A chimney should be cleaned after each season—ideally before summer hits, because humidity plus the creosote can damage masonry. However, if the chimney wasn’t swept last spring, make sure it’s done before you use it this winter. A dirty, blocked, damaged, or improperly built chimney can result in CO poisoning, which can be deadly. 

https://www.bhgre.com/Better-Homes-and-Gardens-Real-Estate-The-Masiello-Group-10865c/Mel-Oldakowski-4962147a?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=internal&utm_campaign=agent&utm_term=a4962147&referredByAgent=a4962147Replace screen doors with storm doors. 
Storm doors are typically made of aluminum and strong glass and are designed to create a tight seal. This seal will prevent heat from escaping, improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Add attic insulation and check for gaps in existing insulation.
Proper insulation is one of the most important ways to keep the heat inside your home where it belongs. Gaps and thinning areas of insulation occur naturally over time. Attic insulation keeps heat inside the house (lowering energy bills), keeps temperature consistent between rooms, and helps prevent ice dams.

Insulate hot water pipes.
Unfinished basements, crawlspaces, and attics typically don’t get heat from your central heating system. This makes any pipes running through these spaces susceptible to heat loss and freezing. Install simple foam pipe insulators to keep them warm and conserve energy.

Add or replace weather stripping. 
Weather stripping blocks outside airflow through cracks on moving components, such as doors and windows. Blocking this airflow can help reduce energy loss and lower your energy bill by as much as 20+%.  If you already have weather stripping installed on your doors and windows, now is a good time to check it out and replace where necessary.

Take care of your gutters. 
Once the leaves have fallen and before the first snow, take time to make sure your gutters are in good shape for the winter. They’ll need to be clear of debris, free of leaks, and strong enough to handle snow in order to be effective all season long.

Trim tree branches and remove brush. 
Dead or weak tree branches can pose a physical and financial risk if not taken care of before winter. Strong winds and snow can break susceptible branches, which could fall on your house, your neighbor’s house, or power lines. Clear any leaves, brush and piles from your yard, particularly around your foundation.

Don’t forget to stock up on supplies. 
Stock up on ice melt, candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, ready-to-eat food, and plenty of warm blankets for those times when the power checks out. Check your snow shovels and snow blower. Are all your tools in good working order? 

It is best to be prepared for a long winter ahead so you can enjoy the warmth inside.

Friday, September 27, 2019

How to prepare for an appraisal - kind of

By Greg Swander

Selling your home can sometimes seem like a marathon instead of a sprint. Your first step is finding a REALTOR® that you feel confident in that when you hand them the baton, they will get you to the finish line. Your REALTOR® will game plan with you discussing the multiple hurdles you will have to clear going forward. (Ok, I am done with my track and field analogies now!)

First you need to list your home. Your REALTOR® will take some photos and write up an appealing listing paragraph for potential buyers. After posting online, you have a buyer interested in coming and viewing your property. Next you find out the buyer is very interested in your property and they provide an offer with the buyer being financed through a mortgage lender. You and your REALTOR® work through the details and negotiations and now you are under contract! Phew that was the hard part, right? Time to sit back and start packing and get ready for closing. Well not just yet, most likely your contract includes a due diligence period to allow time for your buyer to do inspections.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010323941581&fref=search&__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARAQ_7ToJQclaJtveMIFeUR1XYyewHnuIB8Yu2qRQFBjEU5aNzw6L69INB6TpxmErXK0tZLFvOUneny9The buyer schedules inspections and you hold your breath. After inspections the buyer provides an ICA (investigation contingency amendment) which outlines some issues found during inspections that the buyer would like resolved prior to closing. You and your REALTOR® huddle up and determine how to tackle these findings in the inspection (I said I was done with track and field analogies, not sports in general). After some continued negotiations by your REALTOR® you come to terms on an amendment that satisfies both you and the buyer. Yeah, you are through the due diligence period and now you can start packing!

But then you receive notification that the buyer’s lender is sending out someone to do an appraisal on your property. Wait, they already did inspections so why is there an appraiser coming out to inspect the home? 

You wonder, ‘what do I need to do NOW after everything I have already done up to this point.’ The answer is - nothing really. You may think you need to spend the time to make your house look pristine or else the appraiser is going to undervalue your home. The truth of the matter is that the
appraiser will simply come into your home to do measurements and take a few pictures of the property. The appraiser is simply there to take a "snapshot" of the house in order to do a comparison with other homes in the area. You could clean every nook and cranny and it wouldn't do a thing to increase the appraisal value.

So, the answer to "how to prepare for your appraisal of your home" is to simply not worry about it
and go on with your day as normal. Once the appraisal is complete the buyer’s lender will make a call to the bullpen and bring in the closer. (As we are going into October, I figured it was appropriate to end with a baseball one!)

This article was brought to you by Greg Swander. Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Team Real Estate in Windham. Call him anytime at 207-650-1095 or email him at GDSwander@gmail.com for any and all of your real estate needs. 


Friday, September 20, 2019

Holding out for spring? Do these things NOW


By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR®

To be successful in the spring market you must start preparations today. Whether you are a daring ‘Do It Yourselfer’ who’s up for the challenge of selling your own home or are planning to use a local real estate professional to get top dollar for your home, if you are even considering selling your home anytime between now and June of 2020 (yes…nine months from now!) you will want to do these things today.

Now is the time to schedule your septic tank to be pumped so you will not be digging up frozen, snowy or muddy earth to access it. The trucks can sometimes leave ruts in your grass or driveway if done in the spring so have them come in the fall if it needs to be done prior to selling. 

If you will be having any work done to your home which will require large trucks to be brought in, then be sure to factor in road postings which are sometimes not lifted through April. For example, if you planned to have your well drilled deeper to address a quantity issue prior to listing then you may want to schedule that work now.

If your plan is to hit the market before the month of March, then be sure to stay on top of removing dead leaves and put gardens to bed for winter.  Make sure to remove any piles of debris which may have been accumulating on your property before they become snow covered. Taking steps to care for your lawn in the fall will help to ensure it shows great in the spring. Give your lawn attention this fall by having it aerated and over-seeded this month - then in October or November be sure to fertilize it. Planting bulbs now will add color to your yard in the competitive spring market.

http://locationsinmaine.com/A fresh coat of paint for your front door can really make a big impact. If your home’s entryway could
use some attention do not wait for June because it will most likely be raining. Flaking paint can delay or even tank a deal depending on your buyer’s financing regardless of the age of the structure(s), even in small amounts. While it’s still warm enough outside take a walk around your property and visually inspect the stairs, decks and trim around the windows and doors of your home for any flaking paint as well as your garage, barn, shed or any other outbuilding which will convey with the sale. Have this scraped and removed and new paint applied before the outdoor temperatures drop and the paint will not spread and stick well. (Sometimes a lender may permit money to be held in escrow for this to be done but typically they like to have the work done prior to closing so it’s best to be proactive).

Dust, pollen and new construction sawdust can collect over months or years in the tiny openings of your window screens. Remove and clean window screens outside before winterizing and turning off your outside water spigots then place in basement. Torn screens should be repaired or replaced. If listing over the winter, often as a courtesy a seller will mark relevant locations on the property to help buyers find the location of the well, septic & leach-field, or where corner pins may be found using flagging and / or poles.

Landscaping in Maine can sometimes take a while to be photo ready; depending on how late the snow fell or how much rain we get in the spring.  Now is the perfect time to schedule the photographer to come to capture some exterior images of your home with the lawn showing and all the leaves still on the trees. The photographer will return when your home is ready to list to complete the photo shoot with your interior photos, as well as additional exterior shots, but at least you will be prepared with images for the necessary marketing materials anytime you’re home is ready and you
will not be forced to wait on the weather to have your marketing materials show their very best.

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth and a Windham resident and parent who loves both people and real estate.



Friday, September 6, 2019

Buying a house for your family?

By Rick Yost

Part of the American dream is to own a home for your family. Some picture a suburban home with a white picket fence. Others, a more rural setting with no neighbors to be seen. Others still, envision an urban atmosphere with a walkability and diversity only found in cities. Whatever your family home dream includes, these tips will help make the most of that dream.

Start saving for your down payment as soon as possible. The more money you put down, the more
attractive your offer will be to some sellers. You will also have more money for closing costs and other unexpected expenses that pop up to derail many home buyers’ dreams.

If you are fortunate enough to save a substantial down payment, you can avoid private mortgage insurance so that more of your monthly payment is going towards the principle you owe. The larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payment. So, start saving early. Most loan programs today allow for gifts from family members, so if you are having a tough time saving, keep that in mind.

Improve your credit score and buy at the optimal time.
http://www.hallimplementco.com/Your credit score is a constantly moving number. A good lender can give you tips on how to improve yours. It can be as simple as paying off certain credit cards and making all your payments on time. In some cases, you might have to establish more credit to drive your score up. Talk to the lending experts and take their advice. The higher your credit score the lower your interest rate will be. The highest rated borrowers get into preferred mortgages. Monitor your score, build it up, and by when you qualify for the best mortgage programs.

Make a long-term plan.
What will your life look like in five years, ten years, even fifteen years? Will you have more children? Will parents come to live with you? Will you become empty nesters? Will your job force
you to move? Will you start a home-based business? All these factors should be considered when choosing your family home. The home that seems perfect today might not be right for you in three years. A good long-term plan will help prevent a premature move.

Visit and research different areas. How do you imagine your life? Do you eat out often? Do you like night life? Is shopping important? Are you a gym person? Is there a good place of worship? These are all questions that should be answered before picking an area to buy in. Then consider what is right for your family.

Is public transportation important? How is the school system and does it offer all the programs your children need? How much time a week are you willing to miss with your family to commute? Are there sports, music, and other recreational activities available for your family members? All these factors will contribute to the enjoyment of your new family home. Do not discount how much a difference these things can make and don’t skip on your research.

Keep an eye on the housing market.
The housing market is ever changing and is hyper local. One area may have home prices going way up and another just ten miles away might be flat. Keep an eye on the places you have identified through your research as places you would like to live and monitor those markets. Watch home prices in those towns, talk to your REALTOR about trends, and be ready to buy when the opportunity is
right. You will end up with the best house possible for your family.

The final and most important tip to achieving that American dream and buying your family a home is to be realistic about your budget. Families and homes are big expenses. Make sure you budget properly for both. You can often borrow an amount that leaves you with an uncomfortable payment. Take a hard look at your finances and allocate an amount to housing. Make sure the payment on the homes you are looking at, including taxes and insurance, is at or under that allocated housing number.
If you follow these tips, you will maximize your enjoyment of the American dream. Happy house hunting!

Rick is a REALTOR, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with any of your real estate questions at rickyost63@gmail.com.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Signs you are ready to become a homeowner

By Carrie Colby

There is no denying the flexibility that renting offers—you can move relatively easily when you want, and you do not have to carry a mortgage for decades to have a place to live. However, if you are like many renters, you are probably at least considering the idea of owning a home.

But how do you know if you are ready for homeownership? Here are some reasons why you might be
prepared to become a homeowner. If some or all of these resonate with you, it’s probably time to talk to a real estate agent you trust to start looking for a place you can be happy owning and living in. The opportunity to become a homeowner can be both emotionally and financially rewarding when you have a long-term horizon.

The following are some of the most common reasons why renters decide now is the time to own a home:

Your rent keeps increasing.
http://mainepremierproperties.com/The increase in rental prices can be frustrating for numerous reasons. You cannot anticipate what your housing costs will be over the long-term, which makes it hard to plan your finances. When rent is going up, and mortgage rates are low, it can be a good sign that you should start shopping for a home. If you think about it – when you are renting, you’re probably helping to pay someone’s mortgage. Unfortunately, that person isn’t you!

Interest rates are incredibly attractive.
One of the better reasons to go from renting to owning a home is when money is unbelievably cheap.
When interest rates on mortgages are desirable, it’s like a flashing sign that says, “buy buy buy.” Interests rates won’t stay at record lows forever. History shows us that they can turn rather quickly.

You think it’s time to put down roots in a specific place.
Purchasing a home requires paying a lot of costs at the beginning that cannot really be recouped in the first few years of ownership. In other words, for a home purchase to make financial sense, you need to be ready to stick around for a while. Over time, the investment can prove quite positive, but it does take time.
tombiczak@allstate.com
Real estate has been shown over and over again to be an excellent long-term investment. Like other
investments, it is not for someone who might need to move quickly because of a job relocation.

You are sick of pouring money into someone else’s mortgage.
As a renter, your rent payments are paying the mortgage of the landlord or property owner. If you are ready to put all that money towards your future, buying a home makes sense. Each mortgage payment you make will increase the equity in your home, which is an investment for you. Generally, you can expect that over the life of your mortgage, you will gain a lot of financial benefits out of putting money into property. There are also tax advantages of owning a home as well.

You are ready to pay a down payment and closing costs.
One of the most significant signs you are ready to move from renting to owning a home is having a down payment. Financial stability is a significant indicator that you are prepared to buy a home—particularly when it comes to down payments and closing costs. Don’t worry if you don’t have 20% down—many loans do not require so much for a down payment.

You have improved your credit score.
http://www.theroofdoc.com/The credit score you bring to lenders is going to play a significant role in the type of financing you can get. If you have improved your credit score, it may be time to talk to a lender about what you can do to get a mortgage.

If you need to improve your credit score, get a free copy of your credit report, and address any issues that might be hurting your credit score. Mortgage professionals and real estate agents continuously
preach about the importance of the best credit scores – this is why!

Final thoughts.
Going from a renter to a homeowner is not something that should be made as a snap judgment. There should be a lot of planning involved in buying a house for the first time. Those who are unprepared typically make buying mistakes they regret later. Don’t be one of them!

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

Protect your family and your investment: Read your deed

By Richie Vaurx

When you purchase your home, you should read your deed thoroughly because it could be costly to you if it is incorrect. It’s important to make sure you understand and ask a real estate law professional for those things that are difficult to comprehend.

Your title company always has a lawyer on staff that reviews the deed. If you use your family lawyer,
make sure they are familiar with real estate law because it may not be their specialty. There could be things listed in your deed that you may not be aware of or understand, For instance, there could be an easement and restrictions and or a (ROW) right-of-way that you might not have been aware of. There are some factors that show up in a deed, and if you don’t understand something- ALWAYS ASK.

What is an easement: It is an agreed upon use of land by someone other than the owner of the property. It allows access, mostly to the utility companies to passage onto your property to maintain public services. There are two types of easements.

Gross Easement:
This type usually allows for an individual to get to his or her property, that is land locked. It would be the only way to get to their property. This, of course, may cost you something but maybe the only way to get to their property. This type of easement passes on to the new owner when the owners sell the property.

Appurtenant easement:
This type of easement will usually join 2 properties. Usually the land with the higher acreage will be the prominent party here. This owner will have more leverage and will usually set the rules moving forward.

ROW-(right-of-way)
A ROW allows an abutter to pass over your land to get to theirs. But, to be clear here, a right -of-way is given to allow an owner of an abutting property to pass over your property to get to theirs. It does not allow you to park your vehicle, stow your boat or anything else on that right-of-way. For instance, if a right-of-way is given to an abutter to get to a lake- you cannot store your canoe or kayak for future use without written permission from the owner. Also, some people think, because they have a ROW they can build a dock or a slip for their boat. It is only with written permission that they can do so.

Be prepared and be knowledgeable about what could affect your quality of living. Always be aware of your limitations and requirements of your easements or rights- of-way. You may require legal services.  Not all lawyers specialize in real estate, so know who to call when you have real estate questions. If you are unsure of where your deed may be, you can always go on-line to the registry of deeds to look up your property.

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.