Friday, February 3, 2023

Real Estate: New Year and a Fresh Start

By Matt Trudel

2023 is off to a solid start considering where interest rates are at currently.

Many home builders are already booked out for this year. There are still some issues with getting certain materials for new construction and remodeling jobs. Cabinets, doors and windows are just a few of those items. All in all, I feel 2023 should be a good year for the real estate market. Not as good as the last couple of years but holding steady pricewise in our area.

So, what should someone do to be sure they are ready if they want to buy a home for themselves this year? And what about if your credit is not so credit-worthy shall we say?

Reviewing your credit score is certainly one place to start. Ideally you want to have a FICO score of 700 or higher. A score of 680 to 700 is still very good. I have gotten buyers financed with credit scores as low as 640, and on occasion with a score just over 620. That was the extreme exception to the general rules. So, what if your scores are not quite high enough, what can you do?

Working with an experienced real estate agent who understands how credit reporting works is one step. Another is finding a good lender who has some experience in helping assist buyers in improving their scores.

Most seasoned realtors have one or two lenders they know and trust to assist in this process. It usually is not a quick fix in most cases, however, every situation is different and requires its own set of strategic moves to make the biggest impact in the shortest period of time.

Having high balances on credit cards or store charge accounts is very common and has a huge impact on your credit scores. Often it is much worse than missing a payment. Missing a payment and being more than 30 days late will likely drop your score 70 to 80 points. Having high balances can bring it down 150 to 200 points.

The good news with problems is there are many creative ways to address the situation, I have even seen it resolved by rolling the entire balance of two credit cards into the mortgage of the property being purchased. There are several other methods that take a little longer or you can always shake the family tree to see if a family member can help out temporarily.

Delinquent items are much trickier, especially if they have gone to third party collections. You really have to study your credit report to see when these items are reported. These are always handled on a case-by-case basis and almost always individually. You can negotiate these down and sometimes get them to remove some of their reporting dates to the credit bureaus.

Paying all of them off is not always a good idea as one might think. It is how they are reporting that means the most. You could have an old account in collections, but it hasn’t been reported in five or six months or maybe longer. By calling them and possibly paying it off it is likely it will get reported again and refreshed as a new negative item.

Medical bills are another common problem we find. Generally, these are fairly easy to work with and once paid you usually can negotiate the removal from your credit report. They can also be explained to a lender as to what the medical issue was, and the surrounding circumstances that caused the delinquency to occur.

The lender can then run your credit and take those delinquencies out of the equation and get a new updated score that might put you over the top and get your approval to move forward.

There are many different ways to attack any or all of these issues. The key is to work with someone who has some knowledge of how to navigate down those paths and assist you in doing the right things. A knowledgeable lender and experienced real estate agent are a great place to start if you find yourself in this situation. Don’t let it overwhelm you or discourage you, just take it one step at a time and you will achieve your goal of owning your own home. <

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

Friday, January 27, 2023

Real Estate: The State of the American Dream

By Tia Morrell, Realtor® at Landing Real Estate

I often wonder who created the foundations of the American Dream. The dream that is often associated with having a successful career, getting married and having children, and buying a home with a white picket fence to grow old in. This mindset has been engrained from generation after generation as the status quo.

However, in a changing world, this dream has become a difficult and far- fetched ideology for many. Whether it’s dating online in a post-pandemic world, the cost and accessibility of education, or the affordability of real estate, I can speak from first-hand experience how overwhelming it may seem.

Across the US, the overall median rental price is at a staggering $1,930 per month/$23,160 per year. For someone who works for $20 per hour, 40 hours a week, the expected take home pay after taxes is around $36,000. Subtract the rent from that total and you’ll find that $12,500 goes fast when inflation has you spending $240 a year buying milk and eggs at $5 a carton.

As a Realtor® it’s my job to know the market, and while it’s important for me to understand median home values and interest rates. I spend a great deal of time analyzing the economy and how it may affect people in varying demographics. This scenario is not uncommon for many Maine residents, with non-family households making a median average of $34,126.

According to a study taken from the Pew Research Center , 49% of hopeful homebuyers have felt as though homeownership is not in their realm of possibilities. This sentiment has had a stronghold on many prospective buyers who feel it is more worth it for them to use 50 to 75 percent of their income to pay rent instead. If you feel you can’t attain the “American Dream,” it is because there are systemic governmental sanctions that were once in place that are still in the process of being eradicated.

Illegal practices such as blockbusting and steering were practices only frowned upon, until the

government passed multiple enactments in the 1970’s to try to diminish unfair treatment. Redlining for example, is a now illegal practice that has roots in our own state. The Maine island, Malaga, was once home to a racially diverse fishing community in the 1800’s before the State of Maine chose to forcibly remove all of its citizens in 1912, and razed their homes to prevent them from returning.

The reasons for the removal related to post civil war hysteria, race, and the potential rise of education. While this is now unethical, it’s important for buyers to understand that this type of conduct was regularly used in the nation’s past. The housing market cycles every 10 to 18 years, meaning that only three cycles have passed from the 1970’s when tighter regulation began. However, in the grand scheme that still leaves individuals who were subject to this practice with less opportunity.

I’ve found that it is worth it for me as a Realtor® to take the time to educate my clients about the history of real estate, the current economy, and the process of how purchasing a home is valuable.

If you feel like the economy is dimming your chances of purchasing a home, I urge you to reach out to an experienced Real Estate professional who will take time to get to know you and your situation and put you in touch with trusted lenders and loan officers. I often tell people that the first step to take is to get pre-approved!

Applications for financing take only a few minutes of your time and most lenders will have it completed within 48 hours. There are tons of great programs that help home buyers in these situations that could put you in a better position to purchase. If you don’t qualify for a mortgage right now, work with your lender to know exactly what areas need more work.

Most of all, make sure the professionals you are working with are thoughtful to your situation, and always treat you fairly. <

Tia Morrell is a Realtor for Landing Real Estate in Windham. Call her at 207-518-8298

Friday, January 20, 2023

Real Estate through the years

By Richie Vraux

The face of Real Estate has certainly evolved over the years. The Real Estate Industry really started in the 19th century in Chicago, 1908 to be exact. It was called the National Association of Realtors with 120 founding members. Today, there are over 5,600 realtors just in the state of Maine and growing every day.

Years back they would publish all the listings in a Real Estate Book. Here all the “For Sale” properties were listed in a weekly or monthly publication that was put out by the local Realtors. Most Real Estate Agents listed their new home listings in the local newspapers and local publications where those potential buyers could ask their Real Estate agent to see certain homes for sale.

Just think, all your communication was done over the phone and then, of course, in person. You had to get in your vehicle, drive to meet your sellers, go over all the forms that were available to you at the time and then obtain signatures. Then pay the publication company to enter the listing in the local listings book and repeat several times until the property was sold.

Then Faxs were invented, Yippee! Now you could send your documentation by phone into a Fax Machine. That was a major breakthough at the time. If you were rich enough at the time, you would own a Fax Machine. If not, you would have to drive to your local office and send it from there, but it was not interactive. You always had to follow-up to make sure it was received by the recipient.

So, as the years went by the internet was discovered! Wow! Now this is progress! But it was only in DOS mode, so it still was a one-way delivery system, and finally Windows and the Microsoft platforms were introduced.

Now, most all Real Estate is done quickly and more efficiently. Now we can actually sign and send documents online and they are acceptable to most companies. There are however times that still require a wet signature, which mostly are: deeds, notary public, wills, trusts, adoptions, divorce proceedings, court orders and evictions and insurance benefits.

Wow, life has certainly progressed in the Real Estate Industry. It is certainly a benefit to me because I personally got into the real estate world later when everything was at my fingertips.

I got into this business because I love real estate. I do what I love and love what I do. It can certainly be an abundant amount of work, but to me, it is very rewarding.

First-time buyers are what I like best. They are new to the home-buying process and need to be guided every step of the way. From the initial house hunting to negotiations, inspections, title, to closing.

If I can offer advice with your home, be it down-sizing, expanding because you need more space due to a new baby or mom or dad moving in with you, or relocating, I can help you. <

Richie Vraux is a Broker with Better Homes and Gardens- The Masiello Group located at 776 Tandberg Trail in Windham. He can be reached at: richardjvraux@gmail.com or by calling 207-317-1299.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Real Estate: Fun Facts about Stats

By Lisa DiBiase

According to the National Association of Realtors® recent release of Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, there are some interesting and fun facts about our real estate transactions.

Whether you are looking to purchase or sell a property, there are many facets to the transaction that need the knowledge and experience from a Realtor® to guide you through the process.

Definitions of different types of generations:

Silent Generation - born between 1928-1945

Baby Boomers - born between 1946 and 1964

Generation X (aka GenX) - born between 1965 and 1980

Millennials (aka GenY) - born between 1981 and 1996

Generation Z (aka GenZ) - born between 1997 and 2012

Generation Alpha (aka GenA) - born between 2013 and mid 2020’s

● Millennials made up the largest share of home buyers at 43 percent; Boomers made up the largest share of home sellers at 42 percent; Gen Z made up 2 percent of each. It is now more likely for an older Millennial to be a first-time seller than a first-time buyer.

● Gen X had the highest incomes (it also had the highest share of married couples, thus more dual income), and bought the most expensive and second-largest homes; they were also the most likely to purchase multi-generational homes.

● Gen X were the most racially/ethnically diverse group: 23 percent identify as a race other than White; younger Millennials least likely to identify as heterosexual: 9 percent identified with another orientation.

● Millennials were the most educated: 90 percent of younger Millennials had at least an associate degree.

● Boomers moved furthest distances, primarily to be closer to family and friends, and were more likely to downsize.

● Young millennials use tech but are the most likely to use an agent in the purchase process and most likely to use an agent to sell their home.

● The silent generation were the most likely to move to be closer to family and purchased the smallest homes; they also had the highest percentage of military veterans.

● Gen X and younger Boomers delayed their home purchase the longest (5 years) due to debt.

According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR on Jan. 6, 2023, there are more Americans working today than at any other time in history due to 223,000 net new jobs in the past month, 4.5 million in the past year, 11.2 million in the past two years, and 23.2 million since the low point during the economic lockdown in April 2020. The unemployment rate is at a historic low of 3.5 percent. Wage growth over the past 12 months was 4.6 percent.

Job additions will be critical in generating fresh housing demand as mortgage rates show signs of stabilization. Housing affordability remains a challenge for those renters considering buying a home. More homes, therefore, need to be built to ensure more supply and lessen the upward pressure on home prices and apartment rents. This will also help tame the overall consumer price inflation, permitting the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates and possibly lower its short-term fed funds rate before the year ends.

Here are the nuts and bolts for 2023. We will continue to experience a slight decrease in sales and a slight increase in price. If you are a buyer on the fence, you should buy. Get into a property before the prices continue to rise. You can refinance to a lower interest rate, when they come down. Build your equity now. As a seller, you are poised to continue to see an increase of buyers while we are in a slower winter market. We will start to see an increase of inventory during the spring market which will create competition with other homes on the market.

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 the Broker/Owner for Landing Real Estate. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact lisa@landinghomesmaine.com

Friday, January 6, 2023

Real Estate: It’s a New Year, time for a review of your coverage?

By Jonathan Priest

A surge in home construction prices has been an ongoing story in 2022. A pandemic-induced supply chain disruption, inflation and labor shortages have contributed to a 15-year high for home construction backlog. While housing construction activity is expected to be bogged down in the short-term, there is some optimism for a return to normalcy in 2023.

As a homeowner, it’s worth reflecting on what a spike in construction costs could mean for you. If a problem like a natural disaster or fire destroys all or part of your home, your bank account could also take a serious wallop without the right level of coverage.

Here are the top home insurance tips for 2023 to help you navigate the challenges of a new year.

Buy Coverage That Absorbs a Spike in Home Repair Costs

The dwelling coverage within a home insurance policy pays to repair or rebuild your home if it’s damaged by a problem covered by the policy, like a house fire.

Your dwelling coverage amount should be based on what it would cost to rebuild your home based on the local construction and labor costs. But certain situations, like a tornado that flattens entire neighborhoods, can cause a spike in rebuilding costs. Suddenly your dwelling coverage amount could be insufficient.

Fortunately, some insurers offer extended, guaranteed or even UNCAPPED replacement cost. These optional coverage types absorb a spike in construction costs by adding extra coverage to your dwelling insurance limits when needed.

Keep Home Insurance Afloat

If you want home insurance for all types of water damage, you’re going to need to plug some major holes. Here are a few things to consider:

Don’t Underestimate Your Flood Risk

It’s estimated that only 15 percent of homeowners have flood insurance. But many homes are at risk for flooding, possibly even your home. Floods are the most common natural disasters in the U.S. and 99 percent of counties were impacted by floods between 1996 and 2019, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Going without flood insurance can be very costly and potentially devastating. Most folks get flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but you can also get a policy through the private market.

And if you already have a policy through the NFIP, you may be pleasantly surprised. FEMA’s flood insurance rates have recently undergone a new pricing system, and some homeowners can take advantage of reduced rates.

Small Drops Make Up an Ocean

Floods aren’t the only water problem to threaten your home and savings. Homeowners Insurance covers certain types of leaks and water damage, but not all types of water damage.

Don’t Assume You’re Covered for Natural Disasters

Floods are not the only disaster commonly excluded from a standard home insurance policy. If you live in a disaster-prone area, you might need to bolster your home insurance with endorsements or additional policies to ensure you’re fully covered.

For example, you may need to augment your hurricane insurance plan with a separate windstorm policy in some coastal areas. If you live in an area with seismic activity, you may want to consider adding earthquake or earth movement coverage.

Know How Much Stuff You Have


The personal property coverage in a home insurance policy pays to repair or replace belongings—your clothes, jewelry, furniture, pots and pans, musical instruments, electronics, books, art, and even the decorations and knick-knacks you keep on your shelves.

But how much personal property coverage do you need? One good way to find out is by creating a home inventory. A good inventory can both speed up an insurance claim and help maximize your claim payment. If you forget what you owned, you won’t make a claim for it. Taking a video of your home and belongings doesn’t take long, and it’s one of the smartest and easiest things you can do to prepare for unexpected home insurance claims.

Bump Up Your Liability Coverage

With so much focus on your house and belongings, it’s easy to overlook liability coverage within a home insurance policy.

Liability insurance pays for a legal defense, judgments, and settlements if someone sues you over injuries or property damage and you’re legally responsible. For example, if someone takes a bad fall at your house, a lawsuit would fall under your homeowners liability coverage.

A good rule of thumb is to buy enough liability coverage to cover your assets, or what you could lose in a lawsuit. Another option to ensure you have adequate liability coverage is to purchase an excess liability (sometimes referred to as an umbrella) policy. <

This article was brought to you courtesy of Farmers Insurance agent, Jonathan Priest, with an office at 57 Tandberg Trail, Suite 7, Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 or send him an email at jpriest1@farmersagent.com

Friday, December 30, 2022

Real Estate: Chimney fires can be preventable with simple precautions

By Carrie Colby

Whether we’re ready for it or not, winter weather is upon us. And with colder temps comes an obvious increase in the use of fireplaces.

For many of us, our fireplaces/chimneys haven’t been touched in months. However, chimneys account for 75 percent of home heating fires, meaning homeowners should actively maintain and follow the necessary upkeep.

There are over 25,000 reported chimney fires a year in the U.S. causing near a billion dollars in damage, and potentially the loss of lives. While some sound like a low-flying jet and include flames shooting out the top of the chimney, others are slow-burning and go undetected until a chimney inspection uncovers damage. Chimney fires are dangerous, but they are preventable.

What causes chimney fires?

Creosote builds up in the flue that lines the chimney. Creosote is a highly flammable black or dark brown residue that is a by-product of combustion. This substance can be crusty, tar-like, sticky or hardened. If there’s enough of it—and the internal flue temperature is high enough or sparks or flames reach it—a chimney fire can start.

How to prevent chimney fires


At the beginning of the heating season, hire a certified chimney inspector to examine your chimney—specifically, the chimney liner and ventilation. The chimney inspector will check for creosote build-up, cracks, and leaks, and make sure the vent is in good working order. A good chimney sweep thoroughly cleans the chimney, flue, and vents. A chimney cleaning runs between $125 and $250, depending on the type and condition of chimney.

Burn “clean” fires

That means fires with more flame, and less smoke. To get a clean fire, burn seasoned wood that has been drying for a year or more. Keep it under cover until use so it is dry when added to the firebox.

Avoid burning evergreens as they tend to pop and spark more than hardwood, which creates a fire hazard. Not all types of woods burn the same though.

Seasoned hardwood, like ash, oak, maple, hickory, and beech, is best. It has been fully dried out, and the ends should appear cracked, showing the wood is dry. When wood is still green, it creates more smoke as the moisture is dried. This additional condensation can lead to creosote build-up.

Keep the damper fully open

Restricted air supply from a partially closed damper adds to creosote buildup, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Be smart about what you’re burning. Some people start their fires with rolled up newspaper logs. Avoid burning glossy pages, wrapping paper or cardboard, which may release nasty chemicals. Never put paper on top of a fire; feed it under the grate so that burning fragments don’t rise up the flue and cause a chimney fire.

Clean the interior of your fireplace regularly, including the floor. Sweep or vacuum up cold ashes.

I have a gas fireplace. Do I still need an inspection?

Even though a gas fireplace puts off less smoke, it still uses the chimney to dispel the heat and smoke from the fire. If you use gas logs in your fireplace, do not skip getting your chimney inspected!

All chimneys work best and remain safer with regular maintenance from a service professional. <

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

Friday, December 16, 2022

Real Estate: Home Décor Predictions for 2023

By Nicole Foster

After years of washing out an entire space from floor to ceiling in nothing but whites, and greys many designers are speculating that homeowners will continue to shake things up a bit more in 2023.

Distinctive herringbone flooring is making a 
comeback and trending for 2023 home decor.
COURTESY PHOTO 
The minimalist trend of sparsely decorated spaces may be winding down as people crave more energy and dimension. The sudden hard push for maximalist décor following the pandemic will also be subsiding to find the right balance of blank or negative space helping to avoid the feelings of too much stuff going on within a room.

Kitchen: The timeless all white kitchens may become less common with more people instead choosing cabinets which use color as a statement. Creamy tones of beige or grey and muted blues and greens will be increasingly common to see used in kitchen cabinetry.

The modern kitchen will incorporate the use of large swaths of stone with veiny patterns traveling beyond the countertops. Center islands are expected to continue to grow in size as people are increasingly using this space and some are doubling down with not one but two kitchen islands.

People will continue the departure from leaving the base of the island to match wall coverings to puffing it out more with the creative use of texture, trim, and color. We will see more bold and vibrant patterns and materials being used to highlight the backsplash which no longer is limited to the space between counters and cabinets, and instead may travel all the way to the ceiling.

Mixed metals, shiny porcelain and glass tile may be seen used simultaneously instead of selecting only one type of tile and large sections of marble will dominate kitchens in 2023.

Flooring: It is likely that we will see a surge in the use of darker wood tones than we have seen in the recent past. Herringbone and parquet will make a return as many are choosing engineered wood as a more durable choice over hardwood. Larger than ever tiles are predicted to be used as well as textured varieties of flooring.

Ceilings:
As a longtime neglected space, many are predicting that we could see more homeowners taking this overlooked empty canvas and using it as a way to tie a room together, while drawing the focal point upwards.

The use of color and texture through adding continuous color up the walls and covering the ceiling, use of wallpaper for ceilings will be on the rise in 2023.

Natural wood planks and exposed beams will continue to be used as ceiling accents, but more people are making bold statements by painting over the beams or wallpapering around them.

Interior Paint Trends for 2023: Painting trends will reflect this year’s selections including Raspberry Blush Benjamin Moore’s color of the Year, Pantone Color of the Year: Viva Magenta and Sherman Williams Color of the Year: Redent Point SW.

Rich jewel tones and deep, saturated hues are predicted to be used increasingly to create a dramatic atmosphere. The trend of using a monochromatic palette of light and airy colors is giving way to the use of more moody tones.

The traditional foundation of a room for a long time has taken it’s roots using a semi-gloss paint for the woodwork and trim, accompanied by an eggshell or matte finish on the walls.

A growing trend is to use the same matte finish of a singular color, or tonal colors, throughout the room so there is no contrast between the trim, woodwork and walls.

The widespread use of white shiplap has evolved to include more vertical applications while stepping away from white and incorporating the rich use of color with the added texture. We will likely see more use of trim added to walls before painting, as an effective way of upgrading the entire room.

Not Your Grandparent’s Wallpaper: The use of wallpaper has been making a strong and steady return and we should only see this trend continue to grow in 2023.

The selections are becoming increasingly used as an expression of art, with some truly stunning choices now available. The wallpaper of today is typically applied in targeted areas of a room as an accent. Large and showy patterns with a return to retro and botanical prints mixed with metallic highlights in bold designs can be used to immediately transform a space.

In a smaller room, such as a half bath, wallpaper may be used throughout the space on both the walls and ceilings. <

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate in Falmouth and a Windham parent and resident who loves people and real estate. Reach her by email at Nicole@locationsinmaine.com or call her at 207-615-7558.