Friday, February 26, 2021

Real Estate: Turnkey new construction, is it right for you?

By Nicole Foster, Broker/REALTOR

Many prospective home buyers would like to take advantage of these amazing mortgage interest rates available today, but are getting discouraged.  With so little inventory and a steady increase in the demand, how can buyers compete? It is a common misconception that you need to be able to get approved for a construction loan in order to build a brand-new home.  If you have been searching for a home, but unable to get your offer accepted, you may want to consider working with one of the reputable builders in our area on a turnkey home construction package.

It will be very important to work with a real estate broker who has area knowledge and is experienced with the process, as it varies from purchasing an already existing home. When you are interviewing REALTORS to work with be sure to ask them about projects they have closed on and what areas they are located in. Each builder provides a different package and may have their own agreement template you will have to use, so understanding the details and having individual anticipatory guidance will help both expedite and streamline the process.

What is possibly most appealing about turnkey new construction is the ability to make some limited customizations to the home. Many builders provide an allowance for appliances, lighting, flooring, countertops and sometimes more. Buyers usually shop in person or online at approved locations within the provided timeframe.  On occasion a buyer does not want to be burdened with so many choices and decisions to make so they may request to use the builder’s selection for most of the finishes. An already existing or model home is sometimes available to view as similar to one to be built. This allows the prospective buyers an opportunity to observe the overall quality of construction and finishing.

A builder could require a non-refundable earnest money deposit ranging anywhere from $1,000-20% of the purchase price depending on your agreement, so having some reserves available for a down payment could be necessary. You can expect to have two appraisal inspection visits during the process and you can inquire with the municipality to learn what types of inspections are required during the building process with Code Enforcement. Have a conversation with your lender to find out what changes, if any, may occur in the event your mortgage interest rate lock expires due to delays due to COVID-19, labor or other things. 

Ask questions in advance about private water supplies and what the builder will provide regarding air and water quality, which cannot be tested until the home is complete. Make certain that you fully understand the access (road and driveway) to the home and who has the right to use it as well as whose responsibility it is to maintain it and ask if there are any annual fees that are or will be associated with this.

Why continue to make bids on already existing homes when you can be making your plans for a brand new one?

Nicole Foster is a real estate Broker with Locations Real Estate Group specializing in residential new construction and a Windham resident. Follow her at facebook/sellingmaine.com or Instagram @207nicolefoster. <

Friday, February 19, 2021

Real Estate: Tips for budgeting and saving for a house down payment

By Carrie Colby

Prior to buying a home, you need to assess the amount and source of your down payment funds and check in with a lender of choice to determine what kind of loan is best for you. Your Real Estate Broker is a good resource to finding a good lender. You should work on getting your credit score as high as possible and create a reasonable budget so you can save the needed down payment funds.

There are down payment assistance programs that will help keep the size of your down payment to only 3.5 percent of the purchase price. In some cases, with lender-required education, there may be no down payment required. 

Plan on buying a home that fits your savings plan of an amount equal to 3.5 percent of the price. You can always move up to a larger home later as your equity grows. 

It is not uncommon for all or part of a down payment to be gifted from a family member. This option may allow you to buy a home sooner than expected because your funds are immediately available.

To help save money to buy a home, have your bank set up an automated transfer of at least 10 percent from every paycheck to a separate account that is reserved for your down payment funds. Have your budgeting plan include reducing some of your more luxurious indulgences. 

Let’s start with the money you’re already bringing in every month. You’ll be amazed at how much money you find when you pay attention to your spending. Here are some ideas to help you tighten your spending temporarily while you work on making that home dream a reality:

Take a break from the gym: $30 per month

Save eating out for special occasions: $200 per month

Trim your clothing budget: $100 per month

Buy generic brands at the grocery store: $160 per month

Cut the cable: $110 per month

Make your own morning coffee: $80 per month

These tips could save you $680 every month! That adds up to more than $15,000 over the course of 24 months. Now get creative and think up even more ways you can save!

If you can find a way to increase your income, even if only temporarily, your down payment fund will grow even more quickly. You may have a hobby that could be a marketable commodity, or freelancing your skills could supplement your income.

Boost Your Income With a Side Hustle 

If you’re looking for another way to turbocharge your income, there’s nothing like picking up a side gig or a second job. Your side hustle doesn’t have to be torture either. When you’re thinking up ideas, start with the stuff you love doing already. Check out these examples:

Like driving? If you don’t mind carting strangers around or making deliveries, you could make some sweet cash on a flexible schedule through companies like DoorDash or Uber.

Enjoy teaching? Search online for tutoring jobs or ways to teach English to speakers of other languages. If you have advanced degrees, you could earn even more.

Love pets? Let your friends and coworkers know you’re available to watch Rover the next time they’re out of town. Get some fur therapy and make money at the same time.

So, is it worth it? Say you add in 16 hours a week making $10 an hour. That’s an extra $120 per week after taxes! Keep that up and you’ll have more than $12,400 for your down payment savings in 24 months.

Bottom line home ownership is within your reach if you put your mind to it.

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

Friday, February 12, 2021

Real Estate: Tips about how to give your home 'curb appeal'

By Rick Yost

As we sit inside cursing the snow and the cold, it is time to contemplate the upcoming spring and the possibility of selling your home.   It is time to plan your spring exterior projects that will beautify your home and bring added value.   Exterior projects can add a great deal of curb appeal to a home.  Many potential buyers see homes on line and then do a drive-by before asking for a showing.   Many potential buyers also start forming an opinion of a property as soon as they pull in the driveway.   The drive-by and first opinion are the major reasons curb appeal is so important.   A few minor projects can make a big difference in curb appeal.

If your home is vinyl sided or brick, it should be pressure washed.  You can you rent a pressure washer at Windham rental or hire someone.  It is an inexpensive and quick project.   Getting rid of dirt , mold, moss, pine needles, cob webs, etc. will improve the look of your home.  If you have wood clapboards, scrape any flaking paint and touch up those spots. You can also hire someone if the flaking is on your eves or facia board.

This is also an inexpensive and quick project.   A clean, well-kept exterior will give potential buyers an impression of a well maintained and cared for home. 

Paint your doors and replace the hardware.   In a couple of hours for a couple of hundred dollars, you can dramatically change the look of your home.   Contrast doors are very popular right now and make a home stand out.   Pick a color that contrasts, but doesn’t shock, then put upscale hardware in.  New hardware serves several purposes, including making sure that you have enough keys and that keys work well when your home is being shown.   If your instruction for using a key in your lock include “jiggle it,” “push it all the way in and then pull it out just a bit” or “it just turns hard,” you will frustrate potential buyers and showing agents. Change your hardware to avoid the frustration.   If your door has a knocker, pick an ornate knocker that matches the material of your hardware.   An expensive knocker and upscale hardware send a message that quality materials were used to build and maintain your home.  

Your lawn should be neat and well kept.   Get everything that is not meant to be decorative off your front lawn.  Kids toys, debris, boats, cars, etc. all should be moved.

Renting a storage space for all your stuff while you are trying to sell your home is a good investment.  Your yard should show as large as possible, as the clutter just makes your yard look smaller.   Buy a couple of bags of loam and some grass seed from your hardware store and fill holes in your lawn and cover dirt patches on your lawn.   This easy project will make your yard look more appealing and welcoming for kids and pets.

Now that you have improved the look of your lawn, keep it mowed.   This is another clue to potential buyers as to how well kept the home is.

The entry way to your home should have a clear and defined walkway.   If you do not have a walkway at all and cannot afford to have one installed professionally, an inexpensive way to create one is to buy borders that you push into the ground.   Use a chalk line to mark a straight path.   (Landscapers and stone workers are going to be shaking their heads, but this is the inexpensive way).   Dig down at least six inches inside the chalk line and place your borders. Lay landscape cloth the complete length of the path to prevent weeds from growing up.  Fill between the borders up to about two inches from the top with sand and compact it as you go (about every two inches).  Fill the last two inches with crushed stone and compact it.    Water the path down heavily and level where needed.   You now have a clearly marked entry way.   If you already have a walkway that is concrete, an easy upgrade is to line it with bricks.   Dig out both edges of the walkway about four inches, lay landscape cloth, fill with sand to about one inch from the top, and place and level the bricks.  

Another inexpensive improvement is lighting.   Replace your current porch lights and other exterior lights with decorative lighting that matches your new door hardware.  Place motion sensor lights on your garage.   Place solar lights along your new walkway. 

Light it up.  Your home will be more appealing to those potential buyers driving by at night.

Now that you have your projects planned, start dreaming about how beautiful your home is going to look and how quickly it is going to sell. <

Rick is a REALTOR, real estate author, and longtime Windham resident.  You can contact Rick with all your real estate questions at Rickyost63@gmail.com.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Real Estate: Ice Dams can pose winter threat for homes

By Jonathan Priest   

Happy Winter, all! I was wondering if anyone would bother reading this article, since most of the season has been bereft of snow. And then as I sat down to compose this column, the Storm of the Year seems to have made its appearance, reared its head and walloped us!

Here is all you need to know about Ice Dams, how to prepare for them, prevent them and recover from them if they cause water intrusion/water damage in your home.

Preparing: As they say, an ounce of prevention… folks with a metal roof really have nothing to worry about when it comes to ice dams, so long as they have a properly installed roofing system, with the proper drip edge, fascia boards and overhang.

However, for those homeowners with a traditional (but poorly insulated) composite roof, ice dams are formed when interior heat escapes and warms the roof. The melting snow then runs to the colder eave, where it refreezes. This process can cause severe damage to your roof, and potentially expose your interior to water damage.

Generally, the homeowner would not notice an issue until the water backed up PAST the top edge of the ice/water shield that a roofer would have put down over the plywood to waterproof it. **If a new roof is on your to-do list for next spring, ask the roofer to add one more course of ice/water shield!**

Preventing: This is a great way to get in some cardio on a brisk winter day- Rake your roof after every snowstorm (make sure you have a quality unit)! The roof rakes available at your local hardware store are strong, lightweight and easy to assemble. As long as the handle will allow you to reach at least 2 to 3 feet up the roof, it should work fine! Just remember to be careful around any power lines.

However, this is hard, physical work! If you hire a professional to remove snow from your roof, make sure they are insured! Ask them for a certificate of insurance, then call the company listed on the certificate to make sure the policy is paid-up and current!

Removing: Once a substantial ice dam has already formed, it can be extremely difficult to remove. There are salt “pucks” which can be thrown up to melt through the dam, but they tend to concentrate the melting in a small area. Attempting to chop or chisel through an ice dam is dangerous, relatively ineffective, and can cause severe damage to the roof itself. 

Signs of an ice dam related water intrusion:

Ice on exterior walls: If you notice ice forming on exterior walls, beneath siding, behind the soffit, or in any other odd places an ice dam may be the culprit. As water backs up on the roof eave, it can seep in and behind surfaces and refreeze. During warmer weather, this may be visible as water stains.

Interior water damage: Ice dams can cause water to seep into your home. If you notice evidence of water damage, you should check your roof.

Gutters not draining: If your gutters aren’t draining, an ice dam might be causing a water backup on your roof. If this is not stopped, this water can work its way back into the home or refreeze and cause damage to the roofing material.

Icicle buildup on roof or gutter edge: Icicle buildup can prevent water from draining off the roof properly, and cause water to backup under roofing material.

Snow melts high on the roof, but not down low: If there is snow and ice buildup on the lower part of the roof, but the higher section of roof is clear, this may indicate an ice dam.

Should you experience an ice dam this winter, check with your insurance agent to confirm that the associated damage exceeds your deductible before filing a claim, and contact a water mitigation professional in the area. They will be able to help you find all of the damage (even where it’s not visible to the naked eye) and help you put an effective plan into place to repair it.

Stay safe and warm this Winter- remember to check on your neighbors! <

Jonathan Priest is a MetLife property and casualty specialist in Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 for your home, auto, life or business insurance needs.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Real Estate: The House Hunt in 2021 is feeling like the toilet paper shortage of 2020

By Skylar Welch

The current real estate market is literally on fire. With interest rates at historic lows and an influx of people from out of state moving to Maine to escape cities like Boston and New York during the pandemic, finding a home is like trying to score a roll of toilet paper during quarantine. The shelves were empty. The fact is, there are too many homebuyers, and not enough properties for sale, and the “shelves” can’t get stocked fast enough.

The current inventory is at an all-time low, coupled with interest rates at an all-time low. This has caused the total housing supply to be lower than ever and the time a house sits on the market to cut in half from just a year ago.

People are willing to purchase properties site-unseen and make offers far above the asking price. So, what little inventory is out there, is going extremely fast, much like those few rolls of toilet paper that were disappearing quickly. Even the off-name, single-ply brands were flying off the shelves. This is similar to the real estate market, with houses that you may have never thought would sell, are selling for far more than expected!

So, how do you prepare to purchase a property in this market? It’s extremely important to be prepared and ready, so if a property pops on the market that you are interested in, you can move quickly.

If you are thinking about purchasing a home, it’s important to meet with a mortgage professional to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row. When you meet with real estate agents, they are going to ask, “Have you been prequalified?” If you haven’t, they are going to tell you that you need to be prequalified before you can start the home search.

Due to the pandemic, most listings are requiring a prequalification letter before even letting you view a property. During the prequalification process, your mortgage professional will be able to help you figure out the perfect loan program for you, what you are qualified up to, and most importantly, help you find a purchase price that gives you a comfortable monthly payment, so that you can confidently go back to your real estate agent and let them know the price range you are ready to shop in!

Here are a few quick tips to be best prepared:

** Have your finances in order regarding where your funds to close will be coming from, whether you are using your savings, receiving a gift from family, or pulling from a retirement account.

** Make sure your credit is in the best possible place. A quick tip about credit, it is important to have two to three open revolving lines of credit (credit/store cards), but make sure that these balances are under 30 percent of the credit limit, before having your credit pulled.

** Gather your financial documents such as tax returns and W-2s, so ensure you are ready to move quickly, when the perfect property pops up.

** Do your research, and find the perfect real estate agent to meet your needs and that is willing to compete for you, to win a property.

Working with a local mortgage broker can help you win in a bidding war! What it comes down to, is that in a competitive market, local relationships are extremely important!

Agents are aware of local mortgage professionals and when they see an offer come through with a name that they recognize, that has a great reputation for being reliable, responsive and fast they are more likely to accept the offer, than if the prequal comes from a national lender, that they know may not prioritize your application, be available when needed, or understand the local market.

There is no sign of the market slowing down, and with rent prices rising and interest rates remaining low, it is still a great time to buy. Stop paying someone else’s mortgage and start building your own equity! Have patience and take the steps to make your strongest offer possible! Make YOUR dream of homeownership a reality in 2021.  <

Skylar Welch owns Maine Pointe Lending is at 202 US Route 1, Suite 102 in Falmouth. Call 207-949-3568 or find them online at www.mainepointelending.com. They’re also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skyeclosesmaine/

 

 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Real Estate: How to successfully win a multiple offer situation

By Katie Kinney


In the Maine Real Estate market, buyers are still experiencing low inventory and multiple offer situations. A large contributing factor to this issue is the rise of investor purchases. The investor interest poses a huge challenge for first time homebuyers who are interested in buying starter homes or owner occupied multi family homes and are forced to compete with deep pocket cash buyers. Here are a few tips to help you crush the cash offers.

Make your best offer up front. Many cash buyers are looking for a bargain and will put a lower offer in to start. As a non-cash buyer you should always put your highest and best offer in from the start. If you do need to include closing costs, you should add those on top of offer because closing costs are money out of the seller’s pocket. You should also include the highest dollar amount you are comfortable with for the earnest deposit. By doing this you will show your high level interest in the property.

Presenting a mortgage preapproval letter from your lender when you make the offer is the traditional way to show you are a serious buyer. If you take the next step and have your underwriter start the review process of your loan you will provide the seller more piece of mind concerning your financing.  If you can’t outbid a cash buyer, this step puts you closer to an equal playing field.

Most buyers’ make offers contingent on a home inspection, during this period buyers have the opportunity to back out if any home issues arise. When looking at homes bring a contractor or an inspector with you to give a general summary of the property. If you are comfortable with the information provided, you could then make your offer un-contingent on a home inspection. If you are not comfortable with not having a full inspection, I recommend have the inspection period as short as possible. Have the inspection scheduled when you send the offer over.

The most important step you can take when you know you will be entering into a multiple offer situation is to have your agent ask what is most important to the seller. In many situations, the seller needs to find a new place to live and may want a rent back option. A seller could be relocating out of state and want a fast closing timeframe. As a serious buyer you should structure you offer around what is most important to the seller, by doing this your offer will stand out above other offers.

Hopefully these tips will help you purchase your new home. Whether you are interested in a residential or owner occupied investment property, I am happy to help you during the process. Feel free to contact me at any time. <

Katie Kinney is a Broker at Landing Real Estate. Reach her at Katie@LandingHomesMaine.com or by phone at 603-205-2276

Friday, January 15, 2021

Real Estate: Testing, service essential elements of safe drinking water

By Kam Berry

As we all navigate new ways of life and stay extra focused on our health and wellbeing, the water we are using to clean, bath and consume has taken on additional importance. For homes on private water wells, annual service and testing is an essential part of having clean and safe drinking water.

This has never been more important than now! With more of our community working from home, learning from home, and cooking at home, well water safety is extra important. The average household uses 100 gallons per person, per day! Short term health and long-term health are both affected by poor water quality. When it comes to purchasing or selling a home, water testing, and recent service are also important for a safe and properly functioning water system. 

From a service perspective, things like a water softener out of salt or a reverse osmosis system past service probably aren’t going to cause long term damage to the equipment, but they definitely can allow harmful contaminates to enter your drinking water system. The harmful contaminates in well water are usually the ones you can’t see, taste or feel, making them even more dangerous! Most water systems need to be serviced on an annual basis, and water softeners typically need salt to be added on a monthly basis. 

Water testing is an important part of making sure we are drinking, cooking and bathing with safe water. Annual water testing is recommended by the National Groundwater Association, and I encourage homeowners to consider annual tests. 

More importantly, consider getting your water tested if you notice any changes in aesthetic quality or quantity. Local laboratories have enacted COVID-19 safety precautions for in person drop-off, and you can pick up or drop off test kits at the local Windham UPS store.

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

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

When it comes to purchasing a home with a well system, it is important to consider all of the aspects. Is the well location known? Is the pump at the age where failure is imminent, or showing high amp draw? With regards to water testing, it is very important to make sure the water passes an independent lab test, since even innocent enough issues like a low PH can corrode piping and cause leaks.

If you are listing your home with one of our great local real estate agents, there are things that can be done to avoid surprises in the transaction. Many local well contractors also provide well inspection services, which is a great tool if buying a home with a well. <

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