Friday, June 16, 2017

Beyond the closing and taking ownership by Kevin Ronan

Congratulations! You have spent tireless hours searching for the perfect home, been through the inspections and are about to close on the home of your dreams. Don’t be fooled, the closing is just the beginning. What does a buyer need to consider beyond the closing?  
There are some activities that buyers should address immediately, while there are other things that you may defer to some future time after having lived in the house. New buyers need to begin by changing all the external locks to the house. If you are like me, you have probably given out a spare key to a neighbor or given a neighbor or friend the combination to your key code. Changing the door locks is inexpensive and will give you confidence that your home is more secure. While you are changing the locks, be sure to also change keypad codes for the garage and home security system.  

Improving your home security may also include getting to know your neighbors. When we moved into our new home, our neighbors had a casual gathering soon after we moved in.  I learned that two of my neighbors owned every tool known to man, which was important to me considering that I owned none.
Make sure that the utilities have been turned on the day of the closing so they are working when you take ownership of the house. This is especially important in Maine during the winter months when there is a risk of frozen pipes if the heat is not on.  

Be sure to fill out a change of address form with the U.S. Post Office. When I moved two years ago, the Post Office was giving out out a moving kit, which included 20 percent off coupons for several of the big box stores; this saved us hundreds of dollars on our appliances. The Post Office will forward your mail, but do keep in mind that the mail will take a couple of extra days to get to you. Make sure to take the time to change the address on your credit cards and other loans to avoid any delays.

Use the home inspection results to develop a repair plan. The home inspection repair plan will help you prioritize what needs to be done as well as insure that you have planned for the budget needed to perform the repairs. Consider having an energy efficiency audit. This would be particularly beneficial in an older home. You may qualify for special financing or up to $1,500 in incentives from Efficiency Maine for work performed to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Before starting on any projects always check with the town office for permit requirements.  

Finally, assemble a team of local professional tradesmen to assist you. This may include a handyman, carpenter and electrician to name a few. Once you have moved in you will quickly learn more about your home. These professionals can be of great help if and when the need arises and can help you prioritize repairs and maintenance beyond the closing.

Kevin Ronan is an Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgton Road, Westbrook. He can be reached at or 207-838-4855.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Negotiating a home sale by Carrie Colby

When you list your home for sale, you may think you’ve priced it right, staged it beautifully, and timed the market for a quick sale.

The reality is that buyers are full of surprises. They rarely pay list price; they discount or dismiss improvements you’ve made; their inspections usually turn up something for you to fix, and they may have terms that you weren’t counting on - like needing to sell their home before they buy yours. you plan to or not, you’re going to have to negotiate. Negotiating doesn’t mean you win and the buyer loses, or you lose and the buyer wins. It’s simply a way to make smaller concessions so that you don’t lose the buyer and the buyer doesn’t lose your house. Negotiation is designed for both of you to get what you want.

You’ve done something right or you wouldn’t have an offer on your home, but a sale isn’t in the bag yet. Don’t blow it. 

Here are some negotiating mistakes to avoid:

Demanding top dollar for an aging property - Yes, the market is better than it was during the recession, but an older home that hasn’t been updated or maintained to perfection can’t compete with refreshed or newer homes.

When you’ve lived in a home for some years, you miss the dings and scuffs that make a home look used. You don’t see the age of your finishes and fixtures the way buyers see them. Even if it’s not torn or broken, buyers may see certain things as needing to be replaced.

Getting angry at a low offer - A buyer may make an offer for your home that is far lower than you feel it is worth. Don’t take it personally - it’s a negotiating tactic. If the buyer didn’t want the home, there would be no offer, so at least you know the buyer wants to negotiate.

The buyers are using a low price to tell you something - Your job is to find out what that something is. Have your agent ask the buyer’s agent for the reasoning behind the low offer before you provide a written response. The buyer could be using inaccurate comparables; they could be trying to buy above their price range or they may be investors who use a low-ball formula to acquire properties.

No offers or extremely low offers could be telling you that your home is overpriced, compared to other similar homes. If your agent told you an estimated range where homes similar to yours are selling and you priced above that range, you need to lower the price. A low offer can also mean the market is slowing down and the buyer feels more confident. Ask your agent for an updated Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) so you can see where the market is heading.

Negotiations keep the dialog fluid and the buyer interested. In a seller’s market, you may expect buyers to give you multiple bids for your home and that could happen, but it’s rare. In a soft market, your buyer could simply walk away and find another home to buy because there are other homes on the market. You need to be flexible on the points that count most with the buyer such as, move-in dates. As a result, the buyer is more likely to be flexible with you on repairs or other negotiations.

Remember, you want to sell your home and your buyer wants to buy it. Maximize your offers with good negotiating techniques and move on with your life. And when you buy your next home, you’ll be more experienced and a better negotiator knowing the seller’s side of things.

Carrie Colby is the Broker/Owner of Premier Properties, 1263 Roosevelt Trail in Raymond, ME. She can be reached by phone at 207-655-2225 or email at

Friday, June 2, 2017

A home buyer's journey by Richie Vraux

I love working with real estate buyers, especially first time homebuyers. It’s very important to know all the costs associated with purchasing your new home from start to finish, so you don’t leave yourself short and having to scramble to come up with money you weren’t aware of.
Your first step is to find a real estate agent that you will be comfortable with to help you throughout the whole process. You should sign a Buyers Agency Agreement so you and your agent’s interests are protected. You should have your real estate agent go through the entire buying process with you so you know, in advance, what to expect once your home buying journey is done and you are nice and cozy in your new home. Whether you are buying your first ever new home, upsizing, downsizing, purchasing a camp, land, second home, vacation home or relocating, we all follow the same steps.

Get qualified: If you don’t have a mortgage broker or a bank you are working with, ask your agent to recommend a lending institution. You will want to do this prior to home searching. The reason is that you don’t want to start looking at $300,000 homes if you only qualify at the $200,000 level. You don’t want to waste your time or your agent’s.

Meet with your agent and go over your wish list of the things that are absolutely essential in your new home. It could be the town, number of bedrooms or baths, basement or the garage. It is all about you -The Buyer, so make sure you go through what is important to you. Have your agent schedule showings and land on the right property that fits your family’s needs.

Once you find the perfect home, have your agent place your offer. In today’s market, follow the guidance from your agent as to what your offer should be. Once you go under contract, now the fun begins.

You must place an earnest money deposit, usually $500 and up; but it could be a lot more depending on the price of the home.

Inspection time: Your agent will recommend doing inspections - even if it is a brand new home. He will usually recommend two to three companies. The cost for inspections is out of pocket, paid by you the buyer at the time of the inspections and can run from anywhere from $500 to $1000 plus - depending on what you wish to investigate. Once you get by this stage and are satisfied with the results of the investigation, now you can move on. this time, your lender should be close to completing your funding and acquiring title insurance. They will ask you for documents, more documents and more documents. Don’t get discouraged as it’s an important part of the process. Your banking fees can run between $4000 to $6000 and appraisal fees from $400 to $700, depending on your lender’s individual requirements.  Don’t forget your title insurance and title fees of $600 to $1000 and up. Most of these fees can be built into the mortgage.

Buying a home can be costly but there are things your agent can recommend to you. Your agent might recommend asking the seller to pay closing costs. It could be as high as $5000 or higher depending on the sale price of the home. Know what to expect when purchasing a new home and be prepared. Ask your mortgage broker to give you a breakdown of all associated costs.
As you can see, to live the American Dream may be costly – but there is no better feeling in the world of living the American Dream - owning your own home.

Richie Vraux is a Broker/ Realtor for 20+ years with RE/MAX Allied in Windham.
Call Richie for real estate consultation and advice at: 317-1297

Friday, May 26, 2017

Home inspection versus home appraisal by Cari Turnbull

Buyers and sellers are often confused about the difference between a home inspection and an appraisal. They are two different functions of a real estate transaction with different goals. 
The inspection is an optional part of the transaction. You can choose to have a home inspection and make that part of your offer, or you can forgo that option if you wish. 

The purpose of a home inspection is to find material defects and safety issues in the home. In the state of Maine, there is no licensing for home inspectors; however your Realtor® will likely recommend a nationally certified home inspector. 

It is the buyer’s choice who they use for their home inspection. The cost of an inspection is anywhere from $300-$1200 depending on which inspections you choose to have. You’ll also want to check with your lender to see if they require any testing, like a water test, with your financing program. The inspection is not pass or fail, it is to let the buyer know more about the home they are buying and then go back to the seller to renegotiate, based on the findings if necessary. 

Often people consider skipping the home inspection because it isn’t required and they don’t want to spend the money. It is good to remember that this is likely the largest purchase you’ll ever make in your life and $300 is a drop in the bucket compared to spending your first night in the house and then learn that the furnace isn’t functioning. 

If you are using financing, an appraisal is a requirement to get your mortgage. Appraisers are chosen by a third party and the lender will not know who the appraiser is until the report is completed. 

The job of an appraiser is to confirm that the value of a property is at or above the agreed upon purchase price. How they do this is by looking at comparable sold properties. They will likely be looking at properties that have sold in the same town, or similar towns, in the past six months with as close to the same attributes to the subject property as possible. 

Once the appraiser has completed their report they will submit it to the lender and the underwriter will review it for any errors or items that need to be addressed. Some financing programs have certain criteria that a home must meet. A competent realtor will know the criteria for your loan and will let you know if they foresee any issues with the appraisal prior to going under contract. 

It is important that you are educated on the purpose of each step of the home buying or selling process, and these are two of the most important steps.

Cari Turnbull is a Windham resident. Cari and her team represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland Area. For all your real estate needs contact Cari:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Everything you want to know about joint tenancy by Randee McDonald

Cumberland Title loves answering your questions, and there is one that we seem to get quite frequently regarding joint tenancy. Joint tenancy is ownership of a property by two or more people who share it equally. If any one of the joint tenants dies, the remainder of the property is transferred to the survivors. Now, on to the question: 

Does a joint tenant have to give notice to the other joint tenant, if they are selling their half interest? The presumption is that you must give notice to the other joint tenant to transfer your interest. Do you need to give notice to your joint tenant before transferring your interest?

The answer is: No. Now keep in mind, this would be a pretty rare situation. Let’s use my husband, Matthew and I, as examples. We both own property in Windham together as joint tenants. Can Matthew walk into any lawyer’s office and ask that a deed be written from Matthew McDonald to Lady X (his new ‘friend’)? Yup!  Will a lawyer write that deed? Of course - there’s no reason not to. Does Matthew have to tell me that he’s done this? No! Now both Lady X and I will own the property as, tenants in common.

This means, that we own the property together with no rights of survivorship. That is, should Lady X meet a sudden and unexpected (ahem) demise, her share of the property becomes part of her estate and passes on to her heirs

Now why would someone do this? This is where it gets interesting! Now let’s just say that Matthew had a child with Lady X (he DOESN’T!)  And let’s just say, he wanted to break the joint tenancy without telling me. That way, when he dies, his half of the property would go (according to his will) to his child with Lady X. So, Matthew does a deed from himself to another person - an unrelated third party - and then they deed the property right back to Matthew. He has thus broken the joint tenancy and now he and I own the property as, tenants in common. Does he have to tell me that he did any of this?  No, but he’ll sure regret it.  Then when he dies (a sudden and unexpected demise), his half of the property does not go directly to me, but rather it will go to the child with Lady X. Wow!

If you find yourself in such a circumstance - or suspect you will, get in touch with us at Cumberland Title.

Randee and Matthew are the happily-married owners of Cumberland Title Services, with offices in Portland, Brunswick, Lincoln and Windham. Cumberland Title is a Maine-based company serving the entire state with smooth closings.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Strike while the market is hot By Amy Krikken

What is a comparative market analysis (CMA) and why should you care about getting one? 
That is a great question and one that I intend to answer.

A CMA is a tool used in the real estate industry to determine the value of your home in today's

How is a CMA calculated? 

First and foremost realize that calculating a CMA is not an exact science, our calculations are tied to appraisal value, but not entirely. There are many determining factors such as: the location of your home, the size and condition, number of bedrooms, acreage, and the overall desirability of the home.
Since each house and piece of land that it sits upon is unique, how do we go about determining value?

In other words, how do we compare apples to oranges, how can we compare two houses that may do not have much in common?

Understand that when we calculate the value of your home we use houses that have already sold in that same market within the last six months to a year. do not use the asking price, or the price that the home was when it went under contract. We use the price that the home sold for. 

A typical CMA uses three comparative properties to compare against your home.

We then make necessary adjustments based on things like number of bedrooms and bathrooms and overall square footage by either adding or subtracting to balance out our comparisons. In other words, this process helps us compare apples to apples, so that we can more readily compare them to one another and assign a suggested asking price to your home. 

On occasion a homeowner may feel that this number is too low, and they wish to put their home on
the market for a higher price. The danger in that strategy is that buyers have access to lots of information these days, and if they have been looking and educating themselves along the way, they know that the home is overpriced. If the house sits on the market without a reduction (an adjustment to the market price - remember it is always in flux because new homes come into the market weekly) the buying public starts to believe that there may be something wrong with your home, or at the very least, they say to themselves, “It can't be that great, or else it would have already sold.” We do not want this scenario for you! 

Real estate agents want your home to sell! They nudge you in the best direction because experience has taught them that pricing your home fairly, will bring more buyers toward your home, and may even result in you actualizing more profit on the sale. Multiple offer situations are happening every day in this market, so price correctly the first time to capitalize on the buying audience within the first two weeks of listing your home. 

Most people reach out to a real estate agent when they are looking for a comparative market analysis, to get an idea of what their house may command in the market, should they decide to sell. However, it’s always a good idea to have a general idea about what your home is worth. Who knows, you might like the number so well that you decide you want to sell. Homes are going under contract in under a week because inventory is so low. 

Knowledge is power, and I am here to help encourage you to know what your home is worth, instead of guesstimating. 

Call a professional. Call The Rock Star Realtor, Amy Krikken of Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello at 207-317-1338

Friday, May 5, 2017

Buying or selling? How to choose a Realtor® you can work with by Matt Trudel

Choosing a realtor you can work with can be a daunting task. It seems these days that everyone knows someone who is a real estate agent, or has a friend that is a real estate agent. And with the market picking up in the past two years, more and more people are giving it a try to see if they can make a living selling real estate. Working with a friend who is selling real estate may be fine and work out okay. However, buying or selling a home or investment property is generally one of the largest transactions a person makes. When making such an important transaction, sometimes having a more qualified and experienced realtor might be a better decision for you. Here are a few points to ponder before you make your choice: 

Always interview more than one realtor, preferably three or four. Buyers should ask the agents about the different types of financing programs they have used recently, what programs would they recommend for you, and why.  Some of the common programs are: FHA, VA, RD, MESHA, Conventional Insured, and there are many specialty loans designed for various occupations.  

 Sellers are going to want to know how much their house is worth. Hopefully all the values that come in from the agents are going to be similar in value, but quite often you get one that is considerably higher. The higher number is something to be on the lookout for as it could be that the agent is hoping to lure your business with the greater figure. Understanding how each Realtor came up with their value is important. Take the time to ask questions, because it really is like a job interview, and you are the boss who is doing the hiring.

How long has the agent or agency been in the real estate business? Someone who has been in the business a long time probably has significant experience, has faced various situations or problems that can arise, has many contacts that can assist in the transaction, and has the respect of other agents in the area. Not that you need to have all the experience in the world, but problems do come up in most transactions, and having someone on your side who has faced those issues and has the ability to creatively solve those problems, is surely a plus. However, an agent who is relatively new and might be learning with you is not always such a good thing.

How many clients are they working with right now and how will that effect the time they have to devote to working for you? You don't want an agent that has too many clients and therefore their time would be stretched too thin. This can also be true if the agent is working at a different full time job other than real estate. You want a realtor who is not only capable but available as well. You might want to talk with a few of the realtors’ clients, both current and past clients. As a buyer, you should talk with some of the buyers he or she is working with and/or some of the buyers they helped in the past. Sellers should do the same with some of the realtors’ previous sellers.  Ask about what they enjoyed (and didn't enjoy) about the transaction. Was the overall process smooth, were there any difficulties or problems that arose and how were they handled?  Did they feel comfortable and informed throughout the process?  

As realtors, we are always there to assist other realtors throughout any transaction. Your choice of who you work with should be made with confidence and knowledge that you have the right realtor working for you and with you. Feeling comfortable with them is very important, because you are trusting them with assisting and advising you on a very important transaction.  

This article is by Matthew Trudel, Owner of Five Star Realty, Windham.