Friday, November 16, 2018

Small fixes, big value

By Rick Yost

When a seller is getting ready to sell their home, there are always projects that can be done to make the home more saleable. Removing clutter, touching up paint and a deep cleaning are the most common first step recommended to a potential home seller and increasing the potential for getting a home sold. 

The steps discussed in this article are the next level and are meant to return the greatest amount of value with the least amount of cost and effort. These steps will also get your house ready for sale at the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time. These are the little things that potential buyers notice and influence their decision to make an offer and how much they decide to offer. Home sellers following this advice are truly ready to sell their home.

Appliances and furnace
All potential home buyers will look at your furnace and appliances. Make them shine. Sellers should clean the oven, stove top and inside of the refrigerator as best as possible. Use some appliance touch up paint on small chips and nicks. Use a degreaser on the furnace, wipe off all dirt and dust and clean the floor around the furnace. 

Buyers will make over all assumptions about the upkeep of the home based on the appearance of the appliances and furnace. I cannot tell you how many clients I have worked with that reject a home based on the condition of the furnace. The condition being entirely determined by the way the furnace looks.

Baseboard, moldings and sinks
Cracking, peeling, and discolored caulk and/or silicon on your baseboards, moldings, sinks and tubs stand out like a sore thumb but a little time and effort can remove the cracked and discolored caulk and silicon. 

Tubes of caulk and silicon are inexpensive and easy to apply. Sellers will be surprised at the difference this step will make in the overall appearance of the house because nothing looks more dated than a sink with cracked caulk all around it.
Smoke detectors and CO2 detectors
Discolored, beeping, and non-functioning detectors are eye sores and annoying for buyers. A quick trip to the local hardware store to get replacements for dated detectors and fresh batteries for more current detectors is always a cheap and easy way to add visual appeal and value to a home.
Fireplace and chimney
Having the chimney and fireplace cleaned helps make a home more attractive to buyers. Although buyers love a fireplace, they fear chimney fires. As a result, water stains inside the fireplace, piles of soot and loose mortar are all troubling signs to potential buyers, so sellers should consider spending a little extra money to improve these conditions professionally and save the receipts for potential buyers. Not only will it further home safety, but will increase the likelihood of a quick sell.

Sellers should make sure that all windows have screens. Screens that don’t fit correctly or are damaged should be repaired immediately with particular attention to the screen door. Potential buyers notice those screens first. 
Window sill
Of all the things this article recommends, this is the most important.  Windows should be cleaned, sills vacuumed, and blinds dusted. There should be no peeling paint, moisture stains or discoloration as all of these are warning signs to potential buyers.  Scrape, sand, etc.  your problem sills and put a fresh coat of paint on them.  Sills are so often overlooked by seller, but not by buyers.
Now that the seller has completed his deep cleaning, removed clutter, touched up paint and followed the steps in this article, they are ready to go to market with a house that is truly ready for potential buyers to see and truly ready to sell.

Rick is an Award-Winning Realtor, real estate author and long time Windham resident.  You can reach Rick with all your real estate questions at

Friday, November 9, 2018

Home remodeling advice if you do not know exactly what you want

By Carrie Colby

If you don’t know exactly what you want or specify what you want, you’re going to get what the contractor thinks you want. And it could end up costing you dearly! For home remodeling design ideas, inspiration and a whole lot more (including cost estimates), you can search the internet on sites like Zillow and HGTV. You can search by style, cost or room. And what’s really cool is that you can search by specific elements within a room, such as quartz or granite countertops, for example. Share your boards with your contractor so that you’re clear on your objectives.

Hiring the first contractor who comes along.
Sure, they may seem nice, and they may seem competent, but have you checked them out? What do your friends say about them? Have you contacted their references? Seen their work? Are there any complaints lodged against them? (P.S.: The Better Business Bureau just released its top 10 list of inquiries from consumers, and half relate to home improvement.) What do subcontractors and suppliers have to say about their dealings with them? Is he/she licensed and insured? As excited as you may be about taking on this new project, you need to do a fair amount of due diligence. A referral from friends or real estate agents are a good way to start your search. In my experience, if I refer someone, it is someone who is good since it is a reflection on me and my business.

Jumping at the lowest bid.
Get at least three bids, and throw out the lowest one so as to avoid the inevitable consequence: cheap materials, shoddy installation, etc. Don’t invite trouble in! Rather, hire someone who not only comes in within target, price-wise, but is someone you feel personally comfortable with.

Not insisting on a written contract.
Every detail about your project should be included in a contract, from the start date to the approximate completion date, right down to the brand of fixtures to the number of coats of paint. Be as specific as possible! Also, important: setting a time limit for fixing defects so that if a dispute arises, it’s not endless.

Not setting a payment schedule.
How you pay a contractor is very important. Spell out the payment schedule in the contract, beginning with the amount to be paid upfront (which should be no more than 30 percent).  Periodic payments after the work starts should correspond to completed segments of the project. And the best way to ensure that work gets done when and how you want it? Leave a significant sum (at least 10 percent) to be paid only when the job is completed to your satisfaction.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Why it is important to do a pre-inspection prior to listing your home

By Richard Vraux

So, you think you may want to sell your home? Here are some things you should know before taking that giant step to sell.

First, speak to a Real Estate Advisor to have them explain the importance of having a pre- inspection done prior to listing your property. Once you have a plan, then start the process.

Start off with your Realtor® recommending a few inspectors to choose from. Make sure he or she is (NACHI) certified National Association of Certified Home Investigators. By hiring a third party, they can give you an unbiased opinion as to the condition of your home. The report will address any safety issues at hand and any problem areas that could cause you problems. You will want to know these and other issues that will minimize the stress you may encounter during this process.

Isn’t it better to know your issues prior to your listing, rather than having to deal them after the offer comes in? The likelihood of having to deal with negotiations at the last minute is slim to none having a pre-inspection., if the issues are found up-front, you can either repair it yourself or you can seek out a contractor at your own pace and find one that is reasonable in price. Running around at the last minute can be costly to you.

Once you know what repairs or updates are need, you should be ready to sit with your Realtor® and get a more accurate price point to list your house. Most Realtors® do not recommend this service, but believe me, it will be money well spent if the buyers find issues.

Most inspectors charge between $350.- $400 for this service and another $250-$300 for a septic inspection. It will be a small price to pay rather than have the buyers ask for thousands to have a qualified technician take care of the issues.

Boy scout motto- Be Prepared.

Richie Vraux is a Real Estate Broker/ Realtor® with RE/MAX Allied for more than 20 years. If you need advice call Richie @ 207-317-1297.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Are you ready for winter?

By Kevin Ronan

It was not very long ago when we were basking in the warmth of a wonderful Maine summer. Now it is time to get ready for the coming winter. What have you done to prepare your home? What options should homeowners consider when preparing for a cold Maine winter?

Have you considered an energy audit? An energy audit is an analysis of
a home’s energy consumption and outlines how to improve its overall energy consumption. This information can assist a homeowner to realize significant savings on utility bills and create a more comfortable living environment during the cold winters. An energy audit will cost between $300-$600 depending on how extensive the audit and there are a number of home inspection companies in Southern Maine from which to choose. When choosing a company to perform the audit, check to make sure they are insured and bonded. 

Are you familiar with Efficiency Maine (EM)?  Efficiency Maine is an independent administrator of energy efficient programs in Maine. EM's mission is to promote cost effective energy savings. Through Efficiency Maine, a homeowner can access a number of resources including determining your homes energy efficiency, energy savings technologies and available incentives and rebates. Efficiency Maine can be contacted at INFO@EFFICIENCYMAINE.COM, 1-866-376-2463.

What if you do not want to pay for an energy audit. What can you do yourself? Depending on your budget here are some suggestions to improve your home efficiency. Start by cleaning and servicing you furnace and hot water heater. Be sure to change the filters annually. Check around windows and door frames for any air leaks or drafts. An inexpensive tube of silicone caulk can greatly reduce drafts and heat loss. Replace any incandescent bulbs with energy efficiency LED bulbs.  Install low flow shower heads and finally unplug all unused chargers. 

Bigger ticket projects can reap even greater energy efficiencies for homeowners. Add or replace insulation in the walls and the attic. When choosing insulation pay close attention to the insulation R-value. Your local hardware or building supply store representatives are well informed and can help you choose the right insulation for your project. If your home has a HVAC system, get it serviced. This can be costly but well worth the cost. Finally, is it time to replace noisy old appliances with an Energy Star rated appliance.

At the time I was writing this article, the local weather forecast today calls for snow and cold rain; now is the time to get ready!  Stay warm!

Kevin Ronan,Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgeton Road in Westbrook brings this article to you. He can be contacted at 207-838-4855 or if you need any assistance. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

When buyers and sellers meet

By Nicole Foster

In Maine the majority of listed, already existing, residential single- family home transaction closings are attended by both the buyers and sellers, who will not typically meet face to face prior to reaching the closing table (unless one party is signing in advance or remotely, so they may never actually meet). Buyers and sellers have adverse interests so one of the primary reasons that they have hired a Realtor® instead of just buying or selling property themselves is to have that added protection of a buffer or intermediary so they do not need to take on the added risks and unintended consequences associated with direct negotiations and communications.

It is customary for the seller of a listed property to leave during the showings with prospective buyers and their buyer agents as well as during the buyer’s building inspections. Buyers often feel more relaxed about providing feedback and comfortable asking questions when the sellers are not present (buyers should always assume the increasing likelihood of seller surveillance devices when inside a property).

There are instances, however, where a seller may not be willing or able to leave and buyers and their agents may or may not be made aware prior to their arrival and are surprised as a result. For some sellers, it is the only way that they can do this hard thing and do not intend to undermine the process while others have different motives for lingering. Sometimes a seller has been scrambling to finalize the tidying up or pet removal for a showing and happens to be in the driveway leaving while the buyers are pulling into the driveway and they meet accidentally, or the buyers may just “happen” to stop by and speak with them while they are doing yardwork or holding a yard sale.

Regardless of the timing or frequency of your meetings, it is beneficial to keep the focus on cultivating a positive exchange.  Keep ideas for improvement and renovation to both property and landscaping or yard to yourself. A seemingly harmless idea could possibly be sending the message to the seller that you do not like what they have done, or your plans may be removing something of sentimental weight leaving the seller feeling uneasy. Instead of sharing your vision, try to focus on telling the seller what you absolutely love about the property – the location, yard, style or features of the home and compliment what you do enjoy about it. not to elaborate on how you spent “tons of money” on X, Y or Z. A buyer doesn’t care how much you personally chose to spend on something and may wonder if your overall valuation is inflated as a result of such comments.

Don’t feel obligated to answer questions on the spot. If you are faced with a surprised meeting and are feeling ambushed with questions as either a buyer or seller who already has agency representation it is appropriate for you to smile and nod and agree to discuss at some point, but you do not need to feel pressured to discuss on the spot without your agent or time to consider your response.

The sale of a property can be particularly intricate when the purchase of one is contingent upon the sale of another, so it is important to maintain well documented conversations throughout the entire process.  Working directly with your Realtor® to help with both the negotiations and communications can reduce your risks as either a buyer or a seller.

Nicole Foster is a real estate Broker at Locations Real Estate Group who resides in Windham 207-615-7558

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Why the holiday season may just be the right season to sell

By Lisa DiBiase

If you're ready to sell your house, you don't have to wait. Selling during the holidays doesn’t have to be a disaster. Even though there are less homes on the market, buyers are out there buying at a steady pace. You may be surprised that there are advantages to selling your home over the holiday season.

There are no seasons online.

Traditional home buying and selling has evolved with the internet. While spring is still the hottest home-buying season, serious home buyers are always on the lookout. Instant and constant internet access means buyers are always checking out the latest listings. Today’s buyers do the bulk of their home searches online which is why it's critical to have a professional online presence, especially when it comes to photos.

Less competition.

Come spring, sellers will flood the market and your home will be just another fish in a great big pond. But right now, you’ve practically got the market to yourself. Home inventory usually falls from November to December. That means less competition on the market if you list your home during that time! Buyers have fewer homes to choose from, which means you could sell your house faster.

Serious buyers.

If a buyer is trudging around in freezing weather to look at your home, they are serious. People also tend to start their home search several months prior to when they plan to purchase. Many winter buyers may also be working against a deadline, whether it’s an expiring lease, relocation, or a contract on their current home.

Tax Incentives before year-end.

Winter home buyers may also be motivated to capture the tax benefits of buying a home before year-end. Home buyers can write off some of the expenses of their home purchase on their taxes. There are usually multiple tax benefits of owning a home that can be taken advantage of.

Time Off.
You may think people are less likely to see your home during their hectic holiday schedules. That can be true, but keep in mind most people have more time off around the holidays. That means more time for browsing their favorite home apps, dreaming about their future decor, and even scheduling home showings.

Are You Ready to Sell?
With all these advantages on your side, hopefully selling your home in the winter won’t feel so daunting. Make sure you work with an experienced real estate agent to get your listing ready for online house hunters and serious holiday buyers. What a better way to celebrate the upcoming new year.

Call Lisa today for all of your real estate needs. 207-653-0823.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Should I sell my home now or wait until spring?

By Mel Oldakowski

There are many questions homeowners ask themselves during the selling process. "How much will my home sell for?"  "How much should I list my home for?"  "Who should I select as a real estate agent to sell my home?"  Lastly, "Is this a good time to be selling a home?" is also a very common question that real estate agents are asked.

As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold.

This is the furthest from the truth. There is no doubt that the "spring market" is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for several reasons. great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition. Simply put, it’s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. 

Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received, and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.

Many homeowners believe that buyers aren't out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there! Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is. 

Do your neighbors have pumpkins on their front step? Are there lots of Trick-or-Treaters wandering the neighborhood on Halloween? Do any of your neighbors have any light displays for the holidays? There are buyers out there who will look at these types of things when determining whether your home is in the right neighborhood for them or not.

The best agents are always up for the challenge. Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home. A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that.  

Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring. The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, title companies have fewer closings to do and home inspectors have fewer inspections.  All these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and less stress for you.

This article was brought to you by Mel Oldakowski of Better Homes and Gardens/The Masiello Group in Windham. She can be reached at 207-205-0121.