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.

We 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.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Mobile versus modular home by Rick Yost

As a realtor, I am called upon to assist in the buying and selling all types of homes.  That includes single-family homes, multi-family homes, condominiums, co-ops, camps, etc.   I have worked with masonry buildings, log homes, stick built homes, modular homes, and mobile homes. Of all these types of sales, the most confusing distinction, in my experience, is the difference between a modular home and a mobile home.
By legal definition, a mobile home built since June 1976, must be built to the National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards. These standards are set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is why mobile homes are often referred to as HUD Homes. 

Mobile homes will have a red and silver seal certifying that it is in compliance with the HUD Code.
A modular built in the State of Maine is currently built to the 2009 International Residential Code for one and two-family dwellings, the 2009 Uniform Plumbing Code, and the 2011 National Electrical Code. Modular homes are the only homes with a state code no matter what town or city they go in. 

The State of Maine also designates that modular homes are allowed in any zone that other single family homes are permitted. What does that really mean?

 Mobile homes are built on a permanent chassis. This is the metal frame that the home is built on and the two to four I-beams used to absorb the weight of the home. This chassis is usually set on concrete blocks placed on a concrete slab and the home is built to a performance base specification. This means the home meets requirements set by HUD.  For example, it has to have a roof that holds a certain amount of weight per square foot, it must stand up to a certain amount of wind and it must meet certain energy requirements.

Modular homes are transported on separate carriers that return to the manufacturer. They are designed to be placed on a foundation and supported by lally-columns (those steel posts in your basement). 

Modular homes are built to an exacting standard that calls for very specific performance and quite often call for specific materials or supplies. A modular today is being built to the same standards as a stick built house. Both stick built and modular, must meet the 2009 IRC code, the 2009 UPC and the 2011 NEC.

As a realtor, the difference between a mobile and a modular is a matter of value. A mobile home tends to depreciate over time and can be considered as chattel (personal property) if it is in a mobile home park or on leased land. 

A modular home is considered real estate when it is built and will appreciate with the general real estate market over time. In my opinion, today’s modular homes are built as well as, if not better than stick built homes with similar finishes. Consider it a stick built home that was built inside.   

I hope this helps define the difference between mobile and modular

Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with all your real estate questions and needs at:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Remodeling Towards Zero by Kevin Ronan

If you are not ready to move or build a new home consider retrofitting your existing home to be more energy efficient. As important as building new zero energy homes is, retrofitting existing homes in our communities can be just as energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Homeowners have realized that you can successfully remodel older homes on a clear path to zero.

Why should you remodel your older home towards zero?

*You save a lot of money on energy bills.
*Curb carbon emissions.
* You can improve the indoor environment, health and comfort of your family.
* It allows your family the opportunity to stay in the neighborhood that you love.
* It will increase the value of your home.

The first step on your path towards zero is to “Know what you don’t know!” Everything that you ever wanted to know and were afraid to ask about toxic-free, sustainable, recycled products, from the lighting to the floor, from installation to paint is available both offline and online. Be an informed consumer when making decisions about remodeling. There are many choices out there!

Also, on your path towards zero, homeowners should take advantage of buying raw materials locally and try to re-use as much existing materials as possible. There is a lot of recycled lumber, cork, bamboo and glass out there to name a few. Not only can this save you money on your remodel, but is also environmentally friendly as it reduces the amount of unnecessary waste.

Another area to look at is the mechanical systems in your home. One quick and easy fix is to buy new green appliances. I am not talking about the green avocado appliances from the sixties. There are a wide variety of Energy Star Certified appliances at many price points. Another easy fix, that I took advantage of in my own home, is to replace existing lighting with LED lights. Not only will they save you money and electricity but they also come with the added advantage of keeping your home cooler during the hot summer months.

Finally, a well-insulated home will save energy and resources while also greatly minimizing your electric bill. Be sure to insulate, your windows, your walls, roof and foundation.

To get started, homeowners may want to contract with a Certified Home Energy Auditor. has many of these professionals listed with customer ratings. A good auditor can review a year’s worth of utility bills and determine the energy efficiency of appliances, water heaters and the heating system as well as evaluate the energy efficiency of your lighting. They will also rate the quality of the windows and doors and estimate their installation and the current level of the insulation of the shell of your home as well.   The most important result of hiring a professional Home Energy Auditor is that he can help you come up with a gradual cost effective plan. Many people have financial plans for retirement that are implemented over many years, sometimes even decades. Making a long-term remodeling plan for your home is a great way to gradually implement measures that will keep you on the path to zero without over-taxing your budget.

Kevin Ronan, Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgeton Road in Westbrook:, or call: 207-838-4855.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Assessed value versus appraised value of homes by Katie Kinney of Landing Real Estate

Along with the fair market value of a home, there are two other methods of home valuation: assessed value (also referred to as tax value) and appraised value. Assessed value is used for property taxation almost exclusively. Appraised value has a few more purposes and one of the most common is when buying or selling a home. The appraisal presumably should be at or very near to the eventual selling price.
Many buyers and home owners look at the tax value recorded at the municipality and assume that number represents a fair market value, which it usually does not. One of the purposes of property taxes is to provide monetary values to meet the town’s annual budget. Town assessors may not be licensed appraisers, may not consider recent property improvements or current condition and may not compare the subject property to similar recently sold properties in the area. 

An appraisal is ordered for the specific purpose of determining the fair (or current) market value of a property. This number usually is very close to the eventual sales price. Appraisers must be licensed and rely on current market data, recent sales (within around 6 months) on properties that are similar in size, style, features and location to the subject property. The appraisal essentially protects the lender and the buyer from artificially high home prices.

When discussing assessed value and appraised value, keep in mind a property’s worth is defined differently under each value. It can be common that a home’s assessed value will not keep up with the local real estate market’s rises and falls; and this is usually because they are only conducted every one to three years. Therefore, when buying or selling a property, the appraised value (or market value) will be most beneficial to the homeowner.