Friday, September 18, 2020

Real Estate: Attic Thermal Insulation

Submitted by Brandon Lussier

Special to The Windham Eagle

The attic accounts for a large percentage of a house’s heat loss and heat gain. Attic insulation reduces heat loss in the cold months, and prevents heat build-up in hotter months, making it a priority for insulation. In new construction, insulation levels for the attic are higher than all other areas. In an old home, the attic is the first place for insulation upgrades. The attic is comparatively easy to insulate since it usually presents no space constraint, making it easy to add a lot of insulation.

Ventilation

Critical to a healthy attic is good ventilation, with airflow circulating into and out of the attic. Circulation helps stabilize the attic temperature and remove moisture. Ideal ventilation has vent openings low on the roof and vents high on the roof to create draft. Air will flow naturally in the low openings and out the high openings.

This is usually accomplished with soffit vents at the eaves and rooftop vents (mushroom vents) or ridge vents on top of the roof. There are many other possibilities as well. Older houses often don’t have as much ventilation as we do today. It usually works out for the old home because there is not much insulation, either. If you upgrade the insulation you could inadvertently create a problem if consideration is not given to the appropriate insulation.

 Upgrades should consider insulation and ventilation together.

Air Leakage

Current building science recognizes that while attic ventilation is important, equally important is sealing air leaks from the rest of the house to the attic, especially in cold climates. In a typical home, recessed light fixtures, bathroom vents, plumbing stacks, chimneys and wall cavities present numerous potential air leakage paths to the attic. Air leakage from the house causes many problems including condensation, rot, mildew and in cold climates – ice dams.

Attic HVAC Ducting

The ducting that runs through the attic should be well sealed and properly insulated. Leaking ducting in the attic is a waste of energy. There is no point heating and cooling your attic. During cooling season it’s even more critical. Leaking or improperly insulated ducting could lead to condensation and water damage.

Do Not Disturb the Insulation

It’s best not to disturb the insulation in the attic. Some attics have vermiculite insulation. Most vermiculite insulation contains small amounts of asbestos. Disturbing the insulation can cause a cloud of asbestos, a substance it is best to avoid or to which exposure should be limited. In some cases, the vermiculite lies under a layer of a different type of insulation.

Visually, it may look like you have ten inches of fiberglass when, in fact, you may actually have four inches of vermiculite and six inches of fiberglass. If you have to disturb the insulation, check what kind of insulation you have first and take appropriate precautions. A standard dust mask does not provide


adequate protection from asbestos.

Upgrading Attic Insulation

If you are upgrading your attic insulation, make sure you hire a contractor who is knowledgeable about the techniques and codes for your area. Good contractors will assess the insulation type and condition, as well as the ventilation. <

This article is brought to you courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors. Contact Brandon with The Lussier Team at (207) 749-3775 for your next home inspection.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Real Estate -- Home: The New Classroom and Office

By Nicole Foster Broker/ REALTOR
You might have never fancied yourself a homeschooler or even a teacher but many parents are now tasked once again with working from their homes while providing necessary support for their distant learning or homeschooling students. Maybe you have not wanted to spend your time indoors this summer retrofitting your home for distant learning and/or work but the need is at your door once again. Working at the kitchen table isn’t ideal and can impact productivity and stress levels. One of the number one amenities buyers are looking for is a space that they can designate as an at home work space.  Homeowners are faced with some difficult and overwhelming decisions about how to best use their often limited space to accommodate everyone’s daily needs and many have been getting creative.
Here are a few tips to help you to get started with creating your own designated work areas at home:
1) Location, location, location
Consider what the needs will be for the space you’re creating. An open office in a high traffic area or pocket office within or near the kitchen could be ideal for a younger student but an older student or working parent may require privacy and quiet with a closing door.  Establish whether or not the designated work space needs to be near other people in the home or more distant from everyone.
2) Light It Up
http://locationsinmaine.com/Whether it’s an in home classroom or office, having adequate light will be important to reduce eye strain and create the right setting. Don’t rely on a singular source of light from one overhead fixture; instead make sure there are several different types of lights by adding lamps and removing or opening room darkening window treatments to let in more natural light. Consider swapping out an already existing interior door for a full glass or 15 light door which can eliminate noise while significantly increasing a room’s natural light. I have one on both my at home and agency office doors and am in
love with the effect and I also feel natural light is the best type.
3) Be Kind to Your Body
Prevent repetitive injuries and help to increase your productivity by keeping ergonomics in the forefront of your room design and furniture placement. Choose a comfortable chair that supports good posture and allows for both feet to make firm contact on the floor. A mat on the floor and a chair with wheels will help you to maneuver getting in and out more easily. Change it up by using a physioball instead of a chair on occasion or purchase an adjustable desk which doubles as a standing station.
4) Permanent or Portable
It might make sense to establish a workspace that can be moved from one area of the home to another with ease. A smaller desk on wheels can work well in the right floor plan. Try to determine how much desk space you will actually be using and see if a more compact and portable arrangement  can be very practical and so simple that even a small amount of space can work well.
works best. Establishing multiple smaller “crash pads” in more than one area where you can go to with your work
5) Connectivity
https://www.portresources.org/You might have a shed or area in your basement that you can repurpose as a designated work space but your internet connection may be sluggish or simply not reach. Be sure to test your devices to see if you will need a boost in your connection. Also look for outlets and where certain things will need to be placed within the space, many older homes have limited outlets.
Add a few items which are pleasing to look at and select organizational items which can also provide a decorative function. Include those who will also be using the space by communicating your vision to get feedback along the way to help reduce frustration upon completion. <
Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group and a Windham resident who loves real estate and people.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Real Estate: How can broadband change the Maine Real Estate market?

By Carrie Colby
As most of us know 2020 has brought many changes to our lives. Many of us are working from home, telecommuting, distance learning and homeschooling. Also, an unstoppable trend is the increasing importance of telehealth. We are in the early days of the telehealth revolution, but it is likely that in the future that life-critical healthcare will extend into the home requiring a higher standard of reliability. 
There is some good news for people living in more rural areas in Maine. Maine has approved expanding broadband internet access throughout the state. 
The real estate market in the greater Portland area has outpriced many home buyers and renters pushing them to more rural towns in Cumberland, Oxford and Androscoggin Counties.
With the ability to work from home or for companies that are considering relocating to Maine, with high-speed internet connections Maine companies will be able to compete, new companies will relocate to Maine, highly skilled workers will relocate to Maine and talented young people will stay. 
Just as the 20th century required adequate roads, and the centuries before required railroads and navigable rivers, today we must have high-speed Internet connections to the world in order to improve our economic prospects.
http://mainepremierproperties.com/The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has chosen ConnectME as one of eight initial partner states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. Maine was chosen because it reflects geographic diversity.
Last year, Congress charged the administration with creating and maintaining the map as a searchable public database of information on broadband internet availability in the United States, according to a Feb. 13 Maine Department of Economic and Community Development news release.
“This is a welcome announcement which will strengthen and expand ConnectME’s efforts to improve broadband access for Maine families, businesses and communities statewide,” Heather Johnson, Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner, said in a press release. “Identifying gaps in high-speed internet coverage is the first step in ensuring every Mainer can access the tools they need to succeed and this in an important step in making that goal a reality.”
According to its website, the ConnectME Authority is a public instrumentality of Maine state government whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses.
The mapping project comes as Maine seeks to address gaps in broadband availability around the state. Lack of broadband — cable, satellite, fiber, DSL — has been found to affect areas from real estate sales and tourism to in-and-out migration in rural areas across Maine, as well as impeding talent attraction to areas with lack of broadband connectivity.
Of course, no one has a crystal ball, but I am certain that expanding broadband to more rural communities can only be helpful to Maine residents and expand their housing possibilities. <
This article was brought to you by Carrie Colby, Broker with Allied Real Estate in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Real Estate: Relationship with insurance company a key part of homeowner’s financial security

By Jonathan Priest
MetLife
Most people in this day and age are overwhelmed with life in general.  Of course, 2020 has been one for the record books, but even before this year threw us all for a loop, it seemed like every day there were more things to worry about, more bills to pay, more things that needed our urgent, undivided attention!
Remember that you need to take care of yourself  and all facets of your well-being:  drink plenty of water, eat lots of vegetables, try to get the amount of sleep your body needs, take a (socially distanced) walk and get some fresh air every day.  See your doctor at least annually, and don’t stay quiet if you have questions about a new ache, a suspicious freckle, or other changes in your body!  And if you’re not getting the care you need, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion!
The same thing goes for your relationship with your insurance company… It might seem like a stretch to compare the two but think about it.  You are trusting a large piece of your financial security to your insurance company, so you need to make sure you and your agent are a good fit!  Your automobiles and home are likely your largest physical assets, so it’s important that you have someone you can reach out to.  That might be to ask questions, get clarification on language in your policies, or help you assess your needs so that you aren’t over OR underinsured!
Many people are initially reluctant to even consider shopping for insurance, as they think the process will be confusing, stressful, difficult and drawn out.  It may seem trivial but making that first call will be the hardest (and most important) part!  You will learn a few very important things which you should take note of, including the following:
https://www.facebook.com/JonathanPriestMetLife/How long did it take to get a live person?  Did they sound friendly, comfortable and relaxed?
Did they seem knowledgeable?  If you like to be able to meet with your agent in person, are they
local?
How long will it take them to provide a quote/proposal (And as a follow-up, did they get it to you when they said they would)?  Can they share some customer reviews?
When you are ready to make that call, make sure you have your current policy information in front of you.  Everything you should need will be on your Declarations Page(s), which is typically in the first couple of pages of your existing policy.  It will be labeled as such, and will have your name, your address, the dates that the policy runs to and from, your policy number and the coverages you have selected. 
Now is also a good time to make sure your policies are “bundled”… (I’m sure you’ve heard that word more times in the last two years than you have your whole life previously in the constant bombardment of insurance TV commercials, and for that, I apologize on behalf of my industry). 
Why do insurance companies push so hard for that?  Yes, it WILL save you a significant amount of money, usually 15 to 20 percent depending on the company, but why would a company offer you such a savings?  What’s in it for them?  The bottom line is, the more policies you have with your company, the less likely you are to leave, and insurance companies spend a LOT of money to obtain a new customer (again, it goes back to those constant commercials).
However, aside from the savings benefit, it truly does help your agent in building your personalized insurance portfolio if they are aware of the entire “package” you are looking to protect. 
I hope this has been helpful, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
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, August 21, 2020

Real Estate: Buying Sight Unseen

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR
Markets with low inventory and high demand have been experiencing an uptick to the number of offers being placed on homes “sight unseen” during the pandemic and some are speculating this trend is here to stay. All indications show that consumers have become more comfortable with the widespread use of technology which may have helped to shift attitudes and increase confidence in the process of buying and selling homes remotely.  The speed at which the current market is moving has likely been the main contributing factor for the sharp increase, with the combination of record low mortgage interest rates and limited inventory forcing buyers to move swiftly to get into certain areas.
http://locationsinmaine.com/Over the years and during different markets I have represented buyers who did not see their (already existing) new home at all until the building inspection or during their final walk through and as a listing agent I’ve sold homes to buyers who were unable to view the home before making their offer.  It has not been a rare occurrence and there are a number of circumstances which may result in placing an offer on a home that you have not yet personally visited including a relocation with travel, working opposite shifts from your partner or spouse so you cannot both visit or simply not being able to make yourself available while limited showings are being held.
Ideally most people prefer to have the opportunity to step inside of a home personally at least once before making such a large financial decision, but what if you can’t?
Choosing the right buyer agent to act as your “Boots On The Ground” will be possibly be your most critical decision to get the home you need. An experienced broker will be able to connect you with a reliable and efficient team of local professional as needed through the process from showings to beyond the closing. Take the time to ask others you know in the area who they have had positive first-hand experiences with. Talk to several REALTORS and research their business. Make certain they are proficient using today’s technology including 3D tours and video conferencing as well as working with clients who are relocating or buying from a distance. Ask if they will be available to remotely view properties of interest with you in a moment’s notice, especially when looking in a competitive market. Inquire if they have any upcoming vacations scheduled and who will be providing coverage for them while they are away.
https://www.egcu.org/loansMake yourself familiar the neighborhood and area by researching deciding factors such as crime, commute times, school districts and distances to amenities like shopping or recreation. Check with the municipality for any upcoming plans for tax increases, ordinance changes or growth surrounding the property of interest. Check distances to industry, mining, farming operations, transportation (highway, air traffic or train tracks) high voltage stations and other possible disturbances. Determine to the best of your ability the type and volume of traffic your road has, what the speed limit is and who maintains it. If you have a friend or family member who is close enough to visit the property with your agent or is willing to visit at different times of day they will be able to provide helpful feedback, also.
When virtually touring the property with your buyer agent inquire about specific features that photos can often times show differently than in person. Have the cabinets been visibly painted or do they appear to be original? If the home has been freshly painted or has upgrades, does the work appear to be quality? Are any of the sinks, toilets or showers stained? Do the windowpanes appear foggy or cracked or is there flaking paint around the trim? What do you hear outdoors? Do you smell any odors outdoors or indoors? Are there any creaks in the floors, stairs, doors, or cabinets? What do the neighboring homes, yards and driveways contain and how close are they? 
If you are a seller working with an offer from a buyer who has not yet viewed the home, you may feel skeptical, but in my personal experience and observations there has been no correlation between “buyer remorse” and sight unseen offers and it doesn’t necessarily mean the contract will be “shaky”.
Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group and a Windham resident who loves people and real estate. <

Friday, August 14, 2020

Real Estate: Current Market Trends

 Per the Maine Association of Realtors®, the number of sales of single-family homes in Maine is down slightly in June but prices remain on the rise. Realtors across the state sold 1,720 homes in June—78 fewer homes than a year ago – a 4.3 percent decrease compared to June 2019. The Median Sales Price (MSP) for homes sold in June reached $249,000, an increase of 4.15 percent compared to June 2019. The MSP indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less.
“As Maine navigates COVID-19, our real estate industry has adapted,” says Tom Cole, 2020 President of the Maine Association of REALTORS®. “The June statistics show improvement and indicate that sellers, buyers, and our industry partners are adjusting to Maine’s health and safety protocols and have growing confidence to transact real estate business.
Maine is experiencing a lack of inventory which is driving multiple offer situations and quick sales on many homes. Mortgage rates remain low which is encouraging buyers to turn out as well.
https://www.egcu.org/breezeAccording to Bankrate.com. the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell 8 basis points to 3.22 percent from a week ago, a new record low. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate fell 5 basis points to at 2.67 perecent from a week ago.
There are always certain life circumstances that will continue to keep the marketplace active. Working with a local Realtor® who knows the area is critical to having well-informed choices available to you as a consumer and ultimately guiding you successfully through the sale.
 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 a Broker/Owner. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact lisa@landinghomesmaine.com. <

Friday, August 7, 2020

Real Estate: Top tips for an inspection-ready home

By Brandon Lussier
Special to The Windham Eagle 
A home inspection gives buyers an unbiased evaluation of the home’s condition. By taking some important steps to prepare the property for inspection, your sellers can avoid some basic problems that might otherwise affect a clean inspection report. Since a home in good condition can command a better price, they will benefit as well.
  • Prior to the inspection, repair any damaged steps and walkways and seal cracks in the driveway.
  • Re-caulk around exterior doors, windows, check flashing and replace any missing or damaged shingles.
Inside the home, relatively minor fixes can improve the home inspection results.
  • Repair leaky faucets and fixtures, and repair grout around tubs and sinks.
  • An electrician should inspect receptacles and switches and make any needed replacements or repairs.
  • Replace any cracked or broken window glass and loosen any windows that are painted shut.
  • Have the fireplace and chimney cleaned and checked by a professional.
  • Arrange service appointments for the furnace and central air conditioning so that any issues can be addressed before the home inspection.
  • If the home has battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, put in fresh batteries and install additional units if any are missing. Hard-wired detectors should be tested as well.
https://lussierteam.pillartopost.com/Here are some tips to help the inspection process go smoothly:
  • The owner will need to provide keys to any locked areas, and allow access to the attic, crawl space, garage and yard.
  • Be sure that the home inspector has access to components such as electrical panels, the main water shut-off and gas meter. Move objects from around the water heater, furnace and central air conditioning unit so that the inspector can reach them unimpeded.
  • In cold winter climates, clear walkways of snow and ice for safe access to the home.
  • Pets should be taken out of the home or crated for their own safety and that of the home inspector. Dogs in particular can be disruptive, and some may become distressed by having an unfamiliar person in their “territory.”
It’s always a good idea for residents to store small valuables and medications out of sight and in a secure location for peace of mind. One option is for them to simply take these items along when they leave during the inspection.
An inspection-ready home presents itself best for evaluation and makes the entire process go more smoothly.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors. Contact Brandon with The Lussier Team at (207) 749-3775 for your next home inspection.