Friday, August 12, 2022

Real Estate: Choosing Windham as a retail store location

The town of Windham is shown looking north along Route
302 from the intersection of Route 115 this summer.
PHOTO BY KEITH MANK 
By Larry Eliason 

Where a Retailer chooses to locate a retail business in a particular community usually involves a comprehensive review of many key factors.

What are the demographics of your customers? Is the location in a growth area? Are local and state economic development, town management and town leaders offering guidance and assistance? Does the community have all the required infrastructure in place like broadband and public sewers to operate the business? Does the community provide affordable housing for your employees? How large is the local school system, students, and school employees, and is it also a college town? These are just a few highlights of a long list of items for the pre-qualifying checklist.

Specialty goods in general fulfill more unique needs than general purpose products. Customers don't seem to mind traveling a little bit out of their way to purchase this type of product because they generally cannot buy them through convenience or general goods retailers. This type of store may perform well near other shopping locations because their offerings may complement each other such as a multi-tenanted retail shopping center.

A big-ticket shopping store usually sells items at a higher price that are bought only periodically by the customer. Furniture, cars, and upscale clothing are examples of goods found at a big-ticket shopping store. Because the prices of these items are higher, this type of customer may want to compare prices before making a purchase. 

When choosing a city or town to locate your retail store, research the area thoroughly before making a final decision. Speak with local Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce Representatives, read local papers, and speak to other small businesses in the area.

These sources should have information on the area's population, income brackets, and median age. If you have done your homework, you know in general who your customers are, so make sure you find a location near where your customers live, work and shop.

A retail store may require some specific amenities when it comes to choosing a location. Will the store require custom lighting, fixtures, or specialty signage? Are there ample restrooms for staff and customers available? Is there adequate parking lot lighting for evening shoppers? Is there ample parking for customers including handicap parking and loading docks for receiving goods and delivering goods. Does the building have a canopy that provides shelter if raining or snowing? Is there a high traffic count and good visibility from the main street?

Windham is well-known as “The Gateway to The Greater Sebago Lakes Region.” Windham has grown over the years to become a major retail service center that serves a growing population of over 18,000 residents living in Windham as well as residents from several nearby towns that shop, eat, and obtain services in North Windham. Windham offers a variety of restaurants, retail shops, professional, medical, and dental arts, service sector and, also has some business parks with niche manufacturing facilities.

Windham’s location along the Route 302 corridor and the fact that Route 302 intersects makes it a well-diversified center of commerce. The Windham retail market provides 60,000-plus people in the market area. Approximately 500,000 annual visitors come through Windham each year. Windham has become a growth area for not only retail and service businesses but offers a strong labor market as part of the Greater Portland Region.

With over 18,000 residents, a retail trade area of over 60,000-plus people, and with 500,000 annual visitors, Windham is a great location for growing retail and service businesses. Windham’s retail offerings range from locally owned boutiques to regional as well as national retail stores.

The Windham Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a subsidiary of the Town of Windham, offers guidance and assistance with tools such as specialty research for retailers such as a Retail Market Analysis of Windham from “The Retail Coach.” <

Larry Eliason, is a Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond and the President of the Windham Economic Development Corporation. You can reach him at 207-415-2112.


Friday, August 5, 2022

Real Estate: Interest rates increase – What’s this means for buyers and sellers?

By Matthew Trudel 

Interest rates have risen a little over the past few months and that can certainly affect the Real Estate Market in many different ways. Both buyers and sellers should understand the positives and negatives of slightly higher interest rates and what steps they can take to help achieve their own personal real estate goals. Throughout this article we will cover a few of these, but there are many others that we won’t be able to discuss due to space restrictions.

We can start with the buyer side of this topic and what some of the pros and cons are when interest rates increase a little. The first negative aspect is the obvious one which is the monthly payment they are going to be paying goes up as well. How much it goes up depends on how much you are borrowing and the interest rate. Average increase is approximately $180 to $200 per month on a $300,000 loan. This may be manageable for some people, but for others it may be outside their comfort zone. This means they may have to lower their target purchase price. There are certainly some who might not qualify for that loan anymore due to income to debt ratios. This is another negative of higher interest rates, the fact that it can lower many buyers purchasing power.

We discussed a couple of negative aspects of higher interest rates for a buyer, but what about the positive side of things. This is a little bit tricky, but you should get my point as we proceed. Some buyers will opt to not buy a new home right now because the rates have increased. They will put off their plans for a year or two in hopes of rates lowering. This means for the buyers who are moving forward with purchasing a home, they will have less competition when making an offer because there are fewer buyers out there. Less competition also means you likely might not have to offer over asking price like before when there was a lot of competition. 

On to the sellers and how they can be affected by higher interest rates. There are not many positives for sellers when rates start to tick upwards. However, one possible positive could be that the buyers who are out there want to move quickly with their offers because of the fear of interest rates going even higher. The negative side of higher interest rates for sellers are many. Fewer buyers and less competition is never a good thing for sellers. Also having fewer buyers that qualify to purchase the property can certainly hurt a sellers ability get more for their home.

So, what are some solutions for buyers to consider when interest rates tick upwards. First thing is to be realistic with expectations. A 5 percent or 5.25 percent interest rate is still a very good rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage. Not too many years ago 6.5 percent or 7 percent was a decent rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage. Another thing is to consider how long do you think you will be living in the new home. You can always refinance to a lower interest rate if the rates do drop back down. Another option is to buy your interest rate down a little bit. This is done by paying a point or so up front to get a half a percent or so lower interest rate. Talk with your lender about what options they can offer you. Increasing your down payment will definitely lower your payment, and it could also lower your interest rate because you are at a lower loan to value ratio.

These are some of the things to consider with interest rates that have risen a little. Obviously, there are many more things to look at and every situation is unique. If you would like to have a confidential meeting to discuss your own situation and hear what my 20 plus years in the business would advise, then give me a call. <

This article was written by Matt Trudel, Broker and Owner of Five Star Realty, Windham, 207-939-6971.


Friday, July 29, 2022

Real Estate: Factors to consider when thinking about relocation

Submitted by Richie Vraux

There are probably hundreds if not thousands of people that relocate every year.

Some for business, some for family-related conditions, some for health reasons, but sure enough, it is big business.

Relocating for work can be a brand-new experience. There are several relocation companies across the country that can help you with your move. Some relocation specialists provide you with several packages to choose from, some will complete your move by packing every item you own, boxing everything and all you do is transport to the new location and all your packages will already be in place in your new home.

We all have some precious belongings, so we want a company with a good reputation to handle your non-replaceable items. Whether you are moving next door or across the world, you want your items to be at the new location when you want them there.

When choosing what town you want to call home, find a realtor that knows the neighborhood and knows what your requirements and family needs may be.

You want to be near the schools that rank the highest in the community, knowing they have a good curriculum and good sports programs for your children. You also might want good after school programs, drama class, French club, computer acceleration classes, all of what you were accustomed to from your previous school system.

Of course, a lot of these answers can be answered by your real estate agent who will know the best neighborhoods in your price class.

Another thing that might be important is, where are your favorite restaurants in the neighborhood.

Is there public transportation, buses, transit authority, subways, etc.

Where are the best crime-free neighborhoods? Your realtor will know.

Are there any bike- parks, jogging trails, beaches nearby? All of these questions are important in moving to a new area.

It might be a really exciting time for you and your family. Make it the best move you ever made.


A Realtor® is a Real Estate Broker/Associated Broker or a Sales Agent that has been accepted by his/her peers and is committed to a Code of Ethics that goes well beyond a real estate professional. They are committed to excellence and high standards.

So always use a Realtor®. They will look out for your best interests. Whether you are buying or selling, commit to a person you can trust and is educated to help you make wise decisions.

As a buyer, you will want to look for an agency that does not charge to represent you - as some agencies will charge. Always ask if the real estate company charges. Most buyers’ agencies get paid by the seller-side at closing. Just as important, always ask for a copy of your contract for your records so you know what to expect.

A Realtor® knows the market and knows your neighborhood. With the current inventory shortage that we are experiencing right now, it is important to know your inventory. When a property comes on the market and meets your criteria, your agent should act quickly and arrange for you to view it to see if it meets your wants and needs. If so, act quickly to write an offer.

If a property is priced appropriately, it won’t be on the open market for very long. As a result, be very prepared. Unless you are making a cash offer - always, always, always have a pre-qualification letter in hand so it can be presented to the seller’s agent, at the time of the offer. Be aware, that if there has been a lot of activity on a property, it has become commonplace that agents are submitting offers well above asking price.

Also, other things you should know about houses are if they are: occupied, vacant, in foreclosure, short-sale or bank owned. You should know as much information as possible about each property before making an appointment. Also make sure you tell your Realtor® your timeframe for buying or selling or relocating. <

If you need real estate advice about buying or selling, contact Richie Vrauxm a Broker/REALTOR at Better Homes and Gardens - The Masiello Group, 76 Tandberg Trail, Windham, Maine, 207-317-1297 or by email at richardjvraux@gmail.com

Friday, July 22, 2022

Real Estate: DIY home improvement or hire a pro?

By Tricia Zwirner

Do-it-yourself projects now seem easier than ever. From step-by-step guides to how-to video tutorials online, the most perplexing projects can seem as easy as 1-2-3. Taking things into your own hands now has its own beloved acronym: DIY.

Thinking through the best options before kicking off your project can help avoid an in-over-my-head moment. Depending on your priorities and abilities, one approach may be smarter than the other.

Things to consider before you start

How much time is involved? Take a look at the time you will spend on the project, including planning, getting permits, purchasing materials and your time.

What is the budget? Calculate a budget and make sure you include materials and other items like tools you will need to accomplish the renovation.

What can go wrong? Account for things that might go wrong in case you hit a gas pipe or scratch floors. Confirm with your insurance company what your coverage provides if your work somehow causes damage to your property. 

Are you ready? Look at the level of complexity involved in the renovation, including specific knowledge needed for the task to decide if you should DIY or not.

Will it be fun? Decide if the time you are willing to invest in the project is worth it.

Is it safe? Be sure to consider your safety before you start the project.

After all is said and done: Is the job within your ability or is it time to bring in a professional?

Examples of DIY projects

Update kitchen cabinet door fronts. Redo kitchen cabinet doors by repainting or re-staining and/or install updated hardware for a fresh look.

* Fix a leaking toilet. Leaking toilets can waste large amounts of water and repairing can deter water damage and possible insurance claims while also saving money.

* Quick bathroom update: For a quick revamp, consider replacing lighting or adding extra storage to create a neatly organized, well-lit space.

* Add storage to a mudroom. Install low-cost, pre-made built-ins of different shapes to create a sleek, custom look.

* Refresh tile grout. Grimy, discolored tile grout can detract from a home's appearance. Paint the grout to restore its original color or change the color entirely.

* Add curb appeal. A few simple touches will give visitors a great first impression. Repaint the front door or garage doors, add potted planters near the front steps, or invest in easy to maintain shrubs and flowers.

* Fill nicks in drywall: Unsightly nail holes, nicks and gouges can be quickly filled with spackle and covered with matching paint.

* Add a fresh coat of paint. Paint can open up a space and create the illusion of more room just by being cleaner & brighter. It can also instantly increase the value of your home.

* Replace/install tile. Updating floor tile in a bathroom or adding a backsplash can be fun with an instant wow factor.

Examples of projects where a contractor should be hired

* Bathroom remodel: Contractors say bathrooms are especially tricky to renovate because of the small size and the numerous pricey components involved. Even in a small space, installing new plumbing and ripping apart aging fixtures can take days.

* Specialized projects: If there is any major structural, gas, plumbing or electrical work needed for your home repair or renovation, you should consider a professional because that type of work typically requires permits and possibly an inspector to verify the work is properly and safely completed. For example:

* Electrical repairs – Contact an electrician if your outlets, switches, or electric system are showing signs that they may need to be rewired.

* Lead paint removal – For homes built before 1978, a professional can assist with identifying the areas of your home that need lead paint removed and repainted.

* Plumbing repairs – Water heater repairs should be handled by a licensed plumber since handling incorrectly could result in unexpected gas, electrical or water issues.

* Major structural repairs – When changing the structure of a home, a general contractor can make sure that the electrical or plumbing is not damaged during the renovation.

* Roofing repairs or replacement – A professional roofer can help you select roofing materials that are engineered to stand up to harsh weather conditions.

Tricia Zwirner is a State Farm agent celebrating her 21st year in Windham. She and her team would love to hear from you and can be reached via phone & text at 207.892.2864 or via email at tricia@TRICIAZWIRNER.com.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Real Estate: Housing opportunities created by LD 2003

By Nicole Foster, Broker/REALTOR 

Emergency Bill LD 2003 has passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate despite opposition by the Maine Municipal Association and was signed by the governor on April 27, 2022 helping to create pathways to increase the supply of affordable housing.

It is based on the recommendations included in the report by the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions. The spirit of this action is to incentivize municipalities to promote the availability of affordable housing by making changes to zoning of single-family dwellings and land use laws while honoring local control and incorporating often overlooked stakeholders in the conversation to explore solutions to the ongoing housing crisis here in Maine.

In addition to the recommendations by the Commission The Department of Economic and Community Development has created a Housing Opportunity Fund with $3.5 million to support municipalities with both technical and financial assistance. This bill encourages public investment through pro-growth policies while creating opportunities for smaller participation by not only looking to larger developments and instead letting landowners, builders, developers, and people who want to buy property be a part of the solution to the housing crisis. 

This approach focuses on looking for ways to help property owners at the local level create additional housing units to address the regional issue of a lack of inventory. Funding deployment for municipalities will roll out this fall and a sunrise provision of July 1, 2023, provides municipalities time to create strategies for the implementation of the recommendations in the report.

Last year Maine led the nation in domestic migration, with more buyers moving here from other states than any other state and our housing stock is the oldest in the country. One in five homeowners in Maine are paying more than half of their monthly income for housing while it is recommended to not exceed 30 percent of your monthly income toward housing costs.

The bill introduces a state-wide density bonus for multi-family housing increasing permissible density by 2.5 times, its current base density in areas where multi-family housing is already allowed. Affordable housing developments approved on or after April 20, 2022 where at least 50 percent of the units meet the designated income guidelines must also ensure long term affordability by use of restrictive covenants for at least 30 years.

The density bonus may only be leveraged in areas identified by a Town’s Comprehensive Growth Plan or in areas where public water and sewer are available.

Another sweeping statewide change presented is to allow the construction of duplexes on vacant land where single family homes are permitted, even if in the past zoning did now allow for duplexes to be built in that area previously.

Current setbacks and dimensional requirements must be adhered to, and any Shoreland Zoning or deed restrictions must also be followed. In designated growth areas or lots which are connected to public water and sewer the bill will allow for up to four units where single family homes are permitted.

For already existing single-family homes in designated growth areas or those with public water and sewer up to two additional dwelling units may be added. Municipalities will be required to allow one attached unit to an already existing structure including conversions of garage or attic or one detached dwelling unit or one of each. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) will no longer count against a municipality’s growth cap giving flexibility where previously ADU’s could be denied for growth cap purposes. ADU’s will be permitted wherever single-family homes are allowed but must meet area setback requirements. One of the largest barriers for many projects is minimum lot size, which this bill does not address.

Towns are encouraged to welcome community members to take part in the process and conversation surrounding zoning ordinance changes which promote growth. 202 of the 500 municipalities in our state have no Zoning at all, so each Town will face its own challenges in preparation for the July 1, 2023 changes to take effect.

If you currently own property, it is important for you to take the time to learn more about what your municipality is considering for implementation as this will directly impact property use and values.

Knowing the full potential of what may be done with your property is an important first step when weighing decisions of what your own next steps might be. Contact your local Code Enforcement Department to inquire about ways to become involved in the process at a local level or to see how your own property will be affected. <

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate with over 16 years of experience helping buyers and sellers in Maine. She is a Windham parent and resident who loves people and real estate.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Real Estate: Answering questions about homeowner’s insurance

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

* How does my local fire department impact my homeowner’s policy?

Each fire protection agency (including your local fire department) is reviewed by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and ranked based on their fire protection services, such as fire equipment, staffing and available water supply. The ranking is called the Public Protection Class (PPCTM) with 1 being the best score and 10 being the worst score. Many insurance companies use the P P C rating and the distance your home is from the nearest legally responding fire department to determine whether they will insure your home and how much to charge. For more information on P P C, please contact your agent.

* What would it cost to replace the contents or personal belongings of my home?

If the unexpected happens, losing your home contents could be distressing as well as financially devastating. Your homeowners, Townhouse, Condo and Renters policies cover the loss of your personal belongings, subject to the policy limits and conditions.

There are two distinct ways to insure your personal possessions:

· Replacement cost coverage. This coverage pays you the dollar amount needed to replace personal property without any deduction for depreciation but is limited to a maximum dollar amount.

· Actual cash value. This coverage pays you an amount equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus depreciation. Unless a homeowners policy specifies that property is covered for its replacement value, the coverage is for actual cash value.

Many people make the mistake of underestimating the value of their home contents. This mistake is easily made when you consider the amount of new items we purchase each year. Under-insurance can lead to heartache and inconvenience should the unexpected happen. Your local agent is available to assist you with insuring your home contents.

What is a deductible?

A deductible is the amount you’re responsible for in the event of a covered loss. In most covered loss cases, you are responsible for any amounts up to your deductible level and your insurance would cover anything beyond that up to your coverage limit. For example, if you select a $1,000 deductible and have a $4,200 covered loss, you would receive a claim payment of $3,200 after deducting the $1,000.

A homeowners deductible applies to each claim. If you have more than one claim in a policy period, you will be responsible for the deductible amount for each individual claim regardless of the number of claims you have during that policy period.

* What are the different types of home insurance deductible options?

For home policies, there are three common types of deductibles:

· A flat deductible is a specific or fixed dollar amount; for example, $2,500.

· A percent deductible is a percentage that it is based on the home’s dwelling coverage, often called Coverage A. For example, a 1 percent deductible on a home with $150,000 dwelling coverage is $1,500, and the same 1 percent deductible for a home with $300,000 dwelling coverage is $3,000. Keep in mind that as your home’s dwelling coverage increases the calculated amount of your deductible will also increase.

· A split deductible means there is a specific deductible that applies to some cause(s) of loss and a different deductible that applies to other causes of loss. For example, a percent deductible may apply to wind and hail losses, and a flat deductible may apply to all other causes of loss. A split deductible can be separate flat deductibles, separate percent deductibles, or a combination of both.

* How is my premium affected by selecting a higher or lower deductible option?

If you select a higher deductible, you will be responsible for paying more out of pocket. However, you’ll typically pay a lower policy premium. The opposite is true if you select a lower deductible option: because the insurer will pay a larger portion of any loss, you’ll typically pay a higher policy premium. Your agent can review available deductible options with you to help you decide what option you may want.

* How do I know what deductible applies to my policy?

The deductible you choose will be listed on your Declarations page. <

This article was brought to you courtesy of Farmers Insurance agent, Jonathan Priest, with an office at 57 Tandberg Trail, Suite 7, Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 or send him an email at 
jpriest1@farmersagent.com

Friday, July 1, 2022

Real Estate: Terms you should know, G to Z

Submitted by Lisa DiBiase

Do you “Understand” what your agent is saying? For home buyers and sellers, the real estate jargon can be intimidating.

Some people are not comfortable asking what it means, therefore I have put together a list of the most common acronyms and real estate terms we use daily!

Good faith estimate: Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, within three days of an application submission, lenders are required to provide in writing to potential borrowers a good faith estimate of closing costs. Homeowner’s insurance: Coverage that includes personal liability and theft insurance in addition to hazard insurance.

HUD: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Inspection Waiver:
Home inspection is waived by the buyer to assure the seller there will be no haggling for repair costs.

Interest rate lock: When the borrower and lender agree to lock a rate on loan. Can have terms and conditions attached to the lock.

Listing: Brokers written agreement to represent a seller and their property. Agents refer to their inventory of agreements with sellers as listings.

Listing agreement:
A document that establishes the real estate agent’s agreement with the sellers to represent their property in the market. 

Loan application: A document that buyers who are requesting a loan fill out and submit to their lender.

Loan closing costs: The costs a lender charges to close a borrower’s loan. These costs vary from lender to lender and from market to market. 

Loan commitment: A written document telling the borrowers that the mortgage company has agreed to lend them a specific amount of money at a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. The loan commitment may also contain conditions upon which the loan commitment is based.

Mortgage: A legal agreement by which a bank or other creditor lends money at interest in exchange for taking title of the debtor's property, with the condition that the conveyance of title becomes void upon the payment of the debt.

Mortgage broker:
A business that or an individual who unites lenders and borrowers and processes mortgage applications.

Off market: A property listing that has been removed from the sale inventory in a market. A property can be temporarily or permanently off market.

Payoff letter: A written document from a seller’s mortgage company stating the amount of money needed to pay the loan in full.

Pre-approval:
A higher level of buyer/borrower pre-qualification required by a mortgage lender. Some pre-approvals have conditions the borrower must meet.

Prepaid interest: Funds paid by the borrower at closing based on the number of days left in the month of closing.

Prepayment penalty: A fine imposed on the borrower by the lender when the loan is paid off before it comes due.

Pre-qualification: The mortgage company tells a buyer in advance of the formal mortgage application, how much money the borrower can afford to borrow. Some pre-qualifications have conditions that the borrower must meet.

Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI): The four parts that make up a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI):
A special insurance paid by a borrower in monthly installments, typically of loans of more than 80 percent of the value of the property.

Purchase and Sale Agreement: A real estate contract between a Seller and a Buyer who have agreed to specific terms on a specific listing/property.

Special assessment:
A special and additional charge to a unit in a condominium or cooperative. Also could mean a special real estate tax for improvements that benefit a property.

Under contract/Pending: A property that has an accepted real estate contract between seller and buyer.

VA: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Walk-through: A showing before closing or escrow that permits the buyers one final tour of the property they are purchasing.

Agents have a big responsibility to handle your largest asset in most cases, please always have open communication to understand what your options are. 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 of Landing Real Estate. She and her company represent buyers and sellers and is your trusted partner for all the years to come. For all your real estate needs contact Lisa at 207-653-0823 or lisa@landinghomesmaine.com