Friday, September 20, 2019

Holding out for spring? Do these things NOW


By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR®

To be successful in the spring market you must start preparations today. Whether you are a daring ‘Do It Yourselfer’ who’s up for the challenge of selling your own home or are planning to use a local real estate professional to get top dollar for your home, if you are even considering selling your home anytime between now and June of 2020 (yes…nine months from now!) you will want to do these things today.

Now is the time to schedule your septic tank to be pumped so you will not be digging up frozen, snowy or muddy earth to access it. The trucks can sometimes leave ruts in your grass or driveway if done in the spring so have them come in the fall if it needs to be done prior to selling. 

If you will be having any work done to your home which will require large trucks to be brought in, then be sure to factor in road postings which are sometimes not lifted through April. For example, if you planned to have your well drilled deeper to address a quantity issue prior to listing then you may want to schedule that work now.

If your plan is to hit the market before the month of March, then be sure to stay on top of removing dead leaves and put gardens to bed for winter.  Make sure to remove any piles of debris which may have been accumulating on your property before they become snow covered. Taking steps to care for your lawn in the fall will help to ensure it shows great in the spring. Give your lawn attention this fall by having it aerated and over-seeded this month - then in October or November be sure to fertilize it. Planting bulbs now will add color to your yard in the competitive spring market.

A fresh coat of paint for your front door can really make a big impact. If your home’s entryway could use some attention do not wait for June because it will most likely be raining. Flaking paint can delay or even tank a deal depending on your buyer’s financing regardless of the age of the structure(s), even in small amounts. While it’s still warm enough outside take a walk around your property and visually inspect the stairs, decks and trim around the windows and doors of your home for any flaking paint as well as your garage, barn, shed or any other outbuilding which will convey with the sale. Have this scraped and removed and new paint applied before the outdoor temperatures drop and the paint will not spread and stick well. (Sometimes a lender may permit money to be held in escrow for this to be done but typically they like to have the work done prior to closing so it’s best to be proactive).

Dust, pollen and new construction sawdust can collect over months or years in the tiny openings of your window screens. Remove and clean window screens outside before winterizing and turning off your outside water spigots then place in basement. Torn screens should be repaired or replaced. If listing over the winter, often as a courtesy a seller will mark relevant locations on the property to help buyers find the location of the well, septic & leach-field, or where corner pins may be found using flagging and / or poles.

Landscaping in Maine can sometimes take a while to be photo ready; depending on how late the snow fell or how much rain we get in the spring.  Now is the perfect time to schedule the photographer to come to capture some exterior images of your home with the lawn showing and all the leaves still on the trees. The photographer will return when your home is ready to list to complete the photo shoot with your interior photos, as well as additional exterior shots, but at least you will be prepared with images for the necessary marketing materials anytime you’re home is ready and you will not be forced to wait on the weather to have your marketing materials show their very best.

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth and a Windham resident and parent who loves both people and real estate.



Friday, September 6, 2019

Buying a house for your family?

By Rick Yost

Part of the American dream is to own a home for your family. Some picture a suburban home with a white picket fence. Others, a more rural setting with no neighbors to be seen. Others still, envision an urban atmosphere with a walkability and diversity only found in cities. Whatever your family home dream includes, these tips will help make the most of that dream.

Start saving for your down payment as soon as possible. The more money you put down, the more
attractive your offer will be to some sellers. You will also have more money for closing costs and other unexpected expenses that pop up to derail many home buyers’ dreams.

If you are fortunate enough to save a substantial down payment, you can avoid private mortgage insurance so that more of your monthly payment is going towards the principle you owe. The larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payment. So, start saving early. Most loan programs today allow for gifts from family members, so if you are having a tough time saving, keep that in mind.

Improve your credit score and buy at the optimal time.
http://www.hallimplementco.com/Your credit score is a constantly moving number. A good lender can give you tips on how to improve yours. It can be as simple as paying off certain credit cards and making all your payments on time. In some cases, you might have to establish more credit to drive your score up. Talk to the lending experts and take their advice. The higher your credit score the lower your interest rate will be. The highest rated borrowers get into preferred mortgages. Monitor your score, build it up, and by when you qualify for the best mortgage programs.

Make a long-term plan.
What will your life look like in five years, ten years, even fifteen years? Will you have more children? Will parents come to live with you? Will you become empty nesters? Will your job force
you to move? Will you start a home-based business? All these factors should be considered when choosing your family home. The home that seems perfect today might not be right for you in three years. A good long-term plan will help prevent a premature move.

Visit and research different areas. How do you imagine your life? Do you eat out often? Do you like night life? Is shopping important? Are you a gym person? Is there a good place of worship? These are all questions that should be answered before picking an area to buy in. Then consider what is right for your family.

Is public transportation important? How is the school system and does it offer all the programs your children need? How much time a week are you willing to miss with your family to commute? Are there sports, music, and other recreational activities available for your family members? All these factors will contribute to the enjoyment of your new family home. Do not discount how much a difference these things can make and don’t skip on your research.

Keep an eye on the housing market.
The housing market is ever changing and is hyper local. One area may have home prices going way up and another just ten miles away might be flat. Keep an eye on the places you have identified through your research as places you would like to live and monitor those markets. Watch home prices in those towns, talk to your REALTOR about trends, and be ready to buy when the opportunity is
right. You will end up with the best house possible for your family.

The final and most important tip to achieving that American dream and buying your family a home is to be realistic about your budget. Families and homes are big expenses. Make sure you budget properly for both. You can often borrow an amount that leaves you with an uncomfortable payment. Take a hard look at your finances and allocate an amount to housing. Make sure the payment on the homes you are looking at, including taxes and insurance, is at or under that allocated housing number.
If you follow these tips, you will maximize your enjoyment of the American dream. Happy house hunting!

Rick is a REALTOR, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with any of your real estate questions at rickyost63@gmail.com.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Signs you are ready to become a homeowner

By Carrie Colby

There is no denying the flexibility that renting offers—you can move relatively easily when you want, and you do not have to carry a mortgage for decades to have a place to live. However, if you are like many renters, you are probably at least considering the idea of owning a home.

But how do you know if you are ready for homeownership? Here are some reasons why you might be
prepared to become a homeowner. If some or all of these resonate with you, it’s probably time to talk to a real estate agent you trust to start looking for a place you can be happy owning and living in. The opportunity to become a homeowner can be both emotionally and financially rewarding when you have a long-term horizon.

The following are some of the most common reasons why renters decide now is the time to own a home:

Your rent keeps increasing.
http://mainepremierproperties.com/The increase in rental prices can be frustrating for numerous reasons. You cannot anticipate what your housing costs will be over the long-term, which makes it hard to plan your finances. When rent is going up, and mortgage rates are low, it can be a good sign that you should start shopping for a home. If you think about it – when you are renting, you’re probably helping to pay someone’s mortgage. Unfortunately, that person isn’t you!

Interest rates are incredibly attractive.
One of the better reasons to go from renting to owning a home is when money is unbelievably cheap.
When interest rates on mortgages are desirable, it’s like a flashing sign that says, “buy buy buy.” Interests rates won’t stay at record lows forever. History shows us that they can turn rather quickly.

You think it’s time to put down roots in a specific place.
Purchasing a home requires paying a lot of costs at the beginning that cannot really be recouped in the first few years of ownership. In other words, for a home purchase to make financial sense, you need to be ready to stick around for a while. Over time, the investment can prove quite positive, but it does take time.
tombiczak@allstate.com
Real estate has been shown over and over again to be an excellent long-term investment. Like other
investments, it is not for someone who might need to move quickly because of a job relocation.

You are sick of pouring money into someone else’s mortgage.
As a renter, your rent payments are paying the mortgage of the landlord or property owner. If you are ready to put all that money towards your future, buying a home makes sense. Each mortgage payment you make will increase the equity in your home, which is an investment for you. Generally, you can expect that over the life of your mortgage, you will gain a lot of financial benefits out of putting money into property. There are also tax advantages of owning a home as well.

You are ready to pay a down payment and closing costs.
One of the most significant signs you are ready to move from renting to owning a home is having a down payment. Financial stability is a significant indicator that you are prepared to buy a home—particularly when it comes to down payments and closing costs. Don’t worry if you don’t have 20% down—many loans do not require so much for a down payment.

You have improved your credit score.
http://www.theroofdoc.com/The credit score you bring to lenders is going to play a significant role in the type of financing you can get. If you have improved your credit score, it may be time to talk to a lender about what you can do to get a mortgage.

If you need to improve your credit score, get a free copy of your credit report, and address any issues that might be hurting your credit score. Mortgage professionals and real estate agents continuously
preach about the importance of the best credit scores – this is why!

Final thoughts.
Going from a renter to a homeowner is not something that should be made as a snap judgment. There should be a lot of planning involved in buying a house for the first time. Those who are unprepared typically make buying mistakes they regret later. Don’t be one of them!

Carrie Colby is a Broker with Allied Real Estate, 909 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497

Friday, August 23, 2019

Protect your family and your investment: Read your deed

By Richie Vaurx

When you purchase your home, you should read your deed thoroughly because it could be costly to you if it is incorrect. It’s important to make sure you understand and ask a real estate law professional for those things that are difficult to comprehend.

Your title company always has a lawyer on staff that reviews the deed. If you use your family lawyer,
make sure they are familiar with real estate law because it may not be their specialty. There could be things listed in your deed that you may not be aware of or understand, For instance, there could be an easement and restrictions and or a (ROW) right-of-way that you might not have been aware of. There are some factors that show up in a deed, and if you don’t understand something- ALWAYS ASK.

What is an easement: It is an agreed upon use of land by someone other than the owner of the property. It allows access, mostly to the utility companies to passage onto your property to maintain public services. There are two types of easements.

Gross Easement:
This type usually allows for an individual to get to his or her property, that is land locked. It would be the only way to get to their property. This, of course, may cost you something but maybe the only way to get to their property. This type of easement passes on to the new owner when the owners sell the property.

Appurtenant easement:
This type of easement will usually join 2 properties. Usually the land with the higher acreage will be the prominent party here. This owner will have more leverage and will usually set the rules moving forward.

ROW-(right-of-way)
A ROW allows an abutter to pass over your land to get to theirs. But, to be clear here, a right -of-way is given to allow an owner of an abutting property to pass over your property to get to theirs. It does not allow you to park your vehicle, stow your boat or anything else on that right-of-way. For instance, if a right-of-way is given to an abutter to get to a lake- you cannot store your canoe or kayak for future use without written permission from the owner. Also, some people think, because they have a ROW they can build a dock or a slip for their boat. It is only with written permission that they can do so.

Be prepared and be knowledgeable about what could affect your quality of living. Always be aware of your limitations and requirements of your easements or rights- of-way. You may require legal services.  Not all lawyers specialize in real estate, so know who to call when you have real estate questions. If you are unsure of where your deed may be, you can always go on-line to the registry of deeds to look up your property.

Richie Vraux is a partner with Maine’s Premier Team at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate with locations in Windham and Gorham offices. If you need real estate advice, call Richie at 207-317-1297.



Friday, August 16, 2019

Veteran appreciation and homeownership


By Kevin Ronan

The State of Maine has a long rich tradition of military service. The Maine Bureau of Veterans Services reports there are over 30,000 veterans throughout Maine who are eligible for many benefits. Regretfully, most veterans are not aware of the programs and services available to help them achieve homeownership.

As a former Marine Corps officer and a licensed REALTOR®, I am passionate about assisting other veterans and their families achieve this goal. There are many housing programs and benefits available to veterans that will help them achieve their dream. My goal is to educate my fellow veterans on these programs and benefits and help them achieve their goal. In a previous issue of the Windham Eagle, I discussed MaineHousing benefits for first time home buyers, including veterans. Let us now discuss MaineHousing benefits for veterans and Veterans Administration benefits in greater detail.

The MaineHousing, Salute Me Program provides all qualified Maine Veterans, including all active duty, veterans, and retired military veterans a 0.25% discount on a First Home Loan 30 year fixed rate mortgage.  If a veteran is not a first-time home buyer, the Salute Home Again Program may be a good option. This program waives the first-time home buyer requirements for those veterans who may have owned a home over the last three years and sold the property prior to the MaineHousing property closing. 

How does a veteran apply for a MaineHousing program?  Begin by contacting an approved MaineHousing lender to determine if you qualify. A list of approved MaineHouse lenders is available at MaineHousing.org. The buyer will be required to attend a home buyer education course which reviews the borrowing and buying process.  The course is also required if the veteran wishes to enjoy the $3,500 Advantage incentive which is to be applied to closing costs and the down payment.

The VA Home Loan Program assists active duty, veterans and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. VA loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide the borrower with more favorable terms.  A VA loan can be used to purchase a home as a primary residence including new construction, an existing dwelling or to refinance an existing loan. Also, the VA Home Loan Program offers housing grants to service members and veterans with certain permanent service-connected disabilities which can be used to purchase or construct an adaptive home or modify your existing home to accommodate a disability.

I hope this article provides Maine Veterans and their families with the resources available to help them buy a home with the assistance of MaineHousing and the Veterans Administration. Achieving the goal of homeownership is closer than you think. If you have any questions or need any assistance with your real estate needs please contact Kevin Ronan.  He is an Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgeton Road, Westbrook for more information.  He can be contacted at Kronan388@gmail.com or 207-838-4855.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Why invest in real estate?

By Dan McDermott

Are you looking to diversify your investment portfolio or tired of worrying about the next market correction and how your portfolio or IRA will fair, or just looking to buy a stable asset that can provide income for you or your family? If so, I think you should strongly consider an investment in real estate.  There are many reasons for those considering an investment in real estate - however I think that two of the most compelling reasons are listed below. 

Cash flow:
The most compelling and attractive reason for making an investment in real estate is cash flow.  Cash flow, or profit, is the amount of money left over after subtracting the operating expenses and debt service (mortgage) from the rental income generated from the property. The wonderful thing about cash flow is that this passive income is earned with little to no effort from the investor.  Once the investor selects a property, acquires financing, closes on the property, and leases out the property; the investor can then sit back and enjoy their monthly income with little additional effort. 

Another great benefit of cash flow is that it is a great hedge for your larger investment portfolio against economic downturns. In economic downturns, real estate tends to not correlate directly to the wider market conditions. One interesting fact about rental properties is that rents generally tend to increase during times of market instability. This is due to the fact that many homeowners fall on challenging times during economic downturns and find it more cost effective to rent than own a home. This creates a higher demand for affordable rental units and in turn drives up the market rents. 
This is especially attractive for an investor since the typical financing used to purchase these properties are fixed rate mortgages. This means that the operating expenses and debt services will remain stable over the life of the investment all while rents are being driven up and generating more income and a higher return for the investor.
danmcdermott@masiello.com
Leverage: 
Another compelling reason for making an investment in real estate is leverage. Leverage is defined as the use of various types of financing or borrowed capital to increase the potential return of an investment. This is commonly referred to as “other people’s money” by Wall Street and Main Street when talking about the real estate markets. Leverage can be used to increase the purchasing power of the investor and provide them with all the benefits that come from owning that property.

 Let’s take a simple example of an investor who has $100,000 to make an investment in real estate and let’s assume that in the current market properties are appreciating at 5% per year.   This investor could purchase a $100,000 property in full. At the end of 12 months this property would be worth $105,000 and the investor would have achieved a 5% return.  Now if that same investor used their $100,000 as a 20% down on a $500,000 property at the end of the year the property would be worth $525,000 and the investor would have also achieved a 5% return.  However, the investor would have earned $20,000 more plus the increased income that would have been generated from the $500,000 property vs $100,000. 

Leverage can drastically increase the potential expected return the longer the investment property is held.  Additionally, leverage allows an investor to acquire and realize the benefits of more properties with a smaller initial investment.

The benefits of investing in real estate are abundant and I have highlighted just a couple above.  While these benefits are attractive it should be noted that no investment, whether in the stocks, bonds, or real estate, comes without any risk. If you are considering an investment in real estate, I would recommend that you seek professional advice from an experienced realtor.  A realtor can provide you with depth of experience, hyper local market knowledge, and advise you as you make the exciting first step towards financial freedom.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Buying and selling at the same time


Nicole Foster

Many people need to sell their current home in order to qualify for the financing to purchase their next one. The challenges posed to our prospective buyers, who are also our would-be sellers, require difficult decisions to be made both in advance and during the process of buying and selling simultaneously. Be sure to explore all the options which exist for you and to carefully weigh the benefits and pitfalls that will influence your position.

Buying power.

If you sell your home and move into a temporary rental then you will be dealing with the inconvenience and expense of moving twice but doing so could provide you with a greater sense of control as well as to be more competitive with other buyer’s offers. More often people who are relocating from a distance select this option, but for a more local move people are less likely to go this route.

Visit with your lender to discuss how much money you will need to net from the sale of your current home in order to buy your new one and also how much you will qualify for after the sale. Work with a trusted REALTOR® to assist you with both the sale of your current property and the acquisition of your new one.

If you have decided to remain in your current home while searching for your new one, you’ll also need to decide at what point you’ll be listing it. You do have the ability to write offers contingent upon the sale of yours. If you find the home you want before you’ve listed, then you can submit your offer but will need to hit the market within five days. The seller will want the details surrounding the sale of your current property and will view whether or not it’s already under contract or not even on the market yet quite differently.
http://locationsinmaine.com/
Any additional concessions such as a reduction in the purchase price, asking for assistance with buyer closing cost contributions from the seller and other requests may be more difficult to negotiate when your offer is already contingent upon a property to sell, especially if yours is not yet listed or under contract.  Some of these seller concessions may be a requirement for you to obtain financing, so you may not have the option to waive them to make a stronger offer.

A property listed on the Maine Multiple Listing Service (MLS) may show a status of Pending Continue to Show and this allows sellers to work with an offer with contingencies (due diligence, a property to sell not under contract or other) but continue to show the property to prospective buyers. An agreement with a Kick Out Clause can be an uncomfortable place to be sitting for buyers who really want a home, but a seller may require this addendum to your agreement if you have a home to sell which isn’t under contract.

This addendum to your agreement allows the sellers to continue to work with other offers and if they receive another offer which they choose to work with after you’re under contract then you will be provided a day or two to remove the contingency of having to sell your current home and if you’re unable to, you are essentially “kicked out” of the contract and the new buyers take your place with a new agreement and go under contract. Some buyers are able to negotiate the removal of the Kick Out Clause at the time of going under contract, but usually at some sort of cost based on many factors.

Selling situation.

Your motivation and what you will be willing to accept for offers will shift based on your current position as a seller. If you aren’t under contract to purchase your new home, then you will have a bit more leverage when working with incoming offers. Your negotiating position during the due diligence period will also be influenced by whether or not you are already under contract to buy your new home or not.

Listing your current property subject to you finding suitable housing with a timeframe, ranging from two to four weeks is one tactic used. You have the option to tell agents and buyers prior to scheduling a showing to view your home that you need time to secure suitable housing or you can disclose this during negotiations depending on the strategy you choose.  Requesting a rent back option with the new buyers of your current home allows the closing to take place and for you to remain in the property for an agreed amount of time at an agreed upon monthly rental payment to the new buyers.

There are many moving parts which need to be choreographed in order to close on both properties the same day but with the help of a fantastic REALTOR® it can be achieved. Schedule a free consultation if you are curious about your own options.

Nicole Foster has been practicing residential real estate since 2006 and is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group and is also a Windham resident and parent.