Friday, November 28, 2014

How to move during the holidays - By Lisa DiBiase

One of the most stressful moments in life is moving. Both the holidays and moving can be stressful. Combine these two events together and your level of stress will shoot through the roof. But certain circumstances can make a holiday move necessary, and some people prefer to move during the holidays as they can more easily take time away from work and school.

If you are planning a residential move during the holiday season, take extra measures to reduce your stress and make the move a joyous journey toward a new beginning. Here are a few tips to help:

·         If you are moving right before Christmas, put extra thought into packing. When combining the busy holiday season with a move, you may prefer to only unpack necessary household items in your new home until after the holidays pass. If that's the case, pack and label those items separately from ones you won’t likely need until after the holidays. Keep holiday decorations and gift wrapping materials in boxes separate from your household items. If you already started shopping for gifts, make sure those are separate, too, along with your decorations and wrapping materials.

·         Don’t let the moving process dampen your spirit. Play holiday music while packing and do your best to create a festive atmosphere!

·         If you have young children, put together a box of holiday coloring books, puzzles and other activities to keep them occupied.  Also make sure they understand that Santa will find them in their new home. They may be worried without ever telling you.

·         Create personalized moving announcement holiday cards to send to friends and relatives. A couple ideas would be to take a picture of the exterior of the home, or your family on the doorsteps and provide your new address.

·         Take time out to relax, watch a holiday film, bake cookies, or simply soak in the tub. Although moving during the holiday season creates more chaos than normal, it helps to keep the peace of mind.

·         Lastly, hire a mover if it makes sense to help pack and move. If you plan to hire a mover, you must contact them as early as possible to set the date.

No matter what you decide, just understand this is a stressful time for everyone involved! Have lots of patience and remember the time of year and what the holidays are for. 

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.

Why hasn't my home sold? - By Rick Yost

When a home has been on the market for a long time without selling, it becomes extremely frustrating. Sellers are ready to move on and start a new chapter and the unsold house is holding them back. Most sellers are ready to go the day their house hits the market. If a home has been on the market for more than 90 to 120 days, it is time to reflect on what might be going wrong. Unsold homes usually suffer from one of five issues.
Location - homes in smaller outskirts communities often take longer to sell. Towns like Limington, Hiram, Limerick, and etc. have a smaller population, less industry and fewer schools.

These towns have much less turnover in housing and less demand for housing. These towns will typically have home sitting on the market longer than more suburban areas like Windham and Gorham. The only recommendation for these outskirts towns is patience.

Price - The biggest mistake sellers make is pricing their home. The seller’s emotional attachment to the home effects their ability to properly price the home. How much is owed on a home and how much was paid for a home has no relevance on what the home is worth today.

Overpricing a home is a sure fire way to have a home sit on the market. Sellers should always get at least two brokers opinions on pricing a home, even if they are going to try to sell it themselves. Brokers can tell sellers what other homes in the area have sold for and what the market is doing today. Every home will sell at some price, finding the right price is key to a quick and rewarding sale. 

Exposure - Many homes have unique features or layouts that require the right buyer to recognize the homes true value. The best way to find the right buyer is to make sure all potential buyers see it. A marketing plan is paramount in selling a home. The days of taking a few pictures and posting a home on the MLS (multiple listing service) are gone. Over 90 percent of home searches start on the Internet. If a home has been for sale and has not been shown often, it is time to look at the marketing plan. A broker should provide a minimum of the following: 20 professional quality photographs of the home, MLS listing, listing syndication, "featured property" status, "featured property" status, and an information heavy dedicated web site. This will get the home the exposure it needs online. An open house and a neighborhood flyer are also highly recommended. The more buyers that see the home, the more likely it will sell. An insider bit of advice--always ask your broker what they are offering for a commission split with buyer brokers. A low commission split for the buyer broker may be off putting and may result in less showings.

Structural - The housing market is trending towards newer and move-in ready houses. A sagging roof, a leaky foundation, or a problem septic can all lead to buyer reluctance. A home that doesn't show well will sit on the market. Poor layouts, poor flow, and repurposed rooms can all cause homes to not show well. Sellers should fix as many issues as you can afford to, clean and remove clutter, and get as much natural light into the home as possible. This will have the home showing as well as possible. After that, sellers should refer back to exposure. Even a home that doesn't show well will appeal to a certain buyer. 

Curb appeal - In today's Internet age, buyers are looking at more homes than ever. In order to conserve time, many buyers are doing drive-bys. If a buyer doesn't even want to see the inside of a home, they sure won't buy it. Make sure the yard is tidy, the lawn is mowed, and the entry is inviting. Small things like paint touch ups, new exterior lights, and door hardware go a long ways in giving a home more curb appeal.

These five issues should be considered first and foremost with unsold homes. Once the proper issue or issues are address, consider that home SOLD!

Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and longtime Windham resident. You can contact Rick with all your real estate questions and needs at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Charitable giving pays off...for everyone - From Edward Jones

Americans are pretty generous — in fact, 83 percent of us donated money to charitable organizations last year, according to a Gallup survey. And now that we’re entering the holiday season, charitable giving well may be on your mind. Your key motivation for making charitable gifts, of course, is to help those organizations whose work is meaningful to you. However, by supporting these groups, you can also make life less “taxing” for yourself. 
Specifically, by making charitable contributions, you may be able to receive some valuable tax breaks. To claim a deduction, though, you need to itemize your taxes, and you need to make sure that the organization you’re supporting is qualified, from a tax-deductibility standpoint. If you’re unsure whether a group is qualified, just ask to see its letter from the IRS. (Many organizations now post these letters on their websites.) 

Here’s how the charitable tax deduction works: If you give $200 to a qualified charity, and you’re in the 25 percent tax bracket, you can deduct $200, with a tax benefit of $50, when you file your 2014 taxes. Consequently, the net “cost” of your donation is just $150 ($200 minus the $50 tax savings). 

Of course, you are not confined to making cash gifts. In fact, if you donate certain types of noncash assets, you may be able to increase your tax benefits. Suppose you give $1,000 worth of stock in ABC Company to a charitable group. If you’re in the 25 percent bracket, you’ll be able to deduct $250 when you file your taxes. And by donating the ABC stock, you can avoid paying the capital gains taxes that would be due if you had eventually sold the stock yourself. 

Keep in mind that if you want to deduct your contributions for the 2014 tax year, you’ll need to make your gifts by December 31. One more reminder: Retain your paperwork. If you made gifts totaling over $250 to any single charity — or noncash contributions of any items worth over $500 — the IRS requires written acknowledgments for your contributions. 

If you want to take a longer-term approach to charitable giving, while incorporating your gifts in planning for your estate, you might want to consider establishing a charitable remainder trust. Under this arrangement, you’d place some assets, such as stocks or real estate, into a trust, which could then use these assets to pay you a lifetime income stream. When you establish the trust, you may be able to receive an immediate tax deduction based on the charitable group’s “remainder interest” — the amount the charity is likely to ultimately receive. (This figure is determined by an IRS formula.) Upon your death, the trust would relinquish the remaining assets to the charitable organization you’ve named. This type of trust can be complex, so to create one, you’ll need to work with your tax and legal advisors.

While the tax benefits associated with charitable giving are significant, they should not, ultimately, drive your gifting decisions. You should also consider the effect your gift will have on the other areas of your estate considerations — so make sure you communicate your plans to your family members.

In any case, though, be as generous as you can this holiday season and in the years to come. Your generosity will be a rewarding experience — for everyone. 

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.
Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

Making your home cozy for winter - By Lisa DiBiase

Getting yourself ready for winter is a snap. Jacket, gloves, scarf...Check!  Well what about your house, are you ready for another winter? Getting your home ready for a long, cold season is another story. So, until someone invents a turtleneck sweater you can put around your house when it gets cold, there are some things you should do. 
Getting your home for winter can seem like an annoying and perhaps unobtainable chore. But the financial benefits could outweigh any overwhelming feelings you had. Winter heating costs can skyrocket if your windows are poorly insulated, your plumbing breaks, or if the heating system is out-of-date/service. Ensuring your home is prepped properly can save you a nice chunk of change while protecting your property for the years to come. 

Sometimes looking at a giant to-do list is overwhelming. To save frustration, break it down into three or four jobs you can tackle over the next few weekends.

1.      Prep the Plumbing
Drain the water from your outdoor faucets and garden hoses and arrange to have any in-ground sprinkler pipes blown out. Roll up the garden hoses and store them inside. Identify any "problem" pipes that are prone to freezing in the house and consider using heat tape to keep them warm during extremely cold weather. If the worst happens, ensure everyone in the home knows how to turn off the water at the source. This will minimize leaking when and if a pipe bursts.

2.      Heat Things Up
Everyone enjoys cozy evenings by a crackling fire, so ensure your fireplace is ready to provide warm nights all winter. Be sure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before the first fire. Also, have a professional perform a routine check of the heating systems before cold weather arrives. This should include vacuuming the vents and other heating components. If your furnace has a filter, check to see if it needs replacing.

3.      Reverse Ceiling Fans
If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan's blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling. This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings -- and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.

4.       Seal the Leaks
Keep drafts to a minimum this winter. If you have them, install storm windows and doors -- and don't overlook the basement. Add or replace worn weather stripping around the doors and windows. If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk.  Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements.

As I have said since the beginning, 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.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Real Estate - Selling your house in the fall - By Carrie Colby

Although the real estate business tends to slow down in the fall, the season still can be an attractive time to put a home on the market. If you want to sell your house in the next few months, it can be done.
The inventory of houses for sale is lower and market is less competitive. Potential buyers such as empty nesters or younger couples who aren’t worried about moving after the school year has started will compete for fewer homes. They may want to get into a home before the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Make your home more attractive in autumn, so you can sell your house before winter comes.

You’ll want to do everything you can to make your house look its best. Make sure your yard, walkways and gutters are free of leaves and debris. If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so visitors can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house. Wash decks and wipe down windows so they sparkle instead of appear streaked by rain. Clean the fireplace, especially if it hasn’t been used in months and place some nice looking logs in it.  Above all, make sure your doorway and the rest of the house is clear from knick knacks, bicycles and toys that make your home appear cluttered.

If your house’s exterior looks drab, you may want to consider painting it a warm color, planting seasonal flowers, or placing pumpkins strategically along your walkway to accent your home’s appeal with instant color.

Potential buyers will make an instant judgment when they see your home, and you want to be sure it’s positive.

While you don’t want to go overboard with fall decorations that detract from the home itself, a few displays like a festive front-door wreath—and lighting so people can clearly see the path to your front door—can make your home feel fresh, even in the fall.

Keep your house cozy. Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. So warm up your home with a fresh coat of paint and set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Another way to warm up a home is with light, especially as days get shorter leading into winter. Be sure to open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.

While you don’t want your home to look overly done, well-chosen decorations give potential buyers the impression you’ve paid attention to the fine details. Take care of any problems with the home will help you put your best face forward.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with freshening the air with the comforting aroma of a freshly-baked, apple or pumpkin pie or a spicy candle to leave a lasting impression of your home.

Carrie Colby
Premier Properties