Friday, January 27, 2017

How home improvement projects impact the value of your property By Nicole Foster, Broker

The art of property valuation requires skill and experience. Opinions of a “range of value” for a particular property can vary, which some homeowners find confusing and frustrating. A current snapshot of your local real estate market will generally cover the activity over the past 180 days in your geographic area. Many appraisers and realtors focus on the data available on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and not necessarily on all transfers recorded.  There is no way of placing a value on raising the quality of your life and satisfaction with your home; therefore,  if you will not be selling for the next 15 years, naturally, the resale impact will be less pertinent than if you plan to sell your home in the next 5 years.

Some home improvement projects may add to the appeal of your home for some buyers, such as an in-ground pool - but may not have as much impact to the market value.  Other projects may actually have a negative impact on your home’s value. For example: Knocking down a wall and losing a valued bedroom or built-in audio/visual electronics, which may grow obsolete quickly and become an added cost to have removed.

Cost does not equate the increase in value. A $40,000 kitchen renovation does not mean your home’s value will be increased by $40,000. That is not how any of this works. You may be surprised to learn how much impact to your home’s value a renovation will actually yield.  Do your research on which home upgrades will generate the highest return on your investment. To help identify your budget spending, contact a realtor or an appraiser as a first step to help you to determine the market value of your home. After knowing the market value of your home, you can then factor a percentage of the home’s value as an upper limit that you would be willing to spend on a specific home improvement project or upgrade.

DIY or hire a contractor? Buyers can spot shoddy work at first glance, which can cast doubts on the integrity of the work throughout the property. Before saving yourself some money by searching YouTube, consider your level of resources, skill and ability to complete the project(s).  Even with the proper construction permits, work which was not completed by a professional can have a negative impact on both the appeal and value of your home. It may be possible to do a portion of the work yourself while hiring out other parts.

What types of improvements should you make to your home first? Before focusing on the more exciting cosmetic upgrades, it is wise to first confirm, that the structural and mechanical components of your home are functioning properly. You should be sure they are not in need of repair or replacement, especially if you plan to sell your home in the future. Buyers know what the expected, usable life is of: Heating & plumbing, electrical systems, roof shingles and leech fields; and they know that they will have to deal with these issues. This can impact both the value and the appeal of your home.  Improvements which require maintenance, such as central air conditioning or irrigation systems, may require more upkeep than buyers wish to take on.
The National Association of Realtor’s 2015 first ever “Remodeling Impact Report” ranked these improvements as projects likely to add value for resale (highest to lowest):

New Roofing
New Vinyl Windows
New Garage Door
New Vinyl Siding
New Wood Windows
New Fiber Cement Siding
New Steel Front Door
New Fiberglass Front Door

Complete Kitchen Renovation
Kitchen Upgrade
Bathroom Renovation
Add New Bathroom
New Master Suite
New Hardwood Flooring
HVAC Replacement
Basement Conversion to Living Area
Attic Conversion to Living Area
Closet Renovation
Insulation Upgrade

Finishing a basement is a great way to increase your living space - but do not make the rooms over personalized in function if you want it to appeal to the masses on the resale. Valuation on finished basements varies, based on quality of finish, grade, natural light, ceiling height and more. Finished basement square footage brings less value than above-grade, finished square footage. A garage can be expensive to construct - but here in Maine, it can be very desirable. If adding a two car garage with a single door, confirm that there will be enough space for the number of cars it’s designed for, to be parked and entered at the same time - so you do not risk having an appraiser identify it as being only a one car garage when it’s time to sell.  Expanding your outdoor living and enjoyment by adding a deck to your yard or a patio? Those precious ninety days of the year could be spent scraping and staining your deck – potential buyers may view it that way.  So, you may want to consider stepping up to the plate and use composite, maintenance free decking.

Seeking out the advice of trusted professional is always a great first step when it comes to your largest asset. So take your time and do your homework, to maximize your return and limit costly surprises.

Nicole has been a real estate broker at Regency Realty in South Portland for the past 11 years; specializing in single family, residential and new construction.  She lives in Windham with her husband and four children. Follow Nicole at or

Friday, January 20, 2017

Winter home checklist By Cari Turnbull

Winter is upon us and Mother Nature has been kind to us so far. However, colder and snowier days are sure to be ahead. If you’re like most people, your home is your biggest asset. Here are some tips for protecting your investment in the harsh winter months.

Tune up your heating system:
You should have your furnace cleaned yearly if it is your primary heating source. Call and schedule your yearly maintenance to ensure your system is clean and in good repair, before you find yourself in the cold.

Prevent ice dams:
Last winter was especially harsh and I had many clients who ended up with ice dams. Ice dams are build ups on the edge of the roof and when melting occurs the water comes inside the home, instead of going off the roof. To prevent ice dams you should make sure your attic is properly insulated. You should also use a roof rake to remove snow from the roof so it doesn’t turn to ice and build up on the edges. You can also locate damaged or loose shingles and replace them if possible.
Caulk around windows and doors to keep the elements out and the heat in.

Turn off exterior faucets:
If you don’t have frost proof exterior faucets, turn the water off from inside the home. Remove your hose and drain all of the water. Not doing this could lead to burst pipes.

Clean your chimney:
Call your local chimney sweep and have them come inspect your chimney and clean it out to make sure it is safe.

Check carbon monoxide detectors:
Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and replace the batteries if necessary. We recommend that you have a carbon monoxide detector near the floor on every level of the home.
Stock up on rock salt, shovels and tune up your snow blower and/or schedule your plow service.

Cari Turnbull is a Windham resident. Cari runs one of the top real estate teams in the area, representing buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland Area. For all your real estate needs contact Cari at

Friday, January 13, 2017

Purchasing title insurance is important By Randee McDonald

Congratulations, you’ve finally purchased a home! But just as you begin to settle in, you become aware of a title issue with the property. You remember during the closing process that the title company asked you if you wanted to purchase an owner’s policy of title insurance. You were tempted at the time to save a few dollars and cut your closing costs. However, with title insurance being only a onetime cost to you at the time of closing, you decided it would be worth it.

Some title issues that may arise that are covered by title insurance include:

Naughty Neighbors: Your neighbor has built a shed, garage, pool, driveway or deck that is partly on your property.

Hidden Heirs: Perhaps the previous homeowner passed away or there was another family member with ownership rights to the house that wasn’t notified the house was being sold. You could lose out big time if the house was sold to you without clear title.

Unpaid Taxes: Although the title company will check for past due taxes, perhaps the tax collector’s office accidentally provided the wrong information (and yes, it happens) and mistakenly omitted or miscalculated the amount owed. Guess who pays for that mistake? Hint: it’s not the municipality or the title company – it’s you.

Mystery Mortgage: Just like with a lien or unpaid taxes, it’s possible that a title search may not turn up another mortgage on the property until after the closing has happened.
Had you not purchased title insurance, you may be left with negotiating with the neighbors, paying the lien, taxes, or mortgage. Going to court to avoid paying these items can often exceed the cost of these items themselves. And remember, there is a difference between an owner’s title policy and a lender’s title policy. The lender will require you to purchase a lender’s policy to only protect their interests in the property, not yours.

Title companies and municipalities use the best of their abilities to avoid the above situations. However, things happen, often out of our control. No one purchases automobile insurance hoping that they will use it someday! The same goes for an owner’s policy of title insurance. It should be purchased to protect the biggest – and often most important – investment of your life, your home.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Putting your house on the market? Have safety on your check list. By Amy Krikken

When you hear the word safety, what comes to your mind?
There are many areas where safety is of concern. 

We wear our seatbelt when we are in a vehicle, we wear a helmet when necessary, and some of us put on our snow tires for the season. 

What do we mean when we talk about safety in terms of real estate?  What are some items that should be on the forefront of your mind, if you are considering selling this Spring?  

Often things come up during the inspection process that point out deficiencies in the safety department.  Is there a missing railing in the home? Do you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors properly installed and in working order?  When is the last time you had your chimney cleaned? Have you had your water tested, any potential buyer is going to ask for a copy of the results. How seamless could the process be if you preemptively provided these results?

Is your home older than 1978, might it have lead? How is your indoor air quality? Does anyone else in your neighborhood have a radon mitigation system, perhaps you could consider getting your home tested for Radon.

Any work that you can complete BEFORE you place your home on the market will work to your advantage, and stave off stress.  That old saying "Why put off until tomorrow, what you can do today?" could not be more appropriate when we are talking about shoring up the safety of your home.  

Safety is one aspect to consider when selling your home.  I am a Realtor, and I can assist you in optimizing the presentation of your home in the marketplace to get it sold.  Call or e-mail me today, 207-317-1338,