Friday, November 15, 2019

The do’s and don’ts of buying vacant land

By Carrie Colby

Buying a home can be complicated but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

Finding your dream home isn’t easy. You’ve spent a lot of time scouring online listings, attending open houses and scoping out neighborhoods – and you and your REALTOR® have still come up empty-handed. As a result, you may want to consider buying vacant land.

But before you get serious about laying a foundation, be aware that a land purchase may yield more surprises than buying a home – from easements and zoning restrictions to soil conditions that could easily turn building your dream home into a headache.

Whether you’re buying vacant land to build a home for your family or you hope to sell the plot for a profit in the future, follow these rules to avoid buyer’s remorse. Here are the do’s and don’ts of buying vacant land:

Do work with a pro who knows land with a real estate agent when you purchase a home helps you navigate the finer details like negotiations, due diligence and closing the deal. But when you’re purchasing land, it’s important to hire an agent who has extensive experience negotiating land deals. Use an agent who actually has represented both buyers and sellers in a number of land transactions.

Do consider the value of homes in the neighborhood and resale value
One of the biggest draws of building your home is the ability to customize it, but be sure you’re building your dream home in a neighborhood with similar taste. Be careful not to make the house too
specific for your needs and taste. Even if you never plan to sell, life happens, sometimes making it is necessary to sell unexpectedly.

Paint and carpets can be changed but for example lowering or raising counters and cabinets to fit “your” height will be much more costly to change.
You may be turned down for a construction loan if your plans for the home of your dreams is significantly more than home values in the neighborhood.

Do take utilities and road access into account
It’s easy to take for granted access to running water, electricity and sewers when you’re buying an existing house, but with vacant land these are not always a given.
Depending on how developed the area is around the land, you want to know if it’s going to cost money for infrastructure to be run to that land or if it’s already serviced. Is there town water and sewer or will you need to drill a well and put in a septic system.

Don’t expect to get a loan
A land purchase can’t be leveraged with a bank the same way a home purchase can, so you’ll likely have to pay cash if there’s no structure on the property yet.

But if you have a piece of land, you might be lucky if (a lender) gives you 40% or 50% of the value – and that’s typically if you have a good bank relationship or other collateral. You’re more likely to get zero. You’ll have a much better chance of being approved for a construction loan on the building you want to put on the land, since the house you’ll build serves as collateral on the loan.

Don’t skip the survey or soils tests
Similar to a home inspection and background research on a house, a plot of land needs to be subjected to tests and checks to ensure you know what you’re buying and that you’ll be able to build on it.

It’s best to buy land that already has a completed survey and soils report. And make sure they are up to date. If there is none, your REALTOR® should be able to recommend a surveyor and soils expert to do a soils test and septic design. This tells you that there is adequate space and the soils are right to put in a septic system and well.

Buying land is more complicated, but in the end you may end up with a home that works best for you and your family.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What to do with you house as you get older

By Richie Vraux

Not only have your children left the nest and produced their own happy and busy family lives – but now, your children have grandchildren of their own. You are facing a whole new life. Your nice big home that once was the setting of holiday gatherings are no longer needed. If truth be told, you are ready to downsize, anyway.

At one time, you could scale those stairs in your three-level home two at a time, but now your body has slowed down and you just can’t do those things you used to do.

Not only may it take a little longer to hop those stairs, but you are also on a fixed income. Your only means is Social Security  - or if you were lucky enough to put some money away for your retirement., you may have a little extra. But who knows how long you will live? this is the case for you, it might be time to speak to a Real Estate Advisor. Although it is true you can reach out and speak to any agent, as a senior citizen you may have other options.

You may want to speak to someone that specializes with your needs. A Senior Real Eestate Specialist Advisor is an accredited agent with the knowledge in the field of elder real estate and can help you make the right decisions.

Depending on your financial situation, there are different avenues you can take to help with your specific needs.

One way is a Reverse Mortgage. This type of mortgage is issued by a bank but is set up through FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and is only available to you if you are 62 years of age or older. The bank pays you for the equity still remaining in your home. It does not have to be paid back until the last surviving homeowner dies. The estate has approximately 6 months to repay the balance due or the bank will take back the home.

There are a lot of things to be considered when you get older in life. You should speak to a trusted Real Estate Advisor to make sure you are making the right decision for you and your family. Richie Vraux is a Raymond resident and Broker with Maine's Premier Team at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group. For your real estate needs call him at 207-317-1297.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A final walk-through before closing is an important component of the home purchase experience

By Kevin Ronan

Buying a home is like going on a journey, you must stay focused throughout the entire trip.    From the completion of the mortgage application, to visiting properties, making an offer and finally getting the home inspection - it all could take weeks or even months.

An extremely important final step before the closing is the final property walk-through. For some buyers, this critical task may not seem that important, but if a buyer knows what he should be looking for, a thorough walk-through can alert a buyer of expensive issues that may have been missed during the home inspection or of contractual repairs that were not performed correctly.

When you are doing the final walk through, make sure the property is in the condition you agreed to in the Purchase and Sales Agreement.  Let’s understand that a final walk-through is not a home inspection. The goal of the final walk-through is to ensure the home is in the same condition as when you last viewed the property and equally as important to check that all repairs agreed upon with the seller were performed.

Who should attend the final walk-through? Generally, the buyer and the buyer’s agent will attend without the seller and seller agent. This allows the buyer the freedom to inspect the property at their leisure without the seller or the seller’s agent.  In cases of new construction, the contractor or builder may request to be present, as a new building walk-through will be looking for both defects in the construction as well as any cosmetic issues. Most buyers expect a new home to be pristine - however in many instances this is not the case and the final walk-through is extremely valuable.

In most cases the final walk-through is scheduled the same day as the closing or within 24 hours prior to the closing date. I suggest you work with your real estate agent to establish a time with the seller’s agent as to when you can access the property and when the property will be vacant during your visit.
So, the final walk-through day has arrived. Depending on the size of the house, the walk-through can take between 30 to 60 minutes. Don’t forget about inspecting the exterior including the detached garage, sheds or pool area. Remember, this is your last opportunity to give your new home a final once over before it’s yours. Take your time!

To be certain your new home is move in ready, make yourself a checklist of things you want to review during the inspection, such as the property disclosure, inspection report and any repair amendments you and the seller agreed on and receipts of work performed.

Last week, Maine residents experienced a nasty nor’easter causing significant property damage throughout the state. When mother nature does not cooperate with your plans to close, I strongly suggest you consider rescheduling or repeating the walk-through. A walk-through will help you determine if any damage was caused by the storm and give the buyer the recourse to have the seller make the repairs before you close. The most common damage we are looking for includes water intrusion, fallen trees and related structural damage. Your mortgage lender may require the damage be remedied before the loan is approved.

If you are considering purchasing a home in the future, make the final walk-through inspection an important component of the home purchase experience. Take the time to protect yourself and your new home.

This article was brought to you by Kevin Ronan, an associate broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, located at 290 Bridgton Road in Westbrook. If you have any questions or need any assistance with your real estate needs please contact him at, or 207-838-4855. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Active versus passive real estate investing

By Dan McDermott

Individual private investors who are looking for a reliable stream of income often turn to real estate and face an age-old question: Is it better to be an active or passive real estate investor?

Given real estate investments inherent ability to provide steady passive cash flow from rents or loan payments plus some very generous tax benefits, it is not a wonder why they are a popular investment vehicle.  Additionally, there may also be a worthy prize at the end too; the potential to realize capital appreciation and possibly double or even triple your investment. This combination produces higher returns than traditional passive income sources such as bonds or dividend-paying stocks.

When investors decide whether to pursue real estate investing on either an active or passive basis, they need to consider the pros and cons of each strategy. In order to determine which investment strategy is best for you, you should first understand the main differences between the two.

Active investing is when an investor directly purchases a property for rental cash flow or to fix and flip for a profit. The property could be anything from a commercial building to a single-family house or a large multifamily property. The investor will personally manage all aspects of the investment process. This includes finding the deal, negotiating the deal, securing the financing, closing the deal, and managing the investment. The process of identifying a suitable market, property, financing can be time consuming and complicated.  However, it can also be very rewarding and if the investment goes well, the investor will get to keep the largest share of the profits.

Passive investing is a hands-off approach which allows an investor to place one’s capital into a real estate vehicle – more specifically, an apartment, commercial, or self-storage syndication – that is managed entirely by a management company. Investing passively in real estate means the investor outsources the acquisition and management of their real estate investment to a management company.  The management company pools together many investors capital and buys larger or even entire portfolios of properties. The management company is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the properties and charges a fee for their services. The investors will then get a monthly or annual share of the profits earned from the rents collected on the property or portfolio of properties.

Based on my experience in working with active and passive real estate investors, I think there are many important factors to consider when deciding which investment strategy is right for you. One of the most important factors is control.

Most investors consider an investment to be either active or passive depending on the level of control you have.  As a passive investor you are opting to relinquish most of the control to an experienced management company who will use your capital to acquire and manage a portfolio of properties. When you give up control, the investor is putting a lot of trust in the management company to execute the goals/business plan of the investment.

As an active investor, you can directly control the nature of the investments you make. You decide which investment strategy to pursue. You decide the type and level of renovations to perform. You decide the quality of tenant to accept and the rental rate to charge. You determine when to refinance or sell. With passive investing, all of the above is determined by the management company.  

Normally from an investment fit an investor is either active or passive, but not both, and it usually comes down to whether the investor wants to have control or not.

In the end there are many ways to become a successful real estate investor. Not all strategies are the same, so it's important to understand the pro's and con's and to identify which path (active or passive) is best for you.  If you have any questions or are interested in learning more real estate investing, please contact me today at 207-712-3152.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Buying or selling a home with unpermitted work

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR®

Maine is home to much of our nation’s oldest housing stock, which is evident when you look around. As real estate professionals we are seeing daily the building trends of years gone by and how they have either stood the test of time or not at all as well as everything in between. Would you rather purchase a home constructed in the 1920’s or the 1970’s?  Ask a local REALTOR® and they can help by explaining some of the current market inventory distinctions and their most common upgrades.

Homeowners are held responsible
Any change or improvement to a property’s original size or condition other than very minor upgrades (i.e. new sink faucet, interior paint) requires a permit from your local municipality, regardless if the homeowner is doing the work themselves or hiring a contractor. You or the contractor doing the work will need to complete the application and pay the required fee (if curious about permit costs then you can view the fee schedule online for most municipalities). When interviewing contractors to do home renovations do not just assume that they are pulling the required permits that YOU the homeowner are required to. Ask them if they will handle this and then take a moment to confirm that they did by either calling the Code Enforcement Officer or looking in the file yourself because you, the homeowner, are the one responsible, not the contractor.’ve recently seen a very expensive home using a high end, professional contracting company who
simply forgot to pull the necessary permits on a kitchen remodel and the seller was not made aware until they were selling. Also, recently I learned of a local case where a homeowner was denied an
insurance claim after experiencing a fire due to an electrical issue after it was confirmed the electrician they hired forgot to get the necessary permits for a small job.

Reasons homeowners do not get a permit
It is possible that the homeowners do not want to have their property taxes increased and if they can keep the improvements unknown to the Tax Assessor then they can continue to pay the same amount. Sometimes the homeowners are concerned that the work would not be allowed how they want it to be done or that the requirements will be to a standard they do not want to have imposed on them.

A homeowner may not want to spend the extra money on the cost of the permit fees, or they may feel that welcoming the Town into their home could reveal other potential violations so want to avoid a visit. Some just don’t realize that they were supposed to get one.

How do you recognize if work was done without a permit?
There are instances where it is quite apparent that work was done “on the cheap” and you can assume that you will not find the permits for it in the Town’s file at first glance. However, there are other properties where the quality looks like or is professionally done but the permits were never pulled, either intentionally or accidentally, so it can be quite difficult to recognize. Often, we compare what we see visually to what is reflected in the public records for the home. A professional and well-seasoned building inspector can help to identify areas that you should be concerned about but may not always be able to determine if work was permitted or not by visual inspection necessarily.

Buying or selling
Work closely with a local real estate professional who can provide you with a steady stream of information regarding what options exist for your particular situation and then advocate strongly for your best interests through this complicated process.

Sellers are required to disclose any work which was done without a permit during their ownership to prospective buyers when selling.  Buyers may be unable to obtain their financing from their bank if unpermitted work is flagged either by the underwriter or appraiser.

Each Town has their own approach and fee structure for how they deal with work after it’s already been completed and depending on the scope of the work can be cooperative or punitive. Unpermitted improvements may not bring the increase in valuation and appeal that competitive homes with all the permits will.

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate in Falmouth and a Windham resident who loves people and real estate.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Getting your home ready for the cold season

By Mel Oldakowski

The cool autumn air and changing colors are upon us! This serves as a reminder to start prepping for the cold season ahead. Yes, it’s coming! Imagine, on the coldest winter day, you get out of bed and realize you can see your breath. You check the thermostat, only to realize the furnace has stopped working. That’s why fall and winter home maintenance is so important! Letting it go until it’s too late can lead to bigger problems and big-time headaches. Here’s a few things you can tackle while the weather is still nice.

Service your heating system. 
Early fall is a great time to beat the rush and have a heating specialist come out to look at your furnace. To keep your furnace from failing when you need it most, you should have it serviced at least once a year. These tune-ups keep it running longer and can identify deadly carbon monoxide leaks. It’s always best to have a professional give your entire furnace system an overview. Don’t be a jack of all trades!

Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned professionally. 
A chimney should be cleaned after each season—ideally before summer hits, because humidity plus the creosote can damage masonry. However, if the chimney wasn’t swept last spring, make sure it’s done before you use it this winter. A dirty, blocked, damaged, or improperly built chimney can result in CO poisoning, which can be deadly. screen doors with storm doors. 
Storm doors are typically made of aluminum and strong glass and are designed to create a tight seal. This seal will prevent heat from escaping, improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Add attic insulation and check for gaps in existing insulation.
Proper insulation is one of the most important ways to keep the heat inside your home where it belongs. Gaps and thinning areas of insulation occur naturally over time. Attic insulation keeps heat inside the house (lowering energy bills), keeps temperature consistent between rooms, and helps prevent ice dams.

Insulate hot water pipes.
Unfinished basements, crawlspaces, and attics typically don’t get heat from your central heating system. This makes any pipes running through these spaces susceptible to heat loss and freezing. Install simple foam pipe insulators to keep them warm and conserve energy.

Add or replace weather stripping. 
Weather stripping blocks outside airflow through cracks on moving components, such as doors and windows. Blocking this airflow can help reduce energy loss and lower your energy bill by as much as 20+%.  If you already have weather stripping installed on your doors and windows, now is a good time to check it out and replace where necessary.

Take care of your gutters. 
Once the leaves have fallen and before the first snow, take time to make sure your gutters are in good shape for the winter. They’ll need to be clear of debris, free of leaks, and strong enough to handle snow in order to be effective all season long.

Trim tree branches and remove brush. 
Dead or weak tree branches can pose a physical and financial risk if not taken care of before winter. Strong winds and snow can break susceptible branches, which could fall on your house, your neighbor’s house, or power lines. Clear any leaves, brush and piles from your yard, particularly around your foundation.

Don’t forget to stock up on supplies. 
Stock up on ice melt, candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, ready-to-eat food, and plenty of warm blankets for those times when the power checks out. Check your snow shovels and snow blower. Are all your tools in good working order? 

It is best to be prepared for a long winter ahead so you can enjoy the warmth inside.

Friday, September 27, 2019

How to prepare for an appraisal - kind of

By Greg Swander

Selling your home can sometimes seem like a marathon instead of a sprint. Your first step is finding a REALTOR® that you feel confident in that when you hand them the baton, they will get you to the finish line. Your REALTOR® will game plan with you discussing the multiple hurdles you will have to clear going forward. (Ok, I am done with my track and field analogies now!)

First you need to list your home. Your REALTOR® will take some photos and write up an appealing listing paragraph for potential buyers. After posting online, you have a buyer interested in coming and viewing your property. Next you find out the buyer is very interested in your property and they provide an offer with the buyer being financed through a mortgage lender. You and your REALTOR® work through the details and negotiations and now you are under contract! Phew that was the hard part, right? Time to sit back and start packing and get ready for closing. Well not just yet, most likely your contract includes a due diligence period to allow time for your buyer to do inspections. buyer schedules inspections and you hold your breath. After inspections the buyer provides an ICA (investigation contingency amendment) which outlines some issues found during inspections that the buyer would like resolved prior to closing. You and your REALTOR® huddle up and determine how to tackle these findings in the inspection (I said I was done with track and field analogies, not sports in general). After some continued negotiations by your REALTOR® you come to terms on an amendment that satisfies both you and the buyer. Yeah, you are through the due diligence period and now you can start packing!

But then you receive notification that the buyer’s lender is sending out someone to do an appraisal on your property. Wait, they already did inspections so why is there an appraiser coming out to inspect the home? 

You wonder, ‘what do I need to do NOW after everything I have already done up to this point.’ The answer is - nothing really. You may think you need to spend the time to make your house look pristine or else the appraiser is going to undervalue your home. The truth of the matter is that the
appraiser will simply come into your home to do measurements and take a few pictures of the property. The appraiser is simply there to take a "snapshot" of the house in order to do a comparison with other homes in the area. You could clean every nook and cranny and it wouldn't do a thing to increase the appraisal value.

So, the answer to "how to prepare for your appraisal of your home" is to simply not worry about it
and go on with your day as normal. Once the appraisal is complete the buyer’s lender will make a call to the bullpen and bring in the closer. (As we are going into October, I figured it was appropriate to end with a baseball one!)

This article was brought to you by Greg Swander. Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Team Real Estate in Windham. Call him anytime at 207-650-1095 or email him at for any and all of your real estate needs. 

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. 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. 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

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. 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.
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. 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.

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 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 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.
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.
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.

Friday, July 26, 2019

How to successfully win a multiple offer situation

By Katie Kinney

In the Maine Real Estate market, buyers are still experiencing low inventory and multiple offer situations. A large contributing factor to this issue is the rise of investor purchases. According to Core Logic Inc., real estate investors comprised more than 11% of home purchases in 2018. The investor interest poses a huge challenge for first time homebuyers who are interested in buying starter homes or owner-occupied multi-family homes and are forced to compete with deep pocket cash buyers. Here are a few tips to help you crush the cash offers.

Make your best offer up front. Many cash buyers are looking for a bargain and will put a lower offer in to start. As a non-cash buyer, you should always put your highest and best offer in from the start. If you do need to include closing costs, you should add those on top of offer because closing costs are money out of the seller’s pocket. You should also include the highest dollar amount you are comfortable with for the earnest deposit. By doing this you will show your high-level interest in the property.

Presenting a mortgage preapproval letter from your lender when you make the offer is the traditional way to show you are a serious buyer. If you take the next step and have your underwriter start the review process of your loan, you will provide the seller more peace of mind concerning your financing.  If you can’t outbid a cash buyer, this step puts you closer to an equal playing field.

tombiczak@allstate.comMost buyers make offers contingent on a home inspection. During this period, buyers can back out if any home issues arise. When looking at homes, bring a contractor or an inspector with you to give a general summary of the property. If you are comfortable with the information provided, you could then make your offer not contingent on a home inspection. If you are not comfortable with not having a full inspection, I recommend have the inspection period as short as possible. Have the inspection scheduled when you send the offer over.

The most important step you can take when you know you will be entering a multiple offer situation is to have your agent ask what is most important to the seller. In many situations, the seller needs to find a new place to live and may want a rent back option. A seller could be relocating out of state and want a fast closing timeframe. As a serious buyer, you should structure your offer around what is most important to the seller. By doing this, your offer will stand out above other offers.

Hopefully these tips will help you purchase your new home. Whether you are interested in a residential or owner-occupied investment property, I am happy to help you during the process. Feel free to contact me at any time. Katie Kinney, Broker at Landing Real Estate., cell: 603-205-2276.