Friday, September 18, 2020

Real Estate: Attic Thermal Insulation

Submitted by Brandon Lussier

Special to The Windham Eagle

The attic accounts for a large percentage of a house’s heat loss and heat gain. Attic insulation reduces heat loss in the cold months, and prevents heat build-up in hotter months, making it a priority for insulation. In new construction, insulation levels for the attic are higher than all other areas. In an old home, the attic is the first place for insulation upgrades. The attic is comparatively easy to insulate since it usually presents no space constraint, making it easy to add a lot of insulation.


Critical to a healthy attic is good ventilation, with airflow circulating into and out of the attic. Circulation helps stabilize the attic temperature and remove moisture. Ideal ventilation has vent openings low on the roof and vents high on the roof to create draft. Air will flow naturally in the low openings and out the high openings.

This is usually accomplished with soffit vents at the eaves and rooftop vents (mushroom vents) or ridge vents on top of the roof. There are many other possibilities as well. Older houses often don’t have as much ventilation as we do today. It usually works out for the old home because there is not much insulation, either. If you upgrade the insulation you could inadvertently create a problem if consideration is not given to the appropriate insulation.

 Upgrades should consider insulation and ventilation together.

Air Leakage

Current building science recognizes that while attic ventilation is important, equally important is sealing air leaks from the rest of the house to the attic, especially in cold climates. In a typical home, recessed light fixtures, bathroom vents, plumbing stacks, chimneys and wall cavities present numerous potential air leakage paths to the attic. Air leakage from the house causes many problems including condensation, rot, mildew and in cold climates – ice dams.

Attic HVAC Ducting

The ducting that runs through the attic should be well sealed and properly insulated. Leaking ducting in the attic is a waste of energy. There is no point heating and cooling your attic. During cooling season it’s even more critical. Leaking or improperly insulated ducting could lead to condensation and water damage.

Do Not Disturb the Insulation

It’s best not to disturb the insulation in the attic. Some attics have vermiculite insulation. Most vermiculite insulation contains small amounts of asbestos. Disturbing the insulation can cause a cloud of asbestos, a substance it is best to avoid or to which exposure should be limited. In some cases, the vermiculite lies under a layer of a different type of insulation.

Visually, it may look like you have ten inches of fiberglass when, in fact, you may actually have four inches of vermiculite and six inches of fiberglass. If you have to disturb the insulation, check what kind of insulation you have first and take appropriate precautions. A standard dust mask does not provide

adequate protection from asbestos.

Upgrading Attic Insulation

If you are upgrading your attic insulation, make sure you hire a contractor who is knowledgeable about the techniques and codes for your area. Good contractors will assess the insulation type and condition, as well as the ventilation. <

This article is brought to you courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors. Contact Brandon with The Lussier Team at (207) 749-3775 for your next home inspection.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Real Estate -- Home: The New Classroom and Office

By Nicole Foster Broker/ REALTOR
You might have never fancied yourself a homeschooler or even a teacher but many parents are now tasked once again with working from their homes while providing necessary support for their distant learning or homeschooling students. Maybe you have not wanted to spend your time indoors this summer retrofitting your home for distant learning and/or work but the need is at your door once again. Working at the kitchen table isn’t ideal and can impact productivity and stress levels. One of the number one amenities buyers are looking for is a space that they can designate as an at home work space.  Homeowners are faced with some difficult and overwhelming decisions about how to best use their often limited space to accommodate everyone’s daily needs and many have been getting creative.
Here are a few tips to help you to get started with creating your own designated work areas at home:
1) Location, location, location
Consider what the needs will be for the space you’re creating. An open office in a high traffic area or pocket office within or near the kitchen could be ideal for a younger student but an older student or working parent may require privacy and quiet with a closing door.  Establish whether or not the designated work space needs to be near other people in the home or more distant from everyone.
2) Light It Up it’s an in home classroom or office, having adequate light will be important to reduce eye strain and create the right setting. Don’t rely on a singular source of light from one overhead fixture; instead make sure there are several different types of lights by adding lamps and removing or opening room darkening window treatments to let in more natural light. Consider swapping out an already existing interior door for a full glass or 15 light door which can eliminate noise while significantly increasing a room’s natural light. I have one on both my at home and agency office doors and am in
love with the effect and I also feel natural light is the best type.
3) Be Kind to Your Body
Prevent repetitive injuries and help to increase your productivity by keeping ergonomics in the forefront of your room design and furniture placement. Choose a comfortable chair that supports good posture and allows for both feet to make firm contact on the floor. A mat on the floor and a chair with wheels will help you to maneuver getting in and out more easily. Change it up by using a physioball instead of a chair on occasion or purchase an adjustable desk which doubles as a standing station.
4) Permanent or Portable
It might make sense to establish a workspace that can be moved from one area of the home to another with ease. A smaller desk on wheels can work well in the right floor plan. Try to determine how much desk space you will actually be using and see if a more compact and portable arrangement  can be very practical and so simple that even a small amount of space can work well.
works best. Establishing multiple smaller “crash pads” in more than one area where you can go to with your work
5) Connectivity might have a shed or area in your basement that you can repurpose as a designated work space but your internet connection may be sluggish or simply not reach. Be sure to test your devices to see if you will need a boost in your connection. Also look for outlets and where certain things will need to be placed within the space, many older homes have limited outlets.
Add a few items which are pleasing to look at and select organizational items which can also provide a decorative function. Include those who will also be using the space by communicating your vision to get feedback along the way to help reduce frustration upon completion. <
Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group and a Windham resident who loves real estate and people.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Real Estate: How can broadband change the Maine Real Estate market?

By Carrie Colby
As most of us know 2020 has brought many changes to our lives. Many of us are working from home, telecommuting, distance learning and homeschooling. Also, an unstoppable trend is the increasing importance of telehealth. We are in the early days of the telehealth revolution, but it is likely that in the future that life-critical healthcare will extend into the home requiring a higher standard of reliability. 
There is some good news for people living in more rural areas in Maine. Maine has approved expanding broadband internet access throughout the state. 
The real estate market in the greater Portland area has outpriced many home buyers and renters pushing them to more rural towns in Cumberland, Oxford and Androscoggin Counties.
With the ability to work from home or for companies that are considering relocating to Maine, with high-speed internet connections Maine companies will be able to compete, new companies will relocate to Maine, highly skilled workers will relocate to Maine and talented young people will stay. 
Just as the 20th century required adequate roads, and the centuries before required railroads and navigable rivers, today we must have high-speed Internet connections to the world in order to improve our economic prospects. National Telecommunications and Information Administration has chosen ConnectME as one of eight initial partner states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. Maine was chosen because it reflects geographic diversity.
Last year, Congress charged the administration with creating and maintaining the map as a searchable public database of information on broadband internet availability in the United States, according to a Feb. 13 Maine Department of Economic and Community Development news release.
“This is a welcome announcement which will strengthen and expand ConnectME’s efforts to improve broadband access for Maine families, businesses and communities statewide,” Heather Johnson, Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner, said in a press release. “Identifying gaps in high-speed internet coverage is the first step in ensuring every Mainer can access the tools they need to succeed and this in an important step in making that goal a reality.”
According to its website, the ConnectME Authority is a public instrumentality of Maine state government whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses.
The mapping project comes as Maine seeks to address gaps in broadband availability around the state. Lack of broadband — cable, satellite, fiber, DSL — has been found to affect areas from real estate sales and tourism to in-and-out migration in rural areas across Maine, as well as impeding talent attraction to areas with lack of broadband connectivity.
Of course, no one has a crystal ball, but I am certain that expanding broadband to more rural communities can only be helpful to Maine residents and expand their housing possibilities. <
This article was brought to you by Carrie Colby, Broker with Allied Real Estate in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Real Estate: Relationship with insurance company a key part of homeowner’s financial security

By Jonathan Priest
Most people in this day and age are overwhelmed with life in general.  Of course, 2020 has been one for the record books, but even before this year threw us all for a loop, it seemed like every day there were more things to worry about, more bills to pay, more things that needed our urgent, undivided attention!
Remember that you need to take care of yourself  and all facets of your well-being:  drink plenty of water, eat lots of vegetables, try to get the amount of sleep your body needs, take a (socially distanced) walk and get some fresh air every day.  See your doctor at least annually, and don’t stay quiet if you have questions about a new ache, a suspicious freckle, or other changes in your body!  And if you’re not getting the care you need, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion!
The same thing goes for your relationship with your insurance company… It might seem like a stretch to compare the two but think about it.  You are trusting a large piece of your financial security to your insurance company, so you need to make sure you and your agent are a good fit!  Your automobiles and home are likely your largest physical assets, so it’s important that you have someone you can reach out to.  That might be to ask questions, get clarification on language in your policies, or help you assess your needs so that you aren’t over OR underinsured!
Many people are initially reluctant to even consider shopping for insurance, as they think the process will be confusing, stressful, difficult and drawn out.  It may seem trivial but making that first call will be the hardest (and most important) part!  You will learn a few very important things which you should take note of, including the following: long did it take to get a live person?  Did they sound friendly, comfortable and relaxed?
Did they seem knowledgeable?  If you like to be able to meet with your agent in person, are they
How long will it take them to provide a quote/proposal (And as a follow-up, did they get it to you when they said they would)?  Can they share some customer reviews?
When you are ready to make that call, make sure you have your current policy information in front of you.  Everything you should need will be on your Declarations Page(s), which is typically in the first couple of pages of your existing policy.  It will be labeled as such, and will have your name, your address, the dates that the policy runs to and from, your policy number and the coverages you have selected. 
Now is also a good time to make sure your policies are “bundled”… (I’m sure you’ve heard that word more times in the last two years than you have your whole life previously in the constant bombardment of insurance TV commercials, and for that, I apologize on behalf of my industry). 
Why do insurance companies push so hard for that?  Yes, it WILL save you a significant amount of money, usually 15 to 20 percent depending on the company, but why would a company offer you such a savings?  What’s in it for them?  The bottom line is, the more policies you have with your company, the less likely you are to leave, and insurance companies spend a LOT of money to obtain a new customer (again, it goes back to those constant commercials).
However, aside from the savings benefit, it truly does help your agent in building your personalized insurance portfolio if they are aware of the entire “package” you are looking to protect. 
I hope this has been helpful, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
Jonathan Priest is a MetLife property and casualty specialist in Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 for your home, auto, life or business insurance needs.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Real Estate: Buying Sight Unseen

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR
Markets with low inventory and high demand have been experiencing an uptick to the number of offers being placed on homes “sight unseen” during the pandemic and some are speculating this trend is here to stay. All indications show that consumers have become more comfortable with the widespread use of technology which may have helped to shift attitudes and increase confidence in the process of buying and selling homes remotely.  The speed at which the current market is moving has likely been the main contributing factor for the sharp increase, with the combination of record low mortgage interest rates and limited inventory forcing buyers to move swiftly to get into certain areas. the years and during different markets I have represented buyers who did not see their (already existing) new home at all until the building inspection or during their final walk through and as a listing agent I’ve sold homes to buyers who were unable to view the home before making their offer.  It has not been a rare occurrence and there are a number of circumstances which may result in placing an offer on a home that you have not yet personally visited including a relocation with travel, working opposite shifts from your partner or spouse so you cannot both visit or simply not being able to make yourself available while limited showings are being held.
Ideally most people prefer to have the opportunity to step inside of a home personally at least once before making such a large financial decision, but what if you can’t?
Choosing the right buyer agent to act as your “Boots On The Ground” will be possibly be your most critical decision to get the home you need. An experienced broker will be able to connect you with a reliable and efficient team of local professional as needed through the process from showings to beyond the closing. Take the time to ask others you know in the area who they have had positive first-hand experiences with. Talk to several REALTORS and research their business. Make certain they are proficient using today’s technology including 3D tours and video conferencing as well as working with clients who are relocating or buying from a distance. Ask if they will be available to remotely view properties of interest with you in a moment’s notice, especially when looking in a competitive market. Inquire if they have any upcoming vacations scheduled and who will be providing coverage for them while they are away. yourself familiar the neighborhood and area by researching deciding factors such as crime, commute times, school districts and distances to amenities like shopping or recreation. Check with the municipality for any upcoming plans for tax increases, ordinance changes or growth surrounding the property of interest. Check distances to industry, mining, farming operations, transportation (highway, air traffic or train tracks) high voltage stations and other possible disturbances. Determine to the best of your ability the type and volume of traffic your road has, what the speed limit is and who maintains it. If you have a friend or family member who is close enough to visit the property with your agent or is willing to visit at different times of day they will be able to provide helpful feedback, also.
When virtually touring the property with your buyer agent inquire about specific features that photos can often times show differently than in person. Have the cabinets been visibly painted or do they appear to be original? If the home has been freshly painted or has upgrades, does the work appear to be quality? Are any of the sinks, toilets or showers stained? Do the windowpanes appear foggy or cracked or is there flaking paint around the trim? What do you hear outdoors? Do you smell any odors outdoors or indoors? Are there any creaks in the floors, stairs, doors, or cabinets? What do the neighboring homes, yards and driveways contain and how close are they? 
If you are a seller working with an offer from a buyer who has not yet viewed the home, you may feel skeptical, but in my personal experience and observations there has been no correlation between “buyer remorse” and sight unseen offers and it doesn’t necessarily mean the contract will be “shaky”.
Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group and a Windham resident who loves people and real estate. <

Friday, August 14, 2020

Real Estate: Current Market Trends

 Per the Maine Association of Realtors®, the number of sales of single-family homes in Maine is down slightly in June but prices remain on the rise. Realtors across the state sold 1,720 homes in June—78 fewer homes than a year ago – a 4.3 percent decrease compared to June 2019. The Median Sales Price (MSP) for homes sold in June reached $249,000, an increase of 4.15 percent compared to June 2019. The MSP indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less.
“As Maine navigates COVID-19, our real estate industry has adapted,” says Tom Cole, 2020 President of the Maine Association of REALTORS®. “The June statistics show improvement and indicate that sellers, buyers, and our industry partners are adjusting to Maine’s health and safety protocols and have growing confidence to transact real estate business.
Maine is experiencing a lack of inventory which is driving multiple offer situations and quick sales on many homes. Mortgage rates remain low which is encouraging buyers to turn out as well. to the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell 8 basis points to 3.22 percent from a week ago, a new record low. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate fell 5 basis points to at 2.67 perecent from a week ago.
There are always certain life circumstances that will continue to keep the marketplace active. Working with a local Realtor® who knows the area is critical to having well-informed choices available to you as a consumer and ultimately guiding you successfully through the sale.
 As I have said before, please call a local Realtor® for all your real estate needs no matter how big or small. We are trained professionals here to make your life easier. It's best to surround yourself with the right team of professionals that can continuously give you the right advice for all your circumstances.
Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact <

Friday, August 7, 2020

Real Estate: Top tips for an inspection-ready home

By Brandon Lussier
Special to The Windham Eagle 
A home inspection gives buyers an unbiased evaluation of the home’s condition. By taking some important steps to prepare the property for inspection, your sellers can avoid some basic problems that might otherwise affect a clean inspection report. Since a home in good condition can command a better price, they will benefit as well.
  • Prior to the inspection, repair any damaged steps and walkways and seal cracks in the driveway.
  • Re-caulk around exterior doors, windows, check flashing and replace any missing or damaged shingles.
Inside the home, relatively minor fixes can improve the home inspection results.
  • Repair leaky faucets and fixtures, and repair grout around tubs and sinks.
  • An electrician should inspect receptacles and switches and make any needed replacements or repairs.
  • Replace any cracked or broken window glass and loosen any windows that are painted shut.
  • Have the fireplace and chimney cleaned and checked by a professional.
  • Arrange service appointments for the furnace and central air conditioning so that any issues can be addressed before the home inspection.
  • If the home has battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, put in fresh batteries and install additional units if any are missing. Hard-wired detectors should be tested as well. are some tips to help the inspection process go smoothly:
  • The owner will need to provide keys to any locked areas, and allow access to the attic, crawl space, garage and yard.
  • Be sure that the home inspector has access to components such as electrical panels, the main water shut-off and gas meter. Move objects from around the water heater, furnace and central air conditioning unit so that the inspector can reach them unimpeded.
  • In cold winter climates, clear walkways of snow and ice for safe access to the home.
  • Pets should be taken out of the home or crated for their own safety and that of the home inspector. Dogs in particular can be disruptive, and some may become distressed by having an unfamiliar person in their “territory.”
It’s always a good idea for residents to store small valuables and medications out of sight and in a secure location for peace of mind. One option is for them to simply take these items along when they leave during the inspection.
An inspection-ready home presents itself best for evaluation and makes the entire process go more smoothly.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors. Contact Brandon with The Lussier Team at (207) 749-3775 for your next home inspection.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Real Estate: An experienced broker can help acquire land for cannabis business

The Enterprise Development District (ED Zone) is now one of two designated areas in Windham specifically zoned for cannabis growing, cannabis processing and cannabis testing in addition to a wide variety of other traditional uses.

The Windham Town Council in recent months voted to add the Enterprise Development District and the Industrial District as zones that will permit cannabis business operations while commercial zones in Windham will no longer accommodate Cannabis related Businesses unless they have been grandfathered.

The intent of the Enterprise Development District (ED Zone) is to provide a unique area within the Town of Windham to allow manufacturing, processing, treatment, warehousing, storage, research and distribution with safe, well-regulated vehicle access located off a major street which can conform to the performance standards set forth in this section and in all other applicable ordinances of the Town of Windham. Enterprise Development District is located right off Route 302 on Enterprise Drive in North Windham. This zone offers business owners a wide variety of uses and has ample land area for large commercial buildings and large-scale projects. For easy reference, you can access Enterprise Drive directly off Route 302. The Ice Cream Dugout is at the corner and just down Enterprise Drive is Genest Concrete. There is ample vacant land available there for new commercial development purposes.
The following uses shall be permitted in the Enterprise Development District as a matter of right; auction house; automobile auction facility; automobile repair services; building, accessory, business and professional offices; contractor services; contractor storage yard; construction services; heavy major construction services; heavy convention center; distribution facility; forestry, hotel, industry and heavy industry; light; marijuana cultivation facility; marijuana manufacturing; facility marijuana testing facility; mineral extraction;  motel; public utility facility; retail sales; accessory; small engine repair; public warehousing; private warehousing; and public wireless telecommunications tower and facility.

In addition to the permitted uses, there are a couple of conditional uses that may be an option as well including automobile storage lot and shipping containers.
All buildings or structures shall be connected to the public water supply and have a sprinkler system, or a fire suppression system installed when required by the Town of Windham Building Code and the town may require groundwater monitoring of the project at the owner’s expense.

Noise is required to be muffled so as not to be objectionable due to emission, beat frequency or shrillness. The emission of odorous or toxic matter in such quantities as to be readily detectable at any point along any lot lines creating a public nuisance or hazard is prohibited. utilities, including telephone and electrical services, are required to be placed underground.

Those considering this type of business also are required to submit information demonstrating compliance with any applicable federal, state or local requirements. If the application does not require subdivision or site plan review, the information shall be submitted to the Code Enforcement Officer for approval before a building permit is issued. The maximum permitted density of smoke, dust and other particulate emissions during normal operations of any activity shall not exceed the maximum allowable under the regulations of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
When considering the acquisition of land for new commercial development, you should always engage a team of professionals to assist you with the process. Working with an experienced commercial broker is one of those instrumental team members that can help guide you. <

This article was brought to you by Larry Eliason, Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond. You can reach him at 207-415-2112. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Real Estate: Taking Advantage of this Hot Market

By Matt Trudel

Buyers often get frustrated in a hot real estate market.  Before they can even schedule a showing a house might go under contract.  They put in a full price offer only to find out they were outbid by another buyer for more than the asking price.  All of this adds up to motivate buyers and works out in creating a great seller’s market.  So, should you buy in a seller’s market?

This is a great time to purchase a new home no matter if you are a first-time home buyer or this is your third or fourth home.  Also, a perfect time to purchase that summer house or camp on the lake that you have been dreaming about.  While home prices are slightly up over the last couple years, the interest rates on mortgages are at all-time lows. just had a buyer close on a house and he locked in his mortgage at 2.75 percent for a 30-year fixed and only put 3.5 percent down.  Obviously, this keeps his monthly payment down and that is very important to all buyers.  The other thing that a low interest rate does is increase a person’s buying power.  How does that work you ask?  Here is a simple example to explain it.

A buyer wants to have his payment around $1,200 per month not including property taxes and insurance.  If they base their search on a 4 percent interest rate, they will be looking around the $250,000 range.  If they can lower their rate to 3 percent it would give them about a $35,000 increase in their price range and still keep their payment at $1,200.  So now they can purchase a home for $285,000.

With interest rates this low I often encourage buyers to push their comfort level with what they think they want for a monthly payment.  I don’t want them to over extend themselves, but I do want them to consider where they are at with their careers.  Do they have a raise coming, perhaps a promotion, or maybe they are about to have their vehicle or boat paid off?

My thought is that most people get a yearly raise and our income goes up.  This will mean that the monthly payment won’t seem quite as much in a year or two once you pay off that car or perhaps when a child turns 18 and graduates, the child support stops and you can afford a little more of a payment.  So, take time to look at the overall big picture when deciding what your price range is for purchasing your new home.

Sellers I have one important piece of advice for when trying to sell in this very hot seller’s market.  Price your home correctly.  It is the most important thing you can do.  Buyer’s are very much aware of what home values are in this day an age.  A correctly priced home will have several buyers looking at it and will generally wind up with more than one offer.  If your home isn’t selling in this market, then there is something drastically wrong or it is overpriced.  

This article written by Matthew Trudel, Owner Five Star Realty, Windham 207-939-6971. <

Friday, July 17, 2020

Real Estate: 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 cost and other unexpected expenses that pop up a derail many home buyers dreams. you are fortunate enough to save a substantial down payment, you can avoid private mortgage insurance so that more of your monthly payment is actually going toward the principle you owe. The larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payment also. 

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. 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 longterm plan. What will your life look like in five years, 10 years, even 15 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 of 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 longterm plan will help prevent a premature move. 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 of 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 10 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 Yost is a realtor, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with any of your real estate questions at

Friday, July 10, 2020

Real Estate: Do you need help renting your vacation home?

By Carrie Colby

Do you own a second home, and you find you don’t use it very often? Or you bought your retirement home years before you will actually need it. Or you would love to buy a vacation home but need some help paying for it.

All those scenarios lead homeowners to turn their second homes into vacation rentals. Renting out your vacation home can yield significant financial benefits – but only if you do it right.

One of the first decisions when starting the vacation rental process is whether to hire a management company or manage your rental yourself.

Renting a vacation home is a business, which means you’ll need the proper business tools in place, from being able to accept credit cards as payment to paying lodging taxes to getting the home cleaned quickly and completely between guests.

While websites such as, and provide online marketing tools, access to credit card processing, booking tools and other infrastructure, the individual owner still must handle guest inquiries, screen renters, and arrange for cleaning. The online sites usually charge an annual fee for listings. VRBO and HomeAway start at $499 a year and offer a pay-per-booking option of 8 percent, while Airbnb charges both hosts and guests a small processing fee – 3 percent for hosts and 6 to 12 percent for guests.
Full-service management companies are available in the Lakes Region and they typically retain a portion of the rental proceeds to manage the entire process, from bookings through cleaning.

If you do hire a local rental management company, you can avoid these extra charges from online websites for both yourself and your guests. Most renters are happy to use a local company as long as they can verify that they are who they say they are. Another plus is that the management company is nearby in case there is an issue during the renter’s stay. You should ask when hiring a local
management company if they have connections with tradesmen such as plumbers, appliance repair and trash removal. You may also need a lawn service and a handyman which they can help with as well.

Management companies can help you make rules and create a strong rental agreement. They can also help you decide what number of people you’ll allow per stay and whether to allow pets If your home is popular, you will have one set of guests checking out in the morning and a second set arriving that afternoon. That makes it imperative that the cleaning crew show up on time.  If you don’t live nearby, your cleaning crew is also your eyes and ears. home rental industry has grown significantly in recent years, as online listings and reviews make travelers more comfortable with the model. But travelers who are accustomed to staying at hotels and resorts expect significant amenities and, in some cases, service.

Furnish, decorate and equip your home. Amenities typically depend on the market and the price, but
people often expect most of what they would get at a hotel. A fast Wi-Fi connection, expansive cable package and other entertainment options are recommended. If your vacation rental home is on a lake it is good to have outdoor activities and non-powered boats such as kayaks, canoes and/or stand up paddle boards for example. Ample outdoor seating for relaxing and eating including a grill and possibly a fire pit are also expected.

Make your home stand out. In a world of online reviews, you want your guests to recommend your home or become return customers themselves. Anything you offer to make your home stand out, and to make their vacation easier, is likely to yield dividends. 

This article was brought to you by Carrie Colby, Broker with Allied Real Estate in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Real Estate: Discover the perfect time for buying a vacation home

Discover the Perfect Time for Buying a Vacation Home

If you’re lucky enough to have reached the time in your life when you can seriously contemplate buying a vacation home, there’s much to be excited about. According to the National Association of Realtors, one in eight homeowners are thinking of buying a second home. While summer may be the time of year you start to think longingly about sun, sea and sand, it may not be the best time to buy a cottage.

Here are some things to consider when you’re buying a vacation home.

Peak of season is seldom a good idea
Avoiding peak seasons makes sense in supply and demand terms. Since vacation homes can be sentimental investments, many who’ve inherited them rent them out as additional sources of income so they can hang onto a property. They may be sharing it with siblings or have had to buy them out. 

They also may be part-time vacation home investment owners who got in early on a new resort but need to ensure 100 percent occupancy during peak season to make their investment pay off. for the final weeks of the high season to make your offer or hold off until just after peak season ends. If you’re looking for a summer vacation home, the time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is the perfect window of opportunity. You’ll still take possession early enough in the year to be able to get a glimpse of what future summers can hold, and you’ll also have a chance to do any needed repairs before winter sets in. Then you can spend the winter planning what you need to do to make the place your own the following summer.

If you’re looking at a winter vacation home, spring is the best time to make an offer. While diehards may still be renting or occupying their vacation homes, hoping to get one or two more days of spring skiing or boarding in, most will have placed their properties on the market. Just be careful not to leave your offer for too late in the year if the area you’re interested in is remote. Some owners board up their properties for the off season, making it harder to get viewings. Also, don’t forget the power of spring mud. Properties accessible through three seasons may become harder to access during spring thawing and flooding.

Be sure the time is right

Before buying a vacation home, you need to think long and hard about a whole host of considerations. First and foremost is whether you will be able to use it enough to make it worthwhile for you financially. Even if you buy a vacation home and plan to rent it out to defray expenses, that means your time there will be limited. While you may love a cottage on a lake in fall, not everyone else does. If you can’t afford to spend the 4th of July at your own cottage, this may not be the time to buy.

Second, have you considered all the duplicate expenses involved? Whether you want your vacation home to mirror your principal residence in all ways, you can’t escape the fact that you’re going to need two of everything now. Unless, that is, you want to treat every weekend you spend at your vacation home like a camping trip (which may well be the case). You’re not going to want to haul lawn mowers and leaf blowers to the cottage every summer weekend. That goes double for appliances, linens and furniture. You’ll also have a second set of bills for property taxes, insurance, yard maintenance, internet and cleaning costs. In addition, there may be HOA fees, too.

Third, what are your vacation goals? If you want to visit every continent and are running out of time to tackle Asia and Africa, does a vacation property make sense? If you find you’re drawn to experiential vacations like hiking the Appalachian Trail, swimming with the dolphins or building someone else a home with Habitat for Humanity, a vacation home may be an anchor you don’t need.
On the other hand, if you know you can afford to invest in a second property and have a long-term plan to use it as a home base while you globetrot in retirement, or if you want your family to have the freedom of the great outdoors while they’re growing up, it might just be time to seize the day. <

This article was submitted by Richie Vraux, REALTOR with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group. Reach out to him anytime at 207-317-1297.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Real Estate: Fannie Mae revises eligibility for refinancing and home purchasing loans for those impacted by COVID-19

By Ed Pierce

Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored enterprise that makes mortgages available to low- and moderate-income borrowers, has taken steps to help homeowners and those seeking to purchase a home affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by adjusting some guidelines temporarily.

Homeowners who have taken a forbearance, or a temporary postponement of mortgage payments, because of a COVID-19 financial hardship are eligible to refinance their mortgage or buy a new home. Additionally, Fannie Mae is granting a month extension that will enable lenders to sell to Fannie Mae single-family loans currently in forbearance.

“We are listening to and prioritizing our customers’ needs, helping them serve homeowners efficiently and responsibly. Today’s updates provide clarity and support to both lenders and borrowers in a manner that fosters sustainable homeownership, prudently manages enterprise and taxpayer risk, and maintains safety and soundness in the housing finance system,” said Malloy Evans, Fannie Mae’s Senior Vice President and Single-Family Chief Credit Risk Officer.
Under the these new temporary eligibility directives, homeowners who missed payments and have entered into a loss mitigation solution, whether it be a repayment plan, payment deferral, or a loan modification, find themselves now eligible for a new refinance or able to purchase mortgage after making three payments on time.
Evans said that there is no waiting period for borrowers who missed payments due to a COVID-19 financial hardship, but who have since completed reinstatement by repaying the full amount of the outstanding payments missed during the forbearance period.
There also is no waiting period for borrowers who requested forbearance due to a COVID-19 financial hardship but ultimately were able to make all their payments in full and on time, Evans said.
Additionally, Fannie Mae’s ability to purchase single-family mortgages in forbearance have been extended in an effort to provide additional financing options to single-family mortgage lenders. Loans dated on or before June 30, 2020 are extended provided that they loans are delivered by Aug. 31, 2020 and only one mortgage payment has been missed.
Using terms of a COVID-19 forbearance plan, homeowners are required to repay the missed payments, but the new change does not require them to repay the forbearance all at once. When an individual’s plan is up, mortgage servicers must work with the homeowner to determine how they will repay missed payments.

Homeowners and renters are encouraged to can visit Fannie Mae’s website for an overview of the various options available to those who might need help resulting from COVID-19 hardships.

Just since March of this year, Fannie Mae has undertaken a number of significant actions to help homeowners and renters facing COVID-19 financial hardships.

According to a press release issued by Fannie Mae, it has moved to suspend foreclosures and evictions affect ting homeowners, extended and strengthened eviction procedures for multi-family renters when the property owner or landlord received a forbearance, modified schedules for forbearance repayments, created a new COVID-19 payment deferral option to assist homeowners resuming their monthly mortgage payments following a forbearance, and launched “Here to Help,” an educational effort to connect homeowners and renters with tools and resources to navigate available options if they sustain a COVID-19 financial hardship.

"Fannie Mae is committed to providing sustainable housing options to help keep people in their homes," said Hugh R. Frater, Chief Executive Officer for Fannie Mae. "We hope ‘Here to Help’ will bring some clarity, transparency, and assurance to homeowners and renters who are facing job loss, reduction in work hours, illness, or other issues related to COVID-19."
The "Here to Help" online portal at features informative videos, fact sheets, mortgage loan and apartment rental lookup tools,and various other handy resources to equip homeowners and renters with the information they need to successfully navigate their options. The portal also provides mortgage servicers and lenders with tools to better assist their customers.

Some of these new options include a clear explanations of forbearance, repayment options after forbearance, and training videos for loan servicers.

Through "Here to Help," homeowners and residents of multifamily rental properties with a Fannie Mae-backed mortgage can access HUD-approved housing counselors via the Disaster Response Network. Fannie Mae finances about one-in-four homes and one-in-five multifamily mortgage loans in the United States.
"We are committed to putting people first, helping Americans stay in their homes, helping customers stay in business, and ensuring that the nation's mortgage and housing markets remain strong," said Frater. 
Fannie Mae partners with lenders and families across the country and strives to make 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and affordable rental housing possible for millions of Americans. <

Friday, June 19, 2020

Real Estate: Has your home been tested for radon?

Testing your home for radon helps ensure the health of loved ones inside. Radon testing your home is easy to overlook, but the air quality inside a home is a direct link to the well-being of your family.  Radon build-up causes thousands of lung cancer deaths throughout the country every year. Protecting you and your family’s health starts by having your home professionally tested for radon. Pillar To Post offers continuous monitoring technology to conduct these tests, provide reliable results, and will recommend steps to mitigate unsafe radon levels if found.

What is radon?
Radon gas is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas. It is formed by the breakdown of uranium, a natural radioactive material found in soil, rock and groundwater.

What is the threat of radon?
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. In the United States, the EPA estimates that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are radon related.

How does radon get into a home?
When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted into low concentrations and is not a concern. Within homes, it typically moves up through the flooring system into other openings and moves between the ground and living spaces. Your home can also trap radon inside, where it then builds up over time. Any home may have a radon problem – this means new and old homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, even homes with or without basements. This means you can live in an area with fairly low environmental radon, but you could still have significant levels in your home.

Here are the most common ways that radon can enter your home:
  • Construction joints
  • Crack in the solid floors
  • Crack in the walls
  • Cavities inside walls
  • Gaps around service pipes
  • Water supply
  • Basement sump pumps
  • Fireplaces
  • Pipe entrances

Radon inspections for your home

The primary defense against the dangers that radon poses to your home is having a home inspector test it to detect unsafe or elevated radon levels. Pillar To Post home inspectors will help you protect against these dangers by detecting Radon gas building up in your home. By employing state-of-the-art testing equipment Pillar To Post home inspectors can accurately measure radon levels in your house. Gathering the data and helping you to understand this phenomenon will provide peace of mind as you look to make your home healthy for your family. Radon testing is the crucial first step in mitigating this potential danger.

Who should have their home tested for radon?

Testing for radon is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk. The EPA and Surgeon General recommend all homes be tested below the third floor. It is estimated that one in every 15 homes in the United States has elevated levels of radon. While some areas of the county are at higher risk than others the EPA warns that any home could have an issue with radon levels that only testing will make clear.

The Natural Dangers and Health Risks of Radon

Radon is a by-product of uranium as it breaks down presenting itself as a naturally occurring gas. There is no way to stop the decay of uranium, and no way to prevent this in nature. The only defense against radon gas build up is mitigation, which begins with testing for unsafe levels of radon by a Pillar To Post home inspector. Our professional inspectors will perform a radon inspection or a “Healthy Home Inspection” in your home at any time whether you already own or are considering the purchase of a new house.
Radon is dangerous, and not a hazard you want to leave to chance. Carcinogens are categorized based on their individual risk factors to people. Radon is a Class 1 or 1A gas, this categorization is reserved for all agents, compounds or mixtures known to cause cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country and responsible for thousands of deaths each year. Prolonged exposure to radon gas causes cancer. Your Pillar To Post home inspector has the equipment and training necessary to accurately detect unsafe radon levels.

If you would like more information on Radon visit: <

This article was submitted by Pillar To Post Home Inspectors – Lussier Team in Windham.