Friday, May 24, 2024

Real Estate: Welcome to Spring

By Richie Vraux

So, finally we are feeling the warmth of the sun on our heads as we clean up from a very mild, but yet a very devastating winter.

The storms have left a lot of fallen trees, branches, sea wall damage and homes being swept away due to historic high tides and high winds. But you know, Maine is still, in my opinion, one of the best places to live in America.

The West Coast has forest fires every year, heavy and drenching rains, flooding, then landslides. The middle of the country has repeat tornados and extremely high heat.

Yuk! Bring me back to New England where I love the four seasons and all that each brings us.

I see everything starting to turn green and flowers blooming. It’s a great time to sell your home.

Upsizing or downsizing, the real estate market is still at its peak. Home sales are at peak levels for sellers. If priced appropriately, they are still getting top dollar.

Who would ever think this sellers’ market would last this long?

One of the reasons is that the rental market is out of control. Rentals start anywhere from $1,800 to $2,200 for a 2-bedroom to $3,000 to $4,000 for anything above that.

So being that I’m a real estate broker, I think the better investment here is buying your next property.

Besides that, in a rental, you have to abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the association. Your television and your radio have to be at levels most people find inadequate for their listening pleasure.

In short, you are not in charge of your own situation.

Although interest rates are still 7.0 plus or minus, the monthly payment to own is still lower than renting and somewhere down the road the rates will come down to the 5.0 percent level which is more comfortable to buyers and homes become more affordable at that time.

Real estate ownership has for most people always been the American dream, so why rent when you can own your own little bit of heaven?

Richie Vraux is a real estate broker with Pine Tree Realty of Maine. We will be back at our same location at 76 Tandberg Trail in Windham shortly. Richie has been a real estate specialist for more than 25 years, so take advantage of his expertise. Call him at 207-317-1297.
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Friday, May 17, 2024

Real Estate: Kitchens are my favorite

By Warren O’Shea

I love kitchens.

It’s where I keep my dark roast coffee and thick-cut bacon.

Speaking of coffee, there is a rising popularity of kitchen remodels utilizing integrated coffee and beverage stations. These drink centers keep supplies organized and readily available for guests and family members. Positioning the location of the beverage station just on the outskirts of the main prep and cooking area allows for the thirsty hordes to comfortably craft their concoctions without getting in the way of the cook! Upper cabinets may have glass doors and interior glass shelves and be back lit to show off your collection of fine crystal or Cristal. Under cabinet lighting with adjustable light tones and colors illuminate the workspace below.

The countertop may be of almost any material but my go-to is an oiled cherry butcher block. Natural wood does need a bit more maintenance over time compared to a stone or engineered surface, but I feel it’s well worth the extra effort for its warm color and it’s softer on your delicate stemware. Having the beverage station plumbed in can be a bit of a project if it doesn’t currently exist in that location, [1] but the benefits are worth the expense.

The installation of a small bar sink allows you to not only do some basic washing but can also double as an ice bucket for highly popular and most consumed beverages. Having water available also allows you to have a hard-plumbed espresso or coffee maker, and an on-demand, high temperature water faucet for tea and cocoa. For larger appliances, a dedicated ice machine and a dishwasher will make hosting your gatherings exceedingly more efficient. Let’s not forget the refrigeration. Many wine refrigerators fit nicely under a countertop as well as regular refrigerators that have drawers instead of doors.

There are many new innovations aimed at making both cooking and cleanup easier and healthier. Some products are available now; others are rolling out in the coming months. One of the new features is a hinged cooktop grill and griddle. As anyone with a gas cooktop knows, removing and cleaning under the grates can be a real chore. First, the users need a clear safe space to set the grates down. And then, they must avoid dirtying or scratching that surface, and back to the cooktop itself, with the heavy grates.

Whirlpool recently introduced a simple solution to the problem with its 30-inch gas cooktop with EZ-2-Lift hinged cast-iron grates, which users can lift so they can clean easily underneath. For a deeper clean, the grates can be removed and popped in the dishwasher.

Not as innovative but incredibly useful are the smart solutions for storing food and kitchen tools. Roll-out drawers behind cabinet doors make accessing items much less arduous. Many rollouts are rated for up to 100 pounds so heavy pots and even small heavy appliances like a 5-quart mixer will store comfortably. Double-sided spice racks speed up your flavor game, and drawers made specifically designed to hold aluminum foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper help with prep, cooking, and food storage.

An item that has seen many transformations is the humble kitchen sink. Stainless steel is commonly used, but there are still slate and soapstone used as well as other materials. Many are divided on the question of one bowl vs two bowls, but most can get behind the new sink workstations that contain myriad accessories built to perfectly fit on the lip of the basin. The choices include cutting boards, prep bowls, knife blocks, colanders and racks for dishcloths or cleaning utensils. These items can centralize and organize prep work.

This is just a short list of what your kitchen could have, follow O’Shea Builders LLC on Facebook for remodeling tidbits.

Warren O’Shea is the owner of O’Shea Builders LLC, Maine’s most award-winning remodeling contractor, winning gold in Portland Radio Group’s “Best of 207, 2024”. He has 35+ years of residential remodeling experience. He is a certified home inspector and has been featured on HGTV, Food Network, and Maine Cabin Masters. He is a recipient of the Portland Police Department’s “Citizen Award” and is a staunch consumer advocate. Warren is the vice president designate of the Home Builders and Remodelers association of Maine, has, co-authored articles for nationally distributed trade magazines as well as having published articles featured in CEO World, USA Today and New York Weekly. O’Shea builders was nominated for DownEast Magazine’s “Best of Maine 2024”, “Builder” category and we would love your vote! https://vote.downeast.com/ <

Friday, May 10, 2024

Real Estate: Prepping for the summer months

Complied by Jonathan Priest

Summers are a great time to spruce up the look of your home and bring in some cool elements, to escape the scorching heat. The easiest way to keep a house cool is by using heavy curtains and shutting the windows and drawing the curtains at 11 a.m. sharp. One can go in for blinds and bamboo curtains, to keep the excess heat out and keep the space cool. One can keep small pots filled with water in the corners, to cool the space, especially in areas where there is breeze blowing in. Also, in the evening hours, ventilate the house by opening the windows and allowing some air in.

Opt for cool and soothing colors

Use light colors as much as possible within the house, as it will reflect light and heat and give a pleasant ambience to the living space. In summer, let light colors be the base of your interiors. Work with neutral colors like ivory or shades of green, to retain the cooling effect. Warm tones like olive, lilac or burgundy can be soothing, without seeming overwhelming. Blues, greens and beige, are all ideal to use during the summer. Accent pieces, inspired by nature, can also brighten up the home. Prints that are abstract or floral and bright can remind one of the better side of summer, and not just the temperature.

Spruce up the home with natural fabrics

Cotton is by far the best natural fabric to use in the summer, for bedding and sofas, followed by linen. These fabrics are ‘breathable’ and have great insulating properties, allowing you to remain cool when it is hot. Natural fabrics are skin friendly and environmentally friendly, as well. Moreover, changing the bed linen according to the season, and also livens up the décor.

Cool the home with indoor plants


Keeping indoor plants is a simple way to cool a space and purify the quality of air. Indoor plants or plants on the windowsills, not only bring the temperature down, but also add style to the house, when arranged in fancy pots. Some house plants like English ivy and peace lily, absorb moisture from the air and reduce humidity. Plants that are tolerant to heat, such as sunflower, lemon grass, banana and palm, give a cooling touch to the house, while areca palm, aloe vera and baby rubber plant are known for removing toxins from the air. Homeowners can also grow plants on a terrace, to protect the house or building from the sun’s rays.

Choose energy-efficient and cool lights

Artificial lighting tends to add heat to a space. Homeowners can counter this by switching to cooler lighting fixtures, such as compact fluorescent or LED lamps, in place of incandescent bulbs. In addition to reducing heat, these lights also help to save energy. For a pleasant ambience, you can even experiment with mood lighting.

Dust off your outdoor furniture

Summer is the perfect time to give your outdoor furniture a makeover. With a little effort, you can restore them to their former glory. Start by removing any dirt, cobwebs, and debris accumulated from the winter and spring storms. Warm soapy water is an effective and affordable way to do this. For wooden furniture or benches, a pressure washer can be used to get rid of stubborn grime. If your furniture still looks a bit worn out, consider giving it a new look with weatherproof paint or a coat of varnish. These simple steps can go a long way in rejuvenating your outdoor furniture without having to buy new ones.

Add a splash of vibrancy


Are you planning to give your home a seasonal makeover? Try incorporating fresh colors such as zesty yellows, pastel blues, and oranges to create a vibrant summer vibe. You can start by painting one wall of a room with a bright hue or adding some sea-green turquoise scatter cushions to your sofa. Alternatively, consider buying new bed linen that captures the essence of a bright summer morning. Summer provides an excellent opportunity to experiment with home decor and add splashes of color and texture to your space.

Décor tips for summer

Insulated walls and roofs and double-glazed windows can substantially reduce heat gain and reduce the load on air-conditioning units.
 
Ensure that the air-conditioners in the house are serviced regularly and their filters cleaned, to maximize efficiency.
 
For beds, do away with heavy duvets, velvet satin silk and opt for lighter cottons. <

This article was brought to you courtesy of Farmers Insurance agent, Jonathan Priest, with an office at 57 Tandberg Trail, Suite 7, Windham and StaySafe.org. Call him at 207-893-8184 or send him an email at jpriest1@farmersagent.com

Friday, May 3, 2024

Rental properties provide investment opportunities for homeowners

By Carrie Colby

For years, the popularity of vacation rentals has been skyrocketing and continues to do so. Many of today’s travelers now prefer unique local stays, more space, and more privacy. All things vacation rentals offer that most hotels don’t.

Own a second home and want to get in on the action, but don’t know where to start?

Fear not! Comprehensive property management services, including short-term and vacation rentals are available in the Lakes Region.

They provide a full range of services to property owners who want to make the most of their investment properties. Whether you’re interested in renting your property for a short-term vacation, or you need assistance with long-term leasing and tenant management, they get your property in front of the right audience using a range of digital and traditional marketing strategies to attract high-quality tenants. They make it easy for tenants to book your property online and handle all aspects of payment processing and refund management, ensuring a seamless experience for all parties involved.

But that’s just the beginning! They offer comprehensive guest screening and management process guarantees that vet all potential guests to ensure they are trustworthy and responsible individuals who will take good care of your property. They provide ongoing support and assistance throughout the renters’ stay to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

They work with trusted vendors to keep your property in top condition with regular cleaning and maintenance, ensuring that it’s always ready for the next tenant. Plus, in addition to property management services, they take care of the collection and payment of Maine’s lodging tax, which is paid by the renter, and handle all the necessary paperwork to ensure compliance with local regulations.

They provide owners with 1099s at the end of the year, which is a document used to report income earned from rental activities. This makes tax reporting and filing much easier for the homeowner.

The best property management companies offer hassle-free property management services that allow owners to maximize their rental income, minimize their stress, and make it easy for property owners to enjoy the benefits of owning a rental property without the associated headaches.

So why not take advantage of local property management services today? Whether you’re interested in renting your property for a weekend or a year, hire a property management company with expertise and resources to help you succeed. Maximize your rental income and minimize your stress and hassle.

The best way to find a reputable property manager is by referral. Who sold you your home? Does your real estate agent know any good property managers? Do you have friends with investments in the same area? Referral-based recommendations for finding reputable property managers are invaluable, as they provide peace of mind and a level of trust from the outset. Interviewing potential managers allows owners to assess their expertise and compatibility with their needs and preferences.

Overall, the availability of comprehensive property management services in the Lakes Region provides an excellent opportunity for second homeowners to maximize their rental income while minimizing stress and hassle.
 
Carrie Colby is a Broker with Allied Real Estate, 909 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497. <

Friday, April 26, 2024

Real Estate: The Green Grass Grows All Around

By Nicole Foster, Broker/REALTOR

No Mow May has been steadily gaining popularity and even receiving official designations in some surrounding communities. This is a concept which helps to protect our pollinators including bees who winter in the “duff layer” of the grass. They benefit from the extra time for flowering weeds like dandelions, which are their first source of food after winter, time to bloom and can continue to find warmth on cold nights.

This new trend is well received by many homeowners as spring in Maine often arrives suddenly, catching many of us off guard as we transition from storm clean-up to yard maintenance. One moment, you're still removing winter's remnants; the next, your lawn is turning green and flowers are beginning to bloom, while your neighbor's Christmas decorations still linger. If you're feeling behind on your spring yard work, don't worry! 

Here are some expert tips to keep your lawn looking its best throughout the year.

Maine's climate, characterized by cold winters and relatively short growing seasons, requires special attention when it comes to lawn care. Start by thoroughly de-thatching your lawn to remove dead grass, leaves, and debris that have accumulated over the winter. Use a flexible metal rake or one that can be weighted and pulled. This will allow your soil to breathe and creates openings for the new shoots to grow.

There will be areas where you will need to add more grass seed to patches. Be sure to purchase new grass seed each year to maximize germination. The best time to overseed your lawn in Maine is in September, but the next best time to is during May.

Making sure that you select the correct type of seed for your site is very important so be sure to read the information label on the back of the bag of seed to confirm that the amount of shade and drainage your area has is suitable for what you are using. A blend that is high in fescues can best tolerate shade and foot traffic. Use a drop seed spreader to evenly coat the area in one direction, then make a second passage in right angles to the first passage.

Help to build nutrient rich soil by top-coating up to half an inch with a 50/50 mixture of compost and loam, but avoid doing this more than once per year. This mixture helps improve soil structure and fertility, reducing the need for additional fertilizers. For homeowners with mature lawns older than ten years, the lawn can often recycle nutrients naturally, eliminating the need for fertilizer altogether.

Mature lawns older than ten years old are able to recycle nutrients on their own. If you do choose to use a fertilizer on your lawn, then it is best applied between Labor Day and Columbus Day no more than once per year and select a phosphorus free product.

The majority of homes in Maine have soil that is acidic which favors the growth of weeds over grasses. Weeds will continue to grow and thrive even with the use of herbicides if you do not take steps to lower the pH in your soil. Contact the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Falmouth to get a soil test box that can be tested in the laboratory so you can raise or lower your soil’s pH and add nutrients that it requires.

Often homeowners will mow their grass too frequently or cut it too short, leaving it more susceptible to drought, insects, and disease. A good rule of thumb is to cut no more than a third from the length of the blade of grass, so allowing it to grow to four inches then cutting off one inch can help to prevent it from turning brown. Leaving the clippings can also help to prevent sun scorch, is nutrient rich, and should not contribute to thatch if minimally fertilized.

If your lawn has been richly fertilized then participating in No Mow May could result in too much lush growth and clumping once cut, contributing to mold or tick habitats so you may opt to participate in Less Mow May by reducing mowing to once four inches in length instead of eliminating for the month. <

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate with 19 years of experience and a Windham parent who loves people and real estate. Follow Nicole on Instagram @207nicolefoster or Facebook facebook.com/sellingmaine.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Real Estate: ‘Silver tsunami’ nearing for Maine real estate market

By Tia Morrell

Maine is well known for its beautiful coastline, picturesque landscapes, as well as vibrant, and wholesome communities. Over the last few years, these charming Maine features have captured the hearts of those from out of town and have put the state on the map as a popular moving destination.

However, our Pine Tree State is now at the forefront of grappling with the implications of an aging population on its housing market, ranking as the “oldest state” in the nation.

A recent analysis from Freddie Mac discussed how by 2035 there could be 9.2 million fewer baby boomer homeowner households in the United States. Experts predict that this wave of homeowners exiting the market could trigger a “silver tsunami,” which would involve an influx of homes coming into the market as baby boomers seek to sell.

Freddie Mac ranked Maine as the #1 state to find a good bargain, as there is a higher-than-average number of households that are occupied by homeowners aged 65 and older with the median age of Maine residents being 45, and 22 percent of the state’s population being aged 65-plus.

As this demographic continues to grow, so too does the demand for suitable housing options being tailored to the needs of our older population.

Fortunately, one solution stands out amidst the housing crunch, Accessory Dwelling Units. In the face of this demographic shift, ADU’s are emerging as a practical and innovative solution to address Maine’s housing needs.

ADU’s are secondary housing units located on the same property as a primary residence — think “in-law” apartments, or a backyard cottage. These units offer a range of benefits that include affordable housing, as well as fostering intergenerational living arrangements, and enabling aging homeowners to age in place, while also maintaining their independence.

For homeowners looking to capitalize on the burgeoning market for senior-friendly housing, investing in ADU’s could present a compelling opportunity. By incorporating these units into their properties, homeowners can unlock additional rental income streams as well as increase the overall value of their home.

Not to mention, ADU’s also offer a flexible housing solution that can adapt to changing needs over time, which makes them an attractive option for aging homeowners to downsize, without needing to leave their community. This is huge considering that the availability for assisted living, and nursing homes come with long waitlists, and large price tags.

Maine’s rich architectural heritage is reflected in its housing stock and Maine has some of the oldest homes in the country. While this adds to that “charm” I mentioned earlier, it also means that many properties are going to require renovations or updates to meet modern standards of comfort and accessibility. Fortunately, homeowners looking to undertake these renovation homes and projects (or ADU’s) may find themselves eligible for a variety of programs tailored to fit their needs.

Several financing options are available to assist homeowners to renovate or construct their homes. Programs such as the FHA 203K loan, or the Homestyle Renovation Mortgage, can offer homeowners flexibility to finance both the purchase of their property, as well as the cost of renovations in a single mortgage. Loans like these could just be the way to unlock the full potential and meet the evolving needs of Maine’s aging population.

According to recent projections, Maine is set to witness a surge of homes becoming available in the next six to eight years, with a significant portion of the population entering retirement age. It’s estimated that 40,000 homes are expected to hit the market by 2030, which will present both challenges and opportunities for homeowners and real estate developers.

If you’re interested in setting up a strategic real estate plan to set your family up for success in the future or have an innovative design that you’d like to configure into financing for a property, I am only a phone call away. Let’s stand together to lead our state to unlocking its housing potential for our residents, for generations to come.

Tia Morrell is a REALTOR for Landing Real Estate in Windham. Call her at 207-317-1833 or send her an email at tmorrell@landinghomesmaine.com.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The importance of calculating, reviewing and revisiting the replacement cost value of your home

By Tricia Zwirner

Oftentimes people will purchase a homeowners insurance policy when they purchase their home; however, many pay little attention to their policies after that. Over time, as they make renovations such as upgrading their kitchen, adding a deck, building a new garage, etc, they fail to review their homeowners coverage with their agent to ensure they are properly covered. This, unfortunately, can lead to a potential gap in coverage.

The replacement cost of your home is a critical factor in determining the adequacy of the coverage provided by your homeowners insurance policy. It represents the amount of money required to rebuild your home from the ground up if it were to be completely destroyed by a covered peril, such as fire, severe weather, or vandalism. In Maine, like in many other states, this cost can fluctuate over time due to various factors, making regular reviews of your insurance coverage essential.

Most Important Factors Influencing the replacement cost of homes in Maine

~ Construction Costs: Maine's construction industry is influenced by factors such as material prices, labor rates, and regulatory requirements. Construction materials like lumber, steel, and roofing materials can experience price fluctuations based on market demand, supply chain disruptions, and global economic conditions.

~ Regional Economic Trends: Maine's economy, including its real estate market and overall economic health, can impact construction costs. Economic growth, employment rates, and industry trends can influence the availability of skilled labor and the cost of building materials.

~ Environmental Considerations: Maine's unique environmental factors, such as its coastal location, weather patterns, and risk of natural disasters like winter storms and coastal flooding, can affect construction costs. Homes in coastal areas may require additional measures to withstand saltwater corrosion and coastal erosion, adding to replacement costs.


~ Building Codes and Standards: Compliance with building codes and standards, which can vary by location and evolve over time, can impact construction costs. Upgrades or modifications needed to meet current building codes may increase the replacement cost of your home.

~ Home Improvements and Upgrades: Any improvements or upgrades made to your home, such as remodeling projects, additions, or energy-efficient upgrades, can affect its replacement cost. These enhancements may increase the overall value of your property and necessitate adjustments to your insurance coverage.

Importance of Reviewing Home Replacement Cost for Insurance in Maine

Accurate Coverage: Ensuring that your insurance coverage reflects the current replacement cost of your home is crucial for adequate protection. Underestimating the replacement cost could leave you underinsured in the event of a total loss, while overestimating could result in unnecessarily high premiums.

~ Compliance with Policy Requirements: Many insurance policies require homeowners to maintain coverage equal to a certain percentage of their home's replacement cost. Reviewing and updating your coverage helps ensure compliance with policy terms and avoids potential coverage gaps.

~ Protection Against Inflation: Inflation erodes the purchasing power of money over time. The cost of materials, labor, and services needed for home reconstruction can increase due to inflation. Regularly assessing and adjusting your insurance coverage protects against the effects of inflation and ensures adequate financial protection.

~ Risk Management: Maine is susceptible to various risks, including severe weather events like winter storms, coastal flooding, and wildfires. Understanding the specific risks in your area and adjusting your insurance coverage accordingly is a proactive risk management strategy.

~ Cost-Effective Premiums: Accurately assessing your home's replacement cost helps ensure that you're paying appropriate insurance premiums. Overestimating the replacement cost may result in higher premiums than necessary, while underestimating could lead to inadequate coverage. Finding the right balance helps maintain cost-effective premiums.

~ Expert Guidance: Working with an experienced insurance agent familiar with Maine's insurance market and construction industry can provide valuable insights. They can conduct accurate assessments of your home's replacement cost, recommend appropriate coverage levels, and help you navigate policy options.

In conclusion, reviewing your home’s replacement cost for insurance in Maine in 2024 is a fundamental aspect of responsible homeownership. It involves understanding the various factors influencing replacement costs, such as construction costs, economic trends, environmental considerations, and regulatory requirements. Regularly assessing and updating your insurance coverage ensures accurate protection, compliance with policy terms, and proactive risk management against potential perils. Seeking guidance from insurance professionals can further enhance your understanding and help you make informed decisions regarding your homeowners insurance coverage.

Tricia Zwirner is a State Farm agent celebrating her 21st year in Windham. She and her team would love to hear from you and can be reached via phone and text at 207-892-2864 or via email at tricia@TRICIAZWIRNER.com.