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.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Spring has sprung so make your home shine

By Theresa Bouchard

Spring has arrived, which means it’s time to get your home in tip-top shape. Whether you are staying in your home or preparing it to sell, a good, deep spring-cleaning is essential both inside and out!

Traditionally, spring cleaning is a way to promote wellness in your home by keeping your environment clean, organized, and tidy. If you are selling your home in the impending spring market, this is your opportunity to make your home sparkle to attract buyers and show your home is well cared for.

Spring cleaning can be overwhelming so making a checklist can be helpful and keep you on track. Assigning a task or two each day for two weeks will help you accomplish a much-needed refresh to your home after the winter months.

Day 1

Declutter. As we hibernate during the winter months, we tend to accumulate more items than we need. If you haven’t seen or used something in a year, get rid of it! This includes food items, clothing, toiletries, etc. This will make you love your home again or attract a buyer’s eye!

Day 2

Organize. Organizing creates order in your life. From kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, laundry rooms, linen closets, basements, garages, you name it, organizing will give you a great sense of accomplishment!

Day 3

Wash your windows inside and out! With the buds blooming and the beautiful shades of green showing through, we want to be able to see it from our homes. Get those windows to shine!

Day 4

Clean all baseboards, banisters, walls, and mirrors then move on to all surfaces such as kitchen counters, backsplashes, vanities, etc. Then wipe down all electronics throughout the home and your office. Boost the air quality in your home by eliminating all that dust and grime! You will be happy you did!

Day 5

Power wash. Winter can cause a lot of wear and tear on the exterior of a home. Break out that power washer to give your home a new refreshing look! While you are at it, clean and sanitize your outdoor furniture and trash cans!

Day 6

Focus on soft materials in your home such as washing all curtains (including shower curtains) and all bed linens in each room. Use a cloths line to give your soft items a fresh spring smell!

Day 7

Clean and sanitize all appliances inside, outside, top and bottom!

Day 8

Change all filters such as furnace, water filters, heat pumps, etc. Replace burnt out lightbulbs.

Day 9

Clean all kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. Also, clean toilets, sinks and showers/tubs. Cleaning makes everything look new again!

Day 10

Vacuum out couch and chairs (you may find some money), wash couch cushions, wash rugs and sweep, vacuum and mop all floors. Make those floors shine!

Day 11

Shampoo all wall-to-wall carpets and change out batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Day 12


Step outside! Begin yard clean up with weeding, racking, blowing leaves, power washing decks and patios, etc. The exterior of your home speaks volumes! Driving into a well-manicured property is a great feeling and shows the homeowners care for their home.

Spring cleaning is a lot of work but well worth it in the end so you can relax and count down the days to summer in Maine!

If you are selling your home, this spring-cleaning checklist will make your home stand out above the rest! Along with an excellent real estate agent, talented photographer and professional home stager, you will be well on your way to attracting buyers to your decluttered, well organized, sparkling clean home!

If you are interested in making changes in your home such as paint colors, design changes or even selling your home and require staging services, please call us at TS Staging and Design at 207.400.9393. We are a seven-time award-winning home staging and interior redesign company based out of Windham. We are certified color experts, design experts and professional home staging experts. Call us today! <

Friday, March 29, 2024

Real Estate: Who needs a REALTOR these days?

By Matthew Trudel

Seems like a funny question to ask, but with today’s technology and real estate sites like Realtor.com and Zillow, people have a lot of information at their fingertips. You can look at a house on Zillow and see what they feel the value is. You can see what the taxes are and what houses in that neighborhood sold for recently. You also see when the house was built, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and there are usually plenty of photos of the property.

So, who really needs a REALTOR with all this information out there? The short answer is almost everyone should have a realtor representing them when selling or buying. We are the ones who have gathered and input all that information for years. The next question then is who pays the REALTOR their commission?

The quick answer that most people go with is that the seller pays the commission to both the listing agency and the selling agency. I have also heard people say that if you are buying a home, you should have a REALTOR representing you because it doesn’t cost the buyer anything. It is the seller who pays the commission to the buyer agent that is representing you and helping you through the process of purchasing a home. I believe this to be a false statement and I will quickly explain why and how I look at the whole commission situation.

Let’s say that seller Dennis wants to sell his house and calls listing agent Kelly to help him sell it.

Kelly charges 5 percent and says the house is worth $380,000. Dennis says let’s try it at $400,000. Along comes buyer Kathy who is represented by her buyer agent Matt.

Kathy likes the house and Matt writes up the offer at $400,000 and Kathy buys the house. The REALTOR Kelly splits the commission with REALTOR Matt, and each get paid $10,000. So, the seller paid the commission in this situation some might argue.

I say buyer Kathy paid the commission and here is why.

Seller Dennis was happy with getting his $380,000 for his house. If he had happened to meet or know Kathy and had dealt with Kathy directly without any REALTORS, then Kathy could have likely bought the house for $380,000.

I say Kathy paid both realtors because she paid $400,000 for the house. Kathy is the one who brought $400,000 to the closing, the realtors each took $10,000, and seller Dennis got $380,000.

I bring up this conversation because I think this whole commission structure is going to be changing by the end of the year. I think we will see that clients will be responsible for paying their own agents separately. It will or can still be a part of the deal, but I think it will clarify things a little better, especially for buyers.

The buyers will be able to see that if they do want representation and assistance in purchasing a home, that there is a fee for that service that they are going to be responsible for it. This is going to bring about a significant change to a lot of agency’s company policies and how we list and show properties in the future.

Buyers might find it a little more difficult to see houses without using a REALTOR as a buyer’s agent. This will also likely affect sellers as well.

What if buyers are from out of town and don’t have an agent they are working with and want to see the house on short notice. They might not be able to see it before they have to head out of town.

Five Star Realty is looking ahead and researching some more creative ways to implement some of the changes that we are expecting to happen.

More information will be coming out over the next couple of months, but you can always call us or email us if you would like to know more.

This article was written by Matthew Trudel, Owner/Broker at Five Star Realty in Windham. Call him at 207-939-6971. <

Friday, March 22, 2024

Cost vs. Value

By Warren O’Shea

After doing a walkthrough of a bathroom remodel project, the potential client asked me how much it might cost to do the project. After taking into consideration what she wanted to do, the age of the house, the difficulty in accessing the bathroom, permits, design, the plumbing and electrical, existing code violations that needed to be corrected, etc., my ballpark estimate was $23K.

The very nice lady was taken back a bit by my figure and thought it was quite high. “It’s only a bathroom, it shouldn’t cost more than $15K.” I was curious, so I asked how she came up with the number that she felt was reasonable. “Well, my neighbor down the road has a house as old as this and had her bathroom done for about $15K.” I said “Wow, that’s great, do you have any details on how they were able to get it done at that price?”

Did they have a contract, did they get permits, did they arrive on time, did they leave it neat every day, did they stay on the job until it was done, was the work completed in the time frame listed in the contract?

Were they transparent with their billing, were there licensed plumbers and electricians doing the work or was the contractor doing that portion of the project illegally? Were they courteous and respectful of her time and property?

The problem was that she was basing her assumptions on what she felt was a fair price solely on the end price of a different project, without having any of the details of that project. Doing a quality job completely from start to finish includes time spent in design, scheduling sub-contractor labor and deliveries, acquiring materials, set up time, clean up, and waste disposal.

What she could not see was all the time and money spent vetting subcontractors, paying workman’s comp, being OSHA certified, and complying with insurance safety audits. She also did not know that I provide my employees with not only a good living wage but a benefits package comparable to companies four times as large as we are. They are offered health, vision, dental, and 401K benefits. They get two weeks’ vacation, holiday, birthday, and bereavement pay. Their personal and family time is encouraged and respected. Their happiness is related to a happy client and a successful project, just as much as their knowledge and skill are. They get paid to go to trade shows and product seminars. They get quizzed on residential code, life safety code, electric and plumbing code, deck code, and win prizes for their correct answers.

The State of Maine does not have classes or a certification process to verify if a builder/remodeler has knowledge of residential construction. Becoming a certified home inspector is one way for us to let the homeowner know that we have passed a national test, which is why I pay tuition for them to become certified if they choose.

When you consider the cost for a remodeling project, keep in mind that you pay not only for the material and the work to be completed. You also pay for knowledge, years of experience, commitment to quality and customer service, professionalism, specialized skills and tools, work ethic and transparency.

If you are requesting a proposal from a builder or remodeler, please don’t disrespect them by trying to get them to lower their prices or by devaluing their experience, time, or efforts. They have worked incredibly hard to get where they are, making sacrifices to provide for themselves and their family. They shoulder the risk and responsibility of all the things that can go wrong while being held to industry code, having to account for unknown, unseen conditions, and maintaining a productive and skilled labor staff.

If their proposal exceeds your budget, there is nothing wrong with getting another proposal. I am confident that you will always be able to find somebody cheaper to do your project, but at what cost? Just remember, you get what you pay for.

The author is an advocate for consumer rights and a supporter of contractor licensing in Maine. He is a board member of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Maine and the Portland Arts and Technology High School. His articles have been published in CEO World, USA Today, New York and Miami Weekly, and Journal of Light construction magazines. He is the owner of O’Shea Builders LLC, a remodeling contractor with more 5-star reviews and more awards than any contractor in Maine.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Tech Trends: Reshaping Real Estate

By Lisa DiBiase

Buying a home today looks very different than how our previous generations used to buy their houses. Nowadays, most people probably start their search online and get pre-approved online. They might even view the home online and close remotely.

The Power of Data in Real Estate


Easier Access:
Previously, accessing real estate data often required physical visits to real estate offices or reliance on printed listings in newspapers or magazines. Today, real estate data is widely accessible online through various platforms, including real estate websites, mobile apps, and property listing portals. This increased accessibility has empowered consumers to research properties more easily and make more informed decisions.

More Information:
In addition to basic property information such as price, size, and location, today's real estate data includes a wide range of additional details, such as property history, neighborhood demographics, school ratings, crime statistics, and even environmental factors. This wealth of data enables buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals to conduct more comprehensive analyses and evaluations.

Other Technology: Real estate data is increasingly being integrated with other emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and drones. VR and AR technologies allow buyers to take virtual property tours and visualize properties in immersive 3D environments, while drones enable aerial photography for property inspections and site surveys. These technologies enhance the marketing appeal of properties and provide stakeholders with new perspectives for decision-making.

Impacts of VR Technology


Technology has changed the real estate industry, reshaping traditional practices and introducing different solutions that enhance efficiency, transparency, and accessibility. One in particular and widely used in today's listings are virtual reality (VR) tours which stand out as transformative tools with profound impacts on how properties are viewed and ultimately bought and sold.

Virtual reality tours have redefined the property viewing experience. Prospective buyers can now explore properties from the comfort of their homes, immersing themselves in virtual environments that offer a walk through experience of the space. This not only saves time and travel costs but also enables buyers to envision themselves living or working in the property before making a physical visit. Real estate agents benefit from VR tours by reaching a wider audience and providing more engaging presentations of their listings.

Recent real estate journey

Last week I sold a home to an out-of-state couple which marked a departure from the traditional real estate process. It began with the couple viewing the property listing online through our automated email search system and being instantly captivated by the property and location. Despite residing miles away, their interest was piqued, prompting them to delve deeper. There was an open house that weekend which initiated showings, including a deadline for offers the following week. With great anticipation that this was their perfect home, they flew to Maine to view the property. Instantly they knew this was the property. With intentions and a strong offer, they went under contract.

Despite the geographical distance, the couple remained undeterred in their pursuit. Through the convenience of current technology, they embarked on a journey of remote negotiations and virtual inspections. Each pixelated image and video call brought them closer to their dream of owning this piece of paradise.

As the transaction progressed, there may have been an absence of physical presence, however it was replaced by a digital thread weaving through emails, documents, and electronic signatures. The once-familiar rituals of sitting across the closing table, customary handshakes and exchanged keys and sharing aspirations were not exchanged. Instead, in the comfort of their home state, the couple finalized the deal and signed remotely. Despite departing from the traditional route, all parties involved expressed satisfaction with the collaborative effort that led them to the closing table.

Although there was the absence of a physical closing, the journey was rich with shared determination and mutual understanding. As the out-of-state couple officially became the new owners of their dream home, they were reminded that in today's world, distance is no match for dedication and collaboration. And though they hadn't sat together at a traditional closing table, the bonds forged through this unconventional process were just as strong, carrying the promise of future adventures in their new home.

As technology continues to advance, its potential to revolutionize the real estate industry further remains limitless, promising a future where buying and selling can be more efficient, accessible, and innovative than ever before.

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 the Broker/Owner for Landing Real Estate. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area and surrounding areas. For all your real estate needs contact Lisa at lisa@landinghomesmaine.com or call 207-775-SOLD.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Real Estate: Lakes Region a strong focus for commercial brokerage agency

By Larry Eliason

Butts Commercial Brokers is a Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Agency located at 1265 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, Maine 04071.

Butts Commercial Brokers was founded in 1978 to provide professional commercial real estate brokerage services in Southern Maine, specializing in the Greater Sebago Lakes Region, which includes, Windham, Raymond, Casco, Naples, Fryeburg, Bridgton, Gray, Standish, and Westbrook.

For over 44 years, we’ve been representing buyers, sellers, banks, towns and cities, tenants, and landlords in all sectors of Commercial, Investment, Multi-Family, Industrial Real Estate and Land, as well as Leasing and Consulting. We have a long and successful track record of closing commercial real estate sales and leasing transactions.

In addition to our Commercial Real Estate Division, Butts Financial Group is our affiliate that assists Clients with Business Sales, Mergers, Acquisitions and Valuations of Businesses.

Butts Financial Group has been specializing in the sale of businesses since 1978. We offer our clients a full range of financial services to include business consulting, valuation services, financing options and loan packaging. The Professionals at Butts Financial group are experienced executives that can sell your business in a confidential manner.

Selling a business is a big decision. The process can be intimidating and complex. Usually, business owners are so busy with their daily operations that they are not able to put forth the time and effort to sell their own business for a reasonable price. All too often, the owner that attempts to sell their own business ends up with much less than its actual worth or worse...can't sell it at all.

This is where Butts Financial Group steps in. We are specialists in the sale of businesses. Our marketing program is designed to sell your business for the highest possible price within the shortest period. When representing the Seller, we coordinate the sale transaction which includes, assessing the value of the business, packaging your business, marketing, qualifying buyers, negotiating, and closing the transaction. When representing a Buyer, we assist with our own valuation, negotiate the transaction, assist with financing structure as well as assist with all the due diligence necessary to verify the business that is offered for sale.

Your business will receive professional treatment from start to finish. A comprehensive business prospectus will detail your business' operation, financial history, and assets available for sale. Our prospectus will help position your business in the best possible light.

Our marketing program for selling a business is discrete as we feel that confidentiality is of the utmost importance to protect the business that you wish to sell. We prescreen and pre-qualify each prospective buyer and each prospective buyer we work with signs a confidentiality agreement.

This brief column is just an introduction to make you aware of the services provided by Butts Commercial Brokers and Butts Financial Group. Please feel free to contact us for a confidential conversation about your commercial real estate and/or business.

As a seasoned commercial real estate professional based locally, I have more than 35 years of experience to help clients access current as well as future Real Estate needs and to advance the quality of their real estate project and goals by capitalizing on my ability to search out the ideal solution and problem solve impediments, experience knowing and recognizing all of the requirements pertaining to completing transactions, and talent for bringing all parties together to fulfill their expectations.

Please feel free to contact me on my cell at 207-415-2112 or email me at LarryEliasonBCB@gmail.com Butts Commercial Brokers is at 1265 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, Maine 04071 www.ButtsCommercialBrokers.com <

Friday, March 1, 2024

Must-Do Spring Home Maintenance

Compiled by Jonathan Priest

When you think of Spring cleaning, things like scrubbing floors, sprucing up cabinets and straightening closets come to mind. But Spring is also a good time to perform routine home maintenance. Ignore these crucial home upkeep tasks at your peril. Fail to clean the gutters, for example, and you could end up with a flood in your basement. People know they should perform these routine maintenance chores, but do they actually follow through?

"Almost no one does, in my experience," says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colorado, whose company gets called in to make repairs after a crisis. He told US News and World Report that "a lot of it is selective memory," where people think they recently changed the furnace filter when actually they did it two years ago. "There's kind of an amnesia about things like that," he adds.

The most important maintenance chores are those related to drainage. Failing to keep water out of your house could result in mold, rot, and foundation problems.

"That's most of your big bills – water coming in," Bennett says.

Here are 12 home maintenance tasks you should do this spring to save money later:

Clean the gutters. Make sure they don't have holes and all the downspouts are still attached and taking water away from the house. "Gutters are one of the most valuable and affordable methods for homeowners to protect their homes from the elements," says Allison Hester, editor of eClean Magazine, an online trade publication for the home cleaner industry. "By channeling water off the roof and directing it to a location away from the home, properly working gutters help protect the home's shingles, wood under the eaves, siding, flooring and landscaping from a whole host of problems and expensive repairs." Clogged gutters can also cause mosquito infestations, mold and mildew from decomposed leaves and other problems. The good news is cleaning gutters is an easy job. You can do it yourself in an hour or hire someone to do it for about $50 to $100.

Seal holes where insects and varmints can get in. That includes openings around the foundation, especially entry points for wires and pipes. A spray can of foam, which you can buy for about $6, will handle most holes, Bennett says. To prevent insects from getting into your house, you should keep moisture away from the foundation and eliminate sources of standing water, according to the National Pest Management Association. Termites cause $5 billion in property damage every year in the U.S., according to the NPMA. These destructive insects need moisture to survive, which is why the NPMA advises fixing leaking faucets, pipes and air conditioning units; repairing fascia, soffits and rotted shingles; trimming tree branches away from the house and replacing weather stripping around windows and loose mortar around basement foundations.

Get your air conditioning system ready. You can hire a service company or do it yourself. Change or wash the filters, which should be done monthly. Clean the coils and wash the condenser outside, if needed. Trim away any shrubs from the unit, and make sure its drain line isn't clogged. While you're at it, change your furnace filter so it's ready for fall.

Make sure your windows are sealed. You want to keep water out and cool air in. You may need to replace caulking or weather sealing to accomplish this.

Clean your refrigerator coils and dryer vent. The Electrical Safety Foundation International notes that these chores not only improve the efficiency of the appliances, but also guard against electrical hazards.

Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be at least one of each type of detector on every level of your house, and they should be working. Be sure to replace the batteries, if necessary.

Declutter. We all have too much stuff. Get rid of items you don't use, including the stuff you have stored in the garage or basement because you "might" need it sometime.

Organize your paperwork. Not being able to find an important document when you need it can cost you. Get rid of the paperwork you don't need while filing the paperwork you want to keep so you know where it is when you need it.

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