Friday, September 22, 2023

Real Estate: Homeowner’s Guide to Fall Home Maintenance

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

Fall brings colorful leaves and cooler temperatures, but seasonal home care should also be on the calendar because winter has no mercy on homes unprepared for its surprises.


Roof and Exterior

A visual inspection of a home, from the chimney to the foundation, can help reveal vulnerabilities that lead to trouble when wind, freezing temperatures, snow or winter rains rule. Homeowners can use a drone or binoculars to look for debris, which will need to be cleaned up, and missing or loose shingles, which should be fixed or replaced before they lead to leaks. Overhanging tree limbs should be trimmed, so they can’t come down, potentially puncturing the roof and causing leaks, water damage and mold.

Fall and winter are also prime time for rodents to come indoors for warmth; seal up even the smallest holes and gaps in the foundation, attic or crawl spaces. Firewood should not be stored against the house because it can cause a beetle and/or termite infestation.


To keep gutters running well, check them monthly for twigs, leaves and other debris. Plan bigger cleanings — including running water down all the downspouts — both before autumn leaves fall and again after trees are bare, to be sure fall and winter rain and snowmelt can flow down and away from the house — instead of into the walls, which can cause rot and mold and invite insects. Clogged gutters, along with poorly ventilated roofs and under-insulated attics, are also a common culprit for damaging ice dams. Ice dams form when rooftop snow melts and refreezes, building up thick layers of ice that eventually push into joints and cracks in the roof and cause leaks.


Some experts note that grass will fare better if it is fertilized after the hottest days of summer are over, when the fertilizer can encourage blade growth and strengthen the root system for winter. Rake off all leaves and give the lawn a final mowing once it stops growing. (A local garden center can guide you on fertilizer formulas suited to your climate and lawn.)

Outdoor pipes and water sources

Frozen water can burst pipes and hoses. Garden hoses should be detached and drained. Outdoor faucets can be left on to drain after water to the outside is shut off, says Mark Dawson, chief operating officer of a chain plumbing business. He notes that irrigation systems should be blown out using an air compressor or risk freezing — and having to replace irrigation lines come spring.


Doors, windows and other drafty spots

To keep houses warm without sending heating bills through the roof, and to save energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends sealing spots where cold air can sneak in, focusing on the attic, foundation and around windows and doors. Caulking, weather stripping and door draft guards can be inexpensive DIY fixes. For single-pane windows, adding plastic film or storm windows reduces heat escape and cold penetration. Replacing them with insulating double-paned windows is a more expensive option.


Insulating the attic and sealing all gaps and cracks around recessed lighting, plumbing, chimneys and other breaks in the attic floor — any place where warm air can escape and cold air can sneak in — is the top recommendation of the nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment. It pays for itself quickly in reduced heating costs.

Insulating the attic not only keeps warmth in the living space below but also helps prevent ice dams on the roof. The EPA recommends an R-value of 38, or about 10 to 14 inches of insulation, with enough that the insulation rises above the floor joists. Attic vents should be clear of dirt, twigs or insulation.


A good time for an annual HVAC system check — to look for wear in parts like the blower motor — is before having to turn on the heat, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Also, check with local utilities to see if they offer free energy audits or rebates for energy-efficient appliances, including furnaces. It is also good practice to change furnace filters every 60 to 90 days.


Fall is a good time to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Update first-aid kits for home and vehicles, replace flashlight batteries and check that emergency go-bags are stocked with fresh water, food, medicines and weather-resistant supplies to last at least 72 hours.

The big payoff is savings on repairs — and peace of mind. <

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

Real Estate: 8 small ways to give your home a facelift without spending a cent

Complied by Carrie Colby

1. Join a Local Buy Nothing Group
The whole idea of “one man’s trash” is the inspiration for Buy Nothing Groups, but in this case it’s less trash and more a fabulous lamp or a piece of furniture from a neighbor that could be yours for free. To find a Buy Nothing Group, check apps like Facebook or Next Door. You’ll find a hyper local group–meaning everyone in the group lives close to you. Then you can start searching for items that your neighbors are getting rid of, and the best part– everything offered up in the group is always free. So, their trash becomes your treasure.

2. Declutter

Instantly change the look of any space by decluttering. Take on any clutter that is gathering on your nightstand and get rid of it. If your dining table is doubling as a “catch all,” clear it all out. If your decor looks outdated, it’s time to move it out. If tackling a decluttering project feels overwhelming, start small with one room at a time. Create piles for items to trash, donate and sell. As you move items out, your space will instantly open up, and look cleaner. Plus, if you followed step one, you now have plenty of items to offer up to neighbors.

3. Rearrange Your Furniture
Easy on your wallet (maybe not so easy on your back), rearranging your furniture can make your space look completely different. Change the placement of a couch or end table for a new look in your living room. If there is a chair in your home office that is taking up too much space, move it to your bedroom to fill an empty corner. The best part about this free design trick, it works for every room in your home.

4. Use Up Half-Empty Paint Cans
If you’ve got paint cans laying around from a previous DIY project, use up the paint to freshen up a small room. If you don’t have enough paint to cover all of the walls, create an accent wall in a room or give a piece of furniture a facelift by adding a fresh coat of paint. Even touching up baseboards and trim will give your space a free facelift. If your front door is looking weathered, paint will quickly bring it back to life

5. Give Your Walls a New Look
If you have a piece of art or a framed photo that you love, move it from one room to another. The simple act of hanging the piece in a new room of your home can give your favorite wall decor a fresh new look. You can also take on a DIY project and paint the frames in a fun pop of color or give a monochromatic and dramatic look by painting the frame black. If you have a collection of frames gathering dust, put them to use by swapping out the frames on pieces you already have hanging, or print off a few photos and fill your shelves with new framed photos.

6. Bring in the Light
Walk though your house and open up curtains and blinds. Let the natural light wash over each room and brighten your space. Not only will this give you an instant mood boost, but the extra light will actually change the look of your home. If you already have light bulbs waiting to be used, another easy way to add more light to your home is to swap out dull and dark lights for brighter bulbs. The same goes for any bulbs that are burnt out.

7. Display Your Favorite items
There’s no need to go shopping for decor pieces when you can use a few of your favorite things in the design of your home. If you’ve got a fabulous collection of hats, turn them into a work of art by hanging them on the wall as a gallery in your bedroom. Take a beloved collection out of storage and display the items on shelves in your living room. In the kitchen, if you take pride in your cookware, show it off by hanging the items above your island. If you have items you love, let them double as beautiful decor.

8. Freshen Up Your Bed
If you’ve got a reversible duvet or comforter, flip it over and try living with a different design on your bed for a while. Move throw pillows and blankets that are in other rooms, or have been taking up space in your closets, to different beds in your home.

Carrie Colby is a Broker with Allied Real Estate, 909 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Real Estate: General Contractor, Driving, Bait Sales

By Warren O’Shea

At first glance, the title may seem strange but not for the reason you think. While it reads like a sentence, it is not intended to be. The title is actually a list of possible answers to a multiple-choice question, the question being:

Maine requires a license for which two?

Surprisingly enough, Maine requires you to have a license to drive a car and sell bait, but not to be a general contractor. Now, I know all of you bait buyers are breathing a collective sigh of relief knowing that the live or dead fish you're buying is regulated by our great state, but a large portion of Maine homeowners are in disbelief that general contractors are not required to be licensed.

There are some specific trades that do require licenses like plumbers and electricians, but not GC’s. What Maine does have is the “Home Construction Warning” on the Maine Attorney General’s Consumer Information page. It requires GC’s to attach the AG’S construction warning to every contract and any project valued at $3000 or more requires a contract. It also states that the GC cannot receive more than one third of the contract price as payment upfront. A fun note about the AG’s Consumer Information page is that it also lists the contractors that the state has sued.

In my recollection, it lists the same 9 GC’s since the page’s creation in 2014. Terrific! Fantastic! It must be working! No new lawsuits. There must be no more bad GC’s out there.

Think again.

The full Maine Attorney General info page can be found here.

So how did we get stuck here? Homeowners continue to get ripped off, Outraged citizens call for the state to require licensing yet nothing happens. The AG’s office has received more than 3,300 complaints since 2018 with consumer losses totaling an estimated $12 million. In the last 15 years, seven bills have been proposed, all of them failed.

The Mills administration testified against the most recent bill as well as the Maine Policy Institute, the Maine Association of Realtors, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine. The head of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation claimed it was unclear which problem the bill sought to correct.

The passing of a contractor bill is likely a combined factor of timing, and clarifying what the intention of the bills are. We have had a housing shortage for years, very old homes, and the oldest median age in the country. The state has also passed measures to encourage more residential construction projects, putting pressure on both consumers and contractors to keep up with demand, and demand is at an all-time high.

If the bill was written to address shoddy workmanship, there are no tests in place to qualify skill level. You can roll out of bed one day and decide that you are a “Master Carpenter” with no course to take and pass, no assessment of ability, no certification to hang on the office wall. Unskilled workers will not suddenly become skilled via licensure. Currently, home inspectors are not required to be licensed either, but in order to be recognized by national organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), you must be certified and keep abreast of code by earning 20 ASHI approved Continuing Education credits (CE’s) annually.

If the bill was to address fraudulent business practices, it didn't give any more power to the Attorney General's office to enforce its current laws, and listing the bad guys on their website doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.

I’m confident that in time we will have a licensure system that may be a hybrid of what other states are doing but it will never be a magic potion that will cure all ills. Most reputable GC’s welcome licensure and regulation, but some will inevitably push back on any new regulation, citing that it will take more time and cost more money than continuing on with the status quo. It is likely to get worse before it gets better.

In the meantime, consult three different GC’s for your project, always get a signed contract, and contact your state representative to keep pressure on the state to act. At least you can drive to get your bait with the confidence that the state has your back. < 

"Warren O'Shea is the owner of O’Shea Builders LLC, Maine’s most award-winning remodeling contractor. 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 has, and continues to, co-author articles for nationally distributed trade magazines."

Friday, September 1, 2023

Real Estate: Decorating tips for an open floor plan

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

Most of today’s newly constructed homes have an open floor plan, with no walls between the living, relaxing, dining and cooking areas. A very common renovation item for both homeowners and “flips” includes knocking down one or more walls to create a more open space.

Modern daily living and entertaining has become less formal over time and the open floor plan has grown to be so popular due to its relaxed style and use of space and light. It’s an effective way to maximize space by not designating 300 square feet or more to areas only used on occasion. Natural light can travel unobstructed, often making it feel larger.

With fewer walls and closed off rooms, certain challenges are presented. Simply pushing the furniture up against the walls may not be your best option in an open floor plan. Where do you hang artwork if most of the walls are windows? An increasingly popular home design trend is the “broken floor plan” which allows for more deliberate definition of separate spaces by incorporating the use of interior windows, columns and half walls, multi-sided fireplaces and sliding decorative screens and doors.

Whether you’re starting position begins from scratch working with a brand-new home design, knocking down walls in your already existing home or purchasing a newly completed home; you will make fewer mistakes and are more likely to be pleased with the final product if you take a moment to create a plan. Treat all of the adjoining rooms as one large space that is cohesive throughout and flows continuously.

When making key selections such as kitchen cabinetry, counters and backsplash tile your choices should blend in with the style of the overall home and connecting spaces. Choose fixtures that can be used throughout and limit the use of too many different types of finishes to help tie-in all of the areas together visually. Using one continuous and uninterrupted flooring finish throughout the entire space in all of the rooms and hallways helps to create a clean and spacious feel.

The right use of color can be one of the most impactful decisions you can make when decorating your open floor plan, so nail it with your color palette by choosing a neutral color wall color to begin with, as your foundation. By picking only a few colors to add throughout the entire space you will be able to avoid one of the most common decorating mistakes by combining too many different color schemes. Choose a color that you adore and highlight it by using different shades and textures in all of the different rooms.

Upholstery and curtains do not need to be overly matchy but should visually tie together in some way and not complicate or make the space feel too busy. A simple and highly effective way to draw distinction between your kitchen and living area is to use a complimenting or contrasting color on your kitchen’s center island. Trending now are hues of blues and greens, deep charcoals, or navy.

Having too much furniture in your rooms can make the space feel too tight and crowded. Large pieces may not leave a comfortable amount of space to walk around in the rooms. Try to leave at least 24 to 36 inches behind and around furniture to comfortably move. Instead of pushing your couch or sofa up against the wall, bring it to the center of the room. Positioning it this way separates the living room from dining room with the back of the piece acting as a wall. Choose a couch with a low profile to have less obstructed and cleaner sight lines. If you have enough space, you can add a narrow table across the back. The area rug will act as a visual anchor and ideally will be large enough for at least the front legs of all the pieces to sit on. A few chairs, which are around one third the size of your couch or sofa, can lend the same amount of seating as a loveseat but are less bulk.

Think of ways you can incorporate vertical layers by using pendant lighting, floor and table lamps or potted and dried arrangements of varying heights. <

Nicole Foster is a Windham parent and real estate Broker with 18 years of experience helping buyers, sellers and investors. Follow her at or on Instagram 207nicolefoster.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Navigating the Shifting Tides of the Maine Real Estate Market: A Closer Look

By Tia Morrell

The Maine real estate market, like its counterparts across the country, has experienced a whirlwind of changes in recent times. As we step into the current landscape, real estate agents find themselves needing to adapt to evolving trends, where traditional norms are making a comeback, and the art of negotiation has never been more crucial.

Slowing Trends and Reemerging Norms

One significant shift in the Maine real estate market is the gradual slowdown of previously frenetic trends. The days of lightning-fast sales and sky-high bidding wars seem to be tapering off, creating a new dynamic for both buyers and sellers. Real estate agents are observing that properties are spending more time on the market, allowing for a renewed emphasis on thorough inspections.

Inspections, once swept aside in the fervor of competitive bidding, are making a triumphant return. Buyers, now granted a bit more time, are meticulously scrutinizing properties, aiming to uncover any hidden issues that could become a burden down the road. Sellers are realizing that honesty and transparency during the inspection process can foster a sense of trust and potentially even lead to smoother negotiations.

Stringent Appraisal Standards

Appraisers, too, are making their presence felt in this evolving market. The era of inflating home values appears to be behind us, as appraisers adopt a more conservative approach to their assessments. This shift is putting pressure on sellers and buyers alike, as the disparity between perceived market value and appraised value becomes a tangible reality.

The once-common practice of bidding over asking price, while not extinct, is witnessing a transformation. Offers are still going above the listed price, but the exorbitant rates that characterized the market's peak are becoming rarer. Appraisers' strict evaluations are contributing to this trend, anchoring the value of properties in a more grounded reality.

The Triumph of Terms and Negotiation Skills

In this landscape of recalibrating norms, the true value of negotiation skills and favorable terms is becoming increasingly evident. Listing agents are discovering that offers are not solely decided by the financial aspect; rather, flexible terms and well- thought-out negotiation strategies can sway decisions in favor of one party.

Buyers and sellers alike are recognizing that the timing of a deal can be just as important as the price itself. Flexible closing dates, abbreviated inspection periods, and other such terms are gaining prominence. A buyer who can align their needs with the seller's timeline might find themselves ahead of the competition, even with a slightly lower monetary offer. On the other side, sellers who are willing to accommodate certain requests may find their property off the market sooner than expected.

The Role of Real Estate Agents in Navigating Change

Amid these shifts, the role of the real estate agent is more crucial than ever. Agents are becoming adept at interpreting the nuances of a transforming market and leveraging their insights to guide their clients effectively. Their ability to not only recognize market trends but also educate buyers and sellers about the changing landscape sets them apart in a sea of uncertainty.
An agent's role as a mediator and negotiator has become the linchpin in the real estate process. Navigating offers, counteroffers, and terms requires a delicate balance of understanding the client's goals and leveraging the market's dynamics. In this evolving scenario, it's the agents who can wield their negotiation skills and market knowledge with finesse that will truly shine.


AS The Maine real estate market shifts toward a more balanced landscape, the strategies that once dominated are giving way to a new era of consideration and negotiation. Inspections are returning to the forefront, appraisers are reining in inflated values, and the emphasis on terms is resurging. In these dynamic times, real estate agents stand as the pillars of guidance, utilizing their expertise to navigate clients through the maze of change and uncertainty. It's clear that in this evolving market, the ability to adapt, interpret, and negotiate is the key to success for buyers, sellers, and agents alike.

If you’re ready to discuss how you can come out on top of this market, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. I’m here to help!

Tia Morrell is a Realtor for Landing Real Estate in Windham. Call her at 207-317-1833 or send her an email at

Friday, August 18, 2023

Real Estate: Smart home energy savings

Submitted by Tricia Zwirner

Check out these ideas for how to save on energy bills and use less.

Unplug unused electronics and small appliances

According to Trulia, those electronics and small appliances that you only need for part of the day, like the microwave, phone charger and coffee maker, for example, consume a whopping 10% of your yearly energy costs. Use them, then unplug if possible. Then take a look around your home – what’s plugged in that isn’t being used? Pull that plug!

Only run your major appliances (like your dishwasher and your washer and dryer) during "non-peak hours" — pre-specified times typically associated with lower demand. Check with your utility company for the details. And try to run only a full load.
Check seals on doors and windows

Just a slim gap of 1/8 inch around a door frame is about the same as having a 2.5-inch hole in a wall to the outside. Look for visible cracks or simply feel for air by placing your hand along all edges and corners. If you feel air or see light through a crack, consider sealing with plastic insulation kits, adding more weather stripping around the doors or re-caulking windows.
Turn down your water heater

One of the biggest energy hogs in your home might surprise you: your water heater. Many are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but 120 degrees Fahrenheit works well for daily needs. And turning down your water heater by just 10 degrees could save you $400 or more annually.
Water saving ideas

Find and fix leaky faucets — every drop costs you money. Be sure to turn off the water while brushing your teeth — no need to let that water run without being used.

How about shaving off just a few minutes from your shower time — three minutes could save about 7.5 gallons or water! And that showerhead — consider replacing it with one that has a WaterSense label and it could save you about 2,700 gallons of water a year which translates to money saving.
Utilize energy saving smart home devices

Technology continues to pay real dividends for homeowners, particularly when it comes to ways to save on energy bills. Smart lighting options enable you to check whether you left lights on when you're away from home, and smart blinds let you open and close window coverings to take advantage of sunlight or keep out nighttime drafts.
Use natural light

An easy way to conserve energy at home is to use natural light. Open the curtains and let the sun in to help light those areas used most in your home. That sunlight could even help warm your home in the winter. You can buy lightweight curtains or blinds to give you some privacy while letting in the natural light.
Ideas for long-term energy bill solutions

Get an energy audit or assessment

Your utility company typically offers these for free, and they'll visit you in your home to help identify key areas to upgrade to save energy at home. They may suggest boosts in under- or uninsulated areas, as well as offer suggestions on a new HVAC system, too.
Install a smart thermostat

A smart thermostat will change the temperature based upon the schedule you pick within the thermostat. Or you might use an app to control the temperature when you’re not home. Some thermostats have sensors that can be installed in different rooms so that each room can have its own temperature (if the air conditioner and heater are installed to accommodate this type of activity).
Swap out your light bulbs

Simply replacing standard light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs can help save you money on your energy bill, and they last much longer!
Replace inefficient appliances

An Energy Star certified dishwasher, over its average lifetime of about 12 years, can save as much as 3,800 gallons of water. And a certified washing machine uses about 30 percent less water and 20% less energy. All these savings can add up to more money in your pocket. <

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

Friday, August 11, 2023

Real Estate: Selling your home? Stage It

By Theresa Bouchard

Selling a home can be one of the most stressful events people deal with in their lifetime. Although starting a new chapter in one’s life can be very exciting, it can also create anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty as you begin to pack up the memories created in the home with your loved ones.

What is Staging?

Staging a home is an art, but also a science. Professional stagers create spaces that “feel like home” which attracts mass buyer appeal. Professional staging allows for potential buyers to visualize themselves in the home, which creates an immediate personal attachment. This will make prospective buyers feel confident about investing in a place where they feel comfortable and can visualize creating new memories for years to come!

Why use a Professional Home Stager?

The use of digital marketing promotes properties and is the first step to creating a mass flow of buyers to the property. Professional stagers understand the power of photography and know how important photography is to sell a home. With this knowledge and understanding, home stagers apply specific techniques such as appropriate placement of furnishings and décor, lighting, color, symmetry, and scale to ensure the photographer can capture the essence of the home and create an emotional connection as buyers conduct online searches. Online listings are the first step to attracting prospective buyers to a property. This will increase the number of showings and fast-track the sale of your home!

Professional home stagers consistently adapt to the ever-changing trends people see on television and social media. Home stagers incorporate these trends, while factoring in the aesthetics of the home, its location, and its market demographic. Home staging captures your home’s most attractive features while minimizing the home’s limitations. Some homes on the market are dated but with home staging, prospective buyers can visualize the house as their home and imagine the potential it may have in the future.

Staging Benefits

o Staging shows the buyers the property’s true potential

o Buyers realize and appreciate the benefits of purchasing a professionally staged property

o Professionally stage properties show better than competing ones for sale, including new construction homes and higher-priced properties

o Staged properties sell faster when compared with properties that have not been staged

o Staged properties can increase the number of offers and selling price in any market

o Buyers view professionally staged listings as well-maintained

o Buyers’ agents recognize that professionally staged listings are “move-in” ready and are more inclined to show staged properties

o Photos of professionally staged listings look better on the MLS, as well as in print

o Professionally staged listings STAND OUT in prospective buyers’ minds

Staging Statistics per Real Estate Staging Association (RESA)

o 85 percent of homes sold for 5 to 23 percent over asking list price

o Approximately 75 percent of sellers saw a ROI of 5 to 15 percent over asking price

o Staged homes sell faster, averaging just 23 days on the market

Various Staging Options

Occupied Staging Consultations

o This service includes a walk-through of your home with a professional stager that provides guidance to the seller on how to prepare the home for sale. This service includes a detailed, actionable report (checklist form) to make the process easier on the seller. The report provides recommendations on cosmetic updates, lightening fixtures, organization pointers, etc., basically anything that will allow the seller to list at a higher price.

o Additionally, the professional home stager offers services to come to your home, use your existing items and apply the home staging techniques to make your home shine above the rest!

Vacant Home Staging

o This service includes a walk-through of your home with a professional stager so they can gain the overall essence of the home and its location.

o The professional home stager will recommend which rooms should be staged and provide a proposal

o Once the proposal is accepted, the professional home stagers will select the appropriate furnishings and décor for the home and schedule an installation date to make your home ready for the go-live listing date

For more information on professional home staging or interior design services, please contact TS Staging and Design at 207-400-9393 or visit us at <