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

Friday, February 23, 2024

Should You Buy a New Construction Home or an Existing Home?

By Carrie Colby

Here are the Pros and Cons of buying a new construction home:

The Pros


Lower maintenance costs: Newer construction means a brand-new roof, appliances, plumbing, finishes, and more. You can expect major and minor repairs to be at a minimum (if any appear at all) in the first few years of ownership in a new construction home.

More customization options: As new construction homes are being built, buyers can customize everything from fixtures to appliances to paint colors to finishes and sometimes even floor plans. If you have a very specific vision of the home you want and/or you want the ability to make it fully your own, this may be one of your biggest decision factors.

Smart home features: New construction homes are being built with smart features such as security systems, lighting, thermostats, appliances that can all be controlled from a smartphone or other remote device. These features are more difficult (or sometimes impossible) to build into older homes.

Modern floor plan: They’ve been trending for a while now, but open floor plans are still a top preference for homebuyers. They offer more flexible spaces and common areas to gather and entertain in your home. Creating open floor plans in traditionally-built existing homes often requires knocking down walls and doing heavy renovations, which can get pricey.

Energy efficiency: Smart features, better insulation and windows, metal roofs, solar paneling — these are just a few of the energy-efficient features you’ll find in new construction homes. Not only are these features environmentally friendly, it lowers monthly utility costs and makes the overall cost of home ownership more affordable.

The Cons

Move-in wait times: As with any building project, you may experience move-in wait times when you buy a new construction home. Supply chain delays or unexpected construction challenges are just two of the reasons you may not be able to get into your home when you initially expected.

The Pros and Cons of buying an existing home are as follows.

The Pros

Established community: Existing homes are typically located in more established neighborhoods with schools, business corridors, parks, and more. If you’re looking to be immediately part of an active community, this might be the better choice for you.

Character and charm older homes often have architectural detail and historical charm that you just can’t replicate in new construction homes. For some buyers, this type of character is more preferable than modern features and amenities.

More location choices: Buying an existing home gives you a much wider range of location options — you won’t be limited to new construction communities. You can search anywhere you want to live.

Fixer-upper value: While some buyers prefer customization in the form of brand new features in a brand new home, others enjoy the project of bringing their home to life.

Lower prices: Again, this isn’t always the case, but existing homes often come with a lower price tag than new construction homes.

The Cons

Repair and renovation costs: Older homes naturally come with repair and renovation costs associated with maintaining a home. You can get a good sense of how expensive these costs may be when you walk through a home and read the home inspection report, so in many cases this isn’t a huge issue. Still, it’s something to be aware of and budget for when you purchase an existing home.

Outdated floor plan: Traditionally, homes were built with separate, closed-off rooms that all served a different purpose. If an open floor plan is your preference, you may have a harder time finding it in an existing home.

No personalization options: With an existing home, what you see is what you get. If you’re looking to personalize features and finishes in your home, you’ll have to do it yourself (or hire someone to do it) after you move in. Unlike with new construction homes, these costs won’t be included in your initial purchase price.

Higher utility bills: Older homes are generally less energy efficient than new homes. This may translate to higher monthly utility costs unless you choose to make updates like adding solar panels or getting new windows installed.

How to Decide Between a New Construction vs. Existing Home

The best way to decide between buying a new construction vs. existing home is to be as thorough as possible in your assessment of each choice. First, determine if you have a strong preference for one or the other.

Next, list your must-haves vs. your wish list for your new home. This will help you decide which option best fits your preferences.

Finally, go with your gut and choose the home that feels best for you. Give yourself time to look at many types of houses and get a good sense of what you’re looking for in your future home.

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

 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Should your home be inspected before you list it for sale?

By Richie Vraux

When you are ready to sell your home, your listing agent should recommend a pre- home inspection.

There are several reasons why the answer should always be yes! It may be a little costly for you up front, (usually between $500 and $1,000), but by knowing what your home’s issues are in advance, a home inspection can save you as a seller many thousands later.

Your real estate agent can recommend a reputable home inspector, but ultimately the choice is entirely your decision. Sometimes an inspector will identify minor problems, which when fixed in advance, will reduce the liability for both the buyer and the seller. Having done that will raise the seller’s confidence, that the potential issues are fixed and will minimize the issues that the buyer can come back at you with.

It just gives all parties peace of mind knowing they will not need to dole out large amounts of money in advance in selling your home. Minor deficiencies, such as a missing light switch plate cover or exposed wiring out of an electrical box could mean you would have to hire a licensed electrician to close it up, and we all know how expensive they might run you for a bill. It is always better to find out what your deficiencies are in advance, correct those problems in advance, rather than to hire a professional to fix it after the inspector points out all the issues in his report.

Having a pre-inspection report and fixing the issues can reduce the liability for the seller, get it sold in a timelier manner and might even award him top dollar, even more than asking price. Also, it will reduce any chance of having to negotiate the price due to the corrections that might need to be made and the potential risk of not closing on time. It just keeps the seller on target and the buyer happy so there are not any obstacles to slow the process.

When the inspector goes to the house, he looks at all the home’s systems: electrical, plumbing, roof, basement, structure, water leakage, signs of insect/ rodent presence both inside the home and out. He looks for all and any defects and writes a report. If you so desire, he will check for radon air and water, water test, septic inspection, and all other systems in the home.

All homes, those old and new, have issues, but an inspector will look at all systems. While newer homes are required to be up to current municipal, state and federal code guidelines, older homes most likely are not up to current codes and standards of today, and do not need to be. The older homes were built to municipal code when it was built. Your inspector will know this.

An inspector will write his report, which will usually be accompanied by pictures showing the defects listed on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most important to address first in decreasing order to 1, the least important to address.

This is a good way of seeing the issues firsthand to know what order of things need to be dealt with immediately and what problems are not as extreme. A home inspector will check for leakage both in the basement and in the roof. Remember, an inspector cannot inspect anything that is not visible.

Ask your agent who he would recommend as an inspector and if they are licensed, do they have liability insurance, E/O insurance and do they have third party coverage. These are all good questions to ask before settling on someone to perform a home inspection. The agent will recommend a few inspectors they have worked with previously and someone they feel that they can trust implicitly.

Listen to your agent as they are the professionals here and have gone through this process before and are experienced at choosing a proper home inspector.

Richie Vraux is a broker at Maine’s Premier Team at Better Homes and Gardens-The Masiello Group. With offices in Gorham and Windham, call Richie to seek professional advice for buyers and sellers at 207-317-1297. <

Friday, February 9, 2024

Fall in Love with Your Dream Home: A Real Estate Romance

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, love is in the air and the pulse of the local real estate market is really beginning to heat up with a boost to the number of new listings coming to the market each day. Turn your real estate crush into more than just a fantasy in 2024 by making your move with the help of a matchmaker extraordinaire: your fabulous REALTOR!

Don’t Fall in Love to Soon: A Prelude to Happily Ever After


Picture yourself scrolling along when your heart begins to flutter after seeing a fine-looking new listing, fresh to the market. You drive by to see it’s in the perfect location and you are completely smitten, possibly obsessed. If you want a happy ending when shopping for a new home, it’s important to start at the beginning. Get pre-approved or pre-qualified with a trusted lender, ensuring that when you find “The One” it’s a match made in financial heaven.

How I Love Thee: Letters to the Seller


Looking to build a deeper connection? Prospective home buyers who wish to proclaim their love of the brick and mortar by penning a letter to the homeowner should first consult with their matchmaking REALTOR. It is possible that the sellers have requested that this display of affection not be shared with them, and your agent can help to guide you in how to draft this and help by including it with your real estate “proposal of marriage, with a mortgage.”

The One That Got Away: The Ultimate Real Estate Love Triangle


You don’t want your dream home slipping through your fingers because your current castle is practically destroyed. Get on top of things by having your current home ready for its grand entry to the spring market, if you need to sell in order to buy. Usually, a seller will want to see your current home listed with a top-notch REALTOR and on the market within a week or so.

When Not to Follow Your Heart’s Desire

It’s important not to wear rose-colored glasses when your heart quickens at the fixer upper you believed was special and not like all the others. Your heart is selecting paint colors for each room while your brain is busy calculating the costs of repairs and updating, like a dreamy waltz through the transaction. Sometimes you must allow your head to lead the dance and knowing when can make all the difference in the world. When the dance floor gets crowded with emotion and financial decisions, turn to your experienced dance instructor and REALTOR to help you find your tempo again.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Real Estate Edition

Sometimes real estate agreements hit a rocky patch, which can be disappointing, but don’t lose heart! Your REALTOR is the relationship guru who can guide you through the procedures and timeframes, as it is just like a breakup only with more paperwork. I’ve witnessed several occasions where the parties have gone their separate ways only to realize that they were meant to be, after some reflection or seeing that the grass may not be any greener elsewhere, then coming back together to close and live happily ever after.

Keeping it Fresh: After the Closing

After the dust begins to settle following the whirlwind which has been your life while moving and you begin to settle into your daily routines, it’s easy to lose that spark that you felt when you entered your home for the first time. You may be yearning for the visions of this space to finally take shape or feel discouraged that things haven’t gone as planned when you first purchased it. All too often we wait until it is time to sell and move to put the effort into making our homes look their very best. Shower your home with the affection that it craves, and you will love the results.

Be sure to work with a local expert who is passionate about real estate to save yourself a whole lotta heartache. It is rumored that buyers may start to see some love with mortgage interest rates predicted to lower in 2024.

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, February 2, 2024

Interest rate reduction boosts buyer purchasing power

By Tia Morrell

The real estate landscape in Maine is currently experiencing a shift that is capturing the attention of both prospective homebuyers and sellers. With home prices remaining steady and an increasing number of properties being listed at 'priced right' values, the market is creating an ideal environment for potential deals. A significant contributor to this dynamic is the recent decline in interest rates, dropping from 8 percent in November to the current range of 5.5 to 6.8 percent. This shift has sparked renewed interest from buyers, making it an opportune time for individuals to enter the real estate market.

One of the key factors driving the positive momentum in Maine's real estate market is the stability of home prices. Despite the various challenges posed by external factors, the housing market in the state has managed to maintain a consistent trajectory. Home prices are not only holding firm, but there is also a noticeable trend towards more realistic pricing, ensuring that homes are attractive to a wider range of potential buyers.

This shift towards 'priced right' homes is a positive development for both buyers and sellers. Sellers are finding that accurately pricing their homes leads to quicker sales, reducing the time their properties spend on the market. On the other hand, buyers are benefiting from a more transparent market where they can make informed decisions based on reasonable pricing, ultimately fostering a healthier and more efficient real estate ecosystem.

One of the most significant contributors to the current buoyancy in the Maine real estate market is the substantial drop in interest rates. Just a few months ago, in November, interest rates were hovering around 8 percent. However, a noticeable shift has occurred, and they now range between 5.5 to 6.8 percent. This dramatic reduction in interest rates has far-reaching implications for both buyers and sellers.

Lower interest rates make homeownership more accessible to a broader segment of the population, as the cost of borrowing decreases. For potential buyers, this translates to increased purchasing power, allowing them to afford homes that might have been out of reach just a short while ago. Additionally, lower interest rates often lead to a surge in demand, as buyers are motivated to capitalize on the favorable financial conditions.

For sellers, the decline in interest rates has created a more competitive market. With a larger pool of potential buyers entering the market, there is an increased likelihood of multiple offers, driving up property values. Sellers are finding themselves in a favorable position, with the potential for quicker sales and, in some cases, even bidding wars, particularly for well-priced and desirable properties.

The lower interest rates have acted as a catalyst, stimulating buyer activity in the Maine real estate market. As more individuals find themselves in a favorable financial position to enter the housing market, the demand for homes has increased substantially. This surge in buyer interest has not only led to a more dynamic marketplace but has also created a sense of urgency among potential buyers.

Buyers who were previously on the fence are now recognizing the unique opportunity presented by the combination of steady home prices and lower interest rates. The result is a more robust and competitive real estate landscape where properties are selling faster, and sellers are often receiving offers at or above asking prices.

The current state of the real estate market in Maine paints a promising picture for both buyers and sellers. With home prices remaining stable and a growing number of properties being listed at realistic values, the market is ripe for potential deals. The significant drop of interest rates, from 8 percent in November to the current range of 5.5 to 6.8 percent, has further fueled buyer interest, making homeownership more attainable for a wider audience.

For sellers, this presents an opportune moment to list properties at competitive prices and attract motivated buyers. On the flip side, buyers are finding themselves in a more favorable position, armed with increased purchasing power and a broader selection of homes to choose from.

As the real estate market in Maine continues to evolve, it's essential for both buyers and sellers to stay informed and make strategic decisions based on the current market dynamics. With the convergence of steady home prices, realistic property valuations, and lower interest rates, Maine's real estate market is poised for a period of growth and activity.

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, January 26, 2024

Why Homeowners Insurance costs so much

By Tricia Zwirner

Homeowners insurance premiums have been increasing annually since the pandemic. In fact, the years 2019 through 2023 were the costliest for insurers ever….and it doesn’t look like 2024 will be any different.

Prior to 2019, the three most common contributors to the increase of a homeowners policy premium were the policy’s claim history, the property’s location, and the home’s replacement cost- all factors somewhat within the owner’s control. Fast forward to post-2019 when the top three contributors shifted out of the homeowner’s control to the pandemic, inflation and Mother Nature.

The Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has not directly caused homeowners' premium rates to increase. However, there are a few factors indirectly related to the pandemic that have impacted homeowners' insurance rates:

1. Economic impact: The pandemic has had widespread economic effects, including job losses and reduced incomes for many individuals. As a result, some insurance companies may have experienced an increase in policy cancellations or non-renewals, which can lead to higher premiums for those who maintain coverage since premiums are spread amongst insureds.

2. Changes in property usage: With more people working from home and spending increased time indoors, there have been changes in the way properties are used. For example, homeowners may have set up home offices or increased the use of home appliances and electronics, which has increased the number of property damage and/or liability claims. Many insurance companies have experienced increased claim frequency and severity and have adjusted rates accordingly.

3. Supply chain disruptions: The pandemic has caused disruptions in supply chains worldwide, affecting the availability and cost of building materials, repair services, and replacement items. These disruptions have led to increased costs for insurers, which are reflected in higher premium rates.

Inflation


Inflation refers to the general increase in prices and the decrease in the purchasing power of money over time. Here's how inflation has impacted homeowners' insurance premiums:

1. Rising construction costs: Inflation has led to higher costs for construction materials, labor, and other expenses related to repairing or rebuilding a home. As a result, insurance companies have increased premiums to account for the increased replacement cost value of the property.

2. Increased liability claim costs: Inflation can also affect the cost of liability claims. Medical expenses, legal fees, and other costs associated with liability claims have risen due to inflation. Insurance companies have adjusted premiums to cover the potential higher costs/frequency of liability claims.

3. Insurance company expenses: Inflation has impacted the operating costs of insurance companies, including administrative expenses, employee salaries, and other overhead costs. To compensate for these increased expenses, insurance companies have raised premiums.

Natural Disasters

Mother Nature has had the most significant impact on homeowners' insurance premiums due to the risks associated with natural disasters and severe weather events. Here's how Mother Nature has affected homeowners' insurance premiums:

1. Natural disasters: Events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, and floods can cause extensive damage to homes and properties. Insurance companies factor in the risk of these events when determining premiums. Our weather in Maine has seen an increase in extreme weather events such as heavy rainstorms, wind speed, intense snowstorms, and occasional periods of high heat and humidity during the summer. These changes drive claim frequency which, in turn, has resulted in higher premiums.

2. Frequency and severity of weather events: Climate change has led to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like storms, hail, and heavy rainfall. These events can result in property damage, which insurance companies consider when determining premiums.

3. Location-based risks: The geographic location of a property can affect premiums. For example, homes located in coastal areas may have higher insurance rates due to the risk of hurricanes or homes in flood-prone zones may have higher flood insurance premiums.

It's important to note that premium increases can vary depending on the insurance company, location, and individual circumstances. If you experience a significant increase in your homeowners' premium, it's recommended to contact your insurance provider or agent directly to understand the specific reasons behind the rate change and explore any potential discounts or adjustments that may be available to you. <

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, January 19, 2024

Real Estate: Time to prepare for selling your home is now

By Theresa Bouchard

Are you planning to sell your home in the Spring or Summer months? If so, the time to prepare your home is NOW!

With the market shift and chatter of interest rates dropping in the coming months, many folks are jumping on the opportunity to sell their home in hopes to get top dollar. Buyers are gearing up to purchase their Maine dream home for full-time living or vacationing. So, the real estate prediction is, more inventory and more buyers! What does that mean for sellers? Competition. That said, it is time to put your best foot forward and get your home to shine above the rest!

Preparing a home to sell may look different from one person to another. Here are some effective tips to guide you through the preparation process. Follow these tips and watch the multiple offers roll in!

- Hire a seller real estate agent and get a marketing analysis to determine the value of your home.

- Hire a professional home stager to do a walk-though to define what areas of the home need to be fixed or upgraded and identify an action list of what you need to do to prepare your home to make it most appealing to buyers. A detailed checklist is provided to assist you.

- Paint goes a long way when enhancing the look of your home. A fresh coat of neutral color paint will give your home a new appearance and look beautiful in photos.

- Start the declutter and organization process. Cabinets, closets, storage areas such as basements and attics. The more you purge now, the less you will have to do on moving day. Decluttering and organizing makes a world of difference in photos and during showings.

- Pack away all personal items such as photographs and anything of sentimental value. Buyers need to envision themselves in this space and your personal items can prevent them from doing that. Additionally, the goal is to help buyers make an emotional connection to the home which in turn will create more offers! So, pack personal items away and save them for your next home adventure!

- Update lighting fixtures and/or hardware on your cabinets. Lowe’s and Home Depot have very affordable selections which can make a world of difference when trying to make your home fresh and new!

- Deep clean your home. Wash windows, windowsills, screens, walls, doors, etc.! A sparkling clean home gives the impression that the home is well taken care of.

- Curb appeal! Spring clean up is important and displaying potted flowers can make a great first impression and create a welcoming feeling.

- All shades and curtains must be pulled up and open. Natural light creates beauty in a home so let light shine in! If curtains or shades are old and dingy, either remove them or replace them before photos and showings.

- Have your home professionally staged.

Preparing your home is a must in this market. If the process becomes overwhelming, call a professional home stager to help you with the process. They will provide assistance and direction during and an exciting yet stressful time. Don’t go it alone!

For information on staging services, please call 207-400-9393 on visit our TS Staging and Design website at www.tsstaginganddesign.com <