Friday, August 30, 2013

Real Estate - Do renovations right - By Carrie Colby, Premier Properties

While many Americans are ready to take on remodeling/renovation projects this fall, doing it the wrong way can be costly. Some errors to avoid:
Not knowing exactly what you want
If you don’t know exactly what you want or specify what you want, you’re going to get what the contractor thinks you want. And it could end up costing you dearly! For home remodeling design ideas, inspiration and a whole lot more (including cost estimates), you can search the Internet on sites like Zillow and HGTV. You can search by style, cost or room. And what’s really cool is that you can search by specific elements within a room, such as quartz or granite countertops, for example. Share your boards with your contractor so that you’re clear on your objectives.

Hiring the first contractor who comes along, sure, he may seem nice, and he may seem competent, but have you checked him out? What do your friends say about him? Have you contacted his references? Seen his work? Are there any complaints lodged against him? (P.S.: The Better Business Bureau just released its top 10 list of inquiries from consumers, and half relate to home improvement.) What do subcontractors and suppliers have to say about their dealings with him? Is he licensed and insured? As excited as you may be about taking on this new project, you need to do a fair amount of due diligence. A referral from friends or a real estate agent is a good way to start your search. In my experience if I refer someone it is someone who is good since it is a reflection on me and my business.

Jumping at the lowest bid
Get at least three bids, and throw out the lowest one so as to avoid the inevitable consequence: cheap materials, shoddy installation, etc. Don’t invite trouble in! Rather, hire someone who not only comes in within target, price-wise, but is someone you feel personally comfortable with.

Not insisting on a written contract
Every detail about your project should be included in a contract, from the start date to the approximate completion date, right down to the brand of fixtures to the number of coats of paint. Be as specific as possible! Also important: Setting a time limit for fixing defects so that if a dispute arises, it’s not endless.

Not setting a payment schedule
How you pay a contractor is almost as important as how much. Spell out the payment schedule in the contract, beginning with the amount to be paid upfront (which should be no more than 30 percent). Periodic payments after the work starts should correspond to completed segments of the project. And the best way to ensure that work gets done when and how you want it? Leave a significant sum (at least 10 percent) to be paid only when the job is completed to your satisfaction.

Carrie Colby is a realtor and the broker/owner of Premier Properties in Raymond. Have a real estate question? Email it to

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Real Estate - Photos Rule! - by Margaret Krainin

It used to be (back in 1973, which was when I got started in real estate) that photos were not often included in real estate ads. It wasn't considered necessary, and it was expensive. Besides, property ads were usually designed to give only basic information, to pique buyers' interest so they would phone for the details.
Fast-forward to 2013, when nothing is left to the imagination (including underwear), and too much information is not enough!

Technology changed everything. The arrival of the digital age caused a huge shift in the real estate paradigm, because so much more information could be displayed. And when photography was finally released from dependence on paper and developing chemicals, data aggregator dot-com behemoths took the real estate information floor, and for better or worse, brokers had to start displaying not just one, but many attractive photos of their listings.

Nowadays, when you put your home on the sales or rental market, you have to have great exterior photos. (Interior photos are a topic for another time.) They should be taken on a bright, sunny day.

The Sebago region's fully green season is only about four months long, so you need to be nimble. Even if you're not planning to put your home on the market, go out in August and take photos! Find the best angles, the times and locations when shadows are least, and keep those photos from year to year.

August is one of the best times to take house photos -- the leaves are still green and the air is clear, but it's a good idea go out at least once in every season, every year. Even if you stay in your home for 50 years, and never rent or sell it, you'll get pleasure from looking at those old photos and the series of changes your home has gone through. And if you do decide to rent or sell, your agent will be able to use your summertime photos to good effect, especially if you list in the depths of winter, when piles of snow obscure the lawn and driveway.

This is also the time of year that vacation rental agencies like to take listings for the upcoming season, but the busyness of the summer often prevents them from starting before Labor Day. They can take the interior shots any time, but if you have your green-leaves, sunny-day, outside photos already taken, you'll make it much easier for them to rent your home during the main booking time, which is in winter.

So get out with your "real" camera (not just your phone) in this gorgeous, almost-fall weather, and take some great photos of your house!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ten ultimate home buying tips By Lisa DiBiase, Landing Real Estate

1. Don't buy if you can't stay put.
If you are not sure if you will be in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell sooner rather than later.
2. Start by knowing your credit score.
Since you likely be getting a mortgage to buy a house, you should make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you even start looking at homes, you should get a copy of your credit report. There are several companies that can provide you with a free credit report. Be sure to only use one company and only pull it once. Having you credit pulled frequently can alter the numbers in a negative way. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.
3. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.
Getting pre-approved will allow you to better understand what your purchase power is. You will save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can't afford. The difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval letters; pre-qualification is based on a quick review of your finances and pre-approval is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. You want to put yourself in the best position to make a serious offer when you do find the right home.
4. Get professional help.
Even though buyers have unlimited access to home listings on the Internet, most new buyers (and many more experienced ones) are better off using a professional agent. You should find an agent who is reliable, experienced and trustworthy and sign an Exclusive Buyer Representation Agreement. This will ensure they have your best interests at heart and can guide you through the process from beginning to close. This is where you build your team of professionals to successfully help you buy a home.
5. Purchase a home you can afford.
It is important to work closely with your mortgage lender to determine what your purchase power is. You can also utilize one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.
6. Understand there are many different types of loan programs.
There are a variety of different lenders who offer different loan programs. When one lender says no, another can say yes! There are plenty of low-interest mortgages that require little to no down payment.
7. Buy in a town with good schools.
In most areas, this advice applies even if you don't have school-age children. For re-sale purposes, understand that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers who do have school-age children, which boosts home property values.
8. Choose carefully between points and rate.
When picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points in exchange for a lower interest rate. Points are an upfront portion of the interest that you pay at closing. If you stay in the house for a long time, typically 3 to 5 years or more, it's usually a better deal to pay down the rate with the points which will save you more in the long run.
9. Do your homework before making an offer.
This is where you work closely with your buyer agent to understand the sales trend of similar homes in the neighborhood. So before making and offer, consider sales of similar homes in the last 3 to 6 months. Again, your buyer agent is the expert and can guide you with how to make a great offer.
10. Hire a home inspector.
It is imperative to have a neutral party inspect the home to help you get familiar with all the systems of the home and to determine the condition and quality of them. Their job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.