Sunday, June 28, 2015

Real Estate - Trending - By Rick Yost

Trends come and go in real estate and some trends have more legs than others. Some trends actual go in and out of vogue several times. At one time, shag carpets, paneling, and avocado colored bathroom fixtures were all the rage. You know you had them! When renovating or building a home, it is wise to pay attention to what is trending in the market place. Embrace the trends that seem to be classic or functional and avoid the trends that seem super hip or not very practical. This will protect the value of the home over time. No one wants to be selling a home with avocado bathroom fixtures in 2015.

There are some things that buyers are looking for today that seem like safe bets to build in or renovate into a home today along with that upscale kitchen everyone is looking for.

Built in storage—storage spaces that are built into unused areas of the house are not only trending high in buyer surveys right now, they are practical. Opportunities exist under stairway, behind knee walls, and crawl spaces.

Laundry rooms- today's buyer isn't just looking for a place to stick the washer and dryer. Tile floor, cabinets, fold away ironing board, and a folding table are all a part of today's laundry room. A hot trend today that seems like it will stick around.

Energy efficient appliances and features are getting plenty of attention now. Alternative heating sources, high efficiency windows, doors, and insulation, and energy savings appliances may cost a bit more, but pay for themselves in energy savings. They also make your home more attractive to future buyers. This is a trend that should defiantly be built into a new home or renovation.

Walk-in closets are a feature that the National Association of Home Builders says is high on home builders list. According to their research, 31 percent of 1,000 homeowner surveyed would give up other features in a home for his and her walk-in closets. That is a strong indication that walk-in closets should be in renovation or build plans.

Great rooms are back. Large rooms where families can gather are hot right now. They often flow to the dining room and make a great entertaining space. Great rooms are additional space that can be used in a number of ways in the future if trends change again. This flexibility makes a great room a trend that should not hurt your home value in the future

Paint trends are easy to follow and inexpensive to fix when a color that was the rage is no longer desirable. Soft grays are hot in the kitchen now. It is neutral enough with out being white or tan. Soft blues are trending in bathrooms and pastels are hot in bedrooms. Accent walls are also making a comeback. Painting walls in trending colors and styles is an inexpensive way to give a home a more modern look and can be changed easily.

If these features are incorporated in a home being built or renovated, the homeowner will realize the benefit of being trendy today and not run the risk of having to sell paneling and shag rug in the future.
Rick is a realtor, a real estate author, and long term Windham resident.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to identify overpriced houses - By Lisa DiBiase

Whether you have shopped in the real estate market before or not, there are many things that have to be closely examined in order to get the home that is right for you. The price of a home is a large factor when you are looking at a home because you have to have a house that is within your budget. Overpriced homes are easy to come across, and by knowing how to identify an overpriced home you can be sure that you get a home that is at the right price.

Every homeowner thinks their house is worth more than it actually is. It is a natural thought process, but it does not always work that way. One way to identify if the homeowner is pricing their home above what it is worth is by looking at neighboring properties that are for sale or sold recently. These homes should be comparable in size and in the same area as the one you are looking at. If the house you are looking at has a higher price tag than similar homes in the area, this is a good indicator that the home is overpriced.

Days on the market:
Look at the number of days the house has been on the market for. A house that has a high number of days that it has been on the market can be an indicator of an overpriced home. High end homes will typically be on the market longer, but with most homes the high number of days shows that there have been few competitive bids on the house, meaning it is overpriced.

The price should reflect the overall appeal of the home. Customized amenities do not always give a home a higher price tag, especially if it is customized for the previous homeowners benefit and is not something that most people typically want in their home. Some examples are tennis courts, movie theater rooms, large garages, or a swimming pool can be unnecessary amenities that cause a home to be overpriced.

Home improvements also make for pricing to be more difficult. Minor repairs do not add value to the home, but large upgrades such as adding a deck, extending a room, or upgrading a bathroom can add value to the home. Only large improvements should reflect in the price, but minor improvements should not cause the house to cost more. If the house has many minor improvements and the price reflects those improvements, it is overpriced.

Location, location, location:
Location can also be cause for an overpriced home. If the home is in a low-income area, near railroad tracks, or by a school with poor ratings, the location is going to cause the home to have less of a value. The price should be able to reflect the location, if it is in a pristine neighborhood the home will cost more. If the location does not reflect the home’s price, it is overpriced.
Overpriced homes can be easy to spot if you know what to look for. A Realtor can also help you be aware of overpriced homes, but by knowing what to look for you are going to avoid getting into a home that is not worth what you paid for it.
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.

What's the best way to insulate my foundation - By Emily Mottram

It’s building season! One of the most common questions I get from people getting ready to build, or people who are looking to improve their energy efficiency is: Do I really need to insulate my basement? The answer to that question is yes! You really do need to insulate your basement. When you think about heat loss, you think “heat rises” everyone knows that. What you don’t think about is, if heat rises, then cold air is coming from somewhere – and guess where that is…your basement!
Existing Homes:
If your existing home has a dirt floor in the basement, prior to installing any insulation on the basement walls you should cover the basement floor. There are many ways to do this with 6 mil poly, epdm, or a full basement system with poured concrete floors and drainage.

It is very rare that I would ever encourage someone to insulate the basement ceiling instead of the basement walls. This is the wrong place to insulate. Let me repeat that, this is not where your insulation goes. If you have any of the following in your basement, please do not insulate your basement ceiling: Plumbing, washer/dryer, or your heating system. 

If your basement is granite or rubble stone, the best basement insulation is spray foam. It’s one of the only insulations that can get in full contact with all the uneven surfaces of your basement walls. You need to insulate everything above grade, and in most places in Maine – to four feet below grade to get below the frost line. All spray foam in Maine needs to be covered with a 15 minute thermal barrier per the Maine State Fire Marshal, this application should be done by a professional and you should make sure your quote includes the thermal barrier (paint). I often say this type of insulation looks like melting snow! It is great to brighten a basement. 

See video online from our friends at Dixfield Foam Insulation.

Concrete basement wall, you can install rigid insulation glued and screwed directly to the foundation walls. Homeowner do-it-yourself types can do this easily on their own. Make sure you buy Thermax Sheathing foil faced or white finish that complies with ASTM C 1289, Type 1 Class 2 as required by the Maine State Fire Marshal. Tape all seams with approved tape to be used with this type of sheathing. If you’d rather not buy this type of rigid insulation you’ll need to cover the insulation with a 15 minute thermal barrier like the spray foam. Also, ½” gypsum wall board and some OSB will meet this requirement.

New Construction:
On the Exterior: The best way to insulate a basement during new construction is to add 4” to the exterior of the building. If you choose to do this, you need to get creative with flashing details that lap under the siding/skirt board and out over the 4-inch projection of the insulation. Exterior insulation also needs to be covered with a protective coating to prevent its breakdown from UV rays and wear and tear on the foundation from mowing and maintenance. For this reason, many people opt to insulate on the inside of their foundation. We like the coatings by Styro Industries where you can buy FP Ultra Lite Panels that already have the coating on the panels, but there are many companies that make coatings to cover your foundation insulation from concrete or stucco parging to rock veneer.

ICF basement blocks. If you are planning to finish your basement, this may be the right way to go. The foam needs to be covered on the interior for fire protection and exterior for UV and maintenance protection. With only two inches on the exterior you can skin the outside of your exterior walls with rigid insulation and eliminate the flashing details at the foundation. You can hang sheetrock directly over the insulation on the inside and have a very comfortable finished basement space.

Interior insulation. There are a number of ways to insulate the interior of the foundation, so instead of telling you how to do it I’ll just make a few notes.

1.      Always consider a layer of rigid insulation between the stud wall and the foundation wall as a thermal break.
2.      Do not leave an air space behind the stud wall, this defeats the purpose of the insulation
3.      Do not use cellulose anywhere that it can come in contact with the concrete. Cellulose insulation is wonderful, but it can hold a lot of moisture and it will pull moisture from the concrete.
4.      Always use moisture resistant or paperless drywall in basements because you never know when you might have a moisture problem
5.      And last, but never least – the current energy code requires R-15 continuous insulation (so rigid insulation) or R-19 cavity insulation (think stud walls with fiberglass batts)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

What are you waiting for? - By Carrie Colby

Here are the Top 6 Seller Procrastinations that distract sellers from making well-thought-out decisions about the value of their real estate and what to do with it:
1. “I’m waiting for the value of my real estate to increase.” If you’re planning to buy more real estate with the proceeds of the sale, waiting for a better market may not be the best strategy. When your property goes up in value, so do others. Gains in your neighborhood may be canceled out by gains in the area you’d like to move to. You’ll achieve the greatest benefits when the differential between your current neighborhood and your ideal next location favors your real estate. Real estate professionals make their living balancing gains for seller-buyers, so don’t try to do their job when you don’t have their training and access to data. Concentrate on finding the local real estate professional with in-depth knowledge of the two neighborhoods in question who is ready to work on the best sell-buy strategy for you.

2. “I’m waiting for my house to be painted/fixed up, so I make top dollar.” Once again, increasing market value is what professionals do for their listing clients. In fact, professionals go beyond value increase to make sure their clients net the best return on their investment in the property. Your ideas, unlike those of professionals, on what to renovate and how will not be based on current, first-hand experience with buyer reactions. Don’t spend a dime until you have professional feedback on what will make your real estate more valuable to qualified buyers.

3. “I’m waiting for the last kid to go to college.” That departure date bears no relationship to the ups and downs of real estate markets. Wait for this arbitrary day and you may be doing yourself out of enough money to finance your child’s education, or at least a chunk of it. Annual estimates of market value for your property will enable you to make an informed choice about the right time to sell. Most real estate professionals do not charge for this up-dating service, but you want to receive details, not just “ball-park” opinion. Make sure to get an in-depth market analysis.

4. “I’m waiting to retire.” That may be a long wait since 20th century, pension-rich retirement is history. Now, your real estate should be a financial partner in your future. Managing home equity is your new job as we have been explaining here for ages. Same idea as number three where professional market knowledge gives you the edge.

5. “I’m waiting until I can comfortably leave behind the memories we’ve made here.” Being sad to leave a home, cottage, or building that has brought you and your family pleasure is not a bad thing. Would you prefer to be desperate to get away from the real estate you own? Take videos or do what you can to preserve the memories, so they are not a barrier to choice.

6. “I’m waiting for…” Passively waiting to see what happens is not a plan or a strategy - it’s a cop out. Monitor real estate and financial markets to determine when you have the greatest advantage. Strategize how to increase the value of your real estate in the meantime. Take this on yourself, or search out a real estate professional who shares your long-term vision of gaining the greatest return on your real estate investment.

Carrie Colby
Premier Properties
1263 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, ME 04071

Multiple bids - By Rick Yost

The real estate market is heating up. Continued low interest rates and low inventory have combined to result in well priced properties being sold in a matter of days. When a well-priced property hits the market, it often results in multiple buyers wanting to purchase the home. This can lead to multiple offers being made on the same property. I personally have been in three multiple offer situations with clients in the last ten days (See 5/21 column).
It is a heart wrenching experience for buyers that have finally found a home they want to purchase only to lose it to another buyer. The wait for a reply can be excruciating in a multiple bid situation. There are some strategies that can be employed to help buyers in multiple bid situations.

First and foremost buyers must know their limits. Buyers must set a top end price and do not exceed it. House hunting and multi-bid situations are emotional and it is easy to get caught up. Buyers need to avoid the win at all cost mindset. It can lead to over paying and buyers’ remorse. 

Buyers should have all their paperwork in order. A broker can help with that. An offer should be submitted with the property disclosures signed, the deed initialed, the MLS sheet initialed, any addendum, for example, lead paint, signed or initialed, and all other pertinent paperwork. Most importantly, buyers should include proof of their ability to buy the home with the offer. A pre-approval letter from a qualified lender will usually suffice. Having a clean offer that has everything the seller needs can make an offer more appealing. It shows that a buyer is serious and ready to move forward.
 Buyers should bid uneven numbers. A unique bid of $213,252 will stand out from a bid of $213,000 or $212,999. This few extra dollars and couple of extra minutes of scrutiny from the seller maybe all that is necessary to put a buyers offer in the winning position.

 Buyers can add a personal letter to their offer. Buyers can explain why the house is right for them, what they love about the house, and how they will care for it. Typical sellers will have an emotional attachment to the home that they are selling. The home is full of memories for them. All else being equal, knowing that the home is going to someone that will love the home the way the seller did could make for a winning bid.

 Buyers should also try to find out just how hot a property is. When did it go on the market? How many times was it shown? How many offers are there? Any and all information should be used to determine the offer price. The offer on a home that has been on the market a day and has five offers has to be more aggressive than the offer on a house that has been on the market for a week and has one other offer. The more informed a buyer’s bid is, the more likely for it to succeed. 

 As a last resort, a buyer can throw all the above advice out the window and make an outrageous offer. That always gets the seller’s attention. Offering $241,325 on a home that was listed for $230,000 will get a buyers offer noticed. If a buyer must have that house, this is an effective strategy.

 Buyers who following these tips will find themselves on the winning side of these multiple offer situations more often. Good luck and happy house hunting!

Rick is a Realtor, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can contact Rick with all your real estate questions and needs at