Monday, October 26, 2015

New construction - It's simpler than you think - Cari Turnbull

With inventory in Greater Portland currently so low, many of my buyer clients are turning to new construction for their home purchase. You can not only get the home that you want, exactly the way you want it, but you can usually do that within your budget. 
If building a new home is of interest to you, make sure you choose a realtor who has experience with new construction to guide you through the process. We are very fortunate to have some great builders in this area who are able to do what we call a “turn key” build package. What this means is that you no longer have to take out an expensive and hard to come by construction loan. These builders will front the money for the project and you will close one time on the house when it is completed. 

During the process you can be as involved (or not involved) as you would like to be. Most buyers love the fact that they can choose every aspect of the home from the lot and home style to siding color and kitchen design. 

New construction does differ in a few ways. One is that the builder will likely require a significant non-refundable deposit to start the project. Since they are fronting all of the money, they want assurance that you will make every effort to close on the property. The deposit can range from three to 20 percent depending on the builder and the cost of the home. The next difference is that there will be two appraisals done, one at the beginning of the process once you are under contract to ensure that the home is worth the amount that you are under contract for. 

The second appraisal will happen when the home is completed to ensure it was finished according to the specifications. The third thing that is different is that you receive a one year home warranty with all new construction projects in the State of Maine. 

If you’re not finding a home you like on the market, or have always dreamed of building a new home, you should absolutely explore this option. 

Cari Turnbull is a Windham resident. She and her team represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact Cari

Strengthening services for Maine Veterans - By Rep. Mark Bryant

As we look forward to Veterans Day, I wanted to share some information about the work the Maine Legislature did this past session to help veterans in our state. 
Maine has one of the highest populations of veterans per capita; more than 1 in 10 Mainers have served, including hundreds here in Windham. Our veterans range in age from young adults to senior citizens, and their needs are as diverse as their experiences. 

They have made remarkable sacrifices for our country, and many return from war with challenges ranging from physical disabilities to scarring memories and economic struggles. High unemployment and homelessness plague veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Nationally, there are 18 to 22 veteran suicides per day, an alarming and devastating statistic. Although veterans have gained countless valuable skills during their time of training and service, it can be extremely difficult for them to find their footing when they return to civilian life. 

The Bureau of Maine Veterans’ Services and the federal U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provide crucial services to help veterans navigate and overcome these challenges, but they sometimes miss the mark. 

To help ensure that these programs achieve their intended outcome, we passed a law to strengthen and streamline the services provided to Maine’s veterans. The bill was sponsored by my colleague Rep. Jared Golden, a Marine Corps veteran who served in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. His personal experience as a young veteran returning to life in Maine give him a strong understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s current offerings. 

Rep. Golden’s bill creates a commission that will bring together lawmakers and veterans to identify gaps, duplications and inefficiencies and search for new ways to help veterans in Maine thrive. 

One focus of the commission’s work will be to improve the state’s engagement and communication with veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Young veterans are technologically savvy and should be reached through more creative ways, for example, than the simple snail mail pamphlet that is currently sent to veterans at the end of their service. Many veterans don’t take advantage of the services available to them because they don’t even know they exist, let alone how to access them. 

The commission will look for ways to improve health care and mental health services when there is a gap in federal services. It will also seek to better align community, state and federal resources to assist homeless veterans in Maine. 

Finally, the commission will explore ways in which the state can develop and implement a marketing strategy to encourage veterans and military families to attend state colleges and to live and work in Maine. Maine should be proud to have so many servicemen and women living in our communities, and we should seek to be one of the best places for veterans to live. 

The commission will start meeting this month, and will report their findings back to the full Legislature in January. 

If you would like to learn more about the Commission and other work to help veterans, please feel free to contact me at or 892-6591.

Setting the expectations in this crazy market! - Lisa DiBiase

While home prices are not at the top of the market like they reached earlier this year, they are still higher than they were last year. And with low inventory which is likely not catching up to demand for a very long time, it’s seems harder than ever to buy a home.

So if you’re a prospective homeowner, you’re probably feeling a little worried right now. Don’t worry...that’s normal! To help survive the house hunt, you might need a little emotional preparation and support.

Set your expectations:
If you enter the housing market expecting to immediately snatch up your dream home, chances are you’re setting yourself up for lots of sleepless nights and tears! This comes from having high expectations and no plan to work from. This doesn’t mean it’s easy to lower them either.
It’s important to set realistic expectations without scaring yourself...remember as you go through the process to not take anything personally. You have to be okay when you’re starting the search that you may not find the perfect home. Some people are too specific which can be a disservice at times. Be open to what’s out there, instead of deciding in advance exactly what you want.

Know your limits:
Try to manage the amount of energy you are putting into each offer, especially without exhausting yourself and those around you. If you’re obsessing over a house that’s just not within reach, move forward with your search. Compile a list of your needs, wants and wishes and prioritize them. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to see the bigger picture!

Focus on the search:
Stress can become greater when you add more ‘tasks’ to your life. When searching for a home, be mindful about what else you are going to add to your plate during that time. Try to maintain equilibrium elsewhere in your life, so you can enjoy the process of becoming a home owner.

Keep your stamina
When making an offer, it doesn't have to be perfect! Don't get caught up with all the details, only to have it be countered or even declined! In this market, you might make up to three to six offers before you win one. Be prepared to hang in there.

Expect delayed gratification
Call it the agony of winning. Think about it, you sign the contract, and pack up all your belongings only to be caught up with a new round of intense feelings: Regret and anxiety where sometimes even panic whether you've made the right decision. It can be very overwhelming when the search is actually over. It may not be until you make your first meal, rake your first leaves or make the first upgrade of your new home that confirms your decision to know that you made the right decision that you finally feel at home and full of gratitude.

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.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Steps to take when looking for a real estate agent - By Carrie Colby

Meet agents out in their working environment, not in their offices. Good agents spend very little time at their desks. 
Make sure the agent has closed many properties and has worked a few years at least. You will want an agent to work for you. More closings mean more experience. 

Contact the agent with whom a friend or relative worked. If this agent produced positive results for a friend, there’s a good chance they will do the same for you. 

Make sure your agent is online. Having a web savvy agent is very important today as over 85 percent of all buyers initially see their homes online. Great agents have laptops and often have moved to mobile technology to assist. A real estate agent in today’s world must email, text, and be available to buyers and sellers alike. 

Interview several agents. Whether you are looking for a buyer agent or seller agent, remember, agents will tell you what you want to hear. Make sure they are not selling you a dream partnership... you want to hire a realistic real estate agent. Don’t sign a buyers’ agreement form before looking for property (you should feel free to build trust with a real estate agent over several hours of looking before signing anything). 

Look for signs that the agent is busy. A hard-working, go-getter of an agent is good. Be careful, sometimes they are too busy. A real estate agent can only effectively work with about a half-dozen buyers and a dozen sellers at any given time to properly give the time needed to a buyer. If they pass you to an “assistant”, move. 

Be sure that your agent is knowledgeable. Ask questions. An excellent agent is the most important to you when buying a home for the first time. They should have experience and should be able to guide you through the complexities of the process including lender info that you will have to provide. 

See how the agent’s MLS listings come up in searches. However if you wish to purchase your dream home that is not for sale it will not show up on the MLS. When listing in today’s market, all listings from small to big should have professional photos - this is the first sign of a professional real estate agent who understands today’s market. 

Do some research. How respected is the brokerage/agent... You want an agent that will network and work cooperatively with other agents. Seasoned agents tend to know the other agents in the area and have good working relationships with them. This tends to transform into good transactions. 

Check the references that an agent should be able to provide you. Ask the other real estate agents you interview if they know the other agent and if they respect them as a real estate agent. 

Ask your agent where they live. An agent that lives and works locally will have their finger on the pulse of the market and be able to answer important questions about the community. They should at a minimum know the schools where they work. 

Ask “Can you recommend service providers who can assist me in obtaining a mortgage, making repairs on my home, and other things I need done?” Keep in mind here that a real estate agent should generally recommend more than one provider and shouldn’t receive any compensation (ethical issues tend to arise when this happens). 

Ask the agent if the real estate agent is a full time agent. Is this her only job? You should demand a full time agent. 

Ask “How will you keep me informed about the progress of my transaction? How frequently?” Using what media? Again, this is not a question with a correct answer, but that one reflects your desires.
Finally you should have a good working relationship with your agent and know they have your "best interest at heart" and they should, it is their job!

Carrie Colby
Premier Properties
1263 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, ME 04071
Fax 866-379-9252
Cell 207-232-5497

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is a fixer-upper for you? by Rick Yost

Many home buyers consider a fixer-upper as their first home. The initial cost of a fixer-upper tends to be more affordable than a move in ready home. Though fixer-uppers can often cost more in the long run. Unforeseen costs and cost overruns can quickly use up a budget and much more. Buying a fixer-upper can be a great way to buy more house than a first time home buyer could afford otherwise, but great caution should be exercised. There are several factors to consider before buying a fixer-upper. 
First and foremost is patience and temperament. Living in a home that is under construction takes patience and a good personal temperament. A person that likes things a certain way and likes things done yesterday should probably avoid a fixer-upper. A person that takes joy from small but steady accomplishments and does not get upset with unforeseen setbacks or obstacles could be a good candidate to purchase a fixer-upper.

The next thing to consider is just how handy the buyer is, really. It is important to be honest. Most people consider themselves somewhat handy, but really are not. If a buyer cannot patch a price of sheetrock, change an electrical fixture, or unclog a drain, they should not consider a fixer-upper. On the other hand, if a buyer owns a circular saw and knows how to use it, a fixer-upper might be a good choice.

Friends and family that work in the trades (painter, plumber, electrician, builder) or are just good with tools can save buyers a great deal. It is important to ask how much they are willing and able to truly help before buying a fixer-upper. A plumber that works a 50 hour week may not want to come over and work on a bathroom on Saturday. Having willing and able friends and family can make a fixer-upper a good deal.

How much savings is available for repairs? Repair budgets move upward much more often than downward. Is the money needed to complete the repairs that need to be done available? Anticipate unforeseen problems and rising cost to be at least ten percent more than the original budget. Getting estimates for needed repairs before purchasing can help buyers understand whether or not a fixer-upper is the right choice.

There are several other factors to consider at that point before making the plunge. Many buyers are on a tight budget and don't have a lot of money to spend, but want to live in a nice area. Location is more import than the house itself. The house will change, the location will not. A fixer-upper is a way to get into an area that a buyer might not otherwise afford. A good location is necessary in order to turn your effort into a sound investment. If a buyer can afford a move in ready home in the area they desire, a fixer-upper may not be necessary.

Another consideration is how long the buyer plans to live in the home. Renovations take time. Homes under renovation are hard to sell. If a buyer does not plan on living in the home for several years, a fixer-upper might be a poor choice. There is money to be made in a well done fixer-upper, but there is a lot of money to be lost if the home has to be sold before the renovations are done.

 The last thing to consider is whether the issues with the fixer-upper are cosmetic or structural. Cosmetic issue can be lived with and corrected over a period of time. The 1970s wallpaper in the den might not be desirable, but it can be changed next year. A structural problem must be dealt with or may result in larger issues. A leaky foundation can lead to mold. Structural problems tend to be harder to correct and more difficult to estimate the cost of the repair. Buyers will be best served by avoiding fixer-uppers with structural problems.

If you consider all of the above and are a good candidate for a fixer-upper, make sure you do your diligence, avoid structural issues, and chose a good location. This will go a long way towards building a solid investment in your home. Good luck and happy hunting.

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