Friday, January 29, 2016

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Real Estate - Making the most of being stuck indoors - By Carrie Colby

If you’re like most people, you’ve been spending a lot of time indoors lately. Unfortunately, there are several more months of winter to get through before we start seeing signs of spring.

Before you throw your hands up in despair, why not break the boredom by working on your house? After all, you’re stuck inside anyway, and you’re probably searching for something to do that doesn’t involve watching bad reality TV. Plus, some home improvement projects will increase your property value, save money on your utility bills, and potentially prevent larger, more expensive issues from developing.

Here are some easy winter projects you might want to tackle before spring hits.

1. Repaint
You’ve been staring at your neutral colored walls every day for months. Want to brighten your mood? Try repainting! Go with a bright, cheery color to liven things up but don't go too crazy especially if you are considering selling soon.

I always repaint in the winter because that’s when I need the most visual stimulation. A new coat of paint can dramatically lift your mood and the mood of the entire room.

Make sure you crack open the windows to let in fresh air while you’re painting. Or, consider going with an eco-friendly, low-VOC paint so you don’t have to worry about breathing in toxic fumes.

2. Work on your floors
Is your carpet threadbare? Are your hardwood floors freezing your feet?

Putting in carpet is a great winter project because it can increase the comfort of your home dramatically.
Whether you do it yourself or have it installed, make sure you open windows to allow those toxic fumes to escape. You can also ask your carpet retailer to air out the carpet several days before they install it in your home.

If you don’t like carpeting, there are plenty of other home flooring ideas such as tile and laminate that you could also consider.

3. De-clutter
 When spring gets here, you’re not going to want to spend your time sifting through those piles of junk in your basement. You’ll want to be outside, enjoying the fresh air.

Winter is a great time to work on getting organized. Devote some time every week to de-cluttering in general and organizing what you decide to keep.

Tip: Don’t try to tackle the entire house at once. Do this and you’ll find yourself with a broken spirit, huddled on the couch looking for the remote. Start small, and go slow. Focus on one shelf, or one corner, and work until you’ve got that space looking exactly how you want. This way you’ll be able to see the progress you’re making.

4. Look at your bathroom
 Is your grout gunky with unsightly mildew? Is your sink hopelessly outdated? Are you over the pale green paint you put on the walls three years ago?

Bathrooms make great winter projects because once they’re done, you can appreciate your handiwork every single day. And, there are plenty of ways to frugally remodel your bathroom.

Updates like replacing a faucet, re-grouting tile, or repainting are relatively easy for the do-it-yourselfer. But if you get more ambitious (like, you want to replace the tile floor or buy a new toilet) you might want to call in professional help. Your sanity will thank you.

5. Add insulation
http://www.lisafriedlander.comOkay, so adding insulation doesn’t exactly make your heart pound with excitement. But it will lower your utility bills, and help make your home more comfortable and eco-friendly.

Crawl up into your attic. If you can see the floor joists, then you need more insulation. Since heat rises, you could save quite a bit by adding another layer of insulation up there.

You can also add insulation in your basement and in crawlspaces to prevent heat loss there as well.

Final Word
It’s easy to get cabin fever this time of year. We’re all going through it. But working on home projects is a great way to keep yourself active, add value to your home, and beautify or improve your living space. It’s a win-win!

Friday, January 22, 2016

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Cleaning up your credit - By Matt Trudel

You would like to purchase a home this year and preferably before the summer, but perhaps your credit score is too low or you are not getting the best interest rate because your credit score is marginal. Here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction to improving your credit.

First, you should get a full credit report. You can do this through several online companies like Credit Karma, or if you are working with a lender they should be able to provide you with a copy or at the very least they should review it with you. An experienced realtor, mortgage broker or loan officer should be able to point out the area where you can improve your score in the most effective way.

The next step would be to challenge and get any inaccurate, derogatory information off your report. This is done by writing the three credit bureaus and disputing the discrepancies. You should include any proof you have with your letter. It is also important to tell them that they have 21 days to respond because you are a resident of the State of Maine. Send the letters via certified mail as well.

If you have any outstanding collections, these can be tricky to handle and should be dealt with on case by case basis depending on your score. Ultimately you will want to settle them or pay them off, but you may want to wait until later. Paying off a collection will not remove it and if it is an old collection that is not currently reporting actively it could hurt your score more if you settle it.

Credit cards are generally where a credit score can be improved a lot in a very short period of time. If you have one or more credit cards that have a balance that is over 30 percent of the total amount of your credit line, you should pay the balance down to get you below 25 percent of the total credit line. So if you have a credit card with a $2,000 limit and your balance is over $600, you want to pay that down and keep the balance below $400. This applies for store cards and gas cards. I had a buyer whose credit was almost 80 points low due to two almost maxed out cards, one credit card and a Home Depot card. They had three cards that had zero balances with slightly higher limits. They transferred part of the debt onto those cards with no interest for a year and by lowering all balances, their score went up over the 680 mark in less than two months and they bought their first home.

Also keep in mind you don't want to apply for new cards or have your credit pulled multiple times as this can negatively impact your credit score. Hopefully this helps, or if you want more ideas or assistance, call one of us experienced Realtors.

Matt Trudel- Owner of Five Star Realty, Windham

Friday, January 15, 2016

January 15, 2016 - Real Estate

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Protect your home in the harsh winter months - By Cari Turnbull

Winter is upon us and Mother Nature has been kind to us to far, however colder and snowier days are sure to be ahead. If you’re like me your home is your biggest asset, here are some tips for protecting your investment in the harsh winter months.  
Tune up your heating system – You should have your furnace cleaned yearly if it is your primary heating source. Call and schedule your yearly maintenance to ensure your system is clean and in good repair, before you find yourself in the cold.  

Prevent ice dams- Last winter was especially harsh and I had many clients who ended up with ice dams. Ice dams are build ups on the edge of the roof and when melting occurs the water comes inside the home instead of going off the roof. To prevent ice dams you should make sure your attic is properly insulated. You should also use a roof rake to remove snow from the roof so it doesn’t turn to ice and build up on the edges. You can also locate damaged or loose shingles and replace them if possible.  

Caulk around windows and doors to keep the elements out and the heat in.

Turn off exterior faucets – If you don’t have frost proof exterior faucets, turn the water off from inside the home. Remove your hose and drain all of the water. Not doing this could lead to burst pipes.  

Clean your chimney – Call your local chimney sweep and have them come inspect your chimney and clean it out to make sure it is safe.  

Check carbon monoxide detectors – make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly, replace the batteries if necessary. We recommend have a carbon monoxide detector near the floor on every level of the home.  

Stock up on rock salt, shovels and tune up your snowblower or schedule your plow service. 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 at

Friday, January 8, 2016

January 8, 2016 - Real Estate

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Unlocking new construction - By Nicole Foster

We in the Lakes Region have been seeing a significant increase in the number of build packages or homes to be built, and new construction in recent years. Buyers are faced with choosing between purchasing an already existing home, which has been lived in previously, or one which is currently being built/to be constructed.   

A home is typically a person’s largest asset and source of wealth, so regardless of your own personal preferences to the “old world charm” of an already existing home or the convenience of “modern living” a new home may offer, taking real consideration to the eventual resale of a home at the time of purchasing is essential.  

Many of the buyers in today’s market would prefer to own a brand new home if possible. The top reasons include open floor plans on the main level, larger closets and more storage space, four or more bedrooms as well as having some options in certain areas. Buyers also recognize the considerable difference in overall annual maintenance and energy costs, helping to make their long term monthly expenses significantly lower.   

www.nicolefoster.mainelistings.comA buyer’s agent who has had either very limited or a challenging experience with a build package, land or new construction, may not encourage buyers to consider a new home. An effective buyer agent will be able to assist with determining which builders have a good reputation as well as help to navigate the process. We are very fortunate to have many established and reputable builders to choose from in the area, so making sure that you are working with a buyer agent who is both experienced and knowledgeable will help to ensure you make an informed decision as to whether or not a new home is right for you.  

We often see a trend where buyers begin to take a closer look at new construction options after many weeks or even months of looking at the inventory of already existing homes on the market. After calculating the costs associated with making cosmetic and aesthetic updates or improvements, addressing any upcoming maintenance issues as well as any “surprises” which may come to their attention through the process, buyers realize that many already existing homes may simply not hold enough value to make it what they would need or want it to be.   

Financing options for new homes do vary but typically a new construction loan is not necessary and you may be able to purchase a brand new home using Rural Development, FHA, VA or a conventional loan depending on the home and your unique situation. Turnkey homes are sold upon completion and are ready to move into. Most buyers request the same inspections and may be provided with the same contingency period for the purposes of investigations and due diligence as an already existing or resale property.  

Nicole Foster is a Broker/ Realtor at Regency Realty working with buyers and sellers in all of Southern Maine since 2006. She resides in Windham with her husband and four children. She may be reached at