Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The do's and don'ts of first time home buying - By Amy Krikken

Interest rates are still very low, supply is ample, and the snowflakes haven't flown yet. Many people assume that they can't afford to own a home. However, that is not always the case. There are great programs out there for first time home buyers, some require very little money down in order to purchase a first home. First time home buyers can best prepare themselves if they know a few things ahead of time. Often the first step is contacting a loan officer/mortgage broker to obtain prequalification. 

This process involves giving the mortgage broker a quick picture of your income, assets and debt. Before you even begin perusing the listings on line, and driving by houses, you should do yourself this favor. There is no sense in getting hopeful about a home that you can't afford. 

Your loan officer will lead you through a simple process that will yield that magic number, then you can begin your search. What you need to provide to be prequalified are two years of W2s (or two years of tax returns if you are self-employed), thirty days’ worth of pay stubs, and two months’ of bank statements. You will also want to check your credit report, as you will want that to be at its best before you officially apply for the loan. 

There are some surprising things that you should, and more importantly should not do, when you are in the process of shopping for a home. 

Katrina Virgie of Northstar Mortgage here in Windham, has developed this helpful list: 

DO call us if you have any questions.
DO provide requested documentation promptly and in its entirety. 
DO continue living at your current residence. 
DO continue making your mortgage or rent payments. 
DO continue to use your credit as normal. keep working at your current employer. 
DO keep your same insurance company. 
DO stay current on all existing accounts.
DON’T change your employment status. 
DON’T make any major purchases (car, furniture, jewelry, etc.). 
DON’T change bank accounts. 
DON’T make any large cash deposits into your bank account. 
DON’T transfer any balances from one account to another. 
DON’T close any credit card accounts. 
DON’T consolidate your debt onto one or two credit cards. 
DON’T apply for new credit or open a new credit card. 
DON’T max out or overcharge on your credit card accounts. 
DON’T take out new loan or co-sign on a loan. 
DON’T pay off any loans or credit cards, charge offs, or collections without discussing it with us
DON’T finance any elective medical procedure. 
DON’T join a new fitness club. 
DON’T open a new cellular phone account. 
DON’T start any home improvement projects. 
DON’T have your credit pulled or dispute any information on your credit report. 

If you encounter a special situation, it is best to mention it to your mortgage broker right away so they can help you determine the best way to achieve your goals. Most importantly remember that you are not alone, your real estate agent, and your mortgage company can take the guess work out of the process, and make this a smooth transition into your new home. Krikken, Maine's Rock Star Realtor, can be reached at to assist you in your home buying or selling needs. Mortgage Maven Katrina Virgie can be reached at to help you find the mortgage that is right for you.

Friday, November 18, 2016

What you need to know about short sales - By Randee McDonald & Jennifer Scholz

Most people have heard the term “short sale” associated with certain real estate transactions.  It’s not an endearing term given to a real estate transaction that gets wrapped up quick and easy, unfortunately. 

The actual definition of a short sale is the sale of real estate where the net proceeds from selling the property will fall short of the debts secured by liens against the property. In this case, if all lien holders agree to accept less than the amount owed on the debt, a sale of the property can be accomplished.  A short sale is the last step before foreclosure.

As a seller, this can be an attractive route to go to avoid having a foreclosure on your shoulders. As a buyer, it means you’re competing with fewer buyers, but be prepared for a long process.

Here are a few tips to remember if you find yourself on the buyer side of a short sale transaction:
1.     Hold on and be prepared for anything. Once an offer is made, it must go to the bank for final approval. The bank knows – in most cases – they won’t make up all the money that is owed to them, but they do want to make sure they are getting a fair price. Do not assume the bank will just accept any offer, they won’t. In fact, be prepared for the bank to reject it. Don’t start mentally preparing for the move just yet.

2.  Be prepared to wait. It could take anywhere from a few months to the rest of your life to hear back as to whether your offer was accepted or rejected. This is serious business for all financial stakeholders involved here, and they will take their due diligence to decide if this is the best offer. As such, please don’t call your real estate agent every few hours asking if they’ve heard anything. Trust me, when they do, you’ll be the first to know.

3.  Get your ducks in a row. Make sure you’ve got your act together quickly, because if the offer is approved and accepted by all parties. It can take some real finesse to coordinate everything that needs to happen within a certain time period. The bank that owns the mortgage may have one date in which they want everything to close by, and then your lending bank may have their own set of dates, plus the inspections, etc. 

4.  Elbow grease or write a check? It is highly possible that at some point the homeowner realized that he wasn’t going to come up with the money to save the house from being sold – and – wasn’t going to see a penny from the short sale himself. Thus, he pretty much abandoned any and all maintenance or repairs for the property and basically let it go into a state of neglect. All of which you have now inherited!

Although neglect is an unfortunately side effect in short sales and foreclosures, they can sometimes be overlooked if you’ve gotten a great deal on the home and are ready and willing to deal with this sad but common occurrence. So either be ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work yourself, or write a check and hire out the work.

So the main goal here was to educate a little on the basics of a short sale and allow you to decide if going that route is a viable option for you. If you do, tread lightly and realistically. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and patience will definitely be needed here. And if you do decide to throw your hat into the short sale game, good luck!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Selling your home during the holiday season - By Cari Turnbull

Often I consult with sellers considering getting their home ready for sale and they specifically say they don’t want to list it over the holiday season. They have various reasons for this. It’s a busy time of year with lots of parties and events to attend and host, presents to buy, cookies to bake and the list goes on.
I on the other hand think selling your home during this time of year is a fabulous opportunity to showcase your beautiful home. Holiday decorations, when done properly, can accent features in your home or even help to distract from areas that might otherwise not look great. I would keep your 10-foot blow up Santa in the closet, but tasteful front door wreaths and classic white lights can make the difference in a buyer seeing your house as their new home. 

Buying a home has a lot to do with emotion and you can absolutely tap into buyer emotion at this time of year. Most buyers do not have the creative vision to see what the house would look like decorated for the holidays. When they view it during this time, it is easy for a buyer to picture their loved ones enjoying the holiday season there. Buyers often speculate about the best place to place their Christmas tree during showings. This would take all the guess work out of it when they walked in to see your perfectly decorated tree and the stockings hung. the last few months of the year we also see an increase in buyer activity as folks are anxious to purchase a home before the end of the year. If you’re thinking of selling, I would absolutely recommend consulting a local realtor to discuss your options. 

Happy Holidays from The Turnbull Team at The Maine Real Estate Network. We are proud to serve the Windham and surrounding areas for the past 9 years.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Investing in home energy updates - By Nicole Foster up in a large farmhouse in Maine, I have many warm and cozy memories of the Crawford woodstove in the kitchen on snowy winter days and the wicked chill in the air upstairs where my bedroom was located. My parents and older siblings spent many summer afternoons gathered around the wood splitter preparing for cold months and in the winter when the coal truck would come to make it’s delivery I would press my face to the single pane glass spanning from floor to ceiling and listen to the ruckus of the coal tumbling down the chute into the cellar beneath me. 

For the past decade as a Realtor, I have visited many different style homes of all ages and unlike a typical visitor to a home, I have the unique privilege seeing areas which are often not seen including basements or crawlspaces, attics and unfinished areas.

When considering home improvement projects, it may make sense for you to place cosmetic upgrades on hold to make energy upgrade investments a priority. It does not matter if your home is relatively new or centuries old, rapid advances in money saving technologies has cultivated an entire industry whose focus is to improve the overall health and energy efficiency of buildings.

Financing, rebates and incentives may also be found locally or through Efficiency Maine’s Residential Programs. Having guidance through the process is the key to making sure that your money is being spent wisely, so don’t run out and replace all of your windows without first taking a closer look at the entire home. Integrate the kids on your energy saving journey by borrowing an easy to use electricity monitor from the Windham Public Library so everyone can see just how much electricity each appliance and device uses to help create a discussion on energy saving habits, as well!
The first important step is to hire an energy advisor to conduct an energy audit of your home. 

Through procedures and tests using door blowers, infrared cameras and combustibles safety testing, they will be able to identify opportunities for savings and point out areas where improvements addressing moisture, radon and mold may be made to improve overall air quality in the home. When selecting a company to work with be sure to ask them what they charge for different types of assessments, and if they provide a computer generated “model” of your home, a report or a checklist of suggestions. Buyers may request a seller to allow them to conduct this type of investigation during the contingency period as well, if energy consumption or having a clear plan of home improvements before purchasing is pertinent or of concern.

You may be surprised at the recommendations you receive from your energy advisor which can range from recommending new energy saving appliances or lighting fixtures to air sealing or adding or replacing insulation. Other recommendations could be weatherization, upgrades to the heating system or water heater, or how to convert to different types of fuel or install solar panels to produce electricity or hot water. To find a list of local resources to help you get started, or to learn more, visit

After having an energy audit on your home you will be in a better position to create a plan for the upgrades and home improvement projects which should be done first, to both protect your home and largest investment from the harsh elements of Mother Nature, but to also add value to your property and overall savings to your monthly household expenses. 

Now that’s wicked smart!

Nicole Foster is a Broker with ten years of experience working with buyers and sellers specializing in single family, residential and new construction at Regency Realty. She lives in Windham with her husband and four children. To learn more about Nicole visit or email her at .