Friday, November 30, 2018

Important information for Millennial homebuyers

By Amy Krikken

Interest rates are still relatively low, supply is beginning to return to normal and Millennials are entering the market in droves. 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 have very little money down required 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 W2's (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 your mortgage company 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 your mortgage company first. 
DON’T finance any elective medical procedure. 
DON’T join a new fitness club. 
DON’T open a new cellular phone account.’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. 

Amy Krikken, Maine's Rock Star Realtor, can be reached at 207-317-1338 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. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Most common reasons your house isn’t selling

By Matt Trudel
This year’s market has been very good for sellers and is not showing any real signs of slowing down next year, despite the slight rise in interest rates. Although rising rates can limit a buyer’s purchasing power, there are still plenty of buyers out there looking at all price ranges. So why isn’t your home selling, or for that matter even being shown to potential buyers for weeks. Below are some of the top reasons that houses don’t sell in what is considered a very good market for sellers.

Incorrectly pricing a property too high is one of the most common mistakes that sellers and their agents can make. Thinking that you can push the limits because it’s a seller’s market can be a huge error. Buyers are very educated these days with regards to value of home. An overpriced home limits the number of potential buyers that might be able to afford it, and in turn limits the number of buyers that will even look at it. This can cause a home to sit on the market and become what is know as a stale or old listing. Having a bunch of price drops can also cause buyers to think there is something wrong. So be sure you and your Realtor® have an accurate and realistic value for your home. The condition of your home should also be taken into account during this process, which leads to the next reason.
While some homes are up to date and have been freshly painted, homes that need a lot of updating and TLC can be tougher to sell. Some buyers just don’t have the desire or ability to do a lot of home improvements. Your home should be clean and free of clutter, even if it is dated. Paint is an easy fix for some homes. A fresh coat of neutral paint through some of the rooms not only updates the home, it will also help with a fresher smell. Depersonalize the home as much as possible. Pack and put away family photos and memorabilia. This time of year you should be cautious about over decorating your home. A potential buyer my not share your same enthusiasm about Santa Claus or other various holiday traditions you may have. 

Are you working with the right Realtor® for your particular home? All agents are not created equal and Realtors® offer many different qualities. Experience, timeliness, availability and personality are just a few of the characteristics you should be looking for.  Some agents work part time and have other jobs that make them unavailable. Some agents just don’t have very good people or social skills, are tired or burnt out, or are not very happy with their career. A Realtor® that loves his or her job is more than likely going to do a good job representing you and your home.

Location! Location! Location! We have all heard it, but sometimes your home is not in the best of locations. I know what you are thinking, “I can’t pick my house up and move it! “ That is true and all I ask is you remember this little piece of knowledge. A house that is not in the best of shape or best location but has lake or mountain views can work for some buyers. You might not have a lake, but you can make the exterior and yard look as desirable as possible to off set the condition and/or location.  At one point you liked the home and location, so perhaps the right buyer just hasn’t come along yet. 

This article was written by Matthew Trudel, Owner of Five Star Realty, Windham.  (207) 939-6971.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Small fixes, big value

By Rick Yost

When a seller is getting ready to sell their home, there are always projects that can be done to make the home more saleable. Removing clutter, touching up paint and a deep cleaning are the most common first step recommended to a potential home seller and increasing the potential for getting a home sold. 

The steps discussed in this article are the next level and are meant to return the greatest amount of value with the least amount of cost and effort. These steps will also get your house ready for sale at the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time. These are the little things that potential buyers notice and influence their decision to make an offer and how much they decide to offer. Home sellers following this advice are truly ready to sell their home.

Appliances and furnace
All potential home buyers will look at your furnace and appliances. Make them shine. Sellers should clean the oven, stove top and inside of the refrigerator as best as possible. Use some appliance touch up paint on small chips and nicks. Use a degreaser on the furnace, wipe off all dirt and dust and clean the floor around the furnace. 

Buyers will make over all assumptions about the upkeep of the home based on the appearance of the appliances and furnace. I cannot tell you how many clients I have worked with that reject a home based on the condition of the furnace. The condition being entirely determined by the way the furnace looks.

Baseboard, moldings and sinks
Cracking, peeling, and discolored caulk and/or silicon on your baseboards, moldings, sinks and tubs stand out like a sore thumb but a little time and effort can remove the cracked and discolored caulk and silicon. 

Tubes of caulk and silicon are inexpensive and easy to apply. Sellers will be surprised at the difference this step will make in the overall appearance of the house because nothing looks more dated than a sink with cracked caulk all around it.
Smoke detectors and CO2 detectors
Discolored, beeping, and non-functioning detectors are eye sores and annoying for buyers. A quick trip to the local hardware store to get replacements for dated detectors and fresh batteries for more current detectors is always a cheap and easy way to add visual appeal and value to a home.
Fireplace and chimney
Having the chimney and fireplace cleaned helps make a home more attractive to buyers. Although buyers love a fireplace, they fear chimney fires. As a result, water stains inside the fireplace, piles of soot and loose mortar are all troubling signs to potential buyers, so sellers should consider spending a little extra money to improve these conditions professionally and save the receipts for potential buyers. Not only will it further home safety, but will increase the likelihood of a quick sell.

Sellers should make sure that all windows have screens. Screens that don’t fit correctly or are damaged should be repaired immediately with particular attention to the screen door. Potential buyers notice those screens first. 
Window sill
Of all the things this article recommends, this is the most important.  Windows should be cleaned, sills vacuumed, and blinds dusted. There should be no peeling paint, moisture stains or discoloration as all of these are warning signs to potential buyers.  Scrape, sand, etc.  your problem sills and put a fresh coat of paint on them.  Sills are so often overlooked by seller, but not by buyers.
Now that the seller has completed his deep cleaning, removed clutter, touched up paint and followed the steps in this article, they are ready to go to market with a house that is truly ready for potential buyers to see and truly ready to sell.

Rick is an Award-Winning Realtor, real estate author and long time Windham resident.  You can reach Rick with all your real estate questions at

Friday, November 9, 2018

Home remodeling advice if you do not know exactly what you want

By Carrie Colby

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, they may seem nice, and they may seem competent, but have you checked them out? What do your friends say about them? Have you contacted their references? Seen their work? Are there any complaints lodged against them? (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 them? Is he/she 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 real estate agents are 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 very important. 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.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Why it is important to do a pre-inspection prior to listing your home

By Richard Vraux

So, you think you may want to sell your home? Here are some things you should know before taking that giant step to sell.

First, speak to a Real Estate Advisor to have them explain the importance of having a pre- inspection done prior to listing your property. Once you have a plan, then start the process.

Start off with your Realtor® recommending a few inspectors to choose from. Make sure he or she is (NACHI) certified National Association of Certified Home Investigators. By hiring a third party, they can give you an unbiased opinion as to the condition of your home. The report will address any safety issues at hand and any problem areas that could cause you problems. You will want to know these and other issues that will minimize the stress you may encounter during this process.

Isn’t it better to know your issues prior to your listing, rather than having to deal them after the offer comes in? The likelihood of having to deal with negotiations at the last minute is slim to none having a pre-inspection., if the issues are found up-front, you can either repair it yourself or you can seek out a contractor at your own pace and find one that is reasonable in price. Running around at the last minute can be costly to you.

Once you know what repairs or updates are need, you should be ready to sit with your Realtor® and get a more accurate price point to list your house. Most Realtors® do not recommend this service, but believe me, it will be money well spent if the buyers find issues.

Most inspectors charge between $350.- $400 for this service and another $250-$300 for a septic inspection. It will be a small price to pay rather than have the buyers ask for thousands to have a qualified technician take care of the issues.

Boy scout motto- Be Prepared.

Richie Vraux is a Real Estate Broker/ Realtor® with RE/MAX Allied for more than 20 years. If you need advice call Richie @ 207-317-1297.