Friday, December 20, 2019

Why sell your home in the winter?

By Mel Oldakowski

There’s a myth many home sellers believe, and that is you should wait until spring to put your home on the market. The fact is, listing in the winter may have a greater advantage in terms of the type of buyers attracted, marketing and more.

Less competition. 
Many homeowners think that waiting for spring and summer is ideal, so there is a spring rush of
homes hitting the market. By listing in the months prior, you don’t have to worry about a saturated market. Your home is more visible to a buyer.

Non-contingent buyer. you’re looking to buy, then you’d want to be able to sell now because by the time spring arrives you have the opportunity to be a non-contingent buyer. Which means that if you find the home you love, you’ve already sold your current home and you won’t have to wait until you find a spring buyer. 

In addition, because more homes are for sale during the spring, this could drive down market prices meaning you have the ability to sell high and buy low.

Better showings. 
During the winter months, homes feel warmer and more inviting. If you have a fireplace, then fire
that baby up and put her to use to help welcome potential buyers as they come for showings.

With the number of listings that drop during the winter, it frees up more time for agents to increase our marketing efforts. That means more open houses, ads, posts, etc., all geared to make your house incredibly visible to the buyers out searching.  

Increased web traffic.
Home searches increase during the winter months as potential buyers start buckling down searching
for homes that spike their interest.

Serious Buyers. 
The number one reason you should list during the winter is that the buyers you meet are serious about purchasing. Not to say spring and summer buyers aren’t, however, they spend more time browsing the market. Winter buyers are more motivated to find the home that’s best for them and get the deal done!

Friday, December 13, 2019

What are the differences between real estate agents and brokers?

Real estate transactions often involve significant amounts of money. As a result, it's common for both buyers and sellers to enlist the services of a host of professionals with real estate experience.

Both buyers and sellers may work with real estate agents and/or real estate brokers en route to buying or selling their homes. Agents and brokers are not one and the same, and there are some important distinctions between the two.

Real estate agent
According to, real estate agents are professionally licensed individuals who can help both buyers and sellers. Agents also may help property owners rent their homes. The amount of training real estate agents need to earn their licenses varies by state. Once individuals finish their required training, they must take a written exam that tests their knowledge of federal real estate laws and general principles as well as the laws specific to the state in which they want to become licensed. 

Only after passing this exam do individuals become recognized real estate agents. Investopedia notes that achieving agent status is the starting point for most real estate professionals. estate broker
Real estate brokers are those professionals who have continued their education past the agent level and obtained a broker's license. Each state has its own requirements in regard to becoming a licensed broker, but education and examinations are necessary regardless of where a person lives. notes that the extra coursework to earn a broker's license focuses on various topics, including ethics, contracts, taxes, and insurance. Agents may learn about these topics as well, but coursework for prospective brokers goes into more depth than it does at the agent level.

Brokers also will study and learn about legal issues in regard to real estate. The legal issues brokers may learn about include brokerage operations, real estate investments, construction, and property management. Requirements vary, but notes that brokers often must work as licensed real estate agents for no less than three years before they can earn their broker's license.

There is more than one type of real estate broker. Principal/designated brokers oversee all agents at a given firm and ensure the agents act in compliance with all real estate laws. Managing brokers tend to focus on the hiring and training of agents. Associate brokers have their broker's license but work directly under a managing broker.

Real estate agents and brokers can help buyers, sellers and investors successfully navigate real estate transactions, and each can serve their clients in different ways.

This article was sponsored by Greg Swander, real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Team Real Estate in Windham. He can be reached at 207-650-1095 or email

Friday, December 6, 2019

Windham Economic Development Corporation and Real Estate Development: The Anglers Road Project

By Thomas Bartell

The Mission of the Windham Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is to encourage economic growth and development in a manner that supports increased prosperity in the Town of Windham and improves the quality of life for its citizens.

The vision is to create a business-friendly environment that provides a high-quality of life, a vibrant economy, and a welcoming atmosphere, while protecting our town’s rural characteristics and natural resources.

In it for the long haul.

Economic Development is a long-term process. The WEDC works alongside the Town to attract business investment in appropriate and suitable locations, to attract customers to visit our many wonderful local businesses, and to improve the infrastructure necessary to support a vibrant economy and protect our natural resources.  

As much as the Town and WEDC do not seek to be in the real estate business, sometimes the only way to fix long term infrastructure problems is to do just that. And for the Anglers Road, Route 302, Whites Bridge Road intersection realignment this was certainly the case. In this instance we were not only able to complete the intersection improvements which had been planned for decades, but we also were able to encourage the redevelopment of a longstanding vacant lot into commercial enterprises.

The Anglers Road intersection realignment.
Previous plans for intersection improvements were stymied by the lack of public ownership of the Right-Of-Way (ROW) on Anglers Road. The purchase of the property and subsequent transfer of the new Anglers Road ROW to the Town facilitated the construction and allowed for Federal and State DOT participation in the funding of the project. The Windham Town Council provided the “patient capital” to finance the purchase of the land via a low-interest loan through the Tax-Increment Financing program. The “patient capital” was vitally important to the success of this project which ended up being ten years in the making. the course of ten years, the intersection realignment was designed, State and Town financing for construction was secured, the new Anglers Road ROW was transferred, the intersection was reconstructed, and the remaining land was sold.  As this work was proceeding, the WEDC was working with the engineers from Main Land Development to prepare a site plan for the remaining acreage outside of the ROW on Anglers Road to prepare for its sale.  Sale of the land in this project was completed this Summer, and the Town received payment of the original loan plus interest in full.

Real Estate summary:
Original purchase: 10.7-acre parcel
1.22 acres to the road realignment and abutters
Sold four parcels
Momentum offices
Anglers Common Apartment complex, 42 units
Bob’s Seafood expansion
One parcel for future development

At completion of the apartment complex, the total annual property taxes raised from the new uses on the land will be above $100,000.

The Windham Economic Development Corporation is here to help with your business location needs.  Please contact Executive Director Thomas Bartell at or 207 892-1936.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Selling your home successfully through the holiday season

By Matt Trudel

If you want to sell your house over the next few months and are serious about getting it done, here are several things for you to consider in order to achieve your goal. While some agents might suggest waiting until spring, that might not be the best option for you or your family. Selecting the right REALTOR® to work with should be priority number one. 

Experience and availability are two things you want to be sure your REALTOR® provides.  There are a lot of part time agents out there, and if your REALTOR® is working another job, how can they answer calls about your property when buyers have questions or want to set up a showing?
Pricing your home correctly and aggressively will give you the edge over other homes. Buyers are very knowledgeable about home values with all of the information available online.  Overpriced houses limit the number of buyers who will even look at it, and with fewer numbers of buyers in the winter you don’t want to lose any potential buyers.

Selling through the winter months is not easy for sellers and can be just as challenging for buyers. Keeping your house in showing condition is important. Keeping clutter and decorations to a minimum will help you achieve this. Shoveling of decks, walkways, and a path around the house should be maintained. This way buyers can walk around the property easily and safely.   The same applies to driveways and turn around areas. Keep them plowed out well so there is more than enough room to turn around easily. Salt and sand as needed so your driveway remains ice free and is easily navigated.

Turn up the temperature a little to a comfortable level on days when you have showings. A cold house is a complete turn off to buyers. You want to have all the lights on, a warm feeling, and there is the added touch of cooking just a few cookies prior to the showing so that the smell is still in the air. You can even leave the cookies out for the buyers with a note saying welcome.

tombiczak@allstate.comAnother nice touch is to have a photo album of the house during the summer months showing any gardens, pools, lawns, and other seasonal things that cannot been seen with snow covering the yard. Along with this you can have a list of things you have enjoyed about living in the area.  Add to that any recent improvements you have made to the property.

There are many more things you can do, but these are a few suggestions that have proven to help in assisting sellers getting their house sold during a time of year when inventory is low, and buyers are few and far between. 

If you would like a free market analysis of your property you can call us or most all the local agencies provide that service as well. 

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

Friday, November 22, 2019

Showing a clean home will improve chance of a fast sale

By Rick Yost

One of the first rules of showing a home that is for sale is most likely one of the easiest - it should be clean and clutter free. Once you organize and de-clutter your home, it is time for a deep cleaning. I often recommend hiring a professional cleaning company to do this initial deep cleaning. 

Professionals will often clean spots overlooked or avoided by the homeowner. initial cleaning is the easy part. The hard part is keeping it clean. If the home is unique, a fixer-upper or in a slower moving market, it may take multiple showings and multiple
months to sell.

Keeping a home clean for many months is a huge task. There are a few tricks that can help keep a home clean for an extended period of time.

After cleaning your furniture and carpet, apply carpet sealant and protective sprays. These are the same products the furniture store tried to sell you when you bought your carpets and furniture, but they are available at home improvement stores and on Amazon. They help fabrics resist mildew, mold, and bacteria as well as protect against everyday stains. No one wants a grape juice stain on the carpet the day of a showing. As a bonus, some of these products also reduce fading.

After cleaning your baths and showers, apply a car windshield rain repellant. These products are available in any auto supply store. They create an invisible barrier on your shower walls and glass. It can prevent hard water stains, soap scum and grime build-up on your glass shower door – keeping it looking clean for weeks This barrier will cause soap suds, oils, and water to bead and roll off and soap scum will be a thing of the past.

After cleaning your stone countertops, apply a sealer. Most stone counter tops have a sealer applied when they are installed, but sealers should be periodically reapplied. Juice, sauces, and red wine can all easily stain countertops that are not properly sealed. A properly sealed countertop will also wipe clean much easier. A good way to test a seal is to pour a tiny bit

of water on the counter. The water should bead and stay beaded for two to three minutes. If it does not, it is time to apply a sealer. reduce dust and to make dusting easier, a home should have a humidity level of between forty and fifty percent. This can be achieved with a dehumidifier and/or a humidifier. A humid home with moist air is ideal for dust mites. A dry home can have static electricity build up. The static electricity attracts dust and makes dusting more difficult.

Showings are often requested at the most inconvenient times, so keeping the home “for sale” clean and ready at all times is important. Employing these cleaner longer methods will help remove some of the stress involved with showings.

Sellers that keep their homes clean will realize quicker and more profitable sales. Buyers often equate cleanliness with well maintained. A clean home makes a buyer feel more comfortable with what they are buying. This is the true benefit of having a home clean for showings.

Keep it clean and get it sold!

Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and longtime Windham resident. You can reach Rick with all your real estate questions and needs at

Friday, November 15, 2019

The do’s and don’ts of buying vacant land

By Carrie Colby

Buying a home can be complicated but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

Finding your dream home isn’t easy. You’ve spent a lot of time scouring online listings, attending open houses and scoping out neighborhoods – and you and your REALTOR® have still come up empty-handed. As a result, you may want to consider buying vacant land.

But before you get serious about laying a foundation, be aware that a land purchase may yield more surprises than buying a home – from easements and zoning restrictions to soil conditions that could easily turn building your dream home into a headache.

Whether you’re buying vacant land to build a home for your family or you hope to sell the plot for a profit in the future, follow these rules to avoid buyer’s remorse. Here are the do’s and don’ts of buying vacant land:

Do work with a pro who knows land with a real estate agent when you purchase a home helps you navigate the finer details like negotiations, due diligence and closing the deal. But when you’re purchasing land, it’s important to hire an agent who has extensive experience negotiating land deals. Use an agent who actually has represented both buyers and sellers in a number of land transactions.

Do consider the value of homes in the neighborhood and resale value
One of the biggest draws of building your home is the ability to customize it, but be sure you’re building your dream home in a neighborhood with similar taste. Be careful not to make the house too
specific for your needs and taste. Even if you never plan to sell, life happens, sometimes making it is necessary to sell unexpectedly.

Paint and carpets can be changed but for example lowering or raising counters and cabinets to fit “your” height will be much more costly to change.
You may be turned down for a construction loan if your plans for the home of your dreams is significantly more than home values in the neighborhood.

Do take utilities and road access into account
It’s easy to take for granted access to running water, electricity and sewers when you’re buying an existing house, but with vacant land these are not always a given.
Depending on how developed the area is around the land, you want to know if it’s going to cost money for infrastructure to be run to that land or if it’s already serviced. Is there town water and sewer or will you need to drill a well and put in a septic system.

Don’t expect to get a loan
A land purchase can’t be leveraged with a bank the same way a home purchase can, so you’ll likely have to pay cash if there’s no structure on the property yet.

But if you have a piece of land, you might be lucky if (a lender) gives you 40% or 50% of the value – and that’s typically if you have a good bank relationship or other collateral. You’re more likely to get zero. You’ll have a much better chance of being approved for a construction loan on the building you want to put on the land, since the house you’ll build serves as collateral on the loan.

Don’t skip the survey or soils tests
Similar to a home inspection and background research on a house, a plot of land needs to be subjected to tests and checks to ensure you know what you’re buying and that you’ll be able to build on it.

It’s best to buy land that already has a completed survey and soils report. And make sure they are up to date. If there is none, your REALTOR® should be able to recommend a surveyor and soils expert to do a soils test and septic design. This tells you that there is adequate space and the soils are right to put in a septic system and well.

Buying land is more complicated, but in the end you may end up with a home that works best for you and your family.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What to do with you house as you get older

By Richie Vraux

Not only have your children left the nest and produced their own happy and busy family lives – but now, your children have grandchildren of their own. You are facing a whole new life. Your nice big home that once was the setting of holiday gatherings are no longer needed. If truth be told, you are ready to downsize, anyway.

At one time, you could scale those stairs in your three-level home two at a time, but now your body has slowed down and you just can’t do those things you used to do.

Not only may it take a little longer to hop those stairs, but you are also on a fixed income. Your only means is Social Security  - or if you were lucky enough to put some money away for your retirement., you may have a little extra. But who knows how long you will live? this is the case for you, it might be time to speak to a Real Estate Advisor. Although it is true you can reach out and speak to any agent, as a senior citizen you may have other options.

You may want to speak to someone that specializes with your needs. A Senior Real Eestate Specialist Advisor is an accredited agent with the knowledge in the field of elder real estate and can help you make the right decisions.

Depending on your financial situation, there are different avenues you can take to help with your specific needs.

One way is a Reverse Mortgage. This type of mortgage is issued by a bank but is set up through FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and is only available to you if you are 62 years of age or older. The bank pays you for the equity still remaining in your home. It does not have to be paid back until the last surviving homeowner dies. The estate has approximately 6 months to repay the balance due or the bank will take back the home.

There are a lot of things to be considered when you get older in life. You should speak to a trusted Real Estate Advisor to make sure you are making the right decision for you and your family. Richie Vraux is a Raymond resident and Broker with Maine's Premier Team at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group. For your real estate needs call him at 207-317-1297.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A final walk-through before closing is an important component of the home purchase experience

By Kevin Ronan

Buying a home is like going on a journey, you must stay focused throughout the entire trip.    From the completion of the mortgage application, to visiting properties, making an offer and finally getting the home inspection - it all could take weeks or even months.

An extremely important final step before the closing is the final property walk-through. For some buyers, this critical task may not seem that important, but if a buyer knows what he should be looking for, a thorough walk-through can alert a buyer of expensive issues that may have been missed during the home inspection or of contractual repairs that were not performed correctly.

When you are doing the final walk through, make sure the property is in the condition you agreed to in the Purchase and Sales Agreement.  Let’s understand that a final walk-through is not a home inspection. The goal of the final walk-through is to ensure the home is in the same condition as when you last viewed the property and equally as important to check that all repairs agreed upon with the seller were performed.

Who should attend the final walk-through? Generally, the buyer and the buyer’s agent will attend without the seller and seller agent. This allows the buyer the freedom to inspect the property at their leisure without the seller or the seller’s agent.  In cases of new construction, the contractor or builder may request to be present, as a new building walk-through will be looking for both defects in the construction as well as any cosmetic issues. Most buyers expect a new home to be pristine - however in many instances this is not the case and the final walk-through is extremely valuable.

In most cases the final walk-through is scheduled the same day as the closing or within 24 hours prior to the closing date. I suggest you work with your real estate agent to establish a time with the seller’s agent as to when you can access the property and when the property will be vacant during your visit.
So, the final walk-through day has arrived. Depending on the size of the house, the walk-through can take between 30 to 60 minutes. Don’t forget about inspecting the exterior including the detached garage, sheds or pool area. Remember, this is your last opportunity to give your new home a final once over before it’s yours. Take your time!

To be certain your new home is move in ready, make yourself a checklist of things you want to review during the inspection, such as the property disclosure, inspection report and any repair amendments you and the seller agreed on and receipts of work performed.

Last week, Maine residents experienced a nasty nor’easter causing significant property damage throughout the state. When mother nature does not cooperate with your plans to close, I strongly suggest you consider rescheduling or repeating the walk-through. A walk-through will help you determine if any damage was caused by the storm and give the buyer the recourse to have the seller make the repairs before you close. The most common damage we are looking for includes water intrusion, fallen trees and related structural damage. Your mortgage lender may require the damage be remedied before the loan is approved.

If you are considering purchasing a home in the future, make the final walk-through inspection an important component of the home purchase experience. Take the time to protect yourself and your new home.

This article was brought to you by Kevin Ronan, an associate broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, located at 290 Bridgton Road in Westbrook. If you have any questions or need any assistance with your real estate needs please contact him at, or 207-838-4855. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Active versus passive real estate investing

By Dan McDermott

Individual private investors who are looking for a reliable stream of income often turn to real estate and face an age-old question: Is it better to be an active or passive real estate investor?

Given real estate investments inherent ability to provide steady passive cash flow from rents or loan payments plus some very generous tax benefits, it is not a wonder why they are a popular investment vehicle.  Additionally, there may also be a worthy prize at the end too; the potential to realize capital appreciation and possibly double or even triple your investment. This combination produces higher returns than traditional passive income sources such as bonds or dividend-paying stocks.

When investors decide whether to pursue real estate investing on either an active or passive basis, they need to consider the pros and cons of each strategy. In order to determine which investment strategy is best for you, you should first understand the main differences between the two.

Active investing is when an investor directly purchases a property for rental cash flow or to fix and flip for a profit. The property could be anything from a commercial building to a single-family house or a large multifamily property. The investor will personally manage all aspects of the investment process. This includes finding the deal, negotiating the deal, securing the financing, closing the deal, and managing the investment. The process of identifying a suitable market, property, financing can be time consuming and complicated.  However, it can also be very rewarding and if the investment goes well, the investor will get to keep the largest share of the profits.

Passive investing is a hands-off approach which allows an investor to place one’s capital into a real estate vehicle – more specifically, an apartment, commercial, or self-storage syndication – that is managed entirely by a management company. Investing passively in real estate means the investor outsources the acquisition and management of their real estate investment to a management company.  The management company pools together many investors capital and buys larger or even entire portfolios of properties. The management company is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the properties and charges a fee for their services. The investors will then get a monthly or annual share of the profits earned from the rents collected on the property or portfolio of properties.

Based on my experience in working with active and passive real estate investors, I think there are many important factors to consider when deciding which investment strategy is right for you. One of the most important factors is control.

Most investors consider an investment to be either active or passive depending on the level of control you have.  As a passive investor you are opting to relinquish most of the control to an experienced management company who will use your capital to acquire and manage a portfolio of properties. When you give up control, the investor is putting a lot of trust in the management company to execute the goals/business plan of the investment.

As an active investor, you can directly control the nature of the investments you make. You decide which investment strategy to pursue. You decide the type and level of renovations to perform. You decide the quality of tenant to accept and the rental rate to charge. You determine when to refinance or sell. With passive investing, all of the above is determined by the management company.  

Normally from an investment fit an investor is either active or passive, but not both, and it usually comes down to whether the investor wants to have control or not.

In the end there are many ways to become a successful real estate investor. Not all strategies are the same, so it's important to understand the pro's and con's and to identify which path (active or passive) is best for you.  If you have any questions or are interested in learning more real estate investing, please contact me today at 207-712-3152.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Buying or selling a home with unpermitted work

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR®

Maine is home to much of our nation’s oldest housing stock, which is evident when you look around. As real estate professionals we are seeing daily the building trends of years gone by and how they have either stood the test of time or not at all as well as everything in between. Would you rather purchase a home constructed in the 1920’s or the 1970’s?  Ask a local REALTOR® and they can help by explaining some of the current market inventory distinctions and their most common upgrades.

Homeowners are held responsible
Any change or improvement to a property’s original size or condition other than very minor upgrades (i.e. new sink faucet, interior paint) requires a permit from your local municipality, regardless if the homeowner is doing the work themselves or hiring a contractor. You or the contractor doing the work will need to complete the application and pay the required fee (if curious about permit costs then you can view the fee schedule online for most municipalities). When interviewing contractors to do home renovations do not just assume that they are pulling the required permits that YOU the homeowner are required to. Ask them if they will handle this and then take a moment to confirm that they did by either calling the Code Enforcement Officer or looking in the file yourself because you, the homeowner, are the one responsible, not the contractor.’ve recently seen a very expensive home using a high end, professional contracting company who
simply forgot to pull the necessary permits on a kitchen remodel and the seller was not made aware until they were selling. Also, recently I learned of a local case where a homeowner was denied an
insurance claim after experiencing a fire due to an electrical issue after it was confirmed the electrician they hired forgot to get the necessary permits for a small job.

Reasons homeowners do not get a permit
It is possible that the homeowners do not want to have their property taxes increased and if they can keep the improvements unknown to the Tax Assessor then they can continue to pay the same amount. Sometimes the homeowners are concerned that the work would not be allowed how they want it to be done or that the requirements will be to a standard they do not want to have imposed on them.

A homeowner may not want to spend the extra money on the cost of the permit fees, or they may feel that welcoming the Town into their home could reveal other potential violations so want to avoid a visit. Some just don’t realize that they were supposed to get one.

How do you recognize if work was done without a permit?
There are instances where it is quite apparent that work was done “on the cheap” and you can assume that you will not find the permits for it in the Town’s file at first glance. However, there are other properties where the quality looks like or is professionally done but the permits were never pulled, either intentionally or accidentally, so it can be quite difficult to recognize. Often, we compare what we see visually to what is reflected in the public records for the home. A professional and well-seasoned building inspector can help to identify areas that you should be concerned about but may not always be able to determine if work was permitted or not by visual inspection necessarily.

Buying or selling
Work closely with a local real estate professional who can provide you with a steady stream of information regarding what options exist for your particular situation and then advocate strongly for your best interests through this complicated process.

Sellers are required to disclose any work which was done without a permit during their ownership to prospective buyers when selling.  Buyers may be unable to obtain their financing from their bank if unpermitted work is flagged either by the underwriter or appraiser.

Each Town has their own approach and fee structure for how they deal with work after it’s already been completed and depending on the scope of the work can be cooperative or punitive. Unpermitted improvements may not bring the increase in valuation and appeal that competitive homes with all the permits will.

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate in Falmouth and a Windham resident who loves people and real estate.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Getting your home ready for the cold season

By Mel Oldakowski

The cool autumn air and changing colors are upon us! This serves as a reminder to start prepping for the cold season ahead. Yes, it’s coming! Imagine, on the coldest winter day, you get out of bed and realize you can see your breath. You check the thermostat, only to realize the furnace has stopped working. That’s why fall and winter home maintenance is so important! Letting it go until it’s too late can lead to bigger problems and big-time headaches. Here’s a few things you can tackle while the weather is still nice.

Service your heating system. 
Early fall is a great time to beat the rush and have a heating specialist come out to look at your furnace. To keep your furnace from failing when you need it most, you should have it serviced at least once a year. These tune-ups keep it running longer and can identify deadly carbon monoxide leaks. It’s always best to have a professional give your entire furnace system an overview. Don’t be a jack of all trades!

Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned professionally. 
A chimney should be cleaned after each season—ideally before summer hits, because humidity plus the creosote can damage masonry. However, if the chimney wasn’t swept last spring, make sure it’s done before you use it this winter. A dirty, blocked, damaged, or improperly built chimney can result in CO poisoning, which can be deadly. screen doors with storm doors. 
Storm doors are typically made of aluminum and strong glass and are designed to create a tight seal. This seal will prevent heat from escaping, improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Add attic insulation and check for gaps in existing insulation.
Proper insulation is one of the most important ways to keep the heat inside your home where it belongs. Gaps and thinning areas of insulation occur naturally over time. Attic insulation keeps heat inside the house (lowering energy bills), keeps temperature consistent between rooms, and helps prevent ice dams.

Insulate hot water pipes.
Unfinished basements, crawlspaces, and attics typically don’t get heat from your central heating system. This makes any pipes running through these spaces susceptible to heat loss and freezing. Install simple foam pipe insulators to keep them warm and conserve energy.

Add or replace weather stripping. 
Weather stripping blocks outside airflow through cracks on moving components, such as doors and windows. Blocking this airflow can help reduce energy loss and lower your energy bill by as much as 20+%.  If you already have weather stripping installed on your doors and windows, now is a good time to check it out and replace where necessary.

Take care of your gutters. 
Once the leaves have fallen and before the first snow, take time to make sure your gutters are in good shape for the winter. They’ll need to be clear of debris, free of leaks, and strong enough to handle snow in order to be effective all season long.

Trim tree branches and remove brush. 
Dead or weak tree branches can pose a physical and financial risk if not taken care of before winter. Strong winds and snow can break susceptible branches, which could fall on your house, your neighbor’s house, or power lines. Clear any leaves, brush and piles from your yard, particularly around your foundation.

Don’t forget to stock up on supplies. 
Stock up on ice melt, candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, ready-to-eat food, and plenty of warm blankets for those times when the power checks out. Check your snow shovels and snow blower. Are all your tools in good working order? 

It is best to be prepared for a long winter ahead so you can enjoy the warmth inside.

Friday, September 27, 2019

How to prepare for an appraisal - kind of

By Greg Swander

Selling your home can sometimes seem like a marathon instead of a sprint. Your first step is finding a REALTOR® that you feel confident in that when you hand them the baton, they will get you to the finish line. Your REALTOR® will game plan with you discussing the multiple hurdles you will have to clear going forward. (Ok, I am done with my track and field analogies now!)

First you need to list your home. Your REALTOR® will take some photos and write up an appealing listing paragraph for potential buyers. After posting online, you have a buyer interested in coming and viewing your property. Next you find out the buyer is very interested in your property and they provide an offer with the buyer being financed through a mortgage lender. You and your REALTOR® work through the details and negotiations and now you are under contract! Phew that was the hard part, right? Time to sit back and start packing and get ready for closing. Well not just yet, most likely your contract includes a due diligence period to allow time for your buyer to do inspections. buyer schedules inspections and you hold your breath. After inspections the buyer provides an ICA (investigation contingency amendment) which outlines some issues found during inspections that the buyer would like resolved prior to closing. You and your REALTOR® huddle up and determine how to tackle these findings in the inspection (I said I was done with track and field analogies, not sports in general). After some continued negotiations by your REALTOR® you come to terms on an amendment that satisfies both you and the buyer. Yeah, you are through the due diligence period and now you can start packing!

But then you receive notification that the buyer’s lender is sending out someone to do an appraisal on your property. Wait, they already did inspections so why is there an appraiser coming out to inspect the home? 

You wonder, ‘what do I need to do NOW after everything I have already done up to this point.’ The answer is - nothing really. You may think you need to spend the time to make your house look pristine or else the appraiser is going to undervalue your home. The truth of the matter is that the
appraiser will simply come into your home to do measurements and take a few pictures of the property. The appraiser is simply there to take a "snapshot" of the house in order to do a comparison with other homes in the area. You could clean every nook and cranny and it wouldn't do a thing to increase the appraisal value.

So, the answer to "how to prepare for your appraisal of your home" is to simply not worry about it
and go on with your day as normal. Once the appraisal is complete the buyer’s lender will make a call to the bullpen and bring in the closer. (As we are going into October, I figured it was appropriate to end with a baseball one!)

This article was brought to you by Greg Swander. Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Team Real Estate in Windham. Call him anytime at 207-650-1095 or email him at for any and all of your real estate needs. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Holding out for spring? Do these things NOW

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR®

To be successful in the spring market you must start preparations today. Whether you are a daring ‘Do It Yourselfer’ who’s up for the challenge of selling your own home or are planning to use a local real estate professional to get top dollar for your home, if you are even considering selling your home anytime between now and June of 2020 (yes…nine months from now!) you will want to do these things today.

Now is the time to schedule your septic tank to be pumped so you will not be digging up frozen, snowy or muddy earth to access it. The trucks can sometimes leave ruts in your grass or driveway if done in the spring so have them come in the fall if it needs to be done prior to selling. 

If you will be having any work done to your home which will require large trucks to be brought in, then be sure to factor in road postings which are sometimes not lifted through April. For example, if you planned to have your well drilled deeper to address a quantity issue prior to listing then you may want to schedule that work now.

If your plan is to hit the market before the month of March, then be sure to stay on top of removing dead leaves and put gardens to bed for winter.  Make sure to remove any piles of debris which may have been accumulating on your property before they become snow covered. Taking steps to care for your lawn in the fall will help to ensure it shows great in the spring. Give your lawn attention this fall by having it aerated and over-seeded this month - then in October or November be sure to fertilize it. Planting bulbs now will add color to your yard in the competitive spring market. fresh coat of paint for your front door can really make a big impact. If your home’s entryway could
use some attention do not wait for June because it will most likely be raining. Flaking paint can delay or even tank a deal depending on your buyer’s financing regardless of the age of the structure(s), even in small amounts. While it’s still warm enough outside take a walk around your property and visually inspect the stairs, decks and trim around the windows and doors of your home for any flaking paint as well as your garage, barn, shed or any other outbuilding which will convey with the sale. Have this scraped and removed and new paint applied before the outdoor temperatures drop and the paint will not spread and stick well. (Sometimes a lender may permit money to be held in escrow for this to be done but typically they like to have the work done prior to closing so it’s best to be proactive).

Dust, pollen and new construction sawdust can collect over months or years in the tiny openings of your window screens. Remove and clean window screens outside before winterizing and turning off your outside water spigots then place in basement. Torn screens should be repaired or replaced. If listing over the winter, often as a courtesy a seller will mark relevant locations on the property to help buyers find the location of the well, septic & leach-field, or where corner pins may be found using flagging and / or poles.

Landscaping in Maine can sometimes take a while to be photo ready; depending on how late the snow fell or how much rain we get in the spring.  Now is the perfect time to schedule the photographer to come to capture some exterior images of your home with the lawn showing and all the leaves still on the trees. The photographer will return when your home is ready to list to complete the photo shoot with your interior photos, as well as additional exterior shots, but at least you will be prepared with images for the necessary marketing materials anytime you’re home is ready and you
will not be forced to wait on the weather to have your marketing materials show their very best.

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth and a Windham resident and parent who loves both people and real estate.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Buying a house for your family?

By Rick Yost

Part of the American dream is to own a home for your family. Some picture a suburban home with a white picket fence. Others, a more rural setting with no neighbors to be seen. Others still, envision an urban atmosphere with a walkability and diversity only found in cities. Whatever your family home dream includes, these tips will help make the most of that dream.

Start saving for your down payment as soon as possible. The more money you put down, the more
attractive your offer will be to some sellers. You will also have more money for closing costs and other unexpected expenses that pop up to derail many home buyers’ dreams.

If you are fortunate enough to save a substantial down payment, you can avoid private mortgage insurance so that more of your monthly payment is going towards the principle you owe. The larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payment. So, start saving early. Most loan programs today allow for gifts from family members, so if you are having a tough time saving, keep that in mind.

Improve your credit score and buy at the optimal time. credit score is a constantly moving number. A good lender can give you tips on how to improve yours. It can be as simple as paying off certain credit cards and making all your payments on time. In some cases, you might have to establish more credit to drive your score up. Talk to the lending experts and take their advice. The higher your credit score the lower your interest rate will be. The highest rated borrowers get into preferred mortgages. Monitor your score, build it up, and by when you qualify for the best mortgage programs.

Make a long-term plan.
What will your life look like in five years, ten years, even fifteen years? Will you have more children? Will parents come to live with you? Will you become empty nesters? Will your job force
you to move? Will you start a home-based business? All these factors should be considered when choosing your family home. The home that seems perfect today might not be right for you in three years. A good long-term plan will help prevent a premature move.

Visit and research different areas. How do you imagine your life? Do you eat out often? Do you like night life? Is shopping important? Are you a gym person? Is there a good place of worship? These are all questions that should be answered before picking an area to buy in. Then consider what is right for your family.

Is public transportation important? How is the school system and does it offer all the programs your children need? How much time a week are you willing to miss with your family to commute? Are there sports, music, and other recreational activities available for your family members? All these factors will contribute to the enjoyment of your new family home. Do not discount how much a difference these things can make and don’t skip on your research.

Keep an eye on the housing market.
The housing market is ever changing and is hyper local. One area may have home prices going way up and another just ten miles away might be flat. Keep an eye on the places you have identified through your research as places you would like to live and monitor those markets. Watch home prices in those towns, talk to your REALTOR about trends, and be ready to buy when the opportunity is
right. You will end up with the best house possible for your family.

The final and most important tip to achieving that American dream and buying your family a home is to be realistic about your budget. Families and homes are big expenses. Make sure you budget properly for both. You can often borrow an amount that leaves you with an uncomfortable payment. Take a hard look at your finances and allocate an amount to housing. Make sure the payment on the homes you are looking at, including taxes and insurance, is at or under that allocated housing number.
If you follow these tips, you will maximize your enjoyment of the American dream. Happy house hunting!

Rick is a REALTOR, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with any of your real estate questions at

Friday, August 30, 2019

Signs you are ready to become a homeowner

By Carrie Colby

There is no denying the flexibility that renting offers—you can move relatively easily when you want, and you do not have to carry a mortgage for decades to have a place to live. However, if you are like many renters, you are probably at least considering the idea of owning a home.

But how do you know if you are ready for homeownership? Here are some reasons why you might be
prepared to become a homeowner. If some or all of these resonate with you, it’s probably time to talk to a real estate agent you trust to start looking for a place you can be happy owning and living in. The opportunity to become a homeowner can be both emotionally and financially rewarding when you have a long-term horizon.

The following are some of the most common reasons why renters decide now is the time to own a home:

Your rent keeps increasing. increase in rental prices can be frustrating for numerous reasons. You cannot anticipate what your housing costs will be over the long-term, which makes it hard to plan your finances. When rent is going up, and mortgage rates are low, it can be a good sign that you should start shopping for a home. If you think about it – when you are renting, you’re probably helping to pay someone’s mortgage. Unfortunately, that person isn’t you!

Interest rates are incredibly attractive.
One of the better reasons to go from renting to owning a home is when money is unbelievably cheap.
When interest rates on mortgages are desirable, it’s like a flashing sign that says, “buy buy buy.” Interests rates won’t stay at record lows forever. History shows us that they can turn rather quickly.

You think it’s time to put down roots in a specific place.
Purchasing a home requires paying a lot of costs at the beginning that cannot really be recouped in the first few years of ownership. In other words, for a home purchase to make financial sense, you need to be ready to stick around for a while. Over time, the investment can prove quite positive, but it does take time.
Real estate has been shown over and over again to be an excellent long-term investment. Like other
investments, it is not for someone who might need to move quickly because of a job relocation.

You are sick of pouring money into someone else’s mortgage.
As a renter, your rent payments are paying the mortgage of the landlord or property owner. If you are ready to put all that money towards your future, buying a home makes sense. Each mortgage payment you make will increase the equity in your home, which is an investment for you. Generally, you can expect that over the life of your mortgage, you will gain a lot of financial benefits out of putting money into property. There are also tax advantages of owning a home as well.

You are ready to pay a down payment and closing costs.
One of the most significant signs you are ready to move from renting to owning a home is having a down payment. Financial stability is a significant indicator that you are prepared to buy a home—particularly when it comes to down payments and closing costs. Don’t worry if you don’t have 20% down—many loans do not require so much for a down payment.

You have improved your credit score. credit score you bring to lenders is going to play a significant role in the type of financing you can get. If you have improved your credit score, it may be time to talk to a lender about what you can do to get a mortgage.

If you need to improve your credit score, get a free copy of your credit report, and address any issues that might be hurting your credit score. Mortgage professionals and real estate agents continuously
preach about the importance of the best credit scores – this is why!

Final thoughts.
Going from a renter to a homeowner is not something that should be made as a snap judgment. There should be a lot of planning involved in buying a house for the first time. Those who are unprepared typically make buying mistakes they regret later. Don’t be one of them!

Carrie Colby is a Broker with Allied Real Estate, 909 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497