Friday, January 25, 2019

Curb appeal that adds value to your home

By Rick Yost

As we sit inside cursing the snow and the cold, it is time to contemplate the upcoming spring and the possibility of selling your home. It is time to plan your spring exterior projects that will beautify your home and bring added value. 
Exterior projects can add a great deal of curb appeal to a home.  Any potential buyers see homes on line and then do a drive-by before asking for a showing.  Many potential buyers also start forming an opinion of a property as soon as they pull in the driveway.  The drive-by and first opinion are the major reasons curb appeal is so important and, as a result, a few minor projects can make a big difference in curb appeal.

If your home is vinyl sided or brick, it should be pressure washed to eliminate dirt, mold, moss, pine  
needles, cob webs, etc. It is an inexpensive and quick project that will improve the look of your home and will give potential buyers an impression of a well maintained and cared for home.

Paint your doors and replace the hardware. In a couple of hours for a few hundred dollars, you can dramatically change the look of your home. Contrast doors are very popular right now and make a home stand out and it’s simple to do. Pick a color that contrasts but doesn’t produce a visual shock, then ad upscale hardware to provide an outstanding appearance. If your door has a knocker, pick an ornate knocker that matches the material of your hardware. An expensive knocker and upscale hardware send a message that quality materials were used to build and maintain your home.
Your lawn should be neat and well kept.  Get everything that is not meant to be decorative off your
front lawn such as toys, debris, boats, cars, etc.

Renting a storage space for all your stuff while you are trying to sell your home is a good investment. Your yard should appear as large as possible - clutter will makes your yard look smaller. a couple of bags of loam and some grass seed from your hardware store and fill holes and cover dirt patches in your lawn.  This easy project will make your yard look more appealing and welcoming for kids and pets.

Now that you have improved the look of your lawn, keep it mowed. This is another clue to potential buyers as to how well kept the home is.

The entryway to your home should have a clear and defined walkway. If you do not have a walkway at all and cannot afford to have one installed professionally, an inexpensive way to create one is to buy borders that you push into the ground. Use a chalk line to mark a straight path. Dig down at least six inches inside the chalk line and place your borders. Lay landscape cloth the complete length of the path to prevent weeds from growing and fill between the borders up to about two inches from the top with sand and compact it as you go then fill the last two inches with crushed stone. Water the path down heavily and level where needed. You now have a clearly marked entry way.  If you already have a walkway that is concrete, an easy upgrade is to line it with bricks.  Dig out both edges of the walk way about four inches, lay landscape cloth, fill with sand to about one inch from the top, and place and level the bricks.  

Another inexpensive improvement is lighting. Replace your current porch lights and other exterior lights with decorative lighting that matches your new door hardware.  Place motion sensor lights on your garage and solar lights along your new walkway. 

Light It up.  Your home will be more appealing to those potential buyers driving by at night.
Now that you have your projects planned, start dreaming about how beautiful your home is going to look and how quickly it is going to sell.

Rick Yost is a Realtor®, real estate author and longtime Windham resident. You can contact Rick with all your real estate questions at

Friday, January 18, 2019

Why you should use a real estate agent

By Carrie Colby

There are myriad reasons to use the services of a Real Estate Broker®. While doing the work yourself can save you the significant commission rates many real estate agents command, for many, flying solo may not be the way to go--and could end up being more costly than a realtor’s commission in the long run. Buying or selling a home is a major financial (and emotional) undertaking. Find out why you shouldn’t discard the notion of hiring an agent just yet.

A real estate agent’s full-time job is to act as a liaison between buyers and sellers. Both the buyer’s and seller’s agent work full time as real estate agents and they know what needs to be done to get a deal together. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a real estate agent will track down homes that meet your criteria, get in touch with sellers’ agents and make appointments for you to view the homes. If you are buying on your own, you will have to play this telephone tag yourself. 

This may be especially difficult if you’re shopping for homes that are for sale by owner.
Similarly, if you are looking to sell your home yourself, you will have to solicit calls from interested parties, answer questions and make appointments. Keep in mind that potential buyers are likely to move on if you tend to be busy or don’t respond quickly enough. Alternatively, you may find yourself making an appointment and rushing home, only to find that no one shows up.

Negotiating is tricky
Many people feel that direct negotiation between buyers and sellers is more transparent and allows the parties to better look after their own best interests. This is probably true--assuming that both the buyer and seller in a given transaction are reasonable people who are able to get along. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an easy relationship.

What if you, as a buyer, like a home but despise the shag carpet and pink bathrooms? If you are working with an agent, you can express your hatred for the current owner’s decorating skills and complain about how much it’ll cost you to upgrade the home without insulting the owner. Your real estate agent can convey your concerns to the sellers’ agent. Acting as a messenger, the agent may be in a better position to negotiate a discount without ruffling the homeowner’s feathers.

A real estate agent can also play the “bad guy” in a transaction, preventing the bad blood between a buyer and seller that can kill a deal. Keep in mind that a seller can reject a potential buyer’s offer for any reason--including just because they hate him. An agent can help by speaking for you in tough transactions and smoothing things over to keep them from getting too personal. This can put you in a better position to get the house you want. The same is true for the seller, who can benefit from a hard-nosed real estate agent who will represent their interests without turning off potential buyers who want to haggle about the price.

Contracts can be hard to handle
If you decide to buy or sell a home, the offer to purchase contract is there to protect you and ensure that you are able to back out of the deal if certain conditions aren’t met. For example, if you plan to buy a home with a mortgage but you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale--and you aren’t approved for the mortgage--you can lose your deposit on the home and could even be sued by the seller for failing to fulfill your end of the contract.

An experienced real estate agent deals with the same contracts and conditions on a regular basis, and is familiar with which conditions should be used, when they can safely be removed and how to use the contract to protect you, whether you’re buying or selling your home. estate agents can’t lie
Because they are licensed professionals there are more repercussions if they do than for a private buyer or seller. If you are working with a licensed real estate agent under an agency agreement, (i.e., a conventional, full-service commission agreement in which the agent agrees to represent you), your agent will be their fiduciary duty. In other words, the agent is bound by license law to act in their clients’ best interest (not his or her own).

In addition, most Realtors® rely on referrals and repeat business to build the kind of clientele base they’ll need to survive in the business. This means that doing what’s best for their clients should be as important to them as any individual sale.

They have connections
Most real estate agents have certain people they use in a transaction on a regular basis because they are tried and true. For instance, the building inspector is a very important piece of the transaction. 

The bottom line
While there are certainly people who are qualified to sell their own homes, taking a quick look at the long list of frequently asked questions on most “for sale by owner” websites suggest the process isn’t as simple as many people assume. And when you get into a difficult situation, it can really pay to have a professional on your side.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Safety in the home

By Richie Vraux

Did you know that more than 18,000 injuries or deaths take place right in your own home every year?
The most common are everyday accidents, slip and falls. Falling down stairs or falling because you trip over something are two examples. Make sure your home has adequate rails and banisters and are tightly secured to the walls so they will help thwart your fall if you become unsteady.

Make your walkways safe. Something as simple as a higher wattage bulb in the hallways or stairwells will prevent an unexpected slip or fall. The risks are far greater with senior citizens because reflexes are not as quick as we get older.

Another type of fall might be if you are brave enough to go up a ladder on your roof to do repairs. If you need to do repairs to your roof, clean leaves and pine needles from your gutters or  replace burnt out light bulbs, it is always best to be as careful as possible. Nobody ever expects the worst, but it can happen, even to the best of us. Using a safety belt to help secure yourself is the best possible preventative measure.

Children are at high risk of household injuries which may include: choking, falls, being scalded, poisoning, drowning or playing with a gun. As you know, kids get into everything, and you can’t watch then 24 hours a day. Make sure they never get access to your medicines or your cleaning products. They  have a tendency to stick everything in their mouth.  
           is always a health issue with children. Make sure all outlets are covered with a safety switch plate cover and, without a doubt, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are imperative. If these alarms are not hard wired into your electrical panel, make sure you change the batteries at least once a year.      
Another issue may be not having a Disaster Readiness Plan. Be prepared to have at least a three-day supply of food and water for each family member as well as stocking up on batteries and  first aid kits - all in the event of an unforeseen disaster.

You may want to go to FEMA’s website at ( to get an updated list of what they recommend to have for you and your family in the event you would ever need it  Remember the Boy/Girl Scout Motto “Be Prepared”.

There are also seasonal safety issues. Make sure your pool and surroundings are safe and no pool chemicals are left unsecured. There are also potential seasonal hazards around the house. Dimly lit walkways especially during times children will be coming to your house; trick or treaters, Christmas walkways lit ornaments and extension cords, etc.

As you can see, we are all at risk for an accident in the home. Do a room by room inspection of your home. Look for any potential hazard before it affects you and your family and repair or replace if it might affect your well-being.

Richie is a Realtor®/ Broker® with over 20 years’ experience
If you need advice with any aspect of real estate, feel free to give Richie a call at 317-1297.

Friday, January 4, 2019

A look ahead to the 2019 Maine real estate market

By Kevin Ronan

Happy New Year. The cold weather is not cooling down the real estate market in the State of Maine. In 2019 real estate buyers, sellers and investors can anticipate higher interest rates as the Federal Reserve continues to control economic growth. Those of us who have bought or sold real estate in recent years have been spoiled with paying modest interest rates. Now is not time to panic.

Before we discuss some strategies for 2019, I wish to share with you some residential property sales news about our backyard, Cumberland County. In November 2018 it was reported that the number of residential properties sold declined by -1.46% due primarily to lower inventory while the median sales price increased by 8.79% from $279,450 in 2017 to $304,000 in 2018. 

Let's now discuss some strategies in 2019 to consider whether you are a buyer or a seller. Higher interest rates may deter some people from entering the market now which may benefit active buyers and sellers since less competition in the local market will create opportunities.

Your Realtor® can assist you in accessing some helpful local market information including foreclosures, short sales, for sale by owner (FISBO) and properties listed on the market for extended periods. Access to some of this information may take some legwork, but it may be worth it. 

Recently I viewed an interesting interview with a Wall Street investment guru, Jim Cramer, who suggested to buyers to delay purchasing until they have a sufficient deposit in order to eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI). Check with local lenders what their requirements are. Let's remember higher interest rates improve certificates of deposit and money market accounts. Don't count them out.

If you are rattled by recent interest rate hikes, one easy step is to start checking mortgage interest rates at local banks and credit unions. Rates change constantly, and many lenders have lock-in rates but once you initiate a mortgage application, it will cost you.

To those of you selling a property, do not despair. As interest rates inch higher, in the short term, inventory levels will continue to remain low in Cumberland County. The demand is expected to remain consistent. Prices will remain strong.

Here are important closing thoughts: With change and uncertainty in the financial markets, consumers can expect change and turmoil to affect their decisions. Real estate in Maine will continue to be desirable and owning a home is still a good financial decision.

Kevin Ronan is an Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgeton Road in Westbrook, Maine. He can be contacted at, 207-838-4855.