Friday, May 31, 2019

MaineHousing is here to help you!

By Kevin Ronan

Happy belated Memorial Day and beginning of another wonderful Maine summer.  If you are a Maine resident in the process of buying, selling or improving a residential property in the near future, then the Maine State Housing Authority is an excellent resource available to assist you.

The Maine State Housing Authority (MaineHousing) is an independent authority created  by the Maine State Legislature in 1969 to address problems of unsafe, unsuitable, overcrowded and unaffordable housing. 

On February 27,2019 MaineHousing celebrated fifty years of providing affordable housing opportunities for Maine people. By combining the efficiencies of the private financial markets with public housing goals, MaineHousing has been able to improve affordable home ownership and rental housing for many. Since its inception, the agency has taken on many additional duties including a number of federal housing related programs intended to reduce housing costs for Maine people. If you are buying, selling, a first-time buyer, or a homeowner interested in reducing home energy consumption then MaineHousing has a program for you.

Let's review a few of the many programs available to qualified Maine residents.

One of the more exciting programs offered by MaineHousing is the First Home Loan Program. Qualified first-time buyers can enjoy a low interest rate mortgage and a $3500 credit towards closing costs with little or no money down. MaineHousing also offers many programs to assist homeowners with home improvement needs by providing grants or low-cost loans for health and safety related repairs and improvements. This may include electrical and structural repairs. The Veteran Home loan program provides very favorable interest rates to all active, reserve or retired Maine Veterans.

The Energy Assistance program provides much needed energy assistance for qualified households. This may come in the form of energy improvements such as new insulation, a new heating system or in some cases paying electrical bills.

The Arsenic Abatement Program offers grants to eligible single-family homeowners and landlords with private wells where water testing shows evidence of arsenic contamination. Arsenic, a tasteless, odorless, toxic gas has been found in many Maine wells.  In addition, many older homes in Maine have lead based paint. The Lead Paint Hazard Remediation Program offers funding to single family households and rental property owners to help make their homes and rental properties safe and free of lead paint.

These are just some of the programs that MaineHousing offers to qualified Maine residents.  I hope you visit the MaineHousing website at or reach out to them at 1-800-452-4668 to learn more, there may be a program for you.  If you have any questions or need any assistance with your real estate needs please contact Kevin Ronan, associate broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgeton Road in Westbrook., 207-838-4855.

Friday, May 24, 2019

What is today’s “American Dream”?

By Dan McDermott

Has the American Dream evolved over the years from the classic beautiful white house with a picket fence as depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting?  For most Americans this is what they have been working towards their whole life. The pursuit of this dream involved going to college, getting a good job, saving and purchasing a home where they could lay down roots and start a family.  But does this have to be the only way? 

No, there is another path for many American’s and that is the path to financial freedom. 
Financial freedom is defined as owning assets that produce income that exceed your liabilities/living expenses. When a family or individual has collected assets, such as real estate, bonds, or royalties, these assets will produce income for the owner with little to no work to maintain. 

This allows the owner to generate income on a monthly basis that can be used to cover your living expenses and save for the future. When the income produced from these assets exceeds your living expenses you will have total financial freedom. This means you can do what you want whenever you want whether that be spending an afternoon with your children at the park, diving headfirst into a hobby, or just traveling and seeing new places. This, I believe, is the new American Dream and is totally achievable through wise investments in real estate. One successful strategy for first time real estate investors and first-time home buyers is called “House Hacking”. Hacking is an investment strategy that involves purchasing a multi-family property such as a duplex, triplex, or a quad-plex. The purchaser of the property will then live in one of the units and rent out the other units for income. The income generated from the rental units can be used to cover the mortgage payment/expenses on the property or saved for additional investments. 

First time home buyers also have a unique opportunity with a program offered by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). This program allows borrowers to purchase owner occupied two to four-unit properties with a 3.5% down payment.  This is especially helpful for first time home buyers since there is such a low down payment needed to acquire an income producing asset.  It is not uncommon for borrowers that utilize this FHA loan program to be able to live for “free” in their property with the rental income that is generated from the other units.

This investment strategy has three major benefits. The first major benefit is that the income produced from the property can cover the mortgage and eliminate a housing living expense. The money saved from this housing living expense can be saved and used for another investment property or used for a down payment on your dream home.

Another benefit is that every month the tenants pay down your mortgage increasing the owners’ equity position in the property. The last and most important benefit that house hacking has is that it is one of the only investments where you can put 3.5% down and earn 100% of the income generated from the property. Implementing an investment strategy such as house hacking can be an important first step on the path to financial freedom!

If you have any questions on real estate investing strategies or would like to take your step towards financial freedom please contact Dan McDermott of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group at 207-712-3152.

Friday, May 17, 2019

How to choose a REALTOR®

By Nicole Foster

Are you looking to find a local real estate professional to assist you with the acquisition or sale of property but aren’t sure who to work with or how to find a great one? 
Here are some helpful tips to help get you started:

Interview as many agents as possible.

Most people will only buy or sell a home or real estate a handful of times during their entire lives and often your property is your largest asset. Such a large decision warrants a thorough vetting process. Take the time to ask your colleagues, friends and family who have recently moved who their real estate agent was. Look around to see who has a presence in your area and contact each agency to schedule a time to speak with you in person.

Have a conversation about whether or not they are a sales agent, associate broker, broker or designated broker and how long they have held that type of license. Ask how long they have been licensed and be sure to verify any disciplinary actions online. Be sure to ask about the types of transactions they have experience with, their market share and volume as well. Ask for their current memberships (Maine Listings, National Association of REALTORS®, local board of REALTOR®, professional designations, etc.) and areas of specialty as well.

Ask who they will be speaking with during their transaction. 
Just because the headliner of the real estate team is present at the interview does not mean that will be the point of contact through the rest of the transaction. Ask if it is a team and who will be servicing their file and if they plan to attend the building inspection, appraisal inspection and the closing or if other agents with be accompanying you on those critical dates.

Agency the company locally owned and operated or is it a part of a franchise? Who is the owner and designated broker and how long have the agent worked under them? Does their office have a physical location and where is it? Who works there and what hours are they open? Are there administrative assistants who answer the phone or will it be dispatched electronically to the agent’s cell phone? Be sure to ask if each agent is responsible for their own marketing or if they have an in-house marketing department. Visit the company website and look at its information to see if it’s dated or current, view company listings and how they are presented.

How do they handle the referral process of vendors including mortgage lenders, building inspectors, contractors or title companies? Ask how many names they usually provide and who will be responsible for scheduling their services (some agents will handle this while others will provide the contact information to the consumer and allow them to handle it).

What is their availability?
Be sure to ask if they have another job or if they are a full-time agent. If you are interviewing agents for buyer representation, does their availability suit yours? Do they have ongoing obligations or commitments which may limit the times that you can call them? Also ask if they have any vacations scheduled and who will be providing coverage during that time and when you can meet that agent.

Trust your instincts
Glossy marketing materials and elaborately binded files three inches thick may serve a purpose but they can also cloud your judgment. Our industry relies increasingly on technology especially to provide and analyze data but at the core of your transaction there is a lot of psychology and human dynamics at play. Pricing still remains the single largest factor in determining saleability, but you should think twice about going with the agent who gives you the highest price or is simply telling you what you want to hear. If they cannot provide you with the perspective that will inevitably be revealed by the market, how effective will they be in assisting you?

Nicole Foster is a Windham parent and local real estate expert of 13 years and a broker with Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth.

Friday, May 10, 2019

What to do if your listing has expired

By Lisa DiBiase

Selling a home is an emotional process and one of the biggest financial decisions you can make in your life. It can be disappointing when your listing agreement expires, especially if you’re no closer to selling the house than when you first started. It’s time for you to assess your process. Regardless of the length of listing, the broker/seller working relationship has come to an end and this can be when sellers ask whose fault it is that the home isn't selling.

Take these following factors into consideration when deciding what your next move will be.

Motivation - Let’s start with why you chose to list your home. Why are you selling, and do you really want to sell your house? A seller with a strong motivation to sell their home will result in a successful sale. Are you choosing to list your home for the right reasons? Are you fully invested in the process? Are you truly motivated? Maybe you don't have a reason to sell and perhaps you should temporarily take your home off the market.

Condition of house - Your job in preparing your home for sale is to make it appealing to the widest range of buyers as possible. Prospective buyers view many properties during their home search. What improvements can you make so that your property stands out among competition? How does your home compare to similar properties on the market in your area? Sometimes all it takes is a few minor repairs, a good clean, fresh coat of paint or front yard landscaping to attract more buyers.

Buyer objections - What have buyers said about your home? Review buyer feedback, which your agent should have obtained for you when your home first went on the market. Is there validity to what buyers were saying? How can you compensate for those objections and what can you do differently? You need to be able to adjust and improve the showing experience for the next prospective buyer.

Marketing - Marketing is crucial because if no one knows your property is for sale, you are not going to get any buyers through or offers. Was there a business plan to sell your home? Review the marketing plan with your agent, step-by-step. Did your real estate agent implement marketing strategies to sell your home? Did you employ a variety of strategies to market your listing? These days, effective marketing includes both online and offline tactics.

Price - Ultimately, it always comes down to price. Any house will sell when the price is right – even if the place is full of junk and falling apart. Sure, it may not sell for the price you want, but there is usually a buyer for every property, given its priced appropriately. It was your agent’s job to help you set a list price that would attract the right buyers, get your home in optimal showing condition, and evaluate the market to put you in a better negotiating position. Either he or she didn’t do their job, or you didn’t listen to what they told you.

Consult new real estate agents - You won't have to look too far to find agents because they'll all come crawling out of the woodwork when your listing expires. If you decide to hire and new agent represent you and relist your property, be sure to describe the history of your listing.
Interview agents. Ask the hard questions to determine if the agents are giving you the right answers. Find out what another agent might do differently.

It's important to remember that statistics show you net more money when you use a REALTOR®. 

Finding a top local real estate agent is crucial to helping your sale. Stay positive! Keeping a positive mindset is important. Once you determine the reasons your home didn't sell the first time, change what needs to be fixed and you'll walk away with a successful transaction!

Lisa DiBiase
Broker/Owner Landing Real Estate

Friday, May 3, 2019

Should you get a pre-listing home inspection?

By Mel Oldakowski

A home inspection is traditionally known as a part of the due diligence process when a home is under contract with an intended buyer. A professional home inspector will visit the home and conduct a thorough review of the structure, noting any deferred maintenance, defects in the building and the remaining useful life of major appliances and systems. Depending on what the inspector finds, the results can have a powerful impact on the sale of the house. The buyer can ask for repairs or updates to be made, try negotiating the sale price or walk away from the deal completely.

To avoid the unpleasant surprises a home inspection may bring to light, homeowners looking to put their house on the market can opt for a prelisting home inspection, which provides sellers with a thorough report prior to going on the market. Sellers have the opportunity to make necessary repairs before potential buyers start touring the property and to avoid a deal that falls through due to structural or maintenance problems that could lead to other potential buyers steering clear. Even in a hot real estate market, a prelisting inspection can help reduce the chances a deal could fall through and get you closer to selling your home for the price you want in the time frame you need.

Every house comes with its fair share of quirks and problems, having advanced notice gives a seller the upper hand so they are not blindsided by any major finds from the buyer's inspection.   If you're planning to put your property on the market, an inspection report ahead of time will help you see all the potential problems together, including some you may not have known about. 

There are some do-it-yourself projects that the homeowner can do where it's satisfactory.  The homeowner will also be able to pick the contractor of choice for those bigger projects that do require professionals. 

Time is on your side when your home isn't yet on the market. Rather than needing to find a contractor in a specific time frame to appease the buyer, you can shop around for the right price, availability and skill to ensure you're satisfied with the work. 

There could be some projects you're just not willing to take on. If you can't afford to fix a roof issue with your house or you don't want to invest the money to replace broken windows, that can be reflected in the price.  Work with your real estate agent to establish the right sale price, taking into account whatever issues you can't fix before putting the house on the market. Your final sale price will be lower, but it may be better than paying for repairs that won't be fully recouped by a buyer's offer.

The fact that your house has already had an inspection can have its own appeal for buyers and can serve as a plus if included in marketing descriptions of the house. Taking that extra step and getting an inspection ahead of time could give the buyer that much more assurance and lead to an amazing offer!