Friday, February 28, 2020

The importance of a commercial real estate broker being connected to the business community

By Larry Eliason

Commercial real estate brokerage is about the numbers such as income and expenses, the leases in place, return on investment, the zoning, permitted uses and the bricks and mortar as well as the location.  It is also very much a people business.  To be successful, a commercial broker should stay connected to clients and customers, existing as well as potential new ones.

One of my favorite ways to stay connected in my business community is through my membership and board affiliation with the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. I have been a member for several years and enjoy volunteering and also receive a wide range of benefits.  So, I would like to share what the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce has to offer.

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, representing the towns of Casco, Gray, Limerick, Limington, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham is one of the most active chambers in the State of Maine.  It is comprised of business members ranging from young entrepreneurs and ‘mom & pop’ shops to the largest employers in our region.

Tourism is one of the largest industries in our scenic region. Windham, Raymond and surrounding communities are a top vacation destination in Western Maine. The Chamber constantly promotes our region and recommends our businesses to visitors through special events, trade publications, information centers, the internet, and by phone and mail.

So, how can your business benefit from the chamber?  The benefits listed below are included with a membership. Consider these advantages as a return on your investment!

The chamber is a collective voice for local business in municipal and government affairs. And, the chamber membership and board are actively engaged in economic development and legislative issues that affect the quality of life and the business climate in our region.

Access to membership lists and marketing leads are a great way to target regional customers. The chamber maintains data on over 300 businesses in the Lakes Region.

By having your website business listing with business description and link displayed on the Chamber’s online business search directory your display is seen by hundreds of potential customers each month, generating sales and/or brand recognition.

The Regional Guide Listing provides a business description and contact info displayed in 12,000 of our printed guides used by tourists, locals and businesses as a reference for regional services, recreation etc. It is also viewable on the chamber’s website!

A professional leads group only for chamber members meets once a month to specifically discuss and share leads with no added fee and no strict parameters. One industry is represented in each group.
Customer inquiries and referrals come into the Chamber, about 2,000 information and referral requests each and every year, and the Chamber only refers Chamber members.

Ribbon cutting events provide an event where town officials, chamber staff and chamber ambassadors celebrate your business. Ribbon cuttings are prominently displayed in the chamber newsletter seen by over 400 contacts. The chamber will also post the photo on our Facebook page which averages hundreds of views!

The monthly “Business Breaks” open up business networking opportunities with the potential to meet dozens of new contacts (or reconnect with old). Learn about other chamber members while marketing your business in a fun social setting.

The chamber gives people an easy way to be part of a collective voice and to participate in something larger than themselves and their respective organizations. The chamber offers a sense of purpose through a united voice involving mutual interests and opportunities.  The chamber is at the table representing the interests of business at most community functions including local government, economic development, and education.

The chamber holds an annual meeting each January. This event is one of the community’s largest business events. The event sets the tone and spirit of the chamber initiatives for the remainder of the year. In addition, the chamber bestows some of its most prestigious awards at this event.

Compared to other businesses, chamber members are believed to have better visibility and strive to use better business practices. They have a better reputation within their community.  Members have greater visibility among customers and are perceived as more caring towards their customers. They are seen as more supportive of their community. Chamber members are considered to be more stable and therefore more reliable.

An innovative collaboration between the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine has enabled small businesses (groups 2-50 and self-employed) across the state to purchase health plans which were previously only available to larger employer.  Learn more about Chamber Blue Options or call 1-800-541-4

Friday, February 21, 2020

Tax refunds equal new buyers and more money

By Matt Trudel

It is the season of taxes and many people are getting refunds and will now have enough money to put down on their new home. That means there will be more buyers in an already hot market.  More buyers translate to less inventory, and less inventory works in a seller’s favor.  So, what does this all mean for the spring market?  It means that if your thinking about selling it is time get ready and get your house listed sooner rather than later. Here are a few tips for everyone.

Pricing your home is number one, and this includes picking an experienced broker to work with who has the knowledge and experience regarding area home values. 

I have written numerous articles on this subject alone. Pricing a home too high will virtually eliminate almost all buyers and is the number one reason houses do not get shown and do not sell. In this market your house should not be on the market for more than 30 days, tops.

Cleanliness is another important factor when preparing to sell your house. This includes getting rid of all the clutter, especially all those photos on the fridge and knick-knacks on the shelf.  Pack those up along with the extra clothes and pots and pans. Box it up, you are going to need to do that anyway since you will potentially be moving in 30 to 60 days. Doing so will allow closets, cupboards, and pantries to look much more spacious and appealing.
Repairs on the inside and on the outside should be addressed before listing your house. The outlet or light that is not working needs to be fixed. The trim around the front door might need to be replaced. It is all the little maintenance items that we tend to overlook and just live with. Make that to do list and get it done.

Curb appeal and first appearances are very important. The easiest way to determine what your house might need is to ask a couple of friends what they would do or change to make your house look better. It’s too early to get the flower gardens going, but you can buy fresh cut flowers for the kitchen table for showings. Having a welcome to our home note for potential buyers is often a good idea. The fresh baked cookies idea is an old one, but it has been proven to help make new buyers feel at home.
Last one, turn the lights on and the heat up for every single showing. You don’t want buyers cold as they are walking through. You also don’t want them searching for light switches and struggling to figure out where the switch is that turns on the vanity light. Showings need to be a pleasant experience for buyers, and that will lead to more money in your pocket. 

Thinking of selling and want to discuss more about pricing and marketing ideas, then reach out to a local Realtor® who has plenty of experience and ask for a free market analysis.  

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Real estate terms to know before buying a home

By Rick Yost

Lenders, like many professions, have their own
unique terms and acronyms that are used
regularly. It is easy to forget that home buyers
are not familiar with these terms that realtors 
use daily in the home buying process. The most
confusing part of buying a home is the mortgage
process and the many confusing words used. 

Here are some of the more common terms and
what they mean.

Conventional loan - The most typical loan. This type of loan is best suited for home buyers with
good credit and a 20 percent down payment. New rules from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow for
down payments as low as 3 percent.

FHA loans - These loans are good for first time home buyers. They are also good for those with less
than pristine credit, typically less than a 650 credit score. These loans can require a down payment as
low as 3 percent.

Fixed-rate mortgage - These mortgages feature interest rates that will not change over the life of the
loan. If a home buyer gets a 4 percent interest rate on their loan today, the interest rate they pay for
the next 30 years will be 4 percent.
Adjustable-rate mortgage - The interest rates on these mortgages change over time. The initial
interest rate is locked for a predetermined amount of time (five years for example) and then the
interest rate will rise and fall with a selected index (often the prime rate). These mortgages are
attractive for the initial interest rate that is typically less than a fixed-rate mortgage. Adjustable rate
mortgages are often referred to as ARMs.

Private mortgage insurance - If a home buyer has less than 20 percent for a down payment, lenders
require private mortgage insurance. The private mortgage insurance fee is tacked on to your monthly
mortgage payment. This fee can range from .03 percent to 1.15 percent of the loan amount divided by
12. The fee can go away after the homebuyer has 20 percent equity in their home. These are general
guidelines and home buyers should check with their lender for the exact terms of their private
mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance is often referred to as PMI.

Points - Points are prepaid interest. Homebuyers can prepay interest on their loan in order to lower
their monthly mortgage payment. Points often make sense if the homebuyer plans on staying in the
home for a long time. One point is equal to one percent of the loan amount. For example, one point
on a $150,000 loan is $1,500.

Closing cost – These are the costs associated with the purchase of a home. They are paid when the
home is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer, also known as the closing. These costs can
include lender fees, points, title insurance, pre-paid taxes and interest, appraisals, survey fees and
more. These costs can run between two and five percent of the home purchase price.

Prequalified/ pre-approved - These terms refer to a home buyer’s status with their lender.
Prequalified is a general term that means with very little documentation a lender has determined that
a homebuyer qualifies to purchase a home in a certain price range. Pre-approved means that a lender
has stated that the home buyer can borrow the amount needed to purchase the home they want as long
as there are no drastic changes in the homebuyer’s life (job loss, missed payment). This requires
much more documentation and time. Pre-approval is usually not sought until the home buyer is truly
ready to buy.
I hope that knowledge of these terms will make the home buying process a little less intimidating.

Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and a long time Windham resident. Rick can be reached with all of
your real estate questions and needs at

Thursday, February 6, 2020

What to do when the real estate market has low inventory

By Carrie Colby

Once you’ve taken all the steps to prepare for buying a home, you’re ready to begin the house hunt. But what happens when you’re out scouting neighborhoods — in person and on-line — and you realize there’s not much to look at? Finding few options, or maybe even nothing for sale in your price range is increasingly common for many homebuyers. But hang in there. You can buy a starter home, even if your market has low housing inventory. Here are some tactics you can employ right away.

1. Offer a higher price — within reason.

It’s supply and demand. Prices rise when inventory is low, and demand is high. I recommend going in with your best and final offer immediately. Offering a higher price can be tricky when you’re buying a home. You’ll need to make sure you can afford — and get — a bigger mortgage. But you also need to be able to make up the difference in cash if the house appraises below your offer. Most lenders will not approve a mortgage for more than the appraised value.

You could also offer more money upfront. Consider making a bigger earnest money deposit. Instead of the usual $1,000 consider $5,000. This shows the seller you’re serious, and it may make your offer stand out.

2. Act quickly, but practice patience.
Landing a home in a competitive market can mean a lot of hurry up and wait so be ready on a moment’s notice to make an offer on hot new listings. But be prepared. Although you need to be ready to pounce on a home as soon as it becomes available, the deal might not be right for you. Or your offer may be turned down.

3. Be flexible on closing dates.

Besides being fast on the offer, you might need to close quickly too. If your seller needs a quick closing because of a job relocation or divorce, your offer might have more weight. But how can you
speed up this process? Shorten your inspection time frame. Ten days is long enough for a home inspection if you’ve got an inspector ready. Also, if you’re pre-approved, you may be able to close as quickly as an all-cash buyer. Your mortgage lender will have everything in hand to start underwriting your mortgage.

4. Rent the home back to the sellers.

Consider how hard it can be for a seller to sync the sale of their home with their new home’s move-in date. In a competitive market, sellers could end up homeless if their home sells before they have a new home to move to. If you can postpone your own move, offer to rent the house back to the sellers for a short time. This might give the sellers the flexibility they need — and a competitive edge for you.
5. Write a great offer letter.

Many sellers, especially those who plan to keep in touch with their neighbors, care about who will
buy their home. So, write a thoughtful letter explaining who you are and why you love the house and neighborhood. Sellers love a good story. They want to see their pride and joy go to someone they like. Selling a home that you have lived in for a long time can be emotional for the homeowner. I have seen actual lower offers get accepted because a buyer has written a letter from the heart.

6. Approach landlords.

Here’s a think-outside-the-box idea: Approach landlords who are advertising a home for rent. Ask if they’d be interested in selling. You might be turned down, but you never know. Not all landlords want to be in the rental business. Some reluctant landlords who can’t find a tenant would be happy to entertain your offer.