Friday, April 24, 2020

Photography and real estate in today's present circumstances

By Richie Vraux

While many of us Real Estate professionals believe we are fantastic at everything we do, that might not be true in picture taking, staging and creating virtual tours on our new listings. We are all living in a rapidly changing world where safety is priority one. We have developed means to keep us, as well as our buyers and sellers safe from contacting this awful virus that the entire world is experiencing.
We have all seen properties where the photographs just don’t show well and do the home justice. 

There are dishes in the sink, clothing in just about every shot and clutter everywhere. Even an
adorable home with character will not show its very attractive features if it is messy and not staged properly. A professional photographer will make the difference, making it appear more attractive and it may make the difference between getting it sold quickly and sitting on it for months. there are many ways buyers can see each listing and get a pretty good idea if that particular home is right for them without walking through the home. Matterport Technology is a game changer. It gives you a 3D perspective, room by room platform bringing each room to life and includes the measurements. The technology offers you a 3D walk-through virtual tour of a home. With today’s social distancing and our governor’s “Stay at home order”, it might be the best way to keep us all safe. This technology is like a doll house effect showing all there is to see. Once a property has been selected, then a physical showing is done. Your REALTOR® will provide you with a face mask, 
booties and gloves to prevent you from catching anything or infecting anyone.

Despite the pandemic, the Real Estate market is still very strong, but we still have a shortage of properties to sell. Mortgage rates are historically low so why not buy? I don’t believe we will ever see rates this low for quite some time.

Lets’ face it - we as REALTORS® want to provide our buyers the highest level of service, but want to make sure our clients are safe from exposure. Stay safe and use a professional stager/ photographer to keep our buyers and sellers out of harm’s way.

Richie Vraux is a team partner of Maine’s Premier Team Gardens The Masiello Group with offices in Windham and Gorham.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

No better time than now to prepare your home to sell

By Carrie Colby

Stuck at home and see everything that you have put off doing around your house? I know I have!

During this crazy time, we are currently in, I know I have a lot of extra time and I have been looking at my own house with a different eye. I have said many times that homeowners should pretend they are getting ready to sell their house every three years. But of course, I never listen to my own advice. Well I really think now is the time. 

The market had been very strong prior to the COVID-19 breakout. While I believe it has slowed a bit, the values have continued to stay the same and, in some cases, have even improved.
So, I am going to heed my own advice and get my house ready to sell even if it is not a forgone conclusion. you list your home, it’s essential to get it in shape and ready to sell.

The first thing is to look at your house from a buyer's perspective and to be honest with yourself. Look at the projects you have been putting off. 

First impressions are hard to forget.
Enhancing your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to be difficult. Try cleaning up your yard–if necessary–or freshening up flower beds with a few seasonal additions. Adding a fresh coat of paint to your door or other areas that could use it and/or power washing your siding and deck will also help your home stand out. cleaning
Our homes tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. It feels good to get rid of broken items and give your house a thorough cleaning. Over the years, it’s easy to let things pile up. We hang more things on the wall and add more furniture without throwing out or donating items you no longer have use for. 

It might be time to make some upgrades as well.
If you’re still holding onto that fridge from 1993 or your walls haven’t seen a fresh coat of paint in a few decades, now is the perfect time to do some updating. Changing out the carpets for wood floors is also a great update and adds value to your home as well. If you can't afford that, giving the carpets a deep cleaning can make a huge difference.

Look at your lighting. This is a key area we tend to overlook. Check out your favorite home improvement store or on-line to add modern lighting that can make your home go from old news to new and stylish in no time. The ROI can be pretty darn impressive.

Depending on your home’s value, it may be worth it to upgrade your kitchen or bathrooms. In many cases, some fresh paint and a few minor updates can really help your home shine. Painting the cabinets and switching out the draw pulls can change the entire look. 

Realtors are a great resource, and most are more than happy to give advice or refer you to someone to help make decisions on which changes, repairs and upgrades to make. Take some photos and send them to someone you have worked with and trust and ask them what they think you could do to improve your home. 

We will come out of this and on the bright side your time at home will have been very productive and satisfying whether you decide to stay or sell.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Real Estate in the new reality

By Rick Yost

COVID-19 has changed almost all parts of our lives and real estate has not been immune to the changes. While the business of real estate and the purchase and sale of homes goes on, how we go about that business has changed. Buying or selling a house is a multi-step process and the virus is affecting how real estate professionals and their clients are approaching these steps.

The first step to buying a home in this new reality is choosing an agent that is experienced, knowledgeable and that you have faith in their judgement. So much more of home buying is becoming hands off. You need someone not only to protect your interest during the transaction, but to also be your eyes in many cases. You can research agents online, conduct phone or a FaceTime interviews and chose the agent that is right for you without actually coming in physical contact.

Fortunately, the next step, mortgage pre-qualification is easily accomplished online. Contacting a lender over the phone and providing documents via e-mail is now common practice and not a huge change. The biggest difference is the typical first meet and greet at the lender’s office. Those are all taking place over the phone now. the search has not changed. Your agent will talk to you via FaceTime or phone and find out your price range, desires, must haves, etc. Your agent will then set you up on a search in the MLS and
listings that meet your criteria will arrive directly in your email. The listings will include many pictures, important info about the house, and most likely some type of virtual tour. From these listings, you will narrow to the homes you are interested in.

The next step, showing houses, has changed dramatically. The latest guidance from the Maine Real Estate Commission and the Governor require agents to first visit potential homes alone and FaceTime or create videos of the homes that the buyer identifies as good fits. Agents must take all precautions while doing these visits. When a buyer decides that a particular home seems like the right one, an in-person visit is arranged with the seller’s permission. Only the actual buyer is allowed to visit the home with the agent (no children, parents, etc.). The agent and the buyer practice good social distancing, wear gloves and booties. The offer and negotiations are then handled completely virtually. signatures are collected digitally. The earnest money deposit can be mailed. On a side note, I believe you will also see a rise in virtual open houses.

Home inspections are now being attended by the inspector alone. In the past, the buyer’s agent always attended and often the buyer did also. The inspector can FaceTime from the property and provide a digital report. Inspectors are required to practice caution and wear booties and gloves. The
inspection will still be as thorough and informative as before. The biggest change is that buyers will not be able to actively participate in the inspection.

The appraisal process will continue almost as usual. The market has already seen a rise in FHA loans not requiring an appraisal and I think you will see that number continue to rise in the future and you will see other programs add the appraisal less option. Appraisers will still visit homes, but they are being asked to enter only if entirely necessary. The appraiser will visit the home alone and submit the appraisal report digitally. All physical interaction with the appraiser is minimized.

All the title work and lender diligence will continue to take place, but with proper social distancing practices. There is no physical buyer interaction needed in these processes.

The next step is the actual closing, and this is being handled in a few ways. Most common right now is that the buyer and seller are going to the closing office separately with no other parties allowed to attend, including agents. The buyer and seller each sign all the necessary documents separately and the transaction is completed. Buyers and sellers also have the option of having all the documents emailed to them, going to a notary and signing in the presence of that notary and returning the documents to the title company via overnight currier. The third option is to have a mobile notary visit the buyer or seller’s home and sign the documents there. The key exchange is coordinated with the buyer and seller’s agents.

As you can see it is possible to buy a home without any physical contact with anyone except a notary. It is also possible to practice safe social distancing throughout the entire process. In a market that had been short on inventory for almost two years, now might be the perfect time to buy.

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

Friday, April 3, 2020

How to Increase humidity in a dry house

High humidity levels can be unbearable, but what really catches homeowners by surprise is low humidity levels. With so much of a focus trying to cool a home down in the summertime, we often forget just how dry our homes can become in the winter. An increase in the use of our heaters and furnaces will lower the moisture levels in the house, making our skin dry, worsening allergies, creating static electricity, exasperating breathing issues, and even increasing our susceptibility to viruses like the flu. Luckily, there are a handful of easy ways to humidify your home even without the help of a humidifier.

Why Homes Become Dry

Aside from significant problems that would require home improvement solutions, it's normal and expected that many homes become drier during the colder months. However, dry air can certainly impact your level of comfort and potentially contribute to damages throughout your homes such as peeling wallpaper or wood cracking. Our homes are humid during the summer because warm air holds moisture. When temperatures outside begin to drop, the air holds less moisture. When cold, dry air makes its way inside, it settles beneath the hot air pumping through your air vents. to Increase Humidity in a Dry House

Adding moisture to the air in your home can offset the dryness you're experiencing. Except for air
sealing your home, which can be a significant home improvement project or require a professional, there are plenty of ways to create moisture in rooms throughout your home.

•    Invest in a Humidifier
The most obvious solution is typically the most effective. Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, many of which can comfortably fall within your home improvement budget. If you feel particularly dry when you wake up or spend a lot of time in a specific room, a portable humidifier is an excellent solution. For homeowners who feel dryness throughout the home, a whole-home humidifier will restore healthy moisture levels evenly and consistently across each room.

•    Cook on the Stove
Cooking meals on a stovetop, or even boiling water in a kettle, releases moisture into the air. If you're not cooking but still want to use this trick, boil a pot of water. After the water and pot have cooled, place the pot of water onto your heat registers or radiator. When the furnace turns on, it will heat the pot again and release humidity into the air.

•    Shower with the Door Open
Who doesn't love a hot and steamy shower in the dead of winter? Leave your bathroom door open and let the steam drift into the surrounding areas. Though it likely won't increase the humidity much farther than your bedroom, this trick works very well for increasing humidity levels to help you fall asleep more comfortably.

•    Air Dry Your Clothes
Although it may take hours longer than a normal dryer cycle, air-drying your clothes can also increase humidity levels in the home. We suggest using this home improvement trick before heading out for the day. When you return home, your clothing will be dry, but your home will feel more humid.

•    Use Houseplants to Generate Humidity
Houseplants go through a process called transpiration in which moisture on the leaves or stems evaporates. By placing a plant in front of a sunny window, you'll double the humidity output as the sunshine evaporates the plant's water supply. Just be sure to continually check on the water levels of your plants — a dry home makes them just as uncomfortable as it makes you.

Humidity levels will fluctuate throughout the year, but that doesn't mean your comfort as to do the same! Say goodbye to dry air and hello to humidity with these easy and affordable home improvements tricks.

This article was brought to you by Richie Vraux Broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group. He can be reached anytime at 207-317-1297.