Friday, November 19, 2021

Real Estate: A homeowner’s guide to fall home maintenance

By Jonathan Priest

Fall brings colorful leaves and cooler temperatures, but seasonal home care should also be on the calendar because winter has no mercy on homes unprepared for its surprises. 

Roof and Exterior

A visual inspection of a home, from the chimney to the foundation, can help reveal vulnerabilities that lead to trouble when wind, freezing temperatures, snow or winter rains rule. Homeowners can use a drone or binoculars to look for debris, which will need to be cleaned up, and missing or loose shingles, which should be fixed or replaced before they lead to leaks. Overhanging tree limbs should be trimmed, so they can’t come down, potentially puncturing the roof and causing leaks, water damage and mold.


To keep gutters running well, check them monthly for twigs, leaves and other debris. Plan bigger cleanings — including running water down all the downspouts — both before autumn leaves fall and again after trees are bare, to be sure fall and winter rain and snowmelt can flow down and away from the house — instead of into the walls, which can cause rot and mold and invite insects.


Some experts note that grass will fare better if it is fertilized after the hottest days of summer are over, when the fertilizer can encourage blade growth and strengthen the root system for winter. Rake off all leaves and give the lawn a final mowing once it stops growing. (A local garden center can guide you on fertilizer formulas suited to your climate and lawn.)

Outdoor pipes and water sources

Frozen water can burst pipes and hoses. Garden hoses should be detached and drained. Outdoor faucets can be left on to drain after water to the outside is shut off, says Mark Dawson, chief operating officer of a chain plumbing business. He notes that irrigation systems should be blown out using an air compressor or risk freezing — and having to replace irrigation lines come spring.


Sealing a deck can help prevent damage from rain and snow. That means repairing or replacing loose or cracked boards, washing off dirt and mildew, vacuuming and applying a wood sealer. If a path through the snow on a deck is needed, consider using a shovel with a plastic or rubber blade to avoid damaging the wood.

Outdoor furniture

Umbrellas and furniture that could be blown over can be brought inside or stacked and weighted down, to reduce the risk of damage. Grills should be moved indoors and outdoors appliances such as mini fridges should be unplugged.

Indoor Maintenance

Doors, windows and other drafty spots

To keep houses warm without sending heating bills through the roof, and to save energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends sealing spots where cold air can sneak in, focusing on the attic, foundation and around windows and doors. Caulking, weather stripping and door draft guards can be inexpensive DIY fixes.


Insulating the attic and sealing all gaps and cracks around recessed lighting, plumbing, chimneys and other breaks in the attic floor — any place where warm air can escape and cold air can sneak in — is the top recommendation of the nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment. It pays for itself quickly in reduced heating costs.


A good time for an annual HVAC system check — to look for wear in parts like the blower motor — is before having to turn on the heat, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Also, check with local utilities to see if they offer free energy audits or rebates for energy-efficient appliances, including furnaces. It is also good practice to change furnace filters every 60 to 90 days.


Along with cleaning gutters, making sure a basement is ready for winter means checking the foundation for cracks, which freezing water can widen and make for a very expensive repair. Sump pumps need to be checked for wear.


Fall is a good time to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Update first-aid kits for home and vehicles, replace flashlight batteries and check that emergency go-bags are stocked with fresh water, food, medicines and weather-resistant supplies to last at least 72 hours.

The big payoff is savings on repairs — and peace of mind. <

This article was brought to you courtesy of Farmers Insurance agent, Jonathan Priest with an office at 57 Tandberg Trail, Suite 7, Windham.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Real Estate: How to move during the holidays!

By Lisa DiBiase

One of the most stressful moments in life is moving. Both the holidays and moving can be stressful. Combine these two events together and your level of stress will shoot through the roof. But certain circumstances can make a holiday move necessary, and some people prefer to move during the holidays as they can more easily take time away from work and school. 

If you are planning a residential move during the holiday season, take extra measures to reduce your stress and make the move a joyous journey toward a new beginning.

Here are a few tips to help:

● If you are moving right before Christmas, put extra thought into packing. When combining the busy holiday season with a move, you may prefer to only unpack necessary household items in your new home until after the holidays pass. If that's the case, pack and label those items separately from ones you won’t likely need until after the holidays. Keep holiday decorations and gift-wrapping materials in boxes separate from your household items. If you already started shopping for gifts, make sure those are separate, too, along with your decorations and wrapping materials.

● Purchase moving supplies during sales like Black Friday.

● Don’t let the moving process dampen your spirit. Play holiday music while packing and do your best to create a festive atmosphere!

● If you have young children, put together a box of holiday coloring books, puzzles and other activities to keep them occupied. Also make sure they understand that Santa will find them in their new home. They may be worried without ever telling you.

● Create personalized moving announcement holiday cards to send to friends and relatives. A couple ideas would be to take a picture of the exterior of the home, or your family on the doorsteps and provide your new address.

● Take time out to relax, watch a holiday film, bake cookies, or simply soak in the tub. Although moving during the holiday season creates more chaos than normal, it helps to keep the quote in mind.

● Lastly, hire a mover if it makes sense to help pack and move. If you plan to hire a mover, you must contact them as early as possible to set the date. No matter what you decide, just understand this is a stressful time for everyone involved. Have lots of patience and remember the time of year and what the holidays are for!

As I have mentioned before, please call a local REALTOR® for all your real estate needs no matter how big or small. We are trained professionals here to make the process easier for you. It is best to surround yourself with the right team of professionals that can give you the best advice for your circumstances. <

Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner. She and her company represent buyers and sellers throughout the great state of Maine. For all your real estate needs contact or 207-653-0823.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Real estate: Are you buying a FLIP or a FLOP?

By Carrie Colby

When properties are “flipped” for a quick profit, the sellers usually make out OK. But what about the buyers? How can they be sure you’re not buying a flop? 

Buying a flipped house has a lot of appeal: They’re usually attractive, move-in ready homes with updated fixtures, appliances, and finishes. However, the quality of renovations done during the flipping process is a big factor for a potential buyer to consider. While some home flippers do top-notch jobs and pay attention to every detail while updating a property, others do it in a rush to make a quick buck — sometimes with subpar work.

While an inspector should point out the major flaws in a home before you buy it, such as roof or foundation issues, there are smaller red flags you can look for while touring a property that indicate it may have been flipped in a hurry.

Some surefire signs of a too-quick flip include loose railings that have been poorly reinforced, painted-over water damage under sinks or on ceilings, painted-over dust in air vents, smoke detectors that weren’t replaced, or leftover renovation debris remaining in the home.

Here are a few other things to watch out for.

Flaws in the new flooring
If you want an immediate assessment of the overall quality of a flip, just look down — at the flooring. Poor workmanship on new flooring is a warning sign. You might spot a cracked tile and figure that’s an easy fix. However, it could indicate a much bigger problem: the flipper might not have laid the subfloor correctly. If it just doesn’t look right, particularly at the trim, that’s going to be the most obvious to a potential buyer. If there is flooring butted up to base molding and butted up to door jambs, that’s a big red flag. The proper method is to remove the base molding and cut out the bottoms of the door jambs and lay the flooring beneath them.

Crooked cabinets
In the kitchen, don’t just look at the amount of cabinet space or the quality of the hardware. Check to see if the cabinets are properly aligned vertically and horizontally. If not, that’s a sure sign they weren’t level and even all around.

Ceiling spots
Always look at the ceilings for signs of water damage, If there’s been a leak, you can usually tell by spots, patches, or discolored paint. Be sure to check around light fixtures, where water is likely to pool. If you see signs of water damage, ask the seller what happened, because it could indicate a problem with the roof that might not have been properly addressed — leading to costly expenses down the road. Go to the attic, and look up at the inside of the roof, if you can. Roofs are expensive to replace, and if there’s a leak, you’ll see it there.

Shoddy painting
If the flipper spent the time and money on a proper paint job, you shouldn’t notice things like uneven edges, errant drips of paint on fixtures or the floor, or electrical outlets and light switches that have been painted over instead of removed first. These items are really cheap to buy and easy to change out, so I don’t know why some people do this. Also look closely at the baseboards and check to see if they were cleaned before being painted.

These are just a few items to look for on your own. The best practice is to hire an experienced home inspector. Perhaps one who specializes in inspecting recently renovated “flipped” homes. <

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