Friday, December 30, 2022

Real Estate: Chimney fires can be preventable with simple precautions

By Carrie Colby

Whether we’re ready for it or not, winter weather is upon us. And with colder temps comes an obvious increase in the use of fireplaces.

For many of us, our fireplaces/chimneys haven’t been touched in months. However, chimneys account for 75 percent of home heating fires, meaning homeowners should actively maintain and follow the necessary upkeep.

There are over 25,000 reported chimney fires a year in the U.S. causing near a billion dollars in damage, and potentially the loss of lives. While some sound like a low-flying jet and include flames shooting out the top of the chimney, others are slow-burning and go undetected until a chimney inspection uncovers damage. Chimney fires are dangerous, but they are preventable.

What causes chimney fires?

Creosote builds up in the flue that lines the chimney. Creosote is a highly flammable black or dark brown residue that is a by-product of combustion. This substance can be crusty, tar-like, sticky or hardened. If there’s enough of it—and the internal flue temperature is high enough or sparks or flames reach it—a chimney fire can start.

How to prevent chimney fires

At the beginning of the heating season, hire a certified chimney inspector to examine your chimney—specifically, the chimney liner and ventilation. The chimney inspector will check for creosote build-up, cracks, and leaks, and make sure the vent is in good working order. A good chimney sweep thoroughly cleans the chimney, flue, and vents. A chimney cleaning runs between $125 and $250, depending on the type and condition of chimney.

Burn “clean” fires

That means fires with more flame, and less smoke. To get a clean fire, burn seasoned wood that has been drying for a year or more. Keep it under cover until use so it is dry when added to the firebox.

Avoid burning evergreens as they tend to pop and spark more than hardwood, which creates a fire hazard. Not all types of woods burn the same though.

Seasoned hardwood, like ash, oak, maple, hickory, and beech, is best. It has been fully dried out, and the ends should appear cracked, showing the wood is dry. When wood is still green, it creates more smoke as the moisture is dried. This additional condensation can lead to creosote build-up.

Keep the damper fully open

Restricted air supply from a partially closed damper adds to creosote buildup, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Be smart about what you’re burning. Some people start their fires with rolled up newspaper logs. Avoid burning glossy pages, wrapping paper or cardboard, which may release nasty chemicals. Never put paper on top of a fire; feed it under the grate so that burning fragments don’t rise up the flue and cause a chimney fire.

Clean the interior of your fireplace regularly, including the floor. Sweep or vacuum up cold ashes.

I have a gas fireplace. Do I still need an inspection?

Even though a gas fireplace puts off less smoke, it still uses the chimney to dispel the heat and smoke from the fire. If you use gas logs in your fireplace, do not skip getting your chimney inspected!

All chimneys work best and remain safer with regular maintenance from a service professional. <

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

Friday, December 16, 2022

Real Estate: Home Décor Predictions for 2023

By Nicole Foster

After years of washing out an entire space from floor to ceiling in nothing but whites, and greys many designers are speculating that homeowners will continue to shake things up a bit more in 2023.

Distinctive herringbone flooring is making a 
comeback and trending for 2023 home decor.
The minimalist trend of sparsely decorated spaces may be winding down as people crave more energy and dimension. The sudden hard push for maximalist décor following the pandemic will also be subsiding to find the right balance of blank or negative space helping to avoid the feelings of too much stuff going on within a room.

Kitchen: The timeless all white kitchens may become less common with more people instead choosing cabinets which use color as a statement. Creamy tones of beige or grey and muted blues and greens will be increasingly common to see used in kitchen cabinetry.

The modern kitchen will incorporate the use of large swaths of stone with veiny patterns traveling beyond the countertops. Center islands are expected to continue to grow in size as people are increasingly using this space and some are doubling down with not one but two kitchen islands.

People will continue the departure from leaving the base of the island to match wall coverings to puffing it out more with the creative use of texture, trim, and color. We will see more bold and vibrant patterns and materials being used to highlight the backsplash which no longer is limited to the space between counters and cabinets, and instead may travel all the way to the ceiling.

Mixed metals, shiny porcelain and glass tile may be seen used simultaneously instead of selecting only one type of tile and large sections of marble will dominate kitchens in 2023.

Flooring: It is likely that we will see a surge in the use of darker wood tones than we have seen in the recent past. Herringbone and parquet will make a return as many are choosing engineered wood as a more durable choice over hardwood. Larger than ever tiles are predicted to be used as well as textured varieties of flooring.

As a longtime neglected space, many are predicting that we could see more homeowners taking this overlooked empty canvas and using it as a way to tie a room together, while drawing the focal point upwards.

The use of color and texture through adding continuous color up the walls and covering the ceiling, use of wallpaper for ceilings will be on the rise in 2023.

Natural wood planks and exposed beams will continue to be used as ceiling accents, but more people are making bold statements by painting over the beams or wallpapering around them.

Interior Paint Trends for 2023: Painting trends will reflect this year’s selections including Raspberry Blush Benjamin Moore’s color of the Year, Pantone Color of the Year: Viva Magenta and Sherman Williams Color of the Year: Redent Point SW.

Rich jewel tones and deep, saturated hues are predicted to be used increasingly to create a dramatic atmosphere. The trend of using a monochromatic palette of light and airy colors is giving way to the use of more moody tones.

The traditional foundation of a room for a long time has taken it’s roots using a semi-gloss paint for the woodwork and trim, accompanied by an eggshell or matte finish on the walls.

A growing trend is to use the same matte finish of a singular color, or tonal colors, throughout the room so there is no contrast between the trim, woodwork and walls.

The widespread use of white shiplap has evolved to include more vertical applications while stepping away from white and incorporating the rich use of color with the added texture. We will likely see more use of trim added to walls before painting, as an effective way of upgrading the entire room.

Not Your Grandparent’s Wallpaper: The use of wallpaper has been making a strong and steady return and we should only see this trend continue to grow in 2023.

The selections are becoming increasingly used as an expression of art, with some truly stunning choices now available. The wallpaper of today is typically applied in targeted areas of a room as an accent. Large and showy patterns with a return to retro and botanical prints mixed with metallic highlights in bold designs can be used to immediately transform a space.

In a smaller room, such as a half bath, wallpaper may be used throughout the space on both the walls and ceilings. <

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate in Falmouth and a Windham parent and resident who loves people and real estate. Reach her by email at or call her at 207-615-7558.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Commercial real estate success results from strong relationships, expertise

By Larry Eliason

As a Commercial Real Estate Broker, my focus is to provide my clients with sound Commercial Real Estate advice. I specialize in Sales and Acquisitions Representation for Sellers and Buyers and Commercial Real Estate Leasing Representation for Landlords and Tenants.

As a seasoned Maine Licensed Real Estate Broker, I have developed a diverse set of skills by accumulating years of experience that includes Sales and Marketing, Contract Negotiation, Due Diligence, Planning and Approval Process, Commercial Real Estate Financing and Commercial Broker Opinion Valuation to name a few.

I wanted to provide some basic Commercial Real Estate Terms to help Sellers, Buyers, Landlords and Tenants better understand what Commercial Brokers are looking at as far as Income, Expenses, Cash-Flow and Return on Investment in addition to the physical nature and condition of Commercial Real Estate.

Gross Potential Rent is calculated by taking the market rent of every unit on the property and adding it up. It is the maximum amount of money your property could make if it was 100 percent occupied and every unit was making market rent.

The Vacancy Rate is a numerical value calculated as the percentage of all available units in a rental property, such as a shopping center or business park, that are vacant or unoccupied at a particular time.

Gross Operating Income refers to the result of subtracting the credit and vacancy losses from a property's gross potential income. GOI is also sometimes known as Effective Gross Income (EGI).

Repairs and Maintenance are the costs incurred with a real estate asset operating at its present condition. If a commercial building requires repairs, the cost to repair the damage is debited to repairs and maintenance expenses.

Reserves for Replacements is an amount of money set aside in anticipation of building components or equipment like HVAC wearing out in a relatively short time and it needs to be replaced. Replacement reserves can be a mere accounting entry as a phantom expense item reducing net operating income each month, or it can be money deposited into an account and earmarked for replacements.

Property Management Fee is the operation, control, oversight, and accounting of real estate investments. Management is needed to monitor the property and offers accountability for collecting rents and reviewing expenses as they come along.

Net operating income (NOI) is a calculation used to analyze real estate investments that generate income. Net operating income equals all revenue from the property minus all reasonably necessary operating expenses.

The Return on Investment (ROI) or cash on cash return is a commonly utilized investment measurement in the real estate industry. Return on investment is calculated by taking the monthly or annual cashflow of an asset and dividing it by the total amount of money you invested into a property.

The Return on Equity (ROE) is a measurement of investment returns. ROE considers your total equity, including equity that has built up over time, and measures your cash-on-cash returns against that instead of your initial investment.

The Income Capitalization Rate
, also known as the commercial real estate cap rate, is the rate of return used by Commercial Real Estate Investors to assess the risk and potential return of a property. Cap rates are usually expressed as percentages such as 10% as a return on investment using debt and equity. When comparing investment properties, capitalization rates are a commonly used benchmark for measuring returns.

As much as Commercial Real Estate is to review income and expenses, analyze leases and crunch the numbers to evaluate risk and determine return-on investment, Commercial Real Estate is also a people business. I believe that success in this industry is earned over time by building long-term relationships and being a valuable resource to your clients.

My service area is the Greater Sebago Lakes Region. I do go where a client needs me to travel sometimes hours away from my home base. In the Greater Sebago Lakes Region, the property may be zoned commercial, however, it could also be a residentially zoned Multi-family or an Income Producing Property with Lakefront, a Sales and Service business like a Marina, a Waterfront Campground or other 4 Season Property with Lakefront amenities.

If you are looking to Sell, Buy or Lease Commercial Real Estate, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to help you meet your Commercial Real Estate goals. <

Larry Eliason is a Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond and serves as the President of the Windham Economic Development Corporation. You can reach him at 207-415-2112.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Real Estate: Winter water damage from ice dams, attic condensation

By Tricia Zwirner

Excessive snow on the roof, condensation in the attic and ice buildup can cause roof and water damage. What are ice dams? What causes attic condensation? Why is excessive snow on your roof a concern? And what to do if you’ve had these?

What are ice dams?

When the temperature in your attic is above freezing, snow on the roof will likely melt. When the snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes.

If this cycle repeats over several days, the freezing snowmelt builds up and forms an ice dam, behind which water pools into large puddles, or "ponds." The ponding water can then back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or along exterior walls.

The right weather conditions for ice dams are usually when outside air temperatures are in the low 20s (°F) for several days with several inches of snow on the roof.

Causes of condensation in your attic

Attic condensation typically occurs when warm, moist air migrates or is directed into the attic from living spaces below. Research indicates unusually high humidity in the home's living spaces is strongly associated with attic condensation problems.

Winter water damage warning signs

Recognize the signs of stress when too much snow and ice has accumulated on your roof or when you have too much condensation in your attic.

Here are a few things to watch for:
Sagging ridgeline
Drooping ceilings
Water leaks on interior walls and ceilings
Jammed doors
Cracked interior walls near the center of your home
Creaking sounds

Condensation, snow on roof and ice dam prevention tips

Building codes attempt to prevent these problems but they can't address it all. And many houses could have been built prior to their creation.
Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and dryer vents should never be discharged into the attic space and always discharge outside. You may have an adequately ventilated attic, but this won't matter if the bathroom exhaust fan dumps warm moist air directly into the attic space. This could result in condensed water vapor freezing onto cold attic materials, which will eventually thaw creating wet attic materials resulting in damage and potentially mold in the attic and inside the home.
Minimize ceiling mounted fixtures below the attic that create the need for holes in the drywall or plaster ceiling. Properly seal ceiling penetrations to make them airtight taking care to follow manufacturer clearance requirements for flues, chimneys and recessed light fixtures.
Research shows keeping the attic air temperature below freezing when the outside air temperature is in the low 20s can reduce the occurrence of ice dams. Proper attic ventilation is key to keeping the attic cool, while adequate and properly installed insulation is key to keeping your house warm. It is critical to keep soffit vents free from obstructions to allow the natural flow of cool outside air into the attic space to replace the warmer attic air that rises and flows outside the ridge and/or roof vents. This flow of air will keep the attic cool and free of moisture build-up.

What to do
It’s recommended you hire a professional contractor to be sure that insulation in the attic space is adequate to help prevent your home's warm air from escaping into unheated attic spaces.
Remove snow from the roof to prevent the creation (or reduce the impact) of ice dams. A "roof rake" can be used to remove snow but may damage the roofing materials so be very careful or hire a professional if in doubt.
Verify soffit and roof or ridge venting exists for all roof planes and that soffit vents are neither blocked by attic insulation nor covered by newly installed maintenance free finishes outside the home.
Verify all penetrations, access panels and electrical fixtures are properly sealed and insulated to prevent heat and moisture from entering the attic space, while maintaining manufacturer's required clearances.
Verify all exhaust fans and dryer vents are discharged to the outside.
Keep gutters clean of leaves and other debris. This will not necessarily prevent ice dams, but clean gutters can help drain away ice melt as it makes its way to the gutters during a thaw.
Follow up a short-term ice dam remedy with determining and fixing the actual cause to your ice dam problem. Consult a trusted and competent professional.
If replacing your home's roof, have a self-sealing membrane installed under the shingles to help prevent water damage from ice dams.
On metal roofs, install snow guards above entrances.

If your home suffers damage this winter, contact your homeowner’s insurance agent to see if it's covered under your homeowner's policy. <

Tricia Zwirner is a State Farm agent celebrating her 21st year in Windham. She and her team would love to hear from you and can be reached via phone and text at 207-892-2864 or via email at




Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Real Estate: BRRRRRR! Baby it’s cold outside!

By Matthew Trudel

Just like the temperature changing outside and how things are cooling down, so is the real estate market this month. To be clear, I said, “cooling down”, not dropping off a cliff or frozen solid. While interest rates are in the mid 7 percent range and have slowed things, they have not caused the market to come to a grinding halt.

There are still many buyers who desire a new home and the inventory is still very low. The 30-year fixed interest rate is an issue, however there are still several options for both the buyers and the sellers and what they can do to help offset those higher interest rates. We will cover both sides of this and also touch base on a few other points that certainly apply to the current market conditions.

Buyers who are actively looking now most likely have the most flexibility to help improve their situation in purchasing a new home with the current market conditions. There are many different financing options that lenders are offering.

Several lenders are offering out Variable Rate loans now as an option, so your interest rate is lower. I am not a fan of this personally because a majority of people will not use this in an appropriate way and could potentially get themselves into a negative financial situation. That being said, a Variable Rate does have its purpose as long as you have a well thought out plan for how you will pay off or refinance that loan to ensure you do not get into a place where you cannot afford your payments.

Another option to discuss with your lender or mortgage broker is what it would cost to buy your interest rate down a little. This is done by paying a point or two at closing. For those who may not know what a point is, it is 1 percent of your loan amount that you are borrowing to purchase your home. This is something that you can ask a seller to pay, along with them paying some of your closing costs.

Sellers can make the decision ahead of time to pay a couple points or closing costs and advertise so that all buyers know upfront that they can get a lower interest rate if they purchase your property at no extra cost to the buyer.

Another option for some sellers would be to consider owner-financing the property to the buyer for a few years. This is easier if the seller owns the property outright, but if they do not own the property outright there are still some possibilities. The seller could opt to hold a secondary mortgage on some or all of their proceeds for a few years if the seller doesn’t need the funds right away.

Private financing is also an option, these days. These are shorter term loans, usually 2 to 5 years. The rates vary depending on who is lending the money and who they are lending it to as well. The rates are very competitive and sometimes can be a little better. I know of one deal I negotiated recently, and the rate was at 7 percent.

Granted the buyer needed to put 20 percent down which is a lot these days, but 7 percent interest was a lot better than the 7.75 percent he was quoted. He also saved a lot on closing costs and other expenses like the appraisal fee.

So there are a lot of options to help both buyers and sellers combat the higher interest rates we are currently seeing. I know 7.5 percent seems like a really high interest rate but that is only because we were spoiled for a few years with interest rates being around 3 percent.

Reality is our economy cannot sustain interest rates at 3 percent, which is basically free money if you ask me. I believe rates will come down a little next year and settle in around the 6 percent area, maybe just below that. If everyone could just have a crystal ball it would make all of this a lot easier. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving everyone! <

This article was written by Matthew Trudel, owner of Five Star Realty, Windham. Call him at 207-939-6971.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Real Estate: Don’t wreck the house while decking the halls

By Nicole Foster


Everyone loves the warmth of twinkling holiday lights, but it is important to follow safety standards while decorating. Whether your lights have been used in the past or are brand new, you will want to inspect them for safety to help prevent a fire. Look for the UL Underwriters Laboratory label and do not use indoor lights for outside decorating, they are not the same. Check wires and discard those which have any frayed or broken areas and if a bulb does not work after replacing it could be an indication of an issue. Do not overload electrical outlets and use no more than three strands of lights for one extension cord.

Christmas Tree damage

When preparing your home for placement of a real Christmas tree be sure to measure the height of your ceiling and allow adequate space for the tree topper. Standard ceilings height is between 8ft to 9ft so a 7 to 7 ½ ft tree would be suitable for most spaces. Choose a shape that best fits into the floor plan of the room. Be sure to have a waterproof barrier beneath the tree stand to protect hardwood floors against moisture rings left from even a small amount of splashing from watering. Water trapped between the tree stand and floor can cause discoloration, gaps, cupping, or crowning to wood floors. Often the stand which holds the tree and contains the water is heavy and can create dents or leave impressions into wood flooring or carpeting, so a waterproof pad can also help to prevent damage from the stand itself. Choose a sturdy tree stand which is large enough to support the tree and consider securing it with fishing line to help prevent the top-heavy tree from falling over and causing damage. Don’t drag your tree across hardwood floors, carry it in and out of the home and dropped needles should be vacuumed up. Sap will ooze from the branches and can leave stubborn staining so select a large enough tree skirt to help catch any of the sticky droplets.

Hanging decorations

Many people have found the 3M removable hooks which come in various sizes to support different loads of weight to be very user friendly leaving no trace after the holidays are over. You can also use fishing line to support heavy garlands and zip ties or ribbon to secure decorations to railings and balusters. Purchase the inexpensive plastic clips available online or locally to hang exterior lights by attaching them to bricks, siding, trim, fascia board, rain gutters or shingles. When using a rain gutter system as the attachment for your exterior lights do not to overload with too much weight which could impact the necessary pitch to properly function. Do not drive nails into your fascia board, siding, shingles or window casting and trim. A nail hole may seem small and of no consequence but any penetration of water through a protective surface can lead to damage over time. Do not use your chimney as an anchor or have decorations up against it. Avoid using roofing shingles to support décor as they can easily be damaged or loosened allowing water to seep into the home.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

We have all likely seen it at one point or another; gray shadows outlining the supporting joists and screws behind the walls, often referred to as “ghosting”. Over time the dark coloring, often found higher on walls or on ceilings, becomes more prominent. One of the commons reasons these shadows can develop may be due to one or more of the combustible sources found inside of your home including gas fireplaces, stoves, candles, or furnace. A seemingly innocent daily ritual of burning one or more scented candles can lead to a tremendous amount of damage to a large area in a few short years. Limit how often you burn candles and be sure to keep the wicks trimmed to try and limit the amount of soot output. Once the staining has settled onto the walls or ceiling it must be removed with special sponges and cleaners prior to painting because it will just bleed through the new paint.

Putting it all away

Don’t pull or tug on hard-to-reach decorations that are attached to exterior trim, rain gutters or fascia boards but gently guide the wires free from the clips. It is better to take your time when removing hanging lights and decorations to avoid costly damage. Some clips may require more time or pliers to open and remove and homeowners sometimes leave the clips in place for ease the following year and remove the decorations only. Fishing line can be used for any 3M hooks which are sticking. Lights should loosely be wrapped over your arm then placed in a water-tight box instead of balled up tightly. <

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate and is a Windham resident and parent who loves real estate and people. Reach her by email at or call her at 207-615-7558.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Real Estate: Ten secrets of those with low energy bills

Submitted by Richie Vraux

Heating costs drive utility bills through the roof in wintertime, but there are a few ways you can take control of your home's energy consumption this season. Lots of people keep their energy bills low in the winter — here's how they do it.

1. Seal the gaps. Cracks and gaps around windows and doors are like robbers that steal your warm air. Eliminate drafts by sealing these gaps with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam.

2. Program your thermostat. Setting your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees lower can save you up to 10 percent on heating costs over the course of a year. You can also use your programmable thermostat to set a heating schedule that heats your home more when you're home, and less while you're away (or asleep) to avoid precious heating dollars going to waste.

3. Turn down your water heater. Many households keep their water heater set way higher than they need to be. Anything higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit is unnecessary, and every 10-degree reduction can trim your bill by up to 5 percent.

4. Reverse your fan. Ceiling fans rotate clockwise in summer, which creates a cooling breeze. But in winter, you should set your ceiling fans to spin counterclockwise (most models have a switch that reverses the rotation) to push heated air from up near the ceiling down into your living space.

5. Change furnace filters. The filters in your furnace should be changed every one to three months or whenever they get dirty. Clogged filters reduce the efficiency of your heating system by forcing your furnace to work extra hard to push air through.

6. Insulate your water heater. Use an insulating jacket to keep heat from escaping your water heater. You can also use insulated pipe sleeves to prevent heat loss as hot water travels through your plumbing system.

7. Use the sun. On sunny days, opening up all the curtains and blinds in your house will create a "greenhouse" effect that warms your house no matter how cold it is outside. At night, do the opposite — close up all the blinds to help keep the heat sealed inside.

8. Insulate attics and basements. These rooms are often the most poorly insulated areas in the home and are responsible for a lot of heat loss. Improve efficiency by adding insulation to your basement and attic. If you want to make the biggest eco-friendly impact with your next home improvement project and only choose one item from our list, make it proper insulation. This is especially true if your attic is lacking in insulation, or has old, lower quality insulation. An energy audit can help you determine your insulation needs, and the cost of having new insulation installed is made up quickly with the money saved by improved energy efficiency.

9. Close up the fireplace. There's nothing more comforting in winter than a warm, crackling fire, but fireplaces are actually very inefficient, sucking heated air up through the chimney and allowing cold air to enter in the opposite direction. Always keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use and turn down the thermostat by a few degrees when you do have a fire.

10. Bundle up. It might seem obvious, but humans have been bundling up to keep warm for thousands of years because it works. Throw on a sweater and a pair of slippers, and you might be able to set your thermostat 5 degrees cooler and not even notice.

Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune to keep your house warm. Use these energy-saving secrets to keep your energy costs under control this year. <

Richie Vraux is a Broker at Better Homes and Gardens -The Masiello Group, 76 Tandberg Trail, Windham, Maine 04062. Reach him by calling 207-317-1297 or by email at

Friday, November 4, 2022

Real Estate: Winter Home Maintenance Tips

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

Shorter days and cooler weather make it tempting to curl up under a blanket and hibernate until spring. It’s a good plan, but before the snow flies, cross these six home improvement projects off your list.

1. Clean the gutters

The first snowfall of the season is not the time to learn your gutters
are filled with debris or too loose to handle the weight of the snow.

Falling leaves can create a buildup, and when it rains or eventually snows and the snow melts, the water will need a clear path to run. Making sure you have clear downspouts has the same reasoning, so that debris does not build up.

Clean your gutters, or better yet hire a pro to tackle the job. While you're at it, look for areas where gutters are loose and may have torn away from the house. Reattach them using gutter spikes, brackets or hangers. Clean, well-secured gutters are essential to protect the foundation of your home and reduce the risk of basement flooding.

2. Check smoke detectors

When you change the clocks to standard time, change the batteries in your smoke detector. Fall is a great time to install new batteries as you are preparing your home for cooler months, Remember, if your alarm chirps—a sign the battery is low—replace it, no matter the time of year. Once you’ve replaced the batteries, test the smoke detector: It’s as simple as pushing the button to make sure the alarm goes off.

Don’t ignore hardwired smoke detectors; many have battery back-ups and those batteries need to be replaced, too. You should also replace any smoke detectors that are over 10 years old. Alarms are constantly checking the air for smoke, and after 10 years, the effectiveness of the alarm may decrease.

3. Hire a chimney sweep

A chimney sweep isn’t just a character from Mary Poppins. These fireplace pros remove soot and creosote that build up in the chimney and pose a fire risk. A professional chimney sweep, certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), will clean the chimney and inspect the entire fuel venting system for warped metal on the damper, cracked or collapsed flue tiles, cracks in the exterior masonry and other signs of fire damage. The National Fire Protection Association recommends an annual chimney inspection. A clean chimney makes it safer to build a cozy fire in the winter; a chimney that has been swept not only helps prevent chimney fires but will also aid your fireplace to operate more efficiently as the smoke and other flue gases can exit the chimney more quickly.

4. Perform furnace maintenance

Call in the pros before turning on the heat. Regular maintenance ensures that your furnace runs at peak efficiency. Without semiannual
maintenance (in the spring before running the air conditioner and in the fall before turning on the heat), airborne allergens may get trapped in the filters, resulting in poor indoor air quality.

Have your furnace inspected to make sure it’s in good working order and change the filters before starting it up for the first time.

Furnaces that are not cleaned at least once a year can wear out more quickly and can stop working altogether. And soaring energy costs make it more important than ever to ensure the furnace is running efficiently.

5. Winterize water pipes

Data from the Insurance Information Institute shows that almost 30 percent of homeowners insurance claims were related to water damage and freezing. Make sure to drain outdoor water spigots and winterize water pipes to reduce the risk.

You can winterize water pipes by locating your hose bib shut-off valve, which may be in a basement or crawl space, and turning it off at the source. For extra protection, purchase a Styrofoam cover that attaches over the outdoor spigots to keep them from freezing.

These quick fixes can provide protection against the elements as temperatures drop. You may also want to shut off water to exterior faucets and drain sprinkler systems for extra protection against freezing pipes and water lines.

6. Assess windows and doors

Heat lost through windows and doors can account for up to 30 percent of home energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To keep heat in the house, look for cracks or gaps in the exterior caulking, check seals around exterior door and add caulking or weather stripping as needed. While these DIY fixes can reduce heat loss, a professional energy assessment can provide additional insights into areas where you may be losing heat and recommend fixes. Call your utility company to ask about their services or get a recommendation for a pro.

Spending a few extra hours tackling these home improvement projects this fall will keep you warm and safe all winter long. <

This article was brought to you courtesy of Farmers Insurance agent, Jonathan Priest, with an office at 57 Tandberg Trail, Suite 7, Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 or send him an email at

Friday, October 28, 2022

Real Estate: Winter Moves

By Lisa DiBiase

Winter is a great time to buy a property at great prices, moving costs can be less expensive as well (for example, it's cheaper and an easier time to rent a moving truck or hire movers). However, you need to be aware of possible moving issues so that you can avoid them before they occur. Here are some suggestions for moving during the winter.

If you choose to pack yourself, a moving company can provide professional grade packing materials that you can trust to protect your valuables like bubble wrap and thick paper. If you’re not finished yet as moving day approaches, let them know as soon as possible. Their team can be prepared to jump in and help you finish packing.

Preparing Your New Home To Move In:

1. Make sure that the truck you rented, or the moving truck can access your street and home! Regardless of what time during the year you are moving, you should always make sure there is parking for your moving truck and additional vehicles.

2. Make sure you have heat and lights! You should make sure to have the utilities transferred over into your name and that they are fully functioning for your move in date. Prior to moving in, make sure the heat is turned on and functioning properly as well. Make sure the house is nice and warm for the day you move in.

3. Make sure all the exterior walkways are clear of snow! Visit your new home the day before you move in to make sure all access points you will be using to move in are clear of snow and ice. If needed, salt or sand the area.

4. Make sure you create a path along the entryway! Lay rugs or towels on both sides of the front door to keep from tracking mud or water onto your floors. As you carry boxes and furniture in, you’ll catch any mud or water from your feet before it causes any damage inside.

TIP: If hiring a moving company, make sure to schedule the earliest time slot they will allow you to. With shorter daylight hours and inclement weather, it is better to have as much natural light as possible.

Preparing Your Old Home To Move Out:

1. Make sure all the exterior walkways are clear of snow! Use salt or sand to ensure areas are free of icy and slippery conditions. Parking area should also be cleared with ample room for movers to use dollies.

2. Make sure to protect the inside space as the new buyer will be moving into their new home too! Lay down large pieces of cardboard or plastic sheeting to ensure high traffic areas are protected from snow, sand, and water. Cardboard works best for carpeted areas.

3. Make sure to have sand/salt and shovels on hand in case you need to adjust during the move. Throughout the move, monitor the weather and future conditions so there are no surprises.

4. Make sure you have hot drinks for all the movers. This will be appreciated by everyone who is helping you with the move. Extra hats and gloves may come in handy!

Make sure you have a back-up plan in case a large storm blows in. Have a backup date already scheduled with the moving company and/or friends and helpers. Some moving companies may not be willing to have a backup date, so be sure you have the conversation prior to moving.

They may still pick up your belongings but may have to delay the delivery. It's very important to identify these things upfront! No matter what you decide, just understand this is a stressful time for everyone involved! Have lots of patience and remember to thank all the helping hands!

As I have said 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 your life easier. It's best to surround yourself with the right team of professionals that can continuously give you the right advice for all your circumstances. <

Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner at Landing Real Estate. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact

Friday, October 21, 2022

Real Estate: Closing on a House: What You Need to Know

By Carrie Colby

Buying a home is still the American dream. The process of purchasing a home can be really exciting. You get to spend your time looking online at what are typically beautiful properties. The real fun then begins when you start touring the ones you like. Your real estate agents will likely show you several properties before you find one that meets your criteria.

Once an offer to purchase happens the real work begins. You will not finish the process of buying a home until you finally reach your agreed-upon closing day.

Your closing will be the conclusion of your journey into home ownership. One of the most common questions from home buyers is how long does it take to close on a house? Your desired closing date will be discussed with your buyer’s agent. The agreed-upon closing date will need to be mutually satisfactory with the seller. Once the closing date has been agreed to, it will become part of the contract. The closing is the conclusion of a real estate transaction. It is when a new deed will be prepared on a property and funds will be exchanged at an agreed upon meeting place.

What’s The Average Time to Close on A House?

Once you have signed an offer to purchase, there will be some important steps that take place on the way to a closing. You likely have some essential real estate contingencies in your contract. Most real estate closings fall between 30-60 days. Keep in mind a closing date is negotiable. It may be more or less than the average.

Complete a Home Inspection
The first phase includes your due diligence on the property. You should have the home inspected by a professional home inspector. Home inspectors go over a property inside and out with a fine-tooth comb. They will point out any deficiencies they discover. Usually, your home inspection due diligence period will be around 10 days from when you execute the offer to purchase. If the findings are unsatisfactory, you will be able to negotiate the repairs be made by the seller, a credit is given to you (the buyer) or you can cancel the contract. Your real estate agent will help guide you in what is the best route to take.

The Home Will Be Appraised

When you are getting a mortgage it is likely your lender will want a real estate appraisal completed. Sometimes lenders will waive the appraisal if you are putting a down payment larger than twenty percent. Waiving appraisals are done to strengthen the appeal of an offer. It gives the seller comfort that a buyer is not going to walk away from the transaction if the appraisal is lower than expected. Typically, when there are appraisal issues they get worked out.

You’ll Need to Get a Mortgage Commitment
One of the last phases in your home buying journey will be getting a mortgage commitment from your lender. The typical time frame for procuring financing is 4-6 weeks from the execution of the contract.

Some lenders can get buyers approved quicker than others. The volume of loan business at the time is often a factor. If there is significant re-finance volume happening at the time, a commitment to lend could take longer.

Getting your financing will be the last big hurdle. There are several things you need to avoid doing before closing day. One of the most significant mistakes is making a large purchase like a car that could throw your debt to income ratio out of line and force the lender to cancel your loan commitment.

What Will You Be Signing on Closing Day?
There are several vital documents that will be signed by a home buyer on closing day.

Some of the paperwork you’ll be expected to sign include the following:

The promissory note which is the document that commits you to repay the loan.
The mortgage is a document that protects the lender’s right to foreclose on the house if you fail to make your payments.
The escrow disclosure which provides the details of your monthly payment obligations with the lender.
You will also need to carefully review and sign all disclaimers, disclosures, and government documents the lender asks you to sign. Many of them will be boilerplate forms.

What Will a Buyer Need to Bring to Closing?
Before the signing, consult with your lender to determine what documents you will need. It is likely that you will need to bring the following items :Identification documents, such as a passport or driver’s license, will be required.
The Closing Disclosure that you have received must be compared to the final documents three days before the signing,
A bank check making up any difference between your mortgage, down payment and the home’s purchase price.

How Long Will Closing Day Take?

The time it will actually take for closing day will depend on how quick you are to sign the presented paperwork. Most buyers will sign as it is presented to them. However, if you like to read everything that you’re signing, it could take a while.

Most closings take around 45 minutes to a little over an hour to complete.

You are now up to speed on the process for closing on a house. The process will probably seem longer than it really is due to your excitement of getting into a new home! <

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

Friday, October 14, 2022

Real Estate: Earnest Money Deposits

An essential component of any purchase agreement to buy or sell real estate requires the buyer to provide a deposit “in earnest”, to demonstrate the seriousness and legitimacy of their offer. It also serves as a signal to the seller how much the buyer wants the home or how indifferent the buyer may be if their offer is accepted or not. This is a detail which helps to show a position of financial strength, as well. A hefty earnest money deposit can speak volumes to a seller and could be especially helpful to distinguish your offer from any other competing offers. It also prevents buyers from taking properties off the market by writing offers on more properties than what they can move forward on while unnecessarily disrupting a seller’s market exposure.

The timing of when the collection and receipt of the earnest money will be made is negotiable but once agreed upon by both parties becomes a binding condition. If you have agreed to provide your deposit upon the acceptance of your offer you will want to ensure it is received by the acting trustee in the agreed amount of time, or your agreement will automatically become voided if not received during that time. When agreeing upon a timeframe make sure that your logistical plans to deliver or mail the check to the trustee will comply with your agreement.

Discuss with your REALTOR how much earnest money you should plan to give as a deposit with your offer on a property and if more than one deposit should be provided. In the State of Maine claims which are valued at $6,000 or less may be handled in small claims court, which is a more simple and speedy process than civil court required for claims greater than $6,000.

It is negotiable who will hold the earnest money deposit acting as trustee and this will be agreed upon by both parties in the purchase agreement. In Maine often the listing or selling real estate company will act as trustee by depositing the check into the company’s escrow account. It may also be held in the trust account of the title company or law office who will be handling the closing and transfer. If it is held by a real estate company in Maine they must comply with the rules of the State of Maine Office of Professional and Financial Regulation Maine Real Estate Commission as well as follow their company policy. A personal check may be accepted for this typically in the range of 1 percent to 5 percent of the purchase price for an already existing home and new construction may require a greater amount. These funds may be applied towards the purchase price then the remainder can be paid by wire, certified cashier’s check, or trust account check on the day of the closing.

Your REALTOR will help you to understand the circumstances, if any, which your earnest money

deposit may be returned or refunded to you. Earnest money provided directly to a seller, or a builder may be non-refundable. Your broker will also assist you by closely monitoring the critical dates which you must comply with according to your purchase agreement to maintain this option. A common misconception is that a release of earnest money happens automatically given the right conditions.
How the disbursement of earnest money will be handled in the event your purchase agreement is terminated or made void is addressed in your agency relationship agreement and in the terms of the purchase agreement. If the funds are being held by a real estate agency as the trustee, it may be the policy of the company to retain a portion of the buyer’s earnest money deposit in the event of a cancellation. The trustee may also require that both the buyer and the seller sign a written release agreeing on the amount being released and to which party funds be released to. Should one party not agree to signing the release because they do not agree with whom the funds will be released to or the amount being released, then there is a dispute. In the event there is a dispute of the release of earnest money small claims court and mediation services are available to the parties to reach a resolution.

Most of time when a purchase agreement falls apart it is very straight forward how the earnest money will be released and usually all parties are cooperative with the next steps to part ways. It is important to be aware there can be more than one interpretation of both contract language and the events surrounding the termination so that we not take that cooperation for granted. <

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate Group and a Windham parent who loves real estate and people.

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

Friday, October 7, 2022

Real Estate: Bringing New Retailers to Windham

By Larry Eliason

Back in August, I wrote a commercial real estate column on the North Windham Retail Sector and provided a brief overview of the some of the things Retailers are looking for in a Community and a Specific Location. I wanted to dive a little deeper some of the details to explain some of the information that is critical in the decision-making process for Retailers to commit to a new location.

But first, let’s talk about some significant vacancies in North Windham. Olympia Sports, a long-time retailer, and employer here in Windham has closed its doors. Although the Windham Store may have been a good performer, the company was owned by an out-of-state corporate entity, so decisions are made in board rooms far away. We also have a couple of large retail vacancies at the Shaw’s Plaza and more specifically on either side of Staples.

The good news is that the Windham Mall is full which is phenomenal, and the management and owners of the Windham Mall deserve a lot of credit for that achievement. The bad news is North Windham does have some large vacancies and lack of sewer infrastructure has played a role as one of the key reasons for those vacancies, some having been long-term.

The Town of Windham approved a public sewer system for the North Windham Business District earlier this year. The Town is working closely with the Portland Water District to design a system to not only serve some of the key existing businesses, but also allow for additional commercial growth within the Business District.

In several instances, a prospective tenant has identified a potential location in North Windham and then learns that that location has a 40-year-old private septic system that is only suitable for traditional retail use and not for use such as a Brewery, Distillery and/or Restaurant, Large Day Spa, Fitness Center, or Food Production Facility. Three years from now should be a different story but in the present, we need

to focus on what we have in our North Windham Toolbox today.

The North Windham Toolbox of today includes a strong Retail Trade Area, a geographical area from where the North Windham’s Retailers derive most of their business. If you wonder why there is so much traffic these days after Labor Day, I believe that you will find that North Windham is pulling from areas such as Gray and Standish and up Rt. 302 including Bridgton and some of those surrounding communities.

Many retailers these days are looking at Mobile Location Data Technology as a tool that captures and analyzes location and behavioral data collected from mobile devices. This information can assist to verify and validate retail site locations. Retail Trade Area Mapping can help delineate a boundary map of the Retail Trade Area.

Retailers look closely at Demographic Profiling as a key data set for identifying a new location. Demographic Profiles for the Retail Trade Area are an instrumental tool. Profiles include population and projected growth in population along with incomes, median age, and household growth.

A Daytime Labor Market Area is especially important to the Drive-Through and Fast-Food businesses that rely on the lunch crowd. Retailers rely on employment reports that determine the total number of Fast Food and Drive-Through establishments and employee counts within the targeted area.

Psychographic Profiling has developed into a very refined science as Psychographic Lifestyle Segmentation is an essential tool for Retailer’s Identifying and Validating a location. Consumer’s propensity to buy certain retail goods is monitored 24/7 on a wide variety of platforms. This information is very valuable to all retail segments.

With over 18,000 residents, a retail trade area of over 60,000-plus people, and with 500,000 annual visitors, Windham is a great location for growing retail and service businesses. Windham’s retail offerings range from locally owned boutiques to regional as well as national retail stores.

As Windham improves its sewer infrastructure, new businesses of many types will surely come to North Windham and help provide good paying jobs and a well-diversified commercial tax base.

The Windham Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a subsidiary of the Town of Windham, offers guidance and assistance with tools such as specialty research and site location for retailers. WEDC works with Retail Market Analysis Consultants periodically to update essential market data for Retailers. <

Larry Eliason is a Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond and serves as the President of the Windham Economic Development Corporation. You can reach him at 207-415-2112.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Real Estate: Preventing frozen pipes

By Tricia Zwirner

What’s worse than a major home maintenance disaster? How about several at once? For the quarter-million families who have their homes ruined and their lives disrupted each winter because of frozen water pipes, frigid nights can very quickly turn to ongoing, inconvenient, extremely expensive ordeals.

Pipes freeze for a combination of three central reasons: quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set too low. Both plastic and copper pipes can burst when they freeze and recovering from frozen pipes is not as simple as calling a plumber. A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mold.

In the United States, frozen pipes cause a huge amount of damage each year and they’re largely preventable. You’ll help save yourself the mess, money, and aggravation frozen pipes cause.

Before the Cold. There are a number of preventative steps you can take now to keep your pipes from freezing. Things like:

· Insulate pipes in your home's crawl space, attic, and outer walls. Use foam or rubber insulation on exposed pipes since they are the most susceptible to freezing.

· Use heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers' installation and operation instructions.

· Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.

· Disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.

· Make sure everyone in your family knows where the main water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.

When The Mercury Drops. Even if you’ve taken the right preventative steps, extreme weather conditions can still harm your pipes. Here are a few more steps you can take:

· Set your thermostat no lower than 55°F (12°C).

· Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall, preferably the one farthest away from where the water enters your home.

· Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to uninsulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.

· Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Planning to travel?
Travelling in the winter months might be good for the soul, but don’t forget to think about your pipes before you leave. What can you do?

· Before leaving, be sure that your thermostat is set no lower than 55°F.

· Replace the thermostat’s batteries. Fresh is best.

· Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it's warm enough to prevent freezing

· Drain/shut off the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it may be deactivated when you shut off the water.

If Your Pipes Do Freeze. What do you do if your pipes still freeze, despite your best preventative measures? First step: don’t panic. Just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they’ve already burst. 

Here’s what you can do:

· If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.

· Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water: you could be electrocuted.

· Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!

· You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.

· If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on.

Frozen pipes can be prevented and/or damage mitigated by taking the right steps- before, during and after. <

Tricia Zwirner is a State Farm agent celebrating her 21st year in Windham. She and her team would love to hear from you and can be reached via phone & text at 207.892.2864 or via email at

Friday, September 23, 2022

Real Estate market holding steady

By Matthew Trudel

The current real estate market is still strong, and inventory is still low. While interest rates still seem to be fluctuating up and down around the 5 percent to 5.5 percent range, buyers are overall not discouraged at this point. 

Several buyers may be disappointed that they missed the 3 percent interest rates, but 5 percent is still a good rate and often buying is a much better option than renting. Rentals are at an all-time high in price and all time low in availability. What does this mean for current buyers and sellers and how might it affect those thinking of buying or selling in the next six months?

Trying to purchase a home right now is still very challenging for buyers. We are still seeing homes receiving multiple offers and many of those offers are over the asking price. 

 It is very common for buyers to waive inspections hoping to make their offer more enticing to the seller. These are very different times for both buyers and sellers. Buyers are taking more risks in trying to outbid other competitive offers. 

Sellers are really in the driver’s seat on most occasions. It is still very much a seller’s market, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Buyers who are actively trying to purchase a home must be on top of their game and they had better be working with an experienced real estate broker. The broker had better be on top of their game as well. As a buyer’s agent the broker should have a very clear idea of what their buyer is looking for in a home. 

 They should also know immediately when a home hits the market that fits their client’s needs. On top of all that, they should also know about homes that are about to hit the market that might fit their client’s needs as well. All of this can help give a buyer a clear edge in getting their offer in first and in front of the seller before other competing buyers have a chance to get their offers in.

If you are thinking about selling in the near future, there are a few things you might want to consider. Interest rates are probably going to continue creeping up and certainly are not going down. How does this affect someone who is selling a house you might be wondering? Higher interest rates limit a majority of buyer’s purchasing power which directly correlates to housing prices and what buyers are willing to potentially pay. 

 It also means fewer buyers that will be able to purchase your home and that means the competition between buyers might not be as competitive as it currently is today. If it were me thinking of selling or giving someone else advice, it would be to get the house on the market the sooner the better while things are still going well.

Thinking of purchasing a home but pondering the idea of waiting until next spring to pull the trigger? I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you what the market will be doing and where interest rates might be at in six months. It is always a guessing game when trying to predict what might happen in the future. I feel confident that interests will be a little higher than they are now. I also don’t see housing prices dropping a lot over the next six months.

I do see the rental market continuing to rise. All that being said, I would suggest at the very least you

find an experienced realtor to work with and talk about planning for your home purchase. There is a lot you can do now so you are prepared to move forward when you are ready, and the right home comes on the market. 

Getting your finances in order and getting prequalified are just a few of the things to get done ahead of time. Purchasing a home in the winter offers a different set of challenges which I have written about before. Most important is finding the right Realtor and getting yourself prepared ahead of time. <

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

Friday, September 16, 2022

Real Estate: Is the real estate market going back to 2008 times?

By Richie Vraux

I think the answer is NO!

I think we can all say, the real estate market has shown to have been a wild ride since COVID hit and way before that. It has certainly been a great time for sellers to sell, and it still is. I think we may see a shift, in the housing market but real estate is still strong, and buyers are still looking for the right home for them and their loved ones.

Mortgage lenders are following much tighter protocols since 2008 set forth by the Banking Commission so hopefully we will never have to experience the foreclosures and short sales repeating history like it was in years past.

Since long before this sellers’ market, 5.0 to 5.5 percent interest was, and still is, considered an acceptable interest rate. August’s single family housing report still shows gains in the market, up 21.76 percent, according to the Greater Portland Board of Realtors, but homes are sitting on the market weeks longer, but are still selling. We still have very low inventory of homes to sell but hard-core buyers are finding the homes they want.

Instead of getting 15 to 20 offers on properties, sellers’ agents are only getting maybe three to four offers and getting pretty close to the asking price. Relocation buyers still need to move to their next job or assignment, and they are finding the right properties for them and their family. Homes are still moving if they are appropriately priced. 

Renting, on the other hand maybe gives you an answer to the housing crunch, but how does it help you? Prices of rentals have, in some circumstances exceeded what your mortgage payment will be. Rents are at or way above where they were, let’s say, a year ago. Besides, in rental units you have rules and regulations: No loud music, noise, parking (if you are privileged to have a vehicle space) can cost as much as a rent payment.

So consider where you want to live and check the crime rate. One important question is how the new school system places amongst others in the state.

Of course, you want your children to get the best education possible. You can get this information from the State of Maine’s Department of Education. They will be glad to share this information with you.

When setting the price to sell your home, will you know how to price out your property to get the highest and best price. An experienced agent will know your neighborhood and know where to place your home to yield the highest price. When an agent writes up the disclosures on your home, he lists all your systems, the condition of every system and lists any improvements and any deficiencies you will need to expose. He/ she knows what should be mentioned to keep you out of court. Do you know if your garage or shed is actually on your property or is it encroaching on your neighbor’s property?

If you thought that you might have saved yourself a boat load of money by selling it yourself, if the buyers take you to court because you didn’t share all the deficiencies that you knew were wrong but didn’t disclose it, you just might be paying out way more than you made by selling it yourself.

Another risk is knowing who you allow into your home. A realtor will have already met up with them. Because of the news you hear of today, with questionable people coming into your home, you might want to have an agent there.

A Real Estate Agent will only work in your best interest when selling your home. There are lots of reasons to have an agent sell your home, but the biggest reason is your piece of mind and knowing your agent best represented you and your interests.

There is no doubt real estate is showing signs of change, but the market is still strong, maybe prices are leveling off some, but it is still a great time to move real estate. If you are considering selling your home and want the advice of a seasoned Real Estate Broker, call Richie!! <

Richie Vraux is a Broker at Better Homes and Gardens -The Masiello Group, 76 Tandberg Trail, Windham, Maine 04062. Reach him by calling 207-317-1297 or by email at

Friday, September 9, 2022

Real Estate: The importance of obtaining a permit prior to starting a home project

By Katie Kinney

We have all witnessed the increase in the number of property owners who are taking on home renovations, additions or rehabs over the past few years all throughout the state of Maine. One of the most important factors to consider when thinking about any home renovation is, do you need any type of building permit issued by your local code enforcement department? In most situations, the common answer is usually always yes.

According to the state of Maine, no property owner, agent or representative of the owner may construct, alter or change the use of any structure without first obtaining a permit.

The most common argument you hear when a homeowner did not gather the proper permits is, “I don’t need a permit to work on my own house.” This statement is completely false. In most towns and cities in Maine a permit is required for creating new/additional living space, electrical work, concrete foundation/excavation work, plumbing work, installing a deck, any hvac or duct work, and installing a pool.

In addition to the permit, you are required to have a licensed electrician, plumber or hvac technician perform the work. Part of the process also requires town specific code enforcement officers to come inspect and sign off on the work completed at different stages of the project. 

This information/documentation all stays at the code enforcement office. Towns keep property specific records of all documentation and inspections relating to building permits, house plans, ownership history, septic designs, and certificate of occupancy.

The typical thought process for not obtaining a permit is to not have to pay for one. The problem with this situation is that it will end up costing you more in the long run.

During many real estate transactions, I see sellers having to rush around to obtain an after the fact permit. An after-the-fact permit is exactly what it sounds like, a homeowner must go to the town code enforcement office and apply and pay for a building permit (usually costing double than what the original permit would have cost).

Once a homeowner applies for the after the fact permit, a code enforcement officer will go inspect the work that was done, if they have any safety concerns or it was not up to current building standards, the town can request that you remove any and all work that was completed. Imagine having to rip out a brand new kitchen because the plumbing wasn’t up to code, or start over on a bathroom remodel because you didn’t hire a licensed electrician?

My advice is to spend a small fee on the permit up front and save yourself a huge headache, a lot of money and time later on.

How to determine if you need a permit/what permit or permits you need? Most towns and cities in Maine have documents with specific directions on their websites that are easy to follow while researching the permitting process.

Many of the websites also have the permit applications both in printable forms and direct fill in forms through the websites. If you are contemplating a home project of any size, I would highly recommend going online to your town’s website and doing a little bit of research into what specific permits your town requires.

You can also simply call or stop by your town’s code enforcement office to speak with a code enforcement officer. The safest practice is to have the mindset that you most likely need a building permit and to obtain one before any construction work takes place. <

This article was written by Katie Kinney, Broker/Head Agent Advisor with Landing Real Estate.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Real Estate: Fall home maintenance tips to save you money

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

Owning a home can be a major financial commitment and to protect your investment, here are a few home maintenance tips that can be accomplished now that the weather is going to be somewhat cooler in the months ahead.

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. 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.

Fall and winter are also prime time for rodents to come indoors for warmth, so it’s important to seal up even the smallest holes and gaps in the foundation, attic or crawl spaces. Firewood should not be stored against the house because it can cause a beetle and/or termite infestation.


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.

Clogged gutters, along with poorly ventilated roofs and under-insulated attics are also a common culprit for damaging ice dams. Ice dams form when rooftop snow melts and refreezes, building up thick layers of ice that eventually push into joints and cracks in the roof and cause leaks.


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.)

Fall is also a good time to cut dead branches off trees, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, but pruning for shape and size should wait for late winter or early spring.

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. 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 outdoor appliances such as mini fridges should be unplugged.

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.

For single-pane windows, adding plastic film or storm windows reduces heat escape and cold penetration. Replacing them with insulating double-paned windows is a more expensive option.


Using a programmable thermostat or adjusting a manual thermostat before leaving the house or going to bed, can cut the heating bill by as much as 30 percent while still keeping a home cozy, according to the EPA. Consumers can find Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, which can be managed remotely via smart phone, for about $100 to $300.

Of course, the big payoff is savings on repairs — and your 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. Call him at 207-893-8184 or send him an email at