Friday, June 24, 2022

Real Estate: Why septic inspections are so important

By Carrie Colby

Are you wondering how septic inspections work? If you are buying a home with a septic tank, there are some things you need to be aware of. If you are selling your home, you could need an inspection of the septic system. 

What is a septic system?

Before we work through what you need to know about a septic inspection, it will be important to have at least a basic understanding of what a septic system is and how it works. Most septic systems consist of a septic tank, a distribution box, and a leach field. Septic tanks assist in digesting organic matter and will separate floatable matter such as oil, grease, and solids from the wastewater.

A septic system that is functioning properly will discharge the liquid from the septic tank to a distribution box to perforated pipes that are buried in a leach field. The pipes are designed to release the wastewater into the ground slowly.

Buying a home with a septic system

If you are purchasing a property with a septic system, you should find out a few things about it and the maintenance. Knowing how old the home is and when the system was last inspected or pumped will help you see if there are more likely to be problems.

Other questions to ask should include if there has been any standing water near or above the tank and problems with backups. Also, find out about any repairs that have been made to the tank or leach field and when.

You will want to hire a septic inspector to really make sure the system is functioning correctly. Spending the money on this type of inspection should ensure you don’t get surprised by a large bill soon after you’ve moved in.

If problems are found during a septic inspection your real estate agent should help you negotiate the repairs to be made by the seller or funds reimbursed to you to have the repairs made. These repairs can be a few hundred or more costly thousands of dollars.

Selling a home with a septic system

When selling, you should really consider having a septic inspection before the sale, especially if you have not given your septic system a thought in years. If you do know of a problem with your system, you need to disclose it to the buyer. If problems are discovered with the septic system in the process of selling your home, it is likely the costs will be your responsibility, though this can be negotiated with the buyer.

What is done during a septic inspection?

There are three things a septic system inspector will check during an inspection including the integrity of the septic tank, the proper function of the distribution box, and a leach field that is working as intended.

If all three of these components are working correctly you will have passed the septic inspection.

A septic inspector will open the septic tank and look around visually. The inspector will also open the distribution box and check to see that it's functioning as intended and dig a hole in the leach field to inspect it as well. A good septic inspector will have a camera they will send into the system that will allow them to inspect the entire system thoroughly.

How much does it cost to inspect a septic system?

The cost of inspecting a septic system will vary depending on a few factors, including your location. The size of the tank which is generally either 1,000 or 1,500 gallons will also have some bearing on the cost. You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars. This can be the best money spent when buying a home. I have personally seen new systems fail that were not installed properly. Never assume the septic system is working just by looking at the property and that the seller has disclosed there are no issues.

How long do septic systems last?

On average a septic system will last from 20 to 50 years. Being a real estate agent, I have seen septic systems fail sooner as well as last longer. If you take care of your system, it will last longer. <

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

Friday, June 17, 2022

Real Estate: Living the Dream in Vacationland

By Nicole Foster, Broker/REALTOR

Homes listed and sold for $1,000,000 or more are going under contract faster than ever before with the demand for luxury homes in Maine ever greater.  

In recent years we’ve also experienced an increase in the number of investor-owned properties which are rented for both short- and long-term use. Maine was recently reported to lead the nation in the number of vacant properties according to 2020 US Census Data with one fifth of the housing stock vacant for at least a portion of the year with the majority of that used seasonally for recreation or as a second home. Maine’s most premiere lakes, located only minutes from Portland where prices for the most expensive 1% of homes has grown by 27 percent, offer some of the most exclusive waterfront to be found.

Raymond: Happens to be where you will find the most expensive home listed and sold in the entire state of Maine last year selling for $8.5 million. The two previous years the highest-priced homes in this town sold for around half of that amount.  With so many pristine lakes and ponds with waterfront homes scattered throughout Raymond, homes listed and sold in the $1 million to $4.8 million range grew from eight properties in 2019 to thirteen in 2020 with tight inventory in 2021 limiting to 12.

Naples: The cost of owning a lakefront retreat in this town has soared in recent years unable to keep up with the huge demand.  In 2019 the highest sale here was for just under one million dollars while 2020 saw four homes selling between $1,000,000 to $2,000,000.  Last year prices continued to climb hitting $3,200,000 as Naples most expensive home sold with several homes selling for over two million and several more between the $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 price points. 

Windham: After only three days on the fiercely hot summer market of 2021 Windham’s highest priced listing located on Sebago Lake went under contract selling for $2.75 million. Homes which were listed and sold for above the $1 million mark rose from two homes in 2019 and three in 2020 to five last year with two exceeding $2 million compared to 2020 when the most expensive Windham home closed at $1.575 million or in 2019 for $1.6 million.

Standish: The demand for luxury waterfront homes which are located here has continued to grow and last year we saw the most expensive home sold jump from $1.490 million in 2020 to $2.722,500.  During 2020 only one home sale exceeded the $1 million price point with none the previous year but in 2021 that number reached ten properties sold.

Casco: Homes with private lake frontage have steadily climbed from $827,000 and under in 2019 to five properties selling between $1 million and $1.8 million in 2021. This trend is likely to continue here with a growing number of people choosing to make Casco their home or vacation spot.

Sebago: Limited inventory is likely the reason the highest sale for 2021 here was for $985,000 following 2020 when three homes sold for more than one million dollars and the highest sale of 2019 being $1,400,000. 

Bridgton: The real estate market of 2021 has blazed a trail including eight homes selling more than one million dollars with Bridgton’s most expensive home sale of the year at $2.95 million. This is over the previous year’s highest sale of $1.78 million with four other homes selling in that range and one in 2019.

Harrison: In early 2019 a rare 48-acre parcel on Long Lake with 1,500 feet of frontage topped the market at $5.1 million with three other properties selling over one million. Last year jumped from two homes selling in the low $1 million range in 2020 to seven homes in 2021 with the highest closing for $2.2 million.

Frye Island: This completely seasonal island normally has a limited number of sales, but we can see those numbers doubled in the market of 2020 with an increase to overall sales with several homes having sold between $1 million and $2 million. It is smart to move swiftly on a property of interest located here with most homes having a low number of days on the market in 2021.

Some of this echoes the effect of the overall increase seen in home sale prices, but it also undoubtedly shows that high end homes are moving now that we have more buyers for them. Sellers are wise to leverage the current market conditions and buyers should seek out an area specialist to assist in finding their Vacationland dream home in the Sebago Lakes Region.

Data sourced from Maine Multiple Listing Service. <

Nicole Foster is a Maine native and Windham resident with sixteen years of experience assisting home buyers and sellers who loves real estate and people or 207-615-7558.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Real Estate: North Windham sewers will benefit environment, commercial development

By Larry Eliason

The prospect of a public sewer coming to North Windham in the next few years is a welcomed initiative. North Windham is poised for well-managed and directed growth and a public sewer system will complement all the plans that have been made such as the Comprehensive Plan and the 21st Century Downtown Plan for North Windham. 

The addition of public sewer infrastructure in North Windham will certainly help protect Sebago Lake, other lakes and ponds, rivers and streams and the aquifers all around us in Windham.   Frankly, I think this is the absolute right time to approve a public sewer system and then take all the necessary steps to make it a reality over the next three to five years via the partnership the town has with the Portland Water District and obtaining federal funding to assist with the cost of this infrastructure.

North Windham is well recognized as a retail and service center for the Sebago Lakes Region.  We have a good base of local businesses, but we do not have nearly enough manufacturers that provide really good paying jobs and that pay a good portion of commercial real estate taxes to help with the balance of residential base and the commercial tax base.  

I believe that sewer infrastructure will help attract more companies that need higher per gallon sewerage capacity.  These companies will offer good paying jobs and pay their fair share of commercial real estate taxes.

Companies looking at Windham will also be looking at housing for their employees.  There are quite a few apartment and condo projects in the pipeline for North Windham that will hopefully take some pressure off the current demand. 

However, Windham currently has a Growth Ordinance specifically for single family homes.  Unfortunately, the Growth Ordinance has, in my opinion, contributed to Windham having a housing shortage.  The median price point for a home in Windham is currently $ 450,000 to $475,000 price range. 

If you limit building permits like Windham does, builders are going to build houses with a higher price and better profit margin as another permit for a second or third house package may not be available.

My point being that as soon as Windham residents pass the sewer initiative, we as a community should immediately ask our Town Leaders to rescind the growth ordinance and get single family housing options back that are more affordable for Windham residents.  I think a price point of $300,000 to $350,000 is a lot more palatable.   

This goal may require some zoning, density and minimum lot size changes. In Windham, like a lot of other towns, residential home building permits and all the related fees that go with a new home help pay the bills.

Adding sewer infrastructure is a high priority and an instrumental piece of the puzzle to again attract and also retain companies that offer good paying jobs and pay their fair share in commercial real estate and personal property taxes.

Windham like most other towns has lots of challenges ahead such as managing traffic flows, but Windham also has a bright future with well thought out plans in place.

I encourage all Windham residents to get out and vote on June 14.  I also encourage all Windham Business Owners and Residents to engage their Town Councilors on topics like the Growth Ordinance.

Larry Eliason is a Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers and is President of Windham Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Friday, June 3, 2022

Real Estate: Navigating this hot real estate market

By Matthew Trudel

Both buyers and sellers have plenty of things to deal with in a market that has houses selling for $25,000 to $50,000 over the asking price.  I even know of a couple of houses that went for almost $100,000 over asking price. How do buyers and sellers navigate such a crazy market?  Both should start with finding an experienced real estate broker to work with to assist them in achieving their real estate goals. 

How do you go about selecting the correct real estate agent for the job? 

Here are a few things to consider when making that decision and going through the selection process:

Almost everyone knows a handful of realtors.  The number of new agents over the last several years has increased significantly, even throughout the pandemic.  Experience and knowledge are some key things to look for when selecting a realtor to work with.  Try to find a real estate agent who knows the area in which you are looking to buy or sell.  Again, I would like to bring up experience as a key factor. 

There are so many things that come up in any transaction from problems in inspections, negotiations, legal documentation and/or financing problems.  Having the experience to negotiate and solve those problems can be the difference of a successful transaction or one that falls apart.  So, find a real estate broker who you are comfortable working with and get the process started.

Sellers are mostly concerned about the value of their home and the  price they should list their home for sale.  This is where it gets a little tricky and knowing the area and what the pulse of the market is in that area are crucial.  In the old days we would list homes a little over what we thought they were worth or would likely sell for.  Then wait for an offer to come in or slowly drop the price over time. 

That doesn’t work anymore in this market and is not a good strategy to get you the most money for your home.  Pricing it accurately and getting the most potential buyers at your home in the first few days is the correct strategy.  This creates more demand, more competition and produces higher offers generally well over the asking price. 

The number of potential buyers in relation to the listing price correlates very similar to a pyramid.  The higher the listing price the fewer the number of potential buyers will come see your house.  Raise the price a little more and that number of potential buyers shrinks a little more. 

Eventually, as you consider raising the listing price, you would run out of buyers altogether. This is what we call pricing yourself out of the market.  Buyers in today’s market are much too savvy and knowledgeable with all the technology out there with regard to home valuation.   However, when there is a lot of competition and interest in a home, the knowledge they have is used to try to outbid each other creating multiple offers well above the asking price.

Buyers right now do not seem to mind that the interest rates have ticked up a little to around 5 percent or slightly over that.  Inventory is still low even with all the new construction going on.  Buyers need to be prepared and ready to go as soon as a property hits the market. 

Your real estate broker should be working closely with you and your mortgage broker or lender, so everyone is prepared to get the offer in when you find right home.  It is likely going to be a competition between several buyers and yourself and having an experienced broker who has been through the process for years can give you the edge over other competing offers.

The highest offer is not always the best offer, so there is lot more to negotiating an offer than just increasing the price.  I have written several articles over the years about different strategies that can be successful in competitive markets like this one.  Sometimes it can be as simple as writing a short letter to the seller explaining a little about yourself and why you like their home and having your realtor present that letter along with the offer.  There are a lot of other things I like to incorporate into putting together my clients’ offers and all of that research has to happen quickly with time being of the essence. 

If you would like to learn more, feel free to give me a call to set up a confidential meeting.  <

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