Friday, August 26, 2022

Real Estate: The Benefits of Downsizing

By Carrie Colby  

It is rewarding to watch your children grow up, begin careers and families, and settle into their own homes. But when there are only one or two people left in a large family sized house, you can be left with equally large mortgages, taxes, other monthly bills, and home maintenance projects. Downsizing your home is an excellent way to get relief from these burdens. In fact, it can be a rewarding change that makes your life easier (and a lot more fun). 


Here are some of the many benefits of downsizing:

Downsizing lowers the cost of upkeep, insurance, mortgage bills and utility bills. Smaller homes and properties have smaller roofs to repair, less landscaping to maintain, and lower home insurance rates, as well as lower heating and cooling bills. This means that in addition to your new home costing less overall, you’ll also have lower monthly bills for many of the things that come with home ownership.

Downsizing boosts your retirement income with property sale profits. One of the biggest retirement downsizing benefits is that you may be able to profit significantly from selling your home and purchasing a smaller one. Alternatively, you can use the proceeds toward a smaller home or condo.

Downsizing reduces your property taxes. Smaller homes generally come with smaller property tax bills. Depending on the current tax rates in your state or the state you’re moving to, you could save considerable amounts of money by joining a smaller property tax bracket. 

Downsizing removes the stress of maintaining your home. Moving into a smaller home on a smaller plot of land can make upkeep much easier and less worrisome.

No matter what your age, you have to ensure that your home is cleaned, maintained and paid for – whether you do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it. Fixing broken shingles on a roof and making sure a large yard is constantly mowed can be exhausting. If you’ve reached the stage where you feel overwhelmed or just think you could better use your time or money, it’s time to go smaller.

You will enjoy more free time when you don’t have to spend hours cleaning, mowing the lawn and maintaining your home.

Bigger is not always better. If you can’t remember the last time that you walked into your guest bedroom except to dust, then you should consider downsizing. If these spare rooms do nothing but collect dust, they may be a waste. Unused rooms still end up costing money not only in property taxes and eventual maintenance (leaky roofs, peeling paint, etc.) but also in that they must be heated and cooled, using up unnecessary electricity, gas or oil.

Before you make the decision to downsize it would be a good idea to take a look at what the real estate market is doing in your area. Consult with a Realtor that specializes in your area. One that can give you a market analysis on what your current home is worth.

Start looking at homes for sale in the area you desire to move to. You should do some calculations and research first. It would also be a good idea to meet with your CPA to see if the decision to downsize is financially sound.

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

Your time in your home is always very productive and satisfying whether you decide to stay or sell. <

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

Friday, August 19, 2022

Real Estate: Owning a well during a drought

By Nicole Foster, Broker/REALTOR 

A report released by The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)’s Drought Task Force in early August is advising homeowners with a private well to monitor their water supply and conserve water usage whenever possible in your daily routine. All 16 counties in Maine have reports of wells running dry ranging from dug wells, drilled wells and natural springs and one public water company has issued a mandatory water conservation notice.

A well is said to have run dry when the water level inside the well drops below the level of the well pump intake. This does not necessarily mean that the aquifer which supplies water to your well has gone dry. Some of the signs that a well may be starting to run dry include: a decrease in the water pressure, your water supply taking longer to recover after use, a noticeable change in appearance or smell, your well pump seems to be running constantly or your faucets begin to sputter with air.

Just over half of Maine homes are served by a public water supply, with the remainder having a private water supply. A well may supply water for more than one home and can be point driven, artesian meaning free flowing, or more common in our area a bedrock well which may be dug, drilled or hydrofracked.

Most of the single-family homes in Windham and Raymond have a private water supply. Knowing what the safe yield of your well is including flow rate in gallons per minute and the recovery rate, well depth, how much casing your well has and the depth of your well pump is information that you will want to save in the event you must address issues surrounding water quantity at your home.

It often comes as a surprise to the buyers of brand-new homes to learn that one of the very last steps of the construction process is to have the well drilling company drill the well. Make sure that the driller is licensed and in good standing with the Maine Well Drillers Commission. 

The location of your well depends on a number of factors including setbacks from property lines, septic system placement, soils and more. Once the well drilling begins the amount of 6-inch steel casing which will be needed as well as the depth of your well and pump can be determined. In Maine at least 10 feet of 6-inch steel casing driven into bedrock is recommended and the depth of the well can range from 100 to 500 feet typically. The steel casing will be extended beyond the surface enough to prevent groundwater from entering and a cap installed where you can sometimes find details about the well. Mark the location of your well head and protect it from being damaged.

Consider this past winter our precipitation in the form of snow was below the normal range followed by an early spring thaw combined with little rain this summer, particularly in the month of July. We often see things begin to dry out and see lawns start to get crunchy in July, but things tend to improve in the fall which is anticipated this year.

Looking forward, selecting drought-tolerant ground cover and landscaping will prove to be the most sustainable for homeowners. Kentucky Bluegrass or ryegrass seed will not fare as well as Tall or preferably Fine Fescue grass seed in periods of prolonged drought. Do not run your well dry watering your lawn.

Having an awareness to the limit of your home’s water supply and local weather conditions and patterns will be helpful when shaping your daily routines. You can direct your homes already existing daily water output from systems like heat pumps, cooling units or dehumidifiers into a targeted purpose like watering dry plants. Space out running your dishwasher and washing machine and limit the use of your outdoor water spigots in general.

Should your well begin to no longer meet the demands of your daily usage or actually run dry, you will need to contact a well drilling company to discuss what options are available. Qualifying homeowners may be eligible for assistance through Maine State Housing’s Home Repair Program or USDA Single Family Housing Loans or Grants.

Homeowners should not attempt to have their dry well filled by an outside source such as fire department or pool company as foreign toxins can be introduced into the well and the water will not stay in the well and will just run into the fissures and cracks. If you are experiencing a well going dry the Maine Emergency Management Agency urges you to call 2-1-1 or complete their Dry Well Survey to track how widespread it is taking place. <

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

Real Estate: Choosing Windham as a retail store location

The town of Windham is shown looking north along Route
302 from the intersection of Route 115 this summer.
By Larry Eliason 

Where a Retailer chooses to locate a retail business in a particular community usually involves a comprehensive review of many key factors.

What are the demographics of your customers? Is the location in a growth area? Are local and state economic development, town management and town leaders offering guidance and assistance? Does the community have all the required infrastructure in place like broadband and public sewers to operate the business? Does the community provide affordable housing for your employees? How large is the local school system, students, and school employees, and is it also a college town? These are just a few highlights of a long list of items for the pre-qualifying checklist.

Specialty goods in general fulfill more unique needs than general purpose products. Customers don't seem to mind traveling a little bit out of their way to purchase this type of product because they generally cannot buy them through convenience or general goods retailers. This type of store may perform well near other shopping locations because their offerings may complement each other such as a multi-tenanted retail shopping center.

A big-ticket shopping store usually sells items at a higher price that are bought only periodically by the customer. Furniture, cars, and upscale clothing are examples of goods found at a big-ticket shopping store. Because the prices of these items are higher, this type of customer may want to compare prices before making a purchase. 

When choosing a city or town to locate your retail store, research the area thoroughly before making a final decision. Speak with local Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce Representatives, read local papers, and speak to other small businesses in the area.

These sources should have information on the area's population, income brackets, and median age. If you have done your homework, you know in general who your customers are, so make sure you find a location near where your customers live, work and shop.

A retail store may require some specific amenities when it comes to choosing a location. Will the store require custom lighting, fixtures, or specialty signage? Are there ample restrooms for staff and customers available? Is there adequate parking lot lighting for evening shoppers? Is there ample parking for customers including handicap parking and loading docks for receiving goods and delivering goods. Does the building have a canopy that provides shelter if raining or snowing? Is there a high traffic count and good visibility from the main street?

Windham is well-known as “The Gateway to The Greater Sebago Lakes Region.” Windham has grown over the years to become a major retail service center that serves a growing population of over 18,000 residents living in Windham as well as residents from several nearby towns that shop, eat, and obtain services in North Windham. Windham offers a variety of restaurants, retail shops, professional, medical, and dental arts, service sector and, also has some business parks with niche manufacturing facilities.

Windham’s location along the Route 302 corridor and the fact that Route 302 intersects makes it a well-diversified center of commerce. The Windham retail market provides 60,000-plus people in the market area. Approximately 500,000 annual visitors come through Windham each year. Windham has become a growth area for not only retail and service businesses but offers a strong labor market as part of the Greater Portland Region.

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.

The Windham Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a subsidiary of the Town of Windham, offers guidance and assistance with tools such as specialty research for retailers such as a Retail Market Analysis of Windham from “The Retail Coach.” <

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

Real Estate: Interest rates increase – What’s this means for buyers and sellers?

By Matthew Trudel 

Interest rates have risen a little over the past few months and that can certainly affect the Real Estate Market in many different ways. Both buyers and sellers should understand the positives and negatives of slightly higher interest rates and what steps they can take to help achieve their own personal real estate goals. Throughout this article we will cover a few of these, but there are many others that we won’t be able to discuss due to space restrictions.

We can start with the buyer side of this topic and what some of the pros and cons are when interest rates increase a little. The first negative aspect is the obvious one which is the monthly payment they are going to be paying goes up as well. How much it goes up depends on how much you are borrowing and the interest rate. Average increase is approximately $180 to $200 per month on a $300,000 loan. This may be manageable for some people, but for others it may be outside their comfort zone. This means they may have to lower their target purchase price. There are certainly some who might not qualify for that loan anymore due to income to debt ratios. This is another negative of higher interest rates, the fact that it can lower many buyers purchasing power.

We discussed a couple of negative aspects of higher interest rates for a buyer, but what about the positive side of things. This is a little bit tricky, but you should get my point as we proceed. Some buyers will opt to not buy a new home right now because the rates have increased. They will put off their plans for a year or two in hopes of rates lowering. This means for the buyers who are moving forward with purchasing a home, they will have less competition when making an offer because there are fewer buyers out there. Less competition also means you likely might not have to offer over asking price like before when there was a lot of competition. 

On to the sellers and how they can be affected by higher interest rates. There are not many positives for sellers when rates start to tick upwards. However, one possible positive could be that the buyers who are out there want to move quickly with their offers because of the fear of interest rates going even higher. The negative side of higher interest rates for sellers are many. Fewer buyers and less competition is never a good thing for sellers. Also having fewer buyers that qualify to purchase the property can certainly hurt a sellers ability get more for their home.

So, what are some solutions for buyers to consider when interest rates tick upwards. First thing is to be realistic with expectations. A 5 percent or 5.25 percent interest rate is still a very good rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage. Not too many years ago 6.5 percent or 7 percent was a decent rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage. Another thing is to consider how long do you think you will be living in the new home. You can always refinance to a lower interest rate if the rates do drop back down. Another option is to buy your interest rate down a little bit. This is done by paying a point or so up front to get a half a percent or so lower interest rate. Talk with your lender about what options they can offer you. Increasing your down payment will definitely lower your payment, and it could also lower your interest rate because you are at a lower loan to value ratio.

These are some of the things to consider with interest rates that have risen a little. Obviously, there are many more things to look at and every situation is unique. If you would like to have a confidential meeting to discuss your own situation and hear what my 20 plus years in the business would advise, then give me a call. <

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