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

Lights


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 d├ęcor 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 Nicole@locationsinmaine.com 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 richardjvraux@gmail.com

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 jpriest1@farmersagent.com