Friday, December 22, 2023

Smart updates to selling your home

Submitted by Richie Vraux

All homeowners know that a practical approach is necessary when considering a home purchase. Aside from the geographical aspects like location, school zones, and commute times, the features inside the home can make or break a potential sale. Integrating the latest technologies into your house can dramatically increase the value and desirability of your home. Consider upgrading your property with a few of these smart technologies to help you sell your home.

1. Smart Appliances
New appliances are a home buyer's dream. Smart appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers, ovens, and even faucets can be installed in the home. They can even be operated and monitored remotely.

2. Smart Thermostats
These next-level programmable thermostats adjust your home's temperature based on activity in the house. They can also be adjusted from mobile devices which allows you to change the temperature settings while you're away.

3. Video Doorbells
Video doorbell technology has become a popular addition to homes of all sizes. Many of these devices allow you to communicate with those who are at your front door. They even save video files to a cloud backup so that you can track package deliveries and monitor those who come and go from your home.

4. Smart Locks
Never worry about being locked out of the house with smart locks that open via keypad codes. These smart locks can be programmed with different codes so that you can provide special access to people like visiting guests or service professionals.

5. Smart Home Security
You need protection in all areas of your home. While smart locks can cover your doors, a smart security system can provide you with full home coverage. Motion sensors and security cameras can be installed in and around the home with video feeds and updates sent directly to your mobile device.

6. Smart Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors are necessities for your home, especially those that can also alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide. Smart smoke detectors will alert you to whichever room triggers the alarm. These devices can call for emergency service assistance or be silenced from your mobile device in cases of a false alarm.

7. Smart Lighting/Lightbulbs
Light has a powerful impact on our bodies. Smart lighting can be programmed to adjust to our biological needs, dimming and increasing when we need it throughout the day and night. Smart LED lightbulbs use substantially less energy than household fluorescent lighting and can lower energy bills.

8. Smart Sprinklers
A home sprinkler system is a great resource to keep your lawn and landscaping looking fantastic. Smart sprinkler systems can be automatically programmed and adjusted at will to help you reduce your water usage throughout each season.

9. Smart Control/Speakers
Total home control is becoming a necessity. With today's technology, we can control most systems within our home with nothing more than the sound of our voice. Many of the latest smart speaker devices can be integrated into your other home systems. Your security, HVAC systems, appliances, sprinkler systems, and more can be effortlessly controlled from the couch or conveniently controlled anywhere from a mobile device.

Find Your Circuit Breaker and Water Shut-off Valve

As a new homeowner, it's essential to prepare for emergencies, so that you can respond quickly. Learn where your water shut-off valve is so that you can cut water quickly if a pipe bursts and find your circuit breaker so that you can control the electricity in your home. That way, if there's an emergency or you need to work on one of those systems, you'll always know where to go.

Maintain Your HVAC System

Does your new home have central heating and air conditioning? Then, you'll want to stay on top of HVAC maintenance. Change the filters regularly based on the manufacturer's instructions and have an HVAC pro visit twice per year to check that your system is in good working order.

Know When to Call a Contractor

While there is a ton you can handle DIY around the house, some jobs require specialized tools and expertise. Find a contractor you trust or ask for referrals from trusted sources and rely on the pros whenever you need an experienced hand.

Smart technology is quickly moving into every home on the market. Before upgrading your space with any of these amazing devices, be sure to speak with your real estate agent to identify which systems could give you the most return on investment and help you sell your home faster. <

Richie Vraux is a Realtor/ Broker with: Better Homes and Gardens-The Masiello Group 76 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062. You can contact Richie at 207-317-1297 or by email at

Friday, December 15, 2023

Real Estate: Thank you AARP for ranking Portland, Maine #1

By Lisa DiBiase

As Portland ranks number one, understand how Realtors® matter while we grow as a community.

Maine's largest city finished with a livability score of 68 based on our mid-sized population between 25,000 to 99,999. That trounced the national average of 48, putting Portland in the top half of all communities in the United States.

The rankings are based on a methodology created by the AARP (**see below) to try and best represent each municipality. Scored categories include housing, neighborhoods, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity. Portland's highest score came in engagement. The city was praised for its inclusion, high voting percentage, internet availability, as well as community events and outreach. The city also scored well in transportation. Portland got high marks on its walkability, bike lanes, and bus system.

Some of the lower scores came in categories one would expect. Housing availability was easily one of the lowest scores. That's been an ongoing issue in Portland for what seems like decades now. Another low score came in the opportunity category. Maine has a lower number of high-paying positions compared to other states. It's also one of the oldest states in the country, which negatively affects the job force. However, even with a few lower scores, Portland still averages out on top.

As housing availability has been an ongoing issue in Portland, it also continues to be a statewide issue. The demand for housing, coupled with factors such as limited housing supply, rising construction costs, and economic dynamics, contribute to the issue.

As dedicated Realtors® and leader of our local board association, The Greater Portland Board of Realtors®, we consistently focus on tackling housing challenges by closely monitoring legislative developments. This entails staying informed about policies, such as zoning reforms, heightened housing development, initiatives for affordable housing, and backing sustainable urban planning efforts. Additionally, economic factors, population growth, and regional development trends can impact housing markets.

In our unwavering commitment to addressing the pressing housing challenges faced by our community, we are committed to the highest level of professionalism to our clients. This level of professionalism to our clients extends far beyond the conventional standards. It includes a comprehensive and personalized approach aimed at ensuring that every client receives not only exceptional service but an experience that is tailored to meet their real estate needs and aspirations. We bring in-depth market knowledge to the table. We stay abreast of current market trends, property values, and neighborhood dynamics. This expertise allows us to guide our clients through the intricacies of the real estate landscape, offering valuable insights to aid them in making sound decisions.

Ultimately, Portland's ranking is not just a title; it's an invitation to forge ahead with determination and creativity, fostering a community where housing challenges are met with resilience and innovation. Ask your local favorite Realtor® what actions and steps they are taking to stay current with our needs as a community. Your voice is pivotal; without it, our ability to effect positive change is limited.

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 the 2023 President for the Greater Portland Board of Realtors®. As the Broker/Owner of Landing Real Estate, she and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact by email or phone 207-653-0823.

**AARP created the AARP Livability™ platform as a first of its kind, data-driven, web-based tool that measures every community and neighborhood in the US for the key amenities and services that affect the quality of life for people of all ages in the areas of Housing, Transportation, Neighborhood, Health, Environment, social and civic Engagement, and educational and economic Opportunity.

Friday, December 8, 2023

A Guide to Safety at Christmas

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but by their very nature holidays can bring increased risks to your home. Because thieves take advantage of vacant houses, for example, we see more burglaries around the holidays. And even when we’re at home, the increased activity in our homes leads to increased risks of home fires, injuries and more.

The best way to have a worry-free holiday season, then, is to understand what risks you face and act to prevent them. Only then can you ensure your home, your family, and your pets remain safe — from that first turkey dinner to when the last string of holiday lights comes down.

Lighting: Safety Before Beau

Simply putting a lot of lights on your tree won’t make it hot enough to go up in flames. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be mindful of the risks posed by misusing holiday lights. Overloads caused by stacking multiple plugs on a single electrical outlet can cause problems—and although you’ll just end up tripping a breaker in most cases, taking that attitude puts you just one failed breaker away from wiring damage or, possibly, a house fire.

You can mitigate these dangers in several ways:

· Use power strips. These often have their own built-in circuit breakers to prevent overloading your household wiring.

· When you use a power strip, only use one plug per socket, as this will protect against surges.

· Employ extension cords to avoid stretching plugs, which can pull them out of the socket, expose their prongs or wiring, and create a shock risk.

Preventing Home Fires at the Holidays

Home fires are more common at Christmas. Fires caused by candle use, for example, are almost four times more likely during the end-of-year holidays, and other risks increase as well. This is due to a number of causes. For one thing, people simply have more fires and burn more candles. Simple accidents or acts of neglect, such as knocking over a candle or forgetting to tend the fire, can cause a rug, a set of drapes, or a tree (highly flammable after a few weeks) to catch fire, and such fires can spread to other areas of the house.

Here’s how to be safer:

· Stack wood carefully away from the fireplace so it can’t catch easily.

· Keep tinder enclosed or out of reach of any sparks that could be thrown out of the fire.

· When using candles, don’t burn them for more than 4 hours. “Resting” candles gives them time to recover their shape, preventing hot wax from spilling.

And unless your family traditions will suffer, avoid using a turkey fryer. Every year, deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

To avoid creating more hazards than necessary, you should also choose your tree with fire safety in mind:

· Choose a Christmas tree that has at least two feet of clearance beneath your ceiling.

· Trim the tree branches so that your tree fits in a corner without brushing the walls or furniture.

· Cut branches far enough away from the ground to allow for proper ventilation even after presents begin to accumulate.

All of this will help prevent a fire from spreading as quickly as it otherwise would.

You should also have your chimney cleaned regularly. Otherwise, soot and other debris can build up and cause fires as well. To be on the safe side, even if you’ve just checked all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, check them again around the holidays.

Also, to prevent slips and falls outside the home, use salt on steps and sidewalks.

And moderate food and beverage intake, especially alcohol, during the holidays. <

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

Friday, December 1, 2023

Winter home improvement projects for under $500

By Carrie Colby

Get a jumpstart on curb appeal

One of the earliest home improvement projects to undertake before the thick of winter hits is the fertilization of your landscape. With fall in the rear-view mirror, this affordable winter project entails adding fertilizer to trees, shrubs, and grass in preparation for winter months. As a homeowner, fertilizing your yard will not only keep it nourished during the dead of the winter, but provide optimal care until it’s time to shine in the springtime. While the winter months represent the offseason for curb appeal, it shouldn’t be translated into taking time off. This preparation tactic as a homeowner is not only inexpensive, but only requires a few hours of your time to get started. Cost: $25 to $50.

Seal openings and air leaks

For under $500, the least expensive home improvement project a homeowner can undertake this winter season is to seal openings and air leaks in their home. Taking the time to seal seams around windows and doors with caulk, waterproof sealant or weather stripping will not only improve your energy consumption but lower your utility costs as well. According to EnergyStar, sealing leaks can improve the overall quality of your home and help to fix many common problems, such as reducing noise from the outside, providing better humidity control and lessens pollen, dust, and insects from entering your home. Cost: $3 to $30.

Install programmable thermostat

Technology has greatly influenced home appliances in recent years, especially when it comes to programmable thermostats. This must-do winter home improvement project lets homeowners customize the heating and cooling of their home to fit their needs, automatically regulating the temperature in their home. With different programming options available, including the ability to control some thermostats remotely, this improvement project will not only enhance your quality of life, but save you money in the process.

Nest Labs, a home automation producer, released a report last year revealing that homeowners accrued 10 to 12 percent savings on heating and 15 percent savings on cooling by upgrading to a programmable thermostat. Although every manufacturer has different savings claims, Nest users reported saving between $10 to $20 per month. Cost: $20 to $300.

Add a tile backsplash to kitchen/bathrooms

The majority of winter home improvement projects consist of indoor upgrades focused on small details that make a huge difference. One of the more affordable options is adding a colorful backsplash to kitchens and/or bathrooms. This do-it-yourself home improvement idea will add some personality to a room’s look, helping to accessorize and emphasize your countertops, cabinets, and appliances.

The cost of adding a tile backsplash will depend on the size of area, including the type of tile you want to use. The skill level needed to complete this project ranges from medium to advanced, but patience and a steady hand will go a long way with this project. Cost: Under $500.

Refurbish Your Doors

Homeowners understand the visual impact interior doors can have on a home. Instead of being out of pocket to replace them, one of the more popular winter home improvement projects is to simply refurbish them. Whether the front, bathroom or bedroom door, this home improvement idea includes painting doors to make them look more expensive or modern, installing decorative doorknobs to add flare, and even adding molding to flat doors to create dimension. Cost: $200.

Homeowners looking to make last minute upgrades to their homes should consider winter home improvement projects. In addition to saving on cost, waiting until the colder months to complete these tasks can provide optimal results for homeowners and investors alike. <

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Cats and Dogs, Architects and Builders

By Warren O’Shea

It could be said that architects and builders have had a tenuous relationship ever since there have been architects and builders. Architects can feel that builders don’t fully grasp the importance of the aspects of thoughtful design, and builders can feel that the architects should spend time in the field of construction to understand that what looks good on paper, simply can’t be produced in the physical world. Anyone who has seen the works of M.C. Escher knows what I mean.

Hiring an architect should be based on multiple factors. Is the project a new construction or a remodel? Does the architect produce designs that are in step with your aesthetic? Are they familiar with the way that your home is built? Do they understand that you don’t just “move a wall” without knowing if it is load bearing or what utilities may be hidden inside?

Architects are essential for new construction designs; they will have all the details accounted for once the design goes through a multitude of renderings before it’s eventually completed and approved. Note however, that the architect will likely not be putting any cost figures on the design. When choosing an architect, you would also want to look at the body of their work and the style of their portfolio. The Portland architect may have very modern, angular, industrial projects while the Cape Elizabeth architect will have a coastal, cozy, beachfront feel.

Remodelers are essential for remodeling designs of older homes. If you listen to the house, it will tell you what it wants; if you fight the house, it will cost more money. I have experienced several situations where the homeowner hired an architect for a considerable amount of money for their residential remodel and the overall cost to build/remodel as designed was hugely outside of the homeowner’s construction budget.

Moreover, the final value of the home, if it was built, would have exceeded the median home values for the neighborhood by, in this case, about $350,000. It would have been the only $700,000 home in a neighborhood of $350,000 homes.

They would not have been able to sell it for what they had invested; they couldn’t rent part of it out because it wasn’t two separate units and if it were, the rent wouldn’t have covered the monthly payments on the construction loan. The two bathrooms would have been placed in the farthest possible point away from the sewer line. The existing staircase would have been torn out and moved over four feet to allow for a 2nd floor laundry/ wash-dry closet. It would have maxed out the usable and most enjoyable part of the private back yard.

It would not have made the kitchen more spacious or functional, given them a mud room or give them a second covered spot for off-street parking. The windows were specified to be Anderson’s most expensive line, where the existing windows in the main house were good quality but didn’t match the newly proposed windows. You may have guessed by now, the architect got paid and the remodel never happened. What you may not have guessed was the backlash I received from the homeowner. Sure, no one wants to hear that they needlessly spent a lot of money, but I’d rather rain on their parade now than be the captain of a sinking ship later.

Much like the parameters for finding an architect, the same should be taken into consideration when finding a builder/remodeler. Do they have a body of work which represents the type of build you are looking for? Are they experienced in 100-, 200-, or 300-year-old homes. Do they only do remodeling? Do they do a mix of residential and commercial or is it all one or the other? Do they have a team of subcontractors that are familiar with, and willing to, get their hands dirty in these old buildings? Truth be told, I have had some very professional and accomplished subcontracted tradesmen and employees stop doing remodels with us because new construction is easier and cleaner.

As with any construction endeavors, make sure the business and its subcontractors are insured and their workman’s comp policy is up to date. Certificates of Insurance should come directly from their insurance provider, not from their personal docs, as info and dates on their declarations page can be changed.

As per the Maine Attorney General’s guidelines for construction and home repair, always get a contract in writing, always speak with more than one contractor, and don’t pay more than one third of the total cost of the contracted project up front. <

Warren O'Shea is the owner of O’Shea Builders LLC, Maine’s most award-winning remodeling contractor. He has 35-plus years of residential remodeling experience. He is a certified home inspector and has been featured on HGTV, Food Network, and Maine Cabin Masters. He is a recipient of the Portland Police Department’s “Citizen Award,” and is a staunch consumer advocate. Warren has, and continues to, co-author articles for nationally distributed trade magazines.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Real Estate: Carbon Monoxide Safety

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

November is National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month and is a time to promote safety awareness surrounding the increased risks to Maine residents during the cold weather months.

Each year between one to three people in Maine die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and approximately 150 people visit the emergency room to receive treatment for it. 

The overwhelming majority of these incidents take place between the months of November through March. Carbon Monoxide, or “CO,” is an odorless, colorless gas that is found in fumes which are created any time you burn fuel. You are burning fuel every time your oil or gas fired boiler and furnace kicks on, or when your gas fireplace, gas stove or other gas operated appliances are used. CO can also be found in the exhaust fumes from kerosene space heaters, generators, and vehicles while in use.

When CO builds up indoors it poisons the people and animals who breathe it, making them sick or killing them. Everyone can be affected by CO poisoning but those with chronic heart disease, anemia, respiratory issues, the elderly, and infants are most likely to be impacted. CO poisoning symptoms can be described as “flu-like” but it often occurs when people are sleeping, and no symptoms are displayed.

If you have purchased a single or multifamily property after October 31, 2009, then you may recall having seen a form at the closing that the buyers were required to sign and date stating if the property does not currently have CO detectors installed then the new owners will be sure to do so within 30 days of the closing date or prior to taking occupancy. It also requires that the CO detectors be installed in each area within or giving access to bedrooms and they must be powered both by the electrical service in the dwelling or building and by battery.

This statute was enacted after a state study was conducted looking for the causes for the epidemic of CO poisoning related deaths following the ice storm in January 1998, when many Maine residents were improperly using generators to keep their homes and families warm and were killed as a result.

Now is the time to think about prolonged power outages during cold weather, and to begin making a solid plan. Consider how you will keep your property warm enough to prevent the pipes from freezing if you do not have electricity for a week or possibly longer. If you need to use a portable generator as a part of your plan, identify the place you will put it in the open air (not inside an enclosed area where fumes can accumulate) while keeping it protected from sleet, snow, and ice. Never use a generator in a garage or a basement. Be sure to dry your hands to prevent shock before touching a generator in wet conditions and always place it at least 20 feet away from any windows, doors, and vents.

If you run a kerosene heater indoors it is important to crack windows and leave doors open to other rooms to prevent CO from building up. Follow the instructions for setting the height for the wick and use only crystal-clear K-1 grade fuel.

When burning decorative logs for heat keep the flue open in your chimney and crack windows for ventilation. It is unsafe to heat your home using a gas range or oven. Do not use an outdoor gas or charcoal grill indoors for heating or cooking.

Do not skip out on the annual maintenance of your gas, oil, coal, or wood burning heating systems and be sure to use a qualified service technician. To prevent creosote blockage from letting CO build up indoors have your chimney swept annually before winter use. Make sure that all your gas appliances are vented properly. You should not run a vehicle inside a garage which is attached to a house, even with the garage door open.

When you set the clocks back in the fall and ahead in the spring, be sure to check your smoke and CO detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries twice each year. Most stores carry combination smoke and CO detectors. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled Kidde brand hard-wired smoke and combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms from 2014 because the alarms could fail following a power outage with 1.2 million sold in the US. If you have this model (Model i12010S) you should replace it. Look for the UL mark with the "Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm" statement when purchasing a new one. <

Nicole Foster is a real estate Broker since 2005 and is a Windham resident and parent. Visit or Insta @207nicolefoster.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Under Contract: Knowing your Options

By Tia Morell

In the world of real estate, navigating the complexities of buying a home can be a daunting task. From finding the perfect property to negotiating the price and closing the deal, there are numerous critical decisions to be made. 

Among these, understanding the concept of earnest money, exploring mortgage options, and having a well-prepared real estate agent are paramount. In this article, we will delve into the importance of knowing your options when under contract, the significance of earnest money, and the benefits of exploring different mortgage programs, particularly the differences between 3 percent conventional loans and 3.5 percent FHA loans.

The significance of earnest money

First and foremost, it's crucial to understand what earnest money is and why it's important in a real estate transaction. Earnest money is a sum of money, typically a percentage of the purchase price, that a buyer provides as a show of good faith when making an offer on a property. This deposit demonstrates the buyer's commitment to the deal and reassures the seller that they are serious about the purchase.

Earnest money is held in an escrow account during the course of the transaction and serves as a guarantee of the buyer's intention to proceed with the purchase. If the deal falls through due to the fault of the buyer, the seller may be entitled to retain the earnest money as compensation for time and expenses incurred. However, if the deal collapses for reasons outside the buyer's control, the earnest money is typically returned to them.

Situations where a buyer can receive earnest money back

There are various situations where a buyer can expect to receive their earnest money back.

These include:

1. Contingency Clauses: Most real estate contracts include contingency clauses that allow the buyer to withdraw from the deal and receive their earnest money back if certain conditions are not met. For example, if a home inspection reveals significant issues or the buyer cannot secure financing as specified in the contract, they are entitled to a refund of their earnest money.

2. Seller Defaults: If the seller fails to fulfill their obligations outlined in the contract, the buyer can usually demand the return of their earnest money.

3. Failure to Appraise: In cases where the property's appraised value is lower than the agreed-upon purchase price, the buyer may be able to withdraw from the deal and have their earnest money returned.

Situations where the seller is owed earnest money

On the other hand, there are situations where the seller may be entitled to the earnest money. These include:

1. Buyer Defaults: If the buyer fails to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the contract and the deal collapses due to their actions, the seller may retain the earnest money as compensation.

2. Termination Outside of Contingencies: If the buyer decides to terminate the contract for reasons not covered by contingency clauses and the seller can demonstrate that they suffered financial losses as a result, they may be entitled to the earnest money.

Mortgage options and the importance of exploring them

When it comes to purchasing a home, financing plays a crucial role. Buyers should explore different mortgage options to find the one that best suits their financial situation and long-term goals. In today's market, where interest rates can fluctuate, it's essential to be well-informed about your mortgage choices.

Two popular mortgage options are conventional loans with a 3 percent down payment and FHA loans with a 3.5 percent down payment. Understanding the differences between these options is vital.

Conventional Loans vs. FHA Loans

Conventional Loans (3 percent Down Payment)

• Conventional loans are not backed by the government.

• They typically require a minimum down payment of 3 percent.

• Borrowers with higher credit scores may qualify for more favorable interest rates.

• Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is required if the down payment is less than 20 percent.

• These loans are suited for buyers with strong credit histories and stable financial situations.

FHA Loans (3.5 percent Down Payment)

• FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

• They require a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent.

• Borrowers with lower credit scores may qualify for these loans.

• FHA loans typically have more lenient qualification criteria.

• Mortgage insurance is required for the entire loan term.

• Given the current scenario of an 8 percent interest rate on loans, the choice between these two options becomes even more critical. A higher down payment can reduce your monthly mortgage payment and the overall interest you'll pay over the life of the loan. So, while a 3 percent down payment may seem enticing, a 3.5 percent FHA loan might be a more feasible option for those with lower credit scores or who don't have the financial means for a larger down payment.

The role of a knowledgeable real estate agent

To navigate these complex waters successfully, it's essential to have a knowledgeable real estate agent on your side. A competent agent not only guides you through the process but also ensures you're fully aware of your options and the potential consequences of your decisions.

• Your agent should be well-versed in various financing programs, have a deep understanding of earnest money, and be skilled in negotiations. They should explore multiple strategies to ensure that the deal is structured in a way that aligns with your best interests. With their expertise, they can help you make informed choices that will increase your chances of closing the deal.

• In conclusion, knowing your options when you're under contract in real estate is of paramount importance. Earnest money serves as a symbol of commitment in a real estate transaction, but it's essential to understand when it can be returned to the buyer and when the seller may be entitled to it. Additionally, exploring different mortgage programs, such as conventional loans with a 3 percent down payment and FHA loans with a 3.5 percent down payment, can make a significant difference, especially in a high-interest rate environment. Finally, having a dedicated and knowledgeable real estate agent by your side is crucial to ensure that you make the right decisions and have clear expectations as you navigate the intricate world of real estate transactions. With the right information, strategy, and support, you can increase your chances of a successful and smooth closing on your dream home. <

Tia Morrell is a REALTOR for Landing Real Estate in Windham. Call her at 207-317-1833 or send her an email at

Friday, November 3, 2023

Real Estate: What is indoor air pollution and what can you do about it?

By Tricia Zwirner

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor pollution levels can be two to five times greater than outdoor levels.

Given that the average American spends up to 90 percent of their time inside, indoor air quality is a public health concern.

What Affects Indoor Air Quality?

Elliott Horner, PhD, principal scientist at UL Environment explain indoor pollutants can be grouped into three different categories: gaseous, particulate, and biological." And, Horner adds, each category has its own risks.

Breaking Down Those Three Types of Pollutants

1. Gaseous Indoor Pollutants

Pollutants produce dangerous side effects in the gaseous state. Minor ailments can include headaches and eye irritations; however, they can also trigger much more serious consequences, such as cancer and even death.

The most worrisome gaseous pollutants include:

• Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - Building materials and other household goods emit these chemicals, such as formaldehyde.

Common sources are wood, drywall, adhesives, paint, cleaning products, furniture, and even home electronics.

• Radon gas - Occurring naturally in the soil, radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and it’s responsible for between 15K & 22K deaths a year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

• Carbon monoxide gas - A clear and odorless gas that is both naturally occurring and a byproduct of man-made combustion.

2. Particulate Indoor Pollutants

Ultra-fine liquid or solid particles in the air can get deep into the lungs. They are associated with an increased risk of allergies and asthma attacks. Common particulates are:

• pollen

• dust

• dust mites

• animal dander

• diesel exhaust particles that seep in from outdoors

• secondhand smoke

3. Biological Indoor Pollutants

'Biological pollutants almost always involve dampness or water damage,' Horner says. Humidity, water-line breaks, and flooding are frequent sources. They can cause infections and worsen allergies and asthma, and often produce less-toxic VOCs that still are a cause for concern. Biological pollutants include:

• mold

• mildew

• bacteria - mostly occupant related

• viruses - all occupant related

Detecting a Problem

You can see many particulate pollutants, such as dust, but detecting the other types requires testing. 'There are several analytical sciences to detect issues in air quality, but they are very expensive,' says Horner. "However, there are some clues that the average person can pick up on, too." Horner suggests paying attention to foul or musty odors or eye, skin, or respiratory irritations among family members.

Commercially available test kits can help you identify potential problems. If you suspect you're dealing with a bigger problem, contact an environmental consultant or your local or state health department for assistance.

Nine Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

1. Open windows - Most heating and cooling systems recirculate inside air. When weather permits, give your system a break and let in fresh air. Open windows and place fans strategically to help direct fresh air through.

2. Run exhaust fans - Turn on the kitchen fan to vent cooking pollutants, and the bathroom fan to curb mold-promoting wetness and fumes from cleaning products. Leave the fan running for about 45 minutes.

3. Use doormats - They help prevent dirt and other outdoor pollutants from making it inside. Get two natural-fiber mats, one for inside and the other for outside your main entrance. Keep a shoe-free home too.

4. Test for radon - DIY test kits, available online and at your local home improvement store, are inexpensive and easy to use.

5. Don't mask odors - Scented candles and sprays can irritate lungs. Find the source of the smell, get rid of it, then ventilate well until it's gone.

6. Use a dehumidifier - Stay under 50% humidity to keep mold growth at bay. Clean your dehumidifier regularly so it doesn't switch from humidity-reducing friend to mold-harboring foe.

7. Vacuum regularly - You'll reduce the amount of dust and other pollutants released when you walk around. Invest in a quality vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, especially good at trapping even tiny bits of dust and dirt.

8. Take it outside - Painting, sanding, gluing - anything that generates particles, gases or other pollutants - should be done outside. If outside isn't an option, open a nearby window and add a fan blowing air out. Clean up after your project quickly and well.

9. Monitor your air quality - Devices can monitor temperature and humidity to help you understand how your home might affect your health. <

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

Friday, October 27, 2023

Real Estate: On your mark, get set, let the holiday decorating begin

By Theresa Bouchard

Yup, that time of year is right around the corner. The good ole’ Maine chill has begun, the clocks will soon be turned back and bam, Halloween will turn to Christmas in a flash! Don’t let it get you down, embrace it!

According to psychologist and author Deborah Serani, holiday decorations trigger that happy hormone called dopamine. The bright lights and festive music create a soothing ambience which in turn permeates joy. It’s no wonder some folks begin their holiday decorating well before most- maybe they are on to something!

Decorating for the holidays can be a daunting task for some due to lack of time, cost or even their lack of enthusiasm for the time of year. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’, just focus on your home, your space and how to create holiday magic on either a very small or over-the-top scale… it’s entirely up to you! Here are some tips (small and large) to help you brighten your home and mood with some holiday cheer as we approach this merry time of the year.

Lights, lights, and more lights! There is something about lights that make us smile. When you see a Christmas tree light up for the first time, it makes our hearts sing. It lifts our spirits and creates happiness in all of us. Adding a simple string of lights (fairy lights or Christmas tree lights) to a window frame, existing plants in your home, a mantel, and/or a doorway, creates a cozy, warm feeling within us. Add greenery to those lights and wow, just sit back and enjoy!

Some think that wreaths are just for the exterior of your home. Well, that is just not true. You can add real or faux wreaths to interior doors or windows– a simple touch to create a calming, serene environment. If you are using faux wreaths and want to add a smidge of that Christmas tree scent to really get you into the spirit, grab some scented pine tree sticks or spray to flourish your home with holiday joy!

Decorating small spaces is so much fun! If you are working with a limited space but want to bring in some elements of the holidays, simply get small Christmas trees made of wood, glass, cloth material, and add to any surface in your home. Incorporate candle sticks or lights (yes, lights!) to brighten any corner or surface in your home whether it be your kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedroom, or entryway. Mixing different materials will create interest and softness. Your friends and family will surely be asking for your festive decorating tips!

You can’t cozy up to a good movie or a hot cup of cocoa without the perfect pillows and throw blankets. Simply changing out your pillows and throws with warm winter materials such as Sherpa, fleece, faux fur, or quilts and decorative pillows in patterns such as plaids, holiday patterns and trendy colors, will create a welcoming and inviting holiday atmosphere. You will not want to leave the comforts of your home, why would you?

Greenery in a home creates immediate warmth to a space during the holidays and all year round. During the holidays, garland adds that finishing touch to any room. There are many types of decorative garland such as pine, cedar, boxwood, the list goes on. Garland of any type draped around windows, doors and mantels immediately transforms a room into a haven for rest and relaxation. Add those lights and you have got yourself a holiday sanctuary!

Lastly, vases can go a long way when decorating for the holidays. You can fill vases with ornaments and lights (I use battery operated fairy lights) to add a festive flair to a corner or space that needs a little pop of cheer. Or you can gather branches from your yard and place them in a vase for a very natural look or even lightly spray paint them white to create a birch tree effect. Something as simple and basic as this can really enhance your space during the season and lift your spirits as we work our way through another holiday season in Maine!

If you love the ideas in this article but are strapped for time or are not a shopper or DIYer, call TS Staging and Design to help create an inviting, festive environment in your home for you, your family, and friends this holiday season. Don’t let the holidays get you down, boost your mood through holiday decorating! <

For more information about professional home staging or interior design services, please contact TS Staging and Design at 207-400-9393 or visit

Friday, October 20, 2023

Real Estate: Selling Maine

By Richie Vraux

As a kid, I always remember the spring, summer and fall weekends and holidays at our camp on Granger Pond in Denmark. The nightly bonfires, the great fishing and canoe trips we would have as a family. At that time, I told myself, This is where I want to live. I always love the different lifestyle where you know the true change of seasons.

When you think about Quality of Life, Maine has to be ranked in the top 10. According to the US News and World Report, Maine has one of the safest states to live in.

The fall is truly one of my favorite seasons, warm days and chilly nights that leads to the most colorful foliage in the country. Winters can be severe depending on what part of Maine, a land area of 30,836.600 square miles, you live in.

The true Mainers say, that depending on whether you live north or south of Maine, there are only two seasons: summer and preparing for winter.

There are lots of snowbirds that go south for the winter, but then, always come back in the early spring to arrive back to open up their summer homes.

Then get their boats ready to launch and tear open the BBQ for some of Maine’s red hot dogs and hamburgers and oh yes, the lobster bakes. We are so lucky to live in an area that starts off the new year with dog sled races and skiing on some of the best slopes in the country. We also have the fishing derbies, both in the summer and winter ice fishing.

Maine has over 6,000 lakes and ponds where even the biggest fishing enthusiasts are found at either Sebago or Moosehead lakes or any other wonderful water bodies. Whether is salt water or freshwater, Maine is for you.

Forbes Magazine has rated Portland one of the most livable cities and one of the most affordable cities to retire to according to AARP. Maine has one the most spectacular coastlines and spectacular lakes. Just think of other parts of the country: the mudslides and wildfires on the west coast, temperatures over 100 degrees, the tornadoes of the mid-west, and other parts of the country with natural disasters. I will always choose Maine.

Buying a home-especially your first home-can be filled with twists and turns. You never need to go it alone with one of our real estate pros to guide you through your journey.

Our team of real estate agents makes finding a home in our neighborhoods easy. Not only do we work in our local communities, we live here too. We know the right people and have the right connections to find you the right home at the right price.

Homeownership is within your reach. We can help you get there.

Selling your home can seem like a rollercoaster ride. One day you're euphoric, and the next day you're frantic.

Not to worry. When you list your home with us, we'll be by your side from start to finish showing you the way.

Our real estate agents are focused on our local communities and know what it takes to sell your home for the most money in the least amount of time.
There will be plenty to think about... staging your house, pricing it right, sealing the deal, and moving to your new home. You can trust our real estate pros to guide you through every step of the selling process.

If a property is priced appropriately, it won’t be on the open market for very long. As a result, be very prepared. Unless you are making a cash offer - always, always, always have a pre-qualification letter in hand so it can be presented to the seller’s agent, at the time of the offer.

Be aware that if there has been a lot of activity on a property, it has become commonplace that agents are submitting offers well above asking price.

Also, other things you should know about houses are if they are: occupied, vacant, in foreclosure, short-sale or bank owned. You should know as much information as possible about each property before making an appointment. Make sure you tell your Realtor® your timeframe for buying or selling. <

Richie Vraux is a Realtor/ Broker with: Better Homes and Gardens-The Masiello Group 76 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062. You can contact Richie at 207-317-1297 or by email at


Friday, October 13, 2023

Real Estate: High Interest Rates – Low Inventory

By Matthew Trudel

Today’s market is very challenging for both buyers and sellers, which in turn makes our job as a REALTOR representing our clients all that more important. With interest rates hovering around 7 percent for buyers with good credit, there are some options out there that buyers should keep in mind. We will go over a few of those later in the article, but first I want to go over some of the challenges sellers are facing whether their house is on the market, or they are considering putting it on the market this fall.

A limited pool of buyers is a big issue for any seller or soon to be seller. The rise in interest rates has certainly lowered most buyers’ purchasing power by 25 percent or more. What this means is that a buyer who qualified for a $425,000 home might only qualify now for a $300,000 home. That is a huge difference, and it has been affecting the market for months. This means that fewer buyers can qualify to purchase a seller’s home which results in two things likely happening. The house could be on the market for a longer period of time, and the price you get might be lower than what it would have been six months ago.

Another thing sellers are facing is time. Fall has arrived and the temperatures are cooling down. When this happens the market cools down as well. There is not a lot of time left before December arrives and with that comes the snow. Houses do sell during the winter, but they don’t sell as fast as they do in the Spring and Summer. That being said, sellers also have to figure out where they are going to live once their house sells. Which might mean they become buyers and face a whole new set of problems, which is what we will discuss now.

Buyers are faced with low inventory and their purchasing power has been lowered. This is mostly because of the interest rates. Making sure your credit is in excellent condition will really benefit you when the market is in this condition. There are programs out there that will get your rate below 7 percent, but you need excellent credit. Another option is to have the seller pay a couple of points to buy your interest rate down a little. This could get you down below 6.5 percent interest rate. Buyers should remember this as well, you “marry the home and date the rate.” This simply is a reminder that you are not locked into the rate forever. If interest rates come down, you can simply refinance to a lower rate. Many lenders even offer streamlined refinance programs where it will cost you very little to do this.

Another option to consider is an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM. I personally am not a fan of these, but they do have a valuable place under the right circumstances. This is something that I would advise being very thorough in reviewing all aspects with your lender and comparing all the positive and negative possibilities. Like I stated before, I am not a fan of the adjustable-rate mortgage programs, but it is an option that is available.

Here is an option that won’t work for everyone because some people don’t have a lot of money saved up for a down payment. If you do have a sizable amount saved up like 20 percent of the purchase price to use as a down payment, then you might want to consider private financing. This can be a creative way to get you into the property with minimal costs and not as many hoops to jump through. The rates can be very competitive and occasionally better than the banks. Generally, these are based on a 30-year term, but they balloon in three to five years which means you need to refinance in that timeframe and pay the balance off.

With all of that being said, buyers or sellers both should do one thing the same way. That is to find an experienced Realtor to work with to assist you through the process. In this type of market creativity and experience can be the difference in achieving your real estate goals or being unsuccessful. <

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

Friday, October 6, 2023

Real Estate: Top Communities and Real Estate in Maine’s Lakes Region

By Lisa DiBiase

Maine’s Lakes Region is known for its serene beauty, lovely communities, and exceptional real estate options. This picturesque area attracts homeowners looking to enjoy peaceful living near the tranquil waters, lush forests, and ample outdoor recreational opportunities found within the region.

With charming towns and diverse housing options, there is a perfect lakeside community for everyone. In this article, we explore some of the top communities in Maine’s Lakes Region and the real estate options available in each.
About Sebago Lake

On the southern tip of Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region near the bustling city of Portland, you’ll find marvelous Sebago Lake. Translated from Native American language, Sebago means “great stretch of water” – and it is certainly that, as the second largest lake in Maine. The vast, 45-square-miles of broad, clear and deep water offers plentiful recreation opportunities from fishing its depths to summertime dips and paddles. Its northeast corner is home to Sebago Lake State Park, a relaxing haven of lakeside camping, picnic areas and boat launches. The serene lake is intricately linked to Brandy Pond via the meandering Songo River, and this connection ultimately leads to the pristine waters of Long Lake in Naples. This remarkable chain of water bodies opens up an array of extraordinary lakefront real estate prospects.
Windham: A Vibrant Lakeside Community

Windham is a bustling community that perfectly balances small-town charm with the convenience of contemporary living. Known for its excellent school system and thriving local businesses, this town is ideal for families and individuals alike. Nestled among Sebago Lake, Little Sebago Lake, and Pleasant Lake, Windham offers a wealth of waterfront real estate options ranging from cozy cottages to luxurious estates. In June, join the town for their Summerfest Celebration – browse booths featuring food vendors, crafters and community organizations, participate in a scavenger hunt or enjoy live music.
Naples: The Heart of the Lakes Region

Nestled at the crossroads of Long Lake and Sebago Lake, Naples exudes a quaint, hospitable charm that attracts both year-round residents and seasonal vacationers. Home to several pristine beaches, miles of nature trails, and vibrant community events, Naples is perfect for those seeking a home with a strong community connection. Naples’s real estate market includes charming single-family residences, waterfront cottages, and contemporary homes with stunning lake views.
Raymond: Scenic Beauty and a Rich History

The picturesque town of Raymond is known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and numerous sparkling lakes, including Crescent Lake, Panther Pond, and Sebago Lake. Raymond’s charm and natural beauty make it an ideal destination for those seeking a tranquil, scenic place to call home. Raymond’s diverse real estate options range from historic farmhouses on spacious parcels to contemporary homes boasting waterfront access and modern amenities.

If it’s more trails that you’re after, Raymond is also home to a lovely forest trail system that is friendly to both hikers and mountain bikers. Raymond Community Forest features 365 acres of land, four trails of varying skill levels and spectacular views of Crescent Lake from Pismire Bluff.
Bridgton: A Four-Season Destination

Bridgton is a popular, four-season destination located on the shores of Long Lake and Highland Lake, offering exceptional year-round recreational opportunities. Known for its vibrant downtown area filled with local shops, galleries, and eateries, Bridgton presents a thriving artistic and cultural scene. Various real estate options can be found in Bridgton, including charming Victorian homes, modern waterfront residences, and affordable single-family houses.
Casco: Lakeside Living at Its Finest

Embracing the shores of Sebago Lake, Pleasant Lake, and Thompson Lake, Casco is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and waterfront living aficionados. With numerous nature preserves, recreational facilities, and annual events, Casco offers an engaging small-town lifestyle with a strong sense of community. In July, Casco Days kicks things off with several days of family fun involving parades, rides, food booths, games and more. In September, the town cools down with the Sebago Spirits Festival, a lakeside spirits-tasting event with casual classes showcasing recipes and cocktail-making tips. Real estate options in Casco include traditional Maine farmhouses, contemporary lakeside homes, and spacious family residences with panoramic lake views.
Gray: Home to Maine Wildlife Park

The town includes frontage on Little Sebago Lake, Crystal Lake, and Forest Lake. Gray is home to regional headquarters for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which maintains a fish hatchery and wildlife park. It is also home to the Gray/Portland Weather Forecast Office of the NOAA's National Weather Service, which issues forecasts and weather warnings for New Hampshire and western Maine. Far from the blandness its name may suggest, Gray offers a host of opportunities the whole family will enjoy. Head to the Maine Wildlife Park to learn about and appreciate all the different species of the state’s wildlife. You are guaranteed to see a moose, as well as other small and large species.
Find Your Dream Home

Maine’s Lakes Region offers an incredible variety of communities and real estate options for those seeking the idyllic lakeside lifestyle. From the bustling town of Windham to the picturesque village of Casco, each community boasts its own unique charm, providing a diverse array of choices for eager homebuyers. If you’re ready to begin searching for the perfect lakeside home, trust your local Realtor® to make your dream a reality.

As I have said since the beginning, 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 of Landing Real Estate, a locally owned and operated Maine real estate agency with offices in Windham and South Portland. She and her agent have the knowledge and experience to guide you through every step of the home buying or selling process in these one-of-a-kind communities. Whether you’re looking for a quaint cottage or a luxury waterfront. For all your real estate needs contact Lisa at 207-653-0823 or email

Friday, September 29, 2023

Real Estate: Commercial Real Estate Due Diligence

By Larry Eliason

Buyers today, whether owner occupant or investor, should consider engaging a Commercial Real Estate Professional to assist them with Buying, Selling or Leasing a Commercial Property. Incorporating Due Diligence as part of the process for a purchase, sale or lease is an instrumental part of the process.

A Real Estate/Title Attorney should also be engaged to review the Title, Zoning, Land Use Regulations and in some cases, the Purchase and Sale Agreement before it is fully executed by the Buyer(s) and Seller(s).

Site Inspectors/Environment Engineers are also recommended depending on the size and scope of the property. If the subject property has always been an office building, the scope and level of investigation may be limited. However, if the property was ever a Gas Station or a Dry Cleaner, then expect to go further into the history of the property. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) records can be researched to determine if any spills or contamination may have occurred at the site or adjacent to it. There may be some ongoing monitoring on the subject property, or over on an abutting property.

Building Inspectors/Structural Engineers can offer insight on the condition of the structure, the systems, estimate the remaining useful life of those components and point out potential problems such as mold or other possible contamination.

And, in the case of New Commercial Development, a Civil Engineer will certainly offer insight as to a property’s development potential along with expectations for costs, timelines for approvals and construction and expectations from governing agencies such as Town, State and in some cases Federal Approval.

A typical Commercial Purchase and Sale Agreement spells out Inspections, Permits and Due Diligence. In many cases, the Seller is asked to provide any title history, surveys, engineering studies, architectural, geotechnical, storm water, utility, sewage, environmental, etc., as a request with the Seller’s documents being provided for informational purposes.

The Subject Premises are being conveyed “as is” or possibly “as complete” depending on the specifics of the building or project. The Seller generally grants the Buyer and/or his/her Agents to enter upon the property for reasonable investigations as part of the Due Diligence work.

The Contract should “Spell Out” to Buyer’s Satisfaction and in his/her sole discretion with its investigations, reviews, reports and findings and those specific items such as Environmental Testing, that are specifically spelled out in the contract. If the Buyer is unsatisfied with his/her investigation, the Contract may become null and void, can be renegotiated or the Buyer and Seller may agree to extend the contract to allow more time for Due Diligence.

Property Disclosures are a guide to a Commercial Property; however, Buyers should verify the facts as to what someone thinks is the case may have changed due to occupancy by Tenants or Zoning changes by a Town or the State such as setbacks from roads, wetlands, and abutting properties. In Windham for example, zoning ordinances are being modified on a regular basis so investigate what the Town may have in the pipeline for changes that could impact your investment objectives.

It is a good idea to get a title history done early on so that any title issues may be addressed during the normal course of the contract. A lot of times, title is done just before closing, problems with obtaining title insurance pop up and the deal must be extended to clean-up clouds on the title so an acceptable title policy may be issued.

Due Diligence on the Title can include a survey, easements of record, restrictions, exceptions, errors with legal description, undischarged liens to name a few.

Some Commercial Property Sales include the assignment of leases as the property may be a multi-tenanted shopping center. As part of the Lease Due Diligence, a Buyer may want to see any extensions in the leases and a payment history as well as any pre-existing Landlord consent given to a Tenant.

An Environmental Site Evaluation may become a requirement for a Buyer to obtain commercial bank financing. And this Due Diligence can help avoid inheriting potential liability such as Environmental Contamination.

A Phase I Environmental Report can help determine the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products in or at the property. This can be due to a release in the environment or under conditions that could pose a threat of future release to the environment. The Phase I Environmental Report generally includes a site visit, local, state, and federal environmental records, historical research, interviews, and visual observations.

In the event further investigation is warranted, a Phase II Environmental Report may be required. In this case, testing is performed on site such as borings to look at soils samples and to determine an area of possible contamination.

If clean-up is required, this is what I would refer to as Phase III. Soil may need to be removed from the site to mitigate a problem. The remaining contaminated soil might need to remain as they are under a building or a road. The DEP has a program - Voluntary Response Action Program (VRAP) that helps reduce the liability for a Buyer and his/her Lender. The VRAP allows applicants to voluntarily investigate and cleanup properties to the Department's satisfaction, in exchange for protection from Department enforcement actions. The VRAP is intended to encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties within the state.

A property Condition Evaluation by a Building Inspector/Structural Engineer can give Buyers valuable insight as to the physical assets associated with a particular property. Site improvements, building components and operating systems such as HVAC can be observed, tested, and evaluated. Building deferred maintenance, anticipated capital repairs and replacements can be prepared. Some lenders require Property Condition Evaluations as part of their mortgage lending commitments.

When buying commercial real estate and/or commercial land, I would encourage all Buyers to do their “Due Diligence” and engage professionals for the Commercial Real Estate Buying process like a Real Estate/Title Attorney, Environmental Site Inspector/Engineer, Building Inspector/Structural Engineer and a Civil Engineer.

As a seasoned Commercial Real Estate Professional, I have over 35 years of experience to help clients access current as well as future Real Estate needs and to advance the quality of their real estate project and goals by capitalizing on my:

** Ability to search out the ideal solution and problem solve impediments

** Experience knowing and recognizing all of the requirements pertaining to completing the transactions

** Talent for bringing all parties together to fulfill their expectations.

Please feel free to contact me on my cell at 207-415-2112 or email me at Butts Commercial Brokers is at 1265 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, Maine 04071 <

Friday, September 22, 2023

Real Estate: Homeowner’s Guide to Fall Home Maintenance

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

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


Roof and Exterior

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

Fall and winter are also prime time for rodents to come indoors for warmth; 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.)

Outdoor pipes and water sources

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


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.


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

Insulating the attic not only keeps warmth in the living space below but also helps prevent ice dams on the roof. The EPA recommends an R-value of 38, or about 10 to 14 inches of insulation, with enough that the insulation rises above the floor joists. Attic vents should be clear of dirt, twigs or insulation.


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

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

Real Estate: 8 small ways to give your home a facelift without spending a cent

Complied by Carrie Colby

1. Join a Local Buy Nothing Group
The whole idea of “one man’s trash” is the inspiration for Buy Nothing Groups, but in this case it’s less trash and more a fabulous lamp or a piece of furniture from a neighbor that could be yours for free. To find a Buy Nothing Group, check apps like Facebook or Next Door. You’ll find a hyper local group–meaning everyone in the group lives close to you. Then you can start searching for items that your neighbors are getting rid of, and the best part– everything offered up in the group is always free. So, their trash becomes your treasure.

2. Declutter

Instantly change the look of any space by decluttering. Take on any clutter that is gathering on your nightstand and get rid of it. If your dining table is doubling as a “catch all,” clear it all out. If your decor looks outdated, it’s time to move it out. If tackling a decluttering project feels overwhelming, start small with one room at a time. Create piles for items to trash, donate and sell. As you move items out, your space will instantly open up, and look cleaner. Plus, if you followed step one, you now have plenty of items to offer up to neighbors.

3. Rearrange Your Furniture
Easy on your wallet (maybe not so easy on your back), rearranging your furniture can make your space look completely different. Change the placement of a couch or end table for a new look in your living room. If there is a chair in your home office that is taking up too much space, move it to your bedroom to fill an empty corner. The best part about this free design trick, it works for every room in your home.

4. Use Up Half-Empty Paint Cans
If you’ve got paint cans laying around from a previous DIY project, use up the paint to freshen up a small room. If you don’t have enough paint to cover all of the walls, create an accent wall in a room or give a piece of furniture a facelift by adding a fresh coat of paint. Even touching up baseboards and trim will give your space a free facelift. If your front door is looking weathered, paint will quickly bring it back to life

5. Give Your Walls a New Look
If you have a piece of art or a framed photo that you love, move it from one room to another. The simple act of hanging the piece in a new room of your home can give your favorite wall decor a fresh new look. You can also take on a DIY project and paint the frames in a fun pop of color or give a monochromatic and dramatic look by painting the frame black. If you have a collection of frames gathering dust, put them to use by swapping out the frames on pieces you already have hanging, or print off a few photos and fill your shelves with new framed photos.

6. Bring in the Light
Walk though your house and open up curtains and blinds. Let the natural light wash over each room and brighten your space. Not only will this give you an instant mood boost, but the extra light will actually change the look of your home. If you already have light bulbs waiting to be used, another easy way to add more light to your home is to swap out dull and dark lights for brighter bulbs. The same goes for any bulbs that are burnt out.

7. Display Your Favorite items
There’s no need to go shopping for decor pieces when you can use a few of your favorite things in the design of your home. If you’ve got a fabulous collection of hats, turn them into a work of art by hanging them on the wall as a gallery in your bedroom. Take a beloved collection out of storage and display the items on shelves in your living room. In the kitchen, if you take pride in your cookware, show it off by hanging the items above your island. If you have items you love, let them double as beautiful decor.

8. Freshen Up Your Bed
If you’ve got a reversible duvet or comforter, flip it over and try living with a different design on your bed for a while. Move throw pillows and blankets that are in other rooms, or have been taking up space in your closets, to different beds in your home.

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

Friday, September 8, 2023

Real Estate: General Contractor, Driving, Bait Sales

By Warren O’Shea

At first glance, the title may seem strange but not for the reason you think. While it reads like a sentence, it is not intended to be. The title is actually a list of possible answers to a multiple-choice question, the question being:

Maine requires a license for which two?

Surprisingly enough, Maine requires you to have a license to drive a car and sell bait, but not to be a general contractor. Now, I know all of you bait buyers are breathing a collective sigh of relief knowing that the live or dead fish you're buying is regulated by our great state, but a large portion of Maine homeowners are in disbelief that general contractors are not required to be licensed.

There are some specific trades that do require licenses like plumbers and electricians, but not GC’s. What Maine does have is the “Home Construction Warning” on the Maine Attorney General’s Consumer Information page. It requires GC’s to attach the AG’S construction warning to every contract and any project valued at $3000 or more requires a contract. It also states that the GC cannot receive more than one third of the contract price as payment upfront. A fun note about the AG’s Consumer Information page is that it also lists the contractors that the state has sued.

In my recollection, it lists the same 9 GC’s since the page’s creation in 2014. Terrific! Fantastic! It must be working! No new lawsuits. There must be no more bad GC’s out there.

Think again.

The full Maine Attorney General info page can be found here.

So how did we get stuck here? Homeowners continue to get ripped off, Outraged citizens call for the state to require licensing yet nothing happens. The AG’s office has received more than 3,300 complaints since 2018 with consumer losses totaling an estimated $12 million. In the last 15 years, seven bills have been proposed, all of them failed.

The Mills administration testified against the most recent bill as well as the Maine Policy Institute, the Maine Association of Realtors, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine. The head of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation claimed it was unclear which problem the bill sought to correct.

The passing of a contractor bill is likely a combined factor of timing, and clarifying what the intention of the bills are. We have had a housing shortage for years, very old homes, and the oldest median age in the country. The state has also passed measures to encourage more residential construction projects, putting pressure on both consumers and contractors to keep up with demand, and demand is at an all-time high.

If the bill was written to address shoddy workmanship, there are no tests in place to qualify skill level. You can roll out of bed one day and decide that you are a “Master Carpenter” with no course to take and pass, no assessment of ability, no certification to hang on the office wall. Unskilled workers will not suddenly become skilled via licensure. Currently, home inspectors are not required to be licensed either, but in order to be recognized by national organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), you must be certified and keep abreast of code by earning 20 ASHI approved Continuing Education credits (CE’s) annually.

If the bill was to address fraudulent business practices, it didn't give any more power to the Attorney General's office to enforce its current laws, and listing the bad guys on their website doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.

I’m confident that in time we will have a licensure system that may be a hybrid of what other states are doing but it will never be a magic potion that will cure all ills. Most reputable GC’s welcome licensure and regulation, but some will inevitably push back on any new regulation, citing that it will take more time and cost more money than continuing on with the status quo. It is likely to get worse before it gets better.

In the meantime, consult three different GC’s for your project, always get a signed contract, and contact your state representative to keep pressure on the state to act. At least you can drive to get your bait with the confidence that the state has your back. < 

"Warren O'Shea is the owner of O’Shea Builders LLC, Maine’s most award-winning remodeling contractor. He has 35+ years of residential remodeling experience. He is a certified home inspector and has been featured on HGTV, Food Network, and Maine Cabin Masters. He is a recipient of the Portland Police Department’s “Citizen Award”, and is a staunch consumer advocate. Warren has, and continues to, co-author articles for nationally distributed trade magazines."