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."

Friday, September 1, 2023

Real Estate: Decorating tips for an open floor plan

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

Most of today’s newly constructed homes have an open floor plan, with no walls between the living, relaxing, dining and cooking areas. A very common renovation item for both homeowners and “flips” includes knocking down one or more walls to create a more open space.

Modern daily living and entertaining has become less formal over time and the open floor plan has grown to be so popular due to its relaxed style and use of space and light. It’s an effective way to maximize space by not designating 300 square feet or more to areas only used on occasion. Natural light can travel unobstructed, often making it feel larger.

With fewer walls and closed off rooms, certain challenges are presented. Simply pushing the furniture up against the walls may not be your best option in an open floor plan. Where do you hang artwork if most of the walls are windows? An increasingly popular home design trend is the “broken floor plan” which allows for more deliberate definition of separate spaces by incorporating the use of interior windows, columns and half walls, multi-sided fireplaces and sliding decorative screens and doors.

Whether you’re starting position begins from scratch working with a brand-new home design, knocking down walls in your already existing home or purchasing a newly completed home; you will make fewer mistakes and are more likely to be pleased with the final product if you take a moment to create a plan. Treat all of the adjoining rooms as one large space that is cohesive throughout and flows continuously.

When making key selections such as kitchen cabinetry, counters and backsplash tile your choices should blend in with the style of the overall home and connecting spaces. Choose fixtures that can be used throughout and limit the use of too many different types of finishes to help tie-in all of the areas together visually. Using one continuous and uninterrupted flooring finish throughout the entire space in all of the rooms and hallways helps to create a clean and spacious feel.

The right use of color can be one of the most impactful decisions you can make when decorating your open floor plan, so nail it with your color palette by choosing a neutral color wall color to begin with, as your foundation. By picking only a few colors to add throughout the entire space you will be able to avoid one of the most common decorating mistakes by combining too many different color schemes. Choose a color that you adore and highlight it by using different shades and textures in all of the different rooms.

Upholstery and curtains do not need to be overly matchy but should visually tie together in some way and not complicate or make the space feel too busy. A simple and highly effective way to draw distinction between your kitchen and living area is to use a complimenting or contrasting color on your kitchen’s center island. Trending now are hues of blues and greens, deep charcoals, or navy.

Having too much furniture in your rooms can make the space feel too tight and crowded. Large pieces may not leave a comfortable amount of space to walk around in the rooms. Try to leave at least 24 to 36 inches behind and around furniture to comfortably move. Instead of pushing your couch or sofa up against the wall, bring it to the center of the room. Positioning it this way separates the living room from dining room with the back of the piece acting as a wall. Choose a couch with a low profile to have less obstructed and cleaner sight lines. If you have enough space, you can add a narrow table across the back. The area rug will act as a visual anchor and ideally will be large enough for at least the front legs of all the pieces to sit on. A few chairs, which are around one third the size of your couch or sofa, can lend the same amount of seating as a loveseat but are less bulk.

Think of ways you can incorporate vertical layers by using pendant lighting, floor and table lamps or potted and dried arrangements of varying heights. <

Nicole Foster is a Windham parent and real estate Broker with 18 years of experience helping buyers, sellers and investors. Follow her at or on Instagram 207nicolefoster.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Navigating the Shifting Tides of the Maine Real Estate Market: A Closer Look

By Tia Morrell

The Maine real estate market, like its counterparts across the country, has experienced a whirlwind of changes in recent times. As we step into the current landscape, real estate agents find themselves needing to adapt to evolving trends, where traditional norms are making a comeback, and the art of negotiation has never been more crucial.

Slowing Trends and Reemerging Norms

One significant shift in the Maine real estate market is the gradual slowdown of previously frenetic trends. The days of lightning-fast sales and sky-high bidding wars seem to be tapering off, creating a new dynamic for both buyers and sellers. Real estate agents are observing that properties are spending more time on the market, allowing for a renewed emphasis on thorough inspections.

Inspections, once swept aside in the fervor of competitive bidding, are making a triumphant return. Buyers, now granted a bit more time, are meticulously scrutinizing properties, aiming to uncover any hidden issues that could become a burden down the road. Sellers are realizing that honesty and transparency during the inspection process can foster a sense of trust and potentially even lead to smoother negotiations.

Stringent Appraisal Standards

Appraisers, too, are making their presence felt in this evolving market. The era of inflating home values appears to be behind us, as appraisers adopt a more conservative approach to their assessments. This shift is putting pressure on sellers and buyers alike, as the disparity between perceived market value and appraised value becomes a tangible reality.

The once-common practice of bidding over asking price, while not extinct, is witnessing a transformation. Offers are still going above the listed price, but the exorbitant rates that characterized the market's peak are becoming rarer. Appraisers' strict evaluations are contributing to this trend, anchoring the value of properties in a more grounded reality.

The Triumph of Terms and Negotiation Skills

In this landscape of recalibrating norms, the true value of negotiation skills and favorable terms is becoming increasingly evident. Listing agents are discovering that offers are not solely decided by the financial aspect; rather, flexible terms and well- thought-out negotiation strategies can sway decisions in favor of one party.

Buyers and sellers alike are recognizing that the timing of a deal can be just as important as the price itself. Flexible closing dates, abbreviated inspection periods, and other such terms are gaining prominence. A buyer who can align their needs with the seller's timeline might find themselves ahead of the competition, even with a slightly lower monetary offer. On the other side, sellers who are willing to accommodate certain requests may find their property off the market sooner than expected.

The Role of Real Estate Agents in Navigating Change

Amid these shifts, the role of the real estate agent is more crucial than ever. Agents are becoming adept at interpreting the nuances of a transforming market and leveraging their insights to guide their clients effectively. Their ability to not only recognize market trends but also educate buyers and sellers about the changing landscape sets them apart in a sea of uncertainty.
An agent's role as a mediator and negotiator has become the linchpin in the real estate process. Navigating offers, counteroffers, and terms requires a delicate balance of understanding the client's goals and leveraging the market's dynamics. In this evolving scenario, it's the agents who can wield their negotiation skills and market knowledge with finesse that will truly shine.


AS The Maine real estate market shifts toward a more balanced landscape, the strategies that once dominated are giving way to a new era of consideration and negotiation. Inspections are returning to the forefront, appraisers are reining in inflated values, and the emphasis on terms is resurging. In these dynamic times, real estate agents stand as the pillars of guidance, utilizing their expertise to navigate clients through the maze of change and uncertainty. It's clear that in this evolving market, the ability to adapt, interpret, and negotiate is the key to success for buyers, sellers, and agents alike.

If you’re ready to discuss how you can come out on top of this market, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. I’m here to help!

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

Friday, August 18, 2023

Real Estate: Smart home energy savings

Submitted by Tricia Zwirner

Check out these ideas for how to save on energy bills and use less.

Unplug unused electronics and small appliances

According to Trulia, those electronics and small appliances that you only need for part of the day, like the microwave, phone charger and coffee maker, for example, consume a whopping 10% of your yearly energy costs. Use them, then unplug if possible. Then take a look around your home – what’s plugged in that isn’t being used? Pull that plug!

Only run your major appliances (like your dishwasher and your washer and dryer) during "non-peak hours" — pre-specified times typically associated with lower demand. Check with your utility company for the details. And try to run only a full load.
Check seals on doors and windows

Just a slim gap of 1/8 inch around a door frame is about the same as having a 2.5-inch hole in a wall to the outside. Look for visible cracks or simply feel for air by placing your hand along all edges and corners. If you feel air or see light through a crack, consider sealing with plastic insulation kits, adding more weather stripping around the doors or re-caulking windows.
Turn down your water heater

One of the biggest energy hogs in your home might surprise you: your water heater. Many are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but 120 degrees Fahrenheit works well for daily needs. And turning down your water heater by just 10 degrees could save you $400 or more annually.
Water saving ideas

Find and fix leaky faucets — every drop costs you money. Be sure to turn off the water while brushing your teeth — no need to let that water run without being used.

How about shaving off just a few minutes from your shower time — three minutes could save about 7.5 gallons or water! And that showerhead — consider replacing it with one that has a WaterSense label and it could save you about 2,700 gallons of water a year which translates to money saving.
Utilize energy saving smart home devices

Technology continues to pay real dividends for homeowners, particularly when it comes to ways to save on energy bills. Smart lighting options enable you to check whether you left lights on when you're away from home, and smart blinds let you open and close window coverings to take advantage of sunlight or keep out nighttime drafts.
Use natural light

An easy way to conserve energy at home is to use natural light. Open the curtains and let the sun in to help light those areas used most in your home. That sunlight could even help warm your home in the winter. You can buy lightweight curtains or blinds to give you some privacy while letting in the natural light.
Ideas for long-term energy bill solutions

Get an energy audit or assessment

Your utility company typically offers these for free, and they'll visit you in your home to help identify key areas to upgrade to save energy at home. They may suggest boosts in under- or uninsulated areas, as well as offer suggestions on a new HVAC system, too.
Install a smart thermostat

A smart thermostat will change the temperature based upon the schedule you pick within the thermostat. Or you might use an app to control the temperature when you’re not home. Some thermostats have sensors that can be installed in different rooms so that each room can have its own temperature (if the air conditioner and heater are installed to accommodate this type of activity).
Swap out your light bulbs

Simply replacing standard light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs can help save you money on your energy bill, and they last much longer!
Replace inefficient appliances

An Energy Star certified dishwasher, over its average lifetime of about 12 years, can save as much as 3,800 gallons of water. And a certified washing machine uses about 30 percent less water and 20% less energy. All these savings can add up to more money in your pocket. <

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, August 11, 2023

Real Estate: Selling your home? Stage It

By Theresa Bouchard

Selling a home can be one of the most stressful events people deal with in their lifetime. Although starting a new chapter in one’s life can be very exciting, it can also create anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty as you begin to pack up the memories created in the home with your loved ones.

What is Staging?

Staging a home is an art, but also a science. Professional stagers create spaces that “feel like home” which attracts mass buyer appeal. Professional staging allows for potential buyers to visualize themselves in the home, which creates an immediate personal attachment. This will make prospective buyers feel confident about investing in a place where they feel comfortable and can visualize creating new memories for years to come!

Why use a Professional Home Stager?

The use of digital marketing promotes properties and is the first step to creating a mass flow of buyers to the property. Professional stagers understand the power of photography and know how important photography is to sell a home. With this knowledge and understanding, home stagers apply specific techniques such as appropriate placement of furnishings and décor, lighting, color, symmetry, and scale to ensure the photographer can capture the essence of the home and create an emotional connection as buyers conduct online searches. Online listings are the first step to attracting prospective buyers to a property. This will increase the number of showings and fast-track the sale of your home!

Professional home stagers consistently adapt to the ever-changing trends people see on television and social media. Home stagers incorporate these trends, while factoring in the aesthetics of the home, its location, and its market demographic. Home staging captures your home’s most attractive features while minimizing the home’s limitations. Some homes on the market are dated but with home staging, prospective buyers can visualize the house as their home and imagine the potential it may have in the future.

Staging Benefits

o Staging shows the buyers the property’s true potential

o Buyers realize and appreciate the benefits of purchasing a professionally staged property

o Professionally stage properties show better than competing ones for sale, including new construction homes and higher-priced properties

o Staged properties sell faster when compared with properties that have not been staged

o Staged properties can increase the number of offers and selling price in any market

o Buyers view professionally staged listings as well-maintained

o Buyers’ agents recognize that professionally staged listings are “move-in” ready and are more inclined to show staged properties

o Photos of professionally staged listings look better on the MLS, as well as in print

o Professionally staged listings STAND OUT in prospective buyers’ minds

Staging Statistics per Real Estate Staging Association (RESA)

o 85 percent of homes sold for 5 to 23 percent over asking list price

o Approximately 75 percent of sellers saw a ROI of 5 to 15 percent over asking price

o Staged homes sell faster, averaging just 23 days on the market

Various Staging Options

Occupied Staging Consultations

o This service includes a walk-through of your home with a professional stager that provides guidance to the seller on how to prepare the home for sale. This service includes a detailed, actionable report (checklist form) to make the process easier on the seller. The report provides recommendations on cosmetic updates, lightening fixtures, organization pointers, etc., basically anything that will allow the seller to list at a higher price.

o Additionally, the professional home stager offers services to come to your home, use your existing items and apply the home staging techniques to make your home shine above the rest!

Vacant Home Staging

o This service includes a walk-through of your home with a professional stager so they can gain the overall essence of the home and its location.

o The professional home stager will recommend which rooms should be staged and provide a proposal

o Once the proposal is accepted, the professional home stagers will select the appropriate furnishings and décor for the home and schedule an installation date to make your home ready for the go-live listing date

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

Friday, August 4, 2023

Real Estate: Diving into summer with a new home?

By Matt Trudel

Summer finally seems to have arrived and the rain has backed off a little. We all love spending our time outside in Maine while the weather is so nice. Whether the lake or camp is your thing, or maybe it’s hiking or the ocean, this could be the right time for you to consider purchasing a new home.

There are many reasons that people make the decision to purchase their first home. Tired of paying rent, living with roommates, or maybe parents, are just a few possibilities. If you are considering this and are on the fence about it, I would encourage you to do your homework and go for it. This article will provide you with some basic things you will want to do, a few things that you absolutely should not do, and hopefully create some more questions that you can discuss with one or all of the professionals that should be a part of your team for this process.

So who are the professionals that make up this team that I am referring to that are supposed to help you with this process of purchasing a new home?

The first one is pretty obvious, and that is a Realtor to assist you in all facets of this process. Selecting a buyer’s agent is important and not as easy as it may seem. We all know at least 5 to 10 realtors it seems, but sometimes using a friend or family member is not the best choice. Experience, professionalism, confidentiality, and experience are extremely important factors when selecting a Realtor.

I used experience twice because it is that important to have a Realtor who has several years of experience. It can be the difference of having a positive successful transaction or having an absolute nightmare or failure of a transaction.

Confidentiality is important to many people. People’s financial situation, credit worthiness, and personal information are things that many people don’t want their friends and family to know.

Once you have your Realtor selected, they can assist or answer questions about the other professionals to complete your team. Choosing your lender or mortgage broker is another important professional to add to your team.

This will not only get you pre-qualified for your purchase, but it also should provide you with a lot more options that you and your Realtor can use to assist in being successful in the process. Deciding on which type of financing works best for you and provides you with the strongest offer you can present to a seller is a key part in almost every transaction.

There are a lot of programs out there other than just FHA or Rural Development. First responders such as EMT, fire fighters, police, nurses, doctors, and many more, there are lender programs that might offer a better interest rate or provide some additional money toward closing costs for you.

These are all things that you should take into consideration when selecting which type of financing you are going to use.

I mentioned interest rates, and this is worth discussing since interest rates have increased from the all-time record low interest rates we saw for a couple years. Do not let interest rates scare you into not buying a house. Today’s interest rates are still really good in comparison to over the last 15 years.

I don’t believe interest rates will ever get back down to 3 percent again, or at least not in the next 10 years. So put the interest rate aside and if it does go down significantly you can always refinance your home to the lower rate.

Next is the absolutely do not do list. Some of these seem obvious, but you would not believe the number of clients I have spoken to discussing these very things and quite often I have to remind them. Do not make any large purchases at all without discussing them with your team. That means nothing, none, not a one, zero.

Well, what about a cash purchase? No, that depletes your reserves and makes you a weaker buyer. Cars, boats, and other items financed most likely wil hurt your debt-to-income ratio and lower your purchasing power. Do not apply to multiple lenders and have your credit pulled because it can lower your score and cause you to have a higher interest rate.

Do not use your credit cards excessively and run the balances up. The balances need to be below 30 percent and preferably you don’t have credit card debt. Any financial transaction, debit, or credit, over $1,000 you should have a conversation with your team.

It doesn’t mean you can’t do it but you need to be informed about how it may affect you. More than likely, they will give you some advice on the best way to do it if you want to proceed forward. <

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


Friday, July 28, 2023

Real Estate: Commercial Leasing Basics

By Larry Eliason

A commercial lease for any business can be a large expense and commitment for any business. Commercial leases are a lot different from residential leases as they have provisions that could impact your business from an economic standpoint to the practical use of the space.

Whether it is for a small office, retail, warehouse, commercial garage or a ground lease, a Tenant should perform some due diligence to assure that the space and the site are properly zoned for the proposed use. In many towns, Building and Life Safety Codes will certainly be part of the discussion for occupancy.

Below you will see some highlights of what to expect in a commercial lease agreement.

AGREEMENT of Lease made this 28th day of July 2023, by and between 123, LLC (hereinafter “Landlord”) and XYZ, LLC (Hereinafter “Tenant”).


That Landlord for and in consideration of the rent reserved, covenants and agreements hereinafter set forth to be kept, observed, and performed by Tenant, has demised and leased, and does hereby demise and let unto Tenant…

1. Description Leased Premises. Landlord does hereby lease and rent unto Tenant, one commercial building…

2. Terms. The term of this Lease shall be for a period of Five (5) years commencing on July 28, 2023…

3. Rental. Tenant agrees to pay to Landlord as rent, the sums as set forth in Schedule “A”…

4. Renewal. At the expiration of the term of this Lease, said Lease may be renewed at the option of the Tenant for two (5) year options on the same terms and conditions of this Lease excluding as to rent…

5. Security Deposit. Upon the execution of this Lease, Tenant shall pay to Landlord the sum of $ 000.00, which may be held by Landlord throughout the term of this Lease…

6. Specific Use. The Tenant may use the Demised Premises for Commercial Uses allowed by Local and State Laws…

7. Personal Property Taxes. Tenant will pay all personal property taxes levied or assessed in respect of the personal property and trade fixtures on the Demised Premises belonging to or used by the Tenant.

8. Real Estate Taxes. Tenant shall pay all real estate taxes assessed against the Demised Premises.

9. Insurance by Landlord. Tenant shall, at his expense, maintain extended fire insurance protection for the Demised Premises.

10. Insurance by Tenant. Tenant shall maintain, at his/her expense, insurance protection for his/her own personal property and his/her leasehold improvements…

11. Utilities - Refuse. Tenant shall, at his/her expense, provide for reasonable electricity used or consumed in/at the Demised Premises…

12. Verification of Expenses. N/A

13. Assignment - Sublease. Tenant shall have the right to sublet the Demised Premises or any part thereof to any person with Landlord’s express written consent, which shall not be unreasonably withheld or delayed…

14. Signs. Tenant may not place any signs on the building or in or on windows or doors without Landlord’s express written consent…

15. Alterations and Improvements. Tenant will not make any interior or exterior improvements, modifications or alterations to the Demised Premises without the prior written approval of the Landlord…

16. Trade Fixtures. All trade fixtures including shelving, light fixtures, and other equipment installed by and at the expense of Tenant shall remain the property of Tenant…

17. Repairs and Maintenance. Tenant shall repair, renovate and maintain at its expense the Demised Premises including interior non-structural portions thereof and plate glass in as good order…

18. Indemnity - Security. Tenant agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Landlord from and against all claims and demands of whatever nature arising from or caused by any act, omission or negligence of Tenant or of Tenant’s contracts, licensees, invitees, guests, agents, servants or employees…

19. Maintenance of Common Areas - Contribution. Landlord shall cause all common areas in the building of which the Demised Premises are a part, including the walkways and parking lot and to be maintained in good repair and condition…

20. Access. Landlord shall have access to the Demised Premises during reasonable hours for the purpose of insuring compliance with this Lease…

21. Requirements of Law - Insurance Rates. Tenant shall comply with all laws, orders, ordinances and regulations of Federal, State, County and Municipal authorities and with any direction of any public officer or officials pursuant to law, which shall impose any duty, obligations or limitation upon Tenant with respect to the Demised Premises or the use thereof…

22. Insurance. Insofar as and to the extent that the following provision may be effective without invalidating or making it impossible to secure insurance coverage obtainable from responsible insurance companies doing business in Maine, the Landlord and Tenant mutually agree that with respect to any loss which is covered by insurance then being carried by them respectively…

23. Fire Clause. If the Demised Premises or the building in which the Demised Premises are located during the terms of this lease be so destroyed or damaged by fire or other unavoidable casualty as to render the Demised Premises or any portions thereof unfit for occupancy, then the rent herein before reserved…

24. Condemnation. If any portion of the Demised Premises shall be condemned for any public use by any legally constituted authority, then is such event as to said portion of the Demised Premises, this Lease shall terminate from the time when possession it take of such public authority and the rents herein reserved from said portion of the Demised Premises shall be abated as of the date of the surrender of possession is taken by such public authority….

25. Default and Landlord’s Remedies. It is covenanted and agreed that if the Tenant shall neglect or fail to perform or observe any of the covenants, terms, provisions or conditions contained in the Lease on his part to be performed or observed, or if the estate hereby created shall be taken on execution or by other process of law, or if the Tenant shall be declared bankrupt or insolvent according to law…

26. Subordination. This Lease is and shall be subordinate to the lien of any mortgage or mortgages, which are now or may hereafter be placed on the premises of which the Demised Premises are a part…

27. Waiver. Failure of Landlord to complain of any act or omission on the part of the other, no matter how long the same may continue, shall not be deemed to be a waiver by Landlord of any of his rights hereunder…

28. Quiet Enjoyment. So long as Tenant pays the rent and performs the covenants required of if hereunder, Tenant may peacefully hold and enjoy the premises during the term…

29. General. This Lease shall inure to and be binding upon the respective successors, heirs, executors, administrators and assigns of the Landlord and Tenant. This Lease is made in and shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine…

30. Notices. Whenever by the terms of this Lease, notice shall or may be given either to the Landlord or to the Tenant, such notice shall be in writing and shall be sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid to Landlord’s and Tenant’s addresses as set forth above…

31. Late Fee. All rent payments received after the 10th of each month will be subject to a 5% late fee of the total rent.

32. Addendum. See addendum “A” for additional agreements.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, Landlord and Tenant have caused this lease to be executed in, duplicate under seal the day and year first above written.

SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED, This 28th day of July 2023. Landlord and Tenant signatures…

Tenants today should consider engaging a Commercial Real Estate Agent Broker assist them with the leasing process including market conditions so expectations can be met.

And in most cases, a Real Estate Attorney should also be engaged to review and negotiate some of the terms of the lease agreement depending on the size, scope, and complexity of the lease. <

Larry Eliason, Commercial Broker may be reached by cell: 207-415-2112 or via email:

Friday, July 21, 2023

Real Estate: Seven ways to use essential oils in your home

 Submitted by Richie Vraux

There are a ton of reasons to incorporate essential oils into your family's daily lives. Not only can they infuse every room with uplifting scents, but many also have medicinal and anti-bacterial properties. This makes them perfect for treating common ailments and cleaning your home without dangerous chemicals.

When you're first getting started with using essential oils, it can feel a bit intimidating. However, once you understand the ways to use them around your home, you'll see just how easy it is. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

1. Freshen the Air
Make a homemade air freshener spray by combining half a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol, 10 to 20 drops of your favorite oil, and water. Use a dark-colored glass spray bottle to help keep the oils from breaking down or oxidizing.

Orange, grapefruit, and lemon are popular scents to use in the kitchen and bathroom. If you like a stronger smell, try using peppermint, rosemary, or eucalyptus.

2. Deter Bugs and Rodents
If you don't feel great about using pesticides or poisons in your home, you're in luck. Peppermint essential oil deters ants, spiders, mosquitoes, and even mice. Dab some on your skin, clothing, and furniture to keep pests away. You can also soak cotton balls with the oil and leave them in the areas in your home where these unwelcome guests are likely to enter.

3. Wash Fruits and Veggies
Most fruits and vegetables are covered in harmful pesticides and germs from all the hands that have touched them before reaching your kitchen. Plain water isn't effective, and store-bought veggie washes are expensive. Instead, make your own by mixing apple cider vinegar, baking soda, water, and ten drops of lemon essential oil. Store the mix in a glass spray bottle for convenient use.

4. Make Bath Time More Relaxing
Adding essential oils to your bath is one of the best ways to relax and unwind after a long day. Start by filling your tub with warm water, then add a mixture of either a few tablespoons of olive oil or two cups of unscented Epsom salts with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Some of the best oils for bath time include jasmine, sandalwood, rose, or lavender.

5. Clean and Disinfect
The anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties of essential oils make them perfect for including in homemade cleaners. Try mixing lemon, sweet orange, lavender, melaleuca, or tea tree oils with diluted castile soap. For a stronger cleaner, combine 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 30 drops of essential oil like wild orange, eucalyptus, a mix of grapefruit and lavender, or a protective blend like Thieves.

6. Natural Headache Relief
Essential oils also help ease headaches. Mix almond oil with a drop or two of chamomile, frankincense, rosemary, or lavender essential oil. Rub the blend on your temples, back of your neck, and pulse points. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and watch your headache pain disappear.

7. Get a Better Night's Sleep
Lavender is known for its relaxing properties, making it the perfect oil to diffuse right before bedtime. You can also mix it in a spray bottle with water and spray a fine mist on your bedsheets or pillowcases. Some users also like to soak a cotton ball with a few drops of lavender oil and keep it in their pajama drawer.

This is just the beginning of the incredible things you can do with essential oils. Don't be afraid to experiment with more fun projects like making your own hand lotions, dryer sheets, candles, and more. Once you start to get comfortable, the possibilities are virtually endless! <
Richie Vraux is a Realtor/ Broker with Better Homes and Gardens-The Masiello Group 76 Tandberg Trail, Windham. Call Richie for a free written evaluation at 207-317 1297 or by email at

Friday, July 14, 2023

Real Estate: Average vs Median Pricing

By Lisa DiBiase

What is happening to the local Greater Portland real estate market? This actually can be a challenge, especially as numbers and reports are published frequently, and in so many different places.

This is especially true when it comes to getting your arms around pricing and value. There is a big difference in “average” price vs “median” price when it comes to looking at what has sold recently. In many cases not spending time to dig through the details can lead to bad interpretations of the market.

For most buyers, price by itself is not the only key factor when a purchase is being considered. This is because most buyers compare the features and benefits of other properties and do not simply make their purchase decision based solely on a property's price. In essence when a purchase situation arises, price is one of several variables that buyers evaluate when they mentally assess a property's overall value.

As a reminder, the median is the midpoint, which is something completely different from the average. A rise in the median does not necessarily indicate an overall increase in prices across the board. Rather, it is reflective of more activity at higher price ranges than had been experienced in the recent past - just as a lower price would be indicative of the opposite.

Considering our low inventory of properties for sale, sellers who are thinking of listing their homes are positioned to sell quickly. A sense of urgency has driven traditional buyers hoping to take advantage of still-affordable home prices and still relatively low mortgage rates. Buyers found selection limited and were often forced into bidding wars with investors and other buyers. Sellers are reaping the rewards in terms of quick sales, mostly above the asking price.

In this type of environment, it is important for sellers not to infer home value from overall changes in market price. Rather, they need to focus on what is happening in their particular marketplace, and to ensure that they can provide value to prospective buyers if they do indeed want to get their homes sold. In the broadest of senses, pricing should be viewed as a marketing tool aimed at attracting the widest range of potential buyers.

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. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact Lisa at 207-653-0823 or email

Friday, July 7, 2023

Real Estate: Summer safety tips from Farmers Insurance and The American Red Cross

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

What’s your plan for this summer? Enjoying the water? Going camping? Firing up the grill? Whatever you prefer, we have safety steps to follow. And don’t forget your furry friends. There are steps you can take to help keep them safe too.
Preventing unsupervised access to water, providing constant, active adult supervision and knowing how to swim are critical layers of protection to help prevent drowning.
Classes to learn how to swim are available for both children and adults. Check the internet for Learn-to-Swim providers in your community. Everyone should learn first aid and CPR too, so they know what to do in an emergency.
Download the Red Cross Swim app, sponsored by The ZAC Foundation, for safety tips, kid-friendly videos and activities, and take the free Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers online course in English or in Spanish.
It’s best to swim in a lifeguarded area. Always designate a “water watcher” whose sole responsibility is to keep a close eye and constant attention on everyone in and around the water until the next water watcher takes over.
Drowning behavior is typically fast and silent. Unless rescued, a drowning person will last only 20 to 60 seconds before submerging. Reach or throw, don't go! In the event of an emergency, reach or throw an object to the person in trouble. Don't go in or you could become a victim yourself.
It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. For additional information about staying safe while swimming in larger bodies of water like oceans or lakes, review our beach safety tips below.

Learn how to reduce the risks so your family can enjoy swimming in open water, such as the ocean and
large lakes:
Watch the weather and get out of the water at the first sign of lightning or the rumble of thunder. Stay indoors and away from water for 30 minutes after the last lightning flashes or thunder roars.
Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.
As when swimming or relaxing in a pool or hot tub, always designate a “water watcher” whose sole responsibility is to keep a close eye and constant attention on everyone in and around the water until the next water watcher takes over.
Children, inexperienced swimmers, and all boaters should wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
Protect your neck – don’t dive in headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters. Watch out for and avoid aquatic life.
If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Then, turn and swim to shore. If you can't swim to shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore. Draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.

If a camping trip is in your plans, know the level of ability of the people in your group and the environment around you. Plan accordingly.
Pack a first aid kit to handle insect stings, sprains, cuts and bruises and other injuries that could happen to someone in your group. Take a Red Cross First Aid and CPR course and download a First Aid app so that you will know what to do in case help is delayed. You’ll learn how to treat severe wounds, broken bones, bites and stings and more.
Sprains and falls are some of the most common misfortunes travelers may face. Falls are the biggest threat, many due to poor decision-making, lack of skill or not being properly prepared. Dehydration is also a danger. Plan ahead for these dangers.
Share your travel plans and locations with a family member, neighbor, or friend.
Bring nutritious food items and water, light-weight clothing to layer and supplies for any pets. 

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, June 30, 2023

Real Estate: The 7 Best Decluttering Lessons to Learn from People Who Are Moving

By Carrie Colby

Ever watched in awe as a friend set aside endless bags of clothing to donate in preparation for a crosstown move? You don’t have to wait until the stressful days before a big move to feel that same freedom. Here, seven ways to emulate the decluttering ways of movers, without having to book a moving truck:

1. Start with the small stuff.

Items like takeout containers, sauce packets, old magazines, expired toiletries, and plastic/reusable bags are taking up a lot of space and are most likely giving you very little satisfaction. So why not start your purge here? These items aren’t typically laden with sentimental weight and toss-out decisions come more easily. And when it is time to move out won’t you be happier not having to sort through items like this?

2. Be brutally honest.
Go through your belongings as if you really were moving. Ask yourself a couple questions for each item: Would you buy it again? Do you totally love it? Do you use it often to justify using the space it takes up? If you say yes to at least one of these questions, keep. Everything else you won’t miss.

3. Graduate to the bigger items taking up space.
Once you’ve cleared out the little things, you’ve got the hand of the move-out-but-not-really-move-out declutter game. Take linens, for example. Do you really only need one extra set of linens per bed so clear out your linen closet of any extra sets or single pieces whether they are fitted sheets, top sheets or pillowcases. Another example is cords and chargers. Take a hard look at what you actually use in your home and get rid of the stray cords and older pieces. Some local charities might accept the donated cords that are still useful, too.

4. All hail the label maker.
If you do decide to keep certain things that you just can’t part with but don’t use every day pack boxes as if you’re going to be moving. Use the top and sides of boxes to write down what’s inside each box and from what room the belongings came from. Keep the ones you still want at the front of your storage unit, basement, or wherever you have space, so you’ll know right where an item is if you suddenly need it.

5. Appreciate the power of the empty-out.
When you move you empty closets, so why not try it when you’re not even considering leaving your

current home? Turns out, by completely emptying everything out of a particularly packed closet and sorting items by color and type, you’ll make some incredible discoveries. You’ll probably find you have multiple black or white shirts due to the fact that some were buried, Choose one or two of each and put the others into a donate or sell pile.

Also base the number of basics you actually need on how frequently you do laundry: If it’s every five to seven days or so, then that’s the number of jeans or everyday pants you really need. Keep your five to seven favorites, give the rest a hard look, and donate or sell what you can live without.

6. Dedicate an area as the declutter zone.
Find an area of your home or a corner of a room to stash any items that you will be getting rid of. Each item should be categorized as either “donate,” “sell” or “trash.” Once a bag is full, make sure to close it so that you are not tempted to go back through and second-guess your decision. Remember you decided to get rid of the item for a reason.

7. Set deadlines.
Now that you’ve organized your castoffs, set a donation date every month so that you’re guaranteed to get unwanted items out. Always schedule a donation pick-up appointment or carve time out of your schedule so you’re sure to drop off items at a local donation center. After all, you may not be moving anytime soon, but that’s no reason to hop off that clear path to decluttering! <

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

Friday, June 23, 2023

Home Works: To Bidet or not to Bidet

By Warren O’Shea

It used to be that only the Europeans and the rich and famous had the luxury of having their backsides cleaned by jets of water. But no more! Thanks to manufacturing wizardry, a bidet “lid” can be added to your existing toilet with only two bolts. Due to the design, they work best with elongated toilets, although round ones are available at a higher cost. They can be plugged into a standard, ground fault protected wall outlet and connected to your existing toilet water supply. Prior to the bidet lids and before there were full bidet toilets, the homeowner would need to have two separate fixtures, a toilet and a bidet. 

Warren O'Shea
When it was time to do one’s “business,” number two would go in the toilet and then the user would have one of two options: move over to the bidet and its warm, cleaning water jets, or do the standard “reach back with the paper” method in which we are all familiar on the toilet. On top of the inconvenience of waddling over to the cleaning station, the separate fixture would have to be plumbed in with its own drain, vent, and water supply. As you can imagine, having two separate porcelain thrones in a bathroom will not only occupy a considerable amount of valuable real estate but add a significant expense to a new or remodeled bathroom. This is where the subject of this discussion really shines.

The bidet lid is very economical to buy and install. If you find that it's not for you, just disconnect and go back to the old method, but please don't list the lid on Marketplace (everyone thanks you in advance). You’ll also use a lot less toilet paper, like, a lot less toilet paper. My kids used to wrap their wiping hand so much with toilet paper that it looked like they were prepping to go three rounds in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson. Now, back to the lids…

Prices for these marvels of engineering vary from as little as $20 to $500 and more, depending on the model. 

The more expensive models will have:
Nightlights - Ours is a cool light blue color that is great for late night visits. We don't get blinded by having to turn the main bathroom light on thus preserving our night vision. It is also easier to fall back asleep when you haven't been shocked awake with bright light.
Fan dryers - We have this option on ours but generally don't use it. It's a feature that if given the option, would have opted for the heated fan drier. The air movement through the unit can smell stale if not used frequently enough. This is where a deodorizer or charcoal filter would definitely help.
Replaceable deodorizer - I must advise against using a fragrance that is akin to something that could be consumed. If your toilet deodorizer smells like coconut, a Pina Colada may not be your favorite drink anymore.

Programmable user settings - Who wouldn't love a customized can cleaner! Get the water temp set, washing method, pattern, duration. I’d tell you what my personalized settings are but I think everyone needs to have their secrets. I also don't want to influence what settings work best for you. Worst case scenario is somehow my name gets attached to your favorite wash setting. While I would be quite honored, I wouldn't want my business to be your business in that way.

Generally, the standard options are for seat and water temperature, and mode of spray. At first, you'll have to get used to the warm seat, knowing that you weren't the batter up for the toilet. But it’s a fantastic feature, especially on cold winter mornings. The water can be set to your ideal temperature and there are many spray patterns to choose from. Just like watering the lawn, there’s the woosh-woosh and the chick-chick-pffft-pffft-pffft sprinklers, and the jet. The jet is self-explanatory, but if you've ever tried to use the hose to blast away dandelions from the cracks in the driveway, it's kind of like that. 

Ultimately, once you get past the initial breaking in period, (you, not the bidet) it's an appliance you won’t regret installing. One of my family was so enamored with mine that she named it Javier, stating “Anything that's able to do what this thing does needs a name.” As a remodeling contractor, I've seen requests for the bidet lid increase so much that we have added it, and a dedicated GFCI outlet, as a line item in our bathroom remodel spreadsheet. I’d like to think that the increase in install requests has been because of my rave reviews to prospective clients but it’s really Javier that deserves all the credit. <

Warren O’Shea has 25-plus years of residential remodeling experience, 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,” is a staunch construction consumer advocate, and has co-authored articles for nationally distributed trade magazines.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Real Estate: Protecting Your Home During Warmer Weather

By Nicole Foster, Broker/ REALTOR

Moisture can be one of the most damaging problems for a home and when left untreated can result in costly repairs and unhealthy living conditions. The spring and summer months are a good time to check for improvements and repairs that should be done to address issues including water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding. Addressing these conditions can help to prevent mold growth in your home. As part of your annual home maintenance routine, you should visually inspect for evidence of water damage and look for signs of visible mold.

Mold spores can enter your home through open doorways, windows or heating or cooling systems with outdoor ventilation. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to clothing, people, animals or shoes and travel indoors and are almost impossible to avoid. Many of the materials found inside your home provide a surface for mold to grow including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood and wood products, insulation, drywall, carpet and upholstery. When the spores are dropped in areas with excessive moisture they will grow.

Many of the tasks that we do each day create moisture and disburse it into the air including cooking, drying clothes by using a gas or electric dryer as well as indoor line drying of clothes, showering and more. Make sure you are using the necessary ventilation by running bathroom fans for 20 minutes after showering, using a range hood fan when cooking and opening windows whenever possible to help your home breathe. Clean out your dryer vent by removing the cover and vacuuming out as much as possible, purchasing a cleaning kit with brushes or hiring a professional company to do a thorough cleaning. Check your dryer venting to make sure there are no loose fittings or blockage which can cause moisture to build inside your home when using it. Check for indoor plumbing leaks which may have developed underneath the bathroom and kitchen sinks or laundry area that could be contributing to overall indoor moisture, as well.

Keep humidity levels in your home below 50 percent to reduce the growth of dust mites, molds, bacteria, and other organisms by using an air conditioner and dehumidifier during the humid months. Once the outdoor temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit homeowners are advised to use a dehumidifier in the space below grade, in the basement, as needed or continuously. Be sure your home is well ventilated and confirm that the venting located in the kitchen and bathrooms are directed to the outdoors and not into the attic space. Add mold inhibitors to interior paint for specific areas and mold killing products may be used to clean bathrooms or a mixture of no more than 1 cup bleach to one gallon water.

Help to keep your home and yard looking fresh by using a pressure washer to remove staining and discoloration from mildew, bird droppings, pollen and other grime which accumulates over time on outdoor surfaces like exterior siding, decking, driveway, and walkways.

Walking across the street or finding a good distance where you can view your roof can help you to inspect for missing shingles which may have blown off or come loose. Look for shingles that are curling or lifting around the edges and corners or are broken off. Even one missing shingle can be a source for eventual water intrusion and damage. A roof with dark streaks from algae, moss, mold or mildew growth can appear unsightly and compromise the life span of your shingles. It is easy to remove the growth using equal parts bleach and water (pressure washers can damage shingles so are not recommended) but you will need to pre and post rinse any plants around your foundation to prevent damage. There are products you can purchase specifically designed for this purpose as well.

Branches from nearby trees that are close enough to your house to drop leaves or pine needles onto your roof should be cut back. Removing select trees can help to allow a greater passage of sunlight on and in your home and yard. Add storm doors, water diverters and / or rain gutters as necessary to direct water away from the home. Exterior paint is what protects wooden surfaces from rotting. Areas with flaking or peeling paint should be sanded and fresh paint applied to prevent further damage. <

Nicole Foster is a Windham parent and real estate broker with 18 years of experience. Contact her at or by calling 207-615-7558.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Real Estate: Understanding appraisals and addressing market discrepancies

By Tia Morrell

In the ever-evolving landscape of the real estate market, accurate property valuation plays a pivotal role in ensuring fair transactions for buyers, sellers, and lenders alike. Central to this process are real estate appraisals, which serve as a bridge between property owners and the market, providing a comprehensive assessment of a property's worth. However, despite their importance, appraisals can sometimes expose gaps between perceived and actual property values, thereby impacting the real estate market at large.

Real estate appraisals are conducted by licensed professionals who evaluate properties based on a variety of factors such as location, size, condition, amenities, comparable sales, and market trends. These experts provide an unbiased and independent opinion of a property's value, acting as a safeguard against overpricing or undervaluation. Appraisals are an integral part of the mortgage lending process, as lenders require an accurate valuation to determine the loan amount that can be extended to a borrower.

One significant challenge in real estate appraisals is bridging the gap between a property owner's emotional attachment and the objective market value. Homeowners often have a sentimental connection to their property, which may lead to an inflated perception of its worth. Appraisers, however, employ their expertise and industry knowledge to ensure an impartial and fair evaluation, considering both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence a property's value. By providing an independent perspective, appraisals help mitigate the risk of overpaying or selling below market value.

Another common gap that appraisals aim to address is the disparity between sellers and buyers in negotiating property prices. In a competitive market, sellers may attempt to maximize their profits by setting a higher asking price. Conversely, buyers may seek to secure a bargain by undervaluing the property. Appraisals act as a neutral arbiter in such scenarios, providing a reliable estimate that can guide negotiations towards a more equitable agreement. By providing a professional opinion based on market analysis and comparable sales, appraisals help ensure a fair and transparent transaction process.

However, despite the best efforts of appraisers, gaps can still emerge due to market fluctuations and subjective factors. Rapidly changing market conditions, such as shifts in demand and supply, can lead to discrepancies between appraised values and actual sale prices. This can be particularly challenging in volatile markets, where property values may fluctuate significantly over short periods. Additionally, the unique characteristics of each property, such as architectural design, historical significance, or exceptional views, can introduce subjectivity into the appraisal process. These subjective elements can contribute to valuation gaps and require appraisers to exercise their professional judgment diligently.

To bridge the gap between appraisals and market realities, industry professionals continuously refine their methodologies and embrace technological advancements. The utilization of advanced data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can enhance the accuracy of appraisals by providing a more comprehensive analysis of market trends and property characteristics. These innovative tools can help identify emerging market gaps, predict future property values, and reduce the potential for valuation disparities.

In conclusion, real estate appraisals are essential for maintaining fairness and stability in the real estate market. By acting as an impartial evaluator, appraisals bridge the gap between the subjective perceptions of property owners and the objective realities of the market. While challenges persist, ongoing advancements in technology and the commitment of appraisers to refine their methodologies aim to minimize gaps and ensure accurate property valuations. Ultimately, an informed and reliable appraisal process empowers buyers, sellers, and lenders to make well-informed decisions, fostering a healthy and transparent process.

Finding a REALTOR® who understands the appraisal process in this market is extremely valuable, as there are plenty of strategies that can be applied within the appraisal process to have a competitive offer when purchasing a home. <

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Real Estate: How to limit your risk of lightning damage to your home

By Tricia Zwirner

Electricity means much more than an ever-growing variety of conveniences. The dangers lightning and electrical surges present are very real, in fact, electricity is the 3rd highest cause of home fires every year. For example, a sudden electrical surge could silently damage many of your appliances or an arc fault could spark an electrical fire.

Lightning is the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazard that most people experience each year, according to the National Severe Storm Laboratory. So, take time to review some steps you can take to help protect yourself and your property.

Where do electrical surges come from?

An electrical surge is a sudden increase in voltage that can damage your home's electrical components. A surge can happen when:
Your electric utility switches power from one area of the grid to another.
Air conditioning units, furnaces, refrigerators or vacuum cleaners turn on or off.
Electric utility lines touch one another.
Nearby lightning strikes occur.

Surges can travel down power, telephone and cable TV lines. When there is a surge, unprotected electronics and appliances can be damaged. The damage builds up over time, until the appliance components fail. Properly installed Surge Protection Devices (SPDs), combined with a good grounding system, should help protect your electronics and appliances from all but the most severe electrical surges. An SPD diverts the surge to the ground around your home, where the surge dissipates. That's why a good grounding system is important for surge protection.

A step-by-step electrical surge protection plan

Step 1: Consider asking a qualified electrician to check your home's grounding system to help ensure it's in working order.
Step 2: Plug your electronics and appliances into point-of-use SPDs. Use single-port SPDs for appliances that only have a power cord and multi-port SPDs for appliances that have antenna, cable, telephone and power cords.
Step 3: Consider installing a whole-house surge protection system to absorb larger surges that come from outside your home. This device can be installed on the electrical meter by the utility company, or next to the electric service panel by an electrician.

What is a home lightning protection system?

When lightning strikes, the resulting electrical surge can travel through utility transmission lines to nearby homes. If your home has a lightning protection system, a surge caused by lightning may more often be safely deflected into the ground. A lightning protection system is not intended to prevent a strike. Its purpose is to provide a safe path on which the current can be safely directed to the ground.

What does a lightning protection system look like?

Air terminals: Also referred to as lightning rods, these inconspicuous copper or aluminum rods are vertically mounted on the roof at regular intervals. The air terminals serve as strike receptors, designed to intercept the lightning strike.
Main conductors: Constructed of aluminum or copper, these braided cables connect the air terminals to the other system components and the grounds.
Grounds: A minimum of two ground rods, driven at least 10 feet deep in the earth are required for all structures. The ground terminations direct the dangerous current into the ground, to eliminate the chance of injury or damage to the structure.
Bonds: Bonding joins metallic bodies (roof components) and grounded building systems to the main conductor to ensure conductivity and prevent side flashing (lightning jumping between two objects).
Surge arresters and suppressors: A surge is an increase in electrical current due to a lightning strike on or near a power line or utility service. Surge suppression is installed at the electrical panel(s) to prevent the entrance of overvoltages which can cause a fire. Arresters installed at electrical panels help protect heavy appliances and prevent fires at service panel entrances. Additional devices may be needed to protect other in-house electronics. Surge protection devices are typically installed in conjunction with a lightning protection system.

These systems should be designed and installed by a qualified electrician or specially trained contractor.

For additional information on how to protect your family and home, or for a list of certified professionals, please contact the Lightning Protection Institute or Underwriter Laboratories.

What should you do when lightning is nearby?

Seek shelter immediately. An enclosed building offers the best protection. If there are no sturdy buildings nearby, get into a vehicle and close the windows.
If you cannot find any shelter, go to a low-lying area, crouch down with your feet together and hands on your knees, and wait until the storm has passed.
Keep away from utility poles, towers, isolated trees or bodies of water.
Don't use a corded phone except in an emergency. Cordless and cell phones are safe to use.
Keep away from electrical appliances, TVs, fireplaces, metal objects, windows or doors.
If someone has been struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 or your local ambulance service. Give first aid if you are qualified. Lightning victims are safe to touch and need medical attention immediately. <

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