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

Friday, May 26, 2023

Real Estate: How to make your AirBnB /VRBO shine above the rest

By Theresa Bouchard

Theresa Bouchard is the 
owner/designer of
TS Staging And Design.
AirBnb and VRBO are hot in today’s vacationing market! People want to get away from their everyday lives for rest and relaxation and to gain a new and exciting experience! How can AirBnB and VRBO owners provide this to their vacationers! Here are some tips on how to make your rental property shine and gain positive reviews to create an attraction whether seasonal or all year round!

o Easy access to the property and how to leave it when checking out.

o Cleanliness. The property is CLEAN and tidy!

o Kitchen and Bathroom Amenities are very important to guests.

o Complementary coffee, tea, and hot cocoa (and a variety of sweeteners)

o Adequate dishware, glassware, and pots and pans. Basically, anything that you would use in your everyday kitchen.

o A lobster pot and tools should guests want to truly experience Maine.

o Complementary toiletries such as toothpaste, extra toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and the list goes on! Ask yourself, “what amenities would I like while I am on vacation?”

o Clean and COMFORTABLE beds. Don’t skimp on the beds as a good night’s sleep is what vacationers are looking for. A cheap, uncomfortable bed can be a deal breaker for return guests, reviews and referrals.

o Clean and comfortable linens. While vacationing, I want to crawl into a cozy bed with sheets of comfort and fluffy, soft blankets and comforters. Additionally, having soft, large bath towels makes all the difference for showering. And always have extra of everything on hand.

o Living space should be comfortable and accommodate the number of guests the property allows. A TV with access to local channels, Netflix and Hulu are always appreciated.

o Internet access. It is important to have your internet access information easily accessible for your guests. Another nice touch is to have a charging station available to accommodate all types of phones.

o Games. Both indoor games and outdoor games (depending on the season) will thrill your guests as this gives them something to do while waiting for the others to get ready before they leave to explore areas of Maine.

o Outdoor area to lounge and relax during those summer months. If you have room on your property for a firepit, that is a huge bonus. Who doesn’t love a good fire with drinks, good conversation and family and friends.

o Information. Provide your guests with information about the local area, hot spots of Maine and where to get a good lobster roll! Providing information on restaurants, beaches, events, etc., creates an ease for your guests so they don’t have to figure out what are best places to go!

o Rules. A guest handbook is a great way to communicate the rules to your guests. Do they need to use certain trash bags, where do they put the trash, is there a noise curfew, etc. Having rules creates an expectation for both guest and property owners which leaves no guessing for either party.

o Décor. Your rental property should stand out above the rest! How? Don’t have mediocre décor in the rental property. Instead, have different conversation pieces that people can talk about. Create a theme. My AirBnB is called Theresa’s Maine Adventure and is everything Maine. Each room is themed with the Ocean, Lake/Camp room and a birch tree room. The reviews from my guests always mention the décor and the theme I created. My guests love it.

Incorporating these suggestions will serve you well as a property owner from a return-on-investment perspective and also ensure people have the best time possible during their stay in Maine.

If you would like assistance on how to enhance your existing rental property or are interested in creating an AirBnB or VRBO, TS Staging and Design would be happy to assist.

As the owner and designer at TS Staging and Design, along with my team of talented designers, we can turn your rental property into a reoccurring vacation spot for your guests and attract even more vacationers! < 

Theresa Bouchard is the Owner/Designer of TS Staging and Design. Call her at 207-400-9393.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Real Estate: Very strong real estate market continues

By Matthew Trudel

Many people were saying the market was slowing down late last year and that interest rates would cripple the market. I was not one of those people and have always felt the market tends to slow down a little over the winter because of the snow and holiday seasons. However, once the snow starts to melt and temperatures start heating up, so does the real estate market. This year was no different and the market is in full swing and not slowing down at all.

One reason we are still seeing multiple offers and most of the offers well over the asking price is the lack of inventory.

As of right now while writing this article, there are only four homes active on the market in Windham under $500,000. Although there are two more that will hit the market later this week, that is still a very limited inventory.

These types of inventory levels across Cumberland County are making it very difficult for buyers to purchase a home. This creates higher prices because of the demand, even with the interest rates up around 6 percent.

I know of one property that hit the market and after just two days on the market had over a dozen offers come in. Each one of those offers were submitted for more than the asking price and many were around $50,000 over the asking price. Several of the offers waived inspections, several waived the financing condition, and several were very creative in the way the offer was presented. All of the buyers were trying to put their best foot forward in hopes of being selected as the buyer that the seller wants to work with.

While I cannot share with you details about who the seller selected, I can share that it was not the highest offer that was chosen.

Why would a seller accept less money for their house? There are a lot of reasons that the sellers make those types of decisions and as a buyer, you want to try to use as many of those tricks as you can so that your offer stands out among the rest.

You can ask any reputable builder in the area, and they are all booked out until late in the fall and many are booked out until next summer. I share this with you because new construction is a great indicator for the real estate market and the demand for new construction remains very high.

The inventory of new construction homes for sale is very low and most are under contract long before the home is even close to being completed. So, what should a buyer in today’s market do to improve their chances of putting a home under contract and finally being able to call a property home?

Each buyer’s situation is very different and unique to their own circumstances. There is not a one-shoe-fits-all when it comes to writing offers. Working with an experienced realtor as your buyer agent is almost always a must in a market like this one. Having a mortgage broker that knows the business well is important if you are using financing. It is also important that all three of you work well together as a team and hopefully spend some time going over different scenarios that may arise.

Also, you can all have input together when it comes to being creative in preparing an offer and presenting it. All of this should be discussed ahead of time so everyone is on the same page and things will move much more smoothly when your offer gets accepted.

Lastly, I would suggest trying to stay positive and open to new ideas. I know it is difficult trying to find a home, putting in offers and not having them selected over and over again. Don’t give up. When the right home comes along, it will work out for you if it is meant to be. Good luck out there! <

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

Windham’s Myer earns ‘REALTOR® of the Year’ honors

Yvonne Myer, a broker and the designee/owner of the Windham branch of Maine Real Estate Experts, has been honored as REALTOR® of the Year by the Greater Portland Board of REALTORS®.

She has been selling real estate since 1999 and prior to becoming a REALTOR®, Myer owned and operated the Depot Market Convenience Store in Readfield for 12 years.

Yvonne Myer of Maine Real Estate Experts in
Windham has been honored by the Greater
Portland Board of REALTORS® as this year's
A native New Yorker, Yvonne’s family moved to Maine in 1978. She graduated from Maranacook Community School and attended Boston University where she was a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. Yvonne is married to Wes Myer, a custom home builder; they reside in Windham. Together they have four grown daughters.

Yvonne is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, and has earned her CRS, Certified Residential Specialist designation, administered by the Residential Real Estate Council. She is a current member of The Maine Association of REALTORS®, the Greater Portland Board of REALTORS® and secondary member of the Kennebec Valley Board of REALTORS® and the Maine Commercial Board of REALTORS®.

She is a member of the WCR- National Women's Council of REALTORS® and a member of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. She also holds a Real Estate license in Florida and is a member of the REALTORS® Association of Lake and Sumter Counties.

Myer actively participates in her community working during elections. She started in November 2012 as a Ballot Clerk and then, in November 2019 she was elected Warden of Elections and has been a Warden for every election since and continues to serve.

She has been a Director for the Maine Association of REALTORS® for multiple years, 2006-2007, 2017-2022 and also served on the MAR Convention Education Task Force in 2019. She has served as a director for the Greater Portland Board of REALTORS® in 2018, Treasurer from 2019-2022, as well as serving on the Consumer Outreach Committee in 2018 and Co-Chair of the Consumer Outreach Committee in 2019. Yvonne previously served on the Kennebec Valley Board of REALTORS® as a Director in 2005 and was Secretary in 2006 and Vice President in 2007.

A past member of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber’s Membership Committee, Yvonne was a volunteer advocate for children with special needs with the Disability Rights Commission, a past member of National Federation of Independent Business, a past member of the Augusta Rotary Club and past President of the Maine Alumnae Panhellenic Chapter of the National Panhellenic Council.

Yvonne said she loves being a REALTOR® and looks forward to helping her clients achieve their Real Estate goals. She also enjoys working with her agents to motivate them and encourage further skill development, so they can also love what they do as much as she does. When she is not busy with Real Estate, she and her husband like to spend time with their family, travel, attend NASCAR races and ride motorcycles. <

Friday, May 12, 2023

Real Estate: Does your home have enough curb appeal for spring market?

By Richie Vraux

So, you made it through the winter and now you are planning to sell your home. Well, you will need to create a checklist. Take a slow walk around the inside and outside of your home. Let’s start with the outside. By now you have raked all your grass to liven up your soil and if your house is like mine, you have a gazillion fall leaves to rake up, and get rid of.

Fill your flower beds with fresh mulch and plant very colorful flowers. The mulch will give the flowers a fresh rich look. Trim back your bushes and shrubs, and if you have a pool, make sure it sparkles. If your home needs painting, get someone on it immediately, because these guys get real busy, and you might have to wait until September because those slots fill up fast.

Do a cognizant assessment of what looks good and what you may have to do to make it more attractive. Freshly cut grass, new mulch, and shrubbery that is groomed back effectively will boost the curb appeal of any home. You might want to replace those overgrown bushes with an array of green healthy plants and colorful perennials and annuals. Try surrounding bushes and trees with reddish-brown mulch and that will certainly give a rich feel and facelift to your yard. Place distinctive edging around your garden beds, pull out the weeds and invasive plants, and add a few colorful geraniums in pots to liven things up.

Curb appeal will either drive their interest to make them want to see your home, or not. Remember, you don't always get a second chance to make a first impression. Make sure all your windows are clean and your driveway is sealed. Keep all windows, including the garage, clean inside and out, sweep cobwebs from the house eaves, and spray down downspouts with a garden hose. Don’t forget to pay attention to your garage door to keep it a bright shade of white. For those who can’t spray off the dirt that has built up over the winter months, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate – available at local grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers – dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

Paint your front door. Pick a color that will stand out but will compliment your house color. Red is a color that denotes success. Also, maybe a bold door knocker. Make sure your walkway up to your front door is brightly illuminated. Nothing ever looks better than a nice lit-up entrance to show off the charming aspects of your home. Also consider adding a new mailbox, new metal house numbers, or a colorful address plaque that can make your house truly stand out from the competition.

If you have a patio or deck, make sure all your seating is inviting with a colorful umbrella, tables, and chairs. This is where you will spend a lot of time in the summer, so make it look casual, but tasteful. If you are lucky enough to have a pool, make sure that it is clean and you have efficient lighting surrounding it for safety reasons.

Another great tip is to make sure you have provisions to ward off flying bugs with a good bug repellent or bug zapper or tiki torches to keep insects at bay. There is nothing worse than having family and friends over and each of them looking like demented windmills flailing their arms to keep the bugs away. You will find they won't stay too long under those conditions. Summer is short enough, especially in Maine, so you want to have as much outdoor time as possible.

I think now you should be ready for those inside jobs you might have before listing it. Inventory is very low, and the market is still on fire, so if you are planning to sell this year, put it on the market as soon as it is ready. <

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, May 5, 2023

Real Estate: Commercial Leasing Today in Windham, Maine

By Larry Eliason

I previously wrote an article on Commercial Leasing Basics. In this article, I want to revisit some commercial leasing basics as well as talk about the current commercial leasing environment.

A commercial lease for any business can be a large expense and legally binding commitment for any business. Commercial leases are a lot different from residential leases as they have provisions that could seriously impact your business from an economic standpoint as well as you personally guaranteeing a lease.

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 and/or uses. You also want to make sure that you do not inherit some environmental consequences left behind by a prior tenant.

In many towns, Building and Life Safety Code review and interpretation will certainly be part of the discussion for occupancy. Sometimes it is just a change of occupancy and sometimes it is a change of use that could trigger additional work and costs. On many occasions, current septic system capacity or lack of capacity has killed leasing deals for prospective Tenants and Landlords.

Landlords as well as Tenants today should consider engaging a Commercial Real Estate Agent Broker to assist them with the leasing process so expectations can be met.

And in some 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.

The overall vacancy rate for commercial space in the Windham Marketplace appears to be very low. Not all Landlords and Brokers participate in Commercial Leasing data bases like the New England Commercial Property Exchange (NECPE). So, sometimes you end up driving around town looking at “For Lease” signs. Today, I can share generic information on a few recent Windham based deals.

The Windham Shopping Plaza did lose Olympia Sports after being a tenant for many years. The Furniture Gallery expanded their retail footprint by absorbing this space adjacent to their existing storefront. I believe that The Furniture Gallery owners recognized the trends and growth happening in Windham.

Shaw’s Plaza lost Fashion Bug, Day’s Jewelers, GNC and Dollar Tree years ago. The shopping center recently changed ownership and the former Fashion Bug location is now occupied by a Martial Arts School specializing in Brazilian Jujitsu. A couple of other small spaces have been filled by a Hair Salon and a Pool Hall. The end cap to the left of Staples is still vacant but is actively being marketed.

The Windham Mall was reported to be full last year after 25 years. There may be some small vacancies periodically as tenants move around but overall, a strong indicator that business at the Windham Mall is good!

A vacancy at 48 Tandberg Trail in Windham that is a well-appointed professional/medical arts space, was recently leased to a Day Spa. This is an existing business growing into larger space to accommodate its customers.

A vacant older commercial office building at 733 Roosevelt Trail was recently leased to a Chiropractor and that building is being refurbished now for occupancy later this month.

A private office in an adjacent building at 733 Roosevelt Trail was just leased to professionals that work remotely and needed flex space. Other recent office leases at this location include a Massage Therapist and an Occupational Therapist specializing in young children.

A 1,260-plus Square Foot Commercial Warehouse space at 91 Tandberg Trail has been leased to a Maine family-owned Sign Company. This space offered 3-phase power, prominent signage, and a convenient North Windham location.

A letter of intent has been signed for 3,100-plus Square Feet of professional office at 35 Main St. in South Windham. The space offers several office suites, open flex space, conference rooms and a large kitchenette.

There continues to be a lack of commercial warehouse/commercial garage bay space available. If space becomes available, it generally leases up quickly especially if the overhead doors and warehouse have necessary heights desired as well as other amenities.

The cost of land, the cost of new construction, the cost of permitting and impact fees and the cost of commercial money have been key factors in new buildings not being constructed for additional leasing capacity. Development costs can at times outway the return on investment needed.

Do you wonder why some spaces sit vacant for long periods of time? Well, timing and cycles in a market are, of course, factors. And landlords control the lease rates for their own spaces. Tenants look for location, amenities and look at infrastructure as well.

Windham has had a lack of infrastructure such as no public sewer, so we have had to rely on existing private septic systems or install new very expensive systems. The light is at the end of the tunnel so to speak with an investment in public sewer coming to the business sector of North Windham in about three years’ time.

If you are looking to list commercial space for lease or are considering leasing commercial space, please feel free to reach out to us at Butts Commercial Brokers. We have many years of Commercial Leasing experience in Windham and the surrounding communities. <

Larry Eliason, a Windham resident, is a Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers and can be reached at 207-415-2112 or by email at