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