Friday, September 29, 2023

Real Estate: Commercial Real Estate Due Diligence

By Larry Eliason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2023

Real Estate: Homeowner’s Guide to Fall Home Maintenance

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

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


Roof and Exterior

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

Fall and winter are also prime time for rodents to come indoors for warmth; seal up even the smallest holes and gaps in the foundation, attic or crawl spaces. Firewood should not be stored against the house because it can cause a beetle and/or termite infestation.


To keep gutters running well, check them monthly for twigs, leaves and other debris. Plan bigger cleanings — including running water down all the downspouts — both before autumn leaves fall and again after trees are bare, to be sure fall and winter rain and snowmelt can flow down and away from the house — instead of into the walls, which can cause rot and mold and invite insects. Clogged gutters, along with poorly ventilated roofs and under-insulated attics, are also a common culprit for damaging ice dams. Ice dams form when rooftop snow melts and refreezes, building up thick layers of ice that eventually push into joints and cracks in the roof and cause leaks.


Some experts note that grass will fare better if it is fertilized after the hottest days of summer are over, when the fertilizer can encourage blade growth and strengthen the root system for winter. Rake off all leaves and give the lawn a final mowing once it stops growing. (A local garden center can guide you on fertilizer formulas suited to your climate and lawn.)

Outdoor pipes and water sources

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


Doors, windows and other drafty spots

To keep houses warm without sending heating bills through the roof, and to save energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends sealing spots where cold air can sneak in, focusing on the attic, foundation and around windows and doors. Caulking, weather stripping and door draft guards can be inexpensive DIY fixes. For single-pane windows, adding plastic film or storm windows reduces heat escape and cold penetration. Replacing them with insulating double-paned windows is a more expensive option.


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

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

Complied by Carrie Colby

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

2. Declutter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 8, 2023

Real Estate: General Contractor, Driving, Bait Sales

By Warren O’Shea

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

Maine requires a license for which two?

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

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

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

Think again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.