Friday, December 22, 2023

Smart updates to selling your home

Submitted by Richie Vraux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Your Circuit Breaker and Water Shut-off Valve

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

Maintain Your HVAC System

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

Know When to Call a Contractor

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

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

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

Friday, December 15, 2023

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

By Lisa DiBiase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I have said before, please call a local Realtor® for all your real estate needs no matter how big or small. We are trained professionals here to make your life easier. It's best to surround yourself with the right team of professionals that can continuously give you the right advice for all your circumstances.<

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

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

Friday, December 8, 2023

A Guide to Safety at Christmas

Submitted by Jonathan Priest

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

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

Lighting: Safety Before Beau

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

You can mitigate these dangers in several ways:

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

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

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

Preventing Home Fires at the Holidays

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

Here’s how to be safer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2023

Winter home improvement projects for under $500

By Carrie Colby

Get a jumpstart on curb appeal

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

Seal openings and air leaks

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

Install programmable thermostat

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

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

Add a tile backsplash to kitchen/bathrooms

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

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

Refurbish Your Doors

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

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

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