Friday, July 19, 2024

Real Estate: Cooking up a kitchen remodel

By Warren O’Shea

Kitchen remodeling is a popular home improvement project homeowners undertake to enhance the functionality and aesthetics of their kitchens while increasing the value of their homes. People choose kitchen remodeling for a variety of reasons.

According to a 2022 Houzz study, 43 percent of respondents remodeled because they could "no longer stand the old kitchen.” while 40 percent said they wanted to update their kitchen all along but just became financially ready. It makes sense that the price tag can stop some people from considering a renovation project. Whether you’re planning for just a few well-chosen updates or a complete overhaul of your current space, kitchen remodels don’t come cheap.

While some homeowners may attempt to tackle a kitchen remodel on their own, hiring a contractor can offer numerous advantages. If the homeowner begins a remodel on their own, they may quickly find themselves over their heads and finding a qualified contractor willing to take over in a timely manner could be quite difficult, potentially leaving them without a functioning kitchen for an extended period. Empty pizza boxes will be stacked high, and someone is going to be sleeping on the couch.

One of the primary reasons to hire a contractor for a kitchen remodel is expertise. Contractors are skilled professionals with experience in various aspects of construction and remodeling. They possess the knowledge and expertise needed to plan and execute a successful kitchen remodel, ensuring that the project meets building codes and safety standards. Contractors can also provide valuable insights and recommendations based on their experience, helping homeowners make informed decisions about design, materials, and layout and sometimes they show up with coffee and doughnuts.

Additionally, contractors have access to a network of subcontractors and suppliers, which can streamline the remodeling process. From attaining the proper permits and vetting and scheduling plumbers and electricians to cabinet makers and countertop installers, contractors can coordinate all aspects of the project, saving homeowners time and hassle.

Another benefit of hiring a contractor for a kitchen remodel is project management. Contractors are responsible for overseeing every aspect of the project, from initial planning to final completion. They create a timeline for the project, coordinate workers and materials, and ensure that the remodel stays on schedule and within budget. Contractors also handle any issues that may arise during the remodel, minimizing stress for homeowners and ensuring a smooth and successful project.

In terms of impact, hiring a contractor for a kitchen remodel can significantly increase the value of a home. A well-designed and professionally executed kitchen remodel can enhance the overall appeal of a home, making it more attractive to potential buyers. A modern, functional kitchen is a key selling point for many homebuyers and can result in a higher selling price and faster sale. Therefore, investing in a kitchen remodel with the help of a contractor can offer a substantial return on your investment.

According to a 2023 survey from Remodeling Magazine, a major kitchen renovation or upgrade has an average ROI (return on investment) of 31.7 percent. Kitchen cabinetry is generally the most expensive part of any kitchen remodel. Cabinets currently make up 29 percent of the overall budget. In most cases, you can count on your updated kitchen to boost the value of your home. It’s no shock that buyers are willing to pay more for high-end finishes and thoughtful upgrades.

Looking ahead, the future of hiring a contractor for kitchen remodeling is promising. As technology continues to advance, contractors will have access to new tools and techniques that can enhance the remodeling process. From virtual reality design tools to sustainable building materials, the possibilities for innovative and eco-friendly kitchen remodels are endless. Homeowners can expect more streamlined and efficient remodeling projects in the future, thanks to the expertise and dedication of contractors in the field.

In conclusion, hiring a contractor to remodel your kitchen offers numerous benefits, including expertise, project management, cost savings, and increased home value. The impact of this decision extends beyond the individual project, influencing the overall appeal and value of a home. Ultimately, hiring a contractor for a kitchen remodel is a wise investment that can transform a kitchen into a functional and beautiful space for years to come.

Warren O'Shea is the owner of O’Shea Builders LLC, Maine’s most award-winning remodeling contractor. He has 35-plus 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, July 12, 2024

Real Estate: Representation Matters

By Tia Morrell

In today’s competitive real estate market, having an agent who genuinely represents your best interests can make all the difference between a smooth, successful transaction and a stressful, regretful experience. It's not just about finding someone to handle the paperwork or show you properties; it's about having a dedicated advocate who goes to battle for you, ensuring that your needs and preferences are prioritized. Let’s delve into why it’s essential to have a real estate agent who truly represents you and upholds the highest ethical standards.

True Representation in Multiple Offer Situations

The real estate market can often be a battlefield, particularly in a multiple offer scenario. In such situations, it's easy to feel pressured into making offers far above the asking price, driven by the fear of missing out. However, a good agent will not simply push you to overextend yourself financially. Instead, they will strategically navigate the process, using their expertise to craft a competitive yet sensible offer.

An agent who represents you will analyze the market, understand the value of the property, and advise you on a reasonable offer. They should be skilled in negotiation, knowing when to stand firm and when to be flexible. This approach not only saves you money but also ensures that you don’t fall into the trap of buyer’s remorse.

Ethical Foundation and Client-Centric Approach

At the core of a stellar real estate agent’s practice is an unwavering commitment to ethics. This means always putting the client's interests first and being transparent throughout the transaction. Ethical agents will not manipulate situations for their gain or pressure you into decisions that aren’t in your best interest.

The foundation of their practice should be built on honesty, integrity, and respect for their clients. They should provide you with all the necessary information, explain the pros and cons of each decision, and respect your opinions and choices. An agent who prioritizes ethics will foster a trusting relationship, making you feel confident and supported throughout the process.

The Importance of Knowledge and Expertise

A proficient real estate agent must be knowledgeable about various aspects of the transaction, including appraisal means and financing. Understanding the appraisal process is crucial, as it ensures that the property is valued correctly and that you are not overpaying. Your agent should be able to interpret appraisal reports and advise you accordingly, ensuring the property is worth the investment.

Financing is another critical area where expertise is essential. A knowledgeable agent will help you navigate different financing options, understanding the implications of each and assisting you in securing the best terms. This includes knowing when to recommend mortgage brokers, understanding loan types, and being aware of any potential red flags in your financial agreement.

The Art of Bluffing and Honest Feedback

Bluffing, when used appropriately, can be a valuable tool in negotiations. An experienced agent will know how to read the room, understand the motivations of the other party, and strategically use bluffing to your advantage. However, this tactic should always be used ethically and transparently, without misleading or deceiving anyone.

Moreover, honest feedback, particularly regarding inspection issues, is paramount. An agent who truly represents you will be upfront about any problems discovered during the walk through or inspection. They should explain the potential impact of these issues and help you make an informed decision about whether to proceed, negotiate repairs, or walk away. Honest feedback protects you from future liabilities and ensures that you are fully aware of what you are buying.

All in All

In the dynamic and often challenging world of real estate, having an agent who genuinely represents you can significantly impact your buying or selling experience. Such an agent will go to battle for you, ensuring that your needs are met without unnecessary compromises. They will operate with the highest ethical standards, prioritizing your interests and providing transparent, honest advice.

Knowledgeable in appraisal and financing, adept at strategic bluffing, and committed to giving you honest feedback, the right agent will guide you through every step of the transaction with confidence and integrity. When choosing a real estate agent, look beyond the surface and seek someone who truly embodies these qualities, ensuring that your real estate journey is as smooth and successful as possible.

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

Friday, July 5, 2024

Real Estate: Did you get a permit for that?

By Nicole Foster, Broker/REALTOR

Maine has some of the oldest housing stock in our nation, often predating building codes, land use ordinances or zoning requirements. More often than not, these older homes have changed ownership a number of times over the years and had modifications along the way. As real estate professionals, we witness daily how building trends from bygone eras have either endured the test of time or fallen short, presenting a spectrum of outcomes.

If given the choice, would you prefer to purchase a home that was constructed in the 1920s or one which was built in the 1970s? Consulting with a local REALTOR can help to shed light on the market inventory and its unique features and distinctions.

One of the first tasks that the listing or buying broker will undertake will be to check and see what information may be found in the file for the property at the Code Enforcement department of your municipality. This is a free, public record and anyone is welcome to view the contents and ask any questions that they have.

Homeowners must apply for and receive a permit for any changes or improvements beyond minor upgrades prior to beginning the work to the inside or outside of their home. Regardless of whether the work is completed by a contractor who has been hired by the homeowner or the homeowner does the work themselves, most alterations beyond a new faucet, change in flooring or new paint will necessitate a permit from the municipality. Larger projects or renovations will likely require more than one permit to be obtained.

Each town or city has its own requirements for inspections and fee structure when applying for permits. The permitting process is intended to help safeguard buildings to make them safer for the current and future occupants. Having the required permits for the improvements that you do ensures that the work complies with the current local standards for energy and safety.

A lender could deny a borrower the loan to purchase the home, or an insurance company can reject a claim due to unpermitted work. Properties with all the necessary permits for upgrades appeal more to buyers and achieve higher valuations compared to those with unpermitted improvements.

Reasons homeowners may forego obtaining permits vary, and many view the process of obtaining them as tedious. Some wish to avoid any increased property taxes by keeping improvements undisclosed to the Tax Assessor. Others fear that permit requirements may impose unwanted scrutiny or will reveal other potential violations during inspections. Additionally, homeowners may hesitate due to the expense of the permit fees, or they simply may be unaware of the requirements and standards.

When selling a home, the owner must disclose any improvements which have been done to the property, both during their ownership and all previous ownership (yes all the way back to the beginning of time). A failure to do so can lead to legal liability down the road after the closing. When unpermitted upgrades and alterations are disclosed to buyers the new owners have accepted the responsibility, shifting liability from the seller to the buyers.

Owners may choose to or could be asked to obtain retroactive permits for already completed work.

Identifying unpermitted work can be straightforward at times by comparing visual inspection to what is in the code file, but it can also be extremely challenging to know where work was done that permits were not obtained for, intentionally or unintentionally. Consulting with a seasoned building inspector or trusted contractors can help to identify any areas of concern, though visual inspection alone may not always reveal permitting noncompliance.

It's important to confirm that the contractors you hire will handle the required permits on your behalf. You will want to verify this directly with Code Enforcement by checking in the municipal code enforcement files for your property yourself, as ultimately, the homeowner holds the responsibility

This is an entirely common and relatively normal occurrence, and I have encountered a costly oversight where a high-end contracting company failed to secure the necessary permits from the municipality for a kitchen remodel, unbeknownst to the seller until the property was going to be listed. Similarly, an insurance claim following a fire was denied due to an electrical issue stemming from work performed without permits.

Upgrades and improvements are an excellent way to support a higher value for your property, don’t sell yourself at a discount by skipping the bureaucratic procedures involved.

Nicole Foster is a real estate broker with Locations Real Estate with 19 years of experience and a Windham parent who loves people and real estate. Follow Nicole on Instagram @207nicolefoster or on Facebook at <