My Blog

Thinking About Selling??? Read These Handy Tips BEFORE You List Your Home For Sale

4/1/2019
Have you been considering putting your current home up for sale?  Not sure what to do to get it show ready?  Follow these 11 tips from moving.com

1.)  RESEARCH YOU LOCAL MARKET - Start the process by researching what the conditions are like in your local market.  You can find this information on sites like Realtor.com, Zillow, RedFin, etc.  Take a look at some of the comparable sales in your neighborhood to give you a good indication of where your house is sitting.  Pay attention to things like, square footage, features, and location.  This should give you a good feel for where your price point will be.  A Realtor should be able to assist you with this process also.

2.)  FIND A LISTING AGENT - It is highly recommended that you enlist the services of a professional real estate agent.  there area various ways of finding this person.  You could contact your local lender to ask their advice, ask family and friends if they know of an agent, or even scout for one on the internet.  When you do find one, make sure you ask them about their knowledge of the neighborhood, connections to possible buyers, and their marketing expertise.  The Realtor you choose should be able to give you a thoroughly laid out plan for what they are going to do to sell your home.

3.)  BUY MORE LIGHT BULBS - Go ahead and stock up on light bulbs.  I suggest the Day Light variety.  When showing your home tp potential buyers, all lights and fixtures will be turned on.  It is important for all lights to be in working order to showcase your homes beauty.

4.)  GIVE YOUR HOUSE A DEEP CLEAN - First impressions mean a lot.  Before listing your home, give your home a deep clean.  You may want to consider hiring this out to a local cleaning company.  Having them go through your home to clean all floors, windows, mirrors, bathrooms, rugs, and any corner in your home where cobwebs, or dust bunnies could be hiding, might just very well be worth the time, hassle, and headaches it saves you.  You want to ensure that your place is in pristine condition.  You won't want to let foul orders, dirty floors, or dusty surfaces be the reason a potential buyer choose another home in your neighborhood over yours.

5.)  DECLUTTER YOUR HOME - Decluttering and having your place in order will go a long way in appealing to potential buyers.  When a home is free of clutter, potential buyers are able to envision themselves living in this space, and how their belongings could fit.

6.)  CALL A HANDYMAN - You will want to make sure everything that has been on your 'Honey-Do-List" gets done.  Finding a local handyman and handing that list over to them will free yourself up for the other things that need to be done before your home is listed.  By taking care of these issues (leaky faucet, running toilet, cracks in the walls, broken appliances, squeaky door, etc.) in advance you will be ahead of the game.  Otherwise this gives way to potential buyers thinking your home may not have been taken care of properly, which then gives way to those same buyers wondering what else may need fixing right away.

7.)  PAINT THE WALLS - Now is the perfect time to give the walls in your home a facelift.  Start off by painting the walls in your home a neutral color.  Even though you are a Prince fan, and have turned one of the rooms in your home into a tribute room by painting it with purple walls, this may not be everyone,s cup of tea.  Think more along the lines of light grey, light beige, and "greige" wall colors.  These colors will help make your home appear bigger, brighter, and more welcoming when first entering.  Lighter colors will also give potential buyers a blank slate for them to imagine what their color styles could look like in your home.

8.)  STAGE YOUR HOME - According to various studies, staging a home really can help the selling process along, and possibly even get you more money.  (Look for upcoming tips on How To Stage You Home On A Budget).  Don't forget about your curb appeal outside either.  A potential buyers first impression of your home happen way before they enter the front door.  Make sure your grass is cut, weeds are pulled from your landscaping, any loose shutters have been addressed, gutters have been cleaned out, and any yard knick knack's are stored away (think kids toy's, bikes, yard decorations - this includes the big ones, like a boat or camper.)  If the outside is a little faded, you may want to consider a fresh coat of paint on the walls and trim also.

9.)  HAVE YOUR REALTOR HIRE A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER -  Considering many of today's buyers begin their search online, it is imperative to have high resolution, and high quality photos to showcase your property.  Your listing agent should be able to direct you to the best person suited to do this job.






Radon...Questions And Misconceptions...from the Division of Environmental And Community Health

3/20/2019

Question: Who can do the test?
Answer: The Maine Radon Registration Act says a Maine registered radon tester must conduct the test, unless the owner or occupant conducts it. This is true for radon in water as well. It is illegal for a Realtor or home buyer to do a radon in air or radon in water test. Similarly, if the home is for sale, an independent registered radon tester is required to perform the test.

Question: Does radon really cause lung cancer and how much research has been done that proves it?
Answer:  Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the World Health Organization) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

Question: Isn't it true that only tight houses, or houses with basements, have radon problems?
Answer: All types of houses can have radon problems-old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements. Construction materials and the way the home has been built may also affect radon levels, but this is rare.

Question: Is it true that only houses on ledge have radon problems?
Answer: Houses on all types of surfaces have radon problems. In Maine, the houses with the worst radon problems are on sand and gravel.

Question: I have heard that Radon is only a problem in some parts of Maine, and that where I live, there is no need to worry?
Answer: Radon problems have been found in all parts of Maine. At least 25% of the homes tested in any part of the state have radon problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Kittery or Madawaska, Eastport or Jackman, or anywhere in between. The only way to know your homes’ radon level is to test.

Question If a neighbor has radon problems, will I?
Answer: Radon levels vary from home to home. There are many instances of a house with over 100 pCi/L being right next to a house with less than 4 pCi/L. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

Question: If a house had a high radon test, will airing it out before the follow up test will guarantee a low test result?
Answer: Not only may this be a violation of the "short term" testing protocol (a short term of less than 4 days test requires that the house be maintained in "closed house condition" 12 hours prior to the start of the test), but sometimes radon levels actually go up in houses when windows and doors are open, and go back down after they are closed.

Question: If I have air radon problems, will I also have water radon problems and vice versa?
Answer: Sometimes the radon in your home's air comes from the soil gasses, and sometimes it comes from the water (see previous question). Sometimes it comes from BOTH places, but the presence of soil gas radon does not indicate or predict the presence of well water radon (nor does well water radon indicate or predict soil gas radon). Most of the radon in Maine homes comes from the soil gasses.

Question: Is it difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered?
Answer: Our office has found that the reason radon problems cause trouble in real estate transactions, is that it is not discussed candidly, due to the fear of losing a sale. Greater than 50% of our radon calls (on the radon hotline 1-800-232-0842) are real estate related. Where radon problems have been discussed openly and have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is usually a good selling point, since a house with low radon today, may indeed have a radon problem in the future.

Radon in Water Maximum Exposure Guideline (MEG) Explained

There has been a great deal of confusion over the question: "At What concentration should I install a radon water mitigation system?" Various states and agencies recommend a wide range for this "action level". The EPA has proposed (for community water supplies only) a "Maximum Contamination Level" (or MCL) of 300 pCi/l, and more achievable "Alternate Maximum Contamination Level"(AMCL) of 4,000 pCi/liter. After much review of all information available, the Maine CDC has decided to adopt 4,000 pCi/l as the MEG for Maine. However, the MEG does not mean you should 'fix' radon in water levels at 4,000 pCi/l. At this concentration, you should look at your risks from all radon sources (soil gas and water), and decide which is most important to reduce. As the radon in water concentration rises above 4,000 pCi/l, it becomes more and more important to consider fixing the radon in water. At around 10,000 pCi/l you should strongly consider fixing the radon in water in addition to any actions you may decide to take regarding radon in air from soil gasses.

Home Loans - Know Your Options

3/19/2019
Knowing which home loan you should choose or that you even qualify for, can seem like an overwhelming process.  Your best bet is to get yourself connected with a lender who can explain this process in detail.  If you need a referral, I have a couple I could give you.  In the meantime, here is a quick overview of some of the more popular choices.

Conventional Loans
A conventional loan is a mortgage loan that is not insured or guaranteed by any government program. It is the most common type of mortgage loan. Unlike non-conventional loans, for which interest rates are set by statute, each mortgage lender, bank, or mortgage broker will offer different rates, terms, and fees for conventional loans, so it's best to get a good faith estimate from a number of different places to find the best loan. Examples of non-conventional loans include an FHA Loan or a VA Loan.

FHA Loans
A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is one alternative to a conventional loan. FHA loans are insured by the FHA. If the buyer can't pay the loan, the government pays the lender for any losses. Because of the government's insurance, lenders are willing to offer FHA loans with smaller down payments, as low as 3.5%. Each mortgage lender, bank, or broker will offer different rates, terms, and fees for FHA loans, so it's best to shop around to find the best loan. To pay for FHA mortgage insurance, the buyer is charged a monthly mortgage insurance premium and an upfront mortgage insurance premium, which can be financed into the monthly mortgage payments.

Advantages:

  • Lower credit score requirements
  • Smaller down payment
  • Greater flexibility for buyers with recent bankruptcies
  • No pre-payment penalty for paying off a loan early
 

VA Loans
A Veterans Affairs loan, commonly known as a VA loan, is a special type of loan guaranteed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and only available to eligible veterans, their spouses, and other beneficiaries. As with FHA loans, the risk is lower for the lender because the loan is guaranteed by the government, so this mortgage type offers a competitive interest rate without requiring a down payment or Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

Qualifications

  • Eligibility:  Certificate of Eligibility required
  • Down payment: Not required, as long as the home's sale price does not exceed appraised value
  • Funding fee: Required, varies by veteran type
  • Mortgage insurance: Not required

Advantages

  • Available to eligible veterans
  • No down payment or mortgage insurance required
  • No pre-payment penalty for paying off a loan early
  • VA rules require closing costs stay below specified limits
  • VA assistance to veteran borrowers who encounter difficulty making payments

USDA Loans
USDA loans are designed for, and to be used, in rural areas.  The city population can not exceed 15,000.  These loans require no down payment.  Homes can not be located in a flood zone, and must be occupied by the owner.  USDA loans can not be used for investment properties.   Household Income Limits do apply for these loans.  For 1 - 4 persons living in the home, total household income can not exceed $92,000.  For 1 - 5 persons living in the home, total household income can not exceed $121,450.  Mortgage Insurance will be required for the life of the loan.


Some loan types have sub categories within the type of loan itself.  This is why it is best to sit down with a lender to go over your options first hand. 

How To Stage Your House To Sell Fast

3/14/2019
Here are a few simple tips you can do to your home to make it stand out and be memorable to potential buyers.

  • Focus on your homes best features - Take a look around your home.  What are some of its features that drew you in?  Do you have amazing views?  Do you have a wrap around deck that is comfortable and inviting?  How about that gorgeous fireplace in your living room?  Chances are that the same thing that drew you in will be something that draws your buyer in as well.  You will want to take extra care to make these areas stand out.  This will help you prioritize where your efforts need to be concentrated.  You could rent some patio furniture to show how comfortable they could be while enjoying their coffee on the deck.  Or maybe move your furniture around in the living room to showcase that beautiful fireplace.
  • Make your home lived in, but better - A completely empty home can seem overwhelming to a potential buyer, especially if they are a first time home owner.  They might have a hard time being able to visualize how their belongings can fit in your space.  If you have moved out already, consider borrowing a few pieces of furniture from the friends you still have in the area.  This could be a very cost effective way to make your home look lived in, and help potential buyers view your home as their future dream home.  You could always rent furniture to do this too. 
  • Increase by removing - If you are still living in your home, consider renting a storage garage and box up everything that you won't be using or needing for the next few months.  Move out any furniture that may be over-sized for the space.  Have a gorgeous walk-in closet?  Consider boxing away any items that are out of season.  You won't miss these and it will open up that closet to make it seem even larger.  This will help two-fold.  I mean you will be needing to do this eventually and it will open up your home for potential buyers to see all of its space and beauty.
  • Make your home the one to remember - You may want to consider giving some areas of your home a face lift.  If you do consider doing some remodeling (new paint on the inside or outside, new flooring, new fixtures) remember not everyone may have your unique style.  If you do choose to change the color scheme, keep the colors neutral.  You will want to appeal to a pallet that everyone can see themselves living in.  Maybe a light grey on your interior walls with your trim being a crisp white or even a linen.  Update your hardware on the cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom.  This is a relatively cheap improvement that will make your home stand out.
  • Make it sparkle - Lastly, the power of a clean home is priceless.  Take to the outside of your home and give it a good power-wash. Mow your lawn and treat any weeds that may be trying to make a home in your yard or landscaping area.  On the inside, do a power clean.  Get into every nook and corner.  Have amazing windows that let in the beauty of the outdoors?  Make sure you clean them so they sparkle and shine.  If you are a busy person like the rest of us, you may want to consider hiring these tasks out.  A good professional cleaning of your home once will be easy for you to maintain its upkeep, and will be worth the cost if it is something that will allow your home to shine and get several offers on right away.

Why Is Your Credit Score Important?

3/11/2019

To know WHY this is so, first you need to know WHAT your credit score is.  Your credit score is an important part of your financial picture. Lenders combine your credit score with what they have learned from your credit report to assess your risk as a borrower. If your score is high, you look like less of a risk; if your score is low, lenders may question your ability to pay what you owe.

Improving your creditworthiness takes time, but it’s worth the effort.

Here are four reasons WHY it’s important to have a solid credit profile:

1. Your credit score can help you when you borrow money.

When first starting out, you will need to borrow money for things.  Unless your Great Aunt Beatrice has listed you as the sole beneficiary of her million dollar estate, you will most likely have to take out a loan for your mortgage. Many people also borrow in order to buy a car.

A good credit score can save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. Lenders look at your score as the likelihood of your ability to repay the loan.  A higher Credit Score means a lower interest rate.  A lower Credit Score means a higher interest rate.

The same principle applies whether you are borrowing for a car, an education, or a personal loan: The better your credit score, the more you can save when you decide to borrow.


2. Your credit score can impact your insurance premiums.

Many states allow your insurance provider to use your credit score for setting insurance premiums. With a lower score, you could end up paying more each month for coverage.

However, you could pay hundreds of dollars less in insurance premiums over your lifetime by improving your creditworthiness and positively impacting your credit score.


3. You may qualify for better terms when you sign up for utilities.

Many Electric Companies, Internet, TV, and cell phone service providers now check your credit before they grant service to you.  If your credit is poor enough, you might be required to provide a security deposit or even have someone else on your agreement as a co-signer.  It could also happen that you will be denied an account all together.

 

4. Access to better financial deals.

When you have good credit, you have access to better financial deals and opportunities. You may be offered lower interest rates for your home and car, student loans , or personal loans in general.  You also may qualify for lower rates on credit cards, or credit cards that have rewards and perks.

Advantages of Buying over Renting

3/8/2019
* Sometimes the cost of a mortgage can be less than the cost of rent

*Once in your home, you realize how nice it is to be able to change things to the way you like, or that fit you best.  Want to put up shelves in your office?  No need to ask permission.  Want to remodel areas in your home?  No need to ask permission.  Want to change the colors on the walls?  No need to ask permission.

*You realize that not only is your home your biggest investment, it is also the easy way to contribute to your savings

*The buyer will experience tax advantages.  This can include itemized deductions for interest and certain improvements made to your home can be deducted as well

*You realize that there are fewer restrictions and or rules that you have to abide by.  No extra money each month to own a pet.  Paint the walls whatever color you like 

*making your mortgage payments on time can boost your credit rating

Other things to consider before making that purchase would be to know if you will be staying in this area for at least 3 years.  Experts indicate to receive a return on your investment, you should plan to stay put for a minimum of 3 years, but adding an additional 2 years to that and staying at least 5 years is a more preferable timeframe.

What questions should I ask my contractor before hiring them?

3/6/2019
Spring is a great time to begin those home improvement projects you’ve been dreaming about all winter. But when it comes to selecting a contractor to do any type of work on your home, you want them to have what it takes to do the job right.
 
First, ask around. Word-of-mouth referrals, whether from your friends, family, or neighbors on Nextdoor, are a great way to narrow down your list of contractor candidates. Once you’ve created your short list, here are some important questions to be sure you ask each of the contenders:


1) How long have you been in business? 
A newer business isn’t necessarily a red flag, but multiple years in the industry indicate that the contractor not only has experience but they have the customer service and project management skills needed to remain in business for the long-haul.


2) Are you licensed and insured in this state (if required)? 
Not every state requires licensing—for example, commercial and residential contractors in California must be licensed, but in New York, a state license is required only for asbestos abatement)—but you’ll want to see proof that the contractor has liability insurance to cover them if something goes wrong or if a worker is injured on your property.


3) How many other projects are you currently working on? 
You want the contractor to be busy, but not TOO busy. Having multiple ongoing projects suggests that they are in demand, which is a good sign for the quality of the work they do. But if a contractor is overbooked, it is likely that your project will get put on the backburner and take longer than anticipated.


4) What is the total cost? 
Don’t assume the cheapest estimate is the best. Here, you’re looking for an itemized cost estimate including labor and materials. This is a great way to do an apples-to-apples comparison between two bids.


5) When will the project be complete? 
This is a clutch question. Home renovation projects are inherently inconvenient, so you want the project done as expeditiously as possible so you aren’t languishing sans kitchen or bath for an extended period of time. Be sure an end date is stated in the contact you sign, including whatever time is necessary to obtain the proper building permits and, if applicable, homeowners’ association approval.


6) May I talk with some recent clients? 
A solid recommendation from people who have used this contractor is a great way to know if they will be a good fit for your project. Ask the contractor for referrals directly, and look for recommendations from neighbors on the contractor's Nextdoor business page to get insights into the caliber of their work.
 
Your home is likely your biggest investment, so you want to be sure it’s in good hands when undertaking any type of renovation! What questions have you asked on previous projects to ensure you chose the right contractor?

10 Commandments When Applying for a Mortgage Loan

3/5/2019

10 Commandments When Applying for a Mortgage Loan

Written by: Karen Deis

 

Thou shall not change jobs or become self-employed

 

Thou shall not buy a car, truck, or van unless you plan to live in it

 

Thou shall not use your credit cards or let your payments fall behind

 

Thou shall not spend the money you have saved for your down payment

 

Thou shall not buy furniture before you buy your house

 

Thou shall not originate any new inquires on your credit report 

 

Thou shall not make any large deposits into your bank account

 

Thou shall not change bank accounts

 

Thou shall not co-sign for anyone

 

Thou shall not purchase ANYTHING until after closing

 

5 Mortgage Closing Terms Every Buyer Should Know

3/4/2019
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
This term reflects the cost of all credit and finances determined by the length of a year, including the interest rate, points, broker fees, and other credit charges obligated to the buyer.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
PMI is typically required if a borrower puts a down payment that's less than 20 percent of the home's value.  The charge is usually included in the monthly mortgage payment in an attempt to protect the lender from possible default.

Down Payment
Like many transactions involving large sums of money, the mortgage process involves a down payment - the amount a homebuyer pays in order to make up the difference between the purchase price and the mortgage amount.  Some experts advise no less than 10 to 15 percent.  However, with the economy still weary and lenders still stringent, any amount over 20 percent of the purchase price is recommended, and is often required to avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance.

Closing Costs
Closing costs may also be referred to as transaction costs or settlement costs and may include various fees and charges associated with the finalization.  These may include or be related to application fees, title examination, title insurance, property fees, as well as settlement documents and attorney charges.  The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ensures that the borrower receives a good faith estimate of closing costs within three days of application from the lender, which states in detail each expected cost.

Truth-In-Lending Disclosure (TIL)
Required by federal law, the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure explains all lender required costs for the loan including, but not limited to, the annual percentage rate, the terms of a loan and the amount and due dates of all payments necessary to repay the loan.

 

Steps to First Time Home Buying - Step Eight - Closing Day

3/2/2019
WOO HOO!!!  Closing day is finally here.  If this is your first home buy, this can be a day full of emotions.  For the majority, this will be the biggest purchase of their lives.  You may have feelings of nervousness because of the unknown.  Things like, "Will this run smoothly?", "Will I get the keys to my new home right away?", and "What do I do if there is an issue?" are common.  Hopefully this will help ease some of those questions or fears for you.

Approximately a week before the closing, your lender will send you out a closing disclosure to sign.  Once you sign this form, there is a three day waiting period before you can sign the final mortgage loan documents.  You will also want to contact all utilities to make sure everything is transferred into your name as of the day of closing. 

Most home sale contracts will allow you to enter the home 24 hours in advance of closing to make a final walk through.  This allows you to see, with confidence, that all things are in agreed upon order before you sign the final documents.  If there are any issues or concerns, this allows time for you to contact the seller to ask the status of the situation.  If there are significant issues, you can ask for the loan closing to be delayed, or ask the seller to deposit money into an escrow account to make the needed adjustments.

If you did not wrap your closing fees into your loan, you will be required to bring money to the closing.  You can usually do this with a wire transfer from your bank, or with a certified cashier's check.

Finally, it's time to sign the documents.  At this point, you will be signing documents between you and your bank for the mortgage, and between you and the seller, transferring ownership of the property to you.  Usually you will only need one form of ID verification, which is usually your State Issued ID, though some companies require two.

Generally, the closing documents consist of the following:
The loan estimate
The closing disclosure
The initial escrow statement
Mortgage note
Mortgage or deed of trust
Certificate of occupancy
Once you have received, reviewed, signed all documents, and the money for your closing fees (if needed) have been verified, the keys will be given to you because NOW you are an official home owner!!

Page:  of 000  |