Nov. 9, 2017

Camden Hills Hiking: Live here and have hiking in your backyard

Great new video that we put out on social media showing a hike leading thru Camden Hills to an outcrop overlooking Camden Maine and out towards the Penobscot Bay.

I have to say one of the best things about living near Camden Hills State Park is the sheer ability to head up for a quick hike during lunch break or on the weekends. 

#LoveWhereYouDwell

Trail Map of Camden Hills State Park 

 

 

 

June 25, 2017

Where Do Sellers Get the Listing Price for a House?

 

Question: "I have been looking at houses for sale in coastal Maine, and I see that most of them include a listing price for the property. How do the sellers come up with the listing price for a home, and is it always negotiable?"

Let me start with the second part of your question, because it's the quickest and easiest to answer.

Yes, you can negotiate the listing price when buying a house. As the expression goes, everything in real estate is negotiable. But a lot depends on the type of market you are in, and how realistic (or unrealistic) the asking price is. For instance, in a sellers' market -- one with limited inventory and strong demand -- you won't have as much leverage to negotiate the price. But in a buyers' market, you'll have move negotiating leverage.

Additionally, you have to consider the current market value of the house, and how closely the seller's listing price matches that value.  

Where do sellers get the listing price of their home

Asking Price vs. Sale Price

In real estate, the listing price is also referred to as the asking price. The second term is actually more indicative of the seller's mindset. It's the amount they are asking for ... but it's not necessarily the amount they'll get.

When a home is ultimately sold, the selling amount is referred to as the sale price. This is what somebody actually paid for the house. In many cases, the sale price will be lower than the original listing amount, because the seller reduced it at some stage. So yes, it's negotiable.

 

How the Listing Price is Determined

If the sellers are smart (or if they've hired a smart agent to list the house), they'll base the listing price on recent sales in their area of Midcoast Maine.  In particular, they will find out what similar homes have been selling for over the last few months. These are referred to as comps, short for comparable sales. This kind of data shows the seller what the market is willing to bear, in terms of the asking price. They might even have the house appraised by a licensed Maine real estate appraiser, who will conduct a similar analysis of market trends.

But not all sellers are this rational. Some of them base the listing price on what they paid for the home a few years ago. Or they'll use some arbitrary annual percentage to "force" appreciation on the home, even in a declining market. Or they'll price the home for the exact amount needed to pay off their mortgage. These are common pricing strategies among sellers, but they're all equally flawed. Recent sales and pricing trends are the primary factors that determine market value -- everything else is wishful thinking.

 

Keep these things in the back of your mind when looking at homes for sale. If you're working with a Dwelling in Maine real estate agent, he or she can help you review recent sales in the area. This is the key to evaluating the seller's listing price.

I hope this answers your question about listing prices for real estate, and I wish you all the best in your housing search. 

June 17, 2017

Common FHA Appraisal Red Flags

 

FHA financing currently allows home buyers to purchase a home with 3.5% down. This is a great opportunity for buyers to get into a home with a small down payment however these FHA loan product comes with more restrictive appraisal guidelines than conventional loans. 

We meet many first time buyers who are do-it-yourselfer(s). Some buyers who have family and friends who are carpenters or trades-people. Or some that don't mind living in incomplete or in-need properties until they have the finances and time to complete house projects. Unfortunately, FHA loans often don't allow the freedom for buyers to make repairs later. 

Buyers should take note and look for some of these more common FHA loan appraisal red flags when viewing properties. And buyers should be aware that some of these red flags can be deal breakers. Your real estate broker and loan officer can help you navigate this and find a great home. 

Common FHA Appraisal red flags:

  • No structural deficiencies in the foundation, framing, or roof. 
  • The basement must be dry and lot must provide positive drainage away from perimeter walls of the dwelling.
  • All mechanical systems (plumbing. heating, and electrical) must be operating at the time of inspection and be suitable for the home.
  • All utilities must be on and operable.
  • Electrical and plumbing must be updated.
  • Heat sources must be permanent and fired by gas, propane, oil, or electric.  Wood can only be used as a back up.
  • Lead base paint - Correct all pealing defective paint surfaces for homes built before 1978.  This includes the entire interior and exterior of dwelling, as well as attached and detached garages, barns, fences.
  • Exterior wood surfaces must be rot free.
  • Smoke and Carbon monoxide detectors must be present. 
  • Any broken or missing fixtures must be repaired or replaced.
  • Handrails must be in place in all stairwells or steps on the interior and exterior of the dwelling, where required for safety purposes.

This list is by no means complete or conclusive.  These are just common issues that require attention.  Home inspections and appraisals are all completed on a property by property basis and my differ by region. 

 

 

May 12, 2017

Benefits of Getting Pre-Approved for a Home Loan in Midcoast Maine

During the mortgage pre-approval process, a mortgage lender will review your financial situation to determine whether or not you’re qualified for a loan. If you do appear to be qualified, they’ll also give you a maximum amount they are willing to lend. It’s a worthwhile process for several reasons.

Benefits of getting pre-approved for a home loanHere are the three main benefits of getting pre-approved for a home loan, before you start shopping for a house.

#1  You can identify problems early on in the process.

Our local lenders can uncover a lot of potential problems during the mortgage pre-approval process. Maybe your debt levels are too high in relation to your income. Maybe your credit score is too low. The sooner you can find out about these things, the better. It gives you more time to correct them. Without this process, you could spend days or weeks shopping for a home only to find out you’re not qualified for a loan. That’s a waste of time and energy. Identify problems early, and then work on correcting them. This is the sensible approach. It’s also one of the key benefits of getting pre-approved.

#2  It helps you narrow down the house-hunting process.

Imagine this: You spend three weeks looking at homes in the $300,000 price range. You look at them online and also by driving through neighborhoods. Then you find a Midcoast Maine home that is perfect for you. So you approach a mortgage lender to apply for a loan. The lender says they’re willing to lend you $225,000 — max. This can’t be right, can it? So you speak to three other lenders, and they all give you similar numbers. You’ve just wasted a lot of time by shopping in the wrong price range. This is another area where mortgage pre-approval benefits you, as a home buyer. Granted, your own personal budget is the most important spending limit to keep in mind. But it also helps to know what the lender is willing to lend you. That way, you can limit your house-hunting process to the types of homes you can actually afford to buy.

 #3  Sellers and their listing agents will take you seriously.

This piggybacks on what we just talked about. If you try to schedule a showing to see a home, the listing agent will probably ask if you’ve been pre-approved by a lender (or if you have some other form of financing lined up).  They would rather deal with buyers who have been pre-approved, because it indicates there’s a good chance they’ll get financing. Now imagine a scenario where the seller gets two offers — one from a buyer who has been pre-approved, and one from a buyer who has not. The second buyer is an unknown variable, where financing is concerned. Which offer do you think the seller would accept? Which one would you accept?

We have many wonderful local banks and lenders here in Midcoast Maine who are familiar with our real estate market and loan products that may be unique to Maine or our region.  If you would like a personalized referral to a lender, please contact us.

May 8, 2017

House Hunting in Midcoast Maine: 10 Tips for a Smoother Home Search

House hunting in Midcoast Maine is one of the most exciting parts of the home buying process. But it’s also where a lot of first-time and repeat buyers make mistakes. Without a solid plan in place, the house hunting process can be a lot of effort with little reward. That’s where this checklist comes in!

Here are ten tips to help you get the most out of your house hunting experience.

1. Create a Realistic Checklist

Get out a sheet of paper, put on your “realism” hat, and start writing down the things you need in a home versus the things you want. You can organize them on the page however you like, as long as you separate the needs and the wants.

When you visit a home, take a copy of the checklist with you and write the home’s address at the top. Then move through the house and check off what it does and does not offer. This will help you remember which house had what, especially when you’re looking at many properties.

2. Be a Proactive Hunter

Your real estate agent will help with the house hunting process. (You are using an agent, right?) But don’t rely solely on your agent. Go out there and do some hunting yourself. Check out the websites listed below for starters, and then start driving through neighborhoods and communities.

3. Get Web Savvy

The Internet can reduce your house hunting time by 50% or more. By previewing homes and researching neighborhoods online, you can weed out the ones you don’t want to visit. This will save you time, energy and gas money! At a minimum, check out home for sale on DwellinginMaine.com and sign up for automatic new listing notifications. If you’re considering foreclosure homes as well as regular listings, check out RealtyTrac.com as well.

4. Play DetectiveHouse hunting in Midcoast Maine

When visiting a home, don’t be shy about asking plenty of questions. Be friendly about it, but be thorough. Likewise, feel free to do a reasonable amount of “snooping.” Don’t violate the seller’s privacy — just be sure to look in all the dark corners, the basement, tools sheds and the like.

5. Validate the Asking Price

If asking prices were set in stone, they would be called “selling prices” from the start. But that’s not how it works. You should always compare the asking price of a home to recent sales in the area. Your real estate agent should be expert at providing such “comps” to help you validate (or debunk) the seller’s asking price.

6. Visit During Rush Hour

That peaceful property you visited at 10:00 in the morning might be totally different at 5:30 in the evening. By visiting a home during rush hour (It’s Midcoast Maine and we don’t have “rush hour” so we will call this commuting time), you’re evaluating two things at once. First, you’ll find out if traffic patterns make it hard to enter or exit the neighborhood. Secondly, you’ll be able to judge the noise factor at its loudest time of day.

7. Test the Drive

While we’re talking about commuting time, why not test out the morning commute to your work or schools? It might seem silly to do a rush hour commute from a home you’re only considering, but think about how much time you’ll spend driving day after day. It’s a major part of your daily routine, so it deserves some consideration.

8. Look into the Future

Will that beautiful meadow across the street be a shopping center or a highway in two years? You won’t know unless you do the research. Talk to the city, town or county to find out what their plans are for the area around the home. Don’t expect the sellers to volunteer such information, because it’s not in their interest to deliver bad news about the neighborhood. Nor are they required to provide such information. A good buyer-broker real estate agent can assist with this.

9. Plan to take photos

Phone cameras are ideal for house hunting. Which home had the best view? Which one had the wood floors and crown molding? Just look at the photos and you’ll remember.

10. Bring a Devil’s Advocate

When visiting a home that could potentially become your own, it’s easy to be emotional. That’s good and bad. Sometimes, emotion has a way of clouding our better judgment. You can counter this by bringing a friend or family member along on house hunting trips. In addition to keeping you company, a “disinterested witness” can offer an objective point of view. This is crucial when making such a large purchase.

Finally

Be prepared, educate yourself and leverage the experience of your buyers broker to make house hunting in Midcoast Maine a smooth process.

May 1, 2017

Curb Appeal and Prepping your home for a quick sale

Do you plan to sell your home in the near future?

If so, you need to do everything you can to increase the likelihood of a quick sale. This is particularly true in a slower market that has plenty of homes but not enough demand. In such a market, you must go above and beyond to attract buyers and make the sale. It’s time to start thinking about prepping your home for a quick sale.

Curb appeal is one of the key factors that will determine whether a potential buyer comes inside for a closer look, or keeps on driving. So it’s worth your time and effort to improve your home’s exterior appeal.


Here are some key areas to focus on:Prepping your home for a quick sale

* Start by assessing your lawn, if you have one. The grass should be
green and healthy, unless of course it’s winter. If your lawn has problems such as brown patches, you need to address those problems right away. Turning a lawn around can take time, depending on how severe the problems are.

* Is the exterior paint chipped or faded? If so, give it a fresh coat of paint. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it will do wonders for that critical first impression we talked about earlier.

* When evaluating the paint, pay particular attention to the shutters, doors and trim. Sometimes you can get away with hosing them off. Other times they simply need to be painted. If the doors and shutters are painted different / contrasting colors, you may want to standardize them.

* Planting fresh flowers can really brighten up a yard and entryway. Healthy shrubs can do the same, and they don’t cost much either. If you don’t have a green thumb, enlist help from a friend of family member who does.

* The windowpanes should be spotless, and the frames around them should be free of dirt, cobwebs and defects.

* Lighting can be used for aesthetic and safety reasons at the same time. If you have potential buyers coming by in the evenings, light up the walkways and entry. Consider using decorative lighting to illuminate landscaping features, trees, etc.

* Do you have vinyl railings, shutters or storm doors outside your home’s entryway? If so, give them a good washing. You would be amazed at what a little elbow grease can do for these areas. It’s quick, easy and affordable — all you need is a hose, a bucket, and some car wash liquid or dish soap.

Create a Plan of Attack

The key here is to avoid taking on too much work at once, or spending too much money. You need to strike a balance of cost versus gain. If you bite off more than you can chew and create a long list of improvements, you could delay your ability to show the property. Create a checklist of all the projects you feel are necessary.

Next, prioritize your projects by level of importance. Organize the list by things that must be done immediately, things that can wait, things that aren’t a big deal, etc. That way, if you run out of money or time, you’ll have the most important items out of the way first. And remember to start with the lawn and other landscaping areas. Making the grass greener is a gradual process, so start that right away.

Conclusion and Going Forward

Curb appeal is essential when selling a home because it gives buyers a good first impression. On the other hand, if they get a bad first impression when pulling up to the house, they will carry that negativity into the house with them. That’s not something you want.

Do what is necessary to improve your home’s outward appearance, but don’t take on so much that you postpone the listing / showing of the property. And get help where you need it, if you’re not handy with a certain project. All of your efforts will pay off in the end.

March 12, 2017

A Couple Basics of Buying a Financial Distressed Home

A Couple Basics of Buying a Financial Distressed Home

Foreclosure is an unfortunate experience for the homeowners who are involved in the process. Nobody wants to lose their home. But it also represents a unique investment opportunity for home buyers. In fact, buying a financially distressed home often means that you can get the property for less than its true market value. Upon hearing this, most people immediately want to know how it’s possible.

Here’s how it works.

Basics of Buying a Financial Distressed Home Besides a Foreclosure Sale
Basics of Buying a Financial Distressed Home Besides a Foreclosure Sale

Buying Financially Distressed Properties Can be a Good Investment

The previous paragraph states that buying a finically distressed property “can” be a good investment, suggesting the possibility (but not the certainty) of a good deal. This is what attracts people to the practice of buying foreclosures in the first place, the possibility of getting a home for less than market value.

Some people use this practice as a way to purchase the home they intend to live in. Other buy finically distressed homes for a living, turning them around for a profit and moving on to the next deal. Regardless of which camp you fall into, there are certain things you need to know about buying a home in pre-foreclosure or foreclosure before you venture into the process.

Why It’s a Good Investment

Distressed homes can be an expensive and time-consuming process for the lending institution. Lenders are good at making loans — it’s what they do. But they’re not so good at managing and marketing foreclosed homes. On top of that, many foreclosure properties need maintenance and/or repairs, which adds even more costs that the lender must pay.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why most lenders want to avoid the foreclosure process as much as the homeowner wants to avoid it. And when they do take possession of a home, they want to sell it off their books as quickly as possible. Typically, this is done through a real estate auction. Many homes sold at auction start out below market value. And unless inexperienced bidders drive the price up at auction, the buyer often comes away with a great purchase — below market value.

So the real estate auction is one way to purchase a foreclosed home, but it’s not the only way. In some cases, the homeowner will avoid foreclosure by selling the home through a “short sale.” In this scenario, the lender allows the homeowner to sell the home for less than the amount owed to the lender. Pricing a home this way will normally ensure a quick sale, which is what both the homeowner and the lender want.

The longer the lender keeps the non-performing loan (a mortgage that is not being paid by the homeowner), the more money they lose. That’s why they are usually eager to get the loan off their books quickly, and it’s also why lenders sometimes agree to short sale strategies in the first place.

So now we have talked about two ways the savvy investor and/or buyer can get a financially distressed property on the cheap. One is through a real estate auction. The other strategy is to buy a short sale.

It can be difficult for buyers to navigate purchasing a financially distressed home, and to arrange financing these homes. If you would like to discuss the process or to be notified about financially distressed homes in coastal Midcoast Maine, contact one of Dwelling in Maine’s brokers.

Looking for a current list of foreclosures in Midcoast Maine? Click Here