Don Plourde

3 Things to Consider when Buying a Home

What to Consider When Buying a Home

Buying a home is (usually) the largest, and longest financial commitment of one's life. In a world of impulse-buy-oriented consumerism, a house purchase should be the least impulsive, most well-thought-out investment of your hard-earned money you make. You need to do your homework and get a really good understanding of the debt-to-income ratio your finances represent, the budget you can afford, as well as the associated costs you will have to deal with: closing, moving, maintenance, insurance, etc.

Here are three things to consider before you go house-shopping.

What's your Credit Score?

Unless you're independently wealthy, you are going to have to borrow the money to purchase a home. And to do that, you need good credit. The better your score, the better your opportunities for a favorable loan with good terms. Know your current score, and know where you need to be before you start talking to lending agencies.

Prepare a Down Payment

A down payment of 20% of a home's purchase price can put you in a much better position with the mortgage company. While there are a few ways to get the money for a down payment, nothing beats good old ahead-of-time saving. Also, different types of mortgage have different down payment requirements so you may not need as much as you think. Start setting aside money now, if you haven't already. This can keep you from having to borrow, taking it from your retirement account, or going in with a low down payment and having to pay for mortgage insurance.

Hire a Real Estate Agent

When you're ready to start looking, hiring a buyers' agent is one of the best financial moves you can make. A real estate agent is dedicated to finding the right home for you, negotiating on your behalf, and helping you navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of the housing market. The professional know-how of a buyers' agent will save you hassle, mistakes, and money.

If you have questions, contact us today. You can also view all of our blog posts here.

10 Family Activities to do in Central Maine during the Holiday Season

Snow and Christmas Lights

Looking for some interesting family activities to do this holiday season? The greater Waterville area has many to choose from. Here are the top ten:

Kringleville

Waterville, ME - November 28 - December 22, most evenings and Saturdays

Shop downtown and visit with Santa.

Festival of Trees

Goodwill-Hinckley - December 6 - 13, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, and evenings on the 10th and 12th

Daily tree viewings, giveaways, and lots of activities.

Holiday Stroll

Skowhegan, ME - December 5 & December 6

Parade Friday night at 7:00 pm. Shop downtown and join in many holiday activities.

Service of Carols and Bells

Colby College, Waterville, ME - December 5 & 6

Readings, caroling and music.

Chester Greenwood Day

Farmington, ME - December 6

Holiday Movies themed parade, Gingerbread House Contest, Chili Contest and more. Bring your earmuffs!

Belgrade Lakes Village Holiday Stroll (PDF)

Belgrade Lakes, ME - December 6

Parade, horse-drawn carriage rides, caroling and live music.

Cut and carry tree farms

A fun family experience, you-cut tree farms make an event out of choosing your Christmas tree.

Donating/Volunteering

Donate cash, gifts, or food. Or make it a family activity and donate your time to help the hungry or needy.

Greater Waterville Area Food Bank

Mondays thru Thursdays, 10 am - noon; 2nd and 4th Monday evening 5:30 - 7:00 pm

Listing of Local Church Soup Kitchens

Various times

Greater Waterville Area Food Pantries

Various times

Chasing Lights

Drive through or stroll along well decorated streets. Some neighborhoods earn reputations for holiday decorating.

Good areas include Washington St, near Colby College; China Rd in Winslow, and any of the downtown shopping areas in Waterville, Skowhegan, Augusta, Winslow, Fairfield and beyond.

3 Things You Must Do Before Selling Your Home

Being in the real estate business since 1989 means we've seen it all, and not much surprises us anymore. From crazy things happening at the last minute, to people changing their minds to stuff just blowing up, literally. So we decided to talk about three important points to consider before you put your house on the market.

Deal with the Emotional Aspect Head On

Factors like how long you've owned your home, a family history of ownership, first home or birth of children, marking the kids' height on a doorway and close knit neighborhood relationships all add to the emotional impact of selling your home.

Make sure you take time to explore all the reasons for wanting to sell. Even if you are relocating to take a new job the emotional side of the sale can sometimes sneak up on you. Discuss the sale with your family and your children because it will have an impact on them as well. Take pictures of each person's favorite aspect of the property like a favorite room, porch or play area in the yard to make a scrapbook as a memento.

Do Your Homework

Don't let any detail turn into an unpleasant surprise once you make the decision to sell. Find out what you owe on the home including loans, taxes and liens. Be sure to research what comparable homes are selling for in the area. Then decide on the bottom line minimum offer that you would be willing to accept. If you are a co-owner be sure to discuss this fully with your co-owner and agree on these details prior to putting the house on the market. You may want to consider having your home inspected to identify and address any repairs that need to be made as well.

Hire a Realtor

Yes, we know it sounds obvious coming from us but the importance of having a Realtor is significant. We serve as your advocate, we market your property, we aid in negotiations with a buyer, we work hard to get the best price for your property and we do so much more to make the process easier for you and your family.

Real Estate Investment 101

A home for sale.

Investing in any type of real estate can be a profitable venture; however, knowing key aspects of the practice makes all the difference when it comes to being successful. Here are a few elements to keep in mind before buying real estate and/or selling real estate in todays market.

  1. Know the Neighborhood. Be sure to get a good feel of the neighborhood before purchasing a house for investing. Know the demographics, school zone, income, housing marketing, etc. This will help project into possible future investment benefits.
    • Make sure there are not a high number of vacancies already available in the area. This may mean a lack of interest in the majority of homebuyers in the area. Choose a well-populated neighborhood that has a low turnover rate when it comes to moving.
  2. Have Goals. Create long- and short-term investment goals. This will help gauge a workable plan of action and will provide motivation to stick with this plan. It may be important to work alongside a professional Realtor, like one from Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate, to determine the most profitable and realistic goals for a specific situation.
  3. Sorting Through Legalities. Develop a professional relationship with a real estate lawyer who has an extensive amount of knowledge and experience in real estate investment. A real estate lawyer can help develop contracts, answer legal questions, paperwork, etc.
  4. Get Pre-Approved. Before looking into any investment plans, get pre-approved for a loan or mortgage. This may reflect a more financially-stable individual, aiding in the offering and buying process.
  5. Comfort. Get comfortable with a property before buying. Visit the house more than once and really get to know the workings of the property. Rather than purchasing on impulse, it is best to always ask questions, familiarize with the neighborhood and the surrounding homes, and become at ease with the homes qualities. This can help provide a deeper insight before investing.
What are your thoughts on investing? Are you seeking to invest in real estate? Let us know in the comments! Please feel free to also let us know your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

Inexpensive Home Improvement Ideas

A gorgeous bathroom.

 

Whether you are preparing to sell your house or just looking to give your house a new look here are some inexpensive ideas that will give your house a fresh look. Improving one's home can improve the overall attractiveness to buyers, and increase one's home value. Consider some of these changes to improve the overall usability and spaciousness of your living quarters.

Bathroom

Installing new lighting fixtures in the bathroom can be a great way to add extra light, spruce up existing dcor, and complement the fixtures or amenities that are already available in the bathroom. A new countertop for the bathroom sink could also be a quick and somewhat inexpensive technique for renovating the bathroom space. Fresh paint and a new color for the bathroom also improve the quality and overall value of the home. Choose the color and style that is currently the most popular with homebuyers. A warm, darker color suits bathrooms that wish to exhibit a sophisticated allure. Bright paint colors should be used for bathrooms that have sunny windows in order to enhance the bright and cheery atmosphere of the room.

Kitchen Rollouts

Expanding the kitchen space is also a great idea, especially for smaller homes. The main focal point of any house is usually the kitchen, and the majority of homeowners' time will be spent in this room. Installing rollouts, cabinets that roll out and can hold an abundance of appliances, pots and pans, and various other kitchen gadgets, can be a valuable asset to improving available space in any kitchen.

Organize Closet

To provide more space in the home and to reduce the amount of clutter in the bedroom, try installing wire shelving in closets. This will provide space to store clothes or other similar items without having to keep them in drawers or on the floor. Hanging baskets are also helpful for this need, and they provide a much more attractive method for storing accessories, shoes, and some clothing items. This can be helpful for keeping the closet area, and the overall bedroom, looking clean, tidy, usable, and spacious. This may improve the attractiveness of the home to homebuyers. What type of things do you do to improve your home while keeping an eye on economy? Let us know in the comments! Feel free to let us know on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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          4 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Summer

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          With summer vacations, children being out of school, and college on the horizon for many recent high school grads, there is so much going on during this time of the year. For those who need to sell their home quickly in the summer, there are certain things that they can do to enhance the aesthetic value in order to make it more attractive to prospective buyers.

          Landscaping

          The first visual any prospective buyer has of a home is the natural landscape. There are instances when buyers may refuse to enter a home just by the way the yard is kept. If grass if overgrown, weeds are plentiful, and the shrubs are dead, buyers are less likely to want to pursue the home. Mow the yard and pull the weeds, and perhaps make a small investment in a flower bed for the front yard. Pick light summery-colored flowers, like yellow, orange, and green.

          Colors

          Dark and warm colors can be sophisticated and alluring, but are also more appropriate during the darker times of the year (autumn and winter). Instead, repaint the walls a basic white or pale green. Choose colors that match with the flooring but also give off a light, refreshing feel. If the furniture is still in the home during viewing, strategically place bright summery flowers throughout the rooms. Strive for making these flowers fresh, as this will be a more powerful visual that will hopefully illicit a positive response from buyers.

          Attractive Entrance

          The very first thing buyers will see when they walk into a house is the entrance. No matter what season it is, this is the most crucial area as the entrance will make the very first impression and will radically influence the buyers' decision. Make this area bright and charming as well as tidy and inviting. Place a vase of summer flowers on a table, make sure the area is appropriately lit, and reduce clutter by making the area simple in dcor.

          Air Flow / Smell

          During the summer, a house can become stuffy, hot, and unbearable for both residents and prospective buyers. Keep the windows open to expand the space. This will also increase air flow throughout the home, perfect for older houses in the Maine area that do not have air conditioning. The smell in the home must also be taken into account, as any putrid aromas will certainly put a buyer off. Again, incorporate the use of fresh flowers, especially lilacs, as these can impart a strong yet delicate aroma in the home. Selling a home is no easy feat, especially during the summer months. Just doing simple dcor and landscaping actions in and around the home can make all the difference. Keep these above tips in mind to increase the chances of appealing to interested buyers during the summer, and be sure to seek more advice from a Realtor or real estate professional.

           

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              How to Read a Home Inspection Report & What to Focus On

              383520_9918Having your home inspected is a critical part of the home buying process, as is finding a trustworthy and competent inspector. Just as important, however, is understanding the report when it is finished. Here are some suggestions on reading it correctly and identifying the most important elements of the document. Reports are usually presented in a checklist or narrative format. A narrative provides more specific and detailed information about the inspection. Realestate.com mentions that some reports highlight the homes issues rather than its strengths. Let the home inspector know that you want both reflected in the report. They advise that it will be easier to judge the state of the home if the report includes the positives as well as the problem areas. When reading the report, focus on potential health hazards and the most costly problems first. Multiple sources, including Angies List and My Move, concur on the most important elements:

              Electrical

              Your electrical system must be up to code. As described by My Move: It is critical that the electrical system can handle modern homeowners needs. Many homes have inadequate and outdated electrical systems.

              Roof & Chimney

              My Move warns that a faulty chimney is a prime cause of house fires. Angies List advises that the inspection be carried out on a rainy day to catch leaks or potential water damage. If this didnt happen, make sure that any water damage issues or concerns have been addressed.

              Mold, Mildew, or other Health Hazards

              Mold and mildew, while unsightly, and unpleasant to smell, can become a far more serious problem. Other contaminants such as radon gas should also be looked for. Many of these could become deadly if ignored.

              Plumbing

              My Move warns: Faulty plumbing can lead to huge repair bills. Make sure that water pressure and drainage have been addressed in the report. Angies List also highlights the importance of checking the pipes outside the home as well. Ask for clarification when and if you need it; get the most from your home inspection report. As Mortgage News Daily writes: The best inspectors are also teachersyou will learn a lot about your house and its systems. As Realestate.com suggests, keep the report as a valuable resource to be referred to later: A thorough report may contain up to 20 or more pages, detailing items that need adjustment, service or cleaning. The summary punch list, detailing the inspectors concerns, is a valuable reference for future home maintenance needs. Remember, if the report leaves you with questions, ask them. A home inspection is only worth the help that it gives the homeowner (potential or otherwise.)

               

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                      Ups and Downs of Your Credit Report: Mortgage Loan Dos and Donts

                      money-256314_640When applying for a mortgage loan, it is in your best interest to be familiar with your credit report and hopefully possess a strong score. Your credit score correlates directly to loan opportunities, favorable rates, and the chance to establish revolving credit accounts. Mortgage Calculator suggests acquiring copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and reviewing them before applying for a mortgage. Look carefully for errors which occur in an estimated forty percent or more of all credit reports. Sheyna Steiner at Bankrate.com writes: investors demand higher yields from risky investments. This applies in the mortgage lending arenaLenders prefer borrowers with low balances, a long history of on-time payments and a mix of credit utilization -- for instance, a car loan and a couple of revolving accounts such as credit cards. The following a list of suggestions from Bankrate for keeping your credit score stable and ways to improve it:

                      Avoid late payments.

                      Paying bills on time is very important in maintaining a strong credit score. Blake Ellis for CNNMoney writes that payment history accounts for approximately 35% of yourscore so late payments on credit cards, student loans, mortgages or even doctors bills can all bring down your score if the company reports it to the credit bureaus.

                      Keep inquiries to a minimum.

                      Whenever you seek to open a new line of credit, an inquiry is made into your credit report. Inquiries typically stay on the report for two calendar years. Excessive inquiries in a short span of time are frowned upon. Ellis explains that: continually adding to your potential credit [is something] credit companies are going to look atas a risk. The concern is that you could become overextended at some point.

                      Keep card balances as low as possible.

                      Keeping credit card balances low, or even better, carrying no balance at all, shows you to be a lower risk for financial institutions. Mortgage Calculator advises: Carry low credit card balances, or pay them off, along with any other outstanding bills before applying for the mortgage. Ellis recommends keeping your balance low to ensure your credit utilization ratio (or percentage ofyour credit limit that you use) is in check. He writes that: with other measurements of your overall debt, this ratio accounts for about 30% of your credit score.

                      Don't close your unused accounts.

                      As surprising as it may seem, closing a line of unused credit can actually hurt your score. It can affect your credit ratio negatively, (giving you less potential credit to counteract the balances you could be carrying.) Mortgage Calculator counsels that a: positive credit score is a reflection of a good, positive standing with every creditor the consumer deals with, regardless of the account activity. The longer you maintain a positive credit history, the better the influence on your score. In essence, it is a good idea to keep old accountsopenrather than terminating the [unused] account these cards should be put away and the consumer should refrain from using them. Your credit score shouldnt be something you are afraid of and put off looking at. The more quickly you recognize problem areas, the more quickly they can be addressed. Remember these tips when preparing to apply for a mortgage loan and use the suggestions above to maintain your healthy credit score, or improve it if necessary.

                       

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                                            What To Ask A Potential Home Inspector

                                            road-sign-63983_640Buying a new home can be an intimidating and complicated experience. Finding a home inspector should not be. Ask your real estate professional for a recommended list of home inspectors to interview. Below is a list of possible helpful questions a prospective home buyer should ask a potential home inspector before hiring him or her. Steve McLinden at Bankrate advises that at least three inspectors should be interviewed and that they provide sample reports and references.

                                            Are you certified?

                                            Michelle Sturdevant writes that if a home inspector isnt certified, dont bother asking more questions. This is an immediate sign not to employ this contractor. Under no circumstances should a person buying a new home employ an inspector who is not certified.

                                            How many inspections have you performed and how long have you been in the business?

                                            McLinden recommends asking first about the inspectors previous experience. He writes: To be safe, stick with a full-time inspector who has been in the business for more than five years. McLinden also advises that inspectors be questioned about their professional certifications.

                                            Is your experience specialized to a particular kind of house?

                                            Sturdevant also offers this tip, which is acutely important when buying a new home. The question references residential or commercial real estate. Make sure your potential inspectors are familiar with residential properties.

                                            How do you keep abreast of changes in industry standards, codes, and construction advances?

                                            4 Square Home Inspectors maintain a continuing education program and advise that potential home inspectors should as well. Make sure they demonstrate an up-to-date knowledge of standards. Sturdevant mentions an advantage of new inspectors, who can be very knowledgeable and may even bring another inspector to the walk through.

                                            How long will the inspection take and should I be present for it?

                                            CJR Home Inspections set of questions include this one. They also answer it: The size of the house, its age, and your involvement in the inspection [are all time factors]the average sized house takes about 3 to 5 hours including a conversation at the end. Sturdevant is adamant about a clients presence at the inspection. Do not miss the opportunity to be present at this home inspection. This is valuable information you need when purchasing your home. Take these questions into account when you are searching for a home inspector. They will help you make a better informed decision and will save you time and frustration in the long run. If you have any questions, contact Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate. We will connect you with one of our qualified real estate professionals.

                                             

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                                                  Life As A Realtor...Over Glorified or Not?

                                                  pamI cant tell you how many times I am asked, Isnt it great to be able to spend your days looking at ALL those houses?! I think over the years, people have come to a conclusion that jumping from property to property, and seeing beautiful homes, is what makes up this job called a Real Estate Associate. Lets put this career into a Recipe shall we? Ingredients: Time, patience, knowledge of all types of legal humbo-jumbo, accounting background, therapist, positive attitude that does NOT have an off button, continuous smile, 4 wheel drive vehicle, laptop, cell phone, professional attire, computer knowledge, GPS, able to work nights-weekends-holidays STILL holding that continuous smile, an endless supply of coffee and Tylenol. Preparation: Mix all the above into your lifestyle, separate them so you can achieve at least 5 hours of sleep per day, keep an open mind of what is to come, and get ready for an over the top rewarding career with countless rewards! In closing, this recipe should be tried by anyone who cant say each day, I love my job and today is going to be another wonderful day!

                                                  Written by: Pam Natole, Realtor at Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate