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Affordability in Home Ownership

For someone who wants to stop renting and start owning a home, the goal may feel like steep climb. With housing prices and rent rising, it can be hard to imagine making a large purchase such as a home. However, with research, due diligence, and a practical approach, you can start to make steps for transitioning to home ownership. 

Understanding your credit score 

One of the biggest factors that affects the ability to buy a home is your credit score. There are minimum scores required for different loan programs, and a higher score may also help you when looking for a larger loan amount. Paying bills on time, making sure you have no overdue bills and debt, and keeping your credit usage active and balances low will help improve these scores over time.

There is also good news for people for people with large medical debt in the state of Maine. In the past, that medical debt would be reported to credit reporting agencies as debt that was in default until it was paid off. Just recently however, Maine legislature passed a bill that requires medical debt to be reported as a consumer credit transaction, as long as the patient is making regular, scheduled periodic payments towards their debt (which means a better credit score). You can find out more here: https://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/bills_129th/chapters/PUBLIC77.asp

 Knowing the types of mortgages available 

One of the biggest hurdles to home buying is saving up for a down payment. In the past, mortgages often required approximately 20% down payment of the home’s value which would have been anywhere from $20,000 – $50,000 for the average first home. For many people that is a year’s worth of their salary, and not practical for the average consumer to save up over time. However, now-a-days many mortgages offer plans with lower required percentages on down payments. 

The Federal Housing Administration (better known as FHA) loan is a mortgage that is targeted to help low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time home buyers in purchasing a home. Loans with less then 20% down payment do come with the caveat of paying for mortgage insurance, but you can talk with an experienced mortgage broker to understand how that may affect you. 

USDA Rural Development Program has some no-money down loan programs but the program is restricted to certain areas and it has an upper income limit. 

Some lenders also have in-house loan programs with 5-10% down payment options. 

Calculating your home buying budget 

If you have a good credit score and a solid income, you may be approved for an amount that is much higher than you would like to spend per month. There are mortgage calculators all over the internet that can help you calculate monthly cost of a loan amount with a percentage of a down payment. In general, most mortgage lenders say that you shouldn’t spend more than 28% of your monthly income (before taxes) on your mortgage payment; however, you still should take the time to factor in any other debt, loans, and credit card payments into your desired mortgage rate.

If you find a home that you are interested in buying and is within your initial budget, make sure to investigate the average cost of utilities and taxes per year, as well as any association fees if applicable. If a home that you are planning to purchase is older or needs extensive repairs, you will also want to calculate an emergency repair fund that is separate from general savings. An experienced Real Estate Agent can help you better understand these expenses when researching a home! 

Separating “wants” and “needs” 

Often times, when we might start the home buying process, we have one big list of “needs” that narrow down our available choices and may push you out of your price range. When you are examining your list, take time to consider what is a “want” vs a “need”. For example, 15 minute commute to work may be ideal, but if living a little further out can save some significant money, it may be worth the trade-off! However if you are a family trying to triangulate between different workplaces and school, considering the commuting time for all of your family members is more than likely a “need”. In this case, you may want to consider other factors, such as an extra bedroom or a deck to be a trade-off item to help you save. 

If this is your first home, it doesn’t need to be perfect. As you live in the space, investing time in making improvements and maintaining the home will help build its value over time. When the time comes to move on, not only will you have built this investment that allows you to buy your next home, but you will have a better understanding of the things that truly matter for you and your family’s needs. When navigating this process, your Real Estate Agent has the expertise to help guide you towards a first-time home that will work best for you!

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Maine Homeowners: Check your Mailbox in Early 2020!

Are you a homeowner in the state of Maine? You may be seeing a $100 check early next year!

The Property Tax Relief Fund (https://www.maine.gov/treasurer/property_tax_relief/) in Maine is planning to distribute excess funds to households that qualified for the homestead exemption in 2019. The money becomes available if there is a surplus in the state’s general fund at the end of the year. About 305,000 Maine homeowners should be receiving these checks sometime in January or February, so be on the lookout!

What is the homestead exemption?

The homestead exemption is available to a Maine homeowner for their primary residence.  As long as they have lived in the home for more than one year (as of April 1st. 2019), they are eligible. The home’s taxable value is reduced by $20,000, which typically results in a savings of a few hundred dollars every year on your property tax bill. You can find out more about it here: https://www.maine.gov/revenue/faq/homestead_faq.html

You can always each out to the experts at the Real Estate Store to find out more about real estate!

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Why Should You Have Pre-Inspection

pre-inspection

When it comes to changing homes, one of the most stressful parts is selling your home. In the process of packing and looking for your new home, a potential buyer may find an issue during the inspection that will throw everything off track, either financially or time-wise. How can avoid these kinds of surprises? A pre-inspection can help save you a headache (if not several) in the future!

What Is A Pre-Inspection?

A pre-inspection is where the seller of the home hires a Professional Home Inspector to go through the house before putting it on the market. The vast majority of buyers will have a Professional Home Inspector go through the property on their behalf prior to buying. In these inspections, they focus on electrical, plumbing, any heating/cooling system, house structure, and exterior issues in roofing, siding, doors, and windows. Pricing can range anywhere from $500-1000, depending on the size of the house and “add-on” inspections like water quality, air quality, septic system, etc. You can talk to a Real Estate Agent who can help give you recommendations for an inspector! So what are the advantages of a pre-inspection?

attic mold pre-inspection

                   Mold Found In Attic

Address Problems Beforehand

Nothing creates a headache like having to make a repair in the middle of your moving process. You may be forced to spend more money to expedite repairs or deal with issues.  In addition, your moving timeline may be thrown off in the process. A pre-inspection will give you time to allow yourself to research the best way to deal with repairs and issues, in the most cost efficient way. Plus, your Real Estate agent can advertise these updates and repairs as features!

Avoid Mid-Negotiations

When a buyer has an inspection, certain issues might take too long or be too costly to take care of upfront. A buyer may use these issues to negotiate the price, and you may feel pressured to negotiate for more money than you anticipated. They may even cancel the contract outright.. With a pre-inspection, you can work with your real estate agent on deciding a fair cost to incorporate into the asking price. This can help you avoid a major negotiation midway through the process over a costly repair.

Peace of Mind

As we have talked about in the previous sections, pre-inspection can give you, the seller, a great deal of ease. On the other side, a pre-inspection is also great for potential buyers! Buyers can see the upfront issues of a place and know that either the seller has addressed the issues.  Moreover, they also know if the seller has made a stipulation for the repair costs in the asking price. A buyer may even waive their own inspection, knowing that a pre-inspection has been made. You will entice more potential buyers with the knowledge of the upfront issues.  Plus, the overall under-contract process will go smoother and faster for both parties.

Thinking about selling your home and wonder if a pre-inspection would be right for you? Reach out to the experts at the Real Estate Store to find out more!

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

 

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Sweat Equity & “Fixer-Uppers”

sweat equity -before/after home

Buying fixer-uppers and pouring sweat equity into those properties trended almost a decade ago. While there are still plenty of investors who “flip” homes for a profit, buyers are trending toward homes that are move-in ready.  As this trend continues, the classic fixer uppers are staying on the market longer.  Because of this, there may be an opportunity for new home buyers and investors to capitalize on these properties.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a fixer-upper as an investment.

Before Bedroom

Purpose of a fixer-upper purchase

Before buying a potential fixer-upper, it is important to consider what type of investment you would like. Are you planning to do a quick flip on the home? Look at properties in popular neighborhoods with renovations requiring only a few months to a year.  Are you planning to live in the home for several years before reselling? You can focus on more long-term renovations, keeping in mind that you still want to find a home that is habitable for that time frame. In general, a live-in, long-term project is a lower risk investment than a short-term flip.

Rental Properties

Owning a rental property is an excellent way to build wealth over the long term.  When you collect rent and use it to pay down the mortgage, your equity increases. Essentially, your tenants are building your equity for you! Over the long term, rental rates increase which also increases your properties income generation and resale value. Although rental properties can be a solid investment, they do present many challenges and certainly are not for everyone. However, purchasing a rental property that needs sweat equity can be a great investment.

Skills vs Types of Renovations

Some fixer-uppers just need a deep cleaning and some light cosmetic changes.  Others may require major repairs or updating to the electrical and plumbing (or the dreaded structural issues). Before you start looking, it is good to assess what skills you (or family/partners) have available and what skills you will need to outsource. Keep in mind that the idea behind sweat equity is that you can save the most money doing a project on your own. If a property looks like it is going to need a lot of outsourced repairs, you may want to look elsewhere.

Home Inspection

Home inspections are always recommended. To flip a home in a short amount of time, you may be tempted to forgo the home inspection to save time and money. Don’t do it! An inspector can help you find issues that could put you in the red for your project. Even if you are an experienced contractor or renovator, having a second set of eyes can be helpful.

Before Kitchen

Sweat Equity and Return on Investment

In a previous blog, we discussed return on investment (ROI) as being a key component for deciding on sustainable renovations. Consider the ROI for investment properties, as well. Think about the buyers or renters that you want to attract to your finished property. You can consider adding decks, updating cabinets, removing of wallpaper, etc. ROI also comes into play with your location. Your Real Estate Agent can help you navigate these options.

Personal Taste vs ROI

New renovators sometimes catch themselves in the trap of choosing renovations based on personal taste instead of practicality and necessity. Will tearing down the wall between two bedrooms to create a larger master bedroom have better ROI? You might personally like the extra space, but a potential buyer may prefer more bedrooms. Should you place detailed cabinet doors with a delicate marble counter-top in the renovated kitchen? That might be attractive to you or a potential home buyer but not cost effective in a rental property.

Prepare for the Unexpected

It is important to expect some unforeseen costs or repairs during renovations. There are different types of financing for short-term and long-term projects. In addition, estimating resale value in future real estate markets is more art than science.  It is important to do your research, and find a real estate broker who you can trust.

Before Home

Looking for  a “fixer-upper” as a home or investment property? Reach out to the experts at The Real Estate Store to learn more!

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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Building your Dream Home in Maine

dream home

Building a dream home has many benefits! New construction homes are:

  • Tailored to you and your family’s needs
  • Built using new materials that will last longer
  • Need less maintenance and repair in the near future
  • Meet current safety codes and energy efficiency
  • Do not require correcting the decor choices or renovations of the previous owner!

But the process to a new construction home is a little more complex than buying a home. Today we’re going to look at some things to keep in mind when it comes to building a new home in Maine.

First Step into New Construction

You may think that the first step is to buy a plot of land, but there are different ways to go about this. Financing and budget play a huge part in the process! Some people will buy land and obtain a construction loan to finance the building portion. Keep in mind that you cannot “refinance” a loan within a 1 year period; therefore, it’s important to figure out the financing of the land and the construction before you buy just the land.

In other cases, you might pick out the land but have the builder buy the land, build your house, and then sell the completed home to you. Typically, the builder will require a large deposit to help fund the construction. This might be as low as a 5%-10% down payment or the builder may require a much larger deposit. This deposit then becomes your “down payment” for your loan. In any case, having your own Buyers Agent can help you decide what the best route is for you.

Considerations of Land/Local Area

Location, location, location! Just like with buying homes, it’s important to know if the local area is going to fit you and your family’s needs (neighbors, traffic, schools, places of interest, crime, etc.). An additional consideration is specific site condition of land that you will be building on.

  • Are there parts of the landscape that might require additional money during the construction process? Ledge can add significant cost to the site work if they have to do blasting for example.
  • Is the property close to public utilities?  Do you need to consider alternatives/spending a great deal of money to be connected? Sometimes public water or sewer lines are very expensive to connect to if they have to dig open a major road and re-pave the road after connection as an example.
  • Is this an area that is susceptible to natural disasters like flooding? Flood insurance can add significant cost to your monthly payment. There may even be areas deemed protected wetlands that require certain setbacks for the structure to be constructed.
  • Are there any easements or encroachments that might affect where you build? Maine is an old state and a long abandoned road might still have an impact on building setbacks.

Having an experienced Real Estate Agent can help you navigate this sometimes tricky process and when necessary help you find qualified professionals like surveyors, title attorneys, and engineers.

Deciding What Dream Home to Build

There are several different ways to go about deciding what to build. Many builders have model homes with predetermined layouts that allow you to customize the materials used and add upgrades. Some builders can go a little more customized and allow the buyer to have “allowances” for rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom be pre-built into the construction loan. Keep in mind that sometimes these allowances will not cover every possible upgrade and you may end up spending over the allowance which is added to the sales price or purchased out of pocket.

Beyond just working with a builder, you can completely customize the experience by hiring an architect to help plan out every detail of the home to your specification. This does tend to increase the overall price for construction, but you would have more control over every facet of your new, dream home.

Timing in Maine

The general time frame for a new construction is about 120 – 150 days from start to finish, although bigger or more customized builds can take longer. For Maine in particular, winter construction and making sure you dream home can withstand the harsh climate in the later half of the year are important things to consider.

When breaking ground, bigger construction outfits have ground thawing equipment which might be necessary for installing foundations in deep frost. Modern concrete can generally be installed year round with accelerators, insulation, and heaters; however, this may cause an increase in cost and potential delays in the worst part of winter. Building in winter can also run into additional costs in heating during the construction. You need stable temperatures for polyurethane, sheetrock mud, paint, floor acclimation, etc.

dream home

It may sound like a lot, but you don’t have to go it alone. Call The Real Estate Store today for more information about any of your Real Estate needs!  

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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Recent Tax Re-Evaluation in Scarborough

anxious about re-evaluation

Have you recently received a letter about the assessed value of your home increasing as a result of the recent re-evaluation? Should you sell your house before it takes effect? Is your house worth more now than it was two weeks ago? Should you panic? Like all major life decisions, it’s best to approach them as logically as possible and try not to let emotions cloud your judgement. Let’s take a moment to go over what this re-evaluation really means so that you can make the best decision with a clear understanding!

Overall, everyone’s property value increased in this re-evaluation.

This means that our town mill rate, the other factor in determining your property taxes, will likely decrease. So, although your value may have increased, this doesn’t mean your property taxes will go up in direct proportion to this increase. Looking at the data as a whole, the larger the increase in this re-evaluation is indicative of the prior assessment being further from accurate. The prior valuations were inaccurate in many cases because it may have been decades since the assessor actually saw the inside of the home. Having more accurate data means that the property tax burden is more fairly distributed among the property owners.

The way a town determines property tax valuations starts with the net budget expense, also known as the operating cost for the year. This is the total amount of money that will need to be collected through property taxes. They then take the total value of the real estate in the town and come up with a percentage to multiply value by to equal that operating cost figure. This is known as the mill rate. The current mill rate in Scarborough is 16.49 per thousand, or 1.649%, so a $300,000 house would have a tax bill of $4,947 per year.

The new assessed value should be generally closer to your home’s actual market value.

However, the tax assessors goal is to try to distribute the tax burden as fairly as possible. Because of this, the data as a whole works, but on an individual level the value might not be accurate. There are also real world elements that affect market value that the standards used in an appraisal might not recognize. A house with 50ft of water frontage but no water views compared to a house right on the water with a sandy beach might be taxed equally.

So, should you sell your house?

It’s probably best not to react solely to this new re-evaluation. Perhaps downsizing makes sense for tax purposes and other reasons. Perhaps you’d be willing to move to a town that offers a lower tax rate and fewer services. Keep in mind however, that Scarborough is generally in the middle of the pack for tax rates. Neighboring towns are pretty comparable and many have higher tax rates.

Even if you aren’t sure if you want to sell now, contact the experts at The Real Estate Store for more information.

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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Sustainable Home Improvements Before Selling

Sustainable Granite Countertops

With sustainable home improvements, it’s hard to decide what to do before selling a home. Many home buyers are enticed by the idea of sustainability.  Moreover, home improvements that address concerns about energy savings and efficiency can give your home a huge boost in value. But what’s going to give you the most return on investment (ROI), while addressing concerns on sustainability? Here are a few ideas to consider before selling your home.

Energy Efficient Upgrades

This is one of the easiest ways to help make your home more sustainable!   There are ways to get reimbursements on your improvements if you live in the state of Maine. This includes improvements on boilers, heat pumps, water heaters, insulation, and more. Updating to Energy Star appliances like fridges and ovens also help save money over time with bills. Let your Real Estate Agent know if you have made these upgrades to explain the value to potential buyers.

Low Flow Plumbing

Another easy way to improve value and sustainability in your home is changing out those plumbing fixtures. You can find options that include this like toilets, faucets, shower heads, washing machines, dishwashers, and more. Making these improvements will help improve on water usage significantly without necessarily breaking your budget. Your Real Estate Agent can go over these features with potential buyers during an open house or home visit.

Durable Finishes

Hardwood flooring is one of the few high value home improvement items that can give you a huge ROI. Compared to products like carpet or vinyl, homeowners find that hardwood floors are easy to clean and durable. Plus they look amazing! This is also something to consider when you think about your kitchen countertops. Compared to laminate, natural or composite stone (ie granite, quartz, sintered stone) last longer, which means higher ROI. Even wooden countertops can make a huge improvement on ROI, but keep in mind they require extra maintenance. The visual impact when your Real Estate Agent takes pictures for your property will help bring buyers in!

Sustainable Windows/Lead Abatement

Redoing all of your windows to more energy efficient varieties can improve energy bills over time.  However,  ROI is fairly low if the existing windows are in decent shape.  You should replace your windows if they are severely damaged, ill-fitting, or rotting wood. In addition, if your home is older than 1978, you should test your windows for lead paint before making improvements. Talk to your Real Estate Agent about going through the lead abatement program, as well as hiring a lead-safe certified contractor.  Doing this can help you open up your potential buyers to include families with children.  Avoid selling your home at a lower price to compensate for the repairs needed to address lead paint issues.

Solar Panels

While solar panels save a significant amount of money per year on electricity usage, the initial installation is expensive. Some companies offer leasing programs which can help you save up front.  However, you may run into problems when trying to sell your home. Thankfully there are tax credits that you can get if you do decide to install your own solar panels. In this case, the ROI as far as home value is more dependent on two things:

  1. How long you plan to live in the home after the installation to reap the energy savings
  2. The home buyer’s market in your local area

Talk to your local Real Estate Agent on the desirability for solar panel improvements in your region.


Thinking about selling your home and want to know the best improvements to make? Reach out to us at The Real Estate Store to get started!

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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Short-Term Rentals as Investment Properties

Short-term rentals are an up-and-coming way for travelers to stay in places that are not the conventional hotel or resort. For a generation looking for “authentic experiences,” it’s a fun and exciting market to tap into.  However, there are many things to consider before you start your own short-term rental:

Location

You want to make sure your investment is in a convenient and desirable place. Find properties that are near major attractions, large cities, or features like beaches and mountains. Moreover, consider the distance to the nearest airport, mass transport, or highway. Remote locations are great for allowing guests to feel far away from their busy lives, but they must be easy to navigate to with GPS or simple directions. Also, be aware that some towns/cities have restrictions on short-term rentals. You need an experienced Real Estate Agent who is familiar with the local ordinances to ensure that short-term rentals are allowed.

Climate and Seasons

Living in Maine, all of us are very familiar with how changes in season affect tourism. We tend to see an influx of people in the summer and much less in the winter.  However, there are still ways to benefit from this! With a short-term rental property, you have the flexibility to adjust pricing of your rental more often. Price adjustments can help entice vacationers during less profitable times or make the most of popular months. Beach properties, for example, should have their rates adjusted for the summer months.  Near skiing areas, short-term rentals will want to capitalize on winter months and holidays.

Building/Property Upgrades

What kinds of guests are going to be attracted to your property?  You want to keep these things in mind when thinking about making sensible renovations.  Do you have a five bedroom chalet in the mountains, but only one bathroom?  Adding another bathroom is definitely worth considering for hosting large groups/families.  Do you have a cozy cape with easy access to the water?  Adding a deck or landscaping is an easy way to create that “picture perfect” moment for your guest.  Your local Real Estate Agent can help you see the potential in an investment property!

Hospitality

With a short-term rental, there is often an added expectation of being a host in addition to being a landlord. On the one hand, you get to meet new people and help provide wonderful memories for you and your guests – doing things like keeping guests informed, anticipating their needs, and helping them discover the area can boost their overall experience of their trip. On the other hand, some owners may prefer a more “hands off” approach to their investment property.  If that is the case, you may want to find/hire someone who can help act as a host and manage your property during your guests’ stay.

Guest and Host Reviews

In the advent of technology, websites and smartphone apps are making it easier for vacationers to connect with short-term rental properties. Many of these apps allow users to leave reviews, which means positive experiences can help! The higher their ratings, the more likely you are going to have consistent bookings. In addition, some of these apps also allow other hosts to leave reviews about former guests as well. Have a guest that damages your property, leaves a mess, or caused issues? Or have a guest that left your place clean and respected you and your property? You can leave that information in your reviews which can inform other hosts about their potential guests.

Property Management

Whether running a long-term or short-term rental, owners can utilize property management companies to take care of issues that may come up. However, there are times when it will be unavoidable for an owner to be personally involved. Along with normal maintenance that comes with owning a property, cleaning between guests can be tricky to manage. If you decide to rely on a management company, its best to check online reviews and personal references to find the right fit for you.

Short-Term Rentals & Engagement

Overall, short-term rentals require extensive personal engagement in order to be successful. In comparison to a long-term rental, you need to invest more time into your property and your guests. However, the financial gains are much higher.  The more time you put into building your business, the more rewards you will gain from it!

Thinking about purchasing an investment property as either a long-term rental or an short-term rental property? Reach out to us at The Real Estate Store to get started!

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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The New England Home: Cape Cod Style

Looking along any coastline in New England, you can find a soft rainbow of steep sloped roofs and weathered cladding. These simple box structures inspire an elegant, modest look of the historic colonial-style homes.  Moreover, they sprouted up to combat the harsh storms of the Atlantic for the new pioneers of the New England area. How did it become a prominent style home of throughout the United States?  Today, we’ll take a look at the history of this style.

Pioneering Origins

The style originated from the Georgian Colonial of Great Britain that Puritans replicated in the New England area. The harsh climate on the coast proved treacherous for these types of homes so ingenuity came into play.  The settlers redesigned the homes into low, steep roofed cottages that would allow heavy snow to slide off. A central chimney warmed the entire home, which is why the ceilings were lower.  Shutters protected the windows from being battered by storms.

Settlers covered the typical Cape Cod style home of the time in wide, wooden clapboards or shingles.  The cladding then weathered to the distinctive gray that these style homes are often thought of.  These Cape homes had two distinctive symmetrical front windows on either side of the front door, no dormers, and almost no exterior ornamentation.

Colonial Revival

In the 1930s to 1950s, historic attractions such as Colonial Willaimsburg emerged.  They renewed an interest in the essence of the colonial style that developed in America in the 17th century. 

Royal Barry Wills, born in Massachusetts, was one of the more popular architects of the Colonial Revival.  He brought a modernized Cape Cod-style home to middle-class families at the time. Wills created features within the style for larger and expanding families, and incorporated garages into the design. Hence, he focused on accommodating the typical middle-class family, while keeping that New England “charm” to the home. Because of this, Wills brought this style back into popular architecture throughout the United States and Canada.

Present Day Cape

The Cape Cod Style is still a common colonial-style home in New England to this day. These homes are practical for brutal winters and Nor’easters.  In addition, they remind us of a time and place early in the history of the United States.

Types of Homes Built & Sold Since 2017 - Cape

In this region, Colonial homes are still being built and sold, surpassing the popular Ranch and Contemporary type homes. Furthermore, Cape-Style homes takes the fourth highest type of home built and sold since 2017. Their elegant charm and modest shape helped form the look for the classic New England home.  Therefore, they remain a common fixture even today along the northern Atlantic coast of the United States.

Interested in finding your dream home? Reach out to us at The Real Estate Store to find out more!

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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7 Tips to Scoping Out a New Neighborhood Before Buying

Planning on moving to a new neighborhood? Many times when people start the moving process, we tend to focus on making sure the property is going to meet our needs. Beyond the property lines, however, knowing your neighborhood can really help you make sure your home is going to be the best fit in the long term. Here are a few tips to find out a little more about the area before you buy:

1. Take some time to do some online research about the neighborhood.

First of all, the internet is a valuable resource!  It can provide a wealth of information about the neighborhood you are planning to move into. Typing in the neighborhood name into search engine helps paint a picture of what that neighborhood is known for. Real estate listing websites often have tools that can help you get a locals perspective on how they feel about their neighborhood. You may even be able to find message boards or community center websites that can tell you about the community services that are provided for the neighborhood.

2. Read the local newspaper.

Are you having trouble finding information online? In smaller and more rural areas, you may have better luck going to a local store and picking up the newspaper for a few weeks. Similarly, you can also take the opportunity to look at any local bulletins that you find in the area. What services locals are providing or information that they are posting on those bulletin boards can give you a bigger picture of what the neighborhood is like.

3. Meet the neighbors!

This doesn’t mean that you should walk up to a neighbor’s home and just knock on the door!  An easier, and less intrusive method, is to go to a nearby park or community center and meeting locals there. Likewise, you can just head into the local cafe, restaurant, or grocery store and talk to someone at the counter.  It’s a really great way to learn a little bit more about the area.

4. Research local businesses and attractions nearby.

Different types of businesses can either be a draw or a deterrent to a potential buyer. For example, having a local bar within walking distance could be great for an individual who enjoys the relaxing and socializing after work;  however, it may not be the best fit for a family. A dog owner may love being a few houses down from the local dog park; however, someone who is looking for a quieter neighborhood may want to keep that in mind. You can also find out what businesses are new or in the process of coming to the area, which can be an indicator of an up-and-coming neighborhood. Because of this, buyers will want to take advantage of getting into these areas early before prices rise from the popularity.

5. Find out the crime reports.

You can find apps that give you data on the crime stats for the area.  There are a few nationwide crime report maps that can help you investigate specific areas. Crime can happen anywhere, but it is good to know the frequency and types that are happening in a neighbor.  Above all, this can help you make the best decision for your future home.

6. Visit the area at different times.

What is your neighborhood like on a weekday vs. on the weekend? What about mornings, afternoons, and evenings? You can learn about traffic patterns during these times as well as the activity of your potential neighbors. Maybe there is one neighbor that plays loud music on the weekends or uses power tools late into the evening. Similarly, perhaps the road becomes bogged down with traffic during rush hour. While these things may not necessarily be a deterrent, it is good to keep in mind what to expect.

7. Work with a local real estate agent.

If you are moving from a different area or state, you may feel tempted to use the agent selling your current home to help you buy a home.  But local agents have valuable insight into the neighborhood.  When they represent the buyer, their goal is to find the place that is going to best suite your needs: both for your home and the area you are moving into.

Interested in moving in Southern Maine? Come talk to us at The Real Estate Store in Scarborough ME to find out more about the local area!

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