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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!

Want to keep updated on local real estate listings, stories, and tips?  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!
Posted in For Buyers Tagged with: , , , , ,

Mortgage Road Map: What to Expect!

Buying a home can be a daunting task. Between making sure your new home will meet all your needs and getting the best value, adding the mortgage process into the mix can be overwhelming. Thankfully our agents here at The Real Estate Store can help guide you through it. Here is a step-step mortgage road map to help give you peace of mind in your buying experience with information provided courtesy of RMS Mortgage!

Step 1. Pre-Approval

Once you meet with an agent, it’s a good idea to start the home buying process by finding out your mortgage pre-approval amount. Not only will this give you information on what homes would be in your price ranges, but it also means that your lender can check your credit and verify your documentation for approval. This will save you time in the long run. Your Real Estate Agent can help recommend a place to start!

Step 2. Submit Mortgage Application

This next step happens after you have found the house you are ready to buy! Once you are under contract and scheduling a home inspection, it’s time to submit your official application. You will need to provide updated financial documents and the Purchase & Sales Agreement of your potential home.

Step 3. Processing & Underwriting

The mortgage company will organize your updated financial information and order the appraisal. Next they will begin the underwriting process. This can take as little as four days and as long as four weeks, depending on if there are any conditions that need to be met, but on average most people will receive an answer about their application within one to two weeks.

Step 4. Conditional Approval

In some instances, during the underwriting process you may have some conditions that must be met before approval. These may be additional documentation needed, or explanations to questions asked by the underwriter. Make sure to get that information to the underwriter as soon as possible so as not to delay your closing. 

Step 5. Home!

Once the appraisal report is completed and reviewed by underwriting, and you’ve obtained home owners insurance, you just need to bring a certified check for tour down payment/closing costs and sign your closing documents. 

During your journey, there are some pitfalls that can hinder your progress through the mortgage application. Watch out for:

  • Late payments on debt, bills, and household services/utilities
  • Inconsistent credit or debit card usage (such as other large purchases or deposits)
  • Changing employment status
  • Applying for new credit, car loan, store card, etc
  • Switching banks
  • Co-signing loans

Don’t make any big purchases or changes while waiting to close; when in doubt check with your mortgage broker first. It’s also a good idea to use a credit watch program to monitor your credit during this process and stop unusual activity!

Planning on buying a home in the near future? Reach out to 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!

Posted in For Buyers, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Open House: 9 Tips to Prepare

For many sellers, an open house can be both an exciting and daunting process. Here is the first chance to have potential buyers come and view a property, but how does someone get ready to have that many people in their home? We’ve provided a few tips to consider when planning your open house:

Open House Sign

1. De-clutter, De-clutter, De-clutter.

Where ever possible, reducing clutter and putting things in cabinet or closets neatly is key. Buyers expect rooms to be sparse and neat like in a magazine.

2. Stage your home.

For people who are still living in their current homes, there are other options to bring your house to life without hiring a staging company. If you have time to plan, you should repaint any walls with an intense, bright color to a neutral/conventional paint. Depending on your budget, you could also look at getting updated kitchen hinges and knobs, and freshening up older/worn-out rugs. For smaller items that you can stage closer to the open house, you can add items such as: new towels in the kitchen and bathroom, a vase with flowers, a decorative bowl with fruit, and other small touches without adding too much clutter.

3. Spark your potential buyers joy.

Think about looking at a home from the perspective of the buyer: Would you want to walk into a home with dust, dirty, messy surfaces, etc.? Would you want to see cluttered walls and furniture when looking at a new home? A common tip that also helps in the staging process is to remove one piece of furniture from each room to help make the space look less cluttered.

4. Store away personal items.

A buyer wants to envision a potential home as a blank canvas, and allowing them to completely immerse themselves in that experience is essential.  This includes putting away things like such as family photos, knickknacks, children’s arts and crafts, etc.  Also if there is a fixture that you are planning to take with you in the move, remove and pack it away so that a potential buyer has an accurate picture of how the house will look when they buy it.

5. Have a friend watch your pets somewhere else.

Open houses with many people can be very chaotic, and this can heighten your pets stress and anxiety levels. Some potential buyers may also have allergies to certain pets, and while it’s important to make sure anyone who has strong allergies are aware that pets live in the home currently, you do not want to worsen their symptoms.

6. Make sure your home smells inviting.

Some people use artificial floral sprays or strong potpourris, but this can often set off allergies in potential buyers. Using natural cleaners with lemon or lavender scents when cleaning can help keep everything pleasant. The classic smell of freshly baked cookies can also make for a fun refreshment to give people during the open house.

7. Stay in the background.

During an open house, it is best practice to leave your home for the duration.  Let your real estate agent meet potential buyers and show them around.

8. Be open to feedback.

While an open house is a great way to stir excitement for a home on the market, you can also get quick and immediate feedback on things that may be fixed in order to bring up the value of your home. It can be upsetting after all of your hard work to hear negative feedback.  Just keep in mind that the goal is to get a sense of potential blind spots that you and your agent may not have seen as potential concerns for buyers.

Interested in having an open house? Talk to one of our agents today to find out more about the process!

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

Posted in For Sellers, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

2018 Property Taxes

Posted in Uncategorized

2017 – Another Year Of Increases

2017 Media Sales Price
Maine Listings has released their annual figures for home sales in 2017. It was another great year for home prices! Statewide the median sale price was up 5.60% compared to 2016. Cumberland County median sale price was up 7.55% since last year and York county was up 7.82%. Home prices are well above the pre-recesion “peak!”

“Home values showed upward movement throughout 2017 with the statewide annual median sales price also reaching an historical high. The market momentum is in place for a terrific start to 2018.” – Maine Listings January Press Release

Keep in mind, these are median sale price numbers. To find out what your home is worth call today for a free market analysis.

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Getting Ready To Buy A Home?

Here are some helpful tips for getting ready to buy a home:

1. Check your credit score and report. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report once a year www.annualcreditreport.com

  • Keep in mind that different industries calculate your score differently, so the actual credit score when you apply for a loan may be a slightly number.
  • Generally you need a 640 credit score or better for most loan programs. They also look at the total amount of debt payments versus your income. Try to have any balances on your credit cards below 40% of the maximum available.
  • 2. Collect tax returns, W2s for the past two years and paystubs for the past 1-2 months for proof of employment and income.

    3. If you are renting, pay by check so you have a record they can verify.

    4. Avoid large or unusual deposits or withdrawals from our bank account. If you are “borrowing” money from friends or family, be aware that the lender won’t allow you to “borrow” money and they will require it to be a gift with no expectation of repayment.

    5. Talk to a few different loan officers at different companies so you can compare the closing fees and loan programs available. Some local banks have in-house programs that are more flexible with down payment then the loan programs that are resold to investors. However, independent mortgage brokers often have access to a larger variety of programs then local banks do. It’s a good idea to talk with someone from both. Multiple loan officers can check your credit without additional adverse effect as long as it is within a 30 day period. We can direct you to some loan officers we’ve had good experiences with.

    Posted in For Buyers

    Should I Wait Until Spring To Sell?

    “What is the best time of year to list my house for sale?”
    This is a question we Realtors have heard many times. The short answer is that you can list your house any time of year, but spring and summer are the strongest markets. The longer answer gets to the well-known principle of supply and demand.

  • If there are fewer houses for sale during the fall, this can work to your advantage in selling your house.
  • There are also buyers who are under contract to sell their house soon and are buy right now. These buyers may no longer be looking by the time next spring comes around.
  • If you are looking to sell your house and buy another house immediately, doing so in the fall could help you avoid a blind bidding war with other buyers. It can be very frustrating to bid above asking price on house after house and keep losing out to someone else. This is an unfortunately common problem in the spring market especially with the low inventory we have had in our area over the past few years.
  • Nobody wants to move during a blizzard in February, so act now and at contact us for a free market analysis of your house and we can discuss further a marketing plan and the time of year that makes the most send for you.

    Posted in For Sellers

    The Big Down Payment Myth

    According to a recent article by The National Association of Realtors, there is a common misconception that buying a home requires a 20% down payment.

    “The average down payment on a purchase mortgage was just 11 percent in 2016. And that’s just the average; often times down payments are much lower. For borrowers under the age of 35, the average down payment was just under 8 percent, according to NAR’s survey. But there are many mortgage options that offer the opportunity to make low or even no down payments. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer no-money down loans to those who are eligible. In 2016, 16 percent of buyers under the age of 35 put no money down on their home purchase.

    NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers has shown that the median down payment for first-time buyers has been 6 percent for three straight years and 14 percent for repeat buyers in three of the past four years. However, when asked about the amount of a down payment needed to purchase a home, a remarkable 87 percent of non-owners indicated that a down payment of 10 percent or more is necessary.”

    In addition to the loan programs mentioned in the article like FHA and USDA Rural Development, there are some local banks that offer in-house loan programs with down payments in the 5%-10% range.


    Posted in For Buyers

    Should I buy a house with a well?

    When buying a house you may come across a house that uses a private well for water supply instead of public water. There are advantages and disadvantages to a well water system and a public water system so it’s not something you should automatically rule out.

    Is Well Water Safe?
    Modern well design uses deep drilling down to bedrock to obtain water that is naturally filtered through miles of the ground. There are additional contaminants that can still occur in the water so further testing is required and possibly additional filtration. The State of Maine recommends testing your well water once a year for bacteria and nitrates and every 3 to 5 years for arsenic, fluoride, uranium, radon, lead, and manganese. Public water does water quality testing, but they test the water before it is run through miles of often very old piping to arrive inside your house. The drinking water crisis in Flint Michigan was partially caused by the faulty assumption that public water is tested and safe, but the piping between the water supply and the houses was leaching lead in to the water.

    Typically lower operating cost
    Control of your individual water supply
    Less susceptible to outage due to water main breaks

    Periodic testing is easy to forget
    System potentially requires filtration system(s)
    Pump/tank require eventual replacement
    No water when there is a power outage
    Older shallow wells susceptible to running dry in a drought

    Posted in For Buyers

    2016 Housing Report

    MaineListings.com has released their annual report of real estate sales by county. Cumberland county had a 2.68% increase in the number of homes sold and a 6% average price increase. York county has an 11.78% increase in the number of homes sold and a 5.75% average price increase. 2016 was the 5th consecutive year of increase in the number of units sold.

    Posted in Uncategorized