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Adapting to Maine’s Multi-Phase Reopening

Restarting Main’s Economy: https://www.maine.gov/covid19/sites/maine.gov.covid19/files/inline-files/Restarting_Maines_Economy_Book.pdf

Governor Mills recently released the multi-phase reopening for Maine as they continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our state (link above to find out more). While Real Estate is still considered an essential business, we are keeping these updated phases in mind as we progress through the next steps in restarting Maine.

Remote Features for Home Buyers

As we have mentioned in this blog, we are utilizing more and more tools for home buyers to continue to look at homes remotely. Video/Virtual Tours have especially been useful in this time to reduce contact for all parties involved, while still giving buyers the ability to have the feel of an in-person walk through. We have also created questions that help you and your real estate agent address concerns that might be hard to address while taking a virtual tour.

Safety While Home Selling

We have listed out a number of the ways that businesses in the Real Estate world are adapting to help home sellers as well. In addition, there is a COVID-19 addendum being utilized for the home purchasing process that help protect both buyers and sellers in case one or the other party becomes ill and/or must be in quarantine. The homes we have sold in the last month went from on-the-market to closing day with little to no outside visitors, keeping our sellers safe and less interrupted.

Future Plans for Real Estate

As of now, we are still not hosting open houses for the safety of both our sellers, buyers, and real estate agents. We are recommending that people utilize our remote features as much as possible when shopping for a home. As we continue to monitor the progress of restarting Maine’s economy and the pandemic, we will continue to change and adapt in the best way that matches the safety of our clients and agents.

While the way we do business has drastically changed, we continue to work for our Maine clients during this crisis.

You can always reach out to the experts at the Real Estate Store for more information on how real estate is adapting!

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

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Video/Virtual Tour Questions to Ask Your Agent

During these times as we utilize more remote features while physical distancing for home buying, video and virtual tours/open houses are becoming more popular. As we rely more on pictures and videos, there can be a few pieces of important information that we forget to address without actually being on the property physically. These questions are great to consider even when physical distancing mandates have been lifted. Today we’ve compiled a few questions that you can ask your real estate agent during a virtual tour to help get a better idea of the property you are viewing.

Starting with the Neighborhood

Some of this research you might be able to do on your own using Google Maps and drive-bys, but ask your agent to help you paint a picture of the neighborhood as part of your tour. Here are some example questions of information you want to look for:

  • How close are the neighbors?
  • Are there sidewalks?
  • How much privacy is there?
  • What is the noise level outside?
  • Any strange odors (ie paper mills, sewage, etc)?
  • Is there access/views to mountains, forest, lakes, ocean, or other natural features?
  • What is the general amount of traffic during the tour?
  • Are there any local businesses nearby?
  • Any public parks or other recreational places?
  • How far are the schools, hospitals, and other places of interest?

Not all of the questions might be relevant for your needs/wants, but think about the kinds of things you would normally be on the lookout for while driving towards a property.

Looking at the Exterior

Sometimes it is hard to see the details of an exterior from a picture or video, but you can rely on your agent to help you see if there are any specific issues that pop out at them.

  • Do the siding and roof look worn or damaged?
  • Are the gutters in good condition? If there are no gutters, are there areas where gutters would have been useful?
  • Is there any exterior damage to the casing on the windows?
  • How is the landscaping? Are there any patches of dead grass and other plants that can be explained?
  • If there is a deck or porch, do the boards squeak? Does the structure feel stable? What is the condition of the steps and railing?
  • If there is fencing, does it look like it is in good condition? Do any boards or panels need to be replaced?
  • If there is a private septic system, where is the tank and leach field located?
  • If there is an outside HVAC or Generator unit, how long ago were they installed? Where are they located? Do they look like they are in good shape?

You can also apply similar questions to any outdoor sheds or garages on the property.

Stepping Inside

Pictures and video can help us with spatial understanding of a space, but once again there are specific features we might miss just from general images.

  • What is the interior noise level? Is there a major difference between the outdoor and indoor noise level?
  • Any strange interior odors (musty/mold odors, etc.)?
  • Do the listing photos and video accurately depict the interior features?
  • Are there any water marks on the ceiling?
  • Are there any concerning water damage, cracks, or chips in the walls or molding?
  • Do any floorboards creak as you walk around?
  • What are the carpets, tiles, or linoleum if present?
  • Is any mold or mildew present in the kitchen or bathroom? Are there features to help mitigate mold from forming such as extraction fans and air flow?
  • What is the age and condition of the household appliances? Beyond the kitchen, this can include washers & dryers, boilers, well tank, sump pumps, etc.
  • What are the conditions of any oil tanks? Any visible cracks or leaks?
  • What is the condition and location of the breaker box?
  • Are there any chimneys? Do they look like they are in good, clean condition?
  • Any damage to doors or windows on the interior? Do they open and close easily?
  • What do the views look like outside the windows?

You can also refer to the property disclosures to answer some of these questions as far as age and condition of utility related features as well as any major issues. If a property disclosure mentions a concern, make sure that part of your agents tour includes a look at the issue if possible.

While negative responses to any of these questions should not be an immediate deterrent from considering a property, having as much information as possible gives you a better, more informed picture. Plus, you may be able to negotiate a better deal if any major issues were not already outlined in the listing photos or property disclosures. Remember that your real estate agents understand that buying a new home is a major commitment, and their goal is to find the best match for you and your family so don’t be afraid to ask questions!

You can always each out to the experts at the Real Estate Store to find out more about purchasing a new home!

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

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Safe Moving Tips While Physical Distancing

During these times, we highly recommend people wait on moving until government mandates have been lifted if possible. However, perhaps you went under contract in late February or early March, and you are already in the middle of a closing process locked into a move date. Perhaps you have other reasons where you may need to move during these times such as a new job assignment or moving as part of the military. Even after mandates have been lifted, there are still basic safety precautions that you should follow in these uncertain times.

Plan Ahead, But Be Flexible

Even with regular moving, it is always a good idea to plan ahead and take your time packing. During these times where you won’t be able to recruit friends to help you pack and unpack, start with boxing and organizing items that you won’t need to access for a month or more. Save enough for one of each kind of dish for each person in your household and pack the rest. Start packing room by room, as this can help from feeling overwhelmed while packing. Plus you can label each box by room and contents so that it is easy to organize once you are in the new space. Save the daily essentials for the week you plan to move, but you can organize them in a way to make them easier to move. If you live in an apartment, reach out to your landlord and neighbors to let them know what day you are planning to move to help avoid social contact.

If you have not signed a home contract yet, you can make a request for an addendum of flexibility in case either party must be quarantined or become unable to complete the transaction. If you or any of your family start to experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should postpone moving. The health and safety of you, your family, and your community should come first, and you should follow your local and state guidelines as far as quarantine procedures.

DIY Moving

If possible, we recommend moving on your own. This is the safest way to minimize contact with other people. If you need to rent a moving box truck or van, ask the company what their sanitation procedures are between vehicle uses and what their safety procedure is for picking up and dropping off the vehicle. Make sure your hand soap is the last thing you move so that you can wash your hands frequently while you are moving in and out, and if you can, make some available at the new place immediately as well.

Since you have saved your daily essentials to pack together, keep those in the most available tote or box that you can access after your move. Since you should not invite friends over to help you unpack, you want to make sure to take your time and not worry yourself with hunting for your essential items. Also make sure to pack some cleaning supplies with your essential items so that you can perform a deep clean to high-contact surfaces in your new home. The CDC provides some tips on how to best clean and sanitize your new home. Careful planning will help you avoid a great deal of anxiety and stress, but if you start to feel overwhelmed, remember to step away and take a breather. Remind yourself of all the positive reasons why you are moving and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!

Hiring a Moving Company

In some cases, there may be too much to move on your own or you may be in some way restricted from lifting boxes and furniture. Currently moving companies are still considered essential businesses, but they may have reduced hours and employees. You may need to be more flexible with timelines during these unique times; however, you should absolutely check to see what their safety procedures are during these times. Look for features such as:

  • Virtual surveys to provide price estimates (as opposed to an in-home walk-throughs)
  • Health screening procedures for their employees
  • Availability of hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks for movers and drivers
  • Cleaning procedures in place for trucks, equipment, and high-contact surfaces in your home.

Always keep some hand soap available for the movers to be able to wash their hands frequently. While you should expect the moving company to provide gloves and non-medical masks for their employees, it never hurts to keep extra on hand just in case (as well as extra for you and your family). You still want to keep in mind the six foot physical distance rule and wearing masks yourself when interacting with movers. Communicate through phone and email as much as possible to reduce contact. Masks and gloves are not substitutions for keeping 6 feet apart as much as possible and frequent hand washing.

Moving Long Distance

If you are moving to a new state, many local guidelines ask that newcomers self-quarantine for at least 14 days once moved. Check with both your new state, county, and city/town guidelines to make sure you are following the proper mandates. Make sure as you are driving to a new place to wear masks and glove when filling up gas and avoid entering convenience stores unless absolutely necessary.

Bringing along some non-perishable foods supplies such as dry or canned goods can help while you wait to be able to go to the grocery store. With some careful planning ahead, you may be able to utilize grocery delivery websites and phone apps to have groceries delivered to your home. Many of these services have been overwhelmed with use, so plan for groceries to possibly take up to a week to be delivered. Some restaurants are even offering touchless delivery to help minimize contact, which gives you another option. You can also plan ahead by calling your utility companies to have essentials such as power, water, heating, and internet turned on by the time you arrive.

Hopefully if you have to move during these times, these tips can help you stay safe and avoid stress. Remember to stay flexible in case things change, and plan ahead for ease of moving and anticipating possible contingencies.

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

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

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Navigating the Negotiation: Counteroffers

One of the more intimidating aspects of home buying and selling is price negotiation. Counteroffers can occur before the home goes under contract and after inspections and appraisals. Being prepared to make or deal with counteroffers can give you a step in right direction to help the entire process go smoothly as possible. As always, you should rely on the expertise of your real estate agents to help you navigate the negotiations.

Selling a Home?

If you are in a buyer’s market, you may find yourself running into counteroffers more often. Take time to read through the counteroffer and discuss the possibilities with your real estate agent. They can take the time to reach out on your behalf to find out more information and see if there are any other concerns that buyer might have so that you can anticipate their needs in your counteroffer. Keep in mind that price isn’t the only negotiation tool you have.

Some buyers may be looking to move in as quickly as possible, so bumping up the closing date could be more valuable to the buyer than price point. If appliances were or were not a part of your original deal, you can add or leave them out of your counteroffer to make up the difference in price point. If you set a lowest possible price point that you are willing to sell your home for, try to still keep your counter offers above that. You’ll want keep in mind that after your home’s inspection or appraisal, negotiations may open up again, and you may have to negotiate further.

As we’ve talked about in this blog, pre-inspections can help you prepare and even avoid counteroffers after an inspection. A pre-inspection will alert you to any upcoming issues or repairs so that you can either take care of them before putting your home on the market, or allow you to have the cost of these repairs worked into your price. If you plan to sell your home on a strict timeline, a pre-inspection will also give you more solid buyers upfront who are less likely to leave the midway through because of unforeseen issues.

Talk to real estate agent about your counter to their counteroffer to figure out what will work best for you as the seller while still enticing the buyer to accept or continue negotiations. If a counteroffer is just too low or unacceptable, do not be afraid to reject or walk away from the offer.

Buying a Home?

Negotiating a counteroffer can be challenging, especially in a seller’s market. However, you can use many of the same negotiation tools that a seller can use. Check in with your real estate agent to reach out and find out the seller’s concerns and interests. If the seller is using the pending sale of their home to finance their next home, they may be more willing to make a deal.

If the seller has not had a pre-inspection, you should keep in mind that the home could have issues that are pointed out after the inspection that would drive a counteroffer. You can ask to either have the repairs made before the deal is closed, have the cost of the repairs worked in as a credit to the buyer, or accept the flaw as-is assuming it won’t impact appraisal. If an appraisal comes in below the initial sale price, this can affect the amount a mortgage company is willing to give to the buyer which can lead to a counteroffer as well.

As a buyer, you want to keep in mind that the decisions of these negotiations will affect you much more in the long-term than the seller. You will literally be living with these decisions. Always talk with your real estate about the best option for continuing forward with a deal. If you see too many issues that the seller is not willing to negotiate into a new price or otherwise, do not be afraid to walk away from the deal.

Buying In A Seller’s Market

In most popular areas of Maine it is a sellers market right now. This means properties will often receive multiple simultaneous offers and often end up closing above asking price. It’s important to not get caught up in a bidding war mentality and risk paying more then you can comfortably afford. The best advice is to start with your strongest offer. Again, price isn’t the only factor a seller is looking at. Other options that might be appealing to a seller are flexibility on closing date to allow seller to find suitable housing, paying cash instead of getting a mortgage, or even waiving home inspections. If the seller accepts a competing offer, you might want to consider converting your offer into a backup offer. This would put you in second place, so if the first contract ends up being terminated you would be next in line. Another good option might be to include an introduction letter to share with the seller. This puts a face to the offer and gives the seller a chance to get to know you and your family. If multiple offers are very close, this small effort can make a big difference.

Looking for experts that can help you anticipate and navigate counter offers? 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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Home Selling while Distancing

We’ve talked about some of the great remote features that home buyers can use during these times. We want to reassure you that there are also steps that people in the real estate world are taking to help people selling their homes. Today we’re going to talk about how we are working to help you sell your home while practicing safe, social distancing practices.

Virtual Home Viewing

As we’ve talked about in this blog, we can use these same remote features to help sell your home. Aerial photos help explain the exterior and surrounding land for your property. Beyond just photos, 2-D and 3-D floor-plans can help give context for the layout and placement of rooms. Video/Virtual Tours help people have a better spatial understanding of the space by recreating the feel of a walk-through. We can utilize all these benefits and more as we continue to adapt through these unique times to help sell your home.

Remote Document Signing

Using email, most forms that need to be initialed and signed can be sent virtually. For years, people in the real estate world have been using these features as an added convenience for both buyers and sellers . Now we are relying more heavily on these features to keep everyone safe. Title and mortgage companies are also using these features to reduce the in-person contact.

Inspection Process

In previous blogs, we’ve talked about the benefits of pre-inspections for home sellers. Now more than ever, they help the home selling process go more smoothly. Home buyers who are anxious about buying a home sight unseen can feel more reassured with a pre-inspection and help avoid lengthy negotiations later. In addition, due to the Governor mandates, inspectors do not allow anyone else to be present in the home to tour along side them during inspections. Afterwards they can set up a virtual meeting or phone call to go over everything in their report and answer any questions. This helps to limit the number of people in your home as well as speeding up the inspection process.

Appraisal Process

Appraisers are also working to avoid entering homes at all cost. For most programs, they can use photos and video provided by our agents and owners to help determine the value of the property. For certain cases they may still be required enter the home, but may be able to utilize Facetime or Zoom to do a virtual walk-though instead.

Interested in selling your home and want to know more about the social distancing steps we are taking? You can each 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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Filing Taxes? Deductions for Homeowners

While the due date for taxes has been pushed back to July 15th, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many people are working on filing their taxes ahead of the stimulus checks that should be released during April. If you are a homeowner, there are a few deductions you can take advantage of to help you save! Consult a tax preparation professional for advice on these credits and deductions.

Federal Deductions

  • Mortgage Deductions: You can deduct any interest you pay on a loan secured by your primary or secondary home. This excludes investment properties.
    • If you took out a mortgage on or after Dec. 15th 2017, you may be able to take a mortgage interest deduction up to $750,000 on your primary residence.
    • If you took out a mortgage before Dec. 15th 2017. you may be able to take a mortgage interest deduction up to $1,000,000 on your primary residence.
  • Home Equity Loan Deductions: If you used a home equity loan or line of credit to buy, build, or make major improvements, you can deduct the interest paid on said loan or line of credit.
  • Other Home Improvement Deductions: There are two specific types of of home improvements that qualify for a tax deduction.
    • Medically-Necessary Improvements: If home improvements were made due to illness or a medical reason such as installing a wheelchair ramp or making adjustments to a bathroom shower, these improvements can be deducted as a medical expense.
    • Home Energy Efficiency: If improvements were made in 2019 to increase your home’s energy efficiency, such as solar panels, you are eligible for a 30% tax credit. Keep in mind that this tax credit will change to 26% for 2020 and 22% for 2021.

Maine-Specific Deductions

  • Maine Homestead Exemption: If you have owned your home in Maine for at least 12 months, you can qualify for this exemption. If reduces the home’s value by $20,000 in relation to its tax value. For example, a home with a $300,00 value would have a tax value of $280,000, therefore reducing the overall tax rate.
  • Maine Property Tax Fairness Credit: This credit works for both home owners and renters that helps people who have either high property tax payments or rent payments compared to their income. Your household income must be $53,333 or less, and as a home owner, your property tax for a home in Maine must be more than 6% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For renters, if your rent is more than 40% of your AGI, you also qualify.

Situational Deductions

  • Did you sell your home? You can deduct:
    • Mortgage interest paid at a settlement or closing.
    • Real estate property taxes paid at settlement or closing.
    • Capital Gains Exclusion allows you to exclude up to $250,000 for single filer or up to $500,000 for joint/married filers if you sell your primary residence (and lived there for at least two of the past five years). This is calculated using the total financial investment of the property of the date of sale, including the price paid for the home and any improvements made over the years you owned your home.
  • Did you buy a home? You can also deduct:
    • Real estate property taxes paid at settlement or closing.
  • Are you self-employed and work from home? You can deduct:
    • Home Office Expenses if your space is used regularly and exclusively for self-employment work and is used to set aside product samples or inventory. The simplified deduction is typically calculated at $5 per square foot used as long as the space is less than 300 square feet. If your home office space is larger than 300 square feet, there are itemized deductions that you can make that include mortgage interest, home depreciation, property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and home maintenance deductions that you pay during the year.

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

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

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Spring-Time Home Projects

With the weather finally starting to warm up, we can begin to put winter behind us. As the snow melts away and grass starts to grow back, we are drawn to spending more time outside in the fresh weather. But while we are in the transitional time of early spring, there are some great spring projects to work on in order to be ready for the best parts of spring and summer!

Covid-19: Remember to avoid going to stores to buy items as much as possible. Many retailers are now offering curbside pickup where you can call in your order and pay by phone and they place the order in your trunk without having to interact. It’s surprisingly hard to keep yourself from getting out of your car to help them and say thank you, especially since we are seeing so many less people these days, but it is very important. Also be especially careful with any projects that have the potential of injury. It’s no time to be falling off a ladder and going to the ER!

General Cleaning

Nothing is more cathartic in Maine than being able to put away the shovels, salt, and winter gear during spring time. A good plan is to keep these items accessible till May when surprise snow storms should be over, but you can start the process a little early by sweeping/vacuuming out the old sand and salt in your mudroom or entryway. Even if there are a few more storms to come, this will help you get into the mindset of spring! Take time to clean out the boot tray and the bottoms of shoes. You can also start to put out more spring friendly attire and hats, along with sunscreen and insect repellent.

Winter has a way of keeping us less motivated to maintain our homes, especially when having to tackle with snow, ice, and less sunlight. Now is the perfect time to finally to do a deep cleaning! Beyond general vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting, you can tackle projects like washing curtains, cleaning windows inside and outside, and vacuuming upholstered furniture. This is also a great time to wash cabinets and backsplash in the kitchen as well as cleaning out the fridge. Clean off soap residue from shower doors, bases, and tubs to help prevent mold and mildew as the weather warms up.

Home Organization

Before you pack away winter clothes, take time to consider which pieces you wore throughout the winter. If you didn’t wear it this past winter, you probably won’t wear it again next winter. Create a donation piles for clothes that are still wearable but perhaps you don’t want to keep around. Notice other things piling up in the closet like shoes, paperwork, and other storage? Take time to go through those too to decide what needs to be donated or recycled. This can help your closet feel cleaned and refreshed for spring.

This is a great time to look through your pantry and check expiration dates! Throw out items that are pass expiration, or plan to use them up in the next few days if they are approaching their date. You can also go through and write expiration dates in magic marker to keep better track of what needs to be used up! Just like with de-cluttering your closet, think about what items you have kept in the back of cabinet but haven’t touched in a while. You can set it up front and try to use it in the next week or so; on the other hand, you could also consider donating if you don’t plan to use it at all. After those steps, you can work on organizing similar foods together, adding baskets or trays to help you organize like items like dry goods and spices, and adding labels to containers for easy identification.

Outdoor Maintenance

You will want to sweep and clean the deck for any debris or leaves that have accumulated over the winter. Especially if you use a front porch frequently in the winter, it’s important to sweep and/or rinse any excess salt to help prevent discoloration or corrosion. If you have outdoor furniture, make sure to give everything a good rinse or wash while checking for any damage. If you notice some rust or paint erosion on metal furniture, use a spray enamel to keep in protected from rain, humidity, heat, and sunlight in the coming months.

Now that most of the snow has melted away, you can start to go around the yard to do some lawn maintenance. Look for stray branches and debris that could damage a lawn mower. Rake any remaining leaves that can suffocate the grass as the weather changes. If you have outdoor water systems, double check to make sure they are working properly. This is also a great opportunity to check lawn mowers, trimmers, and hoses to make sure they are properly maintained!

Garden Planning

If you have hopes of starting a garden, now is a great time to plan ahead! The average planting season in Maine happens around mid-May once the fear of frost has mostly passed, but every plant has a different growing season and preferred planting time. Creating a garden calendar helps keep you organized on which plants to start! Take time to plot out areas that you want to grow in, build or buy raised garden beds if desired, and plan for trellises if your plants need them. This is also a great time to start a compost pile as the warmer weather will help the heating process of the compost~ take a look at this link to find out more!

https://www.maine.gov/dep/sustainability/compost/backyard_composting.pdf

Some vegetables, herbs, and flowers can be started indoors with careful planning which allows you to enjoy their blooms sooner or their harvest season longer! Seeds and seed starter kits can be purchased online, and make for a great weekend project. If you have leftover potting soil, you can look into creating your own seedling kits using recycled materials like old egg cartons or other left-over plastic containers. Then with some plants started inside, you’ll be a step ahead once the weather warms up!

Tackling these tasks and projects early on can help you have more time to enjoy the later spring and summer time weather, while helping you get a fresh start to the end of winter!

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

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

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Remote Features to Take Advantage of While House Hunting

As social distancing is becoming a regular and necessary practice during these times, we are recommending that people do not attend open houses or go to in-person showings. Although Real Estate brokerage has been deemed an essential service at the State level, individual towns/cities may have more strict rules. We have incorporated a system to protect our clients and agents while limiting face to face interaction. Even after the statewide shelter-in-place has been lifted, we recommend taking extra care with attending showings by talking with your real estate agent about the best safe practices. As we work to take every precaution, we want to remind people of features that help people already with shopping remotely for a home!

Listing Photos Online

Listing photos have classically been used to help give a preview of a homes rooms! As more people begin to shop for homes online, naturally the amount of photos per property have increased. This not only entices people to have more interest in a particular property, but also gives viewers a better idea of the property they are looking at.

2-D & 3-D Floor Plans

Floor plans can help you visualize the layout of a space in a way the photos may not be able to. They help you see the flow of the house and help you to plan out the space a little better. Some listings also include potential furniture layouts in their floor plans to help buyers imagine their own furniture existing in the space.

Video/Virtual Tours

Video and virtual tours are some of the best way to experience the feel and look of a new place remotely, although this is a fairly new way to show a home. Not only do you get a sense of spatial flow, but you can see aspects of a room from multiple perspectives. If you find a property that you are interested in viewing via a video/virtual tour, have your Real Estate agent reach out to the seller or listing agent to see if this can be possible to set up.

Safety Precautions & Remote Transactions

Real estate businesses are also looking at ways of making the home buying process more remote-friendly using phones, email, online document signatures, scheduling, and more. During these times, appraisers, building inspectors, and title companies are doing as much as possible without face-to-face interaction. Even once the statewide shelter-in-place order is lifted, keeping safety precautions and social distancing practices are our top priorities for both our clients and agents!

You can always each out to the experts at the Real Estate Store to find out more about safe and remote home buying!

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

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Setting Up a Temporary Work-From-Home Space

In recent days, many people are finding themselves working from home. Remote work allows for ease of flexibility as many workplaces are asking employees to work from home during this crisis. However, people who have never worked from home before often struggle with staying on task, focusing on the next project, or even overworking. Today we are going to take a look at setting up a temporary work from home situation, and how to follow .

Finding a Place

The idea of staying in pajamas and working from bed might seem like a dream for the first couple of days, but this can very easily get tedious. Plus, associating your work place with the same space that you sleep can quickly cause anxiety and restlessness, and potentially lead to insomnia at night. If you have a spare bedroom/office area in your home already, then that tends to be the most ideal space. Otherwise, find any space with a table and an upright chair that is similar to what you have at your actual work. This will help you to stay in a more productive mindset!

If you get regular phone calls or do video conferencing, you should find a space that is quiet and has a clean backdrop. You wouldn’t want to start a video feed with dirty clothes or loud noises in the background! Also, take the time to make sure the space you are working from is clutter free and calming. Just like your desk at work, it can be fun to add some small personal objects such as plants and photos to help you feel inspired and motivated!

Removing Distractions

Depending on your temporary workspace, it can be tempting to turn the TV on or have Netflix streaming in the background. However, you might find yourself having to catch up more on work later because you are distracted. The same goes with music or podcasts~ if your work includes writing reports or typing up information, music with lyrics can sometimes make it difficult to focus on the work that you are writing. A quick search online can offer you some great instrumental music options for studying/creativity/office work in a variety of genres!

People with families often might find themselves being distracted by regular interruptions by children or other family members. If you have a separate office or bedroom that you are using for your temporary workspace, you can close the door and ask your family members to be respectful of your work time. If that is not possible, such as if you are working from the living room or dining room, a good headset can help you keep focused and signal to your family members that you are working.

Respecting Work/Personal Time

Once you have found a place and removed distractions, the next big hurdle that people have to overcome is separating their work and personal time. There is a common myth we tend to believe that most people would slack off if they work from home, but more often than not, people can find themselves overworking themselves while at home. Surprisingly, time management can be a huge issue, and you might find yourself working through breaks and lunches and after the end of your regular workday.


If you find yourself struggling with time management, set a timer or an alarm on your phone for scheduled breaks and workday end. Hold yourself accountable for these time restraints and work accordingly. This in turn helps you be more productive during your work time as well. If you are finding it difficult to get into the mindset of working from home, especially as a temporary situation, people recommend going through the normal work routine as well! If you normally have a morning routine before work, follow that same routine and use your normal commute time to drink coffee, check up on news, or finish up chores. If you are having trouble keeping to your end of day work schedule, try setting up a planned workout or take a walk outside to help your mind signal the end of the day.

While working from home can present a new set of obstacles, there are a lot of positives that come from it! Many people enjoy not having to deal with the stress of commuting or having less interruptions from co-workers/office politics. Plus, you have more agency in your work environment and workflow. Taking the time to make sure you have the right set-up and work habits to work from home will allow you to have a more enjoyable working situation from home and keep you feeling productive!

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

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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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