4th of July at Higgins Beach, Scarborough, Maine

We have had a BUSY BUSY BUSY spring and early summer so I have just been WICKED STOKED for a beach day and knew that the 4th of July would provide the perfect day! No phone calls, no urgent emails and all the texts I sent or recieved were to friends wishing them a Happy Independence Day! Truly a day to be cherished.

Higgins Beach is my favorite beach in Maine. Not only is it a five minute drive from my house, but it provides stellar waves for surfing, boogie boarding or body surfing and the beach is quite quaint. You can’t go to Higgins if you are afraid of a little sand on your towel picked up by a passing toddler running back to their towel. People are packed as tight as a Maine lobster in a cooking pot – and knowing this, you must get there early or you will be forced to lounge on the hard rocks buffering the neighboring houses from high tides and hurricanes. Speaking of high tide, it can sweep in faster than Usain Bolt can run 100 meters, so sitting as far back as possible is always ideal (plus, the sand is softer).

Any day at Higgins can be special, but in honor of our Country’s Independence, I thought I would share some funny moments and highlights from my visit today.

  • After arriving to grey skies around 11am, we were surprised an hour later by bright sun and clear blue skies! The perfect beach day I had been longing for.
  • Watching kids playing on their boogie boards – its amazing how far they can ride those waves in inches of water. Clearly only weighing 30lbs and being 4′ tall has its benefits.
  • While taking a walk along the beach to look at houses, I noticed a group of ginger boys. As they breezed by, my nose was INSTANTLY filled with the sweet smell of Coppertone. Those poor boys must have to bathe in it hourly to prevent third degree burns.
  • On that same walk, I saw, what had to be, the most tan man I have ever seen in my life. All I could think of was that he must be from New Jersey (no one from Maine is THAT tan) and he most certainly was Snooki’s father.
  • A dad was struggling to pull a wagon through the thick sand (honestly, I’ve never understood the concept of wheels in sand, but whatever) behind me while I lay in the warm sun. In one quick moment, the wagon fell emptying all the beach toys and chairs it was carrying. He said to me, “Well, I guess this is where we will be sitting!” and I laughed. However, what made me laugh harder was as he was picking the items up to join his friends and family in his REAL resting spot, his young son came over and said, “Dad, why did you dump the wagon here? We are sitting over there!” pointing his little hand oh so innocently towards his family. The dad looked at me as to say “SERIOUSLY!”
  • A group of young twenty somethings hanging out in front of us. Each one of them with red solo cups in hand consuming Coronas and beach drinks made with Bacardi. They were most DEFINITELY from Maine (paging Bob Marley and parties in Baxter Woods).
  • While enjoying the fresh ocean water and playing in the waves, we quickly joined a game of frisbee with a son and his father. No, not because they asked us, but because the son could not aim the frisbee at his dad to save his life!
  • And lastly, this day was extra special because of the decor – stars and stripes GALORE! On bathing suits, finger nails, towels, sunglasses and hanging at almost all the beach houses in some way or another. A little girl even walked by with a headband on that had two American Flags attached by silver springs. It’s such a joy to see people relaxed and celebrating! That is what the 4th of July is about!

I hope you all had a safe and wonderful 4th too!

10 Things To Do on Peaks Island, Maine during the Off Season!

Yesterday we listed an amazing home on Peaks Island, in Portland, Maine (see photo at left) so we took a trip out on the car ferry to install our sign and take photos. We had never taken our car to the Island before. All the other island homes we had been too were within walking distance of the ferry so there was no need. OH! Did we learn a lot! Here are a few things to do on Peaks Island if you miss the car ferry back to the main land because you don’t know where to park your car in order to get in line to get ON the ferry. OH! And it was the “off season” so the island wasn’t really as BOOMING as it usually is.

1. SULK. JUST KIDDING! WHIP OUT THE CAMERA AND PRETEND YOU ARE A TOURIST! We had our camera with us to take photos of our listing, so I decided to put it around my neck and pretend I was a tourist and take fun pics of us, the view and the scenery. I mean, Peaks Island at sunset – breath taking!

2. GET A SNACK! We had just finished lunch at the Cockeyed Gull but I really wanted a snack. So we walked up to Hannigans Island Market on Island Ave and got an ice cream. That store is like the Island’s grocery store, but they really have a little bit of everything. Pretty handy for a stranded mainlander who has the munchies.

3. GO PEE! After going to Hannigans, we needed to go to the bathroom. Only public bathroom open – at the Portland Public Library. So we took a stroll further down Island Ave and visited the bathroom.

4. I WONDER WHAT IT’S LIKE TO ‘SUMMER ON THE ISLAND’? As we walked slowly (we had an hour to kill) we wondered what it would be like to summer on Peaks Island. It must be like summer camp as a kid. You get to meet kids from all over the country and at the end of the summer, you have to say good-bye and go home. It’s just like summer camp except your parents are there so you can’t hide anything and you don’t get homesick because your whole fam is with you.

5. I WONDER WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LIVE AND DIE BY THE FERRY SCHEDULE? As we watched and missed the first ferry, we watched all the islanders get off the ferry and walk home. They all had totes or those cool island carts to carry their gear or goodies they picked up on the mainland. They all looked very relaxed and no one seemed to be rushing. It made us think – maybe being controlled by a ferry schedule wasn’t that bad. Was the ferry ride home just enough time to relax after work? It sure is better than fighting traffic on the interstate. 

6. DREAM! Stand at the VERY end of the pier and look at all the houses on the water and pretend that one of them is yours and every night you get to see the bright city lights from your deck. Ahhhhhh! HEAVEN!

7. LOOK AT HOUSES FOR SALE! Heck, we are Realtors and we did go there to list a property – let’s see what else is for sale on the island. There are two Real Estate companies right by where you are suppose to park to get on the car ferry (we know this now, but not prior to 5pm) and they showcase a few of their listings in their windows. Our listing is still the best!

8. WISH! We said “I wish” a lot yesterday. Here was what I wished for: I wished that it was summer so I could go into this SUPER cute store called “Take A Peak”. I think they sell really cute touristy type things but all I could see in the window was fun tables painted in bright colors. It looked like a really fun store that I could have killed an hour in.

9. WISH SOME MORE! Here was Lenny’s wish – that we had known where to park so we didn’t miss the 5pm ferry.

10. RELAX! Take the opportunity to be stranded – not exactly on a deserted island – wait, it was the off season – with your best friend (my hubby Lenny) and enjoy the view. Opportunities don’t happen like this a lot and sometimes you just need to make the best of them and ENJOY!

 

FHA Mortgage Insurance RISING April 1st

South Portland, $229,000

According to Bloomberg.com, as of April 1st, the Federal Housing Administration will increase it’s Mortgage Insurance Premium in an effort to help rebuild it’s insurance emergency fund which has taken a hit over the last few years during the housing collapse (FHA has paid out nearly $37 billion in defaulted mortgages since 2008). This will take effect on April 1st for all new single family home purchases acquiring a 30 year mortgage. This is roughly $5 extra per month on a $150,000 mortgage and will contribute about $1 billion in revenue to FHA.

FHA is a government agency that was formed in 1934 as part of the National Housing Act of that same year. Today, FHA insures roughly one third of all home purchase loans and is greatly utilized by first time home buyers as it offers a low down payment of 3.5%.

PFD Wins Stair Climb … AGAIN!

As most of your know, my husband Lenny is in the Portland Fire Department (and is also a Realtor). Since 2008, he and his fellow colleagues have participated in the American Lung Association’s Race Up Boston Place. This year, the department won the fire fighter division for the third time in five years!

The stair climb takes place at the BNY Mellon Building at One Boston Place – the third tallest building along Boston’s skyline with 41 stories. The guys in the PFD  joined this event in 2008 and decided that they were not going to just climb, they were going to climb wearing their full turnout gear, including helmet and breathing air from their SCBA air packs. It was a first. That first year the Portland Fire Department did not win, but they would the next year and the year after that!

Since the PFD did not win in 2011, this year seemed less stressful and everyone seemed to just be going to have fun and do their best – not defend a title. There was lots of talk around the building that morning about other departments and how they trained and how some fire fighters were also triathletes and how so many departments wanted to win. I was able to volunteer at the top of the stairs for a bit and see some of the other teams finish – and some of them were SO fast and they were hardly sweating once they reached the top. About 15 minutes into the fire fighter division, I was sure there wasn’t a chance that we would win.

Once the competition was over, we headed over to the award ceremony at a local pub called Scholars. The PFD and all us wives found a great place to view the trophy presentation along a second floor balcony. Of course the fire fighter division is always announced last, so as we were listening to all the individual awards, a familiar name was called – Liz Westburg – she was one of the wives who climbed with me on the Wives of the PFD team. She won the women 30-39 age group! And then, when they started to announce the mens division, two more familiar names were announced – Ryan Thomson, fastest male fire fighter in the 30-39 age group and James Westburg (Liz’s husband!) was number three in the same category! Three champions in our group – SO EXCITING and SO PROUD! This was clearly as far as we thought our winning streak was going this year.

And then it was time for the fastest fire fighter team. In years past they have drawn this out. Starting with third place and then second and so on. This year, well, you can see here. It was SO EXCITING and so unexpected! We had all planned on going out to dinner to celebrate recent promotions, but this gave us another reason to celebrate! OH! And the PFD and Wives of the PFD helped lead the company rank fundraising division with a total of $7,940.50. Only $59.50 from $8,000! If you would like to help us top $8,000, donate here!

Congratulations to all participants!

 

Dancing With The Realtors

On Saturday January 28th, we had the honor of participating in the first annual Greater Portland Board of Realtors Presents “Dancing With The Realtors”. An EXTREMLY successful event to benefit Habitat for Humanity, Maine, sponsored greatly by Pinnacle Vodka. The three of us, along with 12 other Realtors and loan officers from Greater Portland took dance lessons for a little over two months for an hour a week to learn the foxtrot and swing dance at the American Ballroom Company in Portland, Maine. A couple of Realtors had prior dance experience; however, most of us had none and started our dancing experience very nervous and unsure of our skills. But we all left Saturday night feeling very accomplished. Thank you SO MUCH to Kelley Craig, Chelsea Locke and Victoria Hartig for planning such a fabulous event and putting together an AMAZING video and slideshow! We can’t wait for next year and also to see what the final total raised for Habitat was.

“It needs too much work!”

Lenny & I outside our house. Notice the paint on his fingers :)

Real Estate today is SO different than it was 6, 7, years ago. I’m not just talking about financing, I’m talking attitude. I got my license in 2005 and my clients were SO excited to buy their first homes and were willing to buy homes that needed work without hesitation. Today’s buyers are just as excited to buy their first home, yet they want a perfect home. Perhaps because they are busy working or perhaps because they do not know how to do the work and are afraid of the expense. Below are a few of the items we see buyers squirm at the most and how they really aren’t as hard or expensive to fix as you think.

PAINTING!

We have all walked into houses and seen crazy colors – kitchens with red cabinets, bedrooms with hot pink and purple walls, woodwork painted forest green. These seem like HUGE projects to fix; however, they really aren’t and they offer a great opportunity for sweat equity. You say you don’t like to paint? SOLUTION: Have a painting party! In your group of friends you are bound to find some peeps who enjoy painting and are actually really good at it. AND! Having friends help you with things you do not enjoy makes it more fun. TIP: PAY THEM! NO! Not with cash – with food! Order pizza from Portland Pie and get a keg from Shipyard Brewing. If the weather permits, have a BBQ. You’re friends will be stoked and you will have customized your house a bit and added some equity all at the same time.

(This friends helping out thing can also apply to heavy yard work!)

CARPETS:

I know, bad mental pictures are already circling through your head. Shag green, torn, stained, smelly – okay, I will stop. Carpet is not as hard to fix as you think. Many times, Lowes or Home Depot have specials – free installation on 3 or more rooms, save _% when you buy and have your carpet installed by them and so on. OH! You don’t have the money because you will be using it all on your appraisal, inspection and down payment? Okay. Have you thought about asking the seller to give you a credit at closing? Get an estimate from your preferred carpet installation company and ask the sellers to offer you a credit at closing. Even if they are only willing to pay half, that’s more than you had before you asked.

ROOF:

The three major items that buyers are looking for to be in tip top condition are heat systems, windows and roof. This is because they can be the most expensive items to repair and replace. When it comes to roofs, you can often tell just by looking at them that they need to be repaired; however, your building inspector will ultimately be able to tell you if the shingles have a few years left or if they are beyond their design life. Replacing roof shingles is not cheap; however, there are many ways to do it at a discount and still get quality work. ASK AROUND! Everyone has a friend who can install shingles and I bet he does it as his side job. Don’t know anyone? Look into your local fire department. I know, this sounds funny; but, did you know that most fire fighters only work a couple of shifts a week (albeit they are 24 hour shifts) at the fire department and on their days off have trades? Many are master electricians, plumbers and you guessed it, roofers! They are typically insured and charge MUCH less than a general contractor you find in the yellow pages.

WALLPAPER:

ACK! One sight of giant floral arrangements on dining room walls will typically send my clients right out the door. I even had a seller remove all the wallpaper in her house because she was sick of all the feedback coming back about the wallpaper. Really it’s not that hard and just takes a little patience. HINT! This is another project to try and enlist your friends to help with! (You may want to have some sweet treats around for after the pizza though. This is a bit more tedious than painting.) When I was a kid, my mom rented a steamer and went to town in our house. However, these days you can find water mixing solutions at the hardware store and spray it on the wall with a basic garden sprayer and scrape (GENTLY!) away. However, most have had GREAT success with fabric softener and hot water. Here is a great step by step guide from the DIY Network!

SEE! There is no need to be afraid to buy a home that needs some work. And most likely, at the end of your projects, you will have WAY more equity in your home than the person who buys a house that is perfection inside.

As always, if you are looking to buy a home in Maine, we would love to help you! (207-831-0495)BONUS! We know PLENTY of people who can help with any project you may have (remember, Lenny is a fire fighter for the City of Portland!)

HAPPY HOME BUYING!

 

Holiday & Winter Fire Safety

I think we have all seen this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNjO3wZDVlA&feature=share We tend to get all caught up in parties and shopping and everything else that comes with the holidays and forget to be safe. Here are a few tips to keep your holiday and winter a bit more safe and happy for all!
Tree:

If you choose to purchase an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. If you decide on a real tree, water it MORNING and NIGHT! A dry tree can burn MUCH faster than a hydrated tree if it were to ever catch fire. Those little Italian Twinkle Lights can heat up QUICK! Just think, every time you brush your teeth, give your tree a little water.

Lights:

Indoors or outdoor, consider using lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, loose connections and throw out damaged sets. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.

Decorations:

Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to decorate your tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or non leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children. Doesn’t eveyone’s tree look better trimmed with homemade ornaments and strings of popcorn or cranberry anyways?

Wood stove / Fireplace:

During the colder months, we tend to use our fire places a lot more. Here are a few
tips to help you keep your chimney and fire place clean and in tip top condition to prevent injury or a chimney fire.

- Have the chimney inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep. If you use your fire place on a regular basis, you should also have it cleaned. This will help prevent chimney fires.

- Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate ANY fire in your fire place.

- Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in and to help prevent the possibility of burns. Last thing you want is to have to go to the hospital for a burn during the holidays!

Smoke/ Carbon monoxide detectors:

There are two basic types of devices based upon different smoke detection technologies, photoelectric and ionization. Because you cannot predict what type of fire might occur in your home, it is best to purchase both types or to purchase a device containing both sensors.

Carbon monoxide detectors work in a similar way to smoke detectors by monitoring
carbon monoxide levels in your home and sounding an alarm if elevated levels
are detected.

For both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, follow the manufacturer’s instruction
sheet to help you install, operate and maintain your devices. Keep these instructions handy so you can use it as a reference if you have questions in the future. As always, make sure you change the batteries in both of these devices when you set your clocks ahead and behind.

Power Loss

With winter storms comes power loss. Heavy snow can weigh down powers lines or cause them to cut loose. DO NOT TOUCH ANY wire or try to remove the snow from low hanging wires. Call your local power company and make them aware of all down or
low wires.

Be prepared if you lose power. Have plenty of batteries on hand and wood for your
fire place if you have one. If you light candles for more illumination, please
do not leave them unattended. According to the U.S Fire Administration, over
15,000 home fires are caused by candles each year. These are typically caused by
human era and are VERY preventable.

We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

 

10 Reasons to Sell A House in the Winter

3 Hampton Circle, Scarborough $419,000

Thinking of selling your home in the next few weeks? Or did you think it would be better to wait for Spring? This time of year may not be as bad as you think. Take a look at the list below for a few REALLY great reasons why you may want to sell your house now, as oppose to the Spring.

1.      November and December buyers are usually serious.

2.      Job transferees use the holidays to house hunt because January is the biggest transfer month.

3.      Investors usually want to close contracts by year-end for tax purposes.

4.      Nearly half of homebuyers don’t have children living at home; there’s no need to wait for school to let out.

5.      Remodeling, decorating, appliance installation and other services are more available and at less of a premium.

6.      There is still plenty of mortgage money available for (Qualified) buyers.

7.      Lenders aren’t quite as busy typically at this time of the year and can process loans faster.

8.      Homes show well when decorated for the holidays.

9.      Showings will be fewer and less intrusive, but more likely to be fruitful with motivated, qualified buyers.

10.  I believe there will be less competition with fewer homes on the market then in the Spring time.

Does Your House Look Like A Haunted House?

Haunted Houses are scary and no one wants to go in them. You certainly don’t want your home to be labeled as such. Curb appeal in the fall and winter is just as important as in the spring and summer. If your house is currently on the market, consider doing these few things to make sure your home doesn’t look like a Haunted House this Halloween season and scare away any buyers. You want people to run into your home with smiles, not away in fear!

CLEAN YOUR GUTTERS!

With all the falling leaves and heavy rain we have had lately, it is important to make sure your gutters are not over flowing with leaves, pine needles or debris. Take a moment to clean them out and check your down spouts too!

MOW THE LAWN!

Every week we think, “This will be the last mow of the season!” And then the grass keeps growing and growing, Keep the lawn nice and trim for as long as this wonderful fall weather will let you. Don’t let it over grow and look abandon.

CLEAN OUT THE GARDEN!

This time of year a lot of your colorful flowers are starting to die and look dry and wilted. Clean out your garden of all weeds and leaves. If you want to add a pop of color to your yard, go to your local farm stand and get some of those beautiful mums. The colors this year are SO VIBRANT!

PAINT! PAINT! PAINT!

Nothing screams unkept like peeling paint. Before it gets too cold, scrape and paint all areas of the house that are peeling or flaking. Once the snow starts to fly, it will be too cold to take care of this and your home will look like an abandon haunted house all winter long. EEEKK! Now that’s SCARY!

WINDOWS!

Wash your windows! Don’t let them look filmy or cloudy from the outside. If your windows have a permanent “fog” to them, then perhaps you have a broken seal. This can be remedied by any local window company. Also along those lines, if you have any cracked or broken windows, get those fixed too.

Buyers these days are looking for the COMPLETE PACKAGE when they buy their new home and they really don’t want to do any work to them. Maximize your showings and put more money in your pocket by taking care of the little things. Believe me, it will only benefit you in the end. OH! And it will keep your house from looking like the scariest house on the block!

 HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Get A Home Inspection

How scary is this photo? This is an electrical NIGHTMARE! It is a pull chain that is connected to a light with a paperclip, a penny, a clothes pin and a bike chain - I think. EEEKK! This is a clear indication why you should pay the money to have a building inspection done when you buy a home. A good building inspector will go through the house with you and go over any issues the home may have and then generate a report for your records. You can also make a building inspection a condition on the purchase and sale (offer) agreement when you make your offer. It is a great way to protect yourself, especially if you have questions with any of the mechanics of the house.

Buying a house is a big decision, you always want to protect yourself. GET A BUILDING INSPECTION!