Feb 252008

A lot of calls from prospective buyers start with “I don’t really know much about buying real estate…” It’s always tempting to be relieved when I hear it, because known ignorance is actually a great quality. What more often gets folks in trouble is when the think they know something and don’t.

My short response to that buyer’s statement is “That’s okay because I really don’t know much about you!” We have lots in common! We’re both “ignorant” so let’s start learning together!

Getting started requires that we both learn a lot — hopefully in a relatively short period of time. One decision we need to make before moving too far down the road to a purchase is the relationship we are going to share. For a further explanation of this process, see About Real Estate.

But let’s talk quickly about some things buyers need to know, particularly in the current market conditions. We are still hearing lots of talk about “buyers’ markets” with buyers being encouraged to “take their time.”

You can do that, certainly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to decide. If you are shopping for real estate, make a little note and look at it often: Regardless of the market the best properties sell first.

I’ve seen it happen; it’s not pretty. A potential buyer starts Continue reading »


Financing Land Purchases

 Posted by at 6:52 am
Feb 182008

Land purchases have historically been difficult to make without cash or at least a willingness to make large down-payments and pay very high interest rates! There are a number of reasons for this that “make sense,” but those reasons are not very comforting to those who would like to own a piece of Maine. While we aren’t seeing a major change, it does seem that some of the local banks have programs that are not unreasonable — in fact the interest rates are quite low! Down payments remain fairly significant – 25% to 35% is not uncommon — and there will be closing costs, but for many people this makes a purchase “do-able.” (Note these programs are designed for people who intend to build; not large acreage investments.)

Yet another option for some is to use equity in their existing home or property. While this – like any financial decision – is not a good route for all, it does allow some prospective buyers to take advantage of a favorable market.

The most familiar option is “owner financing” or land contracts, but it is not an option all sellers can or will offer. Buyers need to be cautious of these arrangements, particularly the terms they are agreeing to and how the installment contract or mortgage is written. Legal counsel is highly recommended!

Like financing in general, don’t let the media scare you out of making at least one or two phone calls to determine what’s possible. Call the bank you’ve been doing business with all along and discuss your options… or let me know and we’ll talk about it!

Feb 102008

An article in Advertising Age attacking the latest National Association of Realtors ad campaign is described as “scathing.” (The ads have been fairly prolific; they glowingly and somewhat emotionally describe why it’s a good time to buy a home.) The attack on the campaign fundamentally encourages people to notice what the ads are NOT saying.

That’s actually pretty good advice.

As I read through the attacks and counter-attacks I spotted one quiet voice of reason. A realtor quietly raised his hand and suggested he wished the ads took a slightly different approach. He’d like to see ads that describe what realtors do including “taking the time to help home buyers decide whether or not it is the right time to buy.”

He makes a good point and I would add that we ought to be doing the same for home sellers as well.

Advertising is, by its very nature highly general. Any generality is “wrong” some portion of the time.

Real Estate buying and selling is, by its very nature highly localized and individualized. It is very easy to argue that the statement “it’s a great time to buy” just isn’t true in every place and for every person.

I won’t fault the Ad Campaign for attempting to counter the negative press. And I sorta like the attack Continue reading »


Fraud is Fraud is Fraud

 Posted by at 9:16 am
Feb 072008

I subscribe to several “real estate news” feeds. For some reason there was lots of depressing news this morning and it wasn’t just about how “bad” the market is.

Those involved in real estate who have worked through bad markets are fond of taking some comfort when the market tightens up because there’s one theory that suggests it drives “marginal” and inexperienced participants (real estate and mortgage brokers, etc.) out of the business. Like all generalities, there’s probably some truth in there, but it also makes some participants even more desperate to make a buck.

One of this morning’s articles made this point. “Now that the housing bubble has burst, you would think that the fraud would slow down, but it has simply taken other forms.” The article goes on to list a number of different schemes that are increasing in popularity. (I doubt the Maine Real Estate Commission would approve continuing education credits for becoming more versed in how to cheat, but it can be an interesting study. Continue reading »


Realtor and Friend…

 Posted by at 7:21 am
Feb 022008

Those of us who knew and worked with Ron Matheson thought he’d live forever. Ron was a bit of a fixture in Piscataquis County real estate for years, and the “joke” was that whenever he was rushed to Mayo Hospital in the ambulance he’d use his cell phone to call clients on the way!

Ron passed away several days ago. For the past few years he and Opal lived in southern
New Hampshire near one of their children. Details should be available in the week’s Piscataquis Observer.

I remember… some very esoteric and intense discussions with Ron about “disclosed dual agency.” I’m not sure I ever figured out how Ron always listed property “where deer and wildlife abound” and every trickle was a “trout laden stream.” I’m not sure anyone ever fully understood his relationship with the Wampanoag Indians but it was easy to talk with Ron and to relate to his colorful descriptions of people and places.

It’s hard to have a favorite Ron story because there are so many. But he was one of the best.


Road Questions and Real Estate

 Posted by at 10:34 am
Feb 012008

Peter Lawrence raises an often over-looked area of concern when selling and buying property in Maine. His article “Road Law in Need of Repair?” in a recent SWOAM (Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine) raised a number of questions regarding roads and rights-of-way with the observation that “in Maine there are often no clear answers to these questions.”

Unfortunately, too often the questions are overlooked. When buyers and sellers encounter the term “discontinued town road” they most often conclude the term means “no longer plowed or maintained.” But what if the public way has been “discontinued” as well?

There are two basic methods by which a town road can be abandoned. In one, Superior Court action rules that a road may be abandoned after it has not been used for a specific period of time. In this case, no public easement is retained.

The second procedure was created in 1976 and, like most things over time, it is much more complex. A somewhat risky Continue reading »