Jul 312010

Summary of the Program Beginning August 1, 2010 for Refunds of Property Tax Assessed and Rent Paid During 2009. (Note: The program to apply for refunds of property tax assessed and/or rent paid during 2009 begins August 1, 2010.) Nearly 200,000 Maine households qualify for a partial refund of property tax assessed and/or rent they paid in 2009. The maximum refund available is $1,600.

You may qualify for a refund if:

  • You do not have a spouse or dependent(s) and your 2009 household income was $64,950 or less; or
  • You do have a spouse or dependent(s) and your 2009 household income was $86,600 or less AND Your 2009 property tax was more than 4% of your 2009 household income; or
  •  The rent you paid in 2009 was more than 20% of your 2009 household income.

NOTE: Seniors do not need to meet this requirement when their household income is below $14,700 for those living alone or below $18,200 for those living with a spouse or dependent. See the application booklet for more information on who qualifies for the senior portion of the program.

You can even file electronically!


What Housing Shortage?

 Posted by at 6:17 am
Jul 282010

Part of my morning ritual involves scanning industry news and I just finished reading an article by a pundit who admitted he was going out on a limb by predicting a “severe shortage” of housing inventory based largely the lack of new housing starts.  While acknowledging that the economy isn’t in such great shape in general, he allowed that his glass is 3/4 full.

If I’d thought he’d have understood the humor, I’d have asked him what was in his glass. I ran statistics for two counties in Maine (using multiple listing data). Penobscot County has just under a one year supply of inventory. Piscataquis County has just over a three year supply. I don’t think this qualifies as a shortage of housing inventory in Maine… particularly in view of the generally accepted view that there’s a significant backlog of foreclosure inventory.

(By the way, the rate of sale was based on the previous six months–a period which includes the “bubble” created by the tax credit program. It will be a while before we learn whether or not real estate sales continue at the elevated pace.)

I can’t offer “FSBO” (for sale by owner) data, but my sense is there are a lot more signs out than in the past. Of course “all markets are local” and I usually like to drill down through the numbers to be more specific, but if we are going to deal in generalities I’m not sure one can say there’s a “severe shortage” of housing inventory in Maine.

It’s hard to ignore the fundamental laws of supply and demand–so lets not leave out the demand side. Another important piece is the money piece. I have no hard numbers, but it seems to me that I’m hearing about a lot of more “failed” deals due to financing issues created by buyers with credit problems ranging from lack of income to poor money management–some of which is, no doubt, a result of falling on “hard times.”  So supply is increasing and demand is perhaps decreasing as the number of qualfied buyers shrinks.

I’m not trying to be a prophet of doom here, but realistically we are a long way from any sort of recovery. It does make sense to be prepared to take advantage of that recovery when it comes… but I wouldn’t recommend being too early for the party.


You Don’t Know!

 Posted by at 7:05 am
Jul 262010

One of my favorite sayings is “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I suppose it sounds like a keen grasp of the obvious, but there’s some real insight beneath the obvious. When you decide to buy (or sell) real estate, one of the hazards is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Most buyers are anxioius to look at property. You might be surprised at how many calls I get from people who’ve driven by one of my listings and and they want to know if I can show it to them–as if buying property is just about looking at it. One thing those buyers don’t know is that they are skipping a very important step in the process of buying real estate.

A frequent topic on “how to buy real estate” sites is how (and why) to “hire” an agent to represent you. While most buyers seem to get anxious to look at property and skip that step, there are at least a couple of reasons you should consider teaming up with your own agent early in the process. The major one is that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Therefore you ought to hire your agent because of his or her training, knowledge, experience, problem-solving ability, connections, and ability to communicate. There’s more, but those are some of the more important reasons.

Determining that agent’s depth of knowledge can be a challenge–after all, how do you determine whether or not the agent knows what you don’t? Here’s a couple of questions you might consider:

  • What’s the most recent continuing education course you took and what did you learn from it?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you see most home buyers making and how do you prevent it?
  • How do you keep informed about what’s going on in the real estate world?
  • How’s the market in… (area or community)?

You’ll of course want to listen carefully to see how confident the answers are… and understand that some questions are best answered, “I don’t know and will have to look into it.” The business of real estate is anything but simple. Listen for thoughtful answers and expect some to require some research. This is not an area that lends itself to “snow jobs.” Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know!


Can We Discuss This?

 Posted by at 8:49 am
Jul 232010

Okay… so I was a little excited when I learned that I’d been quoted in the Broker Agent News Magazine. Well, this month I got quoted twice! (I think I should start writing for it, maybe?) In one case, I was “commiserating” with the author who was surprised at things he’s said that he wished he could “take back.” I commented

It wasn’t to a client… it was to a fellow REALTOR and instructor who was encouraging me to attend an event so we call ‘get the same information’ and ‘discuss things intelligently afterward.’ I said, ‘I’m capable of an intelligent discussion without knowing anything.’ Actually it was pretty funny and I have no desire to take it back… there can be great truths in humor.’

My serious side meant that there are discussion skills which are independent of the discussion content. Many times we talk about (discuss) things without considering HOW we’re going to talk–and listen. Here’s a practical example: if you are going to start searching for a home can we discuss that intelligently without (before) I know anything about you, your situation, and you needs?

I think the answer is yes!

By the way… real estate colleagues and students would definitely benefit from a look at the Broker Agent News website and magazine. I would have said that before they started quoting me! And for those whose interest is buying or selling real estate, you might also find a look at the site interesting and educational as you discover how agents think!

Jul 212010

An expression we don’t use so much any more in the computer world is “Garbage in = Garbage Out.” Nonetheless, over the past week or so we’ve taken a fair amount of “garbage” out of this blog–it’s installation and content–as a result of a recent upgrade. Doing so required some help and I have to give three cheers to the WPDude (WP=WordPress, the software the site is based on). The first cheer is for his response time. The second cheer is for his technical ability. The third cheer is for being extremely easy to do business with. (I’m still amazed at the fact that he’s “over there” (England) and we had a seamless experience and transaction.)

There are still a few bumps to work out… one of the “victims”  of the upgrade was my categories and it’s going to take a while for me to go back and recategorize all posts. In the interim you might try the “search” routine to find information regarding specific topics. I’m also still exploring some of the new capabilities I’ve gained… so you can expect ongoing improvements and enhancements.

Thanks for your patience during the transition…  and don’t be bashful with your comments and sugggestions.

Jul 122010

If you’re a regular visitor you may have noticed some weird stuff going on with the site… including the loss of categories and the site being down on occasion over the weekend.  If I could tell you why, I’d fix it! (It appears to be the result of a recent attempt to upgrade WordPress, the blogging program used.) Be assured I’m attempting to get things back in order… and if you are WordPress user, I’d love to pick your brain!

Thanks for your patience…

And since my contact and legally required information has disappeared… please note that I am licensed with Maine Choice Realty, 118 Moosehead Trail, Newport ME 04953.

Update, July 19th… As we say in Maine, we’re gainin’! Fundamentally, everything seems to be working… there’s still lots of tweaking and some minor fixing due to an upgrade (more about that later)… stay tuned, check back!