Mar 262016
 

It has come to my attention that the article referenced in “Over the River and Through the Woods” is now only available to subscribers. A little “googling” has turned up another article that actually looks at the issue from a slightly different perspective:

Private Road Plowing Debated

This is not a simple, one-dimensional issue. For real estate licensees, the question may be more important than the answer because the answer will be different in different municipalities and situations. I’ve raised the issue because I suspect there are some concerns a licensee representing a buyer considering property located on a private road might need to discuss with his or her client.

For an excellent summary of some facts regarding the forming of road associations, read this article on Maine.gov.

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Feb 102016
 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

A recent accident in Harrison, Maine involving a fire truck raises more questions regarding private roads, a complex topic that has always affected those dealing in real estate. In spite of recent efforts to clear up issues surrounding abandoned and discontinued roads, the legal and practical aspects of going over the river and through the woods can be daunting.

As reported in The Sun Journal, a Harrison Fire Department truck slid down a hill while responding to a carbon monoxide alarm, suffering major front end damage. Fortunately, the driver escaped with only a few scratches.

As a former volunteer firefighter, I can recall some heartbreaking calls when we found ourselves unable to reach a home on a private road that was poorly maintained–or not maintained at all. Those were simpler times and a call to the road superintendent would bring a plow, sander, or in some cases the town grader, even if the road wasn’t officially maintained by the town. But precious minutes were lost. Difficult judgments had to be made quickly–is this road passable? Am I going to risk people and equipment if I proceed?

Those decisions are no less simple today. If anything, they have become more difficult as entities and individuals must consider liability and legality. Some towns are adopting ordinances and policies to deal with these issues.

Property purchasers need to be aware of the potential issues and problems if access to the property is anything other than a public road. Since this is truly a local issue, research and diligence are required. Happily, buyers do not need to make split second decisions, but they do need to be aware that purchasing property on private roads always means assuming risks.

Reading the entire article will heighten awareness, certainly. And if you read all the way to the end, you’ll discover an interesting story of how some homeowners “solved” a problem with access to their properties.

 

 

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Erosion Control Requirements

 Posted by at 10:39 am
Feb 012013
 

shoveling_hole_pc_400_clr_3788Way back in 2008 a bill was passed that required, beginning on January 1, 2013, any activity that adds or displaces more than one cubic yard of soil in the shoreland zone, must either 1) be done by a certified contractor, or 2) a person trained and certified in erosion control by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must be on-site while the activity is being done.  The law does not apply to homeowners doing the work themselves.  The long lead time between passage of the statute and final implementation of the law allowed excavation contractors and other interested parties ample time to become certified.  Certification is achieved by attending an eight hour course given by DEP.  There are currently 1,524 individuals on the list of certified contractors.  For a list of contractors: www.maine.gov/dep/land/training/ccec.html 

This information was excerpted from information provided by the Maine Association of Realtors… one thing I haven’t researched is what the penalty (if any) might be if a buyer purchased property where this requirement was not met by the previous owner (seller). I’d recommend buyers ask questions about any work done in a Shorelands Zone prior to purchase as part of their due diligence!

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There Might Be A Reason…

 Posted by at 7:16 am
Jan 022013
 

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am not in any way, shape, or form a reverse mortgage expert. For that matter, I’m not sure I know anyone who is… but with that, let me share a news story with you. The Bangor Daily News recently ran an article Seldom-used financial tool helps seniors purchase new homes without mortgage payments. I will tell you that the tool involved is a “reverse mortgage for purchase” and the story involves a woman in Westbrook who successfully used one.

The article notes that while these loans have been available since 2009, there haven’t been very many issued. There might be a reason for that. Understanding the concept will make most people’s head hurt and I don’t know too many lenders who are familiar with the program. If you are over 62 years old and would like to downsize–it will be worth reading the article and doing some research. Just use some caution and consider all of the financial implications.

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Gram’s Moving In!

 Posted by at 8:24 am
Dec 052012
 

A recent article in Real Estate Economy Watch offers a wealth of statistical data supporting the observation that “Today’s housing depression has again forced generations to move in together, but as the housing recovery takes hold, many plan to stay together and revive the multi-generational lifestyle of the past.” The article also, quite naturally, focuses on how this changes the real estate market. At least one commenter notes that the “biggest upside” of the trend is “more housing for the money.”

I’m not sure I agree. I might agree if the analysis was that this trend means different housing for money. Too often, we view the world as one dimensional and in America, it’s all about the money most of the time.

When I am teaching people who are studying for a real estate license, I tell them the biggest mistake one can make after getting licensed is to start out “poor.” It’s a horrible basis on which to make decisions and one can discover him or herself chasing commissions instead of objectively counselling clients.

I think that advice applies across the board. A real estate buyer who posted about a “Catch-22” he’s caught in is clearly caught there in a large part because he doesn’t have the money required to complete a painless transaction. Even he sees an option of passing on the current purchase until he can save up some more money.

We shouldn’t–can’t really–ignore economic reality. But when we are thinking about living arrangements, we need to look beyond the economics. The personal and social impact of multi-generational living arrangements can be both positive and negative. Those impacts are something we can have some control over.

The Amish understand this with homes and farms where multi-generational living is the norm. (I would suggest you research “Gros Daddy Haus” except when I did, most of the references are to porn sites! That might say something about our society…) Actually, it’s more than a norm–it’s an expectation that is based on their larger definition of community and their tendency to carefully consider how changes will impact that and their way of life.

Given our economic environment, the likelihood of families facing these sorts of choices in clearly going to increase and in many cases “there won’t be a choice.” Even if you believe that, don’t just add up the dollars in the process–consider how that “forced” choice is going to impact you and your way of life. You aren’t just letting somebody move in with you, you are changing your way of life and with some forethought you can control the impact.

If, as the article suggests, you want to “stay together and revive the multi-generational lifestyle of the past,” understand that lifestyle isn’t something that just happens to you–it’s something you can consciously define and adopt.

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Sep 272012
 

I’m tired of being surveyed. I suspect a lot of people are already tired of hearing about the election–that’s unfortunate because we do, in fact, have some important choices to make.

One choice that’s been impacted by the pending election is whether or not to buy a home! According to Real Estate Economy Watch, some 25% of Americans would like to know who the next president will be before they put their money down to buy a house.

I do not think that means the real estate market will dramatically improve immediately following the election. In working with buyers, I’ve learned that there are always “good” reasons to delay buying a home. The question is whether or not those “good” reasons to delay outweigh the good reasons to do something now. After the election, many of those buyers will find a different reason to delay a decision.

Should you buy or wait? There is not one answer to that question. While there are certainly some factors (like low mortgage interest rates) implying a home purchase now is a good decision, the answer needs to be specific to your circumstances. You won’t hear me shouting “It’s a great time to buy!” You also won’t hear me shouting “It’s a great time to delay!” If anything, it’s a great time to give thoughtful consideration to your individual situation.

Partly because of the technology explosion, we are prone to remain uncertain in the hope (or fear) that new information is on the way. While that has validity, we ought to balance that hesitation with the knowledge that many times it’s less about making the right decision and more about making a decision, then making the decision right by adapting and adjusting.

In election terms, it’s the “undecideds” that give the candidates fits… and I find it somewhat amazing there are still a number of people who haven’t decided who they will vote for… I’m told some do not until they enter the voting booth. Given the stark differences in the presidential race, a decision shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s a matter of looking at fundamental differences between the candidates and the “big picture.” There’s not much to gain by waiting to discover one more thing you do or do not like about the candidates.

The same logic applies to the home buying decision.

 

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Estimating Heating Costs

 Posted by at 7:11 am
Aug 252012
 

Estimating the heating costs for a specific home is an extremely difficult task. There are just too many variables–including the type of fuel and fuel costs. The Governor’s Energy Office recently established a website that will help you compare the costs of heating a “typical” 1500 square foot home based on fuel. I was a bit surprised to discover that based on current prices, pellets are actually less costly than wood. (The site makes a number of assumptions regarding efficiency.)

One of the conversations I often have with home buyers is a reminder that we pay for our homes more than once–when we buy it, certainly. But we also pay to maintain it, to heat it, to clean it… While this site won’t help with your specific home, it will provide some interesting things to consider. Check out: http://www.maine.gov/energy/.

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How Much Mortgage Can You Afford?

 Posted by at 8:21 am
Aug 102012
 

I’ve decided to “try” this… with some hesitation. A short version description is that the National Association of Realtors has offered members the ability to “reprint” articles. I’ve placed the word reprint in quotes, because what really seems to happen is I get the beginning of the article–you have to click a link which takes you to an NAR sponsored site. Frankly, I think I’d really prefer to write my own stuff and keep you here, but maybe from time to time I should offer some material from others. This article seemed like a reasonable test–the information is fairly specific and, I think helpful–at least for the curious. If you’re at all seriously wondering, I recommend an appointment with a loan officer. Anyway, I’d welcome comments!

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2012 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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May Sales Information

 Posted by at 8:06 am
Jun 242012
 

I found it mildly amusing that the MREIS (Maine Real Estate Information System) issued their monthly press release regarding May sales at about the same time I announced my vacation. Were I inclined to feel self-important I would speculate this is not a coincidence and there was concern that my vacation announcement might impact expectations regarding sales in July. (“Walter’s not working; sales will go down.”) I assure you my contributions (or lack thereof) will not significantly impact the sales data of either the county of the state.

Of course you’ve probably heard that statewide unit sales of residential property were up 32%. That’s certainly good news, but is tempered by the fact that comparing this year to last means comparing this year to a “bad” one. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the graph will show that the overall sales trend for May from 2007 continues a downward slant. But also do not forget this only represents one month–basing a trend on one month is not especially valid statistically.

Of perhaps more interest is the localized version… these releases include a “three month rolling average” by county.  For the months of March, April and May Piscataquis County Sales were up by nearly 13%–but understand that 13% represents four additional properties sold this year versus last and a median sales price this year of $60,000. (The median sales price indicates that half the homes were sold for more and half for less.)

The truly “bright spots” (measured by largest percentage increases) in our state are Washington County (162.5%) and Lincoln County (78.6%). Franklin County was the only county showing a loss (1.7%).

What all this means probably depends on your own bias and interest. Logically, with interest rates and prices this low, demand should (and will) increase–eventually. My instincts suggest that the road is a long one and I would be prepared for plenty of ups and downs.

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