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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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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Peace At Last?

 Posted by at 7:12 am
Apr 252012
 

Regular site visitors and subscribers know that I usually have way too much fun with statistics… but here’s one I might just leave alone. According to a “think tank” in Australia, Maine is is the most peaceful state in America. There was lots of good news… including the “fact” that the United States had (in 2011) the most peaceful year in twenty years. It probably helps that across the country the murder rate is down 50% from 1991.

I can’t share too many more statistics without starting to question the conclusions, but there are some interesting numbers. One estimate says that “the average taxpayer pays $3,257 per year on violence and violence containment, while the total economic cost is $460 billion.” I think I’d rather go back to “Maine is the most peaceful…”

This morning as I gaze out the window it’s quite foggy… after a drenching rain there’s this sense of potential… you just know that when the sun comes out the grass is going to come tearing out of the ground so fast we’ll be able to hear it squeaking… the trees have that “fat” look that means any moment the leaves will burst open…

All is well in this corner of the world.

 

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Taxation Without Representation?

 Posted by at 7:44 am
Oct 292011
 

When it comes to property taxes, I rarely hear from people who do not think they pay enough. At a town meeting once lots of people were complaining about their assessed value. “There’s no way it’s worth that much!!” I couldn’t help but suggest that I wondered if they’d have that same perspective if they had called me because they needed to list it for sale.

I suppose there’s an interesting discussion to be had regarding the difference between assessed value (for tax purposes), appraised value (for mortgage purposes), and market value (for listing and sales purposes). But for today let’s touch on one aspect of property taxes–with the understanding that I am not the expert or final authority. Questions should be addressed to your local assessor or tax collector.

One area where we have some ability to “control” our taxes is in regards to vehicles such as campers or tractors. Many out of state purchasers are surprised when they get their first tax bill and discover it includes an assessment for the camper they left parked there. “I thought if it had wheels…”

Here’s the deal, as explained to me by one former tax assessor.

If you make the camper immovable (take the wheels off, build an enclosure around it), it can become part of your assessment and property tax bill—for tax purposes it becomes real estate.

 If the camper is “movable” there are two possibilities:

  • If it’s registered (in any state) it would not be taxable as personal property. (If registered in out of state you’d need to provide a copy of the registration to the assessor or have it visible in the window.) Note that if it’s registered in Maine you will pay excise tax. This gives rise to the observation that taxes are inevitable.
  • If it’s not registered it will be taxable as personal property. (Although a lot of times that doesn’t happen because the assessor hasn’t been to the property or otherwise noticed—they can, however, go back and collect those taxes for some period of time.)

 A lot Mainers “shop” those two possibilities to determine which is cheaper since if it’s registered you will pay an excise tax every year. The only way to do that is to ask the town tax collector for both amounts.

The problem with the whole complicated scenario is that enforcement really varies from town to town—and some Mainers can get very creative when it comes to avoiding taxes. I recall complaining to a fellow citizen about needing to register several trailers. He looked at me as if I’d grown a second head and said, “What the heck are you doing that for? All you have to do is register one and then keep switching the plate!”

He did not, of course, add “Just don’t get caught.” I suspect he’d been doing that for so many years he was sure it was proper procedure.

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There’s More Orange Than Leaves

 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Sep 202011
 

It’s that time of year when I remind folks to don their orange vests and hats when wandering very far off the beaten path. For that matter, it makes sense to wear some orange ON the beaten paths. Consider it a fashion statement if you’d like, but also consider it a mandatory bit of safety equipment.

From now until the end of the year there are plenty of different hunting seasons–instead of trying to figure out if it’s “okay” to go into the woods, just wear the orange. But you’re on posted land? It’s Sunday? I don’t recommend you count on everybody following all the rules.

Besides which, if you’re traveling with someone else, it’s easier to find and see each other.  Unless of course the foliage is at peak and one of you is buried in a pile of orange leaves!

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Sep 032011
 

According to the September issue of SWOAM News, the second annual Landowner Appreciation Cleanup Day has been scheduled for October 15th. Volunteers from snowmobile clubs, ATV clubs and other groups help out all over the state as a way of improving landowner relations. To participate or to report illegal dumping sites, call the Maine Forest Service at 1-800-750-9777. Of course you don’t have participate formally… it’s a great time of year to spruce things up!

Maine Forest Service

Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine

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Lucy’s Love Bus

 Posted by at 10:56 am
May 132011
 

One of the great benefits of having your own site/blog is that you get to make, break, and change rules and policies. I’ve always had an unwritten policy that I would keep the promotion of causes to a minimum here… and try to stay focused on real estate and education. This won’t be about real estate but it MIGHT be about education.

There’s a really awesome organization based in Northeastern Massachusetts that I’d like to bring to your attention… if you live in that general area there’s going to be an “Art, Love, and Lucy Gala and Auction” on Saturday at the Amesbury Cultural Center.  Whether or not you can attend this event, please visit Lucy’s Love Bus to find out who this incredible young lady was and learn about her legacy. There’s a lot to learn here.  A word of warning: have a box of tissues and your wallet close by; I’m pretty sure you will want to support this program.

It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.

– Sharon Salzber

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Mar 132011
 

The things you can find on the Internet! If you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed one “widget” in the sidebar on the right to connect to local information. Because of the rural nature of our area, some of the items may not be particularly helpful, but I thought the local information would be more important and useful than national real estate news.

Some additional sites you may find helpful:

Redfin.com: In addition to listings, this site offers information such as how long a home has been for sale, its last sales price, and its current value. (These value computations on sites of this nature can be significantly inaccurate.) It also provides virtual tours to listed homes.

Trulia.com: Like Zillow.com, which offers satellite views, Trulia’s “heat maps” show how hot or cold an area is based on prices, sales, and popularity among its users.

?Google Maps and Bing.com/maps: For a bird’s-eye view, even 360 degrees in some cases, these amazing map sites offer a virtual perspective of available homes that’s truly hard to beat.

Walkscore.com: Is an interesting site that rates any address based on the walking distance of its nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, coffee shops etc.

SchoolMatters.com: A Standard & Poor’s company, this site offers parents (and potential home buyers) an objective rating of public schools and public school districts by region, including test scores and demographics. GreatSchools.net offers similar info and ratings on private schools based on region.

HUD.Gov is the official website for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) This site lists HUD homes and provides information for home buyers, including financing options and home buying programs available through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Maine State Housing Authority offers a wide variety of information including details regarding a great loan program for first time home buyers.

Homeloans.va.gov: This site houses information about government home loan programs specifically for veterans.

You’ll also find links to a number of sites in the sidebar to your left by scrolling down the page. Happy searching and learning!

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Living in the Northeast

 Posted by at 6:31 am
Feb 262011
 

Thanks to one of my favorite magazines and websites I went on a mental journey this morning. Parts of it went back over fifty years to the memory of gathering sap with my Dad. Our tools then were bit and brace, an old truck with a home-made tank on the back, some shiny new buckets we picked up at the railroad station. My journey began when I read the ongoing blog “Dispatch from the Sugar Woods” by David Mance III.

I made another turn at an article regarding The Secret Life of Snow. This article is part of a weekly column called “The Outside Story” – a weekly column on forestry subjects, natural history, and ecology syndicated in dozens of newspapers.

I could have travelled a lot longer and further. I might even have bought a diameter tape and 10-factor prism or looked at some resources available to teachers. Instead, I decided to rush here and tell you about The Northland Woodlands magazine and Center for Education. The mission of the center is “to advance a culture of forest stewardship in the Northeast and to increase understanding of and appreciation for the natural wonders, economic productivity and ecological integrity of the region’s forests.”

If you live in the Northeast—or want to—these are folks you want to know and this is a site you’ll want to visit. One thing that may surprise you is that this is a “non-profit” organization that actually sticks to its mission. In fact, I’d been reading the magazine for a long time before I realized the non-profit nature. They produce a quality content-rich publication. The writing is superb and the information is both interesting and informative.

Journey on over to Northern Woodlands.  Then see where your mouse and your mind take you. I’ll bet you have fun and learn something too!

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Tax Workshop for Landowners

 Posted by at 7:25 am
Feb 152011
 

SWOAM, the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, has partnered with the Maine Forest Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Maine Revenue Service to bring 16 workshops to landowners in March.

For those in the area, one will be held on Wednesday, March 16th from 6-8 PM by Lisa Whynot of the Maine Revenue Service and Gordon Moore, MFS District Forester. Topics to be discussed include the Tree Growth, Open Space, and Farmland tax law. These are the three primary ‘Current Use’ property tax programs that may be of great interest to landowners.

For additional information about this particular workshop contact Peter Robinson at 564-7433.

A complete list of workshops (including six that are specific to federal tax issues) around the state can be found at the SWOAM website. Look under the events tab.

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