Gather

August 30th, 2014

gather Today I am going to be writing about something I am very passionate about; food, more specifically brunch. The fact I can enjoy cured meats with a tall tangy glass of orange juice (with a splash of  champagne) AND a hot cup of coffee is a match made in heaven in my book. So I am going to let you in on my new favorite Sunday mid-morning haunt, Gather. Located just a 20 minutes drive north from Scarborough and a 10 minute drive to Freeport it is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a meal in the charming town of Yarmouth. They specialize in local farm fresh food, which not only helps out local farmers but it’s super fresh. The presentation of the food is beautiful as well, and don’t even get me started on the interior of the restaurant it is beyond breathtaking. To make the ambiance every better, every Sunday they have a live bluegrass band and different acoustic bands every Wednesday’s for dinner from 6:30-8:30 pm. The coolest thing about Gather? they have a food bartering program that just started this July. Yeah, amazing right? so that surplus crop of kale you currently have growing in your backyard, and if you eat more kale chip you will be sick, you can march on down to Gather at their listed times two days a week and barter your produce for credit to the restaurant. Be sure to check either their Facebook or actual website to see what crop they are interested in. I mean, how amazing would it be to know your produce will be on a menu for other people to enjoy. I hope other restaurants in greater Portland follow Gather’s suit for bringing back such an amazing old common practice. I had the hash with two eggs and my better half a medium rare hand formed burger, and for the sake of this article, I tried his meal. I should’ve ordered one to go to eat later. I consider myself a corned beef hash coinsure, whenever I see it on the menu, chances are I’m going to order it, and this certainly made the top of the list and I take this list very seriously.

So, go check out Gather this weekend, or any night for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. The food and drinks are beyond delicious, the atmosphere in the restaurant is unbeatable and the staff their are lovely.

Below is a link to channel 6 news who just covered a story on Gather.

http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/local/2014/08/19/gather-restaurant-does-veggie-bartering/14303497/

And for hours, directions and to check out their menu here is their website.

http://www.gathermaine.com/brunch-menu/

Qualify for a mortgage

August 22nd, 2014

While underwrites at a mortgage company look a lot of different factors of information to help determine whether or not you will qualify for a mortgage, the four main things it boils down to are: credit, equity, income and lastly, assets.

Credit

Your credit is the single most important factor that will be considered when in qualifying for a mortgage procedure. Your history of credit is the judge in how a lender will determine the likelihood that you will pay back the money they lend you; so a good track record of how you’ve paid your loan accounts on time and whether or not you have maxed out credit cards or loans. Your credit scores will play the important role of the interest rate you will be awarded. A credit score range is 350 (low) and 850 (high). A healthy credit score would land you around 740, anything below 600 is considered poor side and the usual minimum score to be offered a loan is 620. Just remember, the higher the score the better interest rate you will get. Your credit report is also another factor a lender will look at, to check for any large outstanding collections or liens against you and also to see any new accounts you may have opened within the last year. In the event if you have any hits on your credit score, you will usually need to remedy those before you can be awarded financing.

Down Payment / Equity

The usual minimum required house down payment is 3.5% of the sales price. This percentage will allow you to qualify for and FHA loan, a superb choice if you can’t put a large chunk of money down or a first time buyer. FHA loans are a great option if you have a not so outstanding credit score, because they will not penalize you with a high interest rate.

Equity is a hard thing to come by these days for a majority of homeowners, or actually lack thereof with their properties. With the previous market crash it is not uncommon for many people having less equity in their homes now compared to a mere few years ago. Another common occurrence is a lot of people owe more on their mortgage than the actual value of their home. Most cases you have the ability to finance up to 98% of the appraised value of your home. If your home appraisal comes in low, the possibility of requirement to pay the additional funds to close the loan may be real, or you may not receive the loan at all.

Income vs. Debts

Your debt to income ratio is crucial in the mortgage lending world, which is simply just your fixed expenses with a new mortgage compared to your overall monthly income. Lenders like to see spending less than 50% on gross monthly income on fixed expenses. A healthy two year employment history is a big bonus, self-employed or part time jobs will have a little more trouble than someone with a “9-5″job.

Assets

The money used for a down payment will need to be verified by the lender that it is in a liquid account (checking or savings account). Money hidden under your mattress may do you no good here, unless you of course deposit it into a bank account, lendors need to know where the funds of a transaction are coming from.

In sum, there are a multitude of different factors that all add up into qualifying for a home loan.

Have questions about if you would qualify for a mortgage? Reach out to the Deja Lett Team for a recomendation about local lenders in the Greater Portland area!

Rent or buy

August 15th, 2014

Pork or chicken? Red or white wine? To rent or buy a home? You have been thinking a lot about it, the pride of owning your own house, mowing your own lawn, not being at the mercy of a landlord, it all seems pretty romantic when you think about it, but are you really ready?

Buying a house is the biggest financial move you will most likely ever make. Here are a few hard facts you may want to really consider before embarking on this scary amazing journey.

Examine your finances

This is the first step because it is the most important. Can you really afford buying a house? you will put anywhere between 5% to 20% of the homes purchase price, closing costs which are usually around 5%, now this amount will obviously far exceed the security deposit, first and last month’s rent. Once you have overcome the battle of making sure you have enough funds to put down, the second hurdle is do you bring in enough income to reside at your new dwelling? A good amount of financial expert’s high recommend that your monthly mortgage not go over 28% of your gross monthly income AND that your total monthly debt not exceed of 36% of your gross monthly income. Why it is so important to not exceed over these percentages is due to you need to factor in the cost of home maintenance. Replacing a roof, new windows, appliances, name it, it costs money and you need to make sure you have the funds to cover it. This is where renting is easier, it’s a fixed monthly rate which may increase over time but, if the roof needs to be repaired, your landlord pays for it, leaving you with money you can spend how you like.

So you have crunched the numbers and you joyfully found that you have enough to not only put toward the down payment but also enough to cover home maintenance and a little extra left over to spend or invest. Haza! This is great because not only do you now have a place to call your very own you now have an investment property that has equity and you receive tax breaks from on your federal income tax that are deductibles from your monthly mortgage and property taxes; these are all good things, my friend.

So, in the short run, if you do not have enough to put down or simply don’t want the responsibility of home maintenance that it may require than renting may be a better option at this point. BUT, in the long run, a place that you put hard work into to maintain, that you are proud of, will gain equity and someday will be worth more than you paid for it, than home buying is definitely for you.

Have questions? Reach out to the Deja Lett Team  today!

Kitchen Renovations

August 8th, 2014

When people say the kitchen is the heart of the home, they should add in that it is also that is the best room to renovate to add value to your home. Here are a few pointers and list of materials you will need when taking on this kitchen renovation journey.

First things first, set your budget and stick to it; this is crucial. Sure you love a photo of that kitchen you found on pinterest, but is a $4,000 range hood really within your spending limits? (and if it is, then by all means GO FOR IT!) It’s easy to walk around a store picking out all the items you want, think you’re all set, tally it up and find out you are easily $15,000 over. Do your homework for products, and if what you want is out of range, look for something you could substitute with but will still love.

Second, you may want to meet with a kitchen designer; you can find them at many of the big box stores. They are a great asset because they will listen to you, help you pick out products to stay within your budget and then create on their computer a 3D layout through a program called CAD to make sure it’s perfect.

Third, pick your materials. This is a really big, overwhelming step because there are a crazy amount of products in this world (I personally get overwhelmed when I walk down the faucet aisle and I’m not stranger to home renovations.) Keep in mind, you get what you pay for, sure those boxed cabinets are cheap and they look nice, but how well are they going to hang when being installed? Or how long will they stay looking nice?

So a basic list of everything you need to consider for materials (and a few popular options) goes a little something like this and let us start from the bottom, shall we?

Flooring: Wood, laminate, tile

Cabinets: Two options here: store bought boxes, or hand crafted. Surprisingly, people think that hand built cabinets from a craftsman is very expensive, but it really depends on what wood you choose, how big your kitchen is, and who you choose to do the job, but the longevity compared to store bought boxes is amazing. So, don’t rule it out!

Countertops: Coraline, granite, marble, soapstone, even poured concrete.

Wall Treatments: Subway tile, mosaic tile, sheetrock, tin.

Appliances: Sink, stove, fridge, dishwasher, range hood, build in microwave, wall oven, convection oven, wine cooler (fancy!)

Fixtures: Hardware, faucets, those amazing adapters for slam proof drawers and cabinet doors.

Lighting: Pod, recess, pendants, chandeliers.

As you can see there are clearly a MILLION combinations and options when planning out a kitchen and it can be as cheap and $10,000 to really the sky is the limit. Just remember the cardinal rule of stick to your budget and whatever you come up will be beautiful. Bon appétit!

Tips for selling your home

July 28th, 2014

Thinking about selling your home and you are pretty sure you are ready to put it on the market? Follow these tips below and you should have no problem finding the right buyer!

#10 Price Accurately:

Find out the value of your home, and list it a bit lower. As homeowners sometimes we take so much pride in our properties and think it’s worth more than it is. Price low and you will most likely have a lot of foot track that may lead to a buyer.

#9 Half Empty Storage:

Remove half of the items from your closets and cupboards so potential buyers see how much storage is available. Word to the wise, make sure it’s neat and tidy, the majority of buyers like to look into every nook and cranny when house hunting.

#8 Use Light to Your Advantage:

Wash your windows, clean (or replace) lamp shades, trim shrubs around the windows, heck, even take down your curtains if you think that will help flood your home with light. Make your home as bright and cheery as possible.

#7 Pack up The Pets:

You love your pets, but not everyone might not. Take them with you or send them to a daycare for the day. Make sure to thoroughly clean before an open house just incase someone may be allergic.

#6 Hire the Right Broker:

Do your homework to find a broker. Ask friends, or trusted online resorces, but make sure that they have had good success in your community, listens to you, has good ideas, is tech savvy, and most importantly well informed. Having a bad realtor could result in a few unforunate scenarios, for example selling your home under priced, or not being able to sell your home at all. This is crucial!

#5 Avoid Major Upgrades:

By all means make minor adjustments to your home before putting it on the market; for example switching cabinet hardware in the kitchen, planting bright flower beds, update light fixtures or paint, those will pay off. It’s not neccessarily wise to undertake a huge renovation because chances are, you may not get your money back.

#4 Make Your Home a House

De-personalize like it’s your job, folks! Potential buyers will have a much easier time imagining themselves living there if you remove family portaits from the walls.

#3 Put Your Money into The Kitchen:

The heart of the home is a kitchen and if you are to jazz up one room, it should be the kitchen. You will most likely get the money back you put into it, that’s how important it is.

#2 Always be “Show-Ready”:

Keep your house spotless, you never know when a buyer may walk through the door. Rooms tidy and clean, sink empty, bathrooms glowing. It’s hard work, but it will pay off!

#1 Curb Appeal Could Make or Break a Deal

You could have the most beautiful intieror and the buyer already decided they did not like your property based on the exterior. First impressions are everything and if your home doesn’t show well you may not get the second impression to win someone over Put effort and money to update your homes extieror, plant flowers or shrubs, keep the lawn mowed, and front entryway clean, welcoming, organized.

 

http://www.dejalett.com/atj/user/HomePageGetAction.do

 

Equity Stripping Scams

February 8th, 2014

With the rise of foreclosures in the past decade it’s important as a home owner to be aware of equity stripping scams that happen. These scammers take advantage of homeowners that are having trouble making their mortgage payments with promises to save their house from foreclosure, while allowing the homeowner to remain in the house, or even giving the homeowner cash to pay other bills they are behind on.

There are no known statistics on how many people are affected nationwide, it’s an issue that has very little legal recourse, so you’ll want to know what to look out for.

Many of these scammers will offer to buy your home for what you own on it, allow you to rent the home from them until you get back on your feet, and then ‘they will sell it back to you’. All in the name of helping you out and saving your credit!

If you find yourself in tight financial times, you may be targeted by these scammers that mine information from public records. They use predatory advertising techniques with wording such as;

“Bills keeping you up at night?”
“Trouble making your mortgage? Get help and avoid foreclosure!”
“Let us help you get out of debt.”

Many of these scammers pose as legit lenders, and may send mailings to your home with fake approval amounts, or borrowing offers, all in the name of helping you out. The thing is they aren’t looking to help; they are looking to make money and take your equity.

Key’s to making sure your lender is legit;

  1. Don’t fall for false promises. If you lender guarantee’s that they can “save your credit”, or “buy your house if something happens”, turn and head for the door.
  2. Don’t sign documents you don’t understand. Never sign a document without fully reading it, even if the lender is pushing you to sign right away, take it home, read it through and consult a lawyer if it doesn’t make sense to you.
  3. Reach out to the Deja Lett Team so that we can talk to you about options and get you in touch with one of our preferred lenders if you are falling behind.

Have you ever been contacted by this type of lender? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Basic Real Estate Terms Made Easy – Part Two

January 29th, 2014

Multi-unitIt’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s just a Multi-Unit house by a different name!

While looking through listings you’ll find many words that consumers consider interchangeable: Condo’s, Co-op’s, Townhouses, Multi-Units, Two-Family, Duplexes, etc. The thing is, these words aren’t truly interchangeable in real estate; each has its own definition when it comes to buying real estate.

A cooperative or co-op is a type of multiple ownership in which the residents of a multiunit housing complex own shares in the cooperative corporation that owns the property, giving each resident the right to occupy a specific apartment or unit. In essence you own a share of the property, but not your specific unit.

A condominium is ownership in real property where all of the owners own the property, common areas and buildings together, with the exception of the interior of the unit to which they have title. Often mistakenly referred to as a type of construction or development, it actually refers to the type of ownership.

A condominium hotel is a condominium project that has rental or registration desks, short-term occupancy, food and telephone services, and daily cleaning services and that is operated as a commercial hotel even though the units are individually owned. These are often found in resort areas like Hawaii and not generally found here in Maine.

A Multidwelling unit is a property that provides separate housing units for more than one family, although they secure only a single mortgage. This is also known as a duplex in some regards, where one owner owns all the housing units in the building.

In this type of housing common areas are owned (or managed) by a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium homeowners’ association (or a cooperative project’s cooperative corporation), meaning that all of the unit owners share in the common expenses of their operation and maintenance. Common areas can include swimming pools, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities, as well as common corridors of buildings, parking areas, means of ingress and egress, etc.

When thinking about a multidwelling property it is important to take into account any additional fees that these associations will charge on top of your mortgage.

Have questions? Reach out to the Deja Lett Team today!

Staging Your Home For Sale

January 22nd, 2014
Photo Courtesy of HomeStagingAtlanta on Flickr

Photo Courtesy of HomeStagingAtlanta on Flickr

Last week we talked about separating emotion from the real estate sales process. This is an important aspect when it comes to staging your home. You’ve designed it to be just so and you’ve been happy with the layout of your furniture and belongings, but you aren’t selling it to yourself so you may need to make some changes in order for potential buyers to see themselves living in their future home!

Homebuyers are attracted to clean and spacious houses with curb appeal. Before listing your home you’ll want to do a deep clean, staging and curb appeal check.

While doing your deep clean you’ll want to scrub your home from top to bottom;

• Remove ALL clutter from countertops, tables and rooms.
• Pack away or discard any magazines or papers that are normally on the coffee table or your desk.
• Remove excess pictures. If you have a shelf with multiple pictures, pick your favorite and pack away the rest.
• Have all carpets steam cleaned.
• Dust and scrub everything, clean from baseboards to cobwebs. The cleaner the house the brighter it will be and the better it will smell!
• Fill any nail holes or cracks and paint them.

While you can’t change the square footage of your home there are staging techniques you can use to make it more spacious;

• Consider renting a storage unit and packing items you don’t use on a daily basis, your holiday dishes, winter clothes, out of season athletic equipment, collections (if you have a lot of something from books to china dolls – downsize the collection and put some away).
• Look through your closets and pack away or donate the items your never use. Closet space is always a selling point for buyers.
• Mirrors are also a great way to make rooms look larger. Reposition the ones you have or invest a little money in decorative mirrors for entries and main living areas.
• Take a good look at the layout of your furniture; do you tend to walk around a specific item? Consider moving it or putting it in storage. Do you have lots of pieces in one room? Consider moving items to new areas.

Curb appeal is what will turn “drive-by” traffic into “stop-by” traffic.

• Make sure you keep the landscaping in tip-top shape.
• Trim the trees and shrubbery.
• Plant flowers.
• Remove all debris and clutter from your yard.
• Clean your front entrance area; can you tell which entrance is the main entrance? Is the house number displayed?
• Make sure your roof is in good condition.
• Touch up exterior paint.
• Make sure you have no broken windows or damaged weather-stripping.

By taking emotion out of the staging process and looking at your home from a buyers perspective you could potentially realize a quicker sale and better return!

Don’t forget you can contact the Deja Lett Team for a FREE home value analysis.

So You Think You’re Ready to Sell Your Home?

January 17th, 2014

The time is has come; you’ve outgrown the home that you’ve loved, you need to relocate for a new job, or you need to downsize. Whatever the reason for selling your home, there are steps that can help make the process less stressful.

The most important aspect of selling your home is to be unemotional; we know that your house has been your home and there IS emotion involved but now that you’ve decided to sell it, you need to separate the emotional aspect from the business transaction. By separating emotion from the decisions, you’ll be able to make the changes you may need to, in order to get a higher sales price.

Another piece to consider is the price. Last week we talked about the difference between Appraised Value and Assessed Value.  You’ll want to make sure that the price you’re asking falls into the appraised value range, and price it at the true market value, not just what you think its worth. If you choose to work with the Deja Lett Team, we will pull records of homes in the area that have sold recently so that we can access what the market conditions truly are for your home. This process is comparing Apples to Apples; we will find homes with the same square footage and amenities as your home and price it accordingly.

The final aspect you’ll want to consider is your time-frame for the move. Do you need to relocate to a new city ASAP for a job, or do you have some time before your move? These factors will help determine how the home is marketed and how often it is shown. If you need to sell ASAP then you’ll have to be more accommodating to showings and open houses, if not then you can set a different expectation with your agent on days / times / and notification periods needed before a showing.

Being realistic in your expectations and your goals will make the process less stressful and you’ll be able to enjoy the process of shopping for your next home.

Next week we will talk about the changes you may need to make and staging to get your asking price.

 Don’t forget you can contact the Deja Lett Team for a FREE home value analysis.

Basic Real Estate Terms Made Easy – Part One

January 9th, 2014

Real Estate Terms Buying or selling a home will bring you into another world of acronyms and terms you may not hear on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis! We want to make sure you understand some of the basic definitions and terms that you might hear during the process. In this multi-part series we break them down for you!

What’s the difference between an Appraisal and an Assessment?

An Appraisal is a written justification of the price paid for a property, based on analysis of comparable sales of similar homes nearby. The appraisal process is done by a qualified appraiser (they could be independent or employed by a mortgage lender), who has the education, experience and training to know the local market.

An Assessment is the act of placing a value on your property for taxation purposes. This assessment is completed by the public official (employed by the government), who determines how much your property is worth from a government standpoint.

What’s the difference between an Assessed Value and an Appraised Value?

Assessed Value is the valuation placed on a property by a public tax assessor for taxation purposes; it could be much less than the selling price or appraised value depending on the last time the city or town did a reassessment.

Appraised Value is an opinion of a property’s fair market value, based on an appraiser’s knowledge, experience and analysis of the property. This is also based on the most recent sales price and may change when a house sells. In most cases the appraised value will be higher than the assessed value.

Have questions on what your home is worth? Reach out to the Deja Lett Team for a FREE Comparative Analysis of home’s in your area.