Buying Your First Home in Maine – Tips from 5 Real Estate Pros

Buying your first home is a big decision – probably the biggest financial move you’ve made so far. If you’re like most first-time buyers, you are on a tight budget; you may not be able to afford your “dream home” today. But, by focusing on the right factors, you may be surprised how close you can get.

To help improve your odds, it pays to consult an expert. In home-buying, that means a knowledgeable real estate agent who knows you and the area where you want to live. We recently asked some of our friends in the real estate business for their tips for first-time Maine home buyers. We think they’re worth keeping in mind as you look to buy a home.

Use Your Social Media Skills to Find The Right Real Estate Agent

Admit it…you cyberstalk other people, don’t you? Why not use social media to look for a compatible real estate agent? In addition to a web site, see if the agent and/or their real estate office has a page on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or even Pinterest.

Frankee Chapa of RE/MAX Alliance in Westbrook Maine says “social media is a great way to get a first impression and help you find an agent who will fit your personality, making the whole home buying process much more enjoyable! While browsing, you may also stumble across posts with photos of homes, details or spaces you like, for example: open floor plan, locations, wrap-around porches, lakeside dock access, large family rooms, etc. Mention these when you meet with your agent to help them get your search started.”

Look at the Big Picture

Choosing a home is kind of like that old Serenity Prayer. You have to know the difference between what you can and can’t change about a property, and be able to focus on the important things. Of course, you already know the 3 most important factors in real estate: location; location; and location.

Mary Jo Cross of Legacy Properties, Sotheby International Realty in Portland agrees. “Try to look beyond the furnishings, peeling paint and other imperfections when looking at houses because there are many wonderful opportunities that are missed because of cosmetic flaws”, she says.

“If the home is in a great location, try to have some vision as to what it could look like with some tweaking. Many buyers make the mistake of buying a fixed up home in a marginal location and that will greatly affect the resale in the future. You can change the house but not the location!!”

Don’t be Afraid of a Dated House

April Cohen of the Maine Real Estate Network at the Maine Real Estate Network in South Portland  says “so many first time buyers walk into a dated home, are scared of the project and walk right out. A dated home doesn’t mean the house is not livable or in bad shape, it just needs to be brought into the 21st Century. Tracy shares a few tips to deal with some common dated features and gain A TON of sweat equity:

  • Paneling: There is a special paint that you can buy to paint over paneling. Pick an earthy/beachy color to make your home feel like a beach cottage!
  • Wallpaper: Not as hard as you think to remove. Vinegar and fabric softener mixed with hot water have been used to help remove wall paper! GOOGLE IT!
  • Colored Bath Tubs: Most hardware stores carry painting kits to paint bathtubs and surrounds. You can turn that avacado green tub white in an afternoon!
  • Cabinets: Just because they look dated doesn’t mean they aren’t functional. Sand them down a bit and paint them the color of your dreams for a fresh, fun kitchen.

Consider Borrowing Money to Improve a “Fixer-Upper”

Janice Selig of Allen & Selig Realty in Freeport says “loan programs such as an FHA 203K or RD/MSH loans allow you to finance repairs and renovations into your loan.  This allows you to buy a distressed property, foreclosure or short sale, which often will give you more house for the money”.

“If you’re handy, you can do many of the renovations, or hire professionals to make the repairs and start with equity in the home.  Depending on the type of property you may be in for longer closing time as many short sales can take months to get bank approval”, Selig cautions.

Personalize Your Offer

So, you’ve found the perfect house, at a price you can afford. This is the one! You’re going to make an offer! How do you increase your chances of it being accepted? Brian Linscott of Linscott Real Estate in South Portland says that personalizing your offer can make the difference between getting the house you want and being just another bid.

“Write a short two paragraph letter to the owners and let them know who you are, why you love the home and why the home is great for your family. The owners will be able to differentiate you from other potential buyers and if yours is the only offer, the owners will see you as a family and not just as numbers on an offer”, Linscott says.

Sometimes, insurance questions arise in the home buying process. Which Maine insurance companies accept knob & tube wiring? How much does home insurance cost in Maine? Which are the best insurance companies for coastal homes in Maine? If you have questions about Greater Portland Maine home insurance, please contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. We represent many insurance companies, and are happy to advise you.