Spring Time in Maine

April is a questionable month in Maine.  Some years we have warm, welcoming days, but not this year.  The little bird is ready for her new family (Scarborough, image bird), and we can still see ice flowing toward the dam ( Little Sebago, image 1989), but the soil is defrosting and the plants are starting to wake up after a very, very, long winter.

Scarborough bird,Little Sebago, ice flow




The rhubarb is growing rapidly (Scarborough, image 1992), the daffodils are blooming (Scarborough, image 1999 and 1998),

Scarborough, rhubarbScarborough, daffodilsScarborough daffodils





and the partridge berries are red (Scarborough, image 1997).

Scarborough,partirdge berries




Plus this coming weekend is Open House Weekend in the real estate market.  Dawn Marston of Maine Custom Realty is hosting four open houses: 2o Woodside Drive in Gorham, 21 South Dyers Cove Road in Harpswell, 375 Pownal Road in Freeport, and 53 Birch Road in Wells.   She points out that the sales of existing single-family homes rose 9.1 percent in the first three months of this year, but the median price increased 1.2 percent to $170,000.  Maine realtors sold 950 units in March, an increase of 6.5 percent.  These increases are indicators of a stabilized housing market. Unfortunately many of the lower end homes are becoming somewhat scarce at the beginning of a normally busy spring and summer. She encourages all first time buyers and also casual lookers to attend an open house and learn a bit more about the market today.

Maine Home Sales on a Hot Streak

The sales of existing single-family homes in Maine increased 6.58 percent in September, which is the opposite of the downward trend in both the Northeast region and in the nation. The median sales price was $175,000 last month, which is up 1.16 percent from a year ago. Maine Association of Realtors reported 1,393 homes were sold last month, which is 86 more than reported in September 2013.  People seem to feel somewhat better about the economy and the southern part of the state is experiencing some stability, and potential homebuyers are looking again.  The largest increase was in Somerset, Waldo, and York  counties. September is traditionally an active month in the home-buying market since families rush to close on homes before the kids start school.  Also this year with the paper mill closures and the ongoing strike at FairPoint Communications, many jobs will be lost and much movement will follow.  These events may cause families to reconsider moving into new homes and remaining  where they are, or encourage other families to move to a more job-friendly area. Currently the average US mortgage rates continue to slide, raising prospects of a wave of consumers refinancing their loans or encouraging new buyers to set up a 30-year mortgage  at 3.92 percent with Freddie Mac. The average rate is at its lowest point since June of 2013, and a 15-year, possibly refinancing mortgage, is  at 3.08 percent.

Financing Options


If you have been turned down for financing, do not despair.  There may be some good alternatives for you.

There are many reasons applicants are rejected for financing: their low credit rating, their debt to income ratio, job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce, etc.

There are some lending institutions, especially smaller banks or credit unions,  who will consider a buyer’s situation on a case by case basis.  They will not be able to sell the mortgage on a secondary market, but may offer a mortgage that they will keep in house.  It is generally at a higher interest rate.

One might consider private financing which is slightly different from owner financing.  Investors will loan money and act as the bank.  They generally charge points and a higher rate of interest.

Owner financing is also a possibility.  A motivated seller who has moved half way across the country does not want a house unoccupied all winter or an heir may be very anxious to close on a vacant home.

If the credit score is too low, many potential buyers can work on what needs to be done and repair that score rather quickly.  How quickly depends on what needs to be done and how hard one is willing to work to repair it.

Bankruptcies and foreclosures are difficult, while student loans and medical bills can usually be worked out in a payment plan. Three years after a bankruptcy or foreclosure, with a steady job and some savings, one can still qualify for a home loan.   In any of these scenarios Dawn Marston has the experience, 24 years, to work with you and guide you through the whole process.

Sweet Relief Farm

Native Mushrooms at Sweet Relief Farm

Sweet Relief Farm at 33 Florence Avenue, Steep Falls, is an organic farm which has almost completed its first year in business. In addition to growing lots of seedlings, herbs, dye plants, vegetables, flowers, turkeys, chickens for meat as well as for eggs, Julee and Mike Foster also grow shitake mushrooms.

To start, mushroom guru Mike cuts forty inch logs, drills holes two inches apart around the circumference of the bark, inoculates them with the mushroom starter, applies a food-grade wax to all cut surfaces and stacks the logs criss-crossed in a dark, moist area. Then he waits for the flushing; he finds watching them grow most fascinating. When done in the spring, the mushrooms may arrive by fall for an initial crop, perhaps zero, one, two, or three per hole. The following season, they may produce two or three crops from the same log and continue for three to five years. Sometimes he tries to hasten their development by submerging them in a pond for a short time. Otherwise Mike lets Mother Nature take its normal time, but during dry weather he must water them just like a garden to keep the process going.

Last year he inoculated 100 logs, a time-consuming and laborious process, but Lois’s Natural Foods in Scarborough and Krista’s Restaurant in Cornish, as well as the recipients of their CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) reap the benefits of their labor. One can also purchase their produce on Saturdays from 9 AM-1 PM, at the Steep Falls Farmers Market or visit them at sweetrelieffarm.com.

If you are looking at homes, consider this!

If  you are a first-time home buyer, it is easy to let “wants” get in the way of reality or to ignore factors that may make a major difference.  Instead, try each of the following suggestions to learn more about your potential home:

1. Visit at different times of the day to observe the noise level, the way the sun shines on the lot and into some rooms/ windows, and the amount of traffic that goes past the house.

2. Talk to the neighbors and learn if they  are young families or retirees and if they are owners or renters.

3. Ask if the sellers had problems with the house- with water in the basement,  ice dams, or leaks, and take preventative measures rather than experience disasters.

4. Have the house inspected to learn what needs repair soon, what can wait, and attempt to negotiate a lower price if needed.  Also have  radon and wood-eating pest tests done.

5. Ask for records on past improvements.

6. If you are considering immediate remodeling, inquire of seller or contractors if  previous improvement would impede your plans.

7. Inquire about utility and heating/cooling bills.

8. Check with town hall regarding zoning liens, easements, or other restrictions.  If it is in the shoreline zone, many rules must be followed.

9. Scrutinize the neighborhood- is it all residential or partially commercial?  Is there a fire station nearby?  Would the noise of an airport bother you?

10. Learn the cost of property tax, insurance and mortgage, as well as the closing costs and any capital gains tax.