Finding a home is of primary importance when retiring to Maine. It’s a place where we need to feel comfortable and safe. Meeting our lifestyle and budgetary needs is also necessary. There are many questions that need answers to find that perfect home. Once again, we queried Down East magazine’s Retire to Maine readers to ask their real estate questions. We requested Maine real estate professionals to answer them for you.
Q: How expensive is it to insure a property that’s located in a VE or AE flood zone? How much of an impact will these designations have in future sales?
A: Regarding the impact of cost, the best thing to do is to check specific locations with a local and knowledgeable insurance company. Insurance premiums will vary due to a variety of factors, but generally speaking, I would say that higher velocity zones and/or lower elevations face the greatest risk in terms of their relative value in future sales.
Q: What is some advice for those who want to sell a home out-of-state and buy in Maine? Sell first then buy? Buy first then sell? Financial advice and options for storage of contents if selling first would be appreciated.
A: The very first thing you will want to do is educate yourself on each of the markets you will be dealing in, namely, the market in which you are planning on selling and the market where you will be purchasing. Learn the characteristics of each market, for example as it relates to selling, what is the average DOM (days on market) for sold properties within the prior 6 or 12 months? What is the current inventory in that market- do you have a lot of competition? What is your pricing strategy- will you list on the high end of market value or are you pricing it to sell quickly? All of these questions and others will play a role in determining the preferred overall strategy. The best way to acquire the necessary information is to work with a knowledgeable and reputable real estate broker in the area.
With regard to buying, the best advice I can give is to view properties first hand. Do not rely on pictures and real estate websites to inform your purchase. There is no substitute for visiting a property to walk the lot and see the home for yourself. This will help you establish your own understanding of value and your level of motivation to buy.
After doing the above, you will be in a much better position to decide the best way to proceed with your move to Maine. If you do decide to buy before you sell, a home equity loan can be a great option to free up cash from your existing home to use for the purchase of your home in Maine.
As it relates to storage, there are many facilities throughout the state. These all vary in terms of size, cost, and quality (ground storage vs. elevated/climate-controlled storage). Most are available for rent on a month to month basis.
Q: I heard that any house in Maine with an attached garage will be a higher property tax than a garage that is detached from a house. Is this true?
A: I have never heard this before. Property taxes are based on municipal assessments, which are made by individual cities or towns, and assessments can vary greatly. I do not believe there is a hard and fast rule which would increase property taxes for homes including an attached garage.
Q: What are the real costs of building a modest 2-bedroom three season cabin… well, septic, tests, permits, estimated taxes. Can this be done over a period of few years?
A: The turnkey cost of a home, one that is complete and move-in ready, many times can be a function of the location as well as the availability of labor. In general terms, one can use a guide of $100-$150 dollars per square foot. Given the current shortage of skilled trades people, and high demand for new construction, it may be better to complete your project all at one time vs over several years. If you do decide to complete a project over several years, be aware that permits may need to be revised and updated as you go through the building process and that material costs and/or labor costs may increase over the course of the project.
Q: Another question I can’t get only one firm answer to is… what’s the best way to surround paper or plastic or felt around your house for the winter, and what kind of house needs this?
A: I would assume the concern here is mainly in the basement area. The types of products you mentioned may be considered for properties with old fieldstone foundations to limit cold air from coming into the structure. That being the case, one might consider using house wrap, fastening it to the framing with strapping or some other method. One word of caution– historically people have used hay bales for this purpose, however, this would not be recommended because this can be a place where rodents will inhabit and ultimately find their way into the house.
Q: What types of homes are on the market that would appeal to retirees? We are looking for master bedroom with bath on a first floor, which I imagine would be desired by many seniors. What are some ways to make our offer for a house more attractive besides just increasing the price?
A: You have described specifically the type of house most retirees are looking for. The trends with this demographic suggest a strong preference for one floor living with wide hallways, doors, and other accommodations which will allow someone to age in place for as long as possible.
In terms of offer strength, besides price, the answer to your question can be several things. A cash offer beats an offer with a financing contingency. If comparing two financed offers, conventional financing with a 20% down payment would be more attractive than an FHA loan with 3.5% down. Depending on the seller, a quick close might be desirable and/or working with the seller to accommodate a specific closing timeline. A word of caution- one area you do not want to compromise on is doing your due diligence and home inspections to your satisfaction. This is a must when it comes to protecting your interest as a buyer.
Q: At a house closing, new financial issues arose by the buyer – enough for me to not want to go through with the closing. Would there have been the best approach at that uncomfortable time?
A: It’s difficult to answer this without knowing the nature of the financial issues. But generally speaking, a Purchase and Sale Agreement represents a binding contract, which means there could be legal or financial implications associated with your decision. I would strongly recommend seeking advice from one’s real estate broker and/or attorney before making a decision on how to proceed in this situation.
Q: I’m looking for a place in the mid coast or southern Maine where the weather isn’t as severe as up north. Ideally, I’d like to live on the coast or on a lake. We are nearing retirement age but still work full time from our home offices. Looking for a community feel, natural beauty and good value. Would consider building.
A: The availability of property within the Mid Coast area, fitting the description provided here, is wide and varied. There are a lot of options to consider. For example, the town of Brunswick (home of Bowdoin College) has always been a very highly regarded area for retirees. This is due to the availability of local amenities such as: medicine, theater, arts, community, fine dining, shopping, etc. Also, the neighboring town of Harpswell has over 230 miles of coastline which brings an abundance of natural beauty, walking trails, and many other outdoor activities. Proximity to the ocean also has an overall positive effect on value.
Q: I am still undecided between Maine and New Hampshire for our retirement. I know Property taxes are much higher in New Hampshire but since we will have a modest house the taxes won’t be bad. plus, no income taxes. There are lower property taxes in Maine but there is income tax. I know New Hampshire is always at the top of the list for retiring but Maine is not that far behind. We would not be in the southern part of either state. Too rich for my blood. The Maine coast is amazing and a huge draw for us. I guess not really a specific question, sorry. Just hoping for input.
A: One thing that Maine enjoys is miles and miles of coastline! NH is very limited from this perspective. Assuming for a moment that the tax pros and cons between the two states may turn out to be a wash, I think most would find the overall quality of life in Maine to be better. If one were considering northern or eastern Maine, pricing is very affordable. You could live the Maine lifestyle there very easily and affordably.
Q: We have lived “away” for 30 years and look at real estate in Maine constantly on line. I know there are not a lot of subdivisions in Maine, but we really need quiet (due to PTSD). We are hoping a subdivision might come with some rules for quiet living (no shooting, dirt bikes, big loud trucks, etc.). Yes, I’m a Mainer and I grew up with all that, but unfortunately PTSD has happened. Really, I’d prefer 20+ acres but am worried about ending up with a bad neighbor. So, I guess my question is; are there towns and/or subdivisions with rules for quiet and how do I find a list of them?
A: Typically, subdivisions will look for “quiet enjoyment” as cited in the bylaws. However, this protection only extends so far and may or may not be practically enforced. Furthermore, this protection will vary in degree and scope from one homeowner’s association to the next. This information can best be found in each county’s Registry of Deeds. Most Maine counties have online services which allow you to search individual property deeds. Deeds for properties within a subdivision will typically contain reference to a recorded subdivision plan and bylaws.
The best guarantee would be to buy a larger piece of land (as you point out). That can still be done at a very competitive price in areas such as the western Maine mountains, Northern Maine, and even Central Maine. This approach is superior because you gain much more control over your immediate environment.
Q: In five years I’ll be looking for a home to rent. I’m tired of all the upkeep of a home. Do you help people find homes/townhouses/condos to rent or is there another organization that does that?
A: Most real estate brokerages focus primarily on purchases and sales; however, many have rental divisions which can assist customers in your position. Also, there are a number of rental agencies throughout the state which focus exclusively on rentals. Please feel free to message me with more specifics and I would be happy to make a recommendation on the best person/organization to work with.
Answers provided by Ian Duggan, Assistant Vice President and Dennis Duggan, Senior Vice President of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Brunswick, Maine. Ian and Dennis (son and father) are collaborating real estate professionals that have teamed up to provide a multi-generational approach to real estate and the highest level of service to their customers and clients. Both were born outside of Maine but have chosen to relocate to Maine to enjoy all of the beauty, nature, and quality-of-life found here. They specialize in helping individuals and families relocate to Maine, drawing on their personal experience and professional knowledge, to assist others in navigating the obstacles associated with the transition.
Ian Duggan, Assistant Vice President
Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty
141 Maine St, Brunswick, ME 04011
207-522-8090 (cell), 207-729-2820