Lucinda Bragg joins Northeast Bank’s Mortgage Lending Team

Northeast Bank announced the appointment of Lucinda Bragg as a mortgage loan officer.

A resident of Shelburne, Bragg will be delivering mortgage advice throughout Central and Western Maine as well as Northern New Hampshire. Offering a variety of products and services, Bragg will work with local borrowers to design custom mortgage solutions tailored to fit their needs.

“We are thrilled to have Lucinda join our team as we help residents of Maine and New Hampshire achieve the dream of homeownership,” said Jim Dell’Anno, vice president, director of mortgage banking. “Her proven mortgage lending experience will ensure our customers continue to receive the highest level of service.”

Bragg joins Northeast Bank with nearly 15 years of experience in the mortgage field. She previously served in the mortgage department as both a loan officer and a loan administrator for Northway Bank in New Hampshire, and as a HomeOwnership Advisor for AHEAD. In addition to her work with Northeast Bank, Bragg also serves on the scholarship committee for the North Country Board of Realtors, and is president of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce in Berlin.

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Jason Robie: Building a bigger back yard

My fondest memories of living in Rangeley, Maine, are of hanging out with mom in the back yard, playing in the garden while she worked on the veggies. My least fond memory was getting stung by a bee in that very same garden! We were fortunate to have a back yard big enough to produce some food and provide a little playground for my brother and I. But what if your back yard is limited by neighbors, fences or even your own stuff. Today, I want to explore a few options you have for making the most of your outdoor space. Since you can’t push back the fence without creating a neighborhood land battle, let’s look at what you can do with the space you DO have.

One of the more important concepts to keep in mind when laying out or “accessorizing” your back yard is scale. Although a picnic table or patio table and chairs would be great, they likely don’t make the most sense if they take up a big percentage of your yard area. The same concepts apply from staging or outfitting a living room or bedroom. You want to be sure you are considering the size of the item in question (couch, bed, coffee table, picnic table, etc.) as it relates to the overall size of the space into which it is going.

In one of the first homes I ever rented, I got a screaming deal on a king sized bed. Once I got it home, I had to remove the door from the bedroom closet, since the bed literally consumed the entire room, and there was no room to open the closet. Scale was not the first thing on my mind at that time, but man I loved that bed!

Another great option, and one that will help you from going too big with your purchase, is taking the design flow diagonally. Rather than simply building the walkway or “flow” of the yard directly perpendicular to the back of the home, take it off at an angle. This helps separate the yard into sections while creating the illusion of more space. I would also consider multiple diagonals while you are at it. Simply zigzag the walkway or path to a back corner of the lot to continue the illusion of space and create a more interesting flow.

You may immediately think that trees are out of the question with a small backyard, but you’d be mistaken. Of course a towering oak tree, unless it is already there, is not the best option for the space, but you do have alternatives. A local landscaping friend of mine suggested the crape myrtle for small spaces. It offers summer flowers, fall colors and an overall attractive look. Adding a tree or two to a small space continues that concept of scale from above. Plus you won’t feel left out when your friends with large trees are raking this fall. You’ll just be done in half the time.

While we’re talking about going vertical, consider the same when adding flowers and plants to your small yard. The obvious choice is planters and flowerbeds on the ground, but there are loads of options when it comes to climbing greenery and creative planters that work in a vertical space. These are not only great options for fences around the perimeter of the property, but make perfect dividers for sectioning off the yard’s internal sections. If you run with the diagonal idea above, you could incorporate a fence of flowers to help solidify that path. It softens the border and is certainly more attractive than chain-link.

“Dividing up a small back yard is a great way to create the illusion of space and allows the homeowner to get creative with the sections,” notes Badger Realty agent, Janet Nickerson. She continued, “If the yard is sectioned into some lawn, some patio, a small garden and a section of flowers, it feels more like a series of rooms and affords the owners far more options”. Janet is right. Like a carnival fun house, each new section of the yard is a new adventure for the senses. The homeowner and guests alike will appreciate the variety.

One of the biggest challenges for folks living in more metropolitan areas, even just busy downtown neighborhoods, is a lack of good soil and certainly the lack of space. The best way to work with that is by incorporating containers for your flowers and vegetables. The beauty of containers is you can bring in the best soil available and not have to worry about what is in your actual yard. Containers are also a great way to bring flowers and veggies into a section of your back yard to help with nearly all of the concepts from above. They can help create divisions, paths and sections of your yard to help define it and bring added life and creativity.

Much like having a short driveway in the winter, having a small back yard is mostly a blessing. You have less maintenance and with the ideas presented here (along with some of your own!) you have the ability to get creative with the space and give it lots of personality. I encourage you to spend some time in your yard today and start to come up with some awesome ideas for how you can best utilize the space. Maybe that inner landscaper of yours will come out and surprise you!

 

Jason Robie: Cottage Consciousness

There has been a lot of talk about the “tiny home” movement in the last couple years. Folks are downsizing and making use of smaller and incredibly efficient spaces in which to call home. In the 1950’s the average home size was just less than 1,000 square feet. In 2004 it had ballooned to over 2,300. An article I saw yesterday noted how baby boomers were getting stuck with their “McMansions” since nobody was buying those unnecessarily large (and soul-less) monstrosities. Turns out bigger really is not always better. Let’s take a peek at the benefits of downsizing into a smaller home. Who knows? Maybe a cottage-sized home is exactly what you need.

First and foremost, for those of us budget-minded folks, a smaller home is simply going to cost less. Of course the materials and actual cost of the home will be proportional to the size and therefore less, but the associated ownership costs will be much lower as well. Because it is a smaller space, it will be cheaper to heat, cool, furnish and “accessorize”. The other costs related to home ownership will also be less including your taxes, insurance and even repairs. Consider replacing the roof on your current home versus a home that is around 1,000 square feet in size. You can imagine that everything related to updating or remodeling, with a smaller or “tiny” home is going to be far more budget friendly.

A “side” benefit to those items costing less is your ability to increase the quality of the renovations you decide to tackle. If the hardwood flooring you really want is twice the price of the affordable version, remember that you likely have half the floor area to cover. If the goal is to minimize spending, this logic does not help you at all, but the lesser coverage areas for paint, flooring, fixtures, etc. can translate into higher quality furnishings and updates while maintaining the same budget. It also stands to reason that with a smaller home, you will likely have a smaller footprint to landscape. This is another area where you can choose to stay budget-conscious or treat yourself to some higher-quality materials since there will be much less to purchase.

By taking the budget-friendly approach you will very likely improve your quality of life as well. I know this sounds like a bit of a stretch, but living in a smaller home can have far reaching (and often unintended) benefits for you and your family. The savings you realize on those items noted above can translate into less stress, less time at work and more time spent doing the things you love. You also have less space for “stuff” (hooray!) which means a trip to the mall or that “big box” store is simply out of the question. There’s no room for more crap in your life, so there’s no need to waste that money.

A smaller home also means less time cleaning, landscaping and mowing and, in general, less maintenance and upkeep with those normal household items that we all deal with. I tend to sneak away from my desk during the week to clean the house and do the laundry. This frees up my weekends to “play”. With a tiny home, those tasks are shrunk even further and take less time out of your life (except maybe the laundry part if you tend to get dirty like me!).

Living in a smaller home tends to shift your focus outside of the 4 walls in which you live. Try and take notice of the amount of time you spend thinking about your house (inside and out). With a tiny home, there’s less house to think about which allows you to focus on more important things like outdoor activities, a garden, spending time with friends and even just sitting on the front porch in the afternoon. Almost identical to the benefits of unplugging your television, living in a small home gets your brain thinking beyond the normal and beyond the walls (figurative and literal) within which we live.

“The tiny home movement has shifted the priorities of countless people over the years,” notes Badger Realty agent, Debi Davis. “Though home ownership is still a priority for these folks, they have learned they don’t need to be held hostage by a massive mortgage and the associated upkeep that goes along with a large home. A shift away from our addiction to consumerism has become a refreshing change of pace for them,” she continued.

Debi hit the nail on the head with those comments. Making the shift to a smaller home will most certainly create a change in your thinking and your outlook on your place in our society. I recognize this all sounds pretty “hokie”, but much like cutting the chord to your cable company, as soon as you make the change you immediately start to see a shift in your thinking. I encourage all of our readers to take a peek into their daily lives and see if there’s a place where they could make a similar shift towards a smaller global footprint and a baby-step away from consumerism. I am confident many of our readers have already taken similar steps and would be happy to share their experiences with you. Let’s go unplug!

Jason Robie: Mitigating mortgage mishaps

By Jason Robie
When I bought my first property back in the 20th century, I did so with almost no money down. A former co-worker was the rep. and walked me through the whole process that made it far more pleasant and educational. One thing I distinctly remember was the specific set of "rules" he set up to help maintain my standing with the financial institutions.
After the pre-approval, there’s a bit of a tightrope that buyers should be aware they are walking as they move closer to getting that loan. Let’s review a few of those missteps, and perhaps we can help you avoid these traps on the way to your next new home.
To be clear, a pre-approval letter is not much more than a statement from that bank noting that "at the present time" your finances are in good enough shape and "you are worth the risk" for them to lend you a certain amount of money. They will then move forward and do their due diligence with all of your financial records as well as the evaluation of the value of the home. There are many more steps taken after that letter is printed, so it is wise of you to watch your step during this period.
While this may seem painfully obvious to most, you should not add to your current debt load during this time. Beyond the obvious, ill-advised move of buying big-ticket items or going on any sort of shopping spree, it is also frowned upon to sign up for new credit cards. Putting yourself in the shoes of your lender, anything that would pique their interest or give them cause-for-pause is going to hinder the process. They are looking for low-risk customers who have stable finances and are not bouncing all over the place with their budgets and debt load. Keep yourself on the straight and narrow for these few weeks and there will be much less chance of red flags flying over your account folder. (Not actually sure if there is such a thing as an “account folder," but you get the idea!)
Although equally obvious on the surface, this one has its own nuances. Don’t quit your job! It is actually (mostly) fine for you to “change” jobs, ideally with an increase in pay, so long as you get a W-2 at the end of the year. Making the switch from a salaried position to one that pays by commission is a big red flag. This is not because commission-based jobs don’t have the potential to pay as well; it’s just that tricky, little word “potential." Banks want to see a track record of your income. If you jump from a consistent paycheck to one with no proven record of payments, most banks will wisely run away screaming.
The same is true for starting your own business. I’ve owned my company for over five years now, but when I first started I had just closed on and moved into my new house. Had I ventured to the bank before starting this venture (and then quit my job before we closed on the house) I have a feeling the bank would have backed out of the deal faster than I could say “yeah, but..." It is no secret that business owners can get loans and mortgages. I would just continue the planning process before you decide to jump ship and conquer the world on your own. Once you have made a mortgage payment or two, go get ‘em!
This one is a bit counter-intuitive, but hear me out. It is not advisable to pay off (or down) old debt during this time period. While you may think that you’re doing the right thing and (even better) working yourself toward a better mortgage rate by paying down your debt, you are actually hurting your credit score. Paying off (and then canceling) a credit card can temporarily drop your credit score a bunch. It can actually take 60 to 90 days for your credit score to bounce back after canceling a card.
Yes, it is a great idea to pay off those old debts and cancel those old cards (although there’s still some debate about that second part), but do so well before you first approach a bank or wait until after you have walked away from the closing table. Remember that the name of the game here is consistency and stability in the bank’s eyes. If you have the pre-approval letter in your hands, that means you’ve made it past the first round. Now simply stay the course until closing.
Lastly, try to avoid moving around large sums of money. In my case, this one isn’t hard to avoid since I’m not familiar with the phrase “large sums of money” when it comes to my finances! If someone wants to help you out with your home purchase, be sure they take care of this before you first approach the bank. “Gifts are not uncommon with home purchases, but the bank will often require two months of bank statements from the giver if the gift is made while the buyer is being reviewed,” said Badger Realty agent Roland Turgeon. He continued, “We recommend these gifts be made months in advance of the initial visit to the bank or after the buyers have left the closing table. This helps avoid further scrutiny by the bank and the inevitable delay of those buyers spending their first night in their new home."
Getting a mortgage is a stressful time and one in which the lending institution really holds the keys to your housing future. You can ease this process by getting your finances in order before you ever approach them and maintaining consistent financial behavior while the evaluation period is going on. If your finances are in good enough shape to get a pre-approval, chances are good that you are on your way to homeownership. Congratulations!