The Home-Buying Process in 10 Simple Steps

Wouldn’t it be great if buying a home were as simple as playing a board game like Monopoly? All you’d have to do is find a desirable neighborhood, hand the bank a few bucks, and get your house. Of course, the home-buying process is more complicated in real life. We have put together the following list to help you anticipate some important steps.

Step No. 1: Chose an agent

The first step in the home-buying process is to find an agent you feel comfortable working with on what will likely be the largest financial decision of your life. Each of the brokers at Newcastle Realty are a great choice—they are efficient and professional, and can help with your search and help get you to closing.

Step No. 2: Find a lender

Once you’ve chosen a real estate agent you trust to be your advocate, ask him or her to recommend lenders. Choosing someone to handle the financial part of the home-buying process can feel like a scary step, but choosing a lender that’s competitive on rates, communicative, and available is key. Our agents work with several local and regional banks, and can offer you  recommendations and contact info.

Step No. 3: Clean up your credit

Now that you have a great agent and lender, you can ask for guidance on any credit score issues you may be facing. Whether it’s a small or large problem, the lender can provide guidance to help repair your situation and make sure you’ll be approved for a loan.

Step No. 4: Apply for mortgage pre-approval

A lender will help you determine exactly what you can afford and, therefore, which houses you should be considering. To arrive at a purchase price, you’ll factor in expenses like homeowner’s insurance, association dues, and utilities to make sure you can comfortably make your mortgage payments. The lender will then identify the total amount of money it’s willing to lend you.“Having a pre-approval letter in hand when you’re ready to purchase a home adds strength to your offer, which can be an important advantage in a competitive home-buying market,” says Lorrie Zeiner, a top-producing broker at Newcastle Realty.

Step No. 5: Create a home wish list

Once you know what your purchasing power is, talk with your real estate agent about your ideal home. Come up with a few “musts,” as well as “wants” you’d ultimately be willing to compromise on. Think bigger than just the color of the kitchen or the floor plan, advises Zeiner. For instance, do you want to be within walking distance of restaurants? Do you want space between you and your neighbors? Or is proximity to a good school the most important factor?

Step No. 6: Search the listings

Now comes the fun part: searching for homes that meet your parameters. Visit Newcastle Realty’s award-winning website for a smooth online real estate search experience. When you begin touring homes that are on your short list, take along a notepad and jot down your thoughts as you approach each home. Can you imagine yourself living there? “Peruse them and make note of what you like about each home,” says Zeiner.

Step No. 7: Make an offer

Your real estate agent will walk you through the steps required to make an offer on a home in your area. “Your offer will likely include earnest money that will apply toward your down payment on the home and may include contingencies such as hiring a home inspector,” says Dennis Hilton, owner of Newcastle Realty. Expect some negotiation, and discuss a competitive offer with your agent.

Step No. 8: Get final mortgage approval

Once your offer to purchase is accepted, you’ll work with your lender to get final approval for your home purchase by the date specified for the closing. The lender may require you to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance for the first year at the time of closing, so make sure you know what funds will be expected. “Don’t make any major purchases like that big-screen TV or riding lawn mower until after closing, especially if you’d be using credit, as that can affect your mortgage qualification,” says Hilton.

Step No. 9: Do your due diligence

The due diligence process usually includes getting a home inspection to make sure you haven’t missed any hidden problems on your walk-throughs. If issues are found, consult with your agent about options. Those could include asking the current owner to fix them or take the cost of repair off the closing costs.

Step No. 10: Attend the closing

Once all of the above steps are completed, you’ll be on your way to the closing table. This is when the deed to the home is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Every transaction varies, but plan to sign a lot of paperwork. An attorney or settlement agent will guide you through the process. Then you’ll officially be a homeowner and receive the keys to your new home. Congrats!

Newcastle Realty Unveils New State-of-the-Art Website

People love to search online for properties and real estate, and an easy-to-use search function is the foundation for any great real estate website. For more than six months, Newcastle Realty has worked with a leading web design firm to create one of the best search experiences anywhere. The new website was recently unveiled and can be found at It will automatically render itself to be easily navigated on any device, so a visitor can find what they are looking for from a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Search for all properties in Maine, or by county, town, or MLS number. A search can easily be limited to just those listings offered by Newcastle Realty.
“We are very excited to have one of the newest and most easily navigated real estate websites around,” said company owner Dennis Hilton. “Working together, our staff and web design firm have taken time to carefully evaluate what most people want–and what they feel they really don’t need–as part of their online real estate search experience.” 
Select properties are prominently featured on the home page, the design is fresh and uncluttered, information about the broker staff can easily be accessed, as well as the many cutting edge services offered to buyers and sellers. The website offers information about the local area, and describes ways in which Newcastle Realty supports the communities they serve. Visitors can easily request more information about specific properties, or ask to speak with a broker.  The “What’s New” blog keeps buyers and sellers informed on the latest real estate news, trends and educational articles.  A subscribe button enables visitors to sign up for periodic updates.  Ongoing efforts to maximize search engine results and rankings, as well as interfacing with social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube,  and Vimeo,  mean that clients who list their properties with Newcastle Realty are getting the widest possible exposure. Visit to learn more. Newcastle Realty is located at 87 Main Street, Damariscotta and can be reached by calling 207-563-1003.

Tight Inventory Creates Opportunity for Home Sellers

Sales of previously owned homes tumbled in February as the housing market remained choked by tight inventory. Existing-home sales were at a 5.48 million seasonally adjusted annual rate last month, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. That was down 3.7% compared with January’s sales pace, which was the strongest in a decade.

The median forecast among economists surveyed by MarketWatch was for a 5.45 million pace. Sales in February were still 5.4% higher compared with a year ago, but the supply situation has worsened. Inventory was 6.4% lower than in February 2016. Meanwhile, the median home price rose 7.7% compared with a year ago to $228,400. At the current pace of sales, it would take 3.8 months to exhaust available homes for sale, the lowest in any February back to 1999.

Sales increased in only one region in February. They rose 1.3% in the South. The regional declines ranged from a 13.8% tumble in the Northeast to a 3.1% decline in the West. In the Midwest, sales were down 7.0%. Across the country, properties spent a median 45 days on the market, down from 59 days a year ago. That’s evidence of strong interest in home buying, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. Despite all the headwinds, demand remains “surprisingly resilient,” he added.

What this all means to us in mid-coast Maine is that now is a great time to list your home if you are considering selling in 2017. If you would like to talk about your homes value, or how we can help you sell quickly for the best price, please contact a Newcastle Realty agent, or call 207-563-3435.

Sara Rogers Joins Newcastle Realty

A Midcoast native, Sara Rogers is excited to bring her talent and commitment to Newcastle Realty’s professional team of agents. Sara has always been interested in real estate and gets excited about helping clients envision the possibilities a new home offers.   She and her husband, Jason, along with children, Kadence and Logan, live in Nobleboro and love the friendliness a small town has to offer. A familiar face in the community, Sara previously worked at Cheney Insurance and at Newcastle Publick House.  Sara is enthusiastic about helping people to learn to love the Maine she has grown up in; the quiet, peaceful lifestyle, the beauty of the area and the welcoming nature of the community.  
Dennis Hilton, owner and manager of Newcastle Realty, the Damariscotta area’s leading real estate company, is pleased Sara has chosen to follow her passion for becoming a broker. “Sara is willing to do whatever it takes to get a job done.  She is dedicated, trustworthy and a good listener and will be an asset to our team and her clients.”
Sara may be contacted at Newcastle Realty’s office, 87 Main Street in Damariscotta and can be reached at 207-563-1003 ext 121, or on her mobile at 207-380-7218.  Her email address is

Debi Fox Joins Newcastle Realty

Company owner Dennis Hilton and Designated Broker Lorrie Zeiner are pleased to announce that Debi Fox has joined Newcastle Realty, the Damariscotta areas’ leading real estate company.

“We are very excited to have Debi join our team of professional agents,” commented Hilton. “She is an experienced broker and well known in the local communities. We know she will do a great job for her clients working out of our full-service office.” Fox was previously associated with a larger, statewide firm.

Fox is a 30-year resident of Lincoln County, having grown up in Cumberland while spending summers in Harpswell. She went to North Yarmouth Academy and graduated from the University of Maine. Debi is married to a local builder whose family was among the first to settle in the mid-coast region, and they still own a part of the original homestead on the Kennebec River. She previously owned Fox’s Glass Works in Damariscotta for 20 years, and has been a licensed real estate broker since 1995.

Debi Fox may be reached by calling Newcastle Realty at 207-563-1003, on her mobile phone at 207-350-1474, or by email at

Newcastle Realty, found on the web at, is part of The Cheney Financial Group, with over 26 professional associates serving the property ownership and insurance needs of thousands of families and businesses throughout Maine. Together, the CFG member companies have annual sales in excess of $49.5 million. You can learn more by visiting or viewing the Facebook pages for Cheney Insurance, Newcastle Realty, and Newcastle Vacation Rentals.

If You Worry About Another Housing Bubble, Consider These Four Things

housing-bubbleIt’s 2016, and home prices are rising near the levels of the housing market just before the crash. Many are asking—and wondering — if we are in some kind of housing bubble. But are we? Here are a few things to consider if you’re worried about another housing bubble.

1. The overall economy

Unemployment is low, wage growth is strong and the tech sector is hiring in droves. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last December, and they’re likely to raise rates again in the near future as the economy continues to grow and evolve.

2. Mortgage requirements

Despite what many will tell you, getting a mortgage can be intense. It requires full documentation, including tax returns, pay stubs, letters of explanation and thorough due diligence. As long as strong requirements remain in place to secure financing, one thing is for sure: A financial collapse, if it does happen, likely won’t spawn from abusive lending practices.

3. Housing risks

Let’s say you’re putting off buying a home because you’re worried about another financial crisis. If that’s the case, you need to define what it is that you are most concerned about. If you’re concerned about your job and the future of your income, that should play a bigger role in whether you buy a home.

If your financial house is in order, but you are still not sure about buying a home because you’re worried about the market being in a bubble, you should ask yourself, “Why am I buying a house to begin with?” If your intention is to buy a house to capitalize on some market appreciation and then quickly turn around and sell, well, then, yes, you should be concerned about not being able to recoup your investment, as real estate is a long-term hold vehicle.

If, however, you are looking to purchase a home to have a roof over your head, enjoy the home, and live there for the next five to seven years, at a minimum. You may do very well for yourself. This also includes the additional tax benefit you’ll have that you wouldn’t with renting.

4. The market itself

Ultra-low mortgage rates have been around for the last few years, so at some point interest rates have to go up. The question is when. If you’re trying to purchase a home and you are qualified at a 3.625% 30-year fixed rate, for example, and interest rates rise to 4.375%, you may not be able to qualify for as much house.

Rising rates also means fewer mortgage loan originations, which means profitability in the secondary market diminishes. The only way to keep profitability going is to keep the engine running with new loan originations, and the only way to do that in a higher interest rate environment is with less restrictive underwriting.

Looser credit to the degree of the financial crisis is unlikely, given regulations that were introduced in its aftermath, but it may lead lenders to extend mortgages to applicants with slightly higher debt-to-income ratios on conventional loans or to show a bit more leniency to self-employed borrowers, for example. That’s the only practical way to offset rising rates while supporting the housing market.

So, should you buy a house or not? That depends on whether you are comfortable with the interest rate and the payment that you’re getting, and whether you feel that you can afford that payment for the long haul. If you can afford the payment and your estimated property hold time is for a while, you’re likely in a safe position. Reach out to a Newcastle Realty broker today to talk about your real estate needs.

How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cost?

No matter how safe and secure youhome-insurance-1024x576 feel in your home, it’s a fact of life that bad things can happen at any time—floods, fires, vandalism, theft. And that’s why homeowners insurance is a must. But how much does it cost? The average annual premium runs about $952, but a bunch of unique factors can go into calculating a specific quote, and that information could help you get a lower rate in some cases.

Age and Condition of Your Home: This includes everything from the roof to its pipes, heating system, and electrical wiring. For instance, the lead and galvanized pipes sometimes found in older homes can “result in higher premiums as they are more prone to cracks or leaks than the copper and plastic piping used in newer homes,” says Rosemary Campbell, a 30+ year veteran agent at Cheney Insurance, our sister company also located in Damariscotta, Maine.

Price to Rebuild Per Square Foot: Since homeowners insurance claims often require rebuilding whatever part of your home damaged by fire, smoke, or other covered peril, most insurance policies factor in the price per square foot to rebuild in your area based on current construction rates. While the national average is $95.51 per square foot, the overall cost of policies can differ drastically. It’s important for your agent to do a reconstruction cost estimate to ensure “the proper rating for building materials,” says Suzanne Strachan, Support Team manager at Cheney Insurance. While most policies pay replacement cost (the cost to rebuild a home), some pay only the depreciated current value for the whole house.

Probability of Insurance Claims in Your Area: “If your home is located in an area prone to tornadoes or forest fires, you’re going to have a higher premium due to a greater risk of damage,” says agent Kate Dunstan. In other words, the more known risk there is to your home, the stiffer the premium. For example, the annual cost of insuring a home in Louisiana is $1,722—the nation’s highest due to the claims filed after Hurricane Katrina. (The state with the lowest price: Idaho, averaging just $534.) Since every standard policy excludes coverage for natural disasters like earthquake and flood, be sure to check with your agent to see if you need the extra coverage. 

Your Credit Sore, Age, and Other Personal Info: You—yes you—also factor into how much you’ll ultimately pay in homeowners insurance. According to Brittany Carter of the Business Insurance team at Cheney Insurance, everything from your credit score, marital status, age, level of education attained, and frequency of claims submitted on prior insurance policies will increase or decrease your rate. Also, a home with a swimming pool, trampoline, or certain other “fun” features signals risky business to an insurance company—and your price quote will reflect that. Same goes for homes with pets or farm animals that could be dangerous (such as large dogs or horses).

Increasing Home Prices: Inflation or the increased value of your home in an upmarket may cause your premiums to increase each year. You may be able to snag a discount if your home has a nifty feature that an insurance company may find attractive like storm shutters, security systems, or carbon monoxide detectors. If your home doesn’t have these, consider upgrading. “Installing a security system for $30 per month may reduce your premiums by at least that amount—and provide additional safety for your family at the same time. 

The friendly agents at Cheney Insurance are happy to answer your insurance questions any time, just reach out to them at 207-563-3435. Tell them Newcastle Realty sent you!

Interest Rates Remain Low, But For How Long?

The interest rate you pay on your home mortgage has a direct impact on your monthly payment; The higher the rate, the greater your payment will be. That is why it is important to look at where the experts believe rates are headed when deciding to buy now or wait until next year.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has fallen half a percentage point since the beginning of the year and has remained at or below 3.5% for the last 11 weeks according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

The chart below shows how far rates have fallen this year (on the left), and uses an average of the projections from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and National Association of Realtors (on the right). As you can see, interest rates are projected to increase steadily over the course of the next 12 months.

How Will This Impact Your Mortgage Payment?

Depending on the amount of the loan that you secure, a half of a percent (.5%) increase in interest rate can increase your monthly mortgage payment significantly. According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index, national home prices have appreciated 6.0% over the last year and are predicted to be 5.4% higher next year. If both the predictions of home prices and interest rate increases become a reality, families will wind up paying considerably more for their next home.

Bottom Line

Even a small increase in interest rate can impact your family’s wealth. We suggest you meet with a Newcastle Realty broker to evaluate your ability to purchase your dream home. Click here or call us today at 207-563-1003!

Featured Property – 49 Mills Road, Newcastle

White Rear Outside
This classic 1870’s Victorian has been well cared for and is situated on a corner lot that is just a short walk to downtown Newcastle and Damariscotta. 

The 2,500 square foot home offers nine rooms, including a formal living room with gas stove, a dining room, farmers kitchen, and study. There is a master bedroom on the first floor, and two bedrooms, another study, and a music room on the second floor.

Nicely situated on a half acre overlooking fields and woods. Click here for more info, or call us at 207-563-1003 to view this property today!

What Does a Successful REALTOR Look Like?

Are you seeking help with real estate? When it comes to agents, there are a lot of choices out there, and making the right connection can ensure a successful outcome for you. Here are some things to consider:


Passion is one trait that the most successful leaders in every industry share. The brokers at Newcastle Realty share a passion for connecting people and homes, which make them the kind of REALTOR that customers recommend and return to time and again.

Attention to Detail

An effective agent needs to have all the answers and they need to have them fast. Attention to detail is not just for contract negotiations, it is for all aspects of the marketing, the search, and the eventual sale. Newcastle Realty brokers are always focused on the details.


Our brokers have combined experience of over 100 years in the business, and are a tenacious bunch when it comes to serving clients. Add a dose of competitive spirit, and you get a persistent desire to deliver exactly what each client wants.


A successful broker never stops learning. Our brokers have to know about trends, technologies, marketing, finance, and so much more. Keeping up with these topics requires intellectual curiosity, which combines with persistence to create a super qualified real estate agent, just like those at Newcastle Realty.

Choose a Newcastle Realty broker

Work with one of our brokers and you will get the best of everything–someone who will work hard to help you achieve your real estate goals quickly!