Blog :: 2016

2016 Waterfront Land Sales Big Improvements

What a difference a year has made for Maine waterfront. Coming into the end of 2016 it appears that the waterfront land market is heading in the direction of a sellers market. The indicators are a 20% increase in the number of waterfront land sales in the past 12 months as compared to the 2015 numbers and an average market time reduced by nearly 50 days . Depending on the part of Maine you are in you are seeing prices, that were flat in the beginning of 2016 caused by an excess of inventory, now starting to creep up a little.

Factors in our markets contributing to the increase in sales are a combination of a number of things. Asking prices being lowered by sellers who have realized that the values of the mid 2000's are in many cases unobtainable, low interest rates offered by some of Maine's land lenders and owner financing increasing in popularity.

We are seeing new lakefront, riverfront and other waterfront parcels in both approved subdivisions or divisions of existing properties coming into the market. Strong interest from buyers both prior to and after the presidential elections leads me to believe that waterfront prices will continue to increase slightly in 2017 assuming that inventories continue to dwindle.

Is it time to sell your land? All market areas are different, give us a call and we can give you an idea what your property might be worth on the market today.

To Post or Not to Post Your Maine Land

Maine has a long tradition of landowners allowing reasonable public access to private lands. As a Mainer I want to thank all of those land owners who allow this. I do not post my land as we also enjoy using lands of other landowners who also allow access for recreation on their lands.

If you wish to keep your land for your own use, Maine does protect the landowners rights to privacy. Title 17A Section 402 explains how the landowner must post their land with signs or paint to legally restrict access over their property. Signs or paint must be within 100 feet apart and be visible so that a potential intruder can see the restricted access. Signs must be specific as to the restriction ie. no trespassing, access by permission only, no hunting etc.

Painting is the easiest way to post your land, a vertical purple painted stripe 1 plus inch wide on trees 3-5 feet above the ground means access by permission only. These stripes need to be no more than 100 feet apart and need to be maintained so that they are conspicuous to any person who may approach your boundary lines.

A verbal warning to a trespasser is also a legal means of enforcing your property rights. If you confront a hunter on your land you have the right to inspect their hunting license to determine who they are, if they refuse they have violated Maine law. If convicted they can loose their hunting rights for a year and possibly forfeit their firearms to public auction.

If a hunter wounds a game animal which then enters your property the hunter does not have the right to enter your property to retrieve the animal. If you are concerned about the access please contact the local game warden and allow the hunter to retrieve the animal to prevent the waste of the game.

We are often asked by landowners that if they post their property to restrict access if they can still legally hunt their property. The answer is yes. The landowner does still need to purchase a Maine hunting license and abide by all applicable hunting rules and regulations. We are also asked about landowner legal responsibility for keeping their property safe for recreational users. The answer is no as long as you do not willfully or maliciously fail to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity.

We hope this helps Maine land owners manage the land they way in which they want to. To understand that if they wish to keep it for just themselves that is a right that they are entitled and protected. For those who leave their land open for public use this Mainer and many others say thank you and respect your property rights.

 

How To Get a Maine Property Tax Abatement

The mention of property taxes often stirs controversy among our citizens. The fact is most of us in some way use the services that tax money pays for from educating our children to keeping infrastructure maintained. If you do not agree with how the money is spent get more involved in the process. This post is for those who think they are being unfairly taxed for the property they own in Maine not for a philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of our current tax system.

The Maine constitution requires that taxes on property be based on just value and fairness. Just value is usually considered fair market value. Fairness is determined by how all property owners are treated as a group. To challenge a perceived excessive property tax the land owner in Maine has options for relief.

A potential option for abatement is to challenge how the tax assessor determined the property's value. Get a copy of your tax card from the town and review the methodology of the assessor. Compare the valuation of your property to a recent appraisal and/or review recent sale data of similar properties. If you see a big discrepancy in current market value compared to the assessed value you may have grounds for abatement.

Another option for abatement is to prove that your property is being assessed unfairly. Similar to researching just value, the taxpayer must do research before requesting the abatement. What you need to look for are a number of similar properties with large difference in valuation. The tax assessor is allowed some variations as it is not practical to fully analyze every property in the town every year. To have success you need to show that your valuation is more than the average of similar properties. If just one or two properties are found with slightly higher or lower valuation you probably do not have a case for abatement.

If after your review of all this data you are convinced that your property is being taxed unjustly or unfairly you should meet with the tax assessor to discuss the difference. If you can convince them of the error in just valuation or fairness, they may adjust the valuation to reflect your findings. This should be done before the taxes are committed for the tax year as assessors will most likely refuse to adjust any valuations after that date. If they do refuse your request and you are convinced you are right a more formal request will be necessary.

Under Title 36 MRSA, Sections 583, 706, 841-849 and 1118 a Maine property owner who thinks their taxes are higher than they should be can file a formal application for abatement of property taxes with the local assessors within 185 days after the tax was committed to the tax collector. You can find more details on the process online at https://www1.maine.gov/revenue/forms/property/pubs/bull10.pdf

Comments

  1. William R Brown on

    Thank you, McPhail Brothers, for the timely tutorial, i will refer to the information before taxes are due, hopefully. Cheers, from william Monday, March 28th, 2016

    Permaculture - What Is It?

    More and more people are awakening to the realization that the current system of living and providing food for our population is a tenuous and fragile system.  The demise of honey bee populations may be a visible sign of how our current monoculture mega farming techniques are not the best methods for a healthy eco system.  They are inherently dependent on large applications of petro-chemicals to produce yields of crops that are shipped vast distances on trucks to consumers that are thousands of miles away from their food source.  Bees are trucked thousands of miles and then placed in a virtual food desert where all they see for miles and miles is 1 type of plant on which to gather nectar and pollen.  Imagine how healthy you would be eating only oatmeal 3 times a day, for a month or more.  Regular yes, healthy no!

    Permaculture is a growing trend not only herein the U.S., but worldwide.  Pioneers in this field like Geoff Lawton of Australia have been instrumental in teaching and developing and applying the developing principles of Permaculture throughout the world.  Through applications of reshaping and forming the land to enhance and utilize its contours, you can develop a method of conserving and utilizing water that eliminated the needs to use pumps for irrigation.  Permaculture strives to mimic the diversity found in a forest, where man is not required to annually apply fertilizer and spray trees with pesticides in order for a forest to grow.  Left to its own designs a forest will grow without man doing anything.

    Permaculture farming strives to develop a sustainable and robust food forest system that once established will grow and improve without man continually applying petroleum based fertilizers or pesticides.  The living food forest will, over time, improve the water table, improve the soil fertility and allow a diverse array of food crops to grow together better and healthier than they do individually.  One of the tenants of Permaculture that really appeals to me is the fact that during feudal times, the only people that had lawns were the monarchs.  Peasants farmed what land they had to feed themselves.  Monarchs as an outward display of opulence could afford to use farmland for nothing more than growing grass.  On a small scale worldwide people are turning back and front yards from barren lawns to nutrient rich food forests where they can pick fresh fruits, nuts, berries and more and eat it right off the vine in their own yards, and never have to cut the grass again.

    There are many good books on the subject of Permaculture.  I've read Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein as well as The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk.  Ben's book details his homestead from the land purchase to building the home on a plot of undesirable land in Vermont.   He through the application of Permaculture techniques is even able to grow rice on his property in Vermont for his families use.  There are numerous websites and YouTube videos on the topic; in short Permaculture creates a more sustainable food source and lifestyle on our planet.  What's not to like about that?

    Comments

    1. Rick Theriault on

      Colleen thank-you for your words regarding my recent post on the subject of permaculture. If you take a look at my bio on the United Country Lifestyle Properties of Maine site, http://www.mcphailrealty.com/meetourteam.htm you will see that my interest pretty closely mirror yours. Maine has what you are looking for. Our agency usually has several properties that would appeal to a person looking for sustainable living. Leaving the world a little better off by what we do as stewards of the land is something we all should strive to do. Feel free to contact me any time at the email address listed.

      Bargain Priced Owner Financed Lakefront Land

      If you have been looking for some quality owner financed lakefront land in Maine take a look at these lots on beautiful Wytopitlock Lake in Aroostook County. The lake has little development and still offers a great wilderness experience yet is less than one hour from civilization. All remaining lots are priced under $40,000 We have four lots available on the lake with eastern exposure on a large peninsula providing shelter from bad weather.

      DSC_0475

      The lake front is good quality with small rock and slate along the shoreline. This is a good lake for swimming, boating and fishing.

      The four lots have a semi-completed driveway, have all been soil tested and the boundary lines have been completely surveyed and marked on ground.

       

      The lots are 1.25 acres and larger all with more than 200 feet of frontage. The land has had some pruning done in potential building sites to open up the views of the lake.

      DSC_0463Wytopitlock Lake is over 1100 acres in size. There is a public boat ramp not far from the land for sale. The lake maximum depth is 24 feet. It is in both Glenwood and T2 R4 WELS in southern Aroostook County.

      The lake has a good fishery for smallmouth bass and white perch. The outlet stream is a nice canoe trip to its confluence with the Mattawamkeag River just south of the village of Wytopitlock.

      Call 800-286-6164 today if you are interested in seeing these properties.

       

       

      Maine Forest Service Assistance Programs

      I just attended an educational class on forestry issues taught by State Foresters Terri Coolong and Oliver Markewicz. This informative session covered topics of the Maine Tree Growth Tax Program, Maine Forest Practices Act including liquidation harvest laws, foreign investment in agriculture land rules and other information.

      I believe it is a little known fact that the Maine Forest Service can provide free technical information to those who own forestland in Maine or those considering purchasing it. Maine has 10 district foresters who cover our state offering services ranging from educational programs to limited one on one contact with individual owners.

      The district forester will help you understand sound forestry practices that when implemented should add long term value to your land investment. A one on one session can give you a better understanding of your land and should help you be more informed when working with an independent forester to formulate a forest management plan. To find the district forester who covers the town your property is located check out the link here to The Maine Forest Service.

      Comments

      1. Peter McPhail on

        Our district foresters are a great resource for anyone who is looking to buy land in Maine and is new to owning Maine land!!
        • Mike on

          Great information for timberland owners in Maine. Thanks
          • Amanda on

            Great article & tips!

            Snowmobile News from Maine DIF&W

            FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             January 19, 2016

            AUGUSTA, Maine  - Snowmobilers will have the opportunity to enjoy the trails in neighboring states for free during a special weekend shared by Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. This annual three-day event will take place January 29 - 31, 2016 and allows all legally registered Maine snowmobiles to be operated in New Hampshire and Vermont without being registered in those states.

            "This means that all snowmobiles legally registered in New Hampshire and Vermont can be operated in Maine without a current Maine registration," said Governor Paul R. LePage. "We welcome these snowmobilers to explore more than 14,000 miles of Maine's interconnected, groomed and marked trails. As always, we encourage them to enjoy Maine's beautiful outdoors, but also urge them to ride safely."

            The Maine Warden Service reminds snowmobilers to ride with caution at all times.

            "With the increased traffic anticipated during the reciprocal snowmobile weekend, we remind all riders to obey laws of prudent operation, do not drink and drive, and be mindful that this is a family sport, so please keep our trails safe," said Maine Warden Colonel Joel Wilkinson. "Pay extra close attention to ice conditions on all Maine waterways especially when travelling at night, and ride with caution. We hope that enthusiasts participate in this great opportunity to discover Maine's tremendous snowmobiling opportunity."

            Snowmobilers should stay off roads, ride at a reasonable speed, use hand signals and ride to the right.

            If you need to register your snowmobile in Maine, visit:  https://www10.informe.org/ifw/atv-snow/.

            For information about snowmobile laws and rules in Maine, visit: http://www.eregulations.com/maine/atv/snowmobile-laws-and-rules/.

            For trail condition updates and trail maps, visit the Maine Snowmobile Association at: http://www.mesnow.com/

            On The Trail to Increasing Your Land Value

            There is something special about a walk in the woods. Inspecting the tracks of forest animals, listening to the distant "wack-wack-wack" of the pileated woodpecker, watching a busy beaver putting the finishing touches on her dam, these and many other woodsy events are just a few reasons why we own land. To better care for and use our property we enjoy creating and improving multi-use trails. Building trails improves our outdoor experience, while at the same time increases the lands value.

            Before starting the physical work of trail building take some time to mentally plan the construction. What are the intended uses of the trail? Is it for accessing a location such as a hunting stand or scenic place, hiking and cross country skiing? Do you intend to have vehicles on it like ATV's, snowmobiles,  tractors, mountain bikes or others? How much traffic will your trail support? Asking yourself these and other questions will help you design a trail that meets your goals and will save you time and money.

            Google Earth and the Maine office of GIS provide free solutions which can be used to plan and map your trail system. If you are not familiar with these programs see our post on using Google Earth. for some basic information. The topographic overlay from the Maine office of GIS in conjunction with Google Earth is especially useful.

            Once you decide for what purpose and where you want the trail now is the time to get out on your property and scout out the best route. Online mapping got you a good start but it won't show you all the variations in the land like micro elevation changes or the best place to cross a creek for examples. Priorities when choosing the best route should include minimizing soil disturbance, protecting riparian areas and require a minimal amount of future trail maintenance. When done well trails enhance the recreational and economic use of the land today and for years to come.

            You will need a few tools to create your trail. The following will get you started and may be all or more than you need.

            • Flagging Tape
            • Lopping Shears
            • Rake
            • Shovel
            • Lightweight Chainsaw
            • Brush Saw
            • Lawnmower

            If I am out alone clearing trails to be used primarily for hiking, a good pair of shears and safety glasses are what I will bring. When making larger or wider trails power equipment is a big time and back saver. If you plan to use power equipment be sure to get good safety gear to protect yourself from injury.

            Building trails is hard but rewarding work. So get out there and enjoy your land.

            ARE YOU PREPARED TO BUY MAINE LAND

            Are you planning on buying a parcel of Maine land this year? If so, you need to know a few things before you start, especially if you are not from here and/or have never purchased land before.

            FINANCING

            Before you fuel the car or buy the plane ticket, have you considered how you will pay for it? Obviously, if you have cash this item can be checked off your list. If you intend to get a loan to complete the purchase, you should know it is not the same process as getting a home mortgage. Most US banks do not do land loans. So if you planned on using the BIG bank you have a credit card or your home loan with, save yourself a lot of time and money by asking if they will finance raw land. Ask them questions like:

            • What down payment would be required?
            • Is there a limit on how many acres they will accept?
            • Do they do business in Maine?
            • Do they have approved appraisers and title companies in Maine?
            • Is your credit score high enough for their land loan program?

            If you find out they will not do the loan, you just saved yourself hundreds of dollars in travel expenses. There are a few solid lenders who finance raw land in Maine. So if you need financing give us a call to get the list. Also, many sellers will consider owner financing their lands.

            GREAT EXPECTATIONS

            Maybe before calling the lenders, you should ask yourself why are you buying land? What is your intended use of the property? Did you get all the information on your target properties to be sure the ground will meet your needs and desires? For example, if you intend to use the land for raising cattle, is the land zoned for that use? If not, you are going to waste time and money coming to see it. Make a list of your concerns and get the answers before you come, a few example as follows:

            • Is the zoning in line with your intended use?
            • Is the property in a tax program that prohibits your intended use?
            • Are the soils OK for your use?
            • Does the property have utilities to it? If not and you require them, how far and how much to extend them?
            • Does the property have year round access?

            CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT

            The next item of preparedness that I nearly always forget to tell my customers before they get here is the appropriate clothing to wear for a visit to Maine. If you are looking at forested land, for example, and are unfamiliar with Maine, the forest here can be very dense and the ground uneven. Here is a checklist of the minimum gear you should have with you when you come.

            • Good pair of boots - waterproof if you have them
            • Sun or safety glasses to protect your eyes from tree branches
            • Layered clothing options for changing weather conditions
            • A waterproof coat

            If you are working with one of us to show you the land, the above list will get you by. If you intend to do some exploring on your own, think about the following items:

            • A good compass
            • GPS
            • Maps of the areas of interest
            • Backpack
            • Water bottles
            • Snow shoes in winter

            CUSTOMER OR CLIENT

            The final question to ask yourself is are you confident enough to represent yourself or should you hire a broker to help you with the process. If you have the time you can do your own research and represent yourself in the process, but if you do not have time a good land broker is worth a look. Maine does require a real estate agent representing a buyer as a client to have a written buyer brokerage agreement, so if you do decide to go this route be sure to carefully review the contract to see what the agent's and your obligations are to each other.