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Vermont Investment Blog

Welcome to the Vermont Investment Blog. Please feel free to read through the current and past entries to this blog.

2014-03-25 Park Street, Burlington Condo
Convenient condo located off Park Street in downtown Burlington featuring 3 levels with 2 bedrooms and 1.5 baths. This condo was built in 2004 and shows great highlighted by tile in the kitchen, black appliances, laminate flooring in the living and dining room, and the only condo at Benway Commons with this floor plan. Large windows and the southern exposure makes this unit light and bright all day, everyday. Efficient natural gas heat and hot water and the association dues are only $142 a month. CUFSH.

Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com


2014-01-13 Lime Kiln Road, Condo South Burlington
1st Floor Condo located in desired Cedar Bluffs Development. This first floor condo encompasses 2 spacious bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms with tile, 2 walk-in closets, tiled entry and hardwood floors that span the entire living room and kitchen. New carpet was just put into both bedrooms and many walls have been recently painted. A slider opens up onto a covered porch. A wall-mounted air conditioning unit and washer/dryer come with this condo. The association takes care of the building maintenance, landscaping, heat, water, sewer, snow removal, trash, elevators and security doors. All of this geographic close to St. Mikes, UVM, Champlain College, airport and downtown Burlington.

Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com


2013-10-03 75 Pease Mountain Road, Charlotte
This timeless Vermont Cape, originally constructed in Waterford Vermont, was taken apart piece by piece and painstakingly moved and put back together at it's current location with a poured concrete foundation, updated electric, plumbing, and heating system. All of this sitting in Charlotte on 5.5 rolling Vermont Acres highlighted by mature landscaping, circular stone driveway, stone walls, and a tasteful stone patio. Recent updates to the house include a remodeled granite counter-top kitchen in 2004 and remodeled bathrooms in 2007. The original features of the house are the main focus of the house with wide pine flooring, classic farmhouse trim, door hardware, original antique doors, wood clapboard siding, plus a copper and wood roof. If you are a buyer that loves the charm of older homes, but not the maintenance that is typically associated with them, this is a house that you must see!

Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com



2012-12-14 170 Wilkins Road, Fairfax Vermont
Are you looking for an open floor plan on 2 acres? Large Colonial built in 2005 featuring hardwood floors on the 1st and 2nd levels, plus no carpet in the house! Attached two car garage is separated from the house by 2 large mudrooms. The house offers alternative heat with a pellet stove in the living room. The master bedroom offers an over-sized room with private bath and it's own balcony. The backyard features an expanded deck and above ground pool.

Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com



2012-12-14 Just Listed! 84 Main Street, Essex Junction $240,000
Four bedroom Colonial in the heart of Essex Junction featuring over-sized backyard, partially fenced backyard, bordering a babbling brook. Interior of the home offers large eat-in kitchen that opens up to the family room, formal dining, plus a living room on the 1st level. Upstairs offers 4 bedrooms, hall full bath, and master bedroom with its own 3/4 bath. The front porch is perfect for a swing and the back porch opens up to the partially fenced yard with mature trees and great lot. Plus the convenience of an attached 2 car garage. All of this located so close to the Five Corners of Essex Junction!

Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com

2012-09-26 Just Listed! 69 Van Patten Parkway, Burlington $289,000
Large 2100 sq ft Colonial located on wooded lot featuring rock outcroppings in desired New North End Neighborhood. Open living space includes a large eat-in kitchen that opens up to backyard and family room. Formal dining room, 3 season sunroom, and living room offer plenty of layout options. Upstairs features 4 bedrooms, hall full bathroom, master bedroom with hardwood floors and 3/4 bathroom. Shed, over-sized garage, and storage room offer plenty of storage.

Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2012-06-07 Just Listed! E-1 Stonehedge Drive, South Burlington at $227,900
Very large end unit condo with over 2300 sq ft of living space including a master bedroom with walk-in-closet, 3/4 bath and private deck. The living room includes a deck for enjoying the outdoors and lower level has it's own walk-out patio. One covered parking spot, pool and tennis. All of this in South Burlington, within close proximity to the University of Vermont, Fletcher Allen, Airport, and downtown Burlington. One pet allowed. Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2012-05-08 Just Listed! 234 Everbreeze Drive, Colchester at $340,000
Three bedroom Colonial built in 2000, located in a great neighborhood! Featuring hardwood floors on the first level and a gas fireplace. Upstairs offers a cathedral ceiling in the master bedroom with private bath. The basement has a large finished family room and office with egress window. All of this on over an acre in Colchester! Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2012-05-02 JUST LISTED! 80 Austin Drive, Burlington
Tastefully updated condo located close to Oakledge Park featuring hardwood floors in the kitchen, living room, and dining room. Tiled shower and creative sink highlight this updated bathroom. One of a few condos in this complex with their own washer and dryer. Large glass sliding doors opens up to your own private patio.
Click herefor more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com


2012-03-13 Just Listed! Superb South Burlington Location - $439,000
Beautiful Dorset Park home featuring a gorgeous kitchen with soapstone countertops, stainless appliances and custom cabinets. The open floor plan includes a dining room, large family room, great room with gas fireplace and a lovely three-season porch overlooking a tastefully landscaped backyard. Hardwood floors, cherry trim highlights, heated 2 car garage, over-sized mudroom plus a great finished basement space. Not only does the community include a pool, and two tennis courts, but this stunning property backs up to the Dorset Park Recreation area which includes Cairns skating rink, baseball fields, soccer fields, and a playground. Right around the corner you’ll find the bikepath, hiking trails, Vermont National Country Club, and VT Garden Park! Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2012-03-13 Why have one partner - when you really need 3!
Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty announces not just one, but three key partnerships to expand the company’s mobile marketing efforts. Home buyers, who are on the go, searching for property in northwestern Vermont and home sellers looking to get in front of those buyers - will now be able to search for real estate on the mobile websites of The Burlington Free Press, WCAX-TV, and Seven Days Newspaper, powered by Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty.

We've aligned with our key media partners who not only have embraced the technology, but have seen tremendous growth in mobile users. Mobile technology has truly changed the way consumers access information and has forced industries, and companies alike, to change how information is served to their audience. We recognized the shift in 2009, when we launched CBHBMobile.com - allowing consumers to search for local property and open houses from their smart phone. In 2011, CBHBMobile.com was overhauled to maximize the use of current technology and native applications on the majority of devices such as GPS. From CBHBMobile.com, you can now search for property or Open Houses nearby your current location. "After the redesign, we saw an immediate growth in our mobile traffic," says Leslee MacKenzie, President/Owner of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty. "Our home buyers are searching from their devices - our sellers expect us to market their homes using the most current technology, the enhancements to CBHBMobile.com were a natural progression to serve our clients." However, we recognized the need to continue building traffic to the mobile site - so we turned to our media partners who have played a key role in our growth as a firm, as well as the services we offer our clients - from print advertising to direct and Internet marketing.

National websites and mobile apps such as Realtor.com, Trulia.com, and Zillow.com also play a key role in the real estate marketing mix. Realtor.com recently reported that 40% of weekend visitors searching their site, came from mobile. CBHBMobile.com looks to compliment the experience a user has searching on a national site, with a local, reliable, fast, and feature rich property search.

If you or someone you know is considering buying or selling their property - we welcome the opportunity to share even more about the resources and marketing support we have to assist them.



2012-01-18 2012 Real Estate Predictions
Detailed look at the 2012 real estate economy in Burlington, Vermont. A look back at 2010 and 2011 that will lead to trends in 2012.


2011-11-02 JUST LISTED! 339 Juniper Ridge, Shelburne - $287,500
You’ll be impressed upon entering this stylish home. Main living level is highlighted by beautiful walnut floors, installed in Sept 2011. Open living area features a fireplace and large picture window. Large kitchen with stainless fridge, dining room with cute corner built-in, sunroom and back deck right outside. The master bedroom features a half bathroom and the two extra bedrooms share a tiled bathroom with stylish vanity. The lower level houses a large family room which had new carpet installed in August 2010. Oversized laundry room with walnut floors and two car garage. All windows, except sunroom, replaced in January 2011. Great backyard which includes a brick patio. Neighborhood park close by and Shelburne Farms only a few minutes drive!

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com

2011-10-16 Northwest VT Real Estate Report: What Every Home Buyer & Seller Needs to Know
Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty released a real estate market report for Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, and Addison counties, reflecting home sales for the summer real estate season, May through August, as well as a year to date comparison. The report analyzes the data for each county, town, and within Chittenden County, providing a unique analysis by school district.

“Real estate data is often reported on a monthly or year to date basis, but not for a period of time that would represent a selling season - such as summer,” remarks Leslee MacKenzie, President/Owner of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, “Our goal was to make some sense of the monthly, national reports we hear about and provide local data to give homebuyers and sellers relevant information to make informed decisions. Real estate is a local business, so trends can vary by town and within each community, with that in mind we are reporting the data in a similar way that a homebuyer may search for a home– by property type, location, or within a specific school district.”

The Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty Market Report reveals sales volume across Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle and Addison counties rose 6.4% between May to August, or the summer real-estate season. For the year-to-date, however, sales rose just 3%, crimped by comparison against 2010 home sales boosted by the first-time homebuyer’s tax credit. In addition to a break down by county and Chittenden County school district, the report summarizes trends in northwest Vermont’s luxury market, as well as multi-family investment properties.

Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty is a locally owned company affiliated with one of the most nationally recognized names in real estate, Coldwell Banker. The agency has set the bar for marketing and selling Vermont properties, as illustrated by its consistent ranking as the #1 Coldwell Banker Office in Vermont and as one of the top Coldwell Banker companies nationwide.

The complete report is currently available online only at www.VermontMarketReport.com.

If you have any questions about this report or want to talk about specific property you may be interested in, please give us a call.

2011-08-17 Hickok & Boardman Yard Sale to benefit United Way on 8/20/11
Get a great deal and benefit a great cause at the Hickok & Boardman Yard Sale Saturday, August 20th from 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at 346 Shelburne Road, Burlington. Kitchen items, furniture, exercise & recreation, kids toys, clothing, games, & more! All proceeds benefit United Way of Chittenden County. (weather permitting)

2011-05-11 JUST LISTED! Meadow Brook End Unit in South Burlington - $237,500
Conveniently located, you’ll find this Meadow Brook Development end unit with brick and wood shake exterior that gives off a brownstone feel. Hardwood floors, crown molding, and a brick fireplace highlight the downstairs living room. The kitchen opens up to a 3+ season room which also opens up to a private back porch, all overlooking a brook and woodland. The upstairs master bedroom has two closets and its own entrance to the shared upstairs bathroom. The condo’s carport space, with storage, is located very close to the unit, giving you an easy transition to and from. Not much further you will find the association’s pool and tennis courts as well as easy access to the local bike path. To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com

2011-05-04 JUST LISTED! Live in Shelburne's Ridgefield Estates - $899,000
You'll be amazed by the grandeur and warmth of this beautiful home located in Shelburne's Ridgefield Estates. The property boasts a large kitchen with island and granite countertops and a screened-in porch that provides you with endless views of the Green Mountains. Upstairs you'll find a large bonus room with a deck and abundant natural light and a master suite that has magnificent views of Shelburne Bay. Spend family time in the living room which features built-ins and an oversize fireplace or head down to the large finished basement with space for a ton of fun as well as quality storage. To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com

2011-05-02 Downtown Burlington Condo JUST LISTED! 119 North Winooski Avenue, Unit 9
This is a tastefully updated second floor, 2 bedroom downtown Burlington condo. Two entrances and off-street parking. Hardwood and pine floors throughout the living room space. Custom built-ins in living room which opens up to a cute sitting area and a large covered porch. To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com

2011-03-10 250 Songbird Road, S. Burlington - Upgraded End Unit - JUST LISTED - $395,000
Bright end unit with upgraded kitchen includes cherry cabinets, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a large pantry. The living room boasts a wall of windows for natural light and built-ins that surround a gas fireplace. A tiled sunroom with gas stove makes an ideal space for winter or summer months. First floor den/office that could be used for whatever you chose. Upstairs Master suite features a walk-in closet and a bathroom with jetted tub and walk-in shower. Upstairs unfinished storage space. Attached 2 car garage. Located close to shopping, Fletcher Allen Hospital, UVM, I-89 and only steps to the South Burlington bikepath!  Click here for more details on this listing.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com



2011-03-08 Hazardous House Conditions to check on after Heavy Snowfall
After yesterdays heavy snowfall, we wanted to remind you of a few hazardous conditions that could affect your home:

The National Weather Service and emergency management recently reminded us to keep house vents clear of snow and ice. Any vents to the outside that are obstructed can cause a shut down or malfunction of house appliances or block heating vents and this could lead to a dangerous buildup of Carbon monoxide.

Vermont emergency management has already reported that fire departments throughout Vermont responded to numerous Carbon monoxide alarms on Monday. Please keep vents and chimneys clear of snow and ice and make sure you have Carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home.

The large amount of snow we received can pack on roofs, particularly flat or shallow pitched roofs which could potentially lead to structural failures due to the weight of the snow.

The forecast for late week is for warmer weather and rain which means more weight to your roof. Consider removing snow from your roof during the next few days or hiring a roofing professional to do it if you think it could cause a problem.

Although the snow is beautiful, we want to make sure our homeowners are safe!

2011-09-29 Captivating 1820 Cambridge Farmhouse, 4001 N Cambridge Road, Cambridge
Captivating 1820 Farm House set on 5 acres in a breathtaking Cambridge country setting. Rolling mountain views and a large backyard are perfect for play or animals. Beautiful hardwood and softwood floors are featured throughout the house. Extra large kitchen with granite opens up to formal dining with charming transom window. Entertain in your large living space with built-ins. Updated bathrooms and large mudroom featuring a wood-burning stove. No lack of natural light in this charming home!

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2011-01-18 JUST LISTED and WON'T LAST LONG! 16 Meadow Road, South Burlington
Be prepared to be charmed! This 2 bedroom/2 bathroom contemporary colonial has cherry floors throughout downstairs. The living room features a gas stove, and the kitchen has maple cabinetry and a charming farmer’s sink with eat-in bar area. Master bedroom with vaulted ceilings and a large balcony. Additional living space off of the kitchen is currently being used as adorable kids craft room, but could be extra living/family room or office and has doors that open to the large, fenced-in backyard. You have a detached one car garage with attic space and room off back with additional storage

Click here for more details. To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2010-12-08 Vermont Ranked #1 as Healthiest State Once Again!
As reported by WCAX.com...

Burlington, Vermont - December 7, 2010
Vermont is once again the healthiest state in the country. The 21st annual America's Health Rankings places Vermont at the top of the list, with Massachusetts second and New Hampshire third. New York claims spot 24 and Mississippi comes in last. The report weighs 22 factors. Vermont scores well for its high rate of high school graduation, low rate of uninsured residents, public health funding and access to early prenatal care. However the report points out that the state faces large challenges with binge drinking. However, the report highlights a medical issue Vermont has made great progress solving. The first report, issued in 1990, found Vermont's cardiovascular death rate stood at 401.7 per 100,000 people. Now that number stands at 241. The authors of the study say the nation as a whole has gotten healthier but that's offset by an increasing obesity problem, a growing number of children in poverty and a significant lack of health insurance.

Click here for the complete listings.



2010-11-15 Don't Miss this Video about Burlington!
Burlington has long been recognized for its scenic beauty, lifestyle, business climate, stellar health care, and educational opportunities; and is a magnet that attracts individuals and families interested in relocating. Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty enlisted local film company FlyBy Films, to create the following short video on living, working, playing, and learning in the Queen City.

This video sums up why we love it here so much. Enjoy!




2010-11-12 Burlington's Home Price Growth Tops the Nation!
WCAX.com reported the following news November 11, 2010...

Burlington, Vermont - November 12, 2010
The economy needs a rebound in the housing industry, but unlike many states Vermont is doing pretty well. Home prices edged higher in just half of the nation's cities from July through September. The National Association of Realtors says the biggest price increases were right here in Burlington. The worst showing was in Ocala, Fla., where the median price dropped 20 percent.

2010-11-10 Save Money with the .99 cent Energy Star CFL Bulb Sale!
For a limited time, Efficiency Vermont is offering a special .99 cent deal on CFL bulbs at participating retailers. Click here to find your closest retailer.

CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs) can be used almost anywhere in your home and use 66-75 % less energy than incandescent bulbs.

The average U.S. household has more than 40 sockets for light bulbs, ranging from table lamps to ceiling fixtures. Larger homes can have far more. Lighting accounts for about 20 percent of annual household electricity bills, or approximately $200 per year.*

If you switch out the six most used light bulbs in your home for compact fluorescents, you could save up to $250 on your energy bill over the bulbs' lifetime.

When you choose an ENERGY STAR qualified light bulb, you are making a difference for the environment by reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The greenhouse gas emissions caused by generating the power you use in your home can be twice that of the average car per year.

CFLs are very energy-efficient. They can produce 75 percent less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs. In fact, of the total energy an incandescent bulb draws, only 10 percent produces light and the other 90 percent goes to producing heat.

If everyone in the country replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would conserve enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.*

*Information from ENERGYSTAR.GOV


2010-10-28 New Listing - 312 Colchester Avenue, Burlington
Located close to Fletcher Allen Hospital and UVM, this 1899 Dormered Cape features covered porches,a screened-in porch, and the character you only get with a Burlington home of this era. Shed dormered cape on both sides enables three ample sized bedrooms. Downstairs features open living with newer hardwood floors, large eat-in-kitchen, dining room, and walk-in pantry lined with 1899 custom woodwork. Lots of possibilities with the large attached barn that opens up to backyard. Click here for more details.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2010-09-01 Just Listed and Move-In Ready in Fairfax Countryside
This updated, Fairfax countryside three bedroom ranch on 1.23 acres is ready for you to move in! You'll find a stainless steel refrigerator and beautiful details such as crown molding and tasteful paint selections. A large, full basement is perfect for storage or play and you have a detached, one car garage with more storage and dog pen. Home includes a newer tankless, Rinnia on-demand hot water heater and newer boiler. Click here for more details.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com



2010-08-06 Just Listed - 2449 Buck Hollow Road, Fletcher
This is a contemporary ranch on 9.26 acres with a pond located in Fletcher. With three bedrooms and two full baths, you'll enjoy wide open living space, hardwood floors, built-ins, and two wood stoves. The home also features both a sunroom and a screened-in porch as well as a two-car detached garage. Click here for more details.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2010-07-20 Signs of Growing Economy on Church St. Marketplace
Burlington, Vermont - July 19, 2010
Melinda Davenport - WCAX News

An economic forecast out last week shows signs of recovery in Vermont. And signs of a growing economy can be found on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace.

We've hit the peak of summer tourism in Vermont and some restaurants are concerned about losing money due to a lack of patrons. The Scuffer is one of them. Unlike other restaurants in the area that have been around for decades, Mike Williams is one of the new kids on the block. He recently took over the restaurant, renamed it and called it his own. "Traffic is way down in the month of July, the heat had something to do with it, but also I just don't see the foot traffic for the tourists."

Some businesses like the Scuffer have seen up to a 20 percent decrease in revenue, while some say the rebound of the economy should be boosting business. "I'm wondering if we are advertising up in Canada like we should be," Williams said.

Tim Shea of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce says the organization is doing all it can to bring down our neighbors to the north. "We've been doing added outreach to Montreal and other markets to try and promote the Burlington area," he said.

Other restaurants on Church Street are doing just fine. Halvorson's has been in operation for more than 30 years and the owner attributes experience to his success. "The more you establish yourself, the easier it is to sort of get through some of those economic dips that are inevitable," said Tim Halvorson, the restaurant's owner.

While Church Street saw its share of merchants fail during the recession, restaurant and bar business remained steady, as measured by the city's gross receipts tax collections. "The dining category is really strong. And it has remained strong through the recession. There are more than 80 eating and drinking establishments in downtown," said Ron Redmond with the Church St. Marketplace.

Redmond says right now downtown Burlington is at an 92 percent occupancy rate and space for rent is hard to come by. "Vacancies are filling up, some of the vacancies you see have more to do with the property owner waiting for the best tenant as opposed to not being able to find a tenant," he said.

Experts say finding the key to the hearts of diners, whether it be tourists or locals, lies in the experience -- being unique, and having a menu that customers love. They say having a reasonable price point helps drive customers to restaurants that ultimately have the total package.







2010-07-14 Open House Today, 7/14 from 4:30 - 6:00 at 2 BALSAM CIRLCLE, WILLISTON
Stop by our OPEN HOUSE TODAY on your way home from work. We'll be here from 4:30 - 6:00 to answer any questions you have about this beautiful 2 bedroom model unit at 2 Balsam Circle in Williston priced at $329,900. These low-maintenance homes include granite kitchen countertops, hardwood in living/dining, vaulted ceilings in living. First floor master suite and laundry, three-season room. Close to shopping, restaurants, outdoor activities!  Click here for more listing details:

For more information or to schedule a showing at another time, please contact Nick Riina, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 846-9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com

Directions to Balsam Circle: From Taft Corners, take Route 2 east towards Williston Village. Make a right onto Timothy Way, left onto Balsam Circle, look for sign.




2010-07-07 Open House Today, 7/7 from 4:30 - 6:00 PM - 52 Latham Court, Burlington
Stop by our OPEN HOUSE TODAY on your way home from work. We'll be here from 4:30 - 6:00 to answer any questions you have about this Duplex at 52 Latham Court, Burlington. Located on a dead-end street close to the Hospital and UVM campus, the duplex features vinyl siding and a metal roof. Two bedrooms downstairs and One bedroom upstairs, detached one car garage and backyard. The property needs some TLC and updating, but is a great investment opportunity. You couldn't ask for a better location!

For more information or to schedule a showing at another time, please contact Nick Riina, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 846-9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2010-07-01 Special Pricing on Building Lots at Vermont National Country Club For Limited Time
Limited opportunity to build your dream home with Hubbard Construction at one of the six remaining premier building lots at Vermont National Golf Course in South Burlington for a reduced price. Take 10% off any one of the three remaining West side lots or 5% off any one of the East side lots.

For more information on the Vermont National Golf Course lots, contact Jessica Hubbard Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9585 or Jessica@VermontInvestments.com.

2010-06-22 52 Latham Court, Burlington
Located on a dead-end street close to the Hospital and UVM campus, you'll find this duplex with vinyl siding and metal roof. It offers two bedrooms downstairs and one bedroom upstairs with a private backyard and one car garage. With some TLC and updates, this could be a great investment!

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2010-06-21 337 Snipe Ireland Road, Richmond
This is a well cared for country home on 2.3 acres. Enjoy the three season room and outdoor patio during the warm weather months and take advantage of the detached, heated/insulated garage during the chillier days. A master suite features a walk-in closet and half bathroom. Newer windows, roof, and siding. Click here for more details.

To schedule a showing or receive more information, please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or nick@vermontinvestments.com




2010-07-01 256 Golf Course Road, South Burlington at Vermont National Country Club
Thought and quality have gone into every inch of this elegant property. Situated on the 11th hole in the exclusive Highland Ridge neighborhood at Vermont National Country Club, you will find this three bedroom (and den), two and one half bathroom custom Hubbard Construction home. The kitchen features a remarkable glass hood, glass appliances, marble floors and cherry cabinetry. The first floor master suite has a bathroom you'll never want to leave with slate walk-in shower and whirlpool tub. Entertaining in the family room is a pleasure with a wood-burning fireplace, bar, and a beautiful wall of windows to view the serene golf landscape.  These are just a few of the highlights of this remarkable home you'll need to see in person. Click here to learn more.

To schedule a viewing or receive more information, please contact Jessica Hubbard Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9585 or jessica@vermontinvestments.com

2010-05-28 Kiplinger Magazine ranks Burlington, VT #8 Best City of 2010!
BEST CITIES 2010: BURLINGTON, VT

The economy in our number-eight pick for Best Cities for the Next Decade is powered by the green movement.


By Stacy Rapacon
From Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, July 2010

This mountain city wants to be a role model for saving the planet. Environmentalism isn’t just ingrained in the city’s diverse economy; it’s the driver for much of its economic growth. For example, Seventh Generation, maker of eco-friendly household products, is headquartered on Burlington’s beautiful Lake Champlain waterfront.

Outside the city, Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Cooperative are working together to build a new wind farm that will add jobs in the growing green sector. "And it's a way of capitalizing on the Vermont brand with its clean air and mountains," says Gen Burnell, of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Creativity and entrepreneurship define Burlington. The town is a haven for writers and artists, and that innovative spirit energizes white-collar workers as well. "Creativity is the lifeblood of our businesses," says Bruce Seifer, of Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office. "Having art everywhere inspires those aha moments, to create something new and reinvent existing products."

Even a mundane commercial oven cooks up ingenuity in Burlington. When Kentucky Fried Chicken realized it needed to offer healthier menu items, it turned to Blodgett, a maker of commercial ovens that has been based in Burlington since its founding in 1848. Last year, the partnership resulted in the introduction of Kentucky Grilled Chicken -- a finger-lickin' good choice for health-conscious customers. And the newly engineered Blodgett ovens that cook the chicken at more than 5,000 KFC locations are eco- and cost-conscious, too: The half-size, energy-efficient ovens each save $600 a year in electricity costs.

Big Blue has a big presence as well. In nearby Essex Junction, IBM’s microelectronics plant, with about 5,000 workers, remains the area’s single largest employer despite the company’s recent ups and downs. The University of Vermont is also a stalwart employer and a fount of fresh ideas and technology.

The city’s largest employers are also seeing green: UVM’s green building program is nationally recognized for its commitment to ensuring that new construction meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The university’s Dudley H. Davis Center is the country’s first student center to earn LEED gold-level certification, and the school now has five LEED-certified campus buildings. And last year, medical center Fletcher Allen Health Care received a $143,000 federal grant to develop its program of serving local foods to patients and in its cafeterias.

In fact, the local-food movement spreads throughout the city. Many shops and restaurants along Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace, the famous pedestrian mall, serve up local goodies. A couple blocks over, the City Market/Onion River Co-Op, a community-owned grocery store, offers more than 1,000 Vermont products. (And atop the supermarket, generating 3% of the Co-Op’s energy needs -- enough electricity to power six Burlington homes -- are 136 solar panels from groSolar, another Vermont-based company.) And the crown jewel for locavores: The Intervale Center is a nonprofit organization that has managed 350 acres of family-owned farmland in Burlington since 1988 and provides 10% of the town’s food. "We’re 30 years ahead of the country with the local-food movement," says Seifer.

2010-02-21 Two Westford Land Listings - Ruggle's Lane
Community mound system is already in place on these two parcels. Electric is nearby, along with phone. Parts of this subdivision border 122 acres of conserved land. A drilled well and building permit will be required.

Click below for more information on Lot 6:
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Click below for more information on Lot 5:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2010-02-12 Donate Your Used Cell Phones to help Haiti

As Realtors, Nick and I spend much of our day on our cell phones. Over the years we have collected numerous phones that now do nothing, but take up space. In an effort to help those rebuilding their lives in Haiti, while at the same time preserving our environment, we want to collect your used cell phones to send to the American Red Cross & ReCellular Inc,PHONES FOR HAITIprogram.

Dig through your junk drawer, closets and shoeboxes for all those used cell phones - batteries, chargers and any other additional accessories are accepted, but not required.

We'll make it easy for you - Just drop off your phone(s) and we'll take care of packing them up and shipping them off to PHONES FOR HAITI.  A clearly marked drop box will be located in our Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Office lobby Monday through Friday, 8:30 - 5:00 p.m.   Our address is 346 Shelburne Road, Burlington, VT 05401. 

We will be accepting phones until Monday, February 28th.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Jessica@VermontInvestments.com.

Thank you for your help with this cause!
Jessi and Nick

 

*There are an estimated 130 million phones retired in the United States every year.  If even a small percentage of them are donated to Phones for Haiti, it would contribute millions of dollars towards relief from the devastating earthquake. ReCellular will give 100% of the phone value as a contribution to the American Red Cross.  In addition, qualifying phones will be refurbished and supplied to aid groups working in Haiti.  The materials that comprise our old cell phones can also be recycled and reused to make many other products, helping to preserve the world around us.



2010-02-10 4323 VT Route 108 South. Cambridge, VT - Smuggler's Notch Resort Ski Condo
Situated in a prime location at the base of Smuggler's Notch, this updated condo features newer bamboo floors throughout, granite, tile, newer kitchen cabinets, and some stainless steel appliances. Very close to the ski lifts and in the heart of Smuggler's Notch Village.

For more information or to schedule a showing please contact Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty at 802.846.9559 or Nick@VermontInvestments.com. Please visit www.VermontInvestments.com for more information


 

2010-01-22 83 Loomis Street, Burlington
Charming 4 square Colonial close to downtown, hospital and UVM. Recently renovated third floor by Red House Construction. Very well cared for with recent improvements including newer kitchen, updated bathrooms, on demand hot water, fresh paint. A home that should not be passed on. Fully fenced backyard with charming upgrades to both front and back porches including many copper upgrades.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2010-01-19 Vermont Absorption Rates
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, it's important to know the absorption rate (amount of homes on the market/how many homes sell each month) in your real estate market. Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty explains how these rates determine whether you are in a buyers, sellers, or balanced market. All statistics taken from VREIN MLS.




2010-01-10 100 W Canal St #29, Winooski VT
Close to downtown Winooski, located right on the Winooski River. Wonderful layout with a master bedroom on the first floor and an open kitchen. Washer and dryer are included, new flooring and fresh paint throughout. Well priced and ready to sell.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.



2010-01-08 Chittenden Country 2009 Recap
Watch below for a recap of the 2009 Chittenden County, Vermont residential Real Estate market and get insight into the 2010 market. Nick Riina of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty of Burlington, Vermont gives tips for a successful sale in 2010. All statistics taken from VREIN MLS.




20082009
New Listings
1,747
1,696
Sold
788
866
Average Sale Price
$320,332
$305,095
% of Sold Listings
47%
52%
Days on Market
90
93



2009-10-29 Senators Agree to Extend Homebuyer Tax Credit
Senators agreed Wednesday to extend a popular tax credit for first-time home buyers and to offer a reduced credit to some repeat buyers.

The tax credit provides up to $8,000 to first-time homebuyers but is set to expire at the end of November.

Senators agreed to extend the existing tax credit for first-time homebuyers while offering a reduced credit of up to $6,500 to repeat buyers who have owned their current homes for at least five years, said Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The tax credits would be available to homebuyers who sign sales agreements by the end of April. They would have until the end of June to close on their new homes, said a congressional aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the deal.

Senators were still negotiating the expansion of a separate tax credit that lets money-losing businesses get refunds for taxes paid in previous years, providing them with an immediate source of cash.

Senators in both political parties were hoping to add both tax provisions to a bill that would give people running out of unemployment insurance benefits up to 20 more weeks of federal aid. The Senate could vote on the overall bill as early as Thursday, but lawmakers were still haggling over several unrelated amendments Wednesday evening.



2009-09-23 Grand Isle Lake Champlain Lakeshore
Stunning Contemporary on Lake Champlain with over 290 feet of lake frontage. Rebuilt in 1999 by Summit Construction and architecturally designed by Black River Design out of Montpelier. This home features new mahogany hardwood floors, radiant heat, open living space. Mountain views, dock, standing seam metal roof. Located 25.5 miles from Burlington's Church Street.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.




2009-08-31 260 Colchester Avenue, Burlington
Great location next to UVM and hospital. 2 bedroom apartment upstairs, 2 bedroom apartment downstairs, both in good shape. Newer vinyl outside, slate roof, off-street parking spaces. Good rental history. Separate heat, gas and electric, plus one garage spot for each unit. Newer replacement windows. Listed for $299,999.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2009-08-13 When will the Vermont Real Estate Market recover?
We believe that Vermont is in the midst of seeing that change right now. The office is busy and our phone has not stopped ringing for the past 6 weeks, mostly with calls from first time home buyers. The government’s First-time homebuyer $8,000 Tax Credit has a deadline of December 1st and this has stimulated buying in the low to mid $200,000 price range.

What does this mean to everyone else? Because we are seeing the increase in homes sales in the high 100k to high 200k house price range, over the next several months we are going to see more and more homes being bought in the 300k to 400k range as those sellers start to buy up. Interest rates remain very low enabling borrowers to borrow more money.

We are all preparing for a busy end to the 3rd quarter and a great start to the 4th quarter. We have sold as many units this year as last and while our average sales price is down, that was not due to a dramatic drop in prices it was a dramatic drop in the price ranges buyers are looking for due to a lot of them being first-time home buyers.

2009-06-19 Senate Renews Push to Expand Home Buyer Tax Credit to $15,000

Lawmakers are pushing to revive legislation in the Senate that would almost double an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and expand the program to all borrowers.

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, plans to introduce a bill this week that increases the tax credit to $15,000 and removes income and other restrictions on who can qualify for the credit, according to his spokesman, Sheridan Watson.

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and other Democrats, would extend the home buyer credit to multi-family properties that are used as the borrower’s primary residence. It would also eliminate income caps of $75,000 and $150,000 on individuals and couples seeking to claim the credit.

“The housing market continues to be a drag on the economy, said John Castellani, president of the Washington-based Business Roundtable, which represents the interests of more than 100 CEOs including General Electric Co.’s Jeffrey Immelt and Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Rex Tillerson. “We believe that if we don’t stabilize this vital sector, we can’t turn the tide on the recession.”

The Business Roundtable and the National Association of Realtors are both pushing to expand the tax credit and to lower mortgage rates to revive the U.S. housing market.

Isakson’s bill would extend the credit, which expires at the end of 2009, to one year after it’s signed into law, according to Watson. It would also allow borrowers to divide the credit over two years. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, David Vitter of Louisiana and James Risch of Idaho.

Senators Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, have also signed on to the bill, according to Watson.
Mortgage Rates

The roundtable and Realtors groups also recommended the Federal Reserve continue its plans to purchase mortgage securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks to drive down mortgage rates below 5%.

The Fed is about a third of the way through its $1.25 trillion commitment, holding $427.6 billion of mortgage debt backed by the government-sponsored enterprises as of June 3, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate U.S. mortgage jumped last week to the highest level since November, rising to 5.57% from 5.25% the prior week, according to data released today by the Mortgage Bankers Association.



2009-06-11 22 Fieldstone Lane, Westford
There is extreme pride of ownership with this 2007 Colonial home tucked away in a private and quaint area of Westford. Mountain views off of front porch, beautiful stone wall and walkway around home. Just over 2,600 sq. ft. of living space including formal dining, family room, living room, den and additional living/family area. Oversized 2-car garage with plenty of storage. Adorable pantry. Home is close to trails and within close proximity to ski resort and Lamoille River. Listed for $329,900.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.




2009-05-19 45 Meadow Drive, South Burlington
This Colonial home features an expanded back section which includes a kitchen, family room, bedroom and full bath. Front section of home features a kitchen, living room, another full bedroom and bath downstairs, and 2 additional bedrooms and 3/4 bath up. Listed for $259,900.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2009-05-19 372 Lake Road, Milton
Newer Colonial located on 9.78 acres with a 4-stall horse barn. Great horse pasture, horse barn does feature hay storage on the first level. Hardwood floors in the living, dining and kitchen plus a vaulted ceiling and fireplace in the family room. Listed for $354,900.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.




2009-04-07 50 Bayberry Lane, South Burlington
Well cared for Condo with updated bathroom. Large living room for entertaining, stylish entryway nook and screened-in porch off living room overlooking woods for privacy. Carport includes extra storage space, and association fees include pool and tennis court. Listed for $154,900.

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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.




2009-04-01 Vermont Investments YouTube Videos
If photos can say a thousand words then videos can tell the entire story. Make sure to check out our video library posted on YouTube:

Vermont Investments YouTube Videos

We offer this service for all of our listings and all out-of-state buyers that have interest in a property, but may not be able to see it in person.  As we all know, photos don't always tell the whole picture.


2009-03-04 Balsam Circle, Williston
Come home to Balsam Circle, an active adult community located in Williston, Vermont. Here you’ll enjoy the comfort of low maintenance, country living, as well as the close to home conveniences that Williston and the greater Burlington area have to offer. The homes at Balsam Circle offer quality construction and custom amenities, crafted by award-winning Builder, Russ Barone of Barone Construction Inc.




At Balsam Circle, you’ll enjoy the freedom of home ownership while also being part of a maintenance-free community. In addition, the association covers the upkeep of roads and sidewalks, meaning no more shoveling, mowing, or raking!

Situated on 7.3 acres, Balsam Circle is in close proximity to shopping, restaurants, the historic Williston village, outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, biking and ski resorts, Burlington’s International Airport, as well as easy access to the Interstate. You’ll also find a connection to Williston’s primitive trail system just steps from your front door.

The Cul-de-sac’s landscaped center green has been meticulously planned and was designed to create a sense of community. The landscaping includes 8 different varieties of deciduous and flowering trees, over 4000 perennial flowers, a variety of flowering shrubs along with stamped concrete walking paths. Stroll through the gardens or have a seat and take in the scenery. Surrounding the perimeter of the neighborhood are Balsam trees, all of which were transplanted from the existing Balsam Farm originally on the site and for which your community was named.

Choose from our three available floor plans, or custom design a floor plan within the existing footprint to fit your needs and lifestyle.

Come home to Balsam Circle, you deserve it.

Click below for a link to each unit:

Model -1
2 Balsam
3 Balsam
4 Balsam
5 Balsam
6 Balsam
7 Balsam
8 Balsam
9 Balsam
10 Balsam
12 Balsam
13 Balsam










2009-02-23 A Tale of Two Cities: Fattest and Fittest Towns in America
ABC Nightline news just ran an incredible story about Burlington, Vermont versus Huntington. West Virginia. 

Based on health data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the Associated Press compiled the numbers and declared a winner and a loser: Burlington, Vt. took honors in the AP report for being the healthiest city in America. Huntington, W.Va., a town of 50,000 by the Ohio River, earned the dubious distinction of being named the least healthiest city in America. 

Click below for the entire article and make sure to watch the video:

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=6913572&page=1



2009-02-23 New Tax Credit for Homebuyers
Below is a great news article that was recently posted on wcax.com.  Several of my co-workers were interviewed giving some insight into the new Government Housing Stimulus Package Program.

If you would like more information on how this could apply to you, please do not hesitate to call:

Nick - 846.9559
Jess - 846.9585

A three-bedroom, one-bathroom house priced at $151,900 is one of many homes Regina Mahony is considering. "I definitely want something in an older, more established neighborhood," she said.

Mahony is buying her first home, and she may get some help from the government to do just that. The federal economic stimulus package includes an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. "Any benefit will help a lot because it's expensive," she said. "It's a big purchase."

Realtors say Vermont's housing market has not seen the slump other parts of the country have, but this tax credit could provide a boost. Julie Lamoreaux of Hickock & Boardman Realty in Burlington says winter can sometimes be a slow time for real estate, but her phone is ringing off the hook. "I definitely think this is encouraging people," Lamoreaux said. "Now there's too many signs. Everything comes in threes. We've got the low rates, the huge inventory, and now this stimulus package, which has a short window so you need to cash in on it quickly to take advantage of it."

The credit applies to homes purchased before December 1, 2009. Purchasers must have an adjusted gross income of no more than $75,000, or $150,000 for couples filing a joint return. But realtors say people can qualify as a first-time home buyer even if they have owned a home before -- just not a principal residence in the past three years.

"A lot of people don't even know this exists," said Heather Myott, an advisor for Coldwell Banker Mortgage. "They don't know this part of the bill was passed, they don't know there's something out there that affects them."

Under a law passed in 2008, home buyers could get $7,500 toward purchasing their first home, but that had to be paid back over 15 years. The credit in the current stimulus package is an $8,000 credit that is applied to a buyer's tax return and does not have to be repaid. "This is free money to people," Myott said. "The way they had it set up before, it was basically an interest-free loan people had to pay back and we didn't see a lot of movement from that. People were interested, but even if they were buying for the first time they didn't take that into consideration. Now they want this money."

Of course, to get the credit, buyers first must qualify for the mortgage. "Income is obviously one thing, we need to make sure people have enough to support the loan," Myott explained. "But at the same time, it's how have you repaid obligations in the past. If we're looking to extend money to someone, we want to make sure they've been paying things on time."

Regina Mahony says the tax credit would help, but she still wants to be cautious about what she can afford, and make sure she doesn't get in over her head, putting a roof over her head.




2009-02-04 2008 Real Estate Market Summary

2008 proved to be a year of market adjustments; not
only in the real estate market but for the nation’s
financial markets as well. As REALTORS® serving
Chittenden County and the surrounding areas, the
question we are often asked is “How is the real
estate market - really?” There is no such thing as a
national real estate market. It is critical to know that
market conditions vary, not only from county to
county, but also town by town. To provide you with a
snapshot of the local market, we have prepared this
2008 Real Estate Market Summary. It provides
historical and current data, which shows that real
estate in northwest Vermont is still a wise
investment over the long term.

Despite a slowing in appreciation of the average
sales price of a home over the past 2-3 years, there
has been a substantial increase since 2003. In the 4
counties included in this report, that increase ranges
from 25% - 84% over those 5 years. Unlike the
financial markets, we have not see substantial drops
in value. This drives home the point that real estate
remains an excellent investment for the long term.
In 2008, the number of property sales declined as
compared to 2007 and in most cases declined from
the 6 year average number of home sales.
However, in reviewing the 6 year snapshot, it might
be concluded that 2008 was an exception to the
relatively stable number of property sales
throughout the years.

Increased inventories and decreased transactions
add up to a strong buyer’s market. Coupled with
historically low mortgage interest rates, some
buyers will be scrambling to purchase their first
home or “move up” to a larger home in 2009. Sellers
who have their homes well maintained and priced
competitively can close in less than 90 days on
average.

If you have any questions about this data or would
like to talk about your specific neighborhood -
please don’t hesitate to give me call.

Nick Riina
(802) 846-9559
Nick@VermontInvestments.com

2009-01-08 17 Brickyard Road #10, Essex Junction
Wonderful location and condition, new flooring in the living/dining, fresh paint and a new counter top. Units are tucked into a niche beside a babbling brook, but close to 5 Corners. 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths and carport. Cats and dogs allowed and one of the lowest association fees for condos. Listed for $172,500.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2008-12-18 Winterizing Your Home
With winter upon us and the second major snow fall today, I think now is a good time to inspect your own home.  Here are my top 5 ideas to stay warm and ahead of the winter cold:
 
1.  Inspect Your Furnace
   Your furnace should be inspected annually. Call your heating professional today to service your furnace or boiler.  If you have a hot air furnace, make sure to replace your air filters every other month.

2.  Do you have oil in your tank?
   Don’t wait until the last minute to fill up your tank with oil.  Get set up on an automatic delivery.  The last thing that you want is an oil delivery when you are running on fumes with the possibility of a snow storm and the truck not being able to make a delivery.

3.  Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  CO2 is one of the biggest killers during the winter months.  You can not smell it, hear it, or see it.  If you are feeling dizzy make sure to get outside immediately.  Hardwired CO2 Detectors are the best, but a plug-in or battery-operated will work as well.

4.  Prevent Frozen Pipes
  Know where your water main is in the event you need to shut it off in emergency.  Drain all garden hoses, insulate exposed plumbing pipes, and if you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.  

5.  Check the Exterior Doors and Windows    
  Use weather-stripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.  Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you do end up replacing the entire window, make sure to prime and paint exposed wood.  If you have storm windows, now is the time to install them.


2008-12-08 Free Home Remodel Analysis
Should I put in granite counter tops? 
Maybe new hardwood floors? 
Should I turn my deck into a three season porch?
How about adding a garage on to my house? 

At some point a homeowner will debate whether they should or should not update certain aspects of their home.  My advice to each homeowner can be broken down in three ways:
1.  Will you enjoy the remodel while you live there?
2.  Will the remodel be the difference between someone buying your house or your competitions?
3.  Do you really need it? 

Here are three good examples of what an average remodel will cost and the return you should expect:
1.  Adding a sunroom addition will cost on average $71,064 and a resale value of about $41,289, roughly a 58% investment.
2.  A garage addition will cost you $55,598 with a resale value of $37,067 and a 66.7% investment.
3. A minor kitchen repair will cost you $21,516 with a resale value of $18,507 and a 86% investment. 

Part of my pledge in 2009 is to better educate homeowners on their home remodels.  I offer a free analysis of your home remodel prior to starting the new project.  Each home varies dramatically as location, neighbors, recent sales, and current market listings make a tremendous difference.  Please call or email me for a no-obligation remodel analysis:  Nick@VermontInvestments.com or 802.846.9559.




2008-11-25 Safe Havens in Real Estate

With foreclosures skyrocketing and home prices plummeting, real estate has had a tough year. But in certain pockets across the country the damage has been minimal -- if nonexistent.

We found six cities with slow, steady growth, using data from Fiserv Lending Solutions, a home-price research company. These cities' local economies have kept unemployment and foreclosure rates below average. Plus, their affordability index -- a measure of home prices versus family income -- is low.
For comparison, we also pinpoint an average market and the worst market in the country.

Safe Havens

Lancaster, Penn.

Population: 498,465
Median home price: $206,000
12-month change in home value: +1.6%
Affordability index: 3/10
Homes sold this year: 1,166
Home value vs. national average: Same
Top employer: R.R. Donnelly & Sons publishing company

Known as an Amish cultural hub, the city is also home to a diverse group of industries, including printing and food processing. This helps keep the local market stable and unemployment low, as losses in one sector aren't devastating to the overall economy.

Locals say Lancaster is a conservative lending market, which limits foreclosures.

Clarksville, Tenn.

Population: 265,062
Median home price: $130,000
12-month change in home value: +1.4%
Affordability index: 3/10
Homes sold this year: 2,081
Home value vs. national average: -37%
Top employer: Trane Corporation

Clarksville offers an affordable alternative to nearby Nashville but is close enough that residents can enjoy the larger city's attractions.

The housing market is kept active by Clarksville's proximity to Fort Campbell. Traditionally a manufacturing town, the city also offers a robust retail economy, driven in part by Austin Peay State University.

Albuquerque, N.M.

Population: 832,774
Median home price: $172,000
12-month change in home value: +1%
Affordability index: 3/10
Homes sold this year: 7,100
Home value vs. national average: -17%
Top employer: Intel

While other midsize cities have fallen prey to rampant speculation, Albuquerque has hovered below the national real estate radar and largely avoided the subprime mortgage debacle. An influx of tech companies such as Eclipse Aviation, Hewlett Packard and Intel has helped fuel this Southwestern city's economy and attracted a young creative class.

Active retirees and immigrants have also migrated to the area, ensuring a well-rounded housing market. Experts project 9% population growth between 2006 and 2011, compared to 6% nationally.

Burlington, VT

Population: 145,360
Median home price: $250,000
12-month change in home value: +1%
Affordability index: 4/10
Homes sold this year: 592
Home value vs. national average: +21%
Top employer: IBM

On the shores of Lake Champlain, Vermont's largest city focuses on retaining its high standard of living rather than growing its population. Strict zoning standards make homebuilding difficult and discourage speculators.

Burlington's small-town mentality ensures that home lenders maintain personal relationships with their clients and help them stay within their spending means. Technology, health care, and education drive the local market.

Pittsburgh, Penn.

Population: 2,355,712
Median home price: $137,000
12-month change in home value: +.1%
Affordability index: 2/10
Homes sold this year: 7,634
Home value vs. national average: -33%
Top employer: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Although Pittsburgh home sales have dipped 16% this year, the properties have retained their value. This "Pittsburgh paradox," as it's called by locals, is attributed to the city's steady population growth and the construction of new, high-value homes.

Despite its reputation as a gritty city of industry and steel, Pittsburgh is now driven by the health care and technology sectors.

Johnson City, Tenn.

Population: 193,554
Median home price: $120,000
12-month change in home value: -.4%
Affordability index: 3/10
Homes sold this year: 1,134
Home value vs. national average: -41%
Top employer: East Tennessee State University

Demand in this Northwest Tennessee city's market is largely driven by East Tennessee State University, as well as new retirees. These "halfbacks" used to spend summer in the north and winter in the south but are now making Tennessee their home year round.

Education, health care and manufacturing provide the bulk of Johnson City's jobs.

Average Market

Washington, D.C.

Population: 5,306,125
Median home price: $388,000
12-month change in home value: -17.1
Affordability index: 4/10
Homes sold this year: 49,013
Home value compared to national average: +47%
Top employer: Federal government, George Washington University

While sales are still high, an overabundance of new homes in the Washington suburbs has lowered values. Northern Virginia's Prince William County is among the hardest hit by the subprime crisis in the country, with 865 foreclosures so far this year -- four times more than neighboring Fairfax County.

Homes in D.C. proper, however, have retained their value. This is because the city has little undeveloped land for new homes to be built, thus preventing speculation.

Worst Market

California Central Valley

12-month change in home values:
Merced: -42.3
Stockton: -40
Salinas: -38.7
Modesto: -37.9
Riverside: -36.8
Vallejo: -34.5

The market hit hardest by the housing bubble is the Central Valley in California, where aggressive development and price hiking has yielded more homes than jobs. Now many homeowners owe more than their house is worth and are being forced into default.

Still, it's not all doom and gloom for the California housing market. The drop in home values has created an affordable market for first-time home buyers. And, on average, monthly sales have almost tripled from last year. Although the Valley has seen the worst of the crash, it may well be one of the first areas to recover.



2008-11-20 100 West Canal Street #40, Winooski
Wonderful river views from this tasteful Condo renovation. Hardwood floors, fresh paint, new light fixtures, new counter-top and appliances, newer tile in bathrooms that features updated vanities. This Condo is in move-in condition! Well thought out and a tasteful renovation is just the beginning to this 2 bedroom, 2 full bath Condo. Your private balcony and larger windows bring a ton of natural light in. Dogs and cats are allowed.  Listed for $206,000.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.



2008-10-29 7 Cheap and Easy Steps to a Better Open House

1. Detail and de-clutter.
The first step in preparing for an open house is to ensure that your entire property is clean and de-cluttered. The goal of an open house is to enable prospective buyers to envision themselves living there, and clutter and disorder prevent them from doing so. So sellers should detail their entire house room by room. Also, make sure that outdoor spaces are in tiptop condition. Pay particular attention to the walkway leading up to their front door because that's where the people are going to come in for your open house. As in other endeavors, first impressions are tremendously important to real estate.

You could always hire professionals — cleaners and landscapers — to take care of these chores. But with a little sweat, some cleaning supplies and gas for the lawn mower, homeowners can get their properties open-house ready at minimal cost.

2. Fire up the oven. While making sure that your home is free of offensive smells such as odors from pets and cigarettes, homeowners should consider injecting some more welcoming aromas into the air.  Smells like cinnamon and chocolate give you a feeling of home ... so, I wouldn't hesitate to throw some sweet rolls or brownies in the oven.  What we're trying to do is psychologically have people believe they are at home and want to buy the house.

3. Lighten up. It's important that your home is well-lit for open-house day. People love light, airy houses. In addition, a slip and fall on a poorly lit basement step will make prospective buyers wonder if the home is safe. Before your open house, make sure that all of your light bulbs are working.

4. Lock it up. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in open-house-related thefts over the past couple of years, with thieves posing as potential buyers and then making off with homeowners' belongings, The most commonly stolen items, are prescription drugs and small pieces of jewelry. To prevent theft, homeowners should store their valuables and prescription drugs in a safe place during the open house.

5. Get rid of the pets. Although you might be a dog lover, the potential buyers coming to see your home may not be. That doesn't mean they won't be interested in purchasing the house, only that you should remove your pets — and pet-related items such as crates and water bowls — from the property during the open house. In addition to turning off certain buyers, pets can be a distraction.

6. Make yourself disappear. Homeowners should be away from the property during the open house. Potential buyers can feel like they are imposing if the owners remain in the property, which makes it much more difficult for them to envision themselves living there.

7. Sell the neighborhood. While potential buyers will certainly want to see what your house is like, they will have other questions as well.  Sellers should gather pertinent information about the neighborhood, school system and utility bills and pass it along to their agent.



2008-10-22 First-Time Buyer Tax Credit: A Reason to Buy Now
The homeownership tax credit that the federal government created earlier this year is a hard-won tool to encourage buyers to jump off the fence and get into the home buying market.

When you combine the tax credit with today’s continuing low interest rates, large selection of for-sale inventory, and low home prices, many of the pieces are in place for buyers to buy now.

How the Tax Credit Works

The First-time Home Buyer Tax Credit was passed this year as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (H.R. 3221) on July 30 and targets any individual or household that hasn’t owned a home for at least three years. Taxpayers can take the credit on their 2008 tax return if they bought their house this year after April 9.

It’s worth up to $7,500 and can be taken in a single tax year. Authorization for the credit ends July 1, 2009, so if your customers wait to buy in the first half of 2009 they can take the credit on their 2009 tax return.

The actual credit amount is set as a percentage of the home purchase amount. That percentage amount is 10 percent, so your customers can get 10 percent of the home price credited against their tax liability, up to a maximum $7,500.

Income limits are $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for households. Individuals whose income exceeds the $75,000 limit but isn’t more than $95,000 can still take the credit but on a reduced basis. The same thing applies to households earning up to $170,000.

Any house is eligible as long as it’s a primary residence and is in the United States.

Buyers Have 15 Years to Pay Back

To help keep the program cost effective for taxpayers, the federal government requires the tax credit to be paid back in small, 6.67-percent increments over 15 years. For that reason, some analysts have likened the credit to a 15-year, interest-free loan to help make home buying affordable.

There’s one restriction on the type of financing that buyers can use if they plan to take the credit. That restriction is on tax-exempt mortgage financing. That only applies if your clients are using below-market interest-rate financing from a public agency or nonprofit that’s funding the loan using proceeds from a tax-exempt mortgage-revenue bond issue. For most buyers, this won’t be an issue. It’s mainly an issue for low-income buyers using special mortgage financing.


2008-10-06 Best and Worst States for Jobs
Location is everything, according to the real estate adage. Many people learn the wisdom of these words after they move into their first apartment on a tight budget and have a view of a landfill and the smells that come from it.

The same holds true for job hunting. Your chances of finding the right job – or any job, really – depend on where you live. The unemployment rate is the ratio of job seekers to the working population. Therefore, a low percentage means few people are having any difficulty finding work.

If you’re looking for a job, you want to be in a state that has an unemployment rate lower than the national average, which is 5 percent according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Vermont currently ranks as the 15th best State for Jobs, and only 1 percent behind the number one state South Dakota. 

Read the entire article here:
Best and Worst State Article


2008-10-01 Vermont Housing Market Update – September 2008

With an election in our near future and extreme press about the entire economy, especially Real Estate, I think it is essential that everyone is kept up to date with what is going on our local economy.  Vermont Real Estate has not seen the highs nor have we seen the lows that other sections of the US have experienced. 

In my opinion, what separates us from many other areas of the country are our Vermonters.   We tend to live within our means and are typically down to earth people who will not make a dollar to spend two.  This is reflected in Vermont ranking as one of lowest foreclosure rate states in the country. 


Although many developers in the past would complain about ACT 250, we can all be grateful for it right now.  Act 250, the state's development-control law, has "protected us" by making it more difficult to build massive housing developments.  Unlike many other states we do not have entire developments either sitting vacant or with foreclosure signs. 

 

After examining our Multiple Listing Service numbers from the past several years (see below for the actual numbers), there are some important facts to take away from these figures:

  1. We are up 12.5% since 2004.
  2. Although “Days on the Market” has increased from 43 to 83 days, things are still selling at a good rate.
  3. Our average, sales price is only down 5% this year compared to last year.  While other sections of the US are down over 20%. 
  4. Real Estate is LOCAL, not National. 

 

Year

Number Sold

Avg. Days on Market

Average Sale Price

2004

1,131

43

$277,039

2005

968

48

$327,538

2006

999

60

$330,018

2007

1,014

73

$332,928

2008*

638*

83*

$316,027*

  

 

*These numbers are from January 1st, 2008 through September 30, 2008 and do not reflect a full years worth of data.

 

 

** All information is taken from MLS and not guaranteed. 



2008-09-22 Investment Pick of the Week
Wonderful side-by-side Duplex with oversized lot. Great for both an owner occupied or an investor. Both units have been well cared for and show great. Tenants do pay for electricity and heat. 2 story barn in the back, with possibility of adding more units.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2008-09-09 Mortgage Applicants Rejoice!

Sunday's federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will likely translate into lower mortgage rates and greater availability of credit, experts said. Rates could drop by 1 percentage point from the stubbornly-high 6.39% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

"This could be good for would-be homeowners," said Tom LaMalfa, managing director, Wholesale Access, a research and consulting firm. "It would reduce the cost of financing at the new and improved Fannie and Freddie."

The government bailout is aimed at making mortgages easier to obtain and afford. By shoring up the mortgage financing giants, they can continue buying mortgages from lenders and injecting much-needed cash into the system.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are crucial to turning the corner on housing," said Treasury Henry Paulson. "Therefore, the primary mission of these enterprises now will be to proactively work to increase the availability of mortgage finance. Our economy and our markets will not recover until the bulk of this housing correction is behind us."

But the news isn't all good. With Friday's report that foreclosures and delinquencies are at all-time highs, Fannie and Freddie are expected to maintain - if not ratchet up - tighter lending standards. And the fees they have introduced for borrowers with weaker credit histories won't go away anytime soon.

High borrowing costs

Mortgage rates borrowers pay are dependent on the yields that investors demand when buying mortgage-backed securities from Fannie and Freddie.

Investors' doubts about the companies' viability have sent interest rates on those securities soaring. Despite regulators' July promise that they would step in to save the mortgage companies, investors are still demanding rates of 2.25% to 2.45% above Treasuries, LaMalfa said. Historically, the spread has been 1.25%.

With the government now taking over the companies and minimizing the risk associated with their debt, investors may be willing to ease off their need for higher rates.

High borrowing costs have led, in part, to a decline in mortgage borrowing. Applications are down 27% from a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Also Fannie (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie (FRE, Fortune 500) will likely reverse their recent pullback from the mortgage markets. In early August, when they reported just over $3 billion in combined second-quarter losses, both said they would scale back their purchases of mortgage securities to preserve their capital.

Tight standards and fees will remain

Borrowers, however, shouldn't expect the ever-tightening lending standards to ease. With defaults and delinquencies multiplying and home prices falling, Fannie and Freddie will likely keep a close eye on underwriting practices. Lenders are demanding credit scores above 700 these days, up from 620 in the past, and downpayments of 20%, up from zero in some cases, experts said.

The mortgage titans have also increased their fees in hopes of shoring up their finances. Just last month, Fannie Mae announced higher surcharges for loans to weaker borrowers. For instance, applicants with credit scores between 640 and 659 who are putting down 15% to 20% will pay an additional 2.25% charge.

The same borrower would pay 1.7 percentage points more because of higher fees and rates for the same loan today as he or she would have paid 18 months ago, LaMalfa said.

If the market continues to worsen, standards could further tighten and fees could rise more, he said.

"We may have more stringent standards over the next few weeks because of the continued deterioration," he said. "We don't know where the bottom is yet. It's a falling knife."

Also, while investors have initially cheered regulators' moves in the past, their confidence has been short-lived. It remains to be seen whether and for how long Sunday's action will placate them, said Kurt Eggert, law professor at the Chapman University School of Law. And if investors' spook again, rates will rise.

"If I were an investor, I'm not sure this would be enough to make me want to jump in with a lot of money," Eggert said. 



2008-08-21 Well Maintained Ranch in South Burlington
Close to the Orchard Elementary School. Recently painted, hardwood floors, and larger formal dining room. Master bedroom has its own bathroom. Detached/oversized 1 car garage. This is a must see.

26 Baldwin Ave in South Burlington - $249,900
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To schedule a showing call Nick Riina 802.846.9559 or email him at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.



2008-08-11 Some Buyers to Get Tax Credit
   Anybody who’s been sitting on the sidelines hesitant to jump into real estate until conditions settle down should know these date: April 9 through June 30, 2009.    

  They mark the eligibility time span to qualify for the home purchase tax credit created by the massive housing bill approved by Congress. If you have not owned a house during the past three years – or are considering buying your first home- and can go to closing before the end of next June, you may be eligible for up to a $7,500 credit against your federal taxes for 2008 or 2009 ($3,750 if you file taxes as a single person). The new credit is expected to benefit hundreds of thousands of buyers. Here’s a quick overview of the credit.

  The basic idea: To jump-start housing sales and clear out local unsold real estate inventories, Congress is offering tax credits to pull in new purchasers. Buy a house – within the designated time period – and the IRS will cut up to $7,500 off your tax bill for either this year or next. For example, if you’re an eligible buyer of a home this year and you owe the IRS $4,000 on your total 2008 income tax bill, your $7,500 tax credit could wipe out everything you owe plus get you a $3,500 refund. The new home purchase tax credit is what the government calls “refundable”: If your tax bill is less than the credit amount, you get the difference back.

  Eligibility rules: Do you own a home now? If so, you’re not eligible for the credit. Did you sell your home more than three years ago and now rent? You are eligible. If your adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000 ($75,000 for singles), the credit maximum begins to phase down in increments. You can not claim the credit if you are a nonresident alien, financed the property using a state or local housing agency tax-exempt bond mortgage, or do not plan to use the house as your principal residence.

  Payback: Unlike some past tax credit programs, this one requires beneficiaries to repay the credit over an extended period of years. Starting in the second tax year after purchase and continuing for up to 15 years, taxpayers are expected to make pro-rata repayments to the government on their federal filings. Over a 15-year payback period for the full $7,500 credit, the cost would be $500 a year. If you sell the house before the end of the repayment period and have a net gain, the “recapture” cannot exceed the amount of your gain.

  How do you claim the credit? If you pass the eligibility tests and buy before June 30, you simply request the credit on your tax return for either 2008 or 2009, which will be modified for that purpose. Even if you purchase in 2009, you can take the credit against your 2008 taxes by filing an amended return. The homebuilders association has more information at www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.

2008-08-04 Essex Real Estate Values Rise
ESSEX -- The number of homes sold in Essex continues to fall, but the selling prices are higher than ever.

The median cost of a home with less than six acres in Essex rose to $263,000 through June -- a $3,000 increase since last year and a $75,000 increase since 2003, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes.

The number of such homes sold in Essex fell steadily over the last four years -- from 296 in 2004 to180 last year. Through June this year, 68 homes were sold.

The real estate market in Essex differs from those in major cities across the country, where the prices of single-family homes are falling, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller Home Price Indices. All 20 cities -- from Boston to Los Angeles -- posted annual declines for April and May, with nine posting record lows, according to the indexes.

Condo sales are also on the decline in Essex. Through June, 61 condos had been sold at a median price of $187,000, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes. Last year, 161 condos sold for a median price of $192,000 -- down from 240 condos sold for a median price of $169,700 in 2004.

Article taken from www.BurlingtonFreePress.com



2008-07-23 Crisis? What Crisis?

NAR has been trying for more than a year to put the current problems in the housing market in the proper perspective, telling the media and consumers that the housing “crisis” is really an isolated problem and that we already are working to fix it.

I have to give credit to Dennis Kneale for his commentary on CNBC last week. He provides the best assessment I have heard thus far about this so-called crisis and where the problem really lies. Listen to what he has to say and please forward this to anyone you know who is thinking about Real Estate!



2008-07-22 Investment Pick of the Week at the Mill Yard
This is truly a rare find! Top floor End Unit overlooking the Winooski River. 3 good-sized bedrooms, 2 private decks and a wonderful open layout. Canoe access nearby and close to the newly renovated downtown Winooski. Seller to contribute $3,000 for closing costs or to buy down buyer's interest rate.

Click below for more information:
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Contact Nick Riina for a showing at 802.846.9559 or email at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

2008-07-15 REALTORS® Pledge Support to Finalize Housing Stimulus Bill

The U.S. Senate has passed a bipartisan housing stimulus bill that “is a big step toward helping people buy and keep their homes,” said National Association of Realtors® President Dick Gaylord. The Senate action moves a housing stimulus package closer to law, which would help bring stability to the housing market and stop the rising rate of foreclosures.

“We are eager for the House and Senate to come together to finalize an aggressive bill that will ensure that every American who can afford to own a home and wants to do so will have the opportunity, and that every American who responsibly owns a home is able to keep it,” said Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif.

NAR has expressed ongoing support for many of the provisions in the legislation, including Federal Housing Administration Modernization that will simplify and make FHA-backed mortgages more available, a tax credit for first-time home buyers, reform of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, permanent increases to both GSE and FHA loan limits, and a program to expand FHA that would allow more mortgages to be refinanced.

“The tax credit for first-time home buyers would be a strong stimulus to a weak housing market, and FHA stabilization should help thousands of families refinance existing mortgages and in many cases keep their homes,” said Gaylord.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.



2008-06-30 Investment Pick of the Week - 3 Unit in Burlington
Wonderful 3-unit property in a great location. Hidden one-way street. Featuring (3) two plus bedroom apartments, off-street parking, separate utilities. 2 newer boilers and hot water heaters. Large units - great floor plans - lots of charm. Rents below market rates.

33 Russel Street in Burlington for $350,000
Click below for more information:
http://www.vreinmls.com/ver/maildoc/b000eV9839.html

To schedule a showing call Nick Riina 802.846.9559 or email him at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.


2008-06-24 Men's Health lists greenest driving cities

The magazine Men's Health is giving Burlington an A-plus as the second greenest driving city in the nation.

For its grading, Men's Health looked at data on gas consumption, miles traveled, air quality, vehicle efficiency and mass-transit quality and usage.

Seattle ranked first. Portland Oregon, was third while Madison, Wisc., and Fargo, N.D. rounded out the top five.

The survey rated Arlington, Texas, number 100 or the nation's top "fossil fuel."



2008-06-16 Vermont Rental Vacancy Rate Drops

Anyone who's been looking for an apartment to rent in Chittenden County knows how tight the housing market has gotten.

As we reported last month, vacancy rates have been dropping -- again. Chittenden County has always had low vacancy rates. But a report says the rate has dropped down to just 1 percent. Mark Brooks of Allen and Brooks, a company that analyzes real estate trends, says the slowing housing market has forced would-be home buyers to rent instead of buy. Students also have a big impact on the vacancy rate.

As Mark Brooks explained, "Through the late 90s it was below 1 percent, routinely a half to 1 percent, somewhere in there. And unless things change, we could be heading back in that direction again because at least for the time being, enrollments continue to grow at UVM and Champlain College, and there are plans in the works to accommodate more students at both institutions. But in the shorter term that will continue to have a tightening affect on the market, especially in the Burlington area."

A year ago the vacancy rate stood at 2 percent. But that was because the new Keen's Crossing apartment building in Winooski added more rental units. Most of them are now full, which puts the vacancy rate back down at 1 percent.



2008-06-16 Wonderful Home in South Burlington
Great layout surrounded by mature trees including hardwood floor throughout living room and all bedrooms plus tile in the upstairs bathroom. Walk out from your family room on the lowest level to your personal hot tub! This lot is adjacent to community land with tennis courts and pool.

Click below for more information:
Country Club Drive, South Burlington

To schedule a showing call Nick Riina 802.846.9559 or email him at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.


2008-06-10 Existing-home sales to stabilize before upturn in second half of 2008
Little change is expected in existing-home sales over the next few months, before improving notably during the second half of the year, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market will come into clearer focus this summer.  "Existing home sales could start to show a sustained increase within a few months, unless there are some additional economic problems or excessive inflationary pressure," he said.  "We're looking for essentially stable sales in the near term, before higher mortgage loan limits translate into more sales in high-cost markets.  The wider access to affordable credit should increase sales activity notably this summer as pent-up demand begins to be met."

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in February, slipped 1.9 percent to 84.6 from an upwardly revised reading of 86.2 in January, and was 21.4 percent lower than the February 2007 index of 107.6.  "The slip in pending home sales implies we're not out of the woods yet, though an era of successive deep sales declines appears to be over," Yun said.

The PHSI in the Northeast rose 3.2 percent in February to 71.8 but remains 25.4 percent below a year ago.  In the Midwest, the index declined 3.7 percent to 82.7 and is 17.4 percent lower than February 2007.  The index in the South fell 5.5 percent in February to 85.0 and is 30.3 percent below a year ago.  In the West, the index rose 2.1 percent in February to 95.8 but is 6.1  percent below February 2007.

Existing-home sales are likely to rise from an annual pace of 4.9 million in the first quarter to 5.9 million in the fourth quarter.  With relatively weak activity in the first part of the year, existing-home sales for all of 2008 are forecast at 5.39 million, increasing 6.6 percent to 5.74 million in 2009.

"Exceptionally weak home sales related to jumbo loans problems will depress home prices in the first half of the year, but steady liquidity improvements in the conforming jumbo-loan market will help prices recover in the second half of the year," Yun said.  The aggregate existing-home price will probably ease by 1.4 percent to a median of $215,800 for all of 2008 before rising 3.7 percent to $223,800 next year.

Yun noted that there will continue to be wide variations in regional housing market conditions.  "Some parts of the country that can expect improvement include the Northeastern region and the oil-patch states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas," he said.   With lower interest rates and flat home prices in many areas, NAR's housing affordability index is forecast to rise 14 percentage points to 127.0 in 2008.

New-home sales are projected to fall 25.7 percent to 576,000 in 2008 before rising 4.6 percent to 602,000 next year.  Housing starts, including multifamily units, are estimated to drop 26.3 percent to 999,000 this year, and slip another 0.5 percent to 994,000 in 2009.  The median new-home price will probably fall 3.6 percent to $238,400 in 2008, and then rise 4.0 percent next year to $247,800.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which has fluctuated recently, should average 5.8 percent in the second and third quarters, but trend up to an average of 6.3 percent in 2009.

"The economy will not grow in first half of the year," Yun said.  "However, the combination of recent fiscal stimulus enactment and the lagged impact of monetary policy will help jump start the economy in the second half."  Growth in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to be 1.4 percent in 2008 and 2.4 percent next year.  The unemployment rate is forecast to average 5.4 percent this year and 5.6 percent in 2009.

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is projected at 3.4 percent in 2008 and 2.2 percent next year.  Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is likely to grow 1.2 percent this year and 3.0 percent in 2009.

# # #

(1) The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.  In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity from 2001 through 2004 parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.  There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

2008-06-03 Lakeshore Living with Low Maintanence
A wonderful setting on Lake Champlain, beach at your door with fabulous sunsets and mountain views. A great opportunity to be right on Pebble Beach in Colchester. Nice master bedroom with bath, nicely cared for, partial basement for great storage.

Click below for more information:
Pebble Beach, Colchester

To schedule a showing call Nick Riina 802.846.9559 or email him at Nick@VermontInvestments.com.


2008-05-13 Burlington Looks To Keep Downtown Business Competitive

Downtown Burlington's economic vitality was a hot topic at Monday's city council meeting. The city's Downtown Partnership wants to update studies that were conducted in the 1980s, studies that prompted plans for the downtown that are still being implemented today.

It was another busy night for retailers in downtown Burlington, and business owners want it to stay that way. The Downtown Partnership wants to conduct a study of retailers and shoppers to determine what changes need to be made to make sure businesses like these stay competitive with suburban shopping centers in South Burlington and Williston.

"The study isn't going to be done by someone with a briefcase from out of town. It's going to be done by talking to our stakeholders. There's a lot of wisdom here," said Ron Redmond, Executive Director of the Church Street Marketplace.

The Church Street Marketplace was created in 1981, after more than 20 years of strategic planning. Studies were conducted in the late 1980s to create a new vision for downtown. There are a few empty storefronts popping up along several downtown streets, and some say that's proof that those plans need a facelift.

"I think it's definitely a concern when there's any empty businesses," said Burlington City Council President Kurt Wright. "I'm wondering what the health of our retail is. Is there some reason we cannot rent those store fronts? I've seen communities where the storefronts start to be taken over by insurance agents, realtors, and you really lose the interesting parts of your downtown," added Ward 5 City Councilor Joan Shannon.

Recent surveys indicate that the downtown is very competitive when it comes to services like women and children's clothing and fine dining, but those surveys also indicate that the downtown lacks things like hardware and electronics stores and national chain restaurants.

"One of the things our locals do say is the nationals do help draw people downtown, so there's kind of a push-pull there. We don't want downtown to look like a Florida strip mall. I don't think that's going to happen," said Redmond.

Unlike other urban shopping areas, the Downtown Partnership says there isn't a lot of green space downtown to expand. However, business owners hope the study will give provide creative input as to how the downtown can offer more options for customers without building new buildings on undeveloped properties.



2008-05-01 Burlington Funky, Cool, and Different Condo
Looking for something a little outside the box? This great Red Rocks condo in Burlington features; wood beams, wood ceilings, a beautiful brick fireplace and hardwood floors.  Click below for a link to the listing:

http://www.vreinmls.com/ver/maildoc/a003I32989.html


Please call Nick to set up an appointment to see this listing 802.846.9559 or email him at Nick@VermontInvestments.com



2008-04-17 Report Ranks Vermont As Safest State For Kids

Vermont can add another title to its growing list of national rankings. A child welfare non-profit says Vermont is the safest place for children to grow up.

In a report called "Geography Matters - Child Well-Being in the States," the Every Child Matters Education Fund ranks states based on ten wellness indicators: infant mortality, child deaths 1-14, teen deaths 15-19, births to teen mothers, little or no prenatal care, child poverty, uninsured children, juvenile incarceration rates, child abuse deaths and child welfare expenditures.

State officials and child welfare advocates say it's an affirmation of what those of us who live in Vermont already know.

"It's just fantastic, and it's everything we have worked and continue to work so hard to make true," says Linda Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

Vermont is joined at the top of the list by the other New England states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the study says children in Louisiana are the least safe, with four other South Central U.S. states rounding out the bottom of the list: Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Both the Department for Children and Families, and Prevent Child Abuse Vermont say our state stands out because we have a cohesive and cooperative system for providing education, healthcare, abuse prevention and parental education.

"When you look at these data it's not just because government did its job well, it's because the people of Vermont and the communities of Vermont that provide opportunities, after school opportunities, sports programs, good schools. I mean it goes on and on," says DCF Commissioner Steve Dale.

Vermont does have room to improve. Johnson says she'd like to see more emphasis on education about shaken baby syndrome, and DCF says it would like to see more work in the area of child poverty.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News



2008-04-02 100 Best Places to Live and Launch
Colchester recently was voted in the top 100 places to live and launch by CNN Money. See below for the full article along with a link:

Population: 17,612
Pros: Natural surroundings, vibrant tech community
Cons: Small workforce, cold winters

Like many small New England towns, Colchester, located near idyllic Lake Champlain, offers easy access to camping, sailing, and great swimming. While there's no downtown, the Mallets Bay area serves as a hub for marina activity.

Colchester is still a quiet place, but the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, an incubator for tech startups, recently built a facility in Colchester with the support of Sen. Patrick Leahy. David Bradbury, the center's president, says the incubator will help scientists and students at the nearby University of Vermont launch businesses based on their research and collaborate with existing companies in the burgeoning local tech community. -Mina Kimes

For the full article Click Here


2008-03-17 N.H., Vt., Among Nation's Safest States

New Hampshire is the safest state in the nation and Vermont is fourth-- that's according to a new report from CQ Press.

The Washington, D.C.-based press released its 15th annual rankings for safest and most dangerous states. The rankings are based on crime rates in six categories; murder, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and motor vehicle theft. Researchers then calculate each state's position relative to the national average for each category.

The safest states were New Hampshire, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont.

Nevada had the dubious distinction of being ranked the nation's most dangerous state for the fifth year in a row.



2008-03-12 Foreclosure 'crisis' is overblown
Sure, there are pockets of pain around the US, but it's not as if most Americans are losing their homes. More than 99% of homes aren't in Foreclosure.  

A recent list of year-end mortgage foreclosure rates in 100 top metropolitan areas drew a lot of attention. Released by RealtyTrac, a company that compiles data on home foreclosures, the list showed the number of foreclosure filings in each metro area, the percentage of homes being foreclosed and the percentage change from the previous year.

Though the report had some dismal news -- such as the nearly 4.9% foreclosure rate in the Stockton, Calif., area -- a close look at the data also provides some reassuring information. It tells me, for instance, that the foreclosure crisis is a regional problem, not a systemic one. It could become a systemic problem, of course, but we're a long way from that now.

This news will disappoint the gloom-and-doom crew and all those seeking the excitement of financial upheaval. But it may be time to temper our worry and take a closer look at some of the year-over-year foreclosure statistics:

  • Though the national rate of foreclosure increased by a whopping 79% between December 2006 and December 2007, the rate was still only 1.033%. Because about 30% of all homes are owned mortgage-free, this means that for all the noise about a crisis, only seven-tenths of 1% of all homes were in foreclosure.
  • In the top 100 housing markets, the average foreclosure rate was somewhat higher -- 1.38% -- and it was up 78% over the previous year. But if you rank-ordered the list of the top 100 areas, only 34 had foreclosure rates above the group average. Fifty-one areas had rates of 1% or less.
  • Foreclosure rates actually fell in 14 of the 100 areas. More important, many of the areas with the highest increases in foreclosure rates were rising off rates that were tiny. The Bethesda, Md., area, to offer the most extreme case, saw foreclosures rise 1,288% -- to a rate of 0.682%. In other words, foreclosures there were virtually nonexistent the year before. Today they are still well below the national average. The same can be said for the Albany, N.Y., area (up 638% to 0.25%), the Baltimore area (up 544% to 0.73%) and the Providence, R.I., area (up 354% to 0.41%).

Another pattern emerges if you cross the foreclosure rates with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) index of home prices. It shows that the top 10 foreclosure areas in America are areas of extreme price change -- changes far from the national average of 46.92% over the past five years. (See the table below.)

Seven of the top 10 foreclosure areas had experienced major price spikes in the past five years. Three of the top 10 foreclosure areas had experienced price increases that were dramatically lower than the national average. That pattern continues when you examine the top 25 foreclosure areas.

The seven areas with the top price appreciation for the past five years averaged a stunning 91.6% increase, nearly double the national average. The national average, in turn, was about triple the inflation rate for the period.

Small wonder the foreclosure rate is booming as well. Anyone who bought in the past few years with a 5% or 10% down payment has a good chance of being upside down as froth comes off the market. In those areas the problem is about irrational price spikes and the hazards they bring to homeownership.

Some would call this "a Cadillac problem" -- a great problem to have, like having more boats than you have water-skiers. Though 5% of the homeowners may be losing their homes, most of the other 95% probably feel significantly richer.

How much richer? Try this. Suppose you paid three times your income for a house and it nearly doubled in value over five years. What does that mean? It means your net worth grew by nearly three years of income. Try achieving that with your 401(k) plan. Even if you bought halfway through the surge, your gain is likely to be well more than one year of income. However you cut it, the change compares quite favorably with working and saving.

Owning your own home is an idea so popular that it's known as the American dream. But as prices fall and foreclosures rise, for many it's become a nightmare instead.

The three metro areas with low price appreciations are a different matter. Homeowners in Detroit have actually lost money on their homes over the past five years. That, in turn, has limited their ability to make up for income shortfalls by borrowing against home equity. Add a shrinking job market, and places such as Detroit are coping with a perpetual surplus of sellers over buyers.

One indication is the cost of renting a U-Haul truck. It recently cost $1,447 to rent a 26-foot truck to move from Detroit to Dallas but only $521 to rent the same truck to move from Dallas to Detroit. The real economic problem, for the most people, isn't the price-spike states. It's the deflation states.

Article from msn.com




2008-02-25 Ignore the Headlines

Famed Money Manager is perhaps best known for his timeless wisdom that you can beat the pros by focusing on stocks of companies where you either work or shop or have some other edge. But a more relevant Lynchism today is this gem: Ignore the headlines.

That's no easy thing. How do you tune out all the chatter and ink on recession, housing, subprime woes, the credit crunch, rogue traders, insolvent bond insurers, $100 oil and nukes in Iran? It's enough to make you sit on your thumbs and wait before making any big moves. But what, exactly, are you waiting for?

There has rarely been a moment in history when you couldn't scare yourself into doing nothing. And yet, as Lynch observed nearly 20 years ago, "in spite of all the great and minor calamities that have occurred ... all the thousands of reasons that the world might be coming to an end--owning stocks has continued to be twice as rewarding as owning bonds."

A top reason to not buy stocks, in Lynch's view, is if you don't already own a home--in which case, that should be your first investment, since an owner-occupied home is nearly always profitable. Through a spokesman, Lynch reaffirmed these views to me--housing debacle and all.

When prices are falling, few people have the discipline to buy stocks, a house, gold, art or any other asset. But those who do pull the trigger excel in the long run. As John D. Rockefeller famously said, "The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets."

And the streets are stained crimson. Start with stocks. They have been pummeled this year. GDP braked sharply last quarter, and there has been plenty of panic about a recession. The Federal Reserve is slashing short-term interest rates at the fastest clip in decades. But if you stick to your steady, diversified plan while everyone else is retreating, you will be happy years from now. For one thing, Fed rate cuts always lift the economy eventually, and the stock market typically starts responding just as headlines get gloomiest. Sure, the market could fall again before recovering. But the recession may be half over already--or we may avoid one altogether. You just never know.

As for housing, certainly some skepticism is in order. Formerly sizzling markets in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and California probably haven't seen the worst headlines just yet, though they may well be close. And "jumbo" mortgages, those more than $417,000, are likely to remain artificially high for a few more months while banks work through their credit issues.

But let's say you are emotionally ready to be a homeowner. You have good credit, plan to stay put for five years and have been waiting for the perfect entry point. It's time to get serious--before an inevitable rise in interest rates wipes out your advantage. "The thing that will make home prices stop falling is the very same thing that will push mortgage rates higher," says Jim Svinth, chief economist at mortgage firm Lending Tree. So anything you gain by a further drop in prices might be offset by rising financing costs.

Consider a typical home that sells for $218,900. You put down 20% and get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at today's rate of 5.5%. Monthly principal and interest come to $994.31. Let's say that 12 months from now the same house goes for 10% less, or $197,010. But by then the recession is history and the Fed is jacking up rates to stem inflation. If mortgage costs rise a point, to 6.5%, your monthly payment would be $994.94 and you'd have saved nothing. Meanwhile, home prices might steady and sellers might become less willing to negotiate. And you have spent a year living someplace you'd rather not be.

It's more complicated if you must sell before you can buy. But that logjam won't persist forever--and if it appears you'll be trapped for a few years, try to refinance at today's lower rates. Risks always seem most acute when the headlines give you ulcers. But that's exactly when you should think long term--and get off your thumbs.

Article from www.time.com





2008-02-18 Fannie and Freddie Reform Will Significantly Impact Housing Market, Says NAR

The National Association of Realtors® today expressed ongoing support for legislative reform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would help stabilize the housing market and improve liquidity to the secondary nonconforming market. NAR stressed the importance of permanently increasing the loan limits as part of any reform package; that will help encourage healthier conditions in the housing market and strengthen the national GDP.

In testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Development, NAR reiterated its position that legislative reform to the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) should focus principally on regulating safety and soundness and expanding the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play in the secondary mortgage market. “We are pleased that Chairman Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Shelby, D-Ala., agreed to hold a hearing on the important issue of enhancing the GSE regulatory system,” said NAR President Richard Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif.

“Fannie and Freddie are our partners in the housing industry and are important to stabilizing and strengthening the housing market,” Gaylord said. NAR stated that any GSE reform should include establishing a strong regulator and GSE governance; permanently increasing conforming loan limits; reviewing the housing mission; providing flexibility in new program approval and increasing the portfolio caps.

NAR’s research found that simply increasing the loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to $625,000 would permit as many as 300,000 families to enter the housing market, reduce foreclosures by as many as 210,000 and allow as many as 500,000 jumbo loan borrowers to refinance to lower cost loans, saving these people $274 to $411 a month. “I can think of no other reform that could have such a quick and profound impact on the housing industry and our national economy. NAR urges the Senate to work quickly to pass full GSE reform,” said Gaylord.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.



2008-02-12 Investment Pick of the Week
Located right in prime Burlington rental location.  This 3 bedroom 2 and a half bath with a finished basement would be a great investment.  Easy to maintain, this condo has been tastefully redone with one of the highest rent to bedroom ratio that you can get in all of Vermont.  Don't let the price sticker scare you, this could be one of the best investments on the market right now.  Click below for more information:

College Street, Burlington - Condo

Please feel free to call or email Nick for a showing of this property:
802-846-9559 or toll free 800-451-5004 ext 1159
Nick@VermontInvestments.com



2008-02-05 Downtown Housing In Healthy Demand

There's been lots of news about a declining housing market -- especially in high-growth areas of the West and South. But here in Vermont, housing seems to be holding up better -- in terms of prices and demand on the part of buyers.

What makes this a rare development for Burlington is its size -- an entire square block -- bordered by Main, Pine, King and St. Paul Streets. It involves two developers and four separate projects.

Erik Hoekstra, Development Manager at Redstone Commercial Group, said, "There's a great effort and attention on increasing our tax base and growing our city, but we take historic preservation pretty seriously in Burlington."

Much of downtown Burlington contains historic structures that date back to the 19th century and earlier. Redstone is the developer here. A central part of the project is Hinds Lofts, named after the original manufacturing company that put up the building right after the turn of the last century.

The project includes fifteen units of condominiums. There's more. Another condo development will link two historic buildings. As well, a combination of residential and commercial space will include a parking garage and twenty mixed income apartments. And the old Armory, at 101 Main St., a building that most recently housed a night club, will be remodeled for offices and possibly a restaurant.

Brian Pine, a housing specialist with the Burlington Community & Economic Development Office, said, "This is a unique opportunity in downtown to advance the goals of mixed use, mixed income, true smart-growth type development... You've got a large supply of new affordable housing, in addition to home ownership housing."

Some of the cost is covered by state and federal tax credits that developers use to make their projects financially feasible. But developers note that historic preservation projects are expensive.

Hoekstra said, "It will carry itself, it'll be sustainable. But it's not a major profit center or money-maker for us. It's more of a labor of love, you know, and part of the bigger picture for the ultimate development of this block."

By residential real estate standards the Hinds Lofts are upscale, ranging from the mid-$200,000 to the low-400s -- not including the million dollar-plus penthouse. The project is outlined on the web.

The developer says demand remains strong. He said sixty percent of the units have been sold, even before they're finished.


Please call me if you are interested in purchasing a condo at Hinds Loft in Burlington.  I can represent you as a buyer's agent - 802-846-9559.

Article from www.wcax.com





2008-02-12 Foreclosure - Investment Pick of the Week
Located in Burlington this foreclosure sale with nearly finished rehab for $173,500 on Elmwood Avenue. Many of the major projects have been completed. Great opportunity to gain equity for the right buyer.

Click on the link below to view this property:

Foreclosure - Elmwood, Burlington

Please call me at 802-846-9559 to set up a showing or email me at Nick@VermontInvestments.com

This property is under contract, it had multiply offers in several days. 


2008-02-12 Investment Pick of the Week
Are you looking for an easy investment? Are you looking for minimal management? Looking for something cheap with high rent?  This could be the one. A second floor two bedroom condo in Treetop for only 145,000.

Click on the link below to view this property:

Treetop Condo - 94 Hawthorne Cirlce, South Burlington

Please call me to set up an appointment to view this listing 802-846-9559 or email me for more information Nick@VermontInvestments.com.

This property went under contract soon after this blog was posted.



2008-01-23 Fed Lowering Interest Rates

1-How will this effect mortgage rates? 

  There is what you might call an implied link between mortgage rates and the a move in the Fed Funds Rate.  Fed Funds Rate is the overnight lending rate between banks.  This is the rate the Fed lowered, now banks that are cash strapped (from large write downs and losses) will have greater ability to lend money to each other thus helping banks lend to consumers and businesses alike.  This will help a slowing economy or an economy in recession pull itself out.  The long end of the yield curve (10-30 year rates) are not directly changed by the Fed, the bond market participants move these rates.  Mortgage Backed securities, which determine our rates, usually react positively to  Fed cuts but not as drastically as the short end of the curve.  So if the consumer hears the Fed cut rates by .75% it doesn't mean mortgage rates drop that much because longer term rates have to reflect inflation and growth expectations, as well as investor sentiment of other risks.

 2- Is there a direct link?

Close to a direct link but not percentage point to percentage point.  Sometimes the Fed lowers the Fed Funds rate the yield curve will steepen, that is long term rates increase.  This is because investors borrower at the long term rates (sell bonds, decreases the price of bonds and increases yield) and purchase short term bonds (increase the price of the bond and decreases the yield/rate).  They do this because if they anticipate more rate cuts by the Fed.... of the Fed cuts rates again the price of the short term bond increases and they sell their new short term bonds (which they just bought) at a gain in price (profit for a bond investor)----buy low sell high....

 3- Good time to refinance/buy?

Yes this is good time to refinance because mortgage rates are low and nearing historical lows, but it looks like it will be a bumpy ride until more is known as to the extent of the slowdown or recession and further hints as to the Feds moves.

Compliments of Buddy Singh from
SpruceMortgage

bunguy@together.net
802-652-0162



2008-01-23 Lowe's Opens First Vermont Store - Very Exciting!
For all those Burlington folks who do not like to drive to Williston, there is some great news...

The long-awaited Lowe's in South Burlington is now open, making Vermont the last state in the country to have the home improvement store.

It looked like Christmas Eve in the parking lot Thursday as shoppers turned out for the grand opening. Some were there to shop. Some were just curious about the store. The project spent seven years on the drawing board as developers battled legal challenges over Lowe's stormwater permit.

The store officially opened at 6:00 Thursday morning, and customers were already at the door waiting to go in.

"We have only Home Depot among this size stores," shopper Dina Remillard said. "So this was competition, so we had to come see what it was all about."

"Curiosity," Aaron Fastman said. "Just to see the layout. See what kind of merchandise they have. Looks good. We're excited."

"I like it very much," Charles Remillard said. "Nice. Clean. Wide, open aisles. I think I'll be back."

The store has about 160 employees. It is 106,000 square feet, but the general manager said it was one of the fastest stores the chain has ever built. It went up in 85 days, compared to the usual 120 days.



2008-01-23 Queen City Gets its Crown

Burlington is a decidedly casual community, but it's got a royal nickname: "The Queen City." You see it on businesses like Queen City Printers and Queen City Steel.

But in the heart of downtown Burlington, there are few tangible examples of the Queen City name. Until now. An artist has come up with an actual crown for a Queen City. Kat Clear smiles broadly, saying, "I always liked that it was called the Queen City."

Metal sculptor Kat Clear learned "Queen City" is a nickname commonly given to major communities that aren't necessarily state capitals, like Manchester, New Hampshire or Bangor, Maine. The crown's jewels are antique maple taps, to stand for tradition, and blue glass to symbolize Lake Champlain, the natural feature that made the city a shipping hub hundreds of years ago.

Kat Clear explains, "I want it to remind our community how special Vermont is. And it's here to teach others about our roots."

Clear worked with Burlington City Arts to install her creation in the Burlington Town Center mall. The crown sculpture is downstairs in the mall, across from the fireplace, where Santa sits at Christmas.

Mayor Bob Kiss, P-Burlington, says it's another example of the tight bonds between culture and commerce in the city. He adds, "It's great to see a sculpture in a space that really fits it. I think it captures the skyline of Burlington and it gives the mall flavor."

It's had its moniker so long, but finally Burlington has the crown to back it up. Kat Clear beams, "I'm glad I could be part of it."

It is a fitting tribute to this place residents love, and thousands more love visiting.

wcax.com


2008-01-08 Stable Existing-Home Sales Expected in Early 2008, then Gradual Rise

Over the next few months, existing-home sales are expected to hold fairly steady as indicated by pending sales activity, then rise later in the year and continue to improve in 2009, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is a pull and tug exerting itself on the market.  “On the one hand, we have a pent-up demand from the four million jobs added to our economy over the past two years of sales decline,” he said.  “On the other, consumers continue to wait for additional signs of market stabilization.  There are more people with financial capacity now than in 2005, but many are trying to market-time their purchase.  As a result, the exact timing and the strength of a home sales recovery is a bit uncertain.  A meaningful recovery in existing-home sales could occur as early as this spring, or it may be further delayed toward late 2008.”

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, fell 2.6 percent to a reading of 87.6 from a strong upward revision of 89.9 in October, but remains above the August and September readings and indicates a broad stabilization.  The index was 19.2 percent below the November 2006 level of 108.4.  “Although there could be some minor slippage in the first quarter, existing-home sales should hold in a narrow range before trending up,” Yun said.

The PHSI in the South rose 2.3 percent in November to 100.7 but is 19.8 percent below a year ago.  In the West, the index slipped 2.1 percent to 86.6 but is 18.5 percent lower than November 2006.  The index in the Midwest fell 4.1 percent in November to 82.1 and is 18.6 percent below a year ago.  In the Northeast, the index dropped 13.0 percent in November to 70.1 from a spike in October, and is 19.1 percent below November 2006.

Existing-home sales for 2007 will probably total 5.66 million, the fifth highest on record, then edge up to 5.70 million this year and 5.91 million in 2009, compared with 6.48 million in 2006.  Existing-home prices for 2007 are likely to be down 1.9 percent to a median of $217,600, hold even this year and then rise 3.1 percent in 2009 to $224,400.

“Rising home prices in the affordable midsection of the country are likely to offset declines in some of the previously hot markets,” Yun said.

There are wide variations in housing market conditions around the country, with nearly two-thirds of the metropolitan areas showing price gains.  Healthy increases in metro prices are occurring in places such as Pittsburgh; Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; and Bismarck, N.D.

“Our consumer survey shows buyers today are in it for the long-haul, planning to stay in their home for a median of 10 years.  This is a wise approach to housing because the data shows the longer you own, the better your investment,” Yun said.

New-home sales are projected at 773,000 for 2007, and declining to 669,000 this year before rising to 730,000 in 2009, but well below the 1.05 million 2006.  With an appropriate slowdown in production, housing starts, including multifamily units, are forecast at 1.36 million for 2007 and 1.09 million this year before edging up to 1.10 million in 2009; starts totaled 1.80 million in 2006.  The median new-home price should drop 2.1 percent to $241,400 for 2007, and then rise 0.4 percent to $242,200 this year and gain another 5.9 percent in 2009.

“Some policy changes, such as raising the loan limit on conventional mortgages, would provide a significant boost to home sales, increase liquidity, strengthen home prices and lessen foreclosures, but it is unclear as to if and when the measure will be implemented,” Yun said.  NAR strongly supports raising the Government-Sponsored Enterprise loan limit to at least $625,000 from the current $417,000 so that more consumers will have access to lower interest rates on safe conforming mortgages.  “NAR estimates that raising the GSE loan limit will result in interest rates savings for an additional 330,000 homeowners,” he said.

NAR also encourages the Fed to make a single lump-sum cut in the Fed funds rate to 3.5 percent at the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting, rather than a series of modest cuts throughout the year.  “Consumers are also looking to market-time interest rates, and the expectations of further rate cuts are pushing some home buyers to delay.  Monetary policy will be much more effective with a one-time large cut, rather than a series of small cuts,” Yun added.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is expected to rise slowly to the 6.3 percent range by the end of this year, but an additional cut in the Fed funds rate would lower short-term interest rates.

Growth in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is seen at 2.1 percent in 2007, below the 2.9 percent growth rate in 2006; GDP growth will probably be 2.0 percent this year.

After averaging 4.6 percent for both 2006 and 2007, the unemployment rate is estimated to rise to 5.3 percent in the second half of 2008.  Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is projected at 2.9 percent for 2007 and 3.1 percent this year; it was 3.2 percent in 2006.  Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is forecast to grow 3.1 percent for 2007, the same as in 2006, and then grow 1.6 percent this year.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.  In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity from 2001 through 2004 parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.  There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

Existing-home sales for December will be released January 24; the next Forecast / Pending Home Sales Index will be released February 7. 

Realtor.org January 8, 2008





2008-01-18 Hear what people are saying...

"Call Nick Riina.  He can help answer a lot questions for you.  He was my Realtor.  He is really awesome, a great Realtor and a great guy. He kills it.  He made looking for and buying a house a really easy and fun.  You won't find a better Realtor in Vermont!"

Matt H - Burlington

  "I was transferred to Vermont by a large multi-national company.  We found Nick to be the best agent that we have ever worked with in the US."

Marty G - Essex Junction

 "We were relocating and meeting several seller agents during our home search.    Our acquaintance with Nick began with contacting him on-line on a property that he represented. His excellent follow through and subsequent meeting lead us with confidence to have him represent us as our buyer broker on the home that we purchased.  My parents trailed us to Vermont and used Nick as their buyer agent also with the same great satisfaction!  Nick also has been a great resource before and after the purchase of our home.  Thank you Nick!"

 Marty G - Essex Junction

 
 "Nick Riina's ability to have a flexible schedule that met my needs allowed my relocation to be a success and a minimal interruption while I was focusing on my new career." 

   Jason – Burlington

"I just want to thank Nick for his insightful and experienced real estate knowledge for our recent Vermont home purchases. He was always available for questions about the homes, the areas, and additional services that we were in need of. Months later he is still available for the questions we have. His follow through is second to none, and I would not hesitate to buy another house through him, here in Vermont with his knowledge and expertise."

Chris G - Essex Junction, VT

"Nick went above and beyond in helping us sell our condo and find a new home. His knowledge of the market, advice and guidance were instrumental in us having a smooth transition from our old home into our new one."

Kevin & Wendy - South Burlington









2007-12-17 Fed Cuts Key Interest Rate for Third Time in 3 Months 
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point Tuesday, trying to keep the country out of recession.

The reduction in the federal funds rate to 4.25 percent marked the third rate cut in the past three months. Fed officials signaled that further cuts were possible if a severe downturn in housing and a crisis in mortgage lending get worse.

Commercial banks were expected to quickly match the latest reduction by trimming their prime lending rate, which would reduce this benchmark rate for millions of consumer and business loans to 7.25 percent.

In addition to cutting the funds rate, the Fed announced it was reducing its discount rate, the interest it charges to make direct loans to banks, by a quarter-point as well to 4.75 percent. This reduction was aimed at encouraging banks to borrow more freely from the Fed at a time when there are worries that a rising number of bad loans will prompt banks to tighten credit conditions too severely, adding another strain on the already fragile economy.

The Fed embarked on this round of rate cuts in September in response to severe turbulence in credit markets around the globe as investors reacted to various reports of mounting losses from defaults in subprime mortgages, the latest fallout from the worst slump in the U.S. housing market in more than two decades.

After cutting the funds rate by a half-point on Sept. 11 and a quarter-point on Oct. 31, the central bank indicated that those two reductions might be all that were needed to combat the threat of a recession given that financial markets appeared to be stabilizing.

However, increased market turbulence following the October meeting and growing fears of a recession caused the Fed to do an about-face.

Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Associated Press


2008-01-18 Vermont's Real-Estate Picture Stays Ahead of Rising Foreclosure Trend
"Vermont has the lowest level of foreclosure filings, as a percentage of households, than any other state in the country, according to a recent report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which includes data from RealtyTrac Inc. of Irvine, Calif. "

Read the entire article below:

Mark Chaffee, vice president of Mortgage Financial Inc. in Colchester, said he's getting frustrated with national reports of a disintegrating housing market.

"I see, in my business, that people are nervous. And they are nervous because the national press is telling them the sky is falling," he said, later adding, "I get very frustrated because it's misleading to my clients."

More Vermonters are falling behind on their mortgage payments and foreclosures have increased throughout the state. Compared with the region and the United States, however, the disruption to Vermont's housing market has been limited -- and homes continue to increase in value.

Vermont has the lowest level of foreclosure filings, as a percentage of households, than any other state in the country, according to a recent report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which includes data from RealtyTrac Inc. of Irvine, Calif.

Vermont has a low foreclosure rate because properties continue to gain value, borrowers have avoided riskier subprime loans and stringent land-use regulations have put a damper on rampant building of large developments that could have led to speculative buying and pressure to make more people eligible for loans.

Subprime adjustable-rate mortgages are at the heart of the nation's housing meltdown. But the number of Vermonters who have such mortgages is low-- just 3.6 percent. The national rate is 6.5 percent, according the Mortgage Bankers Association most recent "National Delinquency Survey."

Adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, begin with low interest rates and reset according to market rates. SinceBecause interest rates have risen in recent years, mortgage rates rise when the loans reset -- forcing a spike in monthly mortgage payments that can lead to foreclosure.

Act 250, the state's development-control law, has "protected us" by making it more difficult to build housing, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Vermont Mortgage Bankers Association. The law "prevented a huge buildup of big development and excessive supply," she said.

When large developments were built elsewhere to cash in on the housing boom, there was "pressure to sell those homes to any warm body," many of which didn't qualify for prime loans, she said.

Vermonters also tend to be more fiscally conservative and prefer traditional 30-year, fixed-rate loans, said Chaffee, who recalled chatting with loan officers at a conference about a year ago in California. "I was the only one that was doing normal loans; a fixed-rate loan."

Widespread speculative building and buying did not occur in Vermont. In Florida, for example, buyers could make $100,000 quickly by "flipping" units, Chaffee said. And they would take high-risk mortgages to buy the property.

Fewer Vermont borrowers got "caught up in the real estate frenzy," he said.
Rising value

Increasing home values and low foreclosures are directly connected, said Andrew Leventis, senior economist at the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, an independent entity within the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Vermont's house values have held better than other states, Leventis said, "Appreciation and foreclosures are closely linked: the greater the appreciation, the less likely there is to be a wave of foreclosures."

When home values continue to rise, owners can sell the property-- breaking even or making a profit -- to avoid foreclosure. "They can always escape their mortgage in good pricing times," he said.

For the year endingthat ended in September, single-family homes values in Vermont increased 4.8 percent and homes in the Burlington area increased 2.9 percent, according to the federal office's Web site. Home values increased most in Utah, at 12.8 percent. Michigan saw the biggest decrease; Values dropped by 3.7 percent.

Steve Allen of Allen & Brooks, a South Burlington real estate analysis firm, echoed those findings. As of In early December, the median price of a singly-family home in Chittenden County was $275,000 -- a 1.9 percent increase over last year. Statewide, the median single-family home is selling for $212,000 -- up 3.4 percent from last year.

"House price appreciation in Vermont has most likely led to lower foreclosure rates," Leventis said.

More than 20 states are now having housing price declines, the federal report said.

Although house prices have continued to rise, the gains are well below the annual increases of more than 15 percent the city and state experienced as recently as 2005, according federal housing office's Web site.

The National Association of Realtors said home sales, including condominiums, in Vermont have increased nearly 1 percent in the year ending Sept. 30 -- one of just two states to do so. Nationally, sales fell nearly 14 percent, according to the Realtors' database.

Allen & Brooks, which uses state tax data to count sales, however, found the number of single-family homes sales in Vermont fell 18 percent.

The difference suggests more Vermonters are using Realtors to sell homes, but, overall, fewer homes are being sold, Allen said. "When times are great, you don't need a Realtor," he said.

Falling behind

Vermont's real estate picture is healthier than most, but over the last year, the number of Vermonters who are behind on their mortgages has increased from 2.9 percent to 3.5 percent, according the National Delinquency Survey. That compares with 5.1 percent of New Englanders and 5.8 percent of Americans.

Vermonters with subprime ARMs -- a sliver of the state's total mortgages -- have missed payments with more frequency. Those past due jumped from 12.5 percent to 18 percent over the past year.

"It's gone up a lot but it's still a very, very tiny portion of what's going on out there," Chaffee said of the number of Vermonters missing payments.

The percent of Vermonters who are more than 90 days late on their mortgage, or in foreclosure, is 1.6 percent, the third-quarter delinquency survey said. That's up from 1.1 percent a year ago.

In New England and the U.S., levels are 2.5 percent and 3 percent, respectively, the report said.
Foreclosures

Through September, foreclosures have risen 25.9 percent compared with the same period last year, according to data collected Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities & Health Care Administration. Some of the most substantial increases are in Rutland, Windsor and Washington counties.

Tom Candon, the banking department's deputy commissioner, said Thursday his department will examine the counties where foreclosures have spiked to ensure there is no predatory lending.

The total number of homes that have been the subject of a foreclosure filing in Vermont is 1,115 through November Candon said, noting the leading causes of foreclosures are medical problems, divorce and job loss.
Contact Dan McLean at 651-4877 or dmclean@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com For county foreclosure data:
http://www.bishca.state.vt.us/

Published: Sunday, December 16, 2007
By Dan McLean
Free Press Staff Writer


2007-12-14 Rents take big jump in 3rd quarter

Weak housing markets and tighter lending requirements mean more renters are staying put in apartments, and demand for rental housing is expected to continue to outstrip supply.

A slumping housing market and tighter credit should make this a green Christmas for most landlords.

Apartment asking rents posted their biggest increase of the year in the third quarter, jumping 4.2% from a year ago, to an average of $1,015 per unit, according to real-estate data firm Reis Inc. And vacancy, which had edged up slightly earlier in the year because of apartment construction, tightened up in the quarter to an average of 5.6% from 5.7% the same time a year ago.

This landlord's market -- with 78 out of 79 major market areas reporting rent gains -- is expected to continue into next year, as more people stick to rental housing rather than gambling on the purchase of a home, says Sam Chandan, Reis chief economist. "There is an expectation that housing prices could continue to fall," Chandan says. "People are nervous and are staying put" in apartments.

Biggest increases on coasts

The biggest rent increases came in more expensive coastal markets, where home prices have escalated over the past several years. Here, Chandan says, buyers are nervous about sliding prices, but are also put off by the continued lack of affordable housing and the rising interest rates on the jumbo loans required to purchase houses.

New York City residents saw their average rent increase 9.1% from the same time a year ago, to $2,759, as vacancy tightened to a minuscule 2.2% -- the tightest market in the country. The average rent in San Francisco climbed 8.4% from a year ago to $1,811 on vacancy of 4.1%.

Other big rent increases were registered in San Jose, Calif. (8.8%); Seattle (7%); Orange County, Calif. (5.6%); Fairfield County, Conn. (4.6%) and northern New Jersey (4.8%) -- all areas with pricey and somewhat limited housing stock.

Sun Belt markets lag

Left off this list of biggest gainers were some of the nation's hottest rental markets last year, such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, which are cooling quickly as a slew of condos and apartment-to-condo conversions return to the rental market. More than 5,400 apartment-to-condo conversions came back on the rental market this year in the areas that Reis tracks, and more units that investors are unable to sell are expected to surface next year.

In addition to Phoenix and Las Vegas, Jacksonville and several markets across southern Florida were among the hardest hit by this "shadow market" of condo and town-house rentals. "These were among the top five or 10 strongest markets in the country last year in terms of rent growth," Chandan says. "Now they are among the weakest."

The vacancy rate in Palm Beach and Jacksonville jumped 2.5% in the third quarter from the same time last year. Vacancy increased 2.2% in Phoenix, 2.1% in Orlando, 1.8% in Tampa and 1.5% in Fort Lauderdale.

Accordingly, rent growth in these markets slowed or leveled out in the third quarter. But average rents did not decline in any of them, in large part because single-family houses continued to be out of  reach for many in these areas. But with more units coming back on the market each month, rents in these Sun Belt cities could slide, becoming one of the few exceptions to a robust national market. "A large number will see rents fall in the fourth quarter," Chandan says.

Rosy outlook for landlords

Landlords who are unwilling to lower rents may begin offering temporary promotional concessions such as a month's free rent to get more people in the door. Renters may also gain some bargaining power next year in a handful of economically sluggish areas such as Hartford, Conn., and Colorado Springs, Colo., Chandan says.

For much of the rest of the country, however, landlords are the ones with the upper hand. Even with apartment developers adding an estimated 84,590 units to the existing apartment inventory and the economy teetering on the brink of recession, the problems in the housing market should keep rental demand above supply.

For U.S. renters, who have seen their average monthly payment go up more than 10% in the past three years, that may not be quite the Christmas gift they were hoping for.

But, on the bright side, the housing bust won't translate into exaggerated rents either.

"The market isn't experiencing a boom. It will continue to chug along with rent growth of 3.6% next year," Chandan says.


By Melinda Fulmer, MSN Real Estate


2007-12-10 Existing-Home Sales to Trend Up in 2008

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2007 - 

Existing-home sales are projected to trend up in 2008, with pending home sales showing a slight near-term rise, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors®.  However, a recovery for new-home sales is unlikely before 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the worst part of the credit crunch has already worked its way through the data.  “The unusual mortgage disruptions that peaked in August were clearly seen in lower home sales that were finalized in September and October, so the market was underperforming,” he said.  “Now that mortgage conditions have improved, some postponed activity should turn up in existing-home sales over the next couple of months, and I expect sales at fairly stable to slightly higher levels.”

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in October, increased 0.6 percent to an index of 87.2 from an upwardly revised reading of 86.7 in September.  It was the second consecutive monthly gain, but remained 18.4 percent below the October 2006 index of 106.8.  “The broad trend over the coming year will be a gradual rise in existing-home sales, but because sales are exceptionally low in the final months of 2007, total sales for 2008 will be only modestly higher than 2007,” Yun said.

The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 16.0 percent in October to 80.6 but is 11.1 percent below a year ago.  In the West, the index rose 8.4 percent to 87.3 but is 16.9 percent lower than October 2006.  The index in the Midwest slipped 1.4 percent in October to 85.5 and is 11.7 percent below a year ago.  In the South, the index dropped 7.8 percent in October to 91.6 and is 25.3 percent below October 2006.

“The improvement in the Northeast reaffirms a trend apparent for some months now that shows signs of recovery, noteworthy because that was the first region to slump, and the gain in the West indicates some easing of interest rates for jumbo loans,” Yun said.  “Lawmakers need to understand that raising the loan limits on FHA and GSE-backed conventional loans will markedly improve mortgage availability.”

Existing-home sales are likely to total 5.67 million this year, the fifth highest on record, rising to 5.70 million in 2008, in contrast with 6.48 million in 2006.  Existing-home prices should be down 1.9 percent to a median of $217,600 for all of 2007, and then rise 0.3 percent to $218,300 in 2008.

“Home price growth in the vast affordable midsection of America will help raise the national median existing-home price slightly in 2008.  I then expect price appreciation to return to more normal patterns in 2009, perhaps rising one or two percentage points above the rate of inflation,” Yun said.

“Even with a modest decline in the national aggregate price this year, it’s important to keep in mind that nearly two-thirds of the metro areas in the U.S. are showing price increases,” he said.  “The apparent disparity results from fewer sales in high-cost markets, so a change in the mix of sales is dragging down the national median home price.”

Areas showing healthy price gains include disparate markets such as Gary-Hammond, Ind.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Spokane, Wash.  “We can’t emphasis enough how much local conditions vary, even within a given area, so it’s important for consumers to make decisions based on local market conditions.”

New-home sales are forecast at 788,000 this year and 693,000 in 2008, down from 1.05 million 2006; no sustained improvement is seen for new homes until 2009.  Because builders have correctly adjusted production, housing starts, including multifamily units, will probably total 1.36 million this year and 1.16 million in 2008, down from 1.80 million last year.  The median new-home price is projected to drop 3.0 percent to $239,100 for 2007, and then decline another 0.2 percent to $236,600 in 2008.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is estimated to rise slowly to the 6.4 percent range by the end of 2008, with additional cuts in the Fed funds rate lowering short-term interest rates.

Growth in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) should be 2.1 percent in 2007, down from a 2.9 percent growth rate last year; GDP growth is forecast to improve to 2.4 percent in 2008.

The unemployment rate is likely to average 4.6 percent for 2007, unchanged from last year, but rise to 5.0 percent in 2008.  Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, will probably be 2.8 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2008, down from 3.2 percent in 2006.  Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is estimated to grow 3.1 percent this year, the same as in 2006, and then grow 2.2 percent next year.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
                                                             # # #

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.  In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity from 2001 through 2004 parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.  There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

Existing-home sales for November will be released December 31; the next Forecast / Pending Home Sales Index will be released January 8.

Recent article from www.realtor.org


2007-12-04 When It Comes to Remodeling, It’s What’s Outside That Counts


Many buyers judge a house by its exterior, or so it seems from the results of the 2007 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Three of the four projects with the highest national percentage of costs recouped this year were exterior upgrades.

The most profitable project on the national level was upscale siding replacement, recouping 88 percent of costs upon resale. Wood deck additions and wood window replacements also returned more than 80 percent of costs, at 85 percent and 81 percent, respectively. On a national average, the only interior project to return more than 80 percent of remodeling costs this year was a minor kitchen remodel, returning 83 percent of project costs at resale.

“The results of this year’s Cost vs. Value report underscore the importance of curb appeal in the buyer’s eye,” said NAR President Dick Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. “Realtors® know what attracts buyers in their local markets and can help your house put its best façade forward, so to speak – it’s another way Realtors® add value to the real estate transaction.”

The 2007 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 29 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 60 markets across the country. Data are provided for nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 10th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine, as Realtors® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets.

Four new projects were added this year: the aforementioned wood deck addition, a back-up power generator, and both a midrange and upscale garage addition. Nationally, the back-up power generator only returned 58 percent of the investment on resale, although the return was highest in the West South Central region, which comprises Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, at 68 percent. Buyers in the Pacific region of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington value their garages: The midrange garage addition returned nearly 70 percent nationally but 88 percent in this region, while the upscale garage addition returned approximately 65 percent nationally but 78 percent in this area.

Homeowners in the Pacific region could also expect to see some of the highest percentages of remodeling expenses returned at resale, with 13 of the 29 projects returning 90 percent or higher of project costs. Homeowners in the East North Central region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin might expect some of the lowest returns; only one project – upscale fiber cement siding – returned more than 80 percent upon resale (82 percent of costs recouped), while nine projects returned less than 60 percent of project costs.

The least profitable projects were a back-up power generator, sunroom addition, and home office remodel. The back-up power generator returned the lowest percentage of initial cost in the East North Central, New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), Pacific, and West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) regions.

Sunrooms are least popular in the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee), Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming), and West South Central regions. Home office remodels return the lowest percentage of project costs in the Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia) regions.

Gaylord explained that the resale value of any given remodeling project depends on a variety of factors. “When considering a remodeling project, particularly with an eye toward resale, it’s important to evaluate your home’s current condition, how the project will change the existing space in your home, as well as how your remodeled home will compare to other homes in your community,” said Gaylord.

“For example, using a breakfast nook to expand the kitchen seems like a good use of space, but using the same space to add a first-floor bathroom in an older home that doesn’t have one will draw more buyers,” Gaylord said. “Realtors® see hundreds, if not thousands, of homes every year with their buyer clients and can provide valuable insight into what projects and improvements will make a difference with buyers in your area.”

Results of the report are summarized in the December 2007 issue of REALTOR® Magazine. To read the full project descriptions, access national and regional project data, and download a free PDF containing data for any of the 60 cities covered by the report, visit www.costvsvalue.com. “Cost vs. Value” is a registered trademark of Hanley Wood, LLC.

Hanley Wood, LLC, is the premier media company serving housing and construction. Through four operating divisions, the company produces award-winning magazines and Web sites, marquee trade shows and events, rich data, and custom marketing solutions. The company also is North America’s leading provider of home plans. Founded in 1976, Hanley Wood is a $240 million company owned by JPMorgan Partners, LLC, a private equity affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Recent article from www.realtor.org




2007-11-26 Vermont is One of Two States to Show Sales Increase
Sales of existing homes fell in 46 states during the July-September quarter as the housing market's slump worsened, a real estate trade group reported yesterday.

  The new third-quarter figures from the National Association of Realtors underscore the severity of the housing market's slump, which has economists increasingly pessimistic about the economic outlook.

  Vermont and North Dakota were the only two states to show sales increases. Existing home sales in Vermont rose 0.8 percent from the same quarter a year ago, while sales in North Dakota rose 2.9 percent. No sales figures were available for Idaho and New Hampshire. The Realtors though saw a silver lining in the data, noting that home prices rose in 93 of the 150 metropolitan areas surveyed. Yet big price drops beset formerly booming parts of the country. Median prices fell by more than 10 percent in parts of Florida and California compared with the third quarter of last year.

  Trade group officials emphasize the real estate market is not a national one, and conditions vary — sometimes dramatically — from market to market.

  "Some metro areas are hot while others are experiencing localized problems," Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, said in a statement. "Home prices in the vast midsection of America, from the Appalachians to the Rockies, are affordable and, perhaps, even undervalued."

  Still, numerous experts forecast a continued decline in median prices nationwide as conditions deteriorate in the housing and mortgage industries.

  Nationwide, existing homes sold at an annual rate of 5.42 million units in the third quarter, down 13.7 percent from the sales pace of the third quarter in 2006, the Realtors group said.

  The states suffering the biggest drop in sales in the third quarter, were Nevada, down 35 percent, and Florida, down 32 percent. Other states with big declines were Arizona, down 30.9 percent and California, down 27.8 percent. Mortgage Lenders, would-be home buyers and Wall Street investors alike have been grappling all year with the impact of rising defaults, the result of lax lending standards that were prevalent during this decade's housing boom.  As defaults have risen, lenders have grown more cautious, which has resulted in fewer buyers qualifying to purchase homes for sale.

WASHINGTON – The Associated Press



2007-11-26 Old Maps Hold Value in Real Estate
In the mid-18th century, teams of men spread out across Vermont to map the tactless wilderness.

Measuring with long chains and other primitive equipment, they climbed mountains, forded rivers and slogged through swamps, dividing Vermont into 251 towns and then dividing the towns into lots.

Two and a half centuries later, those maps and their lotting plans remain valuable frames of reference for 21st century real estate deals. Many have disappeared or been hidden away in dusty vaults in town clerks' offices from Massachusetts to Quebec.

The Vermont State Archives is using modern digital technology to give people access to those old maps from their offices or homes, putting them online to help lawyers, surveyors, landowners and historians to analyze ancient roads, boundary lines and titles.

The process is being repeated across the country, in Minnesota and elsewhere.

"It's fairly new, at some level over the last 15 years," said Curt Sumner, executive director of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping in Gaithersburg, Md. "The original ones were pretty rudimentary. A lot of that has changed."

"It's heaven on earth," said Montpelier attorney Paul Gillies, who does a lot of land work. "This kind of information is usually only found with truly diligent research."

The diligent research is being done by the Vermont State Archives.

State Archivist Gregory Sanford and his staff are working to make the documents that make up Vermont's history as widely available as possible. In some cases, it's just for the historical value, but with the maps it's practical.

"Some of these records may be based on surveys and maps done 200 years ago, but they continue to have value -- legal value and an informational value that has survived the centuries," Sanford said.

The work of a land surveyor requires detective work, solving puzzles and reading minds, Sumner said.

That's especially true in states like Vermont, where early surveys used trees, streams or other features as landmarks only to see them lost over time.

"The big thing that surveyors hang their hat on is to find the right information and then portray that information in reality," Sumner said.

Original maps can provide clues.

"We're in the old stuff all the time," said surveyor Leonard Amblo, treasurer of the Vermont Society of Land Surveyors. "We have to go back to when that lot was created."

He said the digital images would be valuable tools. "If they have a general schematic already digitized, we could take that and overlay it over our survey data," said Amblo, who works for Button Professional Land Surveyors of South Burlington.

The Minnesota Historical Society has put old maps online, as tools for surveyors and other land professionals, said Bob Horton, the society's director of Library Publications and Collections.

Minnesota has also expanded the use of maps so they can be used by school children and eventually family historians, as well as other practical uses.

"I think it's the way states should be going," Horton said. "There's a lot of confusion about how to deal with technology. Here's one that I think works; the tools exist; the content exists; then you can deliver real value to people. You just have to put it together."

Sumner said a downside of putting maps on the Internet was that table-top-size maps were frequently scaled down to an 8 1/2-by-11-inch document.

Sanford said the maps are tools.

"It comes with the warning that it's only a starting point, it's not the ultimate legal document," Sanford said. "You would have to go to your town clerk's office and confirm, but at least it's a point, where you can sit at home and start."

The maps are being posted for their practical value, but they also offer a glimpse into the past.

Bennington, for example, is laid out with 64 360-acre square lots with straight roads running through the town. In what Sanford called an early example of land use planning, the map includes a 64-acre, diamond-shaped parcel in the middle intended as the town center.

A 1778 map of Royalton includes notations that birch trees mark the four corners of the town. Some of the 54 lots have the names of the original European owners, while others describe the property as "good upland" or "level and very good."

The map project was driven by demand.

"We were getting lots of calls from surveyors who wanted to look at lotting plans," Sanford said. "We just felt there was a clear demand, a state interest in making those records available."

This year, Sanford and the four people who work in his office set out to put as many of those maps as possible online. They worked with a private business owner who used a special document scanner. By the end of October, they had about 235 maps available.

The maps are not scans of the maps drawn in the 1700s. Rather, they're copies -- sometimes copies of copies, in fact -- that have been made over the centuries and collected in the state archives.

Most of the originals remain in town clerks' offices.

The project isn't finished. The archives are continuing to add maps in the possession of the state. And they could reach out and start scanning the original maps held at town offices across Vermont.

"My interest here has always been putting history in harness to take things that aren't just historically interesting, but actually may have some legal or administrative or other need that persists today," Sanford said.

Published: Monday, November 26, 2007
By Wilson Ring
The Associated Press



2007-11-05 Vermont Tops Rankings of Healthy States
After four consecutive years of being crowned the healthiest state, Minnesota dropped to No. 2 behind Vermont for the title this year, according to a report released Monday by the United Health Foundation, a non-profit health advocacy group.

The foundation, along with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, rated each state on 20 key measures of wellness, such as rates of obesity, infant mortality, cancer deaths and high school graduation.

Vermont has a low prevalence of obesity, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and few children living in poverty, according to the report.

Sharon Moffatt, commissioner of Vermont's Department of Health, attributes its success to a "full system" approach, where a range of groups, including community, public policy and health care providers, work together to change unhealthy behaviors. For example, to combat smoking, phone lines to counsel smokers to quit were established, lawmakers worked to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, and doctors encouraged their patients to stop or avoid smoking.

On the other side of the spectrum, Mississippi is the unhealthiest state. Although it has a high public health spending per capita, it also has high rates of obesity and children in poverty.

The nation's overall health improved annually during the 1990s, but it declined in the first half of this decade and has stagnated since. Reed Tuckson, a foundation board member, says there has been an overall decline because more Americans live with preventable chronic diseases in an "extremely expensive" health care system.

South Carolina improved its health score the most with a jump of 6.3%, according to the report. The jump came as the percentage of uninsured decreased.

The annual report is based on data from a number of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Health Statistics, the American Medical Association and the Census Bureau.




2007-10-23 Burlington Investment Property Tour

Take a tour of Burlington Vermont Investment Properties by clicking on the link below.  This tour gives a great sample of Investment Properties currently on the market today.  Please feel free to call me with questions 802-846-9559 or if you would like to see any of these great investment properties.






2007-10-23 Vermont real estate market healthy despite national concern

Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kathleen A. Sweeten


Recently consumers have been bombarded by news featuring a "doom and gloom" picture of the real estate market nationwide. While national statistics do show that parts of the country are experiencing a change in the market, it is important to know that all real estate is local and conditions vary. What may be happening in other parts of the country is not necessarily occurring in Chittenden County or throughout Vermont.

The real estate market in our area is healthy. At the end of the second quarter of 2007 the median price for primary residential homes in Vermont, which is the largest sector of Vermont's real estate market, was up over 7 percent from a year ago at the same time. Homes may be on the market a little longer, but statistics reveal that with an attractive inventory of choices real estate continues to be a great opportunity for buyers and sellers alike.

These higher inventory levels, combined with low mortgage interest rates, help create favorable market conditions for home buyers. This is especially helpful for young households who want to make the transition from renting to owning. In contrast to conditions during the housing boom home sellers in many areas are now motivated to negotiate. In these markets, home buyers have increased negotiating power, but may be unsure of how to structure the best deal -- they need a professional to help guide them through the transaction.

In light of the recent changes in the mortgage industry, with lenders tightening their guidelines, a Realtor and mortgage lender can help sellers and buyers navigate the pre-approval process. Vermonters also are fortunate to have organizations like the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) to help guide potential home buyers through the financial process of purchasing a home.

As the real estate market becomes more balanced between buyers and sellers, home prices have stabilized. However, most homeowners can still realize a very good return on their investment. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), consumers who bought their homes six years ago have seen more than 50 percent appreciation in their home's value during that time.

Buying a home should be approached as a long-term investment, providing both equity accumulation and tax benefits over time. Even when temporary corrections have occurred in markets that became overheated during the most recent housing boom, most of the country has never experienced a downturn in home prices since modern record keeping began. Low mortgage interest rates, a growing number of households, strong demographic factors, economic growth and job creation have helped drive record home sales in recent years.

All real estate is local, and there are opportunities galore. Realtors can help interpret the data and trends and help find the right fit for a homeowner's needs and desires. Smart homebuyers, rather than running away from homes, are taking advantage of an extraordinary real estate market.

Kathleen A. Sweeten of Burlington is executive vice president of the Northwestern Vermont Board of Realtors.


2007-10-15 Vermont Real Estate Market Bucks Trends
A recent article on www.wcax.com posted:

  Vermont's real estate professionals got some good news Tuesday about the housing market in the state. At the Northeast Real Estate Conference held at the Sheraton hotel in Burlington, Realtors from around the region were told that despite a national slump in the housing market, Vermont has not been hit as hard. And they projected a recovery is just around the corner. "We do see the sales activity rising going into 2008 nationally speaking.
  Locally, again, the market sees less swing compared to the national trend, but the positive factors of Baby Boomers wanting to buy more vacation homes is well positioned to benefit from that," said economist Lawrence Yun. The conference will continue for the next 3 days and will offer training courses for Realtors.

2007-10-15 Why Pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is required by most lenders when a borrower puts less than 20% down on a purchase loan. Paid for by the borrower, PMI not only protects the lender from foreclosure, it also enables many buyers to qualify for loans and purchase real estate when they couldn't have otherwise. On January 1st, 2007, legislation went into effect making PMI tax deductible for new borrowers whose personal adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less. This has created additional opportunities for many buyers to finance a more expensive home or, in some cases, to obtain a lower monthly payment, while reducing annual income taxes.

An alternative financing option that borrowers may also consider involves taking out two home loans concurrently. The second loan, commonly referred to as a "piggyback loan", can take the form of a traditional home loan or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). It supplements the borrower's funds to help them achieve a 20% down payment, eliminating the need for PMI. However, in most cases PMI can be cancelled once the accumulated equity has reached 20% of the home's value, while a second home loan will have to be paid back in full regardless. Factor in the new PMI tax benefit, and a borrower's monthly payment may actually be lower with PMI versus a piggyback loan scenario.

2007-10-08 The National Assocation Of Realtors® Code of Ethics:

How does the Code of Ethics affect everyday real estate practices?


If a REALTOR® represents you, whether you are buying or selling a home, you can count on that REALTOR® to:

1. Be honest with all parties in the transaction – not just with you, as his or her client, but also with the other real estate practitioner and his or her clients.
For example, if REALTORS® represent a buyer with a spotty credit history, they can’t be dishonest with sellers about this fact. At the same time, REALTORS® can help their buyer clients collect and assemble information, such as credit reports and audited tax returns, to demonstrate that the buyer has addressed the problem and improved their situation.

2. Put your interests ahead of his or her own, at all times.
A REALTOR® makes every effort to understand the housing needs of his or her client, thoroughly researches available inventory, and shares all relevant information with the buyer so that he or she can make an informed decision. This service is provided regardless of the compensation available.

3. Disclose all pertinent facts regarding the property and the transaction to both buyer and seller.
If a REALTOR® believes information provided by a seller is questionable, the REALTOR® is obligated to investigate. REALTORS® should recommend that buyers consult their own experts, such as home inspectors, to address concerns. For example, if a home seller asks his or her REALTOR® to conceal the fact that the roof leaks, the REALTOR® cannot comply; if the seller insists, the REALTOR® should end the business relationship with that seller.

4. Be truthful in all communications with the public.
When REALTORS® distribute newsletters, create Web sites, or place advertisements, they must be careful not to represent other real estate professionals’ work product as their own. If recently sold or listed properties in the community are publicized, it must be clear whether the REALTOR® was actually involved in the transaction, or whether that data came from the local multiple listing service or other source. This ensures that the public understands the REALTOR®’s experience and can make an informed decision when choosing real estate representation.


2007-10-05 Rentals, Condos Must Have CO Detectors

 
  As of October 1, 2007, owners of public buildings defined to include all condos and rental properties, including vacation rentals must replace their already required battery-powered or plug-in carbon monoxide
(CO) detectors with hard- wired CO detectors that have battery backups.

  As the October 1 deadline approached, the state's Division of Fire Safety was fielding many questions from building owners, according to Micheal Greenia, assistant state fire marshal. Vermont already requires that CO detectors be installed
in or near the sleeping areas of all public buildings, but they did not have to be hard-wired until now. An additional CO detector is required in rooms that contain a fuel-burning appliance.

 

  The deadlines were established in a CO detector law, H.243, that passed two years ago after a carbon monoxide-related death of a University of Vermont student (see VPOR, Vol. 20, No. 3, p. 4). H.243 also required newly-constructed single-family homes to have wired-in smoke and CO  detectors in the vicinity of the bedrooms, and existing single-family homes to certify that they have at least one working CO detector of any type at the time of their sale. Existing state law already required smoke detectors at the time of sale.

 

  In most situations, if an owner already has a hard-wired smoke detector in place, he or she can swap it out and replace it with a hard-wired combination CO smoke detector, as long as it is from the same manufacturer, according to Ben Dexter, an electrician with Dexter Electric PC of East Barre.

 

  An owner might be able to do this on their own, but if an electrician is called in to do the hard- wiring, the price jumps to account for labor. A typical detector may run anywhere from $60 to $80. If an electrician is required the total price could jump to $175 -$200, Dexter estimated. From 2001 through 2004, there were 800 fire department-reported CO incidents in Vermont, including 6 unintentional deaths from CO poisoning, according to the state. Exposure to CO can mimic flu systems, with headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Higher levels of exposure result in disorientation and drowsiness, leading to death.  Among the most common causes of CO poisoning is improper maintenance of heating units. "There should be yearly maintenance to keep heating appliances running clean," said Greenia.

 

  Garages can pose hazards if residents let their vehicles run or cook  with  barbecue grills in their garages. Generators used during power outages can also create CO hazards, if run indoors. The state is not planning any special enforcement of the Oct. 1 deadline. "Basically this is determined through the normal inspection process," Greenia said. "As of the Oct. 1 deadline, it will be a violation of the state fire code not to comply."

 

  Punishments for violations vary depending on the severity of the crime. "It can be advanced if it's noted and not corrected in an allotted time, or if there is a serious threat to life," said Greenia. Fines can run from $100 per day for each violation, up to $10,000 for a serious violation, Greenia said.  State inspections are sometimes undertaken by request when a sale is occurring or because of a complaint by a tenant. It is unlikely that the typical vacation rental (at least ones with fewer than 20 to 25 potential occupants) would be inspected unless a complaint were made.

 

  Officials note that even if a rental or condo is never inspected, owners would be wise from a liability standpoint to have hard-wired detectors installed. Otherwise, if a tragedy occurs, the lack of compliance with state law would be a factor weighing against the property owner in any lawsuit. Owners of rental properties or condos can call the state to request their properties be checked for compliance: There is no fee for such inspections.  Greenia recommends testing CO detectors on a monthly basis, and replacing the batteries at least once a year, twice if possible. He also suggests carefully reading the manufacturer's instructions. The Oct. 1 deadline has caused some confusion, especially in the Burlington area, where the city has a municipal agreement allowing it to go beyond the adopted state code in requiring more stringent standards.  "Some owner associations have put out information based on Burlington requirements and not necessarily state requirements," Greenia said.  "They have led people to believe they need to replace everything throughout the building, but the state requirement is one CO detector in the vicinity of each bedroom." Those in Burlington who have questions about requirements should contact the Burlington City Fire Marshal Terry Francis at (802) 864-5577.

 

  For additional information regarding state of Vermont CO detector (and smoke detector) requirements, contact Micheal Greenia at (802) 479-7587, or visit the Fire Safety Division's website at www.vtfiresafety.org.  By Kim Gifford




2007-10-01 House Considers Income Tax for Education

The next legislative session is still more than three months away but the House is getting started early, working on a new plan to fund education. The Ways and Means committee met Monday to look at raising money for schools through income taxes instead of property taxes.

Still in the earliest planning stages, the education tax based on income is not a new idea. The House Ways and Means Committee first drafted a version and sent it to the house floor in 2003. That bill stalled so supporters are trying again, hoping to simplify a complicated property tax system.

"We are hoping that going to an income tax will lead us to a better understanding among the voters as to just what the effect of increased education spending is going to have on their pocket book," says Rep. Bud Otterman, R - Orange.

The new tax would be tied directly to education spending in a particular district. The more voters agree to spend on schools, the higher their income taxes would go. The change would mean lower taxes for some but higher taxes for others.

The income tax has many supporters, including the League of Cities and Towns, which says municipalities are overloaded trying to administer a complicated tax structure.

"People have to remember there are a lot of problems with what we have right now and ah, to not go to a new system would be a mistake I think," says Steven Jeffrey, executive director of the league.

The bill does have a strong opponent in Governor Jim Douglas. He likens this change to the one cent increase to the state sales tax.

"What happened? We now have a higher sales tax and a higher property tax. I have no doubt the same thing would happen if we have a higher income tax as well," said Douglas.

The Ways and Means committee still has a number of issues to work out before it has a bill ready to move to the house floor. Representative Otterman hopes that will happen in early January. 

Bianca Slota - WCAX News



2007-09-12 Vermont Housing Prices Hold

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- Vermont has bucked the national trend that projects home values will fall 1.7 percent this year, a senior economist at the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

"Vermont is a little more insulated, especially from the national trends" said S. Lawrence Yun, vice president of research for the Washington, D.C.-based Realtors group.

Vermont has been spared the decline in real estate values because relatively little "speculative buying and building" occurred, easing the effects of the sputtering housing market, Yun said.

Rampant speculation -- designed to cash in on the booming real estate market -- occurred most dramatically in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and greater Washington, D.C., he said. Those areas are now facing the most substantial declines in property value.

The slowing of new home construction, despite the associated job losses, is good news for Vermont's housing market, Yun said, because it keeps the housing supply from expanding and driving prices down.

Vermont's restrictive building environment also has a beneficial side-effect: fewer projects have been built and that helps support the prices of existing homes when the market sours, said Mark Brooks, a partner at real estate analyst firm Allen & Brooks in South Burlington.

"You don't have this competition of new homes putting downward pressure on prices," he said.

Demand for vacation homes in Vermont helps support Vermont's real estate market, Yun said.

Retiring baby boomers looking for vacation spots will continue buying homes throughout Vermont, he said. "I think Vermont is positioned well."

Kathleen Sweeten, executive vice president of the Northwestern Vermont Board of Realtors, attended the Northeast Real Estate Conference and Expo at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center where Yun spoke Tuesday. She, too, said Vermont's home values continue to rise.

For the first six months of the year, statewide median prices for primary residence, single-family homes increased 7 percent, she said..

Despite the increasing value of Vermont homes, it is taking several weeks longer for houses to sell than last year, she said.

"Buyers are a little skittish on jumping in right now," she said. "They still are buying. They are just taking a little bit longer when making their decision."

Rachel Smith, a co-owner of S.R. Smith Real Estate in St. Albans, sells property in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Homes are not fetching the prices they did in past years, she said. Buyers are also increasingly "fussy," and are requiring that homes be in better condition, she said.

Credit crisis


The National Association of Realtors announced Tuesday that tighter credit for home purchases will dampen sales until 2008.

Mortgages are harder to obtain because of the subprime mortgage mess. Subprime loans, which are given to borrowers with poor credit, have led to an increasing number of homeowners falling behind on payments and a rising foreclosure rate.

"Wall Street was careless," Yun said. "They blindly provided loans to anyone who wanted it."

This year, prices on existing homes, throughout the United States, are projected to fall 1.7 percent to a median price $218,200, according to the National Association of Realtors. Next year, national home prices are expected to rise 2.2 percent to a median of $223,000; median means half the homes will sell for less and half will sell for more.

This year, Vermont's single-family homes and condominiums sold for 7.1 percent more in the first three months of the year and 3.7 percent more in the second quarter, compared with the same periods last year, the Realtors' association said.

Allen & Brooks, which use a slightly different methodology to calculate sales prices, said the median sales price in Vermont is $210,000, through June; that's up from $205,000 last year, said Steve Allen; the analysts' study earlier this year showed Chittenden County median house prices steady at roughly $269,000. Despite dips in some parts of the housing market, Yun said buying a home is a solid investment. "For most homeowners, who are in it for the long term, there is no pain," he said.

Yun said he is optimistic about the housing market.

There is a "pent-up demand that will slowly be unleashed to the market," he said.

For this year, existing homes sales are projected to be 5.9 million, down from the 6.5 million sold last year. Next year, the National Association of Realtors expects homes sales to rise to 6.3 million.

"I think we are very fortunate, here in Vermont," Sweeten said. "Through all these cyclical markets, we don't see the strong types of deviation that other markets see."

Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
By Dan McLean
Free Press Staff Writer


2007-09-10 It’s Time to Take a Deep Breath

Who would ever have dreamed that credit could be so thrilling? And yet tremors and shivers over credit, and especially over subprime mortgages, have led to some real panic in the financial markets, and rings of fire in the ventricles of the coldest-hearted financiers.

Despite the oceans of ink that have been written on this subject, it seems to me that a few points have rarely been made, and may be worth making now.

IT WASN’T ALL BAD
The subprime mortgage industry apparently helped some people either get into homes or stay in their homes. Yes, it was far from an unmixed good, as we have seen in vivid hues lately. But because of these mortgages, many thousands of Americans who would otherwise not have their own homes now have homes. (Much of the recent subprime mortgage activity was about refinancings, but not all.)

Owning your own home is generally considered the bedrock of the American dream, so this is a good thing, both socially and individually. Walking into your own home, seeing your own dogs waiting for you there, is a major blessing.

The percentage of those who have defaulted is still fairly small, possibly 10 percent to 15 percent of subprime loans, and maybe less. (And subprime mortgages are very roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of mortgages.) That means that the experiment with granting loans to less-qualified buyers worked to a point. I guess — as I have said before — that there was a reason these loans were called “subprime.”

The lending system, however, did go too far in the direction of laxity. Obviously, there should have been tighter standards at the lower end of the borrowing scale. “Stated” income (in other words, “unverified”) and “no doc” loans were probably not a great idea, except for borrowers who were well known to the lender or already had documents on file. There was excessive eagerness to put borrowers into these loans, and now we are all paying the price for the immense fees that the subprime lenders garnered.

This is what we economists call an externality: a cost associated with the transaction that is borne by society in general, not just the parties to the transaction. That cost will be whatever government programs are enacted to bail out borrowers in trouble — while those who lent the money get away pretty much scot-free.

THERE’S PLENTY OF BLAME TO GO AROUND
There has been major dishonesty about mortgages at every level. Subprime issuers in many cases did not tell borrowers what their full costs were going to be, especially when the interest rate reset. This will clearly become a problem, although we cannot yet measure its impact.

The bundlers of subprime debt into collateralized debt obligations did not always tell the buyers of this stuff — especially the foreign buyers — just how risky this paper was, and now the buyers are suffering. (The amounts at risk because of defaults, though, are generally small compared with the capital of the banks in question.)

Alas, there is a long tradition of the United States not telling foreign lenders just how dicey certain loans are. It goes back to the 19th century and American borrowings from Europe for railroads, bridges, canals and farmland. Caveat emptor. Caveat lender.

Today, some of the foreigners send us their toys with lead paint and we send them our bonds with (sometimes) toxic default rates. This isn’t a good thing, but it’s the way the world works. There are a lot of scammers out there. Foreign lenders have every right to be concerned about American standards of truthfulness and disclosure.

But what is often overlooked is that many borrowers, people who look at themselves in the mirror every morning, lied like madmen to get their mortgages.

Years ago, I spoke to a gathering of mortgage sales representatives. Their tales of buyer fraud were almost unbelievable. These salespeople were pretty aggressive themselves, and I wondered how many borrowers would wind up in tears from what they did. But their customers — so I was told — would say anything, sign anything, to get a loan.

The human animal is often dishonest, and if it takes telling a few fibs about income and money in the bank to get into a house, many people will do it. My only point here is that it is not just the big boys whose lies and entrapments got us into trouble. Plenty of ordinary citizens played along.

IT’S GOING TO TAKE TIME
Real estate crashes do not end quickly. Realtors have a rule: there are no soft landings. Residential real estate is like a huge ship. Once it starts moving, it’s hard to stop. Once it slows down, it’s hard to make it speed up again.

We lucky citizens of sunny Southern California have been through some hair-raising real estate crashes since I moved there in 1976. The worst started in the spring of 1990 (just as I closed on my not-at-all-lavish Malibu home). Prices did not recover for a good eight years. That was harrowing, but there is a lesson here: real estate crashes are not like stock fluctuations, in which the market can lose 10 percent in a month and gain it back a few months later. In many cases, real estate takes a long time to turn around.

There is a good side to this, too. Namely, the time to buy real estate is when it’s down. Now, or some time close to now, buyers will be able to find real bargains. In time, maybe a long time, prices will recover and a new peak will be reached. But when everyone is crying the housing blues is the time to buy. Bargain hard. In many regions, sellers want to hear any offer right now.

GOD BLESS THE FED
We should be thankful indeed for the Federal Reserve. I know that some strict disciplinarians want to let the markets go through hell and let borrowers and investors suffer. Except for the possibility that this could provide them with some sadistic glee, I don’t see the point.

A few weeks ago, the markets were in a genuine panic. The traders were erupting with fear in some cases, and with greed as they went short in other cases. If the Fed had not stepped in to supply liquidity and confidence — and to send these overtired traders to their rooms for a time-out — there could have been real problems. Innocent people could have been terribly hurt.

We are lucky to be at a stage of capitalism when we have a Federal Reserve, led by Ben S. Bernanke, and Alan Greenspan before him, that will stop a hysterical market meltdown that is not based on fundamentals. The free marketeers may want to see suffering. Let them watch a boxing match. There is no reason for the innocent to be impoverished because traders panic. I know that the Fed’s rescue mission saved some rich people from distress, too. It’s a small price to pay for keeping the economy on an even keel.

THIS IS A BIG BOAT
“There is a lot of ruin in a nation.” This is from the greatest of all economists, Adam Smith. There is especially a lot of ruin in a nation with the economic power of the United States. I get to the point of laughing when I read doom-saying articles in the business sections of newspapers or watch Jim Cramer on CNBC.

Yes, there are real problems: housing, mortgage defaults, losses at financial firms, rot in hedge funds. But over all, things will be fine. Unless there is a genuine dollar crisis or a devastating recession (very unlikely), things will work out. This economy is very big and very solid. It cannot be derailed for long by anything we have seen lately.

If I were the editor of the business section for just one day, I would run one immense headline: “Everything Is Going to Be Fine. Go Back to Work.”

Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist.



2007-09-05 The History of the National Association of REALTORS®

NAR's Beginnings & Key Events

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® was founded as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges on May 12, 1908 at the YMCA Auditorium in Chicago, IL. Three earlier attempts (beginning in 1891) at organizing a national real estate group were unsuccessful. With 120 founding members, 19 Boards, and one State Association, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges' objective was "to unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests."


The Association's founding boards included the Baltimore, MD; Bellingham, WA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Duluth, MN; Gary, IN; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; St. Louis, MO; St. Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Sioux City, IA; and Tacoma, WA, boards and the California State Realty Federation (now the California Association of REALTORS®).

The Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913 with the Golden Rule as its theme.

In 1916, the National Association of Real Estate Exchange's name was changed to The National Association of Real Estate Boards.

The term “REALTOR,” identifying real estate agents as members of the National Association of Real Estate Boards and subscribers to its strict Code of Ethics, was devised by Charles N. Chadbourn, a past president of the Minneapolis Real Estate Board, and was first used to designate members of the Minneapolis organization. The Minneapolis Board gave all rights to the word "Realtor" to the National Association in 1916.

In 1949 and 1950 respectively, the Patent and Trademark Office registrations for the term REALTOR® and the REALTOR® emblem were approved. Dictionary publishers began to list the definition of "REALTOR" as a member of the National Association in 1967.

In 1974, the name of the National Association of Real Estate Boards was changed to the National Association of REALTORS®.

In 1989, the Association adopted The Voice for Real Estate as its theme and as part of its official logo. Along with this theme, the Association encouraged more members to include the REALTOR® emblem on their business cards and stationery.

In 1998, a national Public Awareness Campaign was launched to educate consumers about the vital role REALTORS® play in the real estate transaction.

The Association became the largest trade association in the United States in the early 1970s, with over 400,000 members. Today, the National Association of REALTORS® has over 850,000 members, 54 State Associations (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) and more than 1,500 local Associations.


2007-08-29 Preparing Your Home for Sale: Steps to Spruce Up Your Property
Whether you are sprucing up your home as a spring cleaning ritual, or preparing your home for sale, there are some tried and true tips to help you gain the most from your efforts. In fact, some of the most important fix-up projects a homeowner can perform may be accomplished on little more than elbow-grease, and they can help speed the sale of your home.

A thorough cleaning, a fresh coat of paint, and yard grooming are the ABC’s of preparing for a sale.  First impressions are important and a neat, clean look gives a good first impression to buyers.  

Some additional ideas which you may want to consider:
Plan a yard-sale, or a tax-deductible donation to remove old furniture and toys, appliances and other clutter material.  Your attic, garage, closets, cupboards and storage space will look so much bigger, and moving will be easier for you,
  • A newly painted wall (in a light or neutral shade) is a canvas to the eye of prospective buyers; and clean windows brighten and enlarge each room.
  • A well clipped yard - free of scattered toys - allows viewers to focus on the neatness of the home.
  • Fix dripping faucets and repair any caulking cracks.  Bathrooms are a key selling point.
     

If you are prepared to invest some money to improve your home’s presentation, start with the most cost-effective projects and remember to keep a journal of jobs and receipts.  Home improvement costs are often deductible (when costs are incurred 90 days before the sale and paid within 30 days after the sale).  While lawn-mowing and weekly cleaning bills do not qualify according to IRS regulations, new paint, a new water heater, or new gutters usually do apply.  Some hints:

  • Replace broken gutters and shutters.
  • New paint indoors or out is usually approved by the IRS for deduction if completed and paid for near the time of sale.
  • New floor coverings (in neutral shades) on kitchen and bathroom floors may be another affordable investment which can speed a sale by appealing to buyers’ desire for a property that is ‘ready to move in,’ particularly if the current style of colors are dated.
  • Repair broken woodwork, loose planks, and creaky stairs.  No buyer wants a home that needs structural repairs.
  • Hardwood floors are a plus.  If you have hardwood floors, consider removing the floor covering, especially if the carpet is worn.
     
You may want to reconsider more ambitious jobs, however, if you are thinking of selling the home any time soon.  While bathroom and kitchen up-grades generally help appreciation, not all home additions will add value to the property - other than that value which you personally enjoy. Not everyone wants a swimming pool that could be a safety hazard for young children, or an island kitchen design that restricts kitchen traffic flow.  A new deck may recoup its installment costs, but new kitchen cabinets come in a variety of designs and styles that the buyer should choose.  Talk to your REALTOR® about the improvements most appropriate in current market conditions and you will do your share to speed the sale of your home. For some background and useful statistics, review our report on "Remodeling Your Home - A Cost vs. Value Report".


2007-08-20 "Honey, Stop the Car!" The Importance of Curb Appeal.

This is probably one of the most important aspects in Staging and Selling a home.  You must draw that person out of the car, unto the sidewalk and up to the front door.  Color, landscaping, walkway, driveway, neighbors... all give a feel to the home.  In order to show the home to a global buyer, it must look pristine from the street to the doorknob.

If a home is taking longer to sell than the average there may be a good reason. What is the first thing you notice when you drive up to the home? How does the home make you feel?  Do you want to get out and see it? How does it look compared to the other homes in the neighborhood?  These are questions you need to ask yourself when preparing your home for sale.  

Well, you can't change the neighborhood, and you probably didn't budget for a complete front yard makeover.  So what can you do?

Here is a start:

Walk across the street or as far way as you can.  View your home by at least 3 angles such as the right side, front and center and left side. Now take a really good look at it.

#1. Can you see it?  This sounds funny but if you can't see your home, you can't sell it. Trees and shrubs are great and should be trimmed so that you can still see the house.  I usually suggest trimming trees up to the rain gutter line or the top of the highest window.  Shrubs should follow a same line as the bottom of a window trim. If a lot of trimming needs to be done, do it several weeks before so that the plants have a chance to recover.

#2. How is the paint?  Is it a neutral color?  Does it flow with the rest of the homes on the street?  Painting your house bright Blue will attract attention for sure, but not when you are selling.  Remember, with global buyers... neutral is key here.  Start with the trim if you can't paint the whole house, especially around the front door and front porch. It can be as simple as painting the front door a different color.  That can be a quick and easy fix.

#3. How is the driveway?  Are there cracks, oil stains, garbage cans?  The driveway is the largest hard area near the home, the material and look of the driveway and garage have a huge impact on curb appeal.  Clean it up and clear everything off.

#4.  Is your walkway to the front door defined?  Does it lead buyers to the front door or front entry? Make sure people know where your front door is, and then work on drawing people toward the front door. If the front entry area has a patio, create an outdoor sitting area.

#5.  How is the landscaping? Make sure that the grass is well watered, edged, and mowed. Flowers, flowers and more flowers. These little pops of color make us happy and cheerful.  Add some pots near the garage and plant away.

Curb appeal is really part of the whole package, which means the small details are as important as the big picture. A manicured front yard means a manicured home in a buyer's eyes.

Finally, don't forget to tidy up. Remove the garbage cans, hide the hose, pick up the paper, etc. Curb appeal means a place that looks neat and clean, the kind of place you'd like to live.



2007-08-13 Despite Rising Gas Prices, More Buyers Want Oversized Garages
Home buyers in increasing numbers want garages with two or more spaces in their homes, according to the 2007 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences, released today by the National Association of Realtors®.

Since the last survey in 2004, oversize garages saw the biggest growth in terms of what recent buyers considered very important in a home, gaining 16 percentage points to 57 percent. Among buyers who purchased homes without this feature, 56 percent of them said they would have paid more for an oversize garage, compared to only 6 percent in the 2004 survey.

Other priorities for today’s home buyers include air conditioning, with three out of every four respondents ranking this as “very important,” and a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, which was very important to 53 percent of respondents. Hardwood floors and granite countertops each gained 7 percentage points from the 2004 survey, with 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, of buyers viewing these features as “very important.” Gaining 6 percentage points was cable/satellite TV-ready, at 46 percent.

The survey reports responses from buyers who purchased homes in 2006. Home buyers were asked about 75 features and room types to assess the importance of each.

“Realtors® see hundreds, if not thousands, of houses with their buyer clients every year and know exactly what buyers are looking for in a home,” said NAR President Pat V. Combs, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and vice president of Coldwell Banker-AJS-Schmidt. “This insight is one more way Realtors® add value to the real estate transaction and why nearly eight out of 10 recent buyers used a real estate professional when buying their home.”

According to the survey, nearly six out of 10 recent home buyers took on remodeling or home improvement projects within three months of their purchase. Close to half of home buyers who remodeled or made improvements updated their kitchen, and nearly half remodeled or improved their bathroom. New homeowners spent a median of $4,350 on home improvement or remodeling projects undertaken within three months of purchase.

More than half of home buyers believe their home has high investment potential, and another four out of 10 believe it has moderate investment potential. Only 3 percent felt their home’s investment potential was low.

“The fact that a majority of home buyers quickly remodel key areas of their homes ties into the fact that their home is a good, long-term investment,” said Paul Bishop, NAR manager of real estate research. “Regardless of market conditions in the short term, when purchased for the long term, housing is one of the safest investments consumers can make.”

Energy efficiency was more important to new-home buyers than buyers of existing homes, with 65 percent of new-home buyers saying it was very important compared to 39 percent for buyers of existing homes. Older buyers placed a higher priority on energy efficiency than did younger buyers – 63 percent of buyers 75 and older said it was very important, but only 32 percent of buyers who were 18-24 agreed.

The survey identified some regional preferences in home features. For home buyers in the South and Midwest, central air conditioning was a priority, with 91 percent and 81 percent, respectively, saying this feature was very important. Sixty-six percent of buyers in the South thought a walk-in closet in the master bedroom was very important, while 61 percent of Midwesterners valued an oversized garage. In the Northeast, the highest percentage of buyers placed a premium on a backyard or play area (53 percent), followed by central air conditioning at 41 percent. Two-thirds of buyers in the West want oversized garages (66 percent), followed by central air conditioning at 59 percent.

Age was the biggest differentiation in what buyers were looking for in a home. Buyers 75 years old and older wanted a single-level home (74 percent) that was less than 10 years old (43 percent) with a walk-in closet in the master bedroom (74 percent). Most buyers between the ages of 25-34 wanted a backyard or play area (60 percent). More than half of buyers over 65 wanted a separate shower enclosure in the master bathroom, compared to only one-fourth of buyers ages 25-34.

For those who purchased a home without it, 65 percent of buyers said they would be willing to pay a median $1,880 extra for central air conditioning. One out of four buyers was willing to pay a median of $4,760 more for waterfront property.

Homes are getting bigger, but have fewer bedrooms. From 2004 to 2006, the size of the typical home purchased increased by about 100 square feet to 1,840 square feet, while the median number of bedrooms dropped from four to three during the same period. The median home age reported in the current survey is 12 years, down from 15 years in 2004. 



2007-08-13 The True Cost of Home Ownership
The Down Payment: Don't Fall for the Zero Down Trap

    I was on a national TV talk show to help people determine if they could afford the house they wanted to buy. A woman on the show told us she had spent the past two years hunting for her dream house, which was in the $800,000 price range. My first question for her was how much money she had for the down payment. I was dumbfounded when she told me she didn't have any money saved up. She went on to tell all of us that her real estate agent said that was just fine, since plenty of lenders offered "zero down" mortgages. Yes, and just because you can smoke a pack of cigarettes a day doesn't mean you should. My friends, for many of you zero down loans could be a really bad idea. Notice I say many of you and not all of you. It is true that sometimes it works out just fine; things fall into place financially and you wind up happy you bought that home of yours even if, at the time, it was a real stretch. But too often that is not how the story ends.

  That's why, even though real estate for the past few years has been one of the best investments out there, I don't think you should buy right now if you can't afford to make at least a 10 percent down payment. And the reason I think that is really quite simple: if you haven't had the wherewithal to save up for at least a 10 percent down payment I have to question whether you are ready for the financial responsibility of owning a home. Especially at a time when the job market hasn't really picked up, thanks to all the offshore outsourcing. There's a good chance we may see real estate level off from this point, rather than continue to climb higher and higher.

   Here's the issue: the biggest challenge with owning a home is not the down payment. The big challenge is being able to afford the monthly mortgage payments. The word in the sentence to take note of is monthly. You need to have that money each and every month. If you make no down payment, or a small down payment, your monthly costs are going to be much higher. Never forget that it is one thing to buy a home, but it is another thing to be able to keep that home. Let me remind all of you that there are now more homes in foreclosure than there have been in the past 40 years. Yet 100 percent of the homeowners now in foreclosure once qualified for a mortgage. So you can see the issue is not getting the mortgage; it's all about making sure you can truly afford the mortgage and the other costs involved with homeownership, month in and month out.

  Rent is not a Mortgage Payment Let's assume you currently are renting for $1,100 a month, and you now have your sights set on owning a home with a $200,000 price tag. You put $20,000 down and qualify for a mortgage of $180,000. On a 30-year fixed rate mortgage you're looking at an interest rate of six percent these days. That works out to a mortgage of about $1,079 a month. You're thinking, "Wow, this is a piece of cake. If I can currently afford $1,100 in rent, I can certainly afford a $1,079 mortgage." Stop right there. Do not pass go. I cannot tell you how wrong you are. The base mortgage is just the beginning of your housing costs. On average you need to add another 40-45 percent to get a more realistic total monthly cost. Yes, you read that right: 40 to 45 percent. So if your mortgage payment is $1,079, the true total cost is about $1,519 per month. Let me show you how the costs pile up. When you buy a home you owe property tax on its value. If the house is worth $200,000 and the property tax in your area is about 1.25 percent, that is a total of $2500 a year or about $200 a month. You also need to have homeowner's insurance. That can run you $25 per $100,000 of value, or, in this case, $50 per month. And if you make a down payment of less than 20 percent, you are also going to be stuck paying Private Mortgage Insurance. That fee runs about $45 per $100,000 of mortgage.

  If we assume a 10 percent down payment on our $200,000 house we're talking about $90 or so a month in PMI costs. (Yes, there are ways around PMI but those will cost you too, so just stick with me here while we do the numbers.) And we're not done with the "extras." Let's not forget all the costs of keeping the house running. Plumbing on the fritz? There's no landlord to call. If you want it fixed, it's going to have to be on your dime. So you better plan on having a reserve fund sitting around to cover repair and upkeep costs for your home.

  My advice is to plan on about $100 a month for that repair fund. Add up all these costs and you're looking at a total net housing cost that can indeed be 40-45 percent more than the base mortgage. In this example it's $440 per month more than the $1079 you were thinking it was going to cost you. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking now:

  What about the tax savings, Suze? Isn't that going to bring down my real costs? The Tax Break is NOT a Reason to Buy Listen, I will be the first to tell you that I think homeownership is the absolute best investment out there bar none. However, I want your home to be a source of joy for you, not a pain in your financial you-know-what. But I constantly hear from so many renters that the reason they want to buy a home is so they can get the great mortgage interest deduction. This makes me a bit nuts.

  For while it is true that interest payments on a mortgage below $1 million are tax-deductible, that alone is not a good enough reason to buy something that you may not be able to afford. First, right now our income tax brackets are at 40-year lows. If you are in the 20 percent tax bracket that means you will only get a 20 percent break on your interest payments. Let's just look at a $1,079 monthly mortgage. The total interest payments in the first year will be about $10,740. Your tax savings (20 percent of $10,740) is $2,148. Or about $180 a month. As I showed you earlier in the article, the cost of your property tax, homeowners insurance and private mortgage insurance, plus your inevitable maintenance costs, is probably going to set you back about $440 a month - about $260 more a month than your tax savings. Hey, even if we were to increase your property tax deduction another 50 bucks a month, just to be on the safe side, that's still more than $200 extra you will have to find a way to come up with each month.

  Now maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but for many of you it can be. And those extra costs should be factored in when you are deciding how much home you can really afford. You might need to come down a little in price. Every $10,000 you come down in the mortgage cost will reduce your monthly payment by about $50.

Written By Suze Orman of Realtor.org

2007-08-20 Tips to Parents Considering Second-Home Ownership in a College Town
   As families prepare to send their children to college, many are facing increased housing costs, both on and off campus. While most students choose to stay on-campus or rent nearby off-campus apartments, historically low interest rates are influencing growing numbers of parents to purchase homes for their children's stay at college, and as an investment thereafter.

  Tips for parents considering purchasing properties in college towns: Is the area around the college appreciating? Research the area where the school is located to see if it has suitable housing at a reasonable price and compare other local properties to see if they are appreciating. This will help you gauge whether this is a good investment. A local real estate professional can clarify rental demand and home-price appreciation in that market.

  How many family members and friends are planning to go to the same college? If you have several children bound for the same college within a certain period of time, it may make economic sense to buy a home for them to live in instead of paying rent or room and board.

  How can owning a home help with tuition fees? Some out-of-state students can establish residence by having their parents purchase a home for them to live in, enabling them to avoid paying substantially higher out-of-state tuition fees. Will there be a steady supply of tenants? A home with several bedrooms makes it possible for a student to have friends move in and pay rent. This can generate income above the mortgage payments, making a nice return on the purchase price.

  How can this affect my child's credit history? You can include your child's name on the contract and loan. There are many first-time homebuyer assistance programs that make it easy for students to qualify. This will also help the student establish credit and enable the parents to get a lower loan rate for the home than the rate they would have had to pay on a loan for a comparable investment.

  How can I educate my child to be a responsible homeowner? Putting the child's name on the mortgage should ensure that the child can handle the responsibility of homeownership and encourage him or her to treat the property, well, like it is his or her own!

2007-08-20 Green Improvements vs. Aesthetics
  Home owners interested in adding solar panels and light-reflecting roofs — even energy-efficient windows — find themselves butting heads with zoning boards and historic district commissions, who say the features look ugly and damage property values. For 11 months, neighbors fought an upstate New York resident’s efforts to install a wind turbine on his 11-acre property.

  A home owner in Concord, Mass., was denied permission by the historic commission to install replacement windows. "The worst thing you can do to a historic building, besides arson, is take out historic windows," the town’s staff planner told him. Even former vice president Al Gore had to battle the zoning board for eight months before he won permission to install solar panels. Some states are trying to make energy-efficient improvements easier. California, Arizona, and New Jersey have laws restricting home owners’ associations from blocking solar panels.
 
  Connecticut is trying to pass a law that overrides zoning restrictions to make wind turbines easier to install. Several companies are making solar and other energy efficient products less noticeable. And Houston-based Standard Renewable Energy has gone one step further. The company, which sells a system that integrates solar panels with roofing, will send a consultant to go before the association or zoning board to sell the product.

2007-06-28 Making Home Improvements Pay

2006 Cost vs. Value
What’s the return for remodeling? Remodeling magazine’s annual report compares construction costs with resale values for 25 common remodeling projects in 60 U.S. markets.

Prices for most remodeling projects continue to climb, while the recoup value of improvements at resale is declining to levels last seen in 2002. These are the findings of Remodeling magazine’s 19th annual Cost vs. Value Report — the eighth prepared in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine. None of this should come as much of a surprise to you: This year’s recoup values confirm the housing slowdown many parts of the country are experiencing.

With both home-sale and remodeling activity at record levels in the last five to six years, some cooling is inevitable. Indications are that the current downturn represents a return to “normal” levels. A number of improvements designed to make the report more reliable and useful has also affected both cost and value data. For starters, Remodeling took a fresh look at the specs for the 25 projects it studies each year. (REALTOR® Magazine, in the past, has limited the number of projects it included in its coverage.) The cost-to-construct figures (which include labor, material, subcontractors, and gross profit) are higher than in previous years, but also more accurate. (Read full project descriptions at www.remodelingmagazine.com.)

The estimates of resale value are also more accurate than ever before (see “Survey confidence is high,” below), thanks to the more than 2,000 members of the NATIONAL ASSOCATION OF REALTORS® who completed Remodeling’s e-mail survey this past summer. In addition, the report introduces nine regional averages, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This breakdown provides higher confidence levels than could be achieved with the four larger U.S. regions measured in previous years. What the numbers mean When comparing cost estimates for actual projects, remember that averaging tends to have a leveling effect on “Job Cost” data. And, seemingly small differences in size, scope, or quality of finishes can dramatically affect the final project cost. Remember, too, that, even in neighborhoods in the same city, local conditions can affect both the cost and value of a remodeling project, making our numbers appear too high or too low. In an actual real estate transaction, the “cost recouped” for a given remodeling project depends on a variety of factors. These include the condition of the rest of the house, the value of similar homes nearby, and the rate at which property values are changing in the surrounding area. A home’s urban, suburban, or rural setting also affects its value, as does the availability and cost of new and existing homes in the immediate vicinity. Bring value to clients and customers by marrying information from the report with your home pricing expertise and your knowledge of qualified remodelers in your area.

About the report

Research team Specpan, an Indianapolis-based company, programmed and hosted the Web-based survey, collected and compiled the data, and provided pre- and post-survey consulting. More than 100,000 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® members — salespeople, brokers, and appraisers—received e-mail links to the survey. Of those, 2,188 provided value estimates. Hometech Information Systems, the Bethesda, Md.–based estimating software developer, provided cost-to-construct estimates for each of the 60 cities surveyed. Survey confidence is high The statistical accuracy or confidence level of the national averages is 95 percent (+/– 2 percent), which means that 95 percent of the time, national results for this survey will fall within 2 percent to either side of the results published here.

No cause for alarm

Should you be concerned about lower recoup values in this year’s Cost vs. Value Report?
The unusually strong housing market over the past few years has boosted both remodeling and new-construction activity. For many home owners, the appreciation in house prices significantly added to their net worth. Similarly, home improvement projects often paid for themselves through a comparable increase in the home’s value. But every good thing must come to an end. Eventually, things return to normal. Luckily, today’s “normal” is great news for home owners and real estate practitioners: When you consider its value at resale, a home improvement project costs only 20 cents to 25 cents on the dollar. The other 75 cents to 80 cents spent on a project goes directly back into the home through increased value — not to mention increased owner enjoyment. — By Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Replacement projects lead returns

Of the top 10 projects nationally measured by cost recouped at resale, seven — including the top three — are replacement projects. An upscale fiber cement siding replacement returned 88 percent of the investment. Midrange vinyl siding replacement was second at 87.2 percent, and midrange wood window replacement edged out minor kitchen remodeling for third at 85.2 percent. Only roofing replacement finished outside the top 10 projects, at 73.9 percent for a midrange job, and 72.9 percent for an upscale one.
Energy efficiency in the face of high fuel prices could be a logical reason why replacement projects are high-value performers. But Charlie Gindele, president of Dial One Window Replacement Specialists, in Santa Ana, Calif., calls that a rationalization. “The thing that motivates people, by and large, is the aesthetics,” he says.
Amy Mills Siler, a salesperson at Joan Ryder and Associates Real Estate Inc., in Bel Air, Md., agrees that most home buyers are looking for a house with curb appeal. “If they drive up to a house with dingy aluminum siding and old windows, the buyers automatically get a bad taste in their mouth,” she says. “The old saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ falls on deaf ears with most clients.”
Gindele, who works in Orange County, Calif., where median housing prices in the second quarter of 2006 topped $726,000, says the return on investment is just an added bonus to home owners, who undertake remodeling projects for a variety of benefits. Among other things, “they do it because they want the ease of operation, the beauty, the sound-deadening component,” he says. “But it’s nice to recover your expense.”

2007-05-29 Burlington Market in a Nutshell
We are located in Burlington, VT 
-  On the shores of Lake Champlain
-  Home of the University Of Vermont, and academic medical center, and several other colleges
- We’re approximately 3 ½ hours from Boston, 90 minutes south of Montreal and an hour flight from NYC or Washington DC
- Our market demographics in general included an educated workforce, average age of 37. Most people live within 20 minutes of where they work – which allows us to truly appreciate a great, quality of life. Our short commutes helps put an emphasis on our after 5 life to enjoy outdoor activities or even allowing many the option to bike to work. Burlington and surrounding communities have expansive recreation paths for biking & walking for miles along the lake.

I’ll spend a few minutes updating you on our marketplace. My statistics will reflect Chittenden County, 25% of the state population and the economic hub for our state Our marketplace is stabilizing after enjoying, as most did, the recent real estate boom. In 2006, our unit sales were up 5.4%. But appreciation slowed to 2%, just under that on a single family home and 4.8% in condominiums.
 
In 2007 our average sales price of $290,000 is an increase of roughly 1% vs last year. This compares with an annual appreciation of 12% from the years 2000 to 2005. Our units in 2007 were up 8.9% The positive appreciation level we are seeing reflects a 4% increase on entry level properties. Flat to slightly down on mid-level properties ($350,000 – 800,000), and a considerable decrease on luxury properties in the range of 10% or more. The luxury property category is difficult to fully analyze because the number of sales in that category are limited or less than 25 units last year.

We have roughly 950 active listings, which reflects a 33% increase over last year. And that is getting us closer to pre-boom levels. What that means to sellers is a 6 month supply of property on hand. That would seem to be a balanced market, but although we have a healthy supply of buyers and are sales in units are up almost 9% this year, buyers are cautious. They do not want to overpay for a property. Although our market is stabilizing, not all markets across the country have – and buyers are reacting to that. We sell a lot of our properties to buyers coming from out of state. Our agency sales reflect 25% of our buyers sides are purchasers relocating. Often the buyer is coming from more expensive markets in Connecticut, Massachusetts or California. Their home town markets are depreciating and their offers may reflect a reality somewhere else.

What attracts people to Burlington?

There have been many national accolades placing Burlington #1 or at least in the top 10 for quality of life, as a place to raise a family, as a healthy community, and for our public education system. We also see people wanting to relocate to this area because they have traveled here for vacation, they have attended college, or they may have kids in the area that they want to be close to. Often their reasons for wanting to move here help them overcome some of the challenges we face in affordability, high property taxes, a limited corporate base, or for some people our climate. With a limited corporate base, we find that often people are creative in terms of employment in order to maintain their lifestyle. Perhaps one member of the household will work out of the house, while the other is able to telecommute or travels for their job outside of Vermont.

We’re a mobile society – and sometimes that can work to Vermont’s advantage. We did not have a highly speculative real estate market throughout the boom years and we do not see or anticipate at this point any impact of the sub-prime lending situation. We also do not anticipate much of an increase in foreclosures. So what is the overall tone of the market? Slower & stabilizing. Sellers need to be aware of several market shifts including the use of & positioning of their property on the internet … buyers have more homes to look at & they usually will start on line first. Another shift is that the condition of the property really matters. Buyers aren’t looking for fixer uppers – they’re looking for what they see in the Pottery Barn catalogue. And properties that are really maintained & stand out have seen multiple offers – even in today’s market. A recent seller told us they were nervous about a longer market time, but they really believed our staging services and our rental program not only helped them sell their home but reduced their anticipated financial burden of carrying two mortgages. An area we are focusing on today is the move towards downtowns. Burlington is certainly seeing this trend as well. We have had a strong & vibrant downtown, mainly due to our incredible location on Lake Champlain and to our Church St marketplace which is a pedestrian mall created 25 years ago and lined with local boutiques, nationally known retailers, and hundreds of restaurants. The arts also play a strong role in our thriving downtown from art hops, to artist studios & galleries spread throughout the city. In the past 5 years or so, we have seen more families moving closer to the city center – and in the recent years, many empty nesters. People can enjoy neighborhood living with less yard to maintain.

We have also seen an increase in luxury condominium development in our downtown area. We are currently representing a 9 unit luxury condominium project that averages 2000 sq ft, enclosed parking, large decks over looking the lake, and within few blocks to shopping & the theater. They are listed in the $795,000 - $900,000 range. This is the 4th luxury condo project downtown in the past few years. They generally attract a mix of single professionals to baby booms looking to down-size. That concludes my market update of Burlington, I’m happy to answer any questions.

2007-05-16 Newest Feature - Sold Homes
The newest feature has been added to www.VermontInvestments.com, the ability to search all sold properties in Vermont. This new feature will not only search everything that sold in MLS, but also For Sale By Owners. You can search by address, year, town, or person's last name and will search through Vermont Transfer Tax info and display; seller, buyer, sold price, and address. Click on the link to the left labeled: Find Recently Sold Homes

2007-08-20 Agent Secrets
  Selling or buying a house is a major transaction. And doing just a little homework can mean getting the best help in the business. "While there's nothing wrong with neighbor who's a real estate agent, you don't know what their experience is," says broker Richard Cahill. While it pays to get good representation, no matter what the real estate climate, the stakes are higher in a down market, when the need to distinguish a property is greater. That's how it's seen in Massachusetts recently.

  The number of detached single-family homes sold in the state decreased 14.6 percent last year compared with zoos, from 50,351 to 43,024 homes, the lowest volume since 1996, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. Condominium sales dropped 12.1 percent during the same period, from 23,536 units to 20,698. Richard Loughlin, president of the New England region for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and the chairman of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, says he is optimistic about a "very solid" spring market. But even so, he won't swear that the Boston-area market has hit bottom.

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE DOES HAVING the right agent make? It's impossible to know for sure how much more money a house would command with one agent over another. But Katie and Karim White's story is instructive. When it came time to sell their three-bedroom Cape in Acton last April -a buyer's market, if there ever was one - the Whites chose an agent almost randomly, because they had seen her name on a lot of signs. "I thought, 'This is a starter house. People are going to want to get in,'” recalls Katie White, a stay-at-home mother of two. "I thought the house would sell fairly quickly." In other words, she thought that being choosy about her agent wouldn't matter much. Besides, White says she liked that the agent wasn't "overly aggressive." She explains: "I used to be in sales, and I didn't like having to be that way my self." In fact, the agent was so unassertive that she instantly went along with the couple's pricing suggestion of $450,000, a number they had expected her to challenge as too high. Agreeing to a price set by the seller, even if it's inflated, might not seem like a negative, but much like stuffing a kid with candy to buy a moment's peace, it's not a smart long-term strategy. The cliche about not getting a second chance to make a first impression applies to split-level homes, too. Why? Because it's the "New Listing!" siren song that generates the most excitement: among brokers and buyers. After its debut is over, a listing begins to acquire a taint, like an Edith Wharton heroine who has remained single too long. It becomes vulnerable, if not to men of the wrong sort, then to bargain-hungry buyers making lowball offers. Though only 23 percent of houses on the market for less than a week sold for less than their listing price last year, according to the realtors' association statistics, a whopping 87 percent of those on the market for 17 weeks or more went for less - in other words, finding an agent who'll get the price right from the start is even more important than fluffy towels and fresh fruit.

WHEN LOOKING FOR REPRESENTATION, a seller should act like a marketing manager-who's hiring a salesperson to sell the company's most important - its only - product. It may feel awkward not going with the friend's mother-in-law who sells real estate on the side when she's not playing tennis, but industry experts caution against hiring a part-time agent, arguing that it's a lot like going to apart-time surgeon. The first step is to gather a list of candidates - as many as l0 to 15 names, which does require some stamina- by calling agencies to find out who their top producers are, asking for recommendations from knowledgeable sources such as people active in local business or development, and getting names from "for sale" signs in target neighborhoods and from ads. Thus armed, a smart shopper will narrow the pool with phone interviews, inquiring about advanced training and experience in the business - one longtime agent says two years is the minimum – and getting a general feel for each candidate.
   Online research is an important part of the process, too. Considering that last year 80 percent of home buyers used the Web, it's a good idea to ask agent candidates for photographs they've posted with their other listings. Actors aren't the only ones who need good glossies. "I've seen listing photos of a bathroom with the toilet seat up," says Lisa Kauffman Tharp, the head of Boston Home Staging, a company that specializes in sprucing up homes that are for sale. She says to make sure the master bedroom and kitchen are pictured, then adds, for emphasis: 'You cannot not show the kitchen." The last step is to conduct interviews, at home, with the top three candidates. After each agent has assessed the property, sellers should ask: What price do you suggest, and how did you arrive at that number? How close to the asking price do your homes usually come? May I have recent references and phone number? What is your commission? How many open homes do you plan within the period of the contract? How many times will the house appear in the paper? What do I need to change in my home before putting it on the market? The ability to price a house right - to know what's happening in the market at the moment a house is going up for sale -truly distinguishes an excellent agent. Persuading the seller of the wisdom of a certain price, especially if it's lower than fantasized, can be hard. Pat Combs, president of the National Association of Realtors and an agent in Grand Rapids, Michigan, gives sellers a handout that explains what things "don't determine what they'll get for their house," she says. She even uses graphic circles with slashes through them -the international sign for "Don't even think about it" - over sentences, including: "What you paid," What you want, "and you need." Attention, Shoppers Like sellers, plenty of home buyers wind up working with the first real estate agent who answers their first phone call to the first agency they contact. But, in fact, buyers should take the same care that sellers do when selecting an agent. Experts advise buyers to get recommendations, interview candidates, and make sure the agent feels like a good fit. Really, why dread Sunday afternoons? A tuned-in agent can alert buyers to properties coming up for sale before so much as a brokers' open house has been held, negotiate on their behalf, and save them time and aggravation by focusing only on appropriate homes. Doug Azarian, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and owner of Century 21 Dream Homes in Falmouth, notes that a good broker can also point buyers to new neighborhoods and towns that meet their criteria but that weren't on their radar. Azarian's advice for a buyer who wants a great agent is a lot like his advice for a seller, He says a buyer should look for an agent who has at least two years' experience and is well-connected in the area in question. Once a buyer and an agent decide to work together, they typically draft an agreement spelling out the relationship - whether it's exclusive, how long it will last, and how the agent will be compensated. Most times, since the buyer's agent and the seller's agent usually split the commission on a home sale, no upfront fee is required.

In the end, a seller looking for the right agent is shopping, for a trusted guide.

2007-09-13 HOME SWEET HOME IMPROVEMENT
  Tips For Upgrading Your Home and Increasing Property Value

  Whether you are planning to add more rooms, upgrade your kitchen or want to put your home on the market, some essential home improvement tips that will increase the value of your home. Kitchen Makeover: The kitchen is the most popular room in the house to remodel. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine, money spent to upgrade a kitchen produces the highest return on investment. Hot kitchen makeover trends include adding dual sinks, cooking stations, extra-long dishwashers, under-cabinet lighting, warming ovens and wine coolers.

  Bathroom Fixer-Upper: Upgrading a bathroom is another sound choice and often will provide a significant return on investment, as large bathrooms typically top the list for those seeking a new home. Adding skylights, glass block windows, ceiling fans and sunken whirlpool baths are other attractive selling features.

  Cosmetic Touch-Ups: A paint job, new double-paned windows and new carpeting will increase the price of a house virtually dollar-for-dollar. It is important to make sure that your home has standards that are in-line with the other houses in the neighborhood. Neutral colored paint and no clutter can make a world of difference. It is vital to look after the minor problems such as a leaky faucet or a loose cabinet to ensure that your house doesn't undergo any long-term damage. As soon as you notice a problem, fix it to help avoid a larger expense down the road.

  Home Improvement Professionals For Hire: Whether you need an architect, gardener, interior designer or contractor, it is always important to do a background check prior to hiring a professional. Get references from family or friends and interview them; checking is critical. The most important quality to look for is trust, not initial price. Tamira Martel at (802) 846-9578 or concierge@hickokandboardman.com from Coldwell Banker Concierge® Service Program offers homeowners referrals to local home improvement professionals.

2007-08-20 MOVING WITH KIDS
  Summer is the busiest home moving time of the year, as families try to get settled before the start of the new school year. But moving into a new home elicits many emotions, particularly regarding the children. Carefully preparing children for the move will ease the transition and make the process smoother for the entire family. We offer the following advice on helping kids cope with the big move.   

   Communicate. Maintain an open dialogue with the children about the decision to move. Engage them at the beginning of the process to give them time to get used to the idea. Explain why you must move and answer questions truthfully. Listen. Listening to your kids' concerns is equally important. Pay close attention to their statements so you can alleviate any fears. Avoid being dismissive of any social concerns; acknowledge them and remind the kids about the new opportunities ahead. Explore.
  After selecting a new home, a real estate sales associate can help you discover the new neighborhood and point out the playgrounds, community centers, and recreation areas that will help make the environment seem more familiar. Coldwell Banker customers can use Tamira Martell at (802) 846-9578 or tamira@hickokandboardman.com from Coldwell Banker Concierge® Service Program for assistance in finding activities for children.

  Comfort. Pack up the kids' rooms last to minimize the feeling of any disruption. The longer they feel secure in their own rooms, the easier the transition will be. Then, set up their bedrooms first so they feel like they're back in familiar surroundings Return to normal routines as quickly as possible, so set up the kitchen second. Serve meals at the same times as before, so there is not too much change all at once for the kids. Surprise. Arrange for special treats to be waiting for everyone at the new house. New games or new cuddly friends will keep the kids busy during unpacking and make the first memory of the new house a pleasant one!

2007-08-20 Vermont’s New Education Property Tax Adjustment Law
   Act 185 of the 2006 Legislative Session made significant changes to Vermont’s Education Property Tax system. The new law replaces the so-called “Prebate/Rebate Programs” previously available to qualified Vermont homestead property owners.
  Now, with the new legislation, the property tax adjustments under the Vermont statewide education tax will no longer be paid directly to qualified property owners. Instead, the adjustment amounts will be sent to the municipalities in which the property is located as a credit against real estate property taxes and will be used to reduce the homestead owners’ municipal tax bill. The property tax adjustment payments are mandatory based on “income sensitivity” formulas.
   Importantly, the education property tax adjustment payments are subject to the same deductions for delinquent state taxes and debts to State agencies (such as the Tax Department and child support obligations owed to the Office of Child Support.) Although the law is silent on the issue, the very nature of the income sensitivity adjustment program for owners of Vermont homestead properties mandates the conclusion that the property owner whose personal income circumstances generated the tax adjustment should receive the full measure and benefit of it. It is VAR’s (Vermont Association of Realtors®) position that a mechanism whereby the property tax adjustment amount credited to the property by means of payment to the municipality must be factored into the tax proration so that the seller will receive the maximum benefit feasible from the tax adjustment.  

  This may lead to complicated prorations and less certainty in some transactions than we are usually seeking. To give you some understanding of the magnitude of the issue: • According to the Vermont Department of Taxes for the last year in which statistics were available, approximately 122,000 taxpayers received prebate/rebate income tax refunds of property education taxes from the state. In 2006, households with adjusted gross incomes of under $106,000 will qualify. • In order to seek an adjustment for 2006, a buyer must purchase and occupy a property on or before April 1st. • The education property tax adjustment system is a “look back” system. Thus, for the 2007 property tax adjustment, the calculation is based on the property owner’s 2006 household income, the 2006 house site value and the 2006 property taxes on the house site.

• For all property adjustment claims that are timely filed – by April 17 of each year – the State will send the municipality the requisite adjustment payment on July 1st.

• A taxpayer can file a late claim for a property tax adjustment up to September 1st of each year – the State will send the adjustment amount to the municipality on or before September 15th (both subject to administrative delays).

• No claims can be made after September 1st.

• After receipt of the tax adjustment, the municipality’s tax bill will show the total tax prior, the amount of the adjustment and the net or “adjusted tax bill.”

• If a homeowner is applying for a property tax adjustment, a household income form (Form HI-144) must accompany the HS-122 form. These forms will be reviewed by the State for completeness and accuracy and the offset program for debts owed State agencies. Problem Areas:

•  Especially difficult will be closings that occur on or after April 1st of any given year and before the Town receives the State’s payment.

• Buyer’s attorneys and settlement agents may be resistant to accept the seller’s representation or even evidence, as to how much the adjustment is expected to be. (Sellers may have unintentionally made errors filling out the forms or they may have overlooked debt offset.)

• Some attorneys or closing agents may simply say “if the Town has not received the adjustment, we will not consider the anticipated payment in any event.” Things to Consider:

• A correct listing data sheet will always represent the unadjusted or total tax bill. (This should be confirmed by listing agents and/or seller or buyers agents.)

• Look closely at the April 1st date and possibly to whose best interest it could be to own the property on that date.

• At closing prorations can and will often be done (requiring additional funds by the purchaser) when there is clear evidence of a receipt of the tax adjustment by the municipality.

• Sellers can elect to waive the proration of their tax adjustment and like all factors consider a point of negotiation in the complete picture. If they elect to waive it, put it in writing.

2007-08-20 CAUGHT IN BETWEEN SELLING AND BUYING A HOME?
  Sometimes selling a home and buying a new one can be a difficult balancing act, as a homebuyer often cannot place an offer on an attractive home and sell the current one simultaneously.
   These homebuyers and sellers get “caught in between.” Below are some tips on how to close that time gap between buying and selling a home. Consider bridge loans. A bridge loan means borrowing from the current home’s equity until the proceeds from its sale are obtained. Some bridge loans require that only the interest be repaid; others mandate a single payment of interest and principal when the loan needs to be paid back. If protracted, bridge loans can be expensive, so it is best to use them for overlaps of a short period of time between closings. Buy on contingency. Have a prior-sale contingency included in the purchase contract of the new home. It provides the opportunity to withdraw from an offer if the current home does not sell by a certain date. Evaluate whether to buy or sell first.
   You might still get “caught in between” even with a prior-sale contingency clause. Homeowners must consider which is better to do first. In a “seller’s market,” locating the new home and starting the buying process may be the best approach. It is important to note that most people need to sell their current home in order to qualify for a loan to buy the next one, which is often more expensive. Review home equity options. For those who need to borrow for a longer period than just a few months, it is best to use a home equity loan or a fixed-rate line of credit, particularly if sizable equity has been built up.

2007-02-27 The Decision: Buy Vs. Rent
  Let's look at an example. If you are paying rent at $1,500 per month and your landlord increases your payment by a modest 5% each year, you would wind up paying just about $100,000 over a 5-year period! Worse yet, after forking over $100,000, you still would have nothing to show for it.
  And speaking of having nothing to show for it - how about any improvements you might make to a rental property? It's not uncommon for renters to freshen up the paint, install new light fixtures or plant some nice flowers outside. But guess what…all your efforts, labor and the benefit of that improvement belong to the landlord, not to you.
  With the extensive variety of programs to help buyers obtain a mortgage with little to even zero down payment, the very same money could have been used towards home ownership. Even using a standard 30-year fixed program, a mortgage of $300,000 could be obtained with a total monthly mortgage payment - including property taxes and insurance - of around $2,200. Assuming a 25% tax bracket, this would be equivalent to the average amount spent on rent during the same period after your tax benefit.
  And the benefits of home ownership are quite considerable. Because the mortgage is being paid down each month, equity is being built. After 5-years, the $300,000 mortgage would be reduced to $279,000, adding $21,000 to your net worth. Home appreciation can add an even bigger chunk. If your home appreciates at a modest 5% per year, the value of a $300,000 home would increase to $383,000 after 5-years. Subtract the remaining mortgage of $279,000 and you have a whopping $104,000 of additional net worth! Even if the appreciation level were at 3.5% or half the historical norm, the result would be $77,000 of additional net worth.
  But if laying out the initial increase in monthly payment and having to wait for your tax benefit to show up next April is a tough nut to crack, the IRS wants to help. Instead of waiting to file for the tax benefits derived from your new home purchase, you can simply adjust the amount of your withholding. This allows you to have less tax withheld from each paycheck so you can handle the new mortgage payment more comfortably throughout the year. In essence, you are taking your tax refund as you go instead of letting Uncle Sam hold it all year, interest free.
  Visit http://www.irs.gov and use the IRS withholding calculator. This very handy tool can quickly show you the effect a change in withholding will do to your net paycheck. Remember to balance this with the expected refund and it is always a good idea to check with your tax advisor.

Compliments of Kim Negron of CTX Mortgage:
802-846-4646
kim.negron@ctxmort.com
http://www.kimnegron.com

2007-02-21 Why add real estate to your investment portfolio?
Diversification and asset allocation are preached by all qualified financial planners in this day and age. Why? Diversification of your asset mix helps maximize your return on your investments and prevent against large fluctuation in your portfolio's value. Adding other assets classes to your average mix of stocks and bonds can increase your total return while actually reducing your overall risk!

If your are adding real estate to your portfolio why is an investment property better than a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust)?
REIT is an investment vehicle that allows investors to own real estate indirectly by investing in companies that purchase real property. REITs give the investor the diversification benefits of owning real estate but it does not pass on the tax benefits of owning investment properties. The tax benefits of owning real estate investment properties range from the non-cash expense of depreciation and the deduction of mortgage interest.

How does depreciation and mortgage interest decrease your tax liability?
Every dollar of interest paid can be deducted on schedule E of your 1040 tax returns thus reducing the tax liability associated with your investment income. Depreciation is a non-cash expense that also can be deducted from your schedule E, which unlike interest is not paid out with cash thus it reduces tax liability without any initial cash outlay. The tax shield associated with depreciation increases your total return.

Overall owning real estate and diversifying your asset classes in your portfolio can be more beneficial in both the short and long run. Over time as you make your mortgage payments using rental income you are building equity every year as you own the property, think of it as a long term money market account which can yield higher returns as the property appreciate. The rents provide income; you are reducing your tax liability in many cases, and reducing the overall risk in your investment portfolio which helps secure your retirement and your future.

Compliments of Buddy Singh from Spruce Mortgage:

bungguy@together.net
802-652-0162
www.sprucemortgage.com

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