Blog :: 2013

Vermont Sweets

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Birrn Chocolates of  South Burlington

Birrn Chocolates of South Burlington, Vermont

We all know Vermont is known for it's maple treats, but did you know we have some really good chocolate treats as well? When I am thinking of sweet treats this time of year, a plethora of local options arise to choose from! Lake Champlain Chocolates being the most recognized brand with their wonderful holiday shaped chocolates, cocoa and fudge, but there are many other smaller companies that also deserve your attention.Vermont Cookie Love in Ferrisburg and the Vermont Brownie company in Winooski have very tasty (personally tested!) treats that are easily shipped anywhere you like! Snowflake Chocolates out of Jerichoand Birrn Chocolates in South good! Greentree enjoys supporting local businesses and thesespecific companies make it quite easy! So, if you're looking for a little something to bring to a holiday party...keep it local and keep it sweet.

Housewarming Gifts

Being that we are in the midst of the gift giving season, it got me thinking about House Warming Gifts. The ones my husband and I received when we built our home in 2002 really stand out in my memory. Becoming a homeowner is such a huge accomplishment, and I remember settling in with a new frame here and a beautiful plant really made our new house feel like a home. My in-laws purchased our first ever washer and dryer and gave it to us as a housewarming gift! A smile still comes to mind when I think of how excited we were over not needing to go to the laundry mat! But housewarming gifts do not need to be that extravagant or expensive. Some common ones are indoor potted plants, or perhaps a bottle of wine. But I thought a few practical ideas might give you something to consider if you have a friend or relative entering into home ownership.


Mop bucket filled with household items


Cleaning Supplies

A collection of cleaning supplies in a bucket can be a very useful gift. Or, a simple toolbox with a level, hammer, some screws and anchors for hanging pictures, and the all purpose electric screwdriver. I love mine! Another idea is a Swiffer set - that company has tons of options for cleaning. I also love the idea of a rake and shovel, or even a small step ladder. The homeowners are going to need these things! The other unique idea I came across was stocking someone's fridge. Imagine after packing and unpacking boxes for days, some friends arrive with bags of groceries and staple items for the pantry. Tell me that won't be appreciated! So, we all love vases and picture frames, but maybe consider a practical alternative if you're in the housewarming spirit this season!

Loans for the "Almost Perfect" home

Have you heard the term, "Rehab loan" referenced to a property and not fully understand what it means? Well here's a little information. Some of the homes out there need a little more than TLC. These homes may be foreclosures, short sales, or just homes that have had continuousdeferred maintenance over the years . These properties are perfect candidates for Rehab loans. The process can be a little more time consuming, but for the patient buyer, you are able to purchase a home that you like and make the updates it needs all with one closing. In general thesteps are:

  1. Meet with a Rehab Loan lender and get pre-approved. There are a few different programs out there, but a common one is the FHA 203K loan.,
  2. Selectyour home, write an offer and obtain quotes from a general contractor for the updates that you are interested in making. Of course different rehab loans have different guidelines on what can or must be updated and if there are any limits, so reviewing those details with your lender prior will be anecessity!
  3. The quotes will be submitted to your lender, and those estimates, along with the purchase price of the existing home, will be what the finished project needs to appraise for to obtain loan approval.
  4. Close on the home and then the work begins with an initial disbursement of the funds to cover the updates. Usually in just 1-2 monthstime, the work will be completed and the final disbursement is made to the contractor.
before and after bathroom before and after

Holiday Safety for the Home

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OK...I know it's early, but if you've already strung the gazillion lights, put the candles by the curtainsandforgotten to water thetree, then it would be too late!Regardless of how you celebrate this wonderful season, if it involves decorating your home, then keep in mind a few safety tips. Some of the statistics are staggering...
  1. One out of three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems
  2. December is the peak time of year for candle fires in the home.
  3. How many of us put that tree close to the fireplace or woodstove - One out of every six Christmas tree fires are caused by this!
  4. And here's the scariest - one out of every 40 home Christmas tree fires result in a death, compared to one out of 142 in structure fires.
So, there are some very simple things you can do to keep your home and your family safe this holiday season!
  1. MAKE SURE YOUR SMOKE ALARMS ARE WORKING! You should do biannual inspections regardless, but before that tree goes up, make sure your smoke detectors are operational.
  2. Water that tree! The difference between what happens when fire breaks out in well-watered tree versus a dry tree is alarming - watch this:
  3. Unplug lights and blow out candles BEFORE leaving the home - do not leave them unattended!
  4. If you are connecting multiple strands of twinkle lights, make sure to connect them to an outlet via an extension cord.
  5. If you do have candles going continuously, make sure they are on metal bases that are sturdy and if deep enough, filled with water.The flames should be enclosed inglass.
The National Fire Prevention Association has a great "Project Holiday"website with resources, PDF printouts, andeven gift tags that have reminders about turning off your lights (see below) Stay safe everyone and enjoy your home this holiday season! gifttags

Keep Your Home on the Market this Winter

Many sellers think that once the snow starts to fly, they should take their home off the market for a few months so it will appear new and refreshed for the spring. Any Realtor will tell you, "If you want to sell your house, you need keep it active". You can't sell a home that isn't available for buyers to see. If you are still a doubter, here are some good reasons why keeping your home on the market even in Vermontwill help you sell it. snow 2 snow 3 snow pictures 1) Homes look lovely all decked out for the holidays. What a wonderful time to showcase the warmth that your home can provide to new owners! 2) Less inventory to compete with! Come April, your home may have 25 competitors, but in the middle of the winter, you could have less than 10. 3) Even with the parties and family visits, you can still allow access to your home. It's OK to ask for additional notice or make some limitations on evenings when you're entertaining. 4) Buyers that look in the winter are serious. If a buyer is looking for a new home in the winter, they aren't just window shopping. 5) And lastly, with all the technology available to buyers today, the winter weather does not have to be a huge deterrent. Much of the searching and pre-qualifying for a new home is done on-line before the actual viewing takes place. Soshovel those walk-ways, put out the twinkle lights and keep your house on the market. You'll be so happy when the listing rush happens in March andApril that you're not a part of it!

Country Living vs. City Living in Vermont

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Downtown Burlington Vermont

We work with clients often who are contemplating a change and where to purchase a home can be a big one! In many cases, buyers are looking to move from an urban area of our state and buy something with a little land in the country. In other instances, we have clients who want the convenience and efficiency of living in a more urban area and also like that many of their home's amenities, like sewer and water service, are provided by the municipality, so they look to move from the country into the city!

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Country Living in Vermont

If you are considering a change of where to hang your hat, here's some things to think about: 1) Do the drive - if you are use to a 5 minute commute, or the option of public transportation, do the drive from your newly sought after location into where you work. And don't do it on a Sunday afternoon! Drive in either morning or evening traffic to really understand what that commute will be like. Also, many rural homes will be accessed by only dirt roads which can take a toll on your vehicle, or require that you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle in the winter! Understand your daily commute and the impact on your vehicle is an important factor with definite costs.

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Dirt Roads in Vermont

2) Amenities - When you live out in country, especially here in Vermont, there can be some tradeoffs. Most homes will have a private septic system and water supply that you would be responsible for maintaining. You also may have fewer options for phone, cable and internet service, so be sure to check on that. Lastly...take out. Not all rural communities have food delivery! So if you work from home and need a certain internet speed, be sure to ask before you buy!

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Church Street Marketplace, Burlington Vermont

3) Square footage -If you do move out into the country a bit, you'll see that the homes you may be able to afford get a little bigger, or come with more land. Would you rather pay for amenities or more space? Having more land can mean some additional freedoms, such as larger gardens, more pets/animals and more star gazing! You won't find many street lamps outside the city centers!

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Downtown Middlebury Vermont

Regardless of where you decide to call home, Vermont is such a lovely place with a uniqueness all to it's own. Have fun thinking through your optionsand let us know how we can help!

Pellet Stoves are Everywhere!

pellet stove If you're a buyer currently looking for a newhome,I'm sure you've come across apellet stove...they are becoming more and more popular, especially here in Vermont. Many home owners are considering these alternatives to wood stoves to provide a secondary heat source for their home. Here's a few important facts about pellet stoves:

  1. A pellet stove has come a long way aesthetically. They used to resemble giant boxesbut now it's sometimes hard to tell them from a wood stove when you enter a home and they come available with or without a viewing window.
  2. Pellet stoves burn pellets, either made of wood or special fuel composites. The pellets come in 40 lb. bags and must be stored in a dry place.
  3. The stove produces dry radiant heat and can be controlled by thermostat when the hopper is full of pellets. In many cases a pellet stove is more efficient than a fireplace insert.
  4. When selecting a size for a pellet stove, the higher the BTU the better, andmake sure tobuy one appropriate forthe square footage you are looking to heat.
  5. Installation guides andsafety codes are similar to wood stoves, althoughsome pellet stoves can be direct ventedoutside and not need a lined chimney, or only needa shorter chimney to do the job. Pellet stoves also must haveelectricity to operate.
  6. Pellet stoves do require cleaning and removal of ash, but the volume is less than with traditional wood stoves.

If you are considering a pellet stove for you home, definitelytalk to an industry professional about the quantity needed in order to heat your home to obtain fuel cost estimates. It's also good to visualize where you will keep thestored pellets and how you feel about lugging 40lb. bags.As a local Realtor in homes constantly, we are seeing many more pellet stoves around the state andhomeowners are raving about the ease of use and very clean, almost smokeless, heatthe unitsprovide. Contact any of these local companies for more information on pellet stoves: Vermont Pellet Stoves in Colchester, Vermont Wood Pellet Company in Clarendon, Stove and Flagworks in Williston:

What to Expect from an Open House as a Seller

open house You de-clutter, sign your listing agreement, have wonderful pictures taken and put your house on the market. You ask your agent foran Open House right away and bake the brownies. Two hours lateryou are toldthe property was not sold and the brownies weren't eaten because no one showed! WHY?

The real estate market is ever changing. People are busy and free time is a coveted treasure. Having an un-scheduled Sunday afternoon to drive around and look at open houses is a luxury many of today's buyers do not have. More and more buyers are looking to the internet to preview and prioritize their time in viewing properties. With virtual tours, digitaltown records,and 360 degree images, buyers can get a tremendous amount of information on line.

Open housescanwork and should not be completely taken off the table, but sellers need to be realistic about what to expect.


  1. First, make sure the home is priced well. If you're over priced, thenthe open house is just missing the target completely.
  2. Consider having the open house targeted toa group of people. For instance maybe inviting all the neighbors so they can spread the word, or a book group you belong to. Many agents will choose to host a Broker Open House where agents from that geographic areaonly are invited to come preview your home usually duringa weekday whilethe seller is at work.These Broker Open Houses are a great way to get realistic feedback on your home from other professionals!
  3. Nationally, less than 7% of homes are sold through open houses,as stated in arecent article from the American Homeowners Association.
  4. Lastly, wait at least 2 weeks before hosting your open house. If your home is priced well, you'll have some activity as soon as it goes on the market. If it doesn't sell right off, then you should be able to glean some good information on why buyers aren't acting and can incorporate that information into your open house. Maybeproviding money back at closing for new carpet, or changing the layout of a living room to make it feel more open could impact a buyer's experience at your open house.

So keep baking the brownies but keep in mind these helpful notes when asking your agent for an open house! We're all here to work together to get your home sold!

Property Tax Adjustment

If you have purchased a home recently and you discovered that the town you live in has your property's assessed value at GREATER than what you paid for it, there is a chance you can get your property taxes reduced. A few local towns did their periodic assessments at the height of the market, so some buyers are purchasing homes in this current market with tax assessments at much higher values.

Now every town in Vermont does things differently (we all know that!) but the process is generally quite simple. 1. Contacproperty tax imaget your town treasurer to find out the how and when to file a grievance. Many towns do it in the spring, others are on-going. 2. Contact the Realtor you used and ask them to provide you with a few comparables - these are homes that sold around the time you purchased yours that support the reduced assessed value you wish to obtain. For instance, if you purchased a home for $350,ooo and the tax assessment is at $425,ooo, you would want to have some property closures of similar style homes that fall into that $350K range. 3. Make sure to have a hard copy of your purchase and sale contract and any closing documents - some towns will request that. Some towns will also request a letter in writing stating what you are looking for, or possibly have a form for you to fill out, but that's about it. Let us know if you've had experience with this or have anything to add!

Don't Forget the Septic!

We get very comfortable doing "our business" in our home bathrooms and just assuming that little flusher is going to work every time....until it doesn't! Maintaining your septic system can easily get put to the back burner, but we're here to remind you that maintenance every 3-5 years is a MUST! Now if you live in a city center and are serviced by a public septic system, then more power to you. But for country folks on private systems, which is a majority of the state of Vermont, you need to take care of these things! Maintenance includes having atrained professional comeandboth pump yourseptic holding tank as well as inspect the tank and lines. Inour area, this can run from $200-$300 on averageand well worth the investment.Therecommendation of 3-5 years depends on the number of people living in the home and the amount ofusage the system is getting. Now even with private systems, there are still many different types such as conventional, mound and alternative, and a trained professional will know what's best, but here are some basic DON'Ts that we think any home owner can follow: 1) Garbage disposals are NOT recommended and please don't pour food or grease down the drain. 2) Bacteria additives such as yeast and RiD-X are not needed. Some additives will do more harm than good. (Yeast will only break down starches.) 3) Don't overuse cleaning chemicals -- it will kill the good bacteria in the system. 4) Above ground swimming pools or ice rinks should not be installed near or above your septic tank or leach fields. 5) Non-biodegradable items such as wipes, diapers, cigarette butts or feminine hygiene products should not be disposed of in the toilet. 6) Engine oil, gas turpentine or other non-biodegradable chemicals should not be poured down the drain. 7) Water softeners should not back flush/empty into the septic tank to self clean. This will add sulfides and chlorides to the septic system that will kill good bacteria. We hope these tips help and if you can't remember the last time you've had your septic pumped, call your local provider now before the ground is frozen. As an owner in the industry use to tell me, "A straight flush beats a full house anytime!".