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What's So Special about Composite Decking

Although our Vermont spring stillfeels a bit chilly, it won't be long before we are all barbecuing on the deck in the warm sunshine. Just thinking about this fabulous pastime made me check my deck to see how it weathered this past winter. And, like many of you, my raised 12 x 24 deck needs a good cleaning and staining and maybe a board or two replaced. I try toconvince myself thatit really only needs a little maintenance every two years or so, but honestly, it should be stained every year with the amount of harsh weather we receive. Also, at 13 years old this summer, we might be looking at replacing it in the near future.composite deck 1 If this sounds familiar, then maybe you too have considered an alternative to pressure treated wood. I am seeing composite decking more and more as I show homes and buyers always have a positive response. "Oh, that's great - No staining!" The compositelumber that is used for making decks isa mixture of wood fiber, plastic, and some type of binding agent. These ingredients are put together to form a material that is denser, stronger, and heavier than wood alone, a wood-plastic composite. Trex, Timbertech and MoistureShield are three common composite decking companies.Composite decking is resistant to rot, doesn't warp, won't give people splinters, and doesn't need to be painted, stained or sealed! (I'm sold!) composite deck 2But of course, like everything there is a downside. Composite decking is usually more expensive. When comparing your optionsof the initially least expensivepressure treated wood, exotic woods that will have a longer deck life but be more expensive, or composite decking, the up front costs of composite may be worth it. Composite decking costs often fall between those two wood options anddo have different varieties that can fit mostbudgets. So, the next time you look at your deck and the can of stain, you might justify the cost of low maintenancecomposite decking over the lifetime of the deck. .

Failed Window Seals

At property inspections I come across failed window seals quite often.For many first time home buyers this can be a completely new topic that they don't know much about, so I thought I would gather some information together here as a resource. This is what a failed window seal looks like.

Failed Window Seal

Failed Window Seal

The window will appear foggy, sometimes injust a corner andnomatter how much you clean it or what the temperature is, the fog remains. What is a seal anyway? The window seal refers to any part of the window installation that blocks out the exterior environment. Most often, the term seal is used for weatherization and energy efficiency applications, and usually refers to the sashes (in sliding windows) and lites (window panes). Why do window seals fail? Sometimes they fail for these reasons:
  • Pressure building between the two panes of glass during hot days (referred to as heat pumping)
  • Contracting/shrinking inthe colder months
  • Expansion and contraction of the sealant material itself
Seals fail most frequently on windows facing south or west due to longer exposure to the sun. Too much direct sunlight deteriorates the original sealing material more quickly than windows facing in other directions. When considering new windows, always opt for solid, long-term, transferable warranties (20-year warrantiesare preferred) because the windows will not only perform better for longer, but the transferable warranty also adds resale value. What do you do about it? First you would need to figure out where the seal is compromised or leaking. In some instances, a nice amount of caulking can do the trick but will look unsightly. The other option is to just replace the panes. Lastly, in some cases the window framing is the cause, possibly due to poor installation, and a new window might be the answer. In a majority of cases I see, a window's broken seal is due to old age, and therefore replacing the window for a more efficient one is the best option. As with any home repair, if you are not a DIYerconsultyour qualified inspector or ageneral contractor for guidance!

Holiday Safety for the Home

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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=RNjO3wZDVlA
  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) http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/holidays/project-holiday Stay safe everyone and enjoy your home this holiday season! gifttags

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, www.vermontpelletstoves.com Vermont Wood Pellet Company in Clarendon, www.vermontwoodpellet.com Stove and Flagworks in Williston: www.stoveandflagworks.com

Home Sales

Homes are selling faster as buyer demand picks up, leaving a very low supply of homes left for sale, according to the latest February MLS data figures from Realtor.com. Homes in February sold faster than in any February since 2007, according to the site. In February, homes were on the market for a median of 98 daysthats down from 123 days in February 2011. With home sales picking up pace, buyers and sellers are less likely to see price reductions on homes and to see more multiple offer situations, Curt Beardsley, vice president with Move, which operates Realtor.com told USA Today. Courtesy of vtrealtor.com

August 2012 Market Statistics The Northwestern Vermont Board of REALTORS has released its real estate market statistics for August 2012. The information is derived from data contained in the Northern New England Real Estate Network and covers Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. Monthly market statistics reports are sponsored by NorthCountry Federal Credit Union. New listings in the three county region decreased 7.8 percent to 249 listings. Pending sales were up 7.1 percent to 167.Inventory levels shrank 19 percent to 1,150 units.Prices moved higher. The median sales price increased 5.4 percent to $259,900. Days-on-market was up 2.8 percent to 94 days. The supply-demand balance stabilized as the months' supply of inventory was down 27.6 percent to 8.7 months. The median sales price for the region is nearly at a two-year high. said Kathy Sweeten, executive vice president of Vermont Board of REALTORS. The expectation is that well start to see homes sell in less time and for closer to list price in the coming months.

March 2012 Market Statistics

The Northwestern Vermont Board of REALTORS has released its real estate market statistics for March 2012. The information is a result of data contained in the Northern New England Real Estate Network. This report covers Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. New listings in the northwestern Vermont region increased 21.7% to 264 listings. Pending sales were up 36.6% to 179. Inventory levels continue to shrink, down 5.9% to 1,053 units. Prices remain fairly stable. The median sales price in the three county regions saw a decrease of 1.4% from last year at this time. The Spring housing market is definitely here, said Kathy Sweeten, executive vice president of the Northwestern Vermont Board of REALTORS. Properties priced right are moving quickly.