Blog :: 2014

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. .

Does It Stay or Does It Go? The rules of personal property in Real Estate transactions

This question often comes up in a real estate transaction, "What's included in the sale?" or "What's not"? It's very important to ask these questions with your RealtorBEFORE you write an offer, and if you aren't sure, confirm with the Seller. Personal property can get a little tricky, so here's some basics to help you sort through it.
Do they stay or do they go?

Do they stay or do they go?

  • Curtain RODS convey with the home. Curtains themselves DO NOT. As a general rule, if property is fixed to a wall with screws, nails, orbolts, it's part of the structure and will convey with the property. If you love the curtains there is a good chance that the Sellers may not be usingthe exact same ones at their new home, and may leave them as a courtesy if you ask. But you MUST ask for them in the contract, or expect to have bare windows when you move in.
  • In a majority of transactions, some appliances will convey with the property. The most common appliances to be included are stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers. Don't just assume the microwave, air conditioner, dehumidifier, washer and dryer are being left behind for youjust because you see them at the home when you view the property. Be sure to confirm what the Seller is including in the sale, and understand that any other item you wish to have conveyedmust benegotiated.
  • So, what about woodstoves, hot tubs, snow blowers and lawn mowers -- These items are also occasionally included in the sale, with the most common ones being wood stoves and hot tubs. Some lenders prefer to haveaccessory items such as lawn mowers and snowblowers NOT included as part of a purchase and sale contract. So if you are going to ask for them, youmay want to confirm with your lender that it's acceptable prior to writing them in a contract.
  • What aboutthe bedroom set of furniture?When it comes to large amounts of furniture, this MUST be handled outside ofthe real estate purchase and sale contract.You can ask your Realtor for guidance on when theappropriate time will be to negotiate the possible purchase of furnishings that the Seller maybe leaving behind.
  • And as a Seller, what if you wish to dig up Grandpa's rose bush to bring to the new house? Trees, plantings and shrubbery that are in the ground are considered to be part of the property and convey with the property. Occasionally we do have a Seller that will ask to bring a lilac or rush bush, or some special plant with them to their new home. This must be disclosed to the Buyer and written in the listing information. The seller will also need to repair any hole made and re-seed the area if necessary as a courtesy.
  • Lastly...ceiling fans, fancy chandeliers and lighting: Lamps do NOT stay with the home as part of the purchase, but all other lighting fixtures that are afixed to walls are conveyed with the property unless otherwise specified by the Seller. If the seller is taking a special chandelier to hte new house, then they must purchase a replacement light fixture to be included in the sale.
Have fun shopping for homes this spring and remember....ASK FIRST and then WRITE IT IN THE CONTRACT!

Mud Season Staging

I know we are all very excited about the extra sunlight after 5pm as the first day of spring is fast approaching this week. Daylight savings also starts the time of year when more homes come onto the market in our state. Our landscaping efforts take a while to get going in the spring, so our yards can seem a little dull and barren to say the least. If you're like me, and live on a dirt road, the exterior of your home may need a power wash and I guess...the windows will need to be dealt with . And mud. Yes, we're going to have lots of mud in the coming weeks. Daylight Savings + Spring + Vermont = MUD SEASON!
Mud Season Ruts

Mud Season Ruts

If your home is listed for sale in the early weeks of spring as many sellers do to get the jump on the buying season, here's a few tips you can consider to help stage that home even when spring really hasn't quite sprung yet outside!
  • Have a small photo album available for buyers to view that shows your home in the BEST of all seasons. Include pictures of flower beds, a front shot of the home with GREEN grass in front, and maybe a nice foliage and snow shot.
  • Almost everyone takes their shoes off when viewing a home no matter what the season - it's just good manners - but when boots look like this just from walking from the car to the house, provide a place OUTSIDE your entry way for these boots to stay during the showing with maybe a courteous note.
Mud Season Boots

Mud Season Boots

  • Fresh flowers. Nothing says spring like a little bouquet of tulips. They can really add a cheery statement to an entryway or kitchen area.
  • Making cleaning the windows your first spring cleaning priority. I'm sure you're already keeping the house tidy because you want to sell it, but postpone cleaning out the closet....clean the dreaded windows first. It makes such a huge difference when buyers can gaze out the window and actually see what's outside.
  • If you live in a rural area and have a gravel/dirt driveway, keep an eye on those ruts. Sometimes a good steel rake can help even things out before a full grading is necessary. And for those big ruts, keep a bag or two of gravel handy.

Property Inspections - A MUST!

People buy homes year around, but here in Vermont, we do see a surge of purchasesbetween April and October when the weather is more favorable. As we are about to enter into this year's buying season, I would like to give all buyers out there some important advice- Get a Property Inspection! A property inspectionoccurs after a contract has been established andthe purchaserhires a third party inspector whowill review many ofthe home'smajor attributes. This inspection is usually conducted within the first twoweeksafter an offer is accepted. In most transactions, this property inspection is written as a contingency, so that the purchasers must be satisfied with the inspection results before proceeding with the transaction. The inspection may include, but is not limited to: the roof, foundation, heating, plumbing, water, septic, electrical, structural, mechanical, flues & chimneys and other major components together with all appliances included in the sale of the subject property. The inspector may not however do invasive inspections such as drill holes, take off siding or cause damage to the property in any way. A purchaser may choose any inspector he or she wishes as long as the inspector is not related to the purchaser, but as a convenience here is a Partial List of Vermont Inspectors. Occasionally I will have clients or customers that elect not to have a property inspection. In most of these cases, the purchaser is an investor, purchasing a home "AS IS" and will waive a property inspection in lieu of negotiating a more aggressive purchase price. But keep in mind, the property inspection is your only chance to "kick the wheels" of your new home before closing! It's better to find out what's wrong with your new home BEFORE you own it and have no recourse.

New Refreshed Website - www.vermontgreentree.com

We just completed a new design of our website, www.vermontgreentree.com and are so excited to share it with you. We've been a client of Union Street Media for many years and enjoyed the process of updating some elements. Many clients have told us that they truly use and enjoy the content on our site, but as with all technology, we felt that the overall design could be "refreshed" as they say to make the site lookcleaner and easier to use for our clients. Please let us know what you think! We love the new look, the multitude of search options,and how easilyaccessible the new design comes across.

Screenshot (5)

For example, if you're just doing a quick targeted search, you can now use the new google search bar option on the top of every screen where it says "Find Properties". Or if you are starting to do research for a spring or summer purchase, we recommend creating a free account where you can save searches, make comments and even setup appointments to view homes. You can do this under the "Simply and Save Time" feature on the top left of any page. As always, we value your feedback and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

YES - Clean the Dryer Lint!

dryer lintYes, this is a pile of dryer lint, and yes, it can cause a house fire. I'm writing about dryer lint because my dryer was broken and we just had it serviced on Friday. I thought my dryer, the venting, and the overall system was "clean" because I had actually had it serviced just three years ago. Guess what, the technician pulled out three times the lint seen in this picture from around my dryer drum AND within the vents going to the exterior of our home.So note to everyone - If you have not taken apart your dryer and had all the vents cleaned recently, as in the past year, DO IT! If you don't believe me, listen to Consumer Reports. Here are some tips they provide on keeping your dryer unit clean and reducing the risk of dryer lint fires, which are real.
  • Use metal dryer ducts to help prevent dryer fires. Consumer Reports says that flexible dryer ducts made of foil or plastic are the most problematic because they can sag and let lint build upat low points. Ridges can also trap lint. Metal ducts, either flexible or solid, are far safer because they don't sag, so lint is less likely to build up. In addition, if a fire does start, a metal duct is more likely to contain it. Seetheir dryer venting safety report for more tips as well as photos and a dryer-venting video.
  • No matter which kind of duct you have, you should clean it regularly. In addition, remove the visible lint from the lint screen each time you use your dryer (this is the easy one!). This not only will reduce the risk of a fire, but your clothes will dry faster and your dryerwill use less energy. If dryer film is a worry, there is certainly no harm in occasionally cleaning the lint filter with warm soapy water and a small brush.
  • Clean inside, behind, and underneath the dryer, where lint can also build up.
  • Take special care drying clothes stained with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishingoils and stains. Wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of these chemicals on the clothing, and line dryinstead of using a dryer.
  • Avoid using liquid fabric softener on all-cotton clothing made of fleece, terry cloth, or velour. Inthe Consumer Reportsflammability tests,liquid fabric softener added to rinse water accelerated the burning speed of these fabrics. If you want a softener, use dryer sheets instead.
  • Buy dryers that use moisture sensors rather than ordinary thermostats to end the auto-dry cycle. Thermostats can allow the dryer to run longer than necessary.
  • Occasionally wipe the sensor with a soft cloth or cotton ball and rubbing alcohol to keep it functioning accurately. Sensorsare usually located on the inside of the dryer, just below the door opening, and can be hard to find. They are usually twocurved metallic strips, shaped somewhat like the letter "C".
OK, I'm sorry (well not really) that I just added something to your annual spring cleaning To Do List, but this is important. It's easy to forget, but has a very big consequence. If you don't want to deal with doing this yourself, here are two local companies that can help out. Quality Duct Cleaning in Westford (802) 893-7716 Chuck's Heating and Air Conditioning in Colchester

Fun Vermont Facts

I love our little state and for some of you that haven't lived here all your life, or are contemplating a move to the Green Mountain State, I thought it would be fun to share a few interesting tidbits. We're more than just fall foliage and maple syrup you know! (Although we do produce more maple syrup than any other state.) 1. Vermont was the first state admitted to the Union after the ratification of the Constitution. 2. With a population of fewer than nine thousand people, Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest state capital in the U.S. 3. Montpelier, Vermont is the only U.S. state capital without a McDonalds. (I love this one!) 4. In ratio of cows to people, Vermont has the greatest number of dairy cows in the country. 5. Vermont's largest employer isn't Ben and Jerry's, it's IBM.
Vermont State Capital

Vermont State Capital

6.Vermont's state capitol building is one of only a few to have a gold dome. Atop the dome is a statue of Ceres. 7. Until recently, the only way a Vermonter could get a drivers license with their photo on it was to drive to Montpelier. 8.Vermont was, at various times, claimed by both New Hampshire and New York. 9. Until 1996, Vermont was the only state without a Wal-Mart. 10. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream company gives their ice cream waste to the local Vermont farmers who use it to feed their hogs. The hogs seem to like all of the flavors except Mint Oreo. 11.U.S. President Calvin Coolidge was the only president born on the fourth of July. Born in Plymouth 7/4/1872.
President Calvin Coolidge

President Calvin Coolidge

12.And yes, we don't allow billboards! (Really proud of that one!)

We're small but mighty and a really interesting place to call home.

Edible Landscaping

I keep hearing this term "edible landscaping" or "foodscaping" and thought it was interesting so I did a little digging (ha!) According to Wikipedia, edible landscaping isa specialized form of gardening where ornamental plants are replaced by plants that have some food use. The range of plants is varied and can include fruiting shrubs, trees, ground cover as well as edible flowers, and may include an apiary. However, even Wikipedia noted that their entry needed more attention and definition - so this concept is still growing. foodscaping This picture is an example offoodscaping in Geneva, Switzerlandaccording to a Facebook sight titled "SEED - An Untold Story".Each yard is a vegetable garden and neighbors consult and plan what each will grow so they can trade. I thought this wasamazing! But living here in Vermont, I wanted to find out if anyone was specializing in this type of landscaping locally. Bingo! I had a conversation with Meghan Giroux, owner of Vermont Edible Landscape LLC just this morning. Meghan said that Vermont Edible Landscape works with clients to design, install and establish ecologically regenerative landscapes and that she was currently working on a project with Habitat for Humanity. She said they approach land management through an agrarian lens utilizing a variety of diverse biological disciplines. Her services include: Site Evaluation, Planning and Development. In addition to the land planningMeghan operates a small edible specific nursery in Richmond, Vermont.
Seaberry - a common plant used in Vermont edible landscaping

Seaberry - a common plant used in Vermont edible landscaping

If you think foodscaping or edible landscaping could be something you like to try, or just learn more about, give Meghan a shout. She canbe reached at 802-578-0829 or meghan@vermontediblelandscapes.com

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!

Digital Signatures for Real Estate Transactions

Gone are the days of the pen?

You might not need a pen the next time you sign a contract!

New for 2014formany Vermont Realtors is the software Dotloop, where real estate agents will have access to Vermont Real Estate forms that can be electronically signed by parties involved in a transaction. So how does this impact you, the buyer or seller in a transaction?

Well, according to the ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES IN GLOBAL AND NATIONAL COMMERCE ACT that was signed into law in June of 2000, signing a document electronically is legal and binding. However, in many real estate transactions, there are a lot of papers to review and signing these documents electronically may be quite overwhelming. Especially if you are a first time home buyer or seller, you may need things explained in detail, or just wish for some face-to-face time with your Realtor for such an important decision. This is completelycompletely understandable.

However, if you are an investor who is very familiar with the process, or someone that travels a great deal and really wants to be able to conduct business and keep the transaction moving along, e-signatures can be a true blessing! I personally usually use a hybrid, where I meet with clients first and explain all the documents and have them sign in person if applicable, and then use Dotloop for any additional subsequent addendums or forms that come along that require less explanation. This was very helpful over the holidays where a majority of my clients were traveling and greatly appreciated not having to get to a printer/scanner/fax in between visits with family. Everything could be handled via their devices. Let us know how you feel about electronic signatures! Is this a convenience or something that makes you uncomfortable? Do you have any other experiences with electronic signatures? Feel free to comment on this blog or onour facebook page https://www.facebook.com/VermontGreentreeRealEstate.