VT Real Estate Trends

Homes with High Standards

Green building practices and Energy Star ratings are growing in importance among home buyers and home builders, alike. Paul Arnot, of Arnot Development Group in Waterbury, is a respected builder who understands the importance of green design and technology. Arnot is well known for his Waterbury Commons village community, which meets the Energy Star criteria. It is a close-knit neighborhood that embodies the term "community."

"The Blue Energy Star on a new home means it was designed and built to standards well above most other homes on the market today. When Energy Star's rigorous requirements are applied to new home construction the result is a home built better from the ground up, delivering better durability, better comfort, and reduced utility and maintenance costs," according to Energy Star.

Not only do Waterbury Common homes earn the Energy Star rating, but other aspects of the community fit nicely in the sustainability category of being in close proximity to public transit, and walkable to many village amenities like shopping, restaurants, library, schools and recreational venues.

For more information on Waterbury Commons, visit waterburycommonsvt.com

A Fresh New Look (That's Mobile Responsive Too!)

Vermont Realty Website

We are continually working to keep on top of our industry's trends. But sometimes these trends have nothing to do with the preferred bath to bedroom ratios or predicting the up and coming neighborhoods; sometimes, it has everything to do with how buyers are finding what they want.

The keyword here is MOBILE!

This is why we just went through a website redesign to become mobile responsive. Not just mobile friendly, responsive. Our website will now realize the size screen you are on and determine the best view for you.

Pretty neat huh? So go ahead and try us on your phone vs tablet, laptop vs desktop. No matter where you are or what device you have, we'll always be ready and right at your fingertips with the most up to date information on all things VT realty.

Action Before Interest Rates Rise?

Cindy got an email from the other day from Mortgage Loan Originator, Mark Erickson, out of South Burlington. "Interest rates have recently dropped!" he exclaimed, "Now is a great time for a mortgage checkup." So we looked into it.

This article by PJ Wade discusses the importance of refinancing before rates increase. Are your kids heading off to college? Does the roof need some extra TLC? Now might be the right time to save a little extra money for the things that matter in your life. 

If you currently have a mortgage, what should you do before interest rates significantly increase?

The "when" related to interest rate increases has been the subject of debate for a while, but there is wide-spread agreement that rates will slide up. Whether that's slowly or quickly represents another debate.

Does the certainty of rate increases call for action from savvy property owners with one or two existing mortgages on their real estate?
While rates are near historic lows, refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates may make good financial sense, but act soon. Combining existing primary and second mortgages into one loan may improve your financial situation and probably lower payments.

Mortgage contracts, which outline how much must be repaid to the lender according to specific terms, vary from lender to lender and from borrower to borrower, so do not assume anything about your mortgage. Read the mortgage documents yourself or contact the lender to clarify your obligations, rights, and alternatives.

This is a time of transition for the mortgage industry, so changes outside of your mortgage document may influence your borrowing options. You'll never know until you ask. No one will come knocking on your door to bring you up-to-date.

Homeowners with existing mortgages will be protected from immediate rate increases unless they have a variable-rate mortgage, also known as adjustable-rate or floating-rate mortgage. With these loans, the interest rate is not fixed, but fluctuates against a reference standard. Vulnerability to rising interest rates depends upon specific terms set out in mortgage documents. Talk to the lender for clarification of any unfavorable effects of rising interest rates and to understand your options.

Mortgages with fixed interest rates are not vulnerable to rate increases during the term or contractual length of the loan, which can be 6 months, 1 year, or decades long. However long the term is, eventually, the mortgage comes due and payable. That's when property owners and their mortgages are vulnerable to higher interest rates. If you must re-qualify for refinancing, significantly higher interest rates could pose qualification restrictions and limit the size of mortgage available to you.

Usually, re-qualification is low threat because, as the existing mortgage ages, the principal, or original amount borrowed, is paid down or reduced. Refinancing for a smaller mortgage at a higher rate should be affordable unless the property owner has had a change of employment or income.

Even if you expect to refinance with your current lender, shop around for the best rate and mortgage terms. Your current lender may decide to match the best offer you receive from a new lender to retain your business.

When comparing lenders with the help of a mortgage broker or contacting them yourself, ask questions about fees and terms like prepayment to be sure you are improving your situation by moving lenders. If you gain a half point or a point in interest, but face higher fees or less flexible terms, moving lenders may be an expensive decision. Real estate professionals are often excellent resources when dealing with mortgage issues.

Don't miss the chance to maintain your mortgage at a reasonable interest rate. Contact your lender if you are unsure about your vulnerability to rate increases. Once rates move up, "if only I'd…" recriminations will get you nowhere.

To read the original article click here.

Interested in talking to Mark about your mortgage? Click here.

America's Love Affair with Bedrooms and Bathrooms

We recently found this very insightful article from Lawnstater.com about the amount of homes with more bedrooms and bathrooms. While the kitchen might be considered the center of the home, bedrooms and bathrooms are just as important. You're not going to buy a home with less space than you and your family needs. While it's no secret that houses are getting bigger you might be surprised by some of the statistics shown below. The cost of living in Vermont, in particular, is very high and there is a trend towards multigenerational if not multifamily ownership. 

We love our bedrooms and bathrooms.

In 2015, the share of new single-family homes sold that had at least four bedrooms and at least three bathrooms hit a more than three-decade high. And one expert suggests this bedroom and bathroom trend is being driven by a fundamental change in American living arrangements.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 53 percent of new single-family homes sold in 2015 had at least four bedrooms and 41 percent had at least three bathrooms. Back in 1978, just 27 percent of new single-family homes sold had at least four bedrooms and just 8 percent had at least three bathrooms.

Of course, in order to squeeze in more bedrooms and bathrooms, the average American home has grown bigger. In 1975, the average new single-family home took up 1,975 square feet, the Census Bureau says. Today, that number exceeds 2,600 square feet. That's a four-decade jump of more than 30 percent.

Multigenerational Ownership

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, which specializes in housing data and analysis, says the trend toward larger homes — featuring more bedroom and more bathrooms — reflects the "increasing acceptance" of at least two generations of a family living under one roof.

"Part of this acceptance is brought about by cultural changes influenced by a higher percentage of foreign buyers who are open to multigenerational homeownership," Blomquist says, "as well as millennials who put more value on their social network than their personal space.
"Blomquist says multigenerational homeownership is being spurred by the overall lack of affordability and inventory in the housing market. According to RealtyTrac data, up to 14 percent of home sales last year in the U.S. involved multigenerational buyers.

In 2012, a record 57 million Americans (18 percent of the U.S. population) lived in multigenerational family households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That compares with 28 million in 1980 (12 percent).

In this infographic, we examine the growing number of bedrooms and bathrooms in American homes — a development being fueled in large part by the rise of multigenerational households.

To see the original article click here

Simple Staging Tips to Sell a Home Fast

We recently found this article from the staff of Realty Times. There are a few things you might want to look into to have your home looking its best for potential buyers. Take advantage of the natural beauty of Vermont by planting new trees and shrubbery or clean up the yard a little by raking or weeding out your front garden. Check out more tips below.

When you are hosting an open house or showing your property to potential home buyers, you want them to see it as a home they could live in. That's where staging comes in. According to Coldwell Banker, homes that were staged spent half the time on the market than homes that were not, and they also sold for about 6 percent more. There are several ways you can stage the home you're selling without spending a fortune on a decorator or doing any major renovations. Here are a few to consider.


Don’t Underestimate Curb Appeal
The outside is the first thing buyers see when you show them a house, and if they don’t like it, it can turn them off to the entire property. Updating the curb appeal of your home will draw house hunters in immediately and may even attract buyers you wouldn’t expect from simply driving by. Fixing the outer aesthetic of the home doesn’t have to be pricey or time-consuming, either. Houzz suggests some simple upgrades you can do yourself around the property, including power washing the sidewalks and sides of the house, cutting the lawn, planting new flowers and shrubs, and repainting house numbers so people can easily find it. A fresh coat of paint on the front porch or door is another good way to refresh the outside of your home.


Create A Scene
The National Association of Realtors suggests creating lifestyle vignettes to show potential buyers what their life could be like in specific rooms. This can be especially helpful in houses with odd spaces, as many buyers do not have the imagination to see how an empty space can be used. Think about what demographic the home appeals to and create scenes that way. For example, a young couple might appreciate a game room with a bar area, whereas an older crowd might appreciate a library with a reading corner. Professional stagers often research the cultural and community interests in a neighborhood and stage according to their preferences. Buyers want to see what their life would look like in each room.
Be sure to use lifestyle elements throughout the house everyone is familiar with, such as subtly scented candles, freshly arranged bouquets or a tray of drinks and baked goods for guests.


Clear Out The Clutter
While staging may make you want to decorate the entire house the way you would want it, a common mistake is to use too many items throughout the house. It can make the home seem smaller and dirty, as well as distract from some of the better features of the property. Pack up about 90 percent of what is in the home before showing it. Kid’s toys, personal photos, and mementos and anything worn out or broken should be put away.


Go Neutral
While bright purple might be this season’s color, it won't be the most appealing design approach for everyone. The same goes for decor that is too masculine or too feminine. You want people or families to see themselves living in the home, so using neutral colors and decor can help them imagine their own stylish touches throughout each room — especially the master bedroom. Make sure the walls and bedding are a neutral color and use clean linens and modern artwork to create a fashionable space with potential.

To read the original article click here.

Market Update - March 2016

What's happening around here? We're glad you asked! We compiled a list of what's pending, closed, and newly listed in the Waterbury-Stowe area and neighborhoods. Have any questions or want to know more? Reach Out.

Pending:
 
 

 

Closed:
 

 

Newly Listed:
 
 

 

Things to Consider when Purchasing Land in Vermont

The following is an outline of some of the factors that prospective buyers should consider before purchasing a lot on which to build their new home. This outline has been prepared as a reference for those interested in building in Vermont. The information in this outline should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal, environmental, economic and other professional advice before making your decision to buy land.

Lot and lot improvements are a major portion of the costs involved in building a new home.

Many financing institutions consider and limit the ratio of lot and lot improvements to the total construction cost of your home.

Choosing and purchasing the land, on which you are going to build your new home, is as important as choosing the home.

  1. Budget
  2. Location
  3. Permitting
  4. Septic
  5. Soils
  6. Power
  7. Water
  8. Driveway
  9. Impact Fees
  10. Other

 

1) BUDGET

Time and energy can be saved, as well as avoiding disappointments if you determine your total construction budget before searching for land.

  • The most prudent first step in constructing a new home is determining what you will, or are able to spend for each major portion of the total construction package.
  • The major cost components are the lot, the lot improvements, and the home.
  • By doing this you know how much is planned in your budget for the purchase of land and land improvements, allowing you to aim your search at lots that meet your budget requirements.

2) LOCATION

You can speed your search by determining:

  • The distance from a particular focal point that you are willing to locate
  • Particular towns in which you desire to build
  • Towns in which you do not wish to build
  • The size of the lot you desire.

In addition, consider if you want your lot:

  • wooded
  • open
  • on a dirt road, or paved road
  • in a village, or would you prefer a more rural setting.

The more you define what you would like in a lot provides you, and anyone searching for a lot for you a quick reference in determining if you are going to follow up on a lot lead.

Remember, rarely do people find a lot with all of the attributes they have outlined. Compromise is almost always a necessity in making your final choice.

Get a Google Earth shot of the parcel and you can actually have a "bird's-eye view."

Get a topography map of the parcel. It will tell you how the elevation changes and where a good building site might sit.

An experienced real estate agent will also have a tax map, which can demonstrate topography, a bird's-eye view, and soils information.

3) PERMITTING

This is a very important consideration before purchasing a lot.

The realtor, legal counsel or the landowner should be able to provide you with what permitting is required before you can build on the land.

However, this does not replace the need for you or your representative to investigate the need for any local and state permitting. In addition, you should determine if there are any deeded restrictions, the right of ways or environmental concerns relative to the parcel of land that you are considering.

For instance, a 10-acre lot might have 3 acres of wet lands. This would mean that there are state restrictions relative to what you can and can not do in and near the wet lands.

For additional wetland permitting information please check out the Vermont Land Owners Guide to Wetlands

Always consult with legal counsel relative to permitting and other restrictions, before purchasing any land.

Most lots on the market are permitted to the point where only building and curb cut permits are required before construction can begin.

Permitting requirements are of crucial importance. They can be expensive in both time and money.

Effective July 1, 2014, the Vermont Legislature passed the Shoreland Protection Act (Chapter 49A of Title 10, §1441 et seq), which regulates shoreland development within 250 feet of a lake's mean water level for all lakes greater than 10 acres in size. The intent of the Act is to prevent degradation of water quality in lakes, preserve habitat and natural stability of shorelines, and maintain the economic benefits of lakes and their shorelands. The Act seeks to balance good shoreland management and shoreland development.   Also for additional information please access the Vermont Shoreland Protection Handbook.

4) SEPTIC

If you consider purchasing a lot that does not have access to a municipal sewer system, you should be certain that the lot can support an on-site system, the type of that system and the cost associated with its construction.

Most lots will have had soil testing done to determine if a septic system can be built. In addition to the type of system required, you should determine if a septic plan design has been prepared by a Vermont licensed engineer. If not, the cost associated with having an engineer design a system will become part of the lot improvement cost.

Even though there are other considerations that will effect the construction cost of a septic system, the major difference in cost is related the type of system.

The system requiring the least cost is a conventional system.

If the soils do not support a conventional system, a mound system  or pre-treatment system is usually required. A mound system will cost as much as four times what a conventional system will cost.

In most instances, the septic system is part of the permitting. If required, be certain that a permit and design exists for the septic system.

5) SOILS

In addition to septic consideration, the nature of the soils can impact the cost of construction.

For instance, the existence of ledge that requires blasting can add thousands of dollars to the construction cost.

We suggest discussing this issue with your contractor before purchasing a particular lot.

6) POWER

The cost of extending electric power to the location of your new home is a major consideration that can be a substantial cost.

You should discuss this with the provider of electrical service to the area and with you contractor, to determine what the installation of electric power to your home will cost. Will it be over head or under ground electrical.  Off grid or solar.

7) WATER

If the lot you are considering does not have access to a public water system, you should check with your contractor or a well company to determine

  • what is the average depth of wells in the area
  • and what is the expected cost of a total water system, including pump and installation.

Regardless of the depth wells are averaging in the area, it is not a guarantee that a well on the lot you are considering will be the same depth.

8) DRIVEWAY

The distance that a driveway needs to be constructed will affect the cost of lot improvement.

Obviously, the longer the driveway the more the construction cost, as well as the cost of plowing, sanding and upkeep.

9) IMPACT FEES

Some cities and towns impose an impact fee on any new construction within the city, or town limits.

There may be one fee or a fee for the impact on each municipal service.

In some instances, these fees total several thousand dollars, which in turn increases the cost of a new home by the same amount.

You should always check with the town, or city clerk to determine if there are impact fees associated with the construction of a new home in the area you are considering building.

10) OTHER

Other factors will have an effect on the lot improvement costs, including:

  • Topography
  • How much area must be cleared of trees and stumps
  • Water drainage and Storm Water Run Off

Contact us at New England Landmark Realty and we would be happy to help you begin your land search or start your Waterbury or Stowe, VT land search here.

 

Why Putting Up A little More May Cost You Less

Maurie Backman has excellent advice for home buyers. Sometimes paying a little more upfront could save you much more later.

You've worked. You've saved. You've scraped together enough for a down payment, and now it's your turn to get a piece of the good old American Dream in the form of your very own house. But before you bust out that bottle of celebratory champagne, be prepared to do a little extra number-crunching, because while your down payment is certainly a good start on the road to homeownership, there are other costs you'll need to account for as part of the process.

Making your down payment
Let's talk about that down payment for a second. Though you might get away with less, it's in your best interest to come up with 20% of your home's purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance, or PMI. To minimize its risk, your lender will probably slap you with a PMI requirement if you fail to put down that sought-after 20%, in which case you could be looking at an extra 0.5% to 1% of your loan amount.

Say you take out a $200,000 loan and are hit with PMI at a cost of 1%. That's an extra $2,000 a year, or $166 per month on top of your regular mortgage payment. Plus, unlike regular mortgage interest, your PMI isn't even guaranteed to be tax-deductible. In other words, if you can come up with that 20% payment, you'll avoid what's essentially a penalty for not putting enough down. But even if you do manage to plunk down 20%, there are other up-front costs to consider.

Closing costs
There's a whole load of paperwork that goes into buying a house, and naturally, you'll pay for it. Your closing costs might include things like attorney fees, loan origination fees, recording fees, title fees, and survey fees. Is that enough fees for you? Closing costs typically encompass 2% to 5% of your home's purchase price. This means if you're buying a home for $220,000, you can expect to shell out anywhere from $4,400 to $11,000 in up-front fees. Now the good news is that your lender is required to provide a good faith estimate of what your closing costs will be so that you're not in total shock when those fees come in. The problem, however, is that your estimate can change by up to 10%, so you'd be wise to stash away a few extra thousand dollars to be on the safe side.

Prepaid escrow fees
Many lenders have a practice of escrowing money for real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. If your loan comes with an escrow provision, the upside is that your lender will make these scheduled payments for you so that you don't have to worry about them. The bad news is that since lenders generally aren't willing to take many chances, yours will likely require you to pad your escrow balance when you close on your loan. This could mean prepaying anywhere from two to six months or more of real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. Let's say your annual taxes and homeowners policy cost $6,000 and $1,000, respectively. If your lender requires a three-month deposit, you're looking at an additional $1,750 at closing.

On top of these costs, you'll need to think about things like home repairs and moving fees. Professional movers could cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the amount of stuff you've got and the distance it needs to be hauled. Similarly, unless you're buying brand new construction, there's a good chance you'll need to tackle a few up-front repairs before settling into your home. While your home inspection should clue you in to the types of repairs you're looking at and their associated costs, you could be in for some surprises once you take ownership of your new abode. This is why it's crucial to set some funds aside to cover the unknowns of owning a house, many of which could rear their ugly heads from the get-go. So before you get ready to empty your savings account and convert that money into a down payment, make sure you've got enough cash on hand to cover the additional costs of buying a house. Otherwise that nice bottle of champagne may be the last one you'll crack open for quite some time.

The $15,978 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook 
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. In fact, one MarketWatch reporter argues that if more Americans knew about this, the government would have to shell out an extra $10 billion annually. For example: one easy, 17-minute trick could pay you as much as $15,978 more... each year! Once you learn how to take advantage of all these loopholes, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after.

View the full article here: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/29/buying-a-house-why-your-down-payment-isnt-enough.aspx

 

 

3 Tips to Sell Your House in the Fall - Sell - realtor.com

Fall Home Sales

Although the real estate business tends to slow down in the fall, the season still can be an attractive time to put a home on the market. If you want to sell your house in the next few months, it can be done. Potential buyers--such as empty nesters or millennials who aren't worried about moving after the school year has started--will compete for fewer homes on the market and will likely want to seal a deal before the holiday season kicks into high gear. Here are three tips to help make your home more attractive in autumn, so you can sell your house before winter comes.

1. Clean Up

As many regions slowly shift from a sellers' market to a moderate or buyers' market, you'll want to do everything you can to make your house look its best. Pay particular attention to eliminating clutter and safety hazards that can crop up with cooler weather: Make sure your yard, walkways and gutters are free of leaves and debris. Mow your lawn so it looks neat. Trim trees so unexpected winds don't knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt anybody. If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so visitors can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house.If you already have snow, be sure stairs and walkways leading to your front door are not icy.Wash decks and wipe down windows so they sparkle instead of appear streaked by rain. Vacuum and wash down the fireplace, especially if it hasn't been used in months. If you live in a region where it's still warm enough to use the patio, make sure the area is inviting and arranged with the views from indoors in mind. Above all, make sure your doorway and the rest of the house is clear from knick knacks, bicycles and toys that make your home appear cluttered.

2. Create Autumn Curb Appeal

If your house's exterior looks drab, you may want to consider painting it a warm color, planting seasonal flowers, or placing pumpkins strategically along your walkup to accent your home's appeal with instant color. Potential buyers will make an instant judgment when they see your home, and you want to be sure it's positive. While you don't want to go overboard with fall decorations that detract from the home itself, a few displays like a festive front-door wreath--and lighting so people can clearly see the path to your front door--can make your home feel fresh, even in the fall.

3. Keep the House Cozy

Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. So warm up your home with a fresh coat of paint and set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Another way to warm up a home is with light, especially as days get shorter leading into winter. Be sure to open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home's interior. A few embellishments like red, orange or golden yellow pillows can breathe new life into dull sofa--or a fall centerpiece can highlight a certain area of the home. While you don't want your home to look like the latest department store display, well-chosen embellishments that give potential buyers the impression you've paid attention to the fine details and taken care of any problems with the home will help you put your best face forward. And remember, there's nothing wrong with trying to sweeten the deal with the comforting aroma of a freshly-baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie or pumpkin cupcake to leave a lasting impression of your home as the potential buyer takes a bite.

 

Updated from an earlier version by Michele Dawson/Realty Times.

 

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