Blog :: 2010
Have you thought about buying a home, but think the possibility is just too far out of reach?
Do you think the only way you own your own home is with 20% down? If you have thought this, don't worry, many people have. In fact, there is a general misconception that owning a "piece of the American dream" is simply out of reach for many Americans. Not true! With an FHA loan, you too can qualify for the purchase of a home...now!
What is an FHA Loan?
FHA is the Federal Housing Administration, which is a member of HUD. Essentially, an FHA loan is a federally insured loan, so your local lender can offer you a great deal on a loan. There is minimal risk for the lender.
So what does this mean for me?
Well, first it means that you may qualify for a low down payment- 3.5% of the purchase price in fact! Also, most of your closing costs (attorney fees, mortgage origination fees, etc) can even be rolled into your loan, so you will need even LESS money at closing. This is one of the reasons that makes FHA loans so attractive to most home buyers with little cash on hand.
So What's the Catch?
Really- nothing in particular, however there are two specific things worth mentioning:
- There are limits on the value of the home you can purchase. In Chittenden County of Vermont, for example the limit for a single family home is $318,750.
- You will have to qualify for the loan, just like any other "traditional" loan out there. As long as you have had a steady job and a good credit score, you should have a good opportunity of qualifying for an FHA loan.
The fact is, the FHA program is a great program for people looking to purchase, although they may not have the typical 10-20% down payment available. You can qualify for a very low 3.5% down payment, and be in the home of your dreams earning equity instead of paying rent. For more information on the FHA program, visit: https://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/fhahistory.cfm Contact Brad Dousevicz of Dousevicz Real Estate for more information, or to discuss your options- 802-238-9367
Every time I meet with a buyer or seller of Real Estate in the local Burlington, Vermont area, I start my conversation with a brief snapshot of what is happening in the marketplace. The market isconstantly evolving, and any agent you work with should evaluate the market constantly, whether it be to price your home to sell in the least amount of time or to get the best price for a condo or home you will be purchasing. A down market is perhaps the most important time to do your research! That is why I will explore two major marketplaces today:
- The Downtown Burlington Condominium marketplace, for the months of August-October, 2010
- The Single Family home market place of Essex and Essex Junction of August-October, 2010
The Downtown Burlington Condominium Market
Today I will examine the downtown Burlington "Luxury" condominium market for the last few months. Typically, these are the higher priced condos in the $300,000- $1,000,000 range. To be honest, $1M sales only happen in the Burlington downtown condo market 1-2 times per year- there simply is not that great of a supply of such units that come on the market. In fact, the average sales price for condominium in the greater Burlington area for the above mentioned range for both August and Sept were $385,600 and $406,667- respectively. The average number sold for the months were: 4 in August and 3 in September. October is not over, although we have already seen 3 sales in this particular price range. The average days on the market for condos in the greater Burlington area were:
- 71 for August
- 120 for September
- 98 (thus far) for October
When we compare this to the average days on themarket for similar priced homes in other parts of Chittenden County including single family homes in Charlotte, Shelburne, South Burlington, Essex, and Burlingtonpriced at the same levels, we see very similar average days on the market- 76, 116, and 101. This tells us that the Burlington luxury condominium market is performing as well as the rest of similarly priced homes in the area, albeit it is a significantly smaller segment of the market as a whole.
The Single Family Home Market in Essex
The single family home market in the greater Essex marketplace for homes priced from $300,000-$700,000 is similar inquantity of homes sold, days on the market, and average price sold as our segment just explored- the downtown Burlington Condominium Marketplace. For the number of homes sold, Essex had the following activity:
- August- 4, with an average sales price of $385,600
- September- 3, with an average sales price of $406,667
- October- 3 (thus far), with an average sales price of $309,500
Average days on the market for August, September, and October were all averaging less than 110 days. This also tells us that the market in Essex is not a anomoly- it is performing as well as the greater Chittenden County Market, and lines up with even a very different market- the Luxury Burlington Condominium marketplace as well. For more information, or to explore your options, contact Brad Dousevicz at 802-879-4477 today.
Hands down, Vermont's most notable resource is it's beautiful landscape. Whether you are driving on a country road in Essex, Shelburne or Charlotte, or visiting a beach on the shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Colchester, or South Hero-- it is undoubtedly the views that you first notice. It's one of the many things that makes Vermont special to us all, and we are so very fortunate to have such a landscape to enjoy day in and day out. Buyers frequently contact my office looking for a "piece" of their own landscape - something they can enjoy from perhaps their own front porch, bedroom window, or yard. After all, a house is only as good as the location for which it is placed, and in Vermont, great views can always be related to a great location.
So where are buyers going to find great views of Vermont?
I'll explore some of those areas today.
In addition to being the vibrant epicenter of the State, Burlington offers some of the most fantastic views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack mountains. As the marketing agent for the recently completed Westlake Condominiums in Downtown Burlington, I constantly met with buyers from all over the world and the feedback was always the same- the views from the building were perhaps the BEST they had EVER seen! Surely, the lake coupled with Burlington's beautiful waterfront park and the neighboring Adirondack Mountains all contribute to this unique view. There are a variety of properties that enjoy such views in downtown Burlington. The first that comes to mind are a few of the luxury condominium projects- Westlake and College and Battery, for example. You can also find views on select homes within the Hill Section as well.
Shelburne and Charlotte
If you are looking for a mix of country living, and perhaps the finest views in the state, then you'll find them in either Shelburne or Charlotte. Located a short drive from downtown Burlington, Shelburne and Charlotte are conveniently located destinations where you can find rolling country landscapes, and perhaps the finest lake front in Vermont along Lake Champlain.
Essex and South Burlington
If you are looking for a property that is located a short distance from Burlington, but with easy accessibility to local shopping and other services, AND want a view, then look in South Burlington and Essex. The main "view corridors" for these areas are easy to find, but they sometimes go unnoticed by the general public looking for real estate with a view. For example, South Burlington has great Lake Front property off Shelburne Road, and wonderful mountain and lake views from Spear and Dorset Streets. Essex is a great country community that has some of the best Mountain views in the State. Try your search for land or homes near the Route 15 Corridor, specifically the areas near Old Stage Road, or Towers Road for example. You will find great views of Mt Mansfield (and easy accessibility to skiing) and a convenient location near local shopping, schools, and restaurants. Vermont is known for it's beautiful landscape, but it is important to know that you can find your own "piece" of the beautiful countryside in many properties throughout the greater Burlington area- you just need to know where to look!
If you are searching for a new home or condominium in the greater Burlington Area, you have probably seen many of which have association fees. If you have rented in the past or have owned a home with it's own land, this may be a new concept for you. This post will dive into some of the details of Association Fees, so that you are more prepared when looking at a home or condo that may have them.
Single Family Homes May have Association Fees!A particularly popular concept in today's real estate market is one of "Carriage Homes." Simply put, these are typically singlefamily homes that are part of an association- similar to that of a condo. You may have exclusive rights to use the land immediately around your home, but the land is technically the associations. Along with this land being "common", comes the need for the association to maintain the lawns, and even remove snow from the driveways. Having limited maintenance is a huge benefit for some homeowners, but buyers should be aware there is an associated cost for such a neighborhood.
Condominium fees in "high rise" structures are typically based on square footage of each individual unit.From a management perspective, this is typically the easiest (and fairest) way to set each units fee. In Downtown Burlington's popular College and Battery complex, the fees can range from $250 for a 1 Bedroom Unit- $800+ for a 3 bedroom penthouse. In such a project, Gas heat for each unit is typically included along with general cleaning and maintenance of the building, along with water and sewer fees.
Parking is not always included!This is typically something you will need to examine asyou look at more "urban" located projects in downtown Burlington such as; "College and Battery", "The Westlake", "Hinds Lofts" and "The Stratos". Parking (and private storage)at the Westlake, for example, is included with the association fees for each unit owner. Having an attached parking garage makes this possible, but it should be noted that not all condominium projects in downtown Burlington have such a luxury. You may need to pay for off-site parking, which is obviously important to plan and budget for.
Who typically manages the association?Associations can either be privately managed amongst the homeowners, or contracted out to a private property manager. In my experience, this really comes down to the time that the individual homeowners have to manage their neighborhood. Sending out billing, managing maintenance of the grounds, and making sure you have the best pricing for contracted out services can take a great deal of time. On the other hand, associations that contract out their management will have cost associated with such a decision.
Always ask about reserves, and what they cover.Home-buyers typically ask how much their monthly dues are, but they often fail to ask how much reserves an association may have on hand. If you are looking at a condominium in a 20 year old complex, the reserves should be healthy enough to cover some major exterior improvements including a new roof, for example. If the condo complex does not have adequate reserves for basic improvements, you may be hit with a large assessment in the future!
The real estate market in Vermont is filled with great opportunities to buy both new and existing construction. Opportunities abound for the discerning house hunter in nearly every price category. The available inventory of new and existing homes coupled with the record low interest rates offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. But should you build new, or buy and existing home? Today I will outline benefits and drawbacks to both.
Buying a New Construction
- Have it the way you want it! Being a broker and developer of new homes in the Burlington, Essex, South Burlington, and Williston areas of Chittenden County, I am constantly speaking to home buyers that are looking into new construction, and the reason they chose to build new is that they can have the home theyWANT to have, and not buy someone else's idea of a great home. Most builders will offer a variety of floorplans to chose from, and if you get in early enough you can even customize certain elements of the design. Want a tile shower instead of fiberglass? No problem. Want to make the deck a few feet bigger?You've got it. Prefer hardwood for the downstairs living room instead of tile? Fine. These questions are not so easily answered when buying a pre-existing home, and simple renovations can cost much more than if you were to do them at the time of construction!
- Be the only one that has lived in your home! It may sound obvious, butit isabsolutely worth mentioning. When you buy new, you are not dealing with someone else's sense of decor that you may have to spent a great deal of money to make it the way you want it.New Construction is like a clean, new slate to work with. Paint the colors you wish, and you also won't feel the need to steam clean every carpet in the place before you let your kids in the house. They'll be brand new, ready for YOUR family's spills and stains- not someone elses!
- Energy Efficiency Most people do not consider this, but I personally think it is the first thingthat SHOULD be considered when evaluating whether to buy a new or existing home. Most (not all, unfortunately)builders that are constructing new homes these days are using the latest GREEN building techniques- high efficiency windows, ultra- efficient heating and boiler units, and advanced framing and insulating techniques to name a few. All of these techniques and building practices REALLY make a difference when you are looking at the costs and comfort levels of new and existing homes (evenwhen comparing relatively"young " homes- 5 years!) Less draft in the winter, cooler living areas in the Summer, and LESS MONEY EVERY MONTH spent on heating/ cooling/ electricity costs are some of the benefits you will see with buying a newer home. (More so if it is Green Certified, of course!)
Buying an Existing Home
- No need to wait! The average time to build a new home can range anywhere from 15-20 weeks. Obviously, if time is NOT on your side to wait for your new home to be built, an existing home may be the best option for you. Buying a new home may take an additional level of coordination, especially when you are selling another home to make the purchase possible. Typically, most sellers of existing homes are willing to wait for you to officially close on your current home to make the sale work, because the time frame is usually only a few weeks. Buying a new home adds a bit more time to the buying process, which in turn can take some more coordination when you are selling your home to make the new home purchase a reality.
- The Benefit of Buying in an "Established Area" There is a great deal to be said about buying in a neighborhood that has been around for years. For one, it is easy to see how people have been maintaining their homes, and if home values have stood the test of time. If they have, you can feel confident with relative certainty that the trend will continue for years to come. Also, older existing neighborhoods often have an established since of community-- a benefit that typically takes years to establish in a newly built community.
There are obvious benefits to both options- buying new and existing. You and your family will need to weigh the pros and cons to both. Luckily, vtbuyer.com offers a "new construction" search criteria that allows you to search for ONLY new construction if you wish, to aid in your search process. Feel free to also search for existing and established neighborhoods in our "popular neighborhood" section, or peruse homes by Town; the possibilities are endless.
Try Westlake or College and Battery - You will not be disappointed with either!
Burlington is a great city. It has a mix of charm, character, and vibrancy you will not find in other cities. Part of the great diversity in Burlington is some of the terrific housing opportunities for the discriminating buyer. Two projects that should not be over-looked in your home search are Westlake and College and Battery. Both projects offer unique benefits, as well as some of the best views in Burlington! Enjoy some of the finest sunsets in the world from either building.
College and Battery
College and Battery was constructed in 1997, and was quickly hailed as one of Burlington's premier addresses. Dousevicz Inc. was the general contractor for the project, andwasone of the exclusive listing agents for the original salesof the condominiums for the market. College and Battery is conveniently situatedclose to the waterfront and the Church St Marketplace. Enjoy all that Burlington has to offer; shopping, excellent restaurants,and cultural icons such as the Flynn Theater- all right from your front door. Most units even have fantastic views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Along with a convenient location to downtown Burlington, and the waterfront park, you will also enjoy such amenities as:
- Secureand private parking (something that is becoming a luxury in Burlington in it's own right!)
- Open floor plan units ranging from 1 bedroom to 3+. (A penthouse will come on themarket occasionally!)
- Quality construction throughout, with attention to detail in each unit.
- Private storage in the basement for each unit.
- Location, Views, and Location!
The quick sale of many units during the first year of marketing quickly put Westlake on the map as one of Burlington's premiere addresses. A majority of the units have sweeping 180 degree views of the Burlington waterfront, and like College and Battery, Westlake boasts one of the best locations in town; conveniently situated between the Waterfront of Lake Champlain and the Church St Marketplace.
- Luxurious finishes. Each unit at Westlake was finished with the finest in materials. Granite countertops, top of the line appliances, exotic wood floors and tile are just some to mention here!
- Private parking and storage. Each unit at Westlake comes with a minimum of 2 private parking spaces in the attached underground and private garage. Like the parking at College and Battery, parking at Westlake is a coveted benefit.
- Each unit is 2 Bedroom, with 2 Baths, and most units have an additional den. Some of the units have been completely customized, which offers a great deal of diversity you will not find in other similar projects.
- Like at College and Battery; Location, Views, and Location!
Whether you prefer to live at either of these exlcusive properties, it is a good idea to view your options at both. They eachoffer their own unique benefits.Enjoy working witha broker with the construction and real estate experience with both projects-- which may be your greatest resource when purchasing a condo in either project.
Check your local real estate listings, and you are bound to find plenty touting that they are "Green." But how do you really know they are in, fact "Green?" As one of Vermont's few CGP's (Certified Green Professionals) and a developer of certified homes with the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), I am trained in Green Construction and know what to look for in a "GREEN" home. The average homeowner, however, may not have this level of expertise. So what should you look for in a "GREEN" home?
The following are a few simple things you should look for when evaluating the Green level of a new or existing home:
- The first thing to look for-- is it certified GREEN? So many homes claim they are green, but until a VALID 3rd party certifies the home, the claim does not mean much of anything. There are plenty of local resources that can certify homes, and a few you should look for are Efficiency Vermont and NAHB. There are other organizations out there cerifying home, and a quick internet search can validate their authority. Just callinga home green doesn't make it so, and a valid Green home is sure to be certified.
- One of the first things you should remember is you can not spell grEEn with out Energy Efficiency. How efficientlyhomes use resources is one of the paramount factors when determining if a home is green or not. A great thing to look at for and estimate on energy efficiency for an existing home (if it is not certified green) are the previous utility bills. Preferably, bills for a recent heating season. Ask for electric, gas/oil, as a minimum--say, for January to March of the previous year. This is your best way to gauge efficiency, and is not something buyers typically ask for!
- Insulation is critical. Obviously, this is easier to check on new construction, but anything over R-15 is considered adequate for new and existing construction. Also, check with the builder on how they insulate the foundation, and if there is a basement, do they insulate the walls and sheet rock as well. This will cut down on heat leakage in the critical winter months. And remember, Old homes (100 years or more)have a ton of character and charm, but many do not have limited (if any) insulation at all. This is certainly something to consider when purchasing an older home.
- Windows are just holes in your walls! For this reason, make sure you have an efficient "hole in your wall." Check the quality and energy rating of the installed windows. How old are the windows? Do they have any frost build up in the winter months? If they are new, what is their energy rating? If it is new construction, ask to see the caulking around an unfinished unit. Properly sealing a window can do wonders to limit "air infiltration." There are plenty of great, energy efficient windows on the market these days. If you are considering purchasing an older home that may need new ones, build this cost into your home buying budget. It can save you 10-fold in future heating and cooling costs.
- Ask for a "blower air test" if the home is not certified, at a bare minimum. All certified Green homes will have one done, and it is essentially a test that measures air infiltration from "unanticipated" areas of the home- windows, fireplaces, joints, etc. Efficiency Vermont can perform them at a minimum cost, and they are worth every penny. As a side note, if the home tests very well for the blower air test, make sure you have fans in the bathrooms of the homes, and that they are on timers. You will need to introduce fresh air with today's "tighter" built Green homes, and automatic bathroom fans are an easy and inexpensive way to do just that.
- Are the lighting fixtures and appliances "Energy Star" rated? Efficient lighting fixtures, for example, can cut energy consumption by 1/2 or more. Combine energy efficient appliances into the equation, and you are talking serious energy savings!
Buying a GREEN home is not only good for the planet, it is good for your wallet.
Consider this when looking at newer certified Green Construction, vs an older, non-certified green home. Your energy savings for a new home can potentially save $1000's per year! Also, consider working with a proven professional, with history in Green real estate for your next home purchase. As a Certified Green Professional, and a developer of locally certified Green homes in the Burlington area, Dousevicz Real Estate is poised to offer a unique level of experience in Green Construction as you search for the perfect lakefront home in Shelburne, Colchester, or Charlotte, or the finest home or condominium in Burlington, Essex, South Burlington, and the surrounding areas.
In one wordPriceless. Dousevicz Real Estate has developed some of the areas most recognizable developments in the greater Burlington and Chittenden County area. In this time, I have personally worked with buyers and sellers alike, and I have witnessed many transactions where the buyer or buyers agent just did not have the experience in New Construction as they should. Why is this important? Because buying a new home can be a much different experience than buying a pre-existing home.
Questions you need to ask when buying a new home
Although there are some talented and experienced agents out there, most (if any) do not have the required level of experience that is necessary when buying a new home. For example:
- Do they have the experience to ask what level of finish is included with the home?
- What is the energy rating, and what is the builder doing to ensure the home is Green Certified?
- What comes standard with the home, and are upgrades available?
- Is the builder requiring that construction loans be provided by the purchaser, or will the home be turn-key and paid for upon completion?
- What if there are delays with construction?
- What subcontractors does the builder work with?
- Are there other projects the builder has worked with, and if so, are there testimonials or references that can be checked?
These are just some of the questions that immediately come to mind in the purchase of a new home, and unfortunately they often go un-asked!
Combining development and construction experience
The good news is Dousevicz Real Estate is poised to fill the need when buyers wish to purchase a new home in Burlington, Essex, South Burlington, Shelburne, or the greater Chittenden County area. Because we have actual development and construction experience - we know exactly the questions to ask when working with a builder to construct the home of your dreams. Whether it a luxury home on the lake, or a home in a newly developed subdivision in South Burlington, Dousevicz Real Estate can use their unprecedented experience to guide buyers through the often complicated buying process of new construction.
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