How much house does approximately $250,000 buy you in the Green Mountain State in 2014? We combed through the current listings and came up with examples that, by and large, prove a few general principles of Vermont real estate — starting with the all-too-obvious "location, location, location."
Finding a great home for a moderate price is, of course, nearly impossible in Burlington, where single-family house sales average about $400,000. Better deals beckon across the river in "Burlington's Brooklyn." But, as in the actual Brooklyn, prices for desirable homes in ever-hipper Winooski are trending up.
Those who view life in the 'burbs as a palatable option can find more house for the dollar in Essex. But there, too, new or well-maintained older homes priced below $300,000 don't linger long on the market, according to local real estate agents.
There's a general rule in north-central Vermont: The farther one ventures from Burlington, the lower the cost and the more spacious the crib. Genuine bargains are available in Rutland, White River Junction and even Montpelier. While only the most hardened road warriors may be willing to commute to Chittenden County from Newport, those who do can decompress at the end of the day with close-up views of Jay Peak or Lake Memphremagog from big, lightly taxed homes sitting on at least a few acres. Close to the border, sticker prices are more likely to soothe than shock.
There's another general rule for house hunters to keep in mind: Procrastination in today's market will prove costly. Mortgage rates, like home prices, look likely to rise throughout 2014.
This Burlington College-owned property just off preservation-minded Lakeview Terrace was the best-looking home listed last week in the Queen City for anything close to $250,000. And it isn't going to last long, predicts Luke Clavelle of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty. The house doesn't come with a garage, but it's 15 minutes by foot from Church Street and even less from the downtown waterfront.
The Burlington market, Clavelle notes, has gotten "very active" in recent months. Prices are rising, he says, while length of time on the market is falling. Carpe diem.
All gussied up for its next owner, this ranch house with yard and deck has a new roof, a rebuilt chimney, a newly installed picture window, refinished hardwood floors and a remodeled kitchen. The large downstairs family room lacks the worn-out carpeting often found in these spaces; instead, it sports a new tiled floor. The seller even painted the inside of the garage.
Home prices in Winooski are rising at a slow rate despite the influx of prospective buyers who were priced out of the Burlington market, reports listing agent Jason Lefebvre of Signature Properties of Vermont. "We get mostly first-time homebuyers," he says. "The market is active but stable."
This Cape-style home features hardwood floors throughout and a custom-built fireplace mantel. In sync with its suburban location, it's also got a spacious yard and a one-car garage. That gives it all the amenities agent Kathleen Holmes of Keller Williams Vermont says buyers seek in this price range. Market conditions in Essex are "awesome," she adds. "I've been selling homes for 32 years, and I haven't been this busy since the '80s. Houses, especially for under $300,000, are just flying off the shelf."
It's a 20-minute drive to Jay Peak from this chalet-style home that sits on 6.3 mostly wooded acres at the end of a quiet road. Views of Lake Memphremagog can be enjoyed from the deck. Suitable as either a vacation getaway or year-round home, the house was completely remodeled two years ago and comes fully furnished.
The Newport-area home-sales scene is "picking up," says listing agent Ryan Pronto of Jim Campbell Real Estate. "But we still have lots of inventory to work through before prices start rising." The build-out at Jay Peak Resort has attracted an increasing number of second-home lookers, Pronto adds. He notes, however, that in-town properties must compete with the condos recently built on the mountain.
In Montpelier, it's possible to live within walking distance of the Statehouse yet feel far from the hustle and bustle. Such is the case of this gambrel-style home nestled in a parklike setting. It's got a covered front porch, wood floors throughout, lots of attic storage space and a gas fireplace.
Home sales prices in Montpelier have fallen 10.6 percent since November, according to Trulia.com, a real estate tracking website. This home is priced well below what Trulia says is the current average listing price of $274,000 in the capital city.
Seriously, who wouldn't want to live on Bliss Road? Especially, perhaps, in a post-and-beam Cape-style home on 3.1 acres with easy access to numerous trails, as well as to interstates 89 and 91. It's a short drive to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
The home market in the Upper Valley is "getting more active," says Alisa Brisson of Coldwell Banker Redpath & Co., the agent for this home. "Something well priced and well maintained is going to go pretty quickly." At the same time, potential buyers won't find as much competition in rural sections of the Upper Valley as they will in nearby Hanover, N.H., especially downtown, Brisson adds.
A large deck offers views of the mountains and woods that give this gambrel-style home a rustic feel. But it's only 10 minutes to downtown Rutland from the residential subdivision in which the house is situated. A stream running through the 2.4-acre property is accessible by trail. There's a fireplace in the family room.
Home sales in the Rutland area "could be moving faster," says listing agent Denise Byers of RE/MAX Premiere Properties. They are beginning to pick up, she adds, but prices remain stable.