Blog :: 08-2011

Tips for first time buyers

Protect yourself with contingencies

Buying your first home in the Montpelier/Barre area is a big decision. It's important that you prepare yourself with as much knowledge as possible, and it's important that you protect yourself from making a mistake. In other words, you want to make sure you're doing things right.

A contingency is language in a contract that gives someone "an out".  With Vermont real estate contracts, the vast majority of contingencies are in place to protect buyers. If a contingency needs to be exercised and the contract broken, it is important to keep in mind all of the dates and time frames.  Your Realtor will be able to keep up on these critical dates to help protect you when buying a house.

Common contingencies:

Property Inspection

Most people who buy a house in Montpelier or Barre have a property inspection. This is a blanket term for  permission to have one or several people give their opinion as to the soundness, safety, durability, level of construction, etc. of a property.

There is no "Building Inspector" license. Anyone can inspect a building, although there are a number of highly qualified property inspectors in the area. It can be a very good idea and provide great peace of mind to have someone who has experience in property inspection.

The point of a property inspection is to discover any hidden defects or unknown problems in a house.  Inspections are thorough, and if anything comes up that makes you feel like this isn't the right house for you, you can rescind your contract (within a certain number of days--stay in touch with your Realtor) and your deposit may be returned.


Banks don't want to lend money on houses that aren't worth as much as they're lending.  If the house you're buying doesn't appraise for at least the contract price, you can get out of the contract. You don't have to, but you can. You can also bring this information to the sellers' attention and ask about renegotiating.


Life gets in the way of the best of plans. Despite having a pre-approval letter, if your life situation changes and you become unable to qualify for a loan, you can get out of the contract. There are timeframes and deadlines for this, so make sure you and your Realtor stay in close communications.

Other contingencies are less common, but do appear:

For example: an offer might be contingent on getting a settlement, having a satisfactory water test or septic inspection, or having the property lines clearly explained by the seller.

The point of the contingencies is to put a buyer at ease and assurance that things are working out. Contingencies protect buyers and provide peace of mind.

- Ray Mikus

How to Buy a House in 10 Steps

There is no set process for buying a house. Steps can happen in a variety of orders and sometimes, simultaneously. Once you have an offer that is accepted, the general timeframe in the Barre/Montpelier area for closing and possession is 6-8 weeks -- longer if both parties prefer, shorter if the lender moves wicked fast. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a general outline of what to expect when buying your first house.

1. Talk with a lender to see how much house you can afford

This is different than finding out how much money a lender will let you borrow. Look at the monthly payment, and see if you can make it work in your budget. Getting a pre-approval letter is helpful.


Fred Van Buskirk & Ray Mikus, Realtors


2. Talk with a Realtor

The best way to save a lot of time in the home buying process is to have a clear plan as to what you're looking for, and why. Sure, your goals might change, but starting with a clear plan and a Property Profile will make things much more focused, easier and give you peace of mind that you're buying the right house.

3. Get out there and look at properties

Some buyers look at just one or two and they know they've found the right one. Others look at more. The important thing is to know that you're targeting the right houses for you in the right price range.

4. Once you find your house, make an offer

There's no rule about what the first offer should be in relation to the asking price. Even in today's market, some houses go for at or above the asking price, but you won't know until you make the offer.

5. Protect yourself with contingencies

Common contingencies when buying a house in Montpelier or Barre include a property inspection, an appraisal and a financing contingency. If the house has serious problems, doesn't appraise for the contract price, or your loan falls apart, you should be able to get out of the contract without any problems.

6. Negotiate

Price and terms are both negotiable, as are timeframes.

7. Reach agreement

Voila! You're in contract.

8. Schedule the home inspection

You'll want to be there for the inspection. Plan on 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the house, outbuildings, etc. The idea is to get as much knowledge as possible about your new home. You don't want any big surprises and you want to be assured that you're buying what you thought you were buying.

8a. Assuming there are no surprises ...

Now, the process is turned over to the lender to do an appraisal and the final underwriting of the loan.

9. Financing commitment

The lender will let you know that you officially have the loan.

10.  Closing

Sign a stack of papers, take out the mortgage, assign the house as collateral, get the deed to the property and finally, take your keys to your new house.

- Ray Mikus

Back to school in Central Vermont

Start Dates

U-32 and Harwood both see 10th, 11th, and 12th graders on Tuesday 8/30 and 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students on Wednesday 8/31. Montpelier and Northfield welcome all students back on Wednesday, August 31. In Barre, Spaulding's 9th grade students start on Tuesday 8/30 and the rest of the school begins on 8/31.

School Spirit

This week, sports teams took to the fields and as early as Friday, uniforms will go on for scrimmages and the annual field hockey jamboree at Mt Abe. Although my kids have been out of the Montpelier system for a handful of years, it's nice to see the high school set out on their lawns doing drills or jogging down Clarendon Ave on their way to a pre-season practice.

Get out and support local student-athletes! Schedules can be found in the local paper or on school websites.

- Tim Heney

Milestone hike with our 4-year-old



Along the Trail on Spruce Mountain


Despite threatening skies and a bit of drizzle, we had a great hike up Spruce Mountain in Plainfield on Sunday.

The best part? Our four year-old, Josephine, hiked up and down the entire four-mile round trip  - she even made it up to the top of the fire tower at the peak! - only fading in the last 500 feet. I was tired by then too, so I can't fault her.  She's building her case for being a Vermonter, despite her parents' bad luck of not being born here (and her grandparents, and her great-grandparents .... ) I'm giving our two year-old, Willoughby, some credit, too.  She only slept for part of the hike, gently jostled in a backpack all the way. I'm also thankful that very few graham cracker crumbs made it down the back of my shirt.


Along the Trail on Spruce Mountain



This being Central Vermont, we unexpectedly ran into friends along the way. When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot, there were two other cars there.  As we approached the summit, we heard the unmistakable chatter and activity of other families with kids. It turns out that the other two vehicles had brought friends of ours from Montpelier!

Perfect day? After a trip to Bragg Farm for creemees, it pretty much was.

- Ray Mikus

Montpelier Picks and Previews


Click for details on 6 & 8 Summit Street


A snapshot of the Montpelier Realtors' Caravan

The second third Tuesday of the month, it was time for the Montpelier Caravan. The properties on caravan were the typical mixed bag, but here are my favorites:

6-8 Summit Street

There aren't many duplexes in Montpelier with two two-car detached garages. That's right: four garage spaces. It's tucked away on a quiet sidestreet near Vermont College and has a small, private yard.  Each unit has three bedrooms and all the utilities are separate, including water meters.

As far as an owner-occupied building in the heart of Montpelier, this one is tough to beat.  The construction is solid, the location is central, and the parking is abundant.


Click for details on 6 & 8 Summit Street


61 College Street #2

For someone looking for an easy one bedroom condo in a prime location in Montpelier, College Street is a strong candidate. It's got hardwood floors, high ceilings, and a one-car garage.

What I like best about this unit is that it is easily within walking distance to downtown Montpelier and the building has top-notch curb appeal.  Plus, it's listed at $125,000.

109 Glinnis Road 


Click for details on 6 & 8 Summit Street


Ok, technically it's in Berlin, but it was on the Montpelier caravan, so I'm letting it in.  109 Glinnis is unlike any property I've seen. It's a four-bedroom manufactured home on 1.8 acres (okay, that much I've seen before), but this also has an attached one bedroom accessory apartment. The apartment could generate a little extra income, or it could be perfect for a friend or family member who in need of assistance.  Handicap modifications have been made.

Plus, the 1.8 acres make a beautiful, level yard surrounded by rolling hills, farmland, and woods. It really is a unique Montpelier (Berlin) property.

- Ray Mikus


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    For Sale: The Best Blueberry Patch in Calais


    Berries on Foster Hill Road


    384 Foster Hill Road, Calais

    With one extraordinary jammer and several gardeners at the office, it's not unusual to find a bowl of blueberries or raspberries on the your desk, and receiving a surplus summer squash on your keyboard is to be expected at some point in August. After a rainy spring and a late start for many crops, Vermonters are enjoying an excellent harvest. Now in the third week of blueberry season in Central Vermont, it would be easy to forget that blueberries are not available in the yard every day of the year.



    Berries on Foster Hill Road


    At Heney Realtors, Jane Eakin is the Queen of Blueberry Season. (There's a separate title and prestige awarded to the Jam Champion.) She generously invites friends to pick from her 1,200-bush blueberry patch in Calais for a suggested donation of $2/pint. Even after a weekend of heavy traffic, there is still plenty of fruit on the bushes. I've had the chance to visit the property three times and each round, I leave dreaming about this house: an impeccable cape on the hill above Number 10 Pond with no shortage of barns and woods to explore.

    On Sunday, our family headed out to Calais with a pie in mind and ran into Ray Mikus with his crew. Central Vermont is a patchwork of small towns and that these encounters are part of the landscape.

    Thanks again to Jane for her contribution to our daily berry intake. We certainly brought enough fruit home to set up a blueberry pie test kitchen.

    - Tim Heney

    Central Vermont Runners

    One of the best ways to see real estate is by foot in summer and in winter. I'll defend that statement: I'm a runner. As a pretty laid back marathoner, my goal is to run a couple a year with halves as tune ups. From my house in Montpelier, I can run right into Hubbard Park or up the hill to the dirt roads of Middlesex - there are plenty of options for training without getting in a car.


    5-miler runners in '79, Photo from


    Central Vermont's mountain bikers and avid skiers get more press, but the Central Vermont Runners are making an impact in the community. Most events attract a modest number of participants, but increasing turnout and enthusastic members make the CVR's activities reliably successful.

    At last week's annual Berlin Pond 5-miler, things were more heated. Some came straight from work to wind down from the day, others were ready to run a sub-30 race. This year, the crowd ranged from pre-teens to a spry couple of 70-somethings who  turned out for the views, soft dirt roads and camaraderie.

    Tonight, I'm hoping to get out of the office on time to make CVR's Tuesday Night Fun Run on the Montpelier Recreation Path. You can choose your distance and your level of motivation -- its just a great opportunity to run with others. Join us at 5:30pm on Tuesdays. It's fun and it's free!

    - Tim Heney

    The Economy and Central Vermont Real Estate

    Do the extreme fluctuations of the stock market impact real estate sales?

    The question of the week last week was "Do the extreme fluctuations of the stock market impact real estate sales?"  The answer in the short term is "no." The roller coaster effect of the stock market and record prices for gold have people talking and considering the best, safest places to invest. If these markets continue to behave as they did last week, posting near record declines one day and rising steeply the next, the real estate market will feel the impact of greatly shaken consumer confidence.

    Prior to the last month, the impact of gains in the stock market brought the value of many people's portfolios back to levels they seemed comfortable with.  In our office, we were hearing from buyers looking to move some of their assets into real estate. The general feeling was that prices had dropped to very attractive levels and as a result, we experienced more than the usual number of transactions with large downpayments or no bank financing involved.

    Changes in the Central Vermont real estate market aren't tangible overnight. Despite continuing market hurdles, we are experiencing steady home sales. Residential interest rates have dropped, as have fuel prices, giving us optimism about near term sales.

    - Tim Heney

    Readers' Picks: Montpelier Daysies

    Kudos to a List of Central Vermont Businesses

    When I say Montpelier is the coolest state capital, my kids roll their eyes. Occasionally, I get proof from a credible source that, when waved under their noses, cannot be poo-pooed. In its annual readers' choice  survey, statewide weekly Seven Days awarded a rumored 27 of its cherished "Daysies" to Montpelier businesses. We're having trouble to verify the number, but in any case, the list of winners is outstanding! Congratulations to:

    Sarducci's, Kismet, Salt, Positive Pie, Dairy Creme, Three Penny Taproom,  Capitol Grounds, Hunger Mountain Coop, Samosaman, Artisan's Hand Craft Gallery, The Savoy Theater & Downstairs Video, Lost Nation Theater, Salaam Boutique, The Men's Store, The Shoe Horn, Onion River Sports, Zutano, Splash Naturals, Guitar Sam, Buch Spieler, Bear Pond Books, Captial Kitchen, Woodbury Mountain Toys

    Indie films at The Savoy, new running shoes at Onion River Sports, and a literary fix at Bear Pond? Popular with all the folks in this neck of the woods. Montpelier has great set of local business and pretty much anything you might wish to buy can be found downtown.

    We're longtime readers of Seven Days - easily the best publication for local events and news - and we love spotting a Daysie hanging on the wall of our favorite establishments, but this comprehensive list of our favorite spots is the icing on the cake. From the intersection of State and Main in Montpelier, I can only celebrate Seven Days readers for voter turn out in Central Vermont.

    -- Tim Heney


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    Barre Real Estate Caravan

    View of a Diverse Market in Barre

    There were some great properties on the Barre real estate caravan yesterday morning.  We saw eleven homes for sale in Barre City and in Barre Town.  As you might expect, there were some fixer uppers, a few that could use a little cosmetic help and others in mint condition. The variety was stunning: there were properties within walking distance to Barre and properties on the fringe with a few acres and a view.


    Click to view 44 Berkeley Street, Barre


    As a purely subjective exercise, here are my three favorite homes for sale in Barre that were on the caravan today:

    44 Berkeley Street makes the list because it's a classic house. Lots of space, and a great level yard go nicely with the elegant neighborhood.  One bathroom is decorated in pink and black, but the advantages of this property outweigh such a heavy color scheme. If you want a solid home with room to run around and have the energy to update the bathroom (and possibly the kitchen), this is a great house to consider.


    Click to view 44 Berkeley Street, Barre


    102 Prospect Street hides much of its European elegance behind the front landscaping. The downstairs has been opened up and renovated to reveal hardwood floors and a great kitchen. There's a nice, private sitting area in the backyard, a detached garage with additional parking. Plus, it's got .87 acres, for just that much more seclusion.


    Click to view 44 Berkeley Street, Barre



    33 Country Way is a lucky house. It has been meticulously cared for. From the Corian countertops and windowsills to hardwood cherry flooring and flawless landscaping, this house is in mint condition.  The basement would provide amble storage and a workshop, or it could be finished for additional space.

    -- Ray Mikus