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Burlington Receives Green Light from Governor for Carbon Pricing Framework

A photo of a home being built with a wooden frame

In 2018, the City of Burlington revealed one of the nation’s most ambitious climate change policies by creating the City’s Net Zero Energy by 2030 initiative.  Nearly one year later and in collaboration with Synapse Energy Economics and the Resource Systems Group, City officials presented the “Net Zero Energy Roadmap” to the leadership team at Burlington Electric Department projecting three future scenarios based on their research and analysis of the City’s current energy consumption.    

During this 2019 presentation, the mission statement of the program was defined as “reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from the heating and ground transportation sectors by the year 2030”.  Included in the executive summary were multiple bullet points highlighting the “paradigm shift” necessary in order for their ambitious goals to be met.  Both cultural and behavioral changes were highlighted including an increased focus and investment in public transportation, a rethinking of historic preservation efforts, as well as the “rapid and widespread electrification of space heating, water heating, and transportation to completely cease fossil fuel energy consumption.”

2021 Update to the Roadmap            

As part of a 2021 update to the Net Zero Energy Roadmap, officials reported a slight decrease in the City’s natural gas usage but not at the pace needed to reach the net zero goal by 2030.  In response to the findings of the report, the Mayor and City Council agreed that a suite of additional policies would need to be implemented in order to stay on track for the 2030 goal.  One such policy recommended would be to give the City the ability to regulate thermal energy systems on existing residential and commercial buildings that use fossil fuel heating sources. 

Before long however, it was found that this type of regulation on existing buildings was not allowable in accordance with the current City Charter.  Consequently, a change to the City Charter was proposed and on March 2nd, 2021, Burlington voters approved the amendment to allow for City regulation of existing residential and commercial buildings. 

Charter Change Approved

Over one year later, Governor Phil Scott signed the proposed charter change and sent it back to the City for further consideration.  The amended bill read…

“The City Council shall have power to regulate thermal energy systems in residential and commercial buildings, including assessing carbon impact or alternative compliance payments, for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the City. No assessment of carbon impact or alternative compliance payment shall be imposed unless previously authorized by a majority of the legal voters of the City voting on the question at an annual or special City meeting duly warned for that purpose.”

Now back in the hands of the municipal government, the City has requested that the Burlington Electric Department work in collaboration with relevant City officials/departments to develop a set of policy proposals to accelerate the decarbonization of buildings in Burlington.  The City Council has requested that BED’s proposals are delivered to the Council by no later than July 18th, 2022.  As was emphasized by Governor Scott, any and all proposed fees/policy changes would then be subjected to approval by Burlington residents with a majority approval necessary for changes to be enacted. 

Carbon Impact of Alternative Compliance Payments

As the City waits to hear back from BED on possible proposals, one carbon-cutting concept that has already been implemented globally is carbon pricing.  According to the United Nations Committee on Climate Change, the goal of Carbon Pricing is to create a fee / price signal that regulates and reduces GHG emissions while at the same time providing a strong financial case for shifting investments away from high-emission fossil-fuels based technology towards cleaner energy. 

Also known as carbon tax, the idea of “Carbon Pricing” was suggested to be the single most-effective policy change to combat global warming by experts & supporters of the United Nations Paris Agreement.  With the defined goal of “taxing carbon to fight climate change without undermining economic prosperity”, the theory of carbon pricing can be broken down into four key principles…

  1. Carbon emissions should be taxed across fossil fuels in proportion to carbon content, with the tax imposed “upstream” in the distribution chain.
  2. Carbon taxes should start low so individuals and institutions have time to adjust, but then rise substantially and briskly on a pre-set trajectory that imparts stable expectations to investors, consumers and governments.
  3. Some carbon tax revenue should be used to offset unfair burdens to lower-income households.
  4. Subsidies that reward extraction and use of carbon-intensive energy sources should be eliminated.

According to Earth.org, there are currently 27 countries throughout the world that already have some form of carbon tax implemented.  Included are Argentina, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Korea, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and all 27 countries in the European Union.  In the United States however, not a single state has adopted a similar strategy with Burlington Vermont being one of the pioneers in the country’s fight against fossil fuel heating sources.

Local Issues with the Local Experts

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  We will continue to update this ongoing story as new information is released…

Act 250 Reform Gaining Momentum

A scenic image of Vermont in Fall

With a lot of local media attention focused on the planning & development of much-needed affordable housing, one key obstacle continues to be Vermont’s notorious 50+ year-old Land Use and Development law, Act 250.  However, a new bill that has just passed a key vote in the House intends to modernize Act 250 by streamlining development in designated “neighborhood development areas” while at the same time providing new guidance to towns with no zoning or subdivision regulations.

Originally intended to help control the sprawl that came as a result of a quickly expanding ski industry, Act 250 has long been a thorn in the side to real estate developers looking build on residential, commercial, and industrial land throughout the state.  Increased costs, major timeline delays and outdated policies are examples of the negative sentiments associated with the Act 250 process. 

While speaking on the House floor, Rep. Seth Bongartz, D-Manchester, stated “This bill is a step toward the kind of deep systemic rethinking in which we need to engage as we prepare to meet the dual challenges of dramatic climate change and a growing population.”

Additionally, representatives from numerous environmental groups across the state (including Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Land Trust, Audubon Vermont, Nature Conservancy VT Chapter and others) have championed the proposed bill and are urging lawmakers to enact this legislation as soon as possible.  

As part of his veto letter sent to lawmakers with regards to the failed “Just Cause Eviction” charter change in Burlington, Governor Phil Scott said that he and his administration are focused on promoting more development of new housing inventory rather than trying to assert control over housing options that already exist.

Having passed a vote in the House, the bill now advances to the Senate before it can arrive on the Governor’s desk for final approval.  For more information, check out the article on VTDigger, “With an eye toward housing, Vermont House passes bill to update Act 250” or click HERE to read the S.234 bill in it’s entirety.

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  Contact us today to receive a complimentary market analysis on your property or to discuss how you can partner with the Lipkin Audette Team to help achieve all of your real estate goals.     

What Does the Surge in Home Equity Mean for You?

An illustration of houses next to a chart with increasing results moving up and to the right

Buoyed by low mortgage rates and unprecedented buyer demand, home values across the United States increased at double-digit rates over the past 2 years.  As a result, most homeowners saw the equity in their homes increase as well, producing a positive impact on their overall financial situation.  Encouragingly, Vermont was no exception to this trend. According to a report published by the real estate research company ATTOM, Vermont has the second-highest equity-rich housing in the United States, just behind Idaho.

A 2021 U.S Home Equity & Underwater Report showed that in the fourth quarter of 2021, 41.9% of mortgaged residential properties in the U.S. were considered equity-rich. Even better, only one in thirty-two mortgaged homes were seriously believed to be underwater in the fourth quarter of last year!  Strong equity gains can serve as a built-in buffer against unexpected financial hardships or can be proactively used to improve one’s home or investment portfolio. 

Interested in learning more?  Here are four proven strategies that you can use to benefit from this recent surge in home equity values…

How Can a Surge in Home Equity Benefit Homeowners?

Cash-Out Refinance

If you’re not really considering selling your home, you can use the rising property values to your advantage in many ways—one of which is a cash-out refinance. This allows you to refinance into a new mortgage for more than what you owe and receive the difference back in cash.  From there, you can use the money in any way you want such as paying off your student loans or credit card debts to save hundreds or thousands of dollars in financed interest.

Fund Home Renovations

Another smart option is to invest in home improvement projects to make it more comfortable for you and your family and at the same time, increase your home’s value. Whether you want to renovate your kitchen and bathrooms, repaint your house, or upgrade your home appliances, you can always borrow from yourself by taking out a home equity loan to finance additions, improvements and renovations.

Add to Your Retirement Income

If you’re 63 or older, you can tap into your home equity by applying for a reverse mortgage. This type of loan will provide you with access to tax-free income that you can use to cover expenses during your retirement years.  Unlike a traditional mortgage, a reverse mortgage does not require the borrower to make regular monthly payments and all interest costs are simply added to the loan balance which is then paid off when you sell the home, move out or pass away.       

Invest in a New Home

Though mortgage rates are going up, they are still considerably lower than historical averages. This, along with a red-hot real estate industry, means that your property is more likely to sell for a higher price.  Now is a great time to consider leveraging your new-found equity by selling your property with an experienced Realtor.  Increased equity can enable sellers to have money left over after paying off their existing mortgages, which can then be used as the down payment on a new, more expensive property.

Is Now the Time to Cash Out or Invest in More Real Estate?

The answer to this question depends on your priorities and financial situation.  Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  Contact us today to receive a complimentary market analysis on your property or to discuss how you can partner with the Lipkin Audette Team to help achieve all of your real estate goals.

 

Bad Housing Policy?

A sign that reads

A new housing bill, sponsored by Burlington Rep. Brian Cina, would greatly inhibit the ability for Vermont rental property owners to sell their property. The title of the bill summarizes the proposal as "an act relating to creating tenant rights to purchase an apartment building."  Although the bills indicates that the intention is create more affordable housing options for Vermont residents, the negative consequences it would have on rental property owners is substantial!

In Burlington, which contains the largest number of rental units in the state, landlords have already been burdened with recent changes including increased tax liability from the citywide tax reassessment and "just-cause" eviction legislation, which would severely obstruct the ability to regulate tenants lease-end conditions.

Bill H.640 seeks to provide tenants in apartment buildings with 3 or more units the right to purchase the property from their landlord upon receiving notification that the building is going to be listed for sale.  During this 45-day option period, property owners would be unable to accept offers from other interested parties until the tenants have declined the purchase option or the option period ends.  If the leaseholders decide they are interested, an additional 120-day timeframe is created whereas the owners would be unable to accept an offer other than from the majority of tenants exercising the purchase option.

The proposed legislation would greatly impact a landlord's ability to market and sell their property in a fair and timely manner.  For property owners already dealing with recent changes that have negatively affected their business, bill H.640 would only create more problems than it seeks to address.

Interested in getting started with investing in real estate or wondering how this many affect your rental property or portfolio?  For the most up-to-date information on current market trends, advanced analytics and in-depth local insight give us a call at (802) 846-8800 or email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com.

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    Predicting Mortgage Rates for Spring 2022 and Beyond

    On the heels of a record-breaking year for many in the real estate industry, there is a lot of speculation on what buyers and sellers should expect for the Spring market and beyond.  As is usually the case, numerous analysts are looking no further than interest rates when predicting how the market will behave in the coming months.  While interest rates may seem like a simple way to forecast future market conditions, the many factors currently shaping those rates are seemingly more complex than they have ever been.

    In a recent article published by Inman News, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner examines the effect current events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and inflation in the United States could have on interest rates throughout the rest of 2022.  Click HERE to read the full article (subscription required).

    In summary, Mr. Gardner projects interest rates to continue to rise but not to a point that would create significant problems for those looking to buy or sell this year.  While it’s unrealistic to think that the record-low rates of late 2020 / early 2021 will return, it’s important to remember that even modest increases from the high 2%’s will yield rates that from a historical context, are still appealing to buyers taking into account the recent rapid rise in property values. 

    Interested in buying / selling real estate in Northwest Vermont or wondering how this may affect your investment property or portfolio?  For the most up-to-date information on current market trends, advanced analytics and in-depth local insight give us a call at (802) 846-8800 or email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com.   

    A New Bill Addressing Vermont's Housing Crisis

    A city bus driving through downtown Burlington

    A significant housing bill addressing both economic and logistical challenges that Vermont communities are dealing with is gaining momentum in the Vermont Senate. Included in the bill are provisions to create tax credits for those renovating old buildings into rental housing, reduce fees for residential development and streamline the process for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units at their primary residence. 

    It would also provide grants to larger employers looking to build housing for employees and for developers looking to convert existing commercial properties to residential use.  In terms of location, the bill’s framework focuses on designating “neighborhood planning areas” to encourage municipalities to focus their efforts on higher density downtown or village center zones.

    Having been advanced by the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, the bill is now in the hands of the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.  For more details on the proposed S.226 housing bill check out the article “Senate advances a bill providing incentives for more housing” on VTDigger.com.

    Interested in getting started with investing in real estate or wondering how this many affect your rental property or portfolio?  For the most up-to-date information on current market trends, advanced analytics and in-depth local insight give us a call at (802) 846-8800 or email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com.

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      Crucial Questions to Ask When Selling Your Home

      A home for sale with a real estate sign on the front yard

      Selling your home is rarely an easy decision. However, once you have decided it’s time to move, it’s only natural to have a lot on your mind. From our experience, here are a few crucial questions you should ask when considering whether to sell your home.

      Can I Afford to Sell?

      When you’re selling your home, it requires spending money to earn money. It is common to incur fees such as a commission for the realtor, hiring an attorney and various other expenses known collectively as closing costs. Sellers may also choose to spend money on landscaping, deferred maintenance and other projects that can make their property more appealing to prospective buyers.

      The “bottom-line” of your proceeds will also be reduced by the amount of debt you owe on your mortgage, balance on home equity loans, and any applicable liens. Finally, if your sales proceeds aren't going directly into purchasing another home, you may owe capital gains taxes. It is strongly recommended to consult with a tax professional and REALTOR® to best understand what the total amount you can expect to walk away with.

      What Do I Need to Tell Buyers?

      Another key aspect to consider is what to disclose to prospective buyers interested in your home. It’s essential to show your home in the best light, but at the same time, you should reveal the flaws it has as well. To better understand what kinds of issues should be revealed, consult with your REALTOR or research and follow your local real estate disclosure laws.

      From a practical standpoint, it’s important to include any details that you feel could play a role in a person’s overall decision whether or not to buy the house. Although it may feel strange providing buyers with the issues that may exist with your home, not being open and honest about known potential hazards can have far worse consequences. For example, if you knowingly hide or fail to disclose such information, a buyer could end up filing a costly lawsuit against you after the sale has closed.

      Should I Hire a Home Inspector?

      If you are unsure or concerned about the condition of major components of your home such as the roof, electrical and heating/cooling systems, it might be worthwhile to hire a Home Inspector to conduct what is known as a pre-inspection. 

      This type of inspection takes place before your home is listed for sale. This strategy is an effective way to receive a professional and honest answer about the condition of your home. When you learn more about your home's particular issues, you can either choose to fix them before listing or perhaps address the cost of repairing the problem when arriving at the original list price.

      Which Areas of the Home Get the Most Attention?

      Knowing which parts of your home are most attractive to buyers is important when considering possible presale repairs or upgrades. Based on our experience and research, potential buyers tend to focus on areas like the kitchen, primary bedroom & bathroom, and living/family rooms. As a result, those particular rooms should be showcased, possibly with the assistance of an accredited staging professional.

      To generate the best possible first impression, it’s advisable to remove unnecessary clutter from the entryway, mudroom or hallway. If you have a habit of clutter in that area, you might want to consider placing attractive containers to contain your belongings or moving them to less impactful areas like closets or rooms with lots of storage.

      Why Are You Selling Your Home?

      Another question to ask is why you’re selling your home in the first place. It could be to get something bigger, something smaller or simply because you want or need to move to a different place. Whatever your reason, it’s important to personally acknowledge why you’re selling to avoid second-guessing or regretting when the time comes to accept a prospective buyer’s offer.

      If you are considering selling your home in or around Burlington, Chittenden Country or Northwest Vermont, we invite you to contact our Team at your earliest convenience.

      Our seller services are customized to fit each client’s specific needs, expectations and goals. We provide an above and beyond full-service experience that includes staging, interior & exterior photography, virtual tours, digital marketing, copywriting and in some cases enhanced video content. We are dedicated to using technology to streamline the process from listing to closing while keeping you informed every step of the way.

      CityPlace Burlington Update: Construction Could Begin This Spring

      A winter picture of the CityPlace Burlington construction site

      Photo Credit: Glenn Russell / VTDigger

      UPDATE:  It has been since 2017 that any work has been done at the CityPlace construction site in Downtown Burlington, but all that could change this coming Spring according to the latest update from developer Don Sinex.

      During a recent Zoom Meeting with Burlington’s Ward 6 residents, Sinex outlined the project’s current timeline including a critical property appraisal later this month which would greenlight a $130 million loan necessary for construction to begin in late April or early May.

      Additionally scheduled for this Spring, developers are planning to file the necessary zoning permits to initiate phase two of the project which entails redesigning the former Burlington mall from the entrance on Church Street back towards the current home of L.L. Bean. 

      For more on this story, check out the article “Burlington’s pit could see construction this spring” on the VTDigger website. 

      ** For the most up-to-date news & trends on development, real estate and investment properties in Burlington and the surrounding communities email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com or give us a call at (802) 846-8800.

       

       

      Live the Dream in Vermont

      A view of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain from Northwest Vermont

       

      Many historians credit the name “Vermont” as well as the state nickname “the Green Mountain State” to the French Explorer Samuel de Champlain who, in the early 1600’s, referred to the area on his exploration maps as Vert Mont, which when translated from French to English, means Green Mountain. 

      In modern times, Vermont is known not only for the year-round picturesque beauty created by the stretch of the Appalachian Mountains that intersects the state from North to South, but also maple syrup, exceptional skiing & snowboarding, striking fall foliage, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and locally sourced artisan food, cheese, and craft beverages.

      This, combined with the state's rich heritage and abundant historic locations offers its residents a high-quality of life.  Vermont also provides a multitude of educational opportunities at the many reputable higher-learning institutions including the University of Vermont, Champlain College, Middlebury College and Norwich University.

      For these and many other reasons, The Lipkin Audette Team in Burlington have assisted in helping hundreds of clients successfully relocate to Vermont.  In fact, a recent study published by United Van Lines currently ranks the state as number one in the nation for percentage of inbound moves.  For those considering making a move, here are some additional aspects to take into account.

      Safety First

      Despite current economic, political, and other factors creating turmoil across the country, recent reports indicate that Vermont remains one of the safest states in the nation. Ranking in the top 5 for key metrics such as violent crime rate, assaults per capita and percentage of uninsured people, Vermont receives high marks for both personal & residential safety.      

      Small Town Atmosphere

      Even with modest population growth over the past decade, Vermont's entire population sits just below 650,000 people. The state's largest city, Burlington has a population of approximately 45,000 residents and is also home to many students attending one of the local universities. When combined with neighboring towns like South Burlington, Colchester, Essex, Shelburne and others, the Burlington Metropolitan area consists of about 215,000 people. Thus, cities, towns, and villages alike offer residents the chance to live in close-knit communities that exude a charming small-town atmosphere, even though many provide access to big-city amenities and culture.

      Abundant Outdoor Activity Opportunities

      The Green Mountains run approximately 250 miles from the southern border with Massachusetts to the northern border with Quebec, Canada. With five peaks stretching over 4,000 feet above sea level, they offer a variety of seasonal attractions including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, camping, mountain biking and more. 

      Vermont is also home to a number of substantial lakes including Lake Champlain, Lake Bomoseen, Lake Dunmore and Lake Willoughby. Champlain, in particular, is the eighth largest body of freshwater in the nation. Boating, camping, fishing, and hiking are popular recreational activities that are enjoyed throughout the year. Many also hope to get a glimpse of the legendary aquatic creature known locally as “Champ”.

      A Wealth of U.S. History

      Indigenous peoples, including the legendary Abenaki tribe, made the region their home for thousands of years before the French arrived and established settlements during the 17th century. During the past 300 years, the French and Indian War, the American Revolutionary War, and the Civil War all had battles that took place inside Vermont’s borders.

      The state also boasts a number of famous former inhabitants and iconic properties.  One popular destination is the stately Hildene manor, once home to Abraham Lincoln's son Robert and his family. Just south of Burlington lies another gem, Shelburne Farms, founded by railroad magnate William Henry Vanderbilt. The homes of former well-known residents like Calvin Coolidge, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Frost are also popular sites for those with an interest in history.

      Find Your Dream Home

      When contemplating a move to the state of Vermont, let The Lipkin Audette Team be your guide to finding a home and property that suits your wants, needs and desires. Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase a comfortable and enjoyable experience.  Contact us today to begin to make your Vermont dreams a reality!

      2022 Real Estate Trends

      A magnifying glass looking at wooden houses next to a sign that reads

      Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, very few economic predictions have played out as expected. Offices, restaurants, and real estate were hit hard; the stock market was affected, and many people lost their jobs. Most people were afraid there would be a long term economic downturn- fortunately, that didn’t happen. The economy and real estate industry bounced back quickly and even went on to reach unprecedented heights.

      As we head into 2022 we can expect:

      1. Millennial Buyers Will Dominate

      Millennials possess a lot of potential and a large percentage of them are poised to become first-time homebuyers in the up-coming year.

      Many Millennials have opted to work remotely and are eager to take advantage of low interest rates, appreciating values and home ownership. Millennials make up one of the fastest growing segments of the economy and are purchasing homes in large numbers. The millennial market has brought about a high demand for technology in new and existing homes. Currently, people are searching for homes to purchase using their mobile devices. Some prospective buyers are taking advantage of real estate mobile apps since they make the process of searching for a home easier. As proactive real estate agents we are able to target millennial homebuyers using social media and digital marketing tools.

      2. Rising Mortgage Rates

      The Federal Reserve has tapered the mortgage-backed securities purchases due to rising inflation, which means mortgage rates likely will also rise. Economists expect the rise in mortgage rates will be steady and will begin as we head into the second quarter of 2022.

      3. Increase in Homes for Sale?

      During the pandemic, locally and nationally, the inventory of homes for sale has been at an all-time low- forcing many municipalities to take a closer look at their permitting and zoning rules. Many towns and cities are struggling with balancing the need to maintain open space vs. provide housing for their residents. We expect to see more thoughtful changes to Zoning and land use regulations that will diminish the impact of development on the climate crisis while providing much needed housing.

      Final Thoughts

      One of the most important lessons from the past year is that no one can predict the future. Buyers and Sellers should continue to live their lives and make decisions on what is best for them and their families and not try to predict or time the real estate market.

      If you are considering making the move to Vermont our experienced agents would be happy to speak with you about the housing market and options available to you.  Since 1998, we’ve helped thousands of local clients build wealth through real estate. The Lipkin Audette Team understands that a successful real estate transaction needs to be designed to fit each individual’s unique set of needs and goals.

      To learn more about our demonstrated, client-focused strategies & services or to speak with an agent about buying or selling real estate in Northwest Vermont, give us a call at (802) 846-8800 or email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com.