My advice on moving to Vermont. The short answer from a liberal-ish democratic perspective.

General, How-Tos, Travel Reports

My Short Answer After Moving To The Town of Brattleboro in Southern VT in 2008.

Generally – A great state! I find myself amidst the voluntarily lower middle class. My friends and colleagues are mostly relatively happy hippie-ish democratic liberals who are into protecting the environment, education, local community support, and healthy living. There are also lots of retired folks, republicans, a few rich, a more poor. There’s the few homeless (more in summer) and those suffering visibly from psychological issues and drug and alcohol abuse.

The tone I experience here is somewhere between New Hampshire’s “Live Free, Or Die” independent, self-sufficiency, and the West Coast’s hippie-dippie liberalism and innovation.

Under that, I sense a deep commitment to community, family and education that crosses political lines. Most Vermonters I know seem to be able to agree on being there for one’s neighbors, supporting good public schools, farming, effective social programs, healthy local food, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends.

Finally, it’s a very small state, less then 700,000! So scale back the numbers in all your factoring.

My Advice

  • Have quick plans for food you can make for pot-luck dinner socials. So many pot lucks! And you’ll waste money if you always buy prepared food or bring booze. Sometimes I wish someone would just host a dinner, just once…
  • Even one job with low salary, but full benefits, is very valuable here. Then the other person can freelance, farm, finagle, etc.
  • Lock you car during zucchini season if you have out of state plates. If you don’t it will be full of folk’s surplus zucchinis that they are trying to get rid of.
  • Join the COOP
  • Find a CSA for local veggies and/or meat
  • Get a big freezer for blueberries and homemade pesto all year!
  • Join a board *but not too many.
  • Vote and go to town meetings and public hearings.
  • Trim your expenses and dept.
  • Get some tools
  • Plant a garden
  • Get really good snow tires in the winter (Michelin X-Ice for example).
  • Draft proof and insulate your house (consider a heat pump with Efficiency Vermont help).
  • Find the swimming holes.
  • Okay, on the snow tires…With an AWD cars, some say you don’t need ’em, but I got kids now and they make a huge difference. If you don’t have AWD, get ’em for sure.
  • Get wool socks, sweaters, hats, and wear layers. But wait for a sale if you can, at the end of winter.
  • Keep a blanket, water, and a flashlight in your car in winter.
  • Keep a swim suit, towel, blanket, sun screen and water in the car in summer.
  • Leave time to drive on the little back roads when you can, there’s so many cool little discoveries.
Google Real estate Setting

Home Buying Lessons Learned

How-Tos

My wife and I just successfully closed on our first home in Brattleboro, Vemont 200 miles north of New York City. We have the key. We have the deed. To find the home I looked at listings for two years at least several times a week, using the MLS, and Google Maps Real Estate setting. We drove by 30 some odd homes for a year and did full viewings of about 15 homes. We almost bought two home, pulling out at the last minute.

I’ve bought two condos I never lived in and still own one. I made a bundle off the first pre-construction condo in 2002 in San Diego. I flipped it and got one in Santa Fe during the height of the bubble. I still own it. It’s worth about 20% less then I bought it in 2005, but it’s rented and not losing money.

Google Real estate Setting

Google Real Estate Setting

Tools

Lessons We Learned

  1. House hunting is like dating in your twenties, full of drama, unrequited love, heartbreak, bad judgement, and things not seeming what they are after several nights of sleeping on it. Brace yourself.
  2. If you stay grounded in your values, you’ll eventually find a  house you just know is right and things will be simple and good. Don’t quibble too much on price, just buy it.
  3. Neighbors are key. Make sure your neighbors won’t stress you out. That can ruin any house.
  4. Pick your priorities and know what to sacrifice. You can’t walk to a vibrant downtown and live in the woods no matter how rich you are. We struggled, but remained fixed on being 1/2 mile from town, with enough room for a small garden and the ability to build a second unit for rental income.
  5. Beware of homes that have been on the market a long time. Best to focus energy on new listings in areas you like only.
  6. Watch the light. Drive by in the AM and PM. Imagine all seasons.
  7. Consider adding a rental unit. The numbers are very solid in terms of a place to put money, even from an IRA. If $30,000.00 can get you a room you rent for $700.00/mo, then conservatively you can make 20% on your money a year, and increase your real estate value.