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March Madness, Vermont Style

All over the country, avid basketball fans and casual observers alike are getting ready to fill out
the annual NCAA College Basketball playoff bracket. The goal is to choose the winner of the
national championship from 64 teams that make the playoffs. Serious basketball aficionados
immerse themselves in research on teams and individual players, trying to give themselves an
edge as they call the games. The more casual among us choose the winners in mere minutes,
with no knowledge of the teams, or even basketball, just for fun and hoping for good fortune. In
my own family, one family member in particular has chosen the winners in the past based on
the team mascots, the team songs and the college cafeteria ratings. Basketball brackets are
found at workplaces, with friend groups and in family circles. Some folks compete with the
brackets that their local watering hole provides. Central Vermont’s daily newspaper, the Barre
Montpelier Times Argus, prints a bracket every March that anybody can complete and send in
and try for the $100 prize money. It’s a bit of a national obsession.


Here in Central Vermont, we have our version of March Madness at the Barre Auditorium, or the
Barre Aud as most people call it. The Division II, III and IV girls and boys high school playoffs
are held here every year and it’s a magical time. The bigger high schools, the Division I teams,
have their playoffs in Burlington. But the smaller schools have the opportunity to play in this
older, historic building that feels like it will combust with excitement when a good game is being
played. For many small communities in Vermont, it’s a really big deal if their local high school
team makes it to the championships at the Aud. A town of 500 people may see close to half
their population make the drive to Barre to see their local kids make a run for the state
championship. Homemade banners and signs are everywhere in the stands, and team colors
abound in the clothing choices, painted faces and even hair color of the fans! Lots of hoarse
fans spill out of the building at the end of the games, some more ebullient than others,
depending of course on the outcome. But win or lose, players will always remember their
experience going for the championship at the Aud, where so many have tried before them. If
you can get a ticket, take in a game at the Barre Aud during this championship run, and soak in
the atmosphere of locals going wild for their team. The venue may not be as grand as the
NCAA College stadiums, but the scale of enthusiasm and pride in Vermont basketball in the
month of March will make your heart swell.

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    Embrace the Mud. Be the Mud.

    We are entering that lovely time of year when one day it's 70 degrees and sunny and the next day you're cursing the freezing rain and wintry mix. Oh, and who can ignore the mud-sucking back roads that appear even before it's officially "mud season?"

    Luckily, I have my husband's birthday to help brighten this time of year up with a nice dinner out, hopefully at Kismet  or possibly at J. Morgan's Steakhouse, two of our favorites in Montpelier.

    But I digress.

    This time of year is also when maple sugaring goes into high gear. When I first moved to Vermont 20 plus years ago, I was delighted and enthralled by this wonderful Vermont process which I learned had been happening since the Abenaki were stewards of the land. Seeing small and large sugar shacks out in the country with the steam coming out of the roof makes up otherwise, a lot, for the rutted, scary, back-road driving.

    Where is the best place to see sugaring in action? My preference is to go to The Morse Farm in East Montpelier. If you're lucky either Burr Morse or his brother Elliot will be there to show you the how-to of sugaring. They are both charming guys with great jokes and a lot of history and lore to share even as they practice their sugaring craft with great care.

    After hanging out in the fragrant, steamy room and hearing from the masters you can wander over to the gift store and buy all things maple; from maple creemees to sugar-on-snow (with dill pickles to cut the sweet--a seasonal delight), from maple candy to maple kettle corn, and of course, all the grades of maple syrup. I stop by sometimes all by my lonesome (we'll keep that a secret, okay?) because my personal favorite is Grade A Dark Amber. But each to his/her own.

    If you have out-of-state guests, this is perfect way to entertain them and entice them back for future visits. But even if it's just you and your family it's still great fun, and heck, if the snow is still right, you can even sneak in a run or two on their groomed cross country trails! Otherwise, break out your waders, it's mud-hiking time...! 


    --

    Sue Aldrich, Broker/Owner
    Coldwell Banker Classic Properties
    3336 Airport Road   Ste #3 - Berlin
    Barre, VT 05641
    802-223-6300  office
    802-223-6544  fax
    802-839-0213  cell
    sue@vtclassicproperties.com
    www.vtclassicproperties.com

     

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      Frozen Frolics


      February 11th was Amanda Pelkey day in Montpelier as the community celebrated her accomplishment as a member of the 2018 Olympic Women’s hockey team. The city of Montpelier is flying the Olympic flag in front of City Hall throughout the Olympic games to honor her. How cool is that? Amanda grew up in Montpelier and learned to play hockey at the BOR in Barre. She played in a number of youth hockey leagues before graduating from Montpelier High School and then went on to be a hockey star on the Division 1 women’s hockey team at the University of Vermont. Amanda’s exceptional talent, hard work and dedication has now brought her to the Olympics.  Not every kid who plays hockey is going to the Olympics, but most kids in Central Vermont can take advantage of our winter sports paradise in some way. Families can lace up their skates and head to the BOR or the Civic Center in Montpelier, the town offices in Berlin, numerous ponds and lakes that have offer excellent access to skaters, and even the lawn of the State House in Montpelier where there is a postcard-worthy skating rink for all to enjoy.

      Don’t like to skate?  Grab a sled and find a sledding hill (Hubbard Park in Montpelier will do fine!).  Cross country skiers can find numerous places to ski throughout East Montpelier and Calais, and a favorite of many is Morse Farm Ski Touring Center in East Montpelier which has gorgeous, groomed trails and their famous Maple Creemees for an apres ski treat.

      Downhill enthusiasts can find world-renowned ski areas within an hour’s drive of most Central Vermont communities (Stowe and Sugarbush to name two). Putting on a pair of snowshoes after a fresh snowfall and heading to the woods somewhere is a delight. Whether on foot, one of those fat tire bikes, or snowmobiling on the VAST trail system, kids of all ages have seemingly endless ways to frolic in Vermont’s winter wonderland.

      This may be the reason that Vermont has more Winter Olympians per capita than any other state in the Union (at least this year)! So as we celebrate Amanda Pelkey, Mikaela Shiffrin, and the spirit of the Olympics, let’s celebrate that we get to live here! Put on those warm clothes and head outside. I’m ready with my down parka to show you the perfect property!

      Janel Johnson, Agent
      Coldwell Banker Classic Properties
      802-498-3013

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        Putting the Hunt in "House-Hunters"

        Almost on a daily basis, something unexpected and wonderful happens at work. Yesterday, I met a young couple, new to Vermont, hailing from Mississippi and South Dakota, and with new jobs in Homeland Security. The questions asked by this lively young couple and their 6-year-old son started out fairly normally. What are taxes likely to be? What's the current 15-year mortgage rate? Are there after-school basketball programs? You know, things that I either know or can easily look up on my phone.

        But then they stumped me. They wanted to know what the rules were for hunting on one’s own land, a neighbor’s land, and/or on state land.

        Until that moment, my knowledge of the rules of hunting were limited to the sign on the outskirts of Montpelier that states that firing a rifle in the city limits is strictly forbidden. I was completely at a loss.

        So after taking a big bite of humble pie, I admitted to my lack of knowledge on this subject and was all set to scurry back to my office and do some research when I remembered: a Realtor I know is married to a Vermont hunter who is apparently very well known in the hunting world. So, I told the young couple that I did not know the answers but that I would call my Realtor friend’s husband, Lanny Benoit, and ask him.

        I was in the middle of some lame excuse for why I didn’t know more about hunting regs, when they interrupted me.

        “Wait. You know Lanny Benoit?” they asked reverently.

        Uh, yeah, I've met him a couple times.

        All I can say is that the prospect of them meeting Lanny Benoit was like prospect of me getting to hang out with Fredrik Eklund from Million Dollar Listing, New York.

        Bottom line, I am not only going to get the answers to their questions (and try really hard to remember the answers) but I am going to connect Lanny Benoit with this young couple. Just another example of the joys of being a Realtor—making dreams come true even when it has nothing to do with the home being purchased!

        And by the way, Fredrik? If you're reading this, call me...



        Sue Aldrich
        owner/broker
        802-839-0213
        Coldwell Banker Classic Properties 3336 Airport Road, Suite #3 - Berlin Barre, VT 05641 www.vtclassicproperties.com

         

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          Southern Perspective?!

           It is certainly a challenge to show properties with all the ice on the ground! Recently I took some folks from South Carolina out to see a slew of country homes everywhere from Cabot to Braintree to Greensboro and the driving was fine thanks to our amazing road crews here in Vermont but the driveways were downright treacherous. Full disclosure, I fall easily even in mid August on flat pavement so you can just imagine the picture of grace I become when there’s glare ice all over the place! “The taxes on this property are...whoops...no, I’m ok, no nothing broken...” You get the idea. By the end of the day I was pretty sure the South Carolinians were going to scurry back to the South and never return. They surprised me—after we slid into the last home and slid back into the car they remarked that as “challenging” (their word, my word is unprintable) as the ice was it was still better than months of hideous hot humidity. Nice way to give me a whole new perspective on icy driveways! Note to Home Sellers—do your best to get rid of the ice in your driveway before a showing! 

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            What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

             

            What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

            It is important in real estate when showing properties to remember to be the last person to leave the property, especially if it is the last or only property you are showing that day, and regardless of whether or not it is your listing.

            Why? Well, worst case scenario, you just never know when a "buyer" might go back into the property and maybe have left a door or window unlocked for that purpose.  Or the buyers may hang around outside the property and run into the sellers coming home--not the end of the world but not desirable.

            Here's an experience I had recently. I met a buyer in the late afternoon at a new listing. Because of the
            snow in the driveway, and generally miserable weather, I parked behind them rather than beside them.
            At the last minute the husband of the family wasn't able to attend, but Mrs. Buyer and her five-year-old daughter decided to keep the appointment. The house was vacant but heated which was lucky because it was minus 15 degrees with a wicked wind chill factor. So… late in the day, miserable weather, unfamiliar property, and everything covered in ice and snow. What could go wrong?

            After seeing the house we scurried to our cars and, after seeing that her car started, I backed out the long, curving driveway. The property was located in a wooded area and, after I drove down the street a ways, I decided to wait
            to make sure she got out of the driveway.

            After ten minutes I returned to find the buyer in a panic because she had backed up onto the lawn and gotten stuck in a snow drift! Adding to her panic was the gathering darkness, the extreme cold, her unfamiliarity with the neighborhood and its residents, that English is not her native language, and she had a hungry, cold child to take care of.

            With the help of a couple of floor mats and some small branches, we got her out (yes, AAA was my next call if not!), and her gratitude made me realize that being the last to leave is not only a precaution to protect the home and home
            owners but can also be very helpful for my buyers!

            --

            Sue Aldrich, Broker/Owner
            Coldwell Banker Classic Properties
            3336 Airport Road Ste #3 - Berlin
            Barre, VT 05641
            802-223-6300 office
            802-223-6544 fax
            802-839-0213 cell
            sue@vtclassicproperties.com
            www.vtclassicproperties.com

             

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              Cardamon Latte and Moi

              I got together for coffee today with a wonderful couple from the west coast who purchased a home with me this past fall in Central Vermont. The coffee and pastries were grand, thanks toBirch Grove Bakery! Did you know they serve a malted cardamon latte? It was coffee deliciousness paired with shared scones and croissants.

              Part of our conversation centered around the warm welcome this couple has received since moving here. Cookies and freshly baked bread were brought to their home soon after they moved in.

              C. Michaud Landscape and Lawn Care helped them put the gardens to bed and clean up the yard. Since winter set in, a neighbor has been plowing their driveway for free. Other neighbors have offered their land and trails for walking their dogs.

              They bought a new wood stove at Montpelier Stove and Flag Works (just in time for the sub zero weather!) and loved the customer service they received. They are antique lovers and are thrilled by the abundance of locally owned antique stores in Barre and Montpelier where they have made purchases for their home.

              From caring neighbors to helpful local businesses, central Vermont hit a home run for my former clients. We are all fortunate to live here, surrounded by stunning natural beauty and strong community spirit.

              When I work with buyers, I often hear that they are moving here from out-of-state because they want the Vermont lifestyle, the small towns, the good schools, the great outdoors, the strong arts scene, and most of all, the people. Almost all of the time, they find what they are looking for. And I get great satisfaction from thinking that I helped...

               

              Janel Johnson

              Agent
              Coldwell Banker Classic Properties

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                (C)heating Winter's Grip

                 Sub-zero weather is upon us here in Central Vermont and even though the sun makes the snow a beautiful blinding white, the cold is biting and the wind is dangerous!   Venturing out to show houses during this time of year offers a lesson in how much buyers (all of us, actually) depend on good heating systems, insulation, passive solar, radiant floor heating (especially in bathrooms!), generators and general indoor comfort. Makes sense because on super frigid days the world outside is experienced mainly by looking out of windows. And if those windows are old and drafty, well, back to more discussion about warmth and the costs to provide it.   Whether buyers purchase in January or June, they will eventually look at how they can improve the over all energy efficiency of their home and I will get a call about recommending a good energy auditor and a good contractor who can make any "weatherization improvements." Luckily, we at Coldwell Banker Classic Properties always keep names and contact information of the good ones because not only can they be hard to find but we shudder at the idea of giving a mediocre or bad referral!   So rest assured that the Resources section of our website  contains the names of the tried and true from painters and electricians to contractors, energy auditors, surveyors and more. And of course, send new ones along to us if you've had a good experience with them 
                 Happy New Year from all of us at Coldwell Banker Classic Properties!

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                  Inspect Repellant

                   
                   
                  I wanted to recount a recent "event" during a home inspection I attended as the listing agent. Why was I at this home
                  inspection, you might ask, given that I represented the seller and not the buyer?
                   
                  Good question!
                   
                  My seller was elderly, not well, and unwilling to leave his house, all of which was okay with the buyers and their
                  agent.
                   
                  On the day of the inspection I had a nagging feeling that I had better check in during this inspection because I wanted to
                  make sure all was going as it should be.  The truth is, I knew my seller had a cantankerous side.
                   
                  I arrived about 5 minutes after the buyer, her two-year-old son, her father, the inspector, and buyer's agent. There was an ominous chill in the room. But I was determined to be cheery and greeted everyone, and then asked my seller how he was doing.
                   
                  He said, "Fine, but I have one question. When in HELL did a home inspection become a chance for people to have a God. Damn.
                  family outing?"

                  Well! It was to get worse. The next thing that happened was he called the inspector not only ignorant but also an arrogant pr**k.  He might not have been wrong, but that's really beside the point.
                   
                  Needless to say, this deal soon fell apart. Are you surprised?
                   
                  This whole event (and believe me, I've toned it way down) only reinforces the unwritten rule that if you are a seller, even a super friendly, nice seller, DO NOT REMAIN IN THE HOUSE during a buyer's home inspection.
                   
                  Remember the inspection is for the BUYER. 1) The buyers are paying for it and they should be allowed to openly ask questions, look at systems, and make all the comments they want about how they might start thinking of rearranging furniture and decor. 2) The buyers' agent will be there the entire time and his/her duty is to make sure neither the inspector nor the buyers do anything untoward while in the house. Finally, 3) it's really not fun to watch an inspector pick your house apart but that's their job.
                   
                  My advice, therefore, is to go out and do something indulgent during the approximately three hour inspection time.  You'll have more fun and most certainly, so will everyone else!

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                    Kicking back at the BOH

                    What do William Howard Taft, Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, John Philip Sousa, Roseanne Cash, great parking, and a horse all have in common?

                    If you live in central Vermont there is only one answer to this question. The Barre Opera House!

                    A classic “small” opera house which has been defined by, and helped define Barre's identity and character for more than a century, the Barre Opera House (located above the municipal offices in downtown Barre) is a real Central Vermont treasure.

                    I had the pleasure recently of seeing Roseanne Cash there - their first "sold out" show of the 2017-2018 season - and it was absolutely amazing. Though it was sold out, it didn't feel crowded and just looking around the audience, I could tell there wasn't a 'bad' seat in the house.

                    But the horse? Really?!?

                    Really!

                    A neighbor of one of my colleagues at Coldwell Banker Classic Properties was an employee in the box office the day the fabled horse was ridden up the stairs to perform onstage. My colleague couldn't remember the performer or name, but a quick review of the Barre Opera House website refers to “Tom Mix and his horse.” Mystery solved? You tell me!

                    In the meantime, I'm heading out to check out the restaurants in Barre—look for future posts on this subject that include the Cornerstone Pub, the Firehouse, the Quarry, and more.

                    My goodness, do I love Barre!

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