What Size Home Should You Buy?


When you picture your ideal home, what do you see? The trend, traditionally, is a preference toward larger homes, although the 'tiny house' fad is currently having a moment. Homes of all sizes have their pros and cons meaning the final decision must be based on your particular situation.

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself when deciding what size home to buy:

1. What are my long-term needs?

Is this your 'forever home' or a first time purchase? Determining the length of time you plan on spending in the home is the first step. Obviously your needs will be different depending on what stage of life you're in also. For example, will you be adding to your family while you're at this location? Or, have your children recently moved out on their own? These are things to think about when deciding on home size.

Renovations are always an option, but if you have that in mind from the start, it's best to do your research and have a cost estimate in mind. Often times renovations are more time consuming and expensive than you might expect at first.

2. Do I really want to clean a large house?

The reality is...the larger the home, the longer you'll have to spend cleaning and maintaining it. Or, the more money you'll spend for someone else to do it for you. Are you willing to put in the time it takes?

Smaller homes also tend to force their inhabitants to accumulate less things over time, as well. If you're downsizing, you'll have to think about getting rid of some items.

3. Will I be able to furnish a larger home?

Likewise, when you purchase a larger home, you will need more furniture. In addition, when you furnish a larger room, you usually need larger pieces. Most likely this means you will need to purchase new items.

This can be a huge expense, even if you buy second hand. The affordability of new furniture should be considered before hand.

4. Can I afford the maintenance?

The larger the home, the more maintenance you will most likely have.

When the roof needs to be replaced, it will cost more than a smaller one. It will cost more to install new carpeting, tiling and laminate.

In addition, the larger the yard, the more time and expense you incur in cutting the lawn, maintaining trees and landscaping.

The electricity and water bills will be higher for a larger home as well. You can get an idea of what to expect of these from the seller.

5. What do I really prefer?

When you are weighing the pros and cons, you must also factor in your personal preference. Some people prefer a cozy,smaller home, while others enjoy having extra rooms for guests and hobbies.

Ultimately, in the end, you will be living in your home for a long time, and it's important to take your happiness into account.

Prepare Your Home For Fall

Fall home prepIt's hard to believe, but summer is nearly over and soon enough the leaves will be changing. Fall in Vermont is undoubtedly beautiful and the crispness in the air serves as a reminder that winter is on its way.

As the seasons change, so do our home and property needs. We always suggest taking advantage of the still longer and warmer days to do a little fall  preparation and seasonal maintenance. As we Vermonters know, the weather can change quickly and being prepared is critical. A little extra work now will save you on last minute repairs and stress later.

Interior Maintenance

  1. Check for drafts. Feel for drafts around the edges of windows and doors. A good tip is to use a lighted candle and if the flame flickers, there's most likely a draft. If necessary, replace seals and repair caulking around window and door frames. Consider buying heavier or insulated drapery for especially drafty windows.
  2. Have your furnace inspected. Hire an HVAC professional to test for leaks, check heating efficiency, and change the filter. They can also do a carbon monoxide check to ensure air safety. It's also a good idea to stock up on extra air filters and change them every few months.
  3. Winterize air conditioning. If your home has central air conditioning, cover your outdoor unit for winter. If you use window air conditioning units, remove them to prevent air leaks.
  4. Programmable thermostat. Buy a programmable thermostat, if you don't have one. If you already have one, check the temperature settings. Setting your thermostat to lower the temperature automatically at night and when you're not home, can result in substantial cost savings. Some models can now be controlled remotely through your phone!
  5. Test home safety devices. Replace the batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide devices and test to make sure they're working properly.
  6. Clean humidifiers. Replace old filters and clean inside compartment. Vinegar is inexpensive and works well.
  7. Remove screens. Take down window and door screens to prevent winter damage. Make any necessary repairs and store away for next season.

Exterior Maintenance

  1. Do a roof check. You should be able to do at least a visual inspection of the roof from the ground. Grab some binoculars to get a closer look or if you're able and can do so safely, climb on up for a better view. Look for missing, damaged, or loose shingles. Remove leaves and debris with a roof sweeper.
  2. Check the chimney and fireplace. If you have a wood fireplace and use it often, have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional.
  3. Stock up on firewood. Order enough firewood for the season. If you gather your own firewood, make sure it's dry and ready. It's best to cover firewood and store away from the house for safety reasons. Of course, be careful when cutting, stacking and hauling the wood.
  4. Inspect siding. Check home exterior for cracks or holes.
  5. Clean the gutters. Remove leaves, nests, and debris from gutters and check for leaks.
  6. Check water drainage. Rainwater downspouts need to be clear of obstructions and direct water away from foundations, walkways, and driveways. Add extensions to downspouts if necessary.
  7. Turn off faucets and store hoses. Drain garden hoses and disconnect from the outside spigots. Shut off exterior faucets, and if you have an older home, you may need to turn off the valve inside your home. Store hoses in a dry place so any residual water won't freeze.
  8. Inspect trees. Check for damaged limbs that may break or that are too close to power lines or the roof.
  9. Trim landscaping. Cut back bushes, shrubs, and flowers and thoroughly weed your gardens.
  10. Bring in flowerpots. If you keep plants or flower in pots year-round, bring them inside. If you replace plants every year, empty, clean, dry pots and put away for next spring.
  11. Plant bulbs. If you plant bulbs for spring, now's the time to get them in the ground.
  12. Leaf removal. Rake and remove leaves from the yard. Put into a compost pile if you have one. Alternatively, put into yard garbage bags and leave at the curb for community pick up. Check with your local city or town for requirements and pick up schedules.
  13. Fertilize lawn. Applying fall lawn fertilizer will help prevent winter damage and spring weeds. Ask a local garden center or check online to find out which type of fertilizer you need and when to apply it.
  14. Put away seasonal furniture. Clean and store seasonal outdoor furniture. Remove and clean cushions. Wash and dry furniture and store in a dry place over winter.
  15. Close the pool. If you have a pool and live in an area where temperatures dip, schedule a service to come and close it for the season or if you know how, buy the supplies and do it yourself.
  16. Organize the shed. As your shed is filling up with summer items in storage it's a good time to organize and clean out the shed. Move summer items to the back and winter stuff up front for better access. Also, remove any liquids that will freeze.
  17. Arrange for snow removal. Find a company (or friend/neighbor) to plow your driveway, and shovel if necessary. Get your name on their list before the snow flies so you'll be taken care of right away.

In the Garage

  1. Service summer power equipment. Empty fuel and clean lawnmower and trimmer. Have lawnmower blades sharpened and oil changed. Have any necessary repairs done now, so that you're ready come spring.
  2. Store summer vehicles. If you have a motorcycle, summer car, ATV or other type seasonal vehicle, now's a good time to have that serviced as well.
  3. Get winter equipment ready. Service snow blower and make sure it is ready to go.
  4. Test the generator. If you have an emergency generator for power outages, give it a test, and make sure it's in good working order.
  5. Buy extra gasoline. Purchase extra gas to have on hand for use in your snow blower or generator, so you're prepared for emergencies. Make sure you store gasoline in tanks away from fire sources and out of children's reaches.
  6. Clean the garage. Since you're in the garage prepping for fall, you might as well purge, organize and clean it while you're there!

Ready or not, fall is on its way. Properly maintaining your home  enhances its value and appeal and is less effort than managing a crisis later.

Closing documents you'll want to keep

On closing day, you can expect to sign a lot of documents and walk away with a big stack of papers. Here's a list of the most important documents you should file away for future reference.

  • HUD-1 settlement statement. Itemizes all the costs -- commissions, loan fees, points, and hazard insurance --associated with the closing. You'll need it for income tax purposes if you paid points.
  • Truth in Lending statement. Summarizes the terms of your mortgage loan, including the annual percentage rate and recision period.
  • Mortgage and note. Spell out the legal terms of your mortgage obligation and the agreed-upon repayment terms.
  • Deed. Transfers ownership to you.
  • Affidavits. Binding statements by either party. For example, the sellers will often sign an affidavit stating that they haven't incurred any liens.
  • Riders. Amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. Example: The sellers won't move out until two weeks after closing but will pay rent to the buyers during that period.
  • Insurance policies. Provide a record and proof of your coverage.

What to Expect On Closing Day

smaller roysClosing Day: The highly anticipated, most exciting day of a real estate transaction. After all of the preparation over the weeks and months of a transaction, both buyers and sellers can breathe a sigh of relief when the closing comes around.

What to expect:

Prior to closing, the buyers and their agent will do a final walk-through of the home to make sure everything is in order. This typically takes place the day before or morning of the closing.

Keep in mind that the closing date set forth in your Purchase and Sale Contract is a goal that all parties strive to meet. Unfortunately, sometimes circumstances arise which delay the closing. Generally these involve loan processing issues and can be due to anything from missing documents to an influx of other contracts slowing down the lender's queue. While this can be frustrating and is certainly not ideal, it is a fairly common occurrence which any experienced Realtor has worked through many times. Remember that all parties are working toward the common goal of closing on time, so if roadblocks pop up, the necessary steps will be taken to resolve those issues and press on. Delays can cause scheduling problems but very rarely result in the termination of a contract.

In Vermont, real estate transactions close 'at the table,' meaning the buyer and seller come together with their agents and attorneys to sign their respective documents. The closing generally takes place in a conference room at the buyer's attorney's office.

All of the title work is done prior to closing. The buyer's attorney will determine rightful ownership of the property and find out if there are any liens or open permits to be resolved before closing. The seller's agent will have the final water bill drawn up and sent to the buyer's attorney for pro-ration--it is the seller's responsibility to pay their final water usage. If oil is used for heat, the buyer's attorney will need to know the amount left in the tank and the price paid for it--it is the buyer's responsibility to re-reimburse the seller for the leftover oil as they cannot take it with them.

What do those stacks of documents consist of, you ask? The buyer's paperwork mostly deals with their mortgage-that they are aware of the amount of the monthly payments they will be making and that they agree to pay them in a timely fashion. The seller has a much smaller pile of documents before them--they have to report to the IRS how much they are receiving for the home and will need to sign over the deed to the buyer. If a buyer or seller cannot be at the closing, they can appoint another representative, known as a Power of Attorney, to sign their paperwork for them.

Typically closings take about an hour during which time the buyers and sellers will complete their paperwork, hand over house keys and checks and go over any pertinent information.



5 Home Hazards To Be Aware Of

Home. A word that likely brings feelings of comfort and pleasant memories to mind. Proper updating and maintenance is required to keep your home functioning correctly and serving you well over the years. There are several concerns, which left unattended could cause serious damage both to your home and to your health. Below are the 5 most dangerous hazards to be aware of.


1.  Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can seep into a home from the surrounding soil. It is such a powerful force that it is thought to be the second most common cause of lung cancer.


What to look for: Basements and any other spaces that protrude into the ground offer entry points for radon. The Environmental Protection Agency  provides a map of high prevalence areas for radon to use as a guideline. This map should not be used in lieu of a radon test, however. A test performed by a home inspector will accurately determine whether the levels of radon in a home are healthy.


  Asbestos       Asbestos was once a popular building material because of the insulation and fire resistance it provides. The use of asbestos was banned in 1985 after it was discovered to cause serious illness if released into the air. If breathed in, asbestos is now known to cause various severe lung problems from cancer to mesothelioma. It may still be found in older home's insulation, floor tiles, roof coverings and siding and must be removed with extreme caution.


What to look for: Homes built prior to 1985 are at risk of containing asbestos. Owners of such homes should be especially cautious if                            remodeling as disturbing older building materials could cause the asbestos to become airborne making it a serious health threat.



     Lead is a toxic metal which for many years was used in home products from paint to pipes. It can also be found in dust or soil surrounding                homes. Lead is especially different for unborn and young children as they are more susceptible to absorbing the metal into their bodies. Once          inside, lead damages red blood cells and interferes with bones' ability to absorb calcium.


What to look for: Homes built prior to 1978 may contain lead paint or leaded pipes. To get a HUD-insured loan, buyers must show a                         certificate that the home built before 1978 is lead safe.



 Hazardous Productssuch as paint solvents, pesticides, fertilizers or motor oils can create dangerous situations if not stored correctly or disposed of entirely. They can cause fires, illness or even death if accidentally ingested.


What to look for: Make sure that these items are stored and sealed properly. Do not stack together in corners, crawl spaces, garages or garden sheds. Home owners often forget that they have these items on hand, and if you're selling your home, the new buyers will not want to be responsible for disposal. When it comes time to remove the products, make sure to research how to properly dispose of them; chemicals can be dangerous and should never be dumped onto the ground where they could seep into water sources and wreak havoc. Be sure to take the proper measures.




 Groundwater Contamination occurs as a result of hazardous chemicals seeping through soil and entering water supplies. A leaking underground oil tank or faulty septic system can contribute to this. Both should be inspected prior to purchasing a home.


What to look for: Be on the lookout for any conditions that may be conducive to leakage. Homes near light industrial areas or facilities may be at risk. Also use caution in industrial turned residential areas as there may have been leaking or spilling in years past. Your Realtor and Home Inspector will be able to help you determine whether your area of interest was, or is, at risk for any contamination.

The 5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a deciding factor used by lenders to determine your eligibility for loans.

Scores can range from 200 to 800 with 620 and above considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage.

The following 5 factors are the main determinants of your score:

1. Your Payment History. Paying bills on time and in full is very important. Late payments count against your score depending upon the amount of time left overdue. Filing for bankruptcy and liens on property will also negatively impact your score.

2. Your Debt. Owing large amounts of money on several accounts will indicate to lenders that you have overextended your financial capability. However, it's a positive thing if your balances are in good proportion to your total credit limits.

3. The Length Of Your Credit History. In general, the longer you have accounts opened, the better. On average, consumer's oldest obligations have been open for 14 years showing their ability to manage credit over long periods of time. Lenders will look at your payment history for consistency so they further they can go back, the better.

4. How Much New Credit You Have. New debt, either payment installments or credit cards are considered more risky by lenders, even if they are paid promptly. Lenders are more interested in your consistency over time than in the short run. They also consider taking on new debt a financial risk when also attempting to take on more loans.

5. The Types Of Credit Used.  In general, it is better to have diverse credit history meaning not all debt is tied to credit cards or to a mortgage. In other words, it's better to have your debt spread around than tied up in one chunk.

To find out how to improve your credit score, see: Settling the Score.

5 Need to Know Facts About House Hunters

1. The Web is Stop #1: 90% of home buyers use the internet at some point during their search, but recently a study by the National Association of Realtors found that 52% begin their search online. Take away: Online presence is paramount. Consider staging your home for even greater appeal. Be sure your realtor takes high quality pictures-the more the better-sites filter by # of photos, so the more you have, the higher on the list your home will be.

2. Tried and True Methods Still Work:  45% of home buyers found open houses to be a valuable source of information. 53% were initially drawn to homes after seeing a realtor's sign in the yard and 27% used newspaper ads to find property information. Takeaway: Internet may be king, but don't discount the effectiveness of tried and true methods.

3. Buyers Hustle:  Modern house hunters are not willing to sit back and wait. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity, buyers are immediately acting upon properties that grab their interest: 75% drove by the house and 62% walked through it before ever enlisting an agent's help! Only 32% contacted the listing agent first. Takeaway: Curb appeal is important! With home buyers scoping out houses on their own time, it's crucial that yours provides a great first impression.

4. Financing is NOT Their Top Priority: Mortgages were surprisingly low on the list of buyer concerns, NAR found. Even with rising interest rates, buyers are more worried about finding the right home than financing it. Only 13% reported problems getting a mortgage, overshadowed by the 16% of respondents who reported NO problems at all during the entire home buying process.

5. Online Marketplace:  42% of home buyers found the home they ultimately purchased online. Real estate agents found the home purchased 34% of the time while 10% were bought as a result of seeing a yard sign initially. Takeaway: Make sure your realtor is tech savvy and aware of the latest technology. Your home should be found online easily and look as attractive as possible (think large, high quality photos, virtual tours, videos etc).


1 in 3 Home Buyers are Willing to Bid ABOVE Asking Price.

A recent survey by Trulia found that over 30% of current home buyers are willing to offer more than the asking price to secure the house they want.

With a tight inventory of available homes nationwide combined with the threat of rising interest rates on mortgages, home buyers are feeling pressured to act fast. On-the-fence home buyers are now becoming aggressive in their search to find the perfect home quickly, even going so far as to pay more than sellers are asking.

Features that made buyers' hot lists:

What Home Buyers will pay more for


If you're thinking of buying, or selling a home and need advice, any of our Signature Agents would be thrilled to help you at any time!

Flood Damage: How To Minimize The Effects


This week's rapid rainfall has left many in our area with wet, damaged property. Dry out your home and minimize damage with these steps:

1. SAFETY FIRST: Moving water is a very strong force, and continues to pose a risk once settled. Never enter a flood damaged building before making sure that the structure is absolutely sound. If there is standing water inside-CALL THE POWER COMPANY IMMEDIATELY. Never risk entering an area where wires and water may be touching (don't forget that furnaces and boilers are often run by electric power and in basements-common flood zones). If you are in any way doubtful of the safety of your home, call in an electrician before cleaning up to be sure. Also keep in mind that flood water could be contaminated with sewage and other bacteria--wear rubber boots and protective gloves to keep yourself safe.

2. Circulate The Air: Once the home is cleared for safety, set up fans wherever you are able to keep air flowing. Open windows and doors to further aid in drying out the home.

3. Remove As Much Water As Possible: If there is standing water in your home, use a shop vac or pump to remove as much as you can. Getting the excess water out as quickly as possible is crucial to salvaging your property.

4. Dry The Home: Mold begins to grow between 48 and 72 hours after water has entered a home. This becomes especially problematic when the air is humid. Shut your doors and windows and run a de-humidifier to continually remove moisture from the air. This will also sap moisture from wood and help maintain its integrity. Remember to wear a mask and gloves during this stage to protect yourself from mold spores. You will need to remove any carpeting, mats or drywall damaged by the water to prevent any further damage and potential mold growth.

5. Clean Up: When you have removed all of the water and damaged materials, mix up a solution of hot water and bleach to clean all surfaces touched by the flood water. As mentioned earlier, the water could be contaminated with bacteria, so a thorough cleaning is critical for health purposes.


*Remember: Flash floods are very serious. If roads are covered with water, it is not safe to drive. Find a safe place and stay put until the storm has passed.*

Tips for Renters: The Perfect Apartment Experience



Nearly everyone rents at some point in their lives. Whether you are looking for your first apartment or searching for a new place, these tips will prepare you and make you feel at home in your new space.

1. Avoid Scams: When you begin your search make sure you are using reputable sources and ALWAYS make an appointment to meet with the landlord before agreeing to anything. See: Buyer Beware: Avoiding Rental Scams for more detailed information.

2. Pick The Right Neighborhood: You want to feel at home and safe in your new environment. Make sure to scout out the area of potential apartments before committing to any. A nice neighborhood will go a long way toward your well being and overall satisfaction.

3. Be Prepared: So you've found an apartment that fits your needs and have set up a meeting with the landlord--that's great! Now it's time to prepare. Think of your first meeting with the landlord as a job interview-you will want to make a good impression. Dress nicely and bring with you your rental application, list of references with contact information and a current copy of your credit report (or the information necessary for the landlord to run one). Your future landlord will be impressed with your responsibility which goes a long way in selecting a tenant.

4. Don't Forget Extra Costs: Remember that the cost of your rent should be no more than 28% of your gross monthly income. Don't forget the other costs associated with your new apartment though: heating, hot water, tv, internet, phone service etc. These all add up. Make yourself a monthly budget to be sure you can afford the apartment you are interested in before fully committing.

5. Review The Lease: Once your credit report comes back and the owner feels you are a good match for the apartment, you will sit down to review and sign the lease. It is important to read through the agreement carefully and ask questions on anything that isn't perfectly clear. Remember your landlord will be happy to explain the rules and regulations now but will not be as pleased to find out of any violations later. Remember to keep a signed copy of your lease for your reference.

6. Be Honest: If at anytime your living situation changes (new roommates, pets, accidents, etc.) make sure to contact your landlord immediately. It is always best to be direct and honest about changes than to have the owner find out through the grapevine of unsavory changes. Your landlord will appreciate the communication and be more likely to work with you. You risk violating your lease and facing possible eviction if you keep secrets--it's best to be honest from the beginning.

7. Keep Track of Issues: Be sure to notify your landlord of any problems you are experiencing with your apartment. Remember that this property is his investment as well as your home; a leaking sink is not only a nuisance to you but harmful to the property as well. This applies to neighbors as well--if you are having problems with another tenant that you cannot work out alone, let your landlord know.

8. Insure Your Property: The apartment building and property you live in is covered by your landlord's homeowners insurance. However, that insurance will not cover any personal property inside the residence. It is highly recommended that you invest in renters insurance to protect your belongings.

9. Protect Your Security Deposit: No one wants to think about moving out when they have just unpacked, but you need to take note of the conditions of the apartment. Make a list of anything you notice isn't perfect and give it to your landlord upon moving in. Then do your best to minimize wear and tear while you live in the apartment. Remember that you are liable for any damage that occurs while you occupy the apartment so fill any nail holes, offer to re-paint if necessary and thoroughly clean the apartment before moving out.

10. Treat Your Rental As Your Home: Even though this may be a temporary living situation, it is important you feel at home in your space. Transform the apartment as much as you can (abiding by the lease of course) to make the apartment your own. Why wait until you own a home to invest in art and furniture you love? Treat yourself now and make the most of your living situation.



  1. Brandie Knowles on

    5. Not asking about utilities — or forgetting to turn them onOn occasion, eating takeout by candlelight may be romantic. But doing it every night, storing your garbage on your balcony and taking cold showers every morning is just plain sad. So before you move in, make sure you ask your landlord specifically what utilities you're responsible for paying — and for turning on. Some apartment buildings, for example, will provide the garbage and water service as part of your rent but leave you to arrange your own gas and electric service. Others may require you to handle everything. And don't forget the extras, such as a phone line, Internet service and cable TV.
    • Jarah LaRock on

      Good point Brandie, thank you! Utility information should be one of the first questions after rent and location. To view available Signature Properties rentals, be sure to visit our Facebook Page for photos and information!