Buyer Activity Improved but Median Price Dipped

County Averages
Median Sale Price:Units Sold:Newly Listed:Days on Market:
$210,00047 (6.8%)181 (-7.7%)209
CBHB_2015_Spring_NewGraph_GrandIsle-copyAfter a slow winter, homebuying activity in Grand Isle recovered as spring arrived, helping lift the number of sales by 6.8% for the first six months of 2015. That came after a dip in sales during the first quarter of 2015.

Professionals and retirees seeking single-family homes are drawn to the county for its pristine waterfront properties and quiet lifestyle. Its proximity to Chittenden County and Burlington attracts professionals, while a range of property types and prices attracts a wide variety of buyers. This year’s trends have been influenced by a number of factors.

Mid-Priced Housing

The median sale price dipped by 13.4%, representing a preference for mid-priced housing. While Grand Isle is well known for its luxury waterfront properties, the high end of Northwest Vermont’s housing market has been slower to recover than lower-priced segments.

Only One Luxury Sale

During the first six months of the year, the county recorded one luxury sale, a $1.35 million Adirondack-style home on Lake Champlain.

A Small Market

Because Grand Isle is the smallest real estate market by volume in Northwest Vermont, a shift in only a few transactions can have a large impact in overall sales and pricing trends.

Three land sales were recorded in the first six months, compared with eight sales in the year-earlier period. The median sale price slipped 61% to $60,000.


Affordable Franklin County Draws Buyers

County Averages
Median Sale Price:Units Sold:Newly Listed:Days on Market:
$196,000219 (1.4%)574 (-6%)142
CBHB_2015_Spring_NewGraph_Franklin-copyFranklin County’s residential market is rebounding after a slower market in 2014, helped by demand from first-time homebuyers who are drawn by the county’s more affordable price point than Chittenden County’s.

In the residential market, which is dominated by single-family homes, a number of factors are influencing sales and pricing.

Proximity to I-89

Those towns located closer to I-89 are typically witnessing higher median pricing. For instance, Fairfax, which is adjacent to I-89, boasts the highest median sales price in the county, at $253,000. Enosburg,  an eastern town that’s farther from the interstate, had one of the lowest median sales prices, at $115,500.

Towns closest to the interstate also recorded the highest number of sales, such as St. Albans Town, Swanton and Fairfax. Many of the towns in the eastern part of the county recorded fewer transactions than those in the west, which are closer to the highway.

Commuters To Chittenden County

With gas prices remaining low, some buyers who work in Chittenden County are seeking homes in Franklin County, given that commuting costs have become more affordable in the past year.

A Diverse Business Base

Demand for housing is also growing thanks to the county’s diverse base of corporate employers, including Ben & Jerry’s, pharmaceutical company Mylan, and logistics company A.N. Deringer.

Land sales fell 52% to 11 transactions. Sales were especially slow in the first quarter, when the abnormally low temperatures kept buyers on the sidelines. The median sale price for land parcels declined 9.3% to $61,800.

The multi-family market was steady with eleven sales during the first six months. Given the competitive market for duplexes and three- and four-apartment homes in Chittenden County, investors are looking to Franklin County for lower-cost options. The median sale price rose 71% to $276,000.

Chittenden County Springs into Summer

County Averages
Median Sale Price:Units Sold:Newly Listed:Days on Market:
$265,500889 (18.1%)1,547 (2.9%)88


The first half of 2015 has brought buyers back in force to Chittenden County, returning the market to the type of activity that was typical before the recession in 2008.

The real estate market gained momentum as spring and summer arrived. Our Agents reported that this winter’s below-normal temperatures might have delayed some real estate activity. Warmer weather brought both buyers and sellers back into the market.

A number of factors helped lift the county’s real estate transactions and median pricing.

CBHB_2015_Spring_NewGraph_Chittenden2-copyEmployers Are Hiring

Local businesses such as the NRG Systems and The University of Vermont Medical Center are hiring. That’s bringing new professionals into the home-buying market. GlobalFoundries completed its purchase of IBM’s chip business, including its Essex plant, and vowed to keep jobs intact.

The Economic Outlook Is Strong

Economists at the Vermont Economic Outlook Conference earlier this year predicted the state’s unemployment rate could decline to 3.5% by year-end, with corporations adding 1,500 private-sector jobs.

Tight Inventory

Properties in the $250,000 to $350,00 are in strong demand, which is driving up pricing as homebuyers compete in the marketplace.

Burlington Remains Desirable

Unit sales surged by 31%. Still, median pricing slipped 4.5% during the first half of 2015, which indicates that buyers are seeking lower-priced housing. Affordability remains an issue in the Queen City.

Affordable Towns Close to Burlington Also Witnessed Strong Trends

Towns that offer quick access to Burlington but lower price points also recorded higher sales, including Winooski, Essex, and Colchester.

Median pricing rose 6.2% during the first six months of 2015.
Housing in Burlington remains in demand, with residential properties selling in an average of only 88 days on the market.
More affordable towns close to Burlington also saw an uptick in sales.


High Vacancy Rates Drive Demand

Multi-Family Averages
Median Sale Price:Units Sold:Newly Listed:Days on Market:
$310,00051 (-8.9%)124 (0.8%)103


The multi-family property market remains in high demand from investors, thanks to Northwest Vermont’s low vacancy rate and relatively high rents.

While that’s attracting buyers into the market for duplexes and three- and four-unit properties, our Agents are noting more demand from buyers than can be met with current inventory levels, especially when it comes to properties that are in good condition and in prime locations.

Across the four counties, the median sale price rose 4.2%, while the transaction volume slipped 8.9%. Several trends are impacting this market:

Inventory Remains Tight

Those supply-and-demand issues are causing the median sale prices of multi-family homes to rise, with some properties attracting multiple offers. Given the lack of inventory, however, the number of transactions has declined during the first six months of this year when compared with a year earlier.

Chittenden County’s Attractive Vacancy Rate

While the long-term vacancy rate in Chittenden County is only 1.4%, there has been some easing this year given the construction of hundreds of new units, such as Finney Crossing in Williston and Great Cedars in Winooski, according to real estate consulting firm Allen & Brooks. That’s caused the vacancy rate to jump to 2.8%, the highest since Allen & Brooks started surveying the issue more than two decades ago. Nevertheless, that is still significantly lower than the national vacancy rate of about 4.1%.Because the vacancy rate has eased, renters are taking more time to choose their apartments, although Allen & Brooks notes that available units are eventually leased because of the still lower than-average vacancy rate.

High Monthly Rents

Investors are eager to participate in Northwest Vermont’s multi-family market because monthly rents are relatively high. Rent for a three-bedroom apartment was almost $1700 in 2014, which is also attractive to investors. Across all apartment sizes, rents rose 2.3% last year.

CBHB_2015_Spring_NewGraph_MultiFamily2-copyLocal businesses such as Keurig Green Mountain and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are hiring and bringing new professionals to the region. Many of those young professionals prefer to rent rather than buy at the moment.

However, as the economy continues to improve, more renters may shift into the home-buying market, which could lead to higher vacancy rates, according to Allen & Brooks.


Tight inventory remains an issue in the multi-family market.
Vacancy rates have eased this year, but still remain lower than the national average.
Monthly rents have continued to rise.

Slower Demand for High End Property

The luxury residential market in Northwest Vermont offers a range of spectacular properties, drawing buyers interested in waterfront estates, country properties, as well as stately city residences.

While our Agents are seeing signs of renewed activity in the luxury market, this segment has been slower to recover than the region’s mid-range housing. One reason may be Vermont’s relatively high property taxes, which may potentially dissuade vacation-home buyers from purchasing in the state. Below are a few trends that are impacting the market for homes above $800,000.

A Slower Pace

Sellers have readjusted their expectations for sales prices amid slower demand for high-end property. That means buyers may find excellent values among the region’s luxury properties, with some homes selling below assessed value.

City Living

Our Agents note that buyers are increasingly looking for high-end homes in or close to Burlington because of a desire to be near restaurants, the arts, and the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Waterfront Property

Buyers seeking waterfront properties are interested in homes with higher elevations and seawalls in good condition, given concerns about flooding.

Traditionally, the region’s waterfront properties have maintained a strong draw on luxury buyers. However, the first half of 2015 has seen a shift toward properties closer to town or with large acreage. Only four of this year’s sales included waterfront access.

Chittenden County represented the bulk of high-end sales, with nine transactions above $800,000. Four sales were located in Addison County, while Grand Isle recorded one transaction.


Four of this year’s fourteen $800,00-plus home sales are waterfront properties.
Nine of this year’s luxury sales are located in Chittenden County.

Market Beginning to Warm Up

At the start of 2015, Vermont’s housing market is benefiting from some positive local and national trends, including historically low mortgage rates and an improving employment market. While there are reasons for optimism, some issues remain as an overhang from 2014, which resulted in an uneven year for Northwest Vermont’s real estate market, with a slowdown during the winter and summer months followed by a pickup in fourth quarter sales.

As the spring of 2015 arrives, Vermont’s housing market is warming up after a first quarter that saw both strong positive trends and some headwinds.

The positive local and national trends include historically low mortgage rates and a stronger employment market. In Vermont, the unemployment rate stood at 3.9% in February, well below the national average of 5.5% for the same month. Employers are also hiring, thanks to expanding businesses such as and Keurig Green Mountain, which are bringing new homebuyers into the Northwest Vermont real estate market.

Our region started 2015 with strong momentum, following a burst in home-buying activity at the end of 2014. Thanks to the resolution of the future of IBM’s former Essex Junction semiconductor plant last fall, home sales once again picked up in Essex and neighboring towns. The plant’s buyer, GlobalFoundries, said it would keep the plant open and had no layoff plans, which eased fears for property buyers and sellers. That helped lift sales in late 2014.

Still, the region faced some pressures in early 2015. Most notably, the unusually cold temperatures in February caused some buyers and sellers to delay their property plans. Our Agents note that they are seeing an uptick in listings and buyer inquiries now that the weather is warming up, which is encouraging owners to put their properties on the market and for buyers to make appointments to see listed homes.

While employers are hiring and the unemployment rate continues to drop, there are some residual effects of the Great Recession that are also creating challenges for homebuyers. Wage growth has continued to lag, putting pressure on consumer spending. During the past two years, home price appreciation has outpaced wage growth in 76% of U.S. housing markets, adding to affordability issues for many buyers, according to housing data company RealtyTrac.



While Vermont has sat out much of the boom-and-bust cycle of the recession, it also hasn’t seen the same type of housing price appreciation as states such as California. At the same time, home affordability in Northwest Vermont continues to be a serious issue for buyers, especially given stagnant wage trends.

The average Burlington household spends about 44% of its income on housing, much higher than the one-third of income that residents of cities such as Portland, Oregon pay, according to a 2014 report from the City of Burlington. Rising property taxes across the state of Vermont are also creating affordability challenges for some buyers.

Those wage and affordability issues may be putting pressure on local home prices. The median sales price across Northwest Vermont’s four counties declined 1.8% in the first quarter. Nevertheless, sales volume jumped 13.6% during the first three months of 2015, indicating pent-up demand for home buying. That’s a shift from overall sales last year, which declined 0.7% by unit sales, although the median sale price rose 0.9%.

Despite these concerning economic issues, we do expect to see an improvement in our real estate market in 2015. In its April outlook report, the National Association of Realtors predicts that sales and median pricing for existing homes will rise 6% this year. In Vermont, we at Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty expect a positive, although more tempered year, with a 4 – 5% rise in sales volume and moderate price appreciation. Many renters are considering purchasing and we expect the percentage of first time buyers to shift upward this year.

Mortgage rates, still near historic lows, may rise later this year when the Federal Reserve is expected to boost interest rates. Still, any increase will likely be incremental, with Freddie Mac recently predicting the average 30-year fixed-rate loan rate will stand at 3.9% for the year.

As always, it remains that both sellers and buyers need to reflect on their personal situation. Utilizing the local knowledge within this report and the advice of your agent – you can make an informed decision about your next move.



Chittenden County Renters Feeling Squeezed

The county's vacancy rate is 1.7%, less than half of the national average.
Rents have increased 3.1% annually in the past decade.

Because of an extremely low vacancy rate and new hiring from companies including Keurig Green Mountain, renting an apartment or home in Chittenden County is often competitive.

The county’s vacancy rate stood at 1.7% in December, or less than half the national rate of 4.2%. Because of the tight vacancy rate, renters should plan to add extra time in their search for an apartment or home, especially when compared with regions with more available inventory.

The pace of hiring by local employers, ranging from technology companies such as to retailers like Trader Joe’s, has brought an influx of new professionals into Chittenden County. Our rental expert has found that about half of relocating professionals opt to rent before seeking a home purchase.

Rents are also competitive in Chittenden County, with the average price rising 3.1 percent annually since 2002, according to real estate consulting firm Allen & Brooks. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,155 last year.

Average wages in Chittenden County haven’t kept pace with the rise in rents, which means that renters are paying a higher share of their income toward housing costs than in many other parts of the country. Almost two-thirds of renters pay more than 30% of their income toward housing expenses.

Some less expensive neighborhoods, such as Burlington’s Old North End, are experiencing an increase in demand because of the affordability issues, Allen & Brooks notes. Other renters are seeking smaller apartments in newly constructed apartment buildings, because those studios and one-bedrooms may be more affordable than larger apartments in older homes.

Because our rental expert has extensive contacts with landlords, Realtors and associations, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty is well positioned to help clients navigate the rental market.


Demand for Rental Apartments Continues to Grow

Median Sale Price:$312,500
Units Sold:20 (-16.7%)
Newly Listed:56 (-6.7%)
Days on Market109

While demand for multi-family properties remains strong, the first quarter saw some challenges, including tight inventory and an extremely cold weather in February, which may have kept some buyers on the sidelines.

Nevertheless, our agents are witnessing multiple offers on properties that are well priced and in attractive locations. Within Chittenden County’s multi-family market, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty was involved in more than one-half of all sales by units, outpacing all other real estate offices in the county and placing our Agency almost 30 percentage points ahead of our closest competitor. Because of our strength, our agents have an unparalleled understanding of the trends within the multi-family market.

Northwest Vermont’s low vacancy rates, as well as a diverse and growing professional base, continue to create an attractive market for investors and owner occupants of duplexes and three- and four-apartment buildings. The apartment vacancy rate for Chittenden County stood at 1.7% in December, the most recent data available, according to real estate consulting firm Allen & Brooks. By comparison, the U.S. vacancy rate for apartments was 4.1% in the first quarter.


The recession and successive years of weak economic growth dampened the ability of some residents to acquire their own homes, which has driven up demand for rental apartments within the region. Monthly rents are also relatively high, with rent for the average two bedroom apartment standing at almost $1200 in 2013, which is also attractive to investors.

A lack of multi-family inventory may continue to be an issue in the market, especially as newly listed properties declined 6.7% during the first quarter. Our agents are noting that more multi-family properties are being listed as the weather improves, however. Demand for rental properties is also getting a lift from hiring by local employers, such as and Trader Joe’s, the grocery store that last year opened a South Burlington location.

Many young professionals are continuing to rent because of the advantages of apartment living, such as having services such as lawn care arranged by the property manager, Allen & Brooks notes.  Some young professionals are also burdened with high student debt, which has been dampening their ability to save for a down payment.

With economists at the Vermont Economic Outlook Conference predicting that 1,500 new jobs may be created in the state this year, as well as a continued improvement in the unemployment rate, our region may see an increase in demand for rental properties.


Luxury Buyers Have Ample Inventory to Explore

Five of the nine $1,000,000+ home sales were waterfront properties.
Seven of the past year's nine luxury sales were located in Chittenden County.

Northwest Vermont’s lakefront properties and country estates maintain a strong pull on high-end buyers, although this year’s below-normal winter temperatures may have slowed down some prospective buyers. With Vermont finally experiencing spring, our agents are seeing some signs of renewed activity. Both primary residences and vacation homes are popular with buyers seeking $1 million-plus properties.

During the past 12 months, nine $1 million-plus home sales were recorded. Two $1 million-plus sales were recorded in the first quarter, with both sales closing in March. The remaining seven luxury sales closed in the summer or fall of 2014.

Five of those properties included lakefront access, which is a traditional attraction for high-end buyers searching for homes in Northwest Vermont. The most expensive property was a $1.35 million estate in South Hero, located on 13 acres with 350 feet of shore access.

Seven of the past year’s luxury sales were located in Chittenden County, while one was recorded in Addison County’s Ferrisburgh. Grand Isle’s South Hero had one luxury sale, as noted above.

The most recent high point for the luxury market, in terms of number of sold properties, was in 2012, when 16 homes sold for more than $1 million.

The past two years have witnessed a slower pace of luxury sales, with sellers readjusting their expectations. At the end of March, there were 58 residential properties priced over $1,000,000 on the market in Chittenden, Addison, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties with 3 properties under contract. The inventory will increase over the spring and summer months. At this pace, it could take two years or more for the inventory to be absorbed by the market.

With a wide inventory available in the luxury market, many $1 million-plus homes require additional time to market than do mid-range homes. Current luxury inventory has been on the market for an average of is 338 days. Competitively priced properties may sell more quickly.


Well Positioned Properties Selling Quickly


Median Sale Price: $212,500
Units Sold: 56 (+36.6%)
Newly Listed: 150 (+20%)
Days on Market 168

After a strong fourth quarter, property sales in Addison County continued with strong momentum in early 2015. An improving economy and declining gas prices helped bring buyers back into the market late last year. Our Realtors are noting pent-up demand for properties in good condition and locations, with those homes going under deposit quickly. Those trends helped boost the number of transactions by 36.6% during the first quarter, while the median sale price rose 18.1 percent. Local homebuyers who work for employers such as Middlebury College and Goodrich Aerospace are searching for homes in towns such as Middlebury and Vergennes. Middlebury remains the county’s most active town for home sales. Transactions there dipped slightly in the first quarter, with the town reporting 13 sales compared with 15 a year earlier. The median sale price slipped 3.6 percent. A few smaller markets saw strong growth in median sale pricing, although their smaller number of transactions means one or two sales can have a larger impact on overall trends. Ferrisburgh, for one, saw its median sale price jump by almost one-third, although that was based on just five property sales.

Addison County remains popular with high-end buyers seeking lakefront luxury property. Although only one luxury sale was recorded in the previous 12 months – a $1.29 million home in Ferrisburgh – our agents note that two high-end properties have recently gone under deposit. The county recorded 6 land sales during the first quarter, little changed from the 7 recorded a year earlier. The median sale price rose by less than 1 percent, to $75,250. Some retirees and homebuyers have been seeking land purchases in the county in order to custom-build homes.

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