Woonpioniers is an eco-friendly, prefabricated cabin with bent wooden walls.

A Dutch Sculptor’s Prefab Cabin Has Curved Pinewood Walls

From Dwell Magazine

By Michele Koh Morollo – 

A Dutch Sculptors Prefab Cabin Has Curved Pinewood Walls

View Photos


Built as a live/work space for a sculptor, Indigo by Dutch practice Woonpioniers is an eco-friendly, prefabricated cabin with bent wooden walls.

In the Dutch hamlet of Giethmen, Amsterdam–based practice Woonpioniers has completed Indigo, a prefabricated home and studio, for sculptor Lia Harmsen. The custom, 861-square-foot, modular home has fully glazed walls on the front and back, allowing natural light to fill the entire space. A central wooden volume contains the kitchenette, bathroom, and shower, and a set of steps with built-in drawers lead up to a spacious sleeping loft. 

Exterior, Wood Siding Material, Metal Roof Material, Prefab Building Type, House Building Type, and Gable RoofLine Sculptor Lia Harmsen rents the dwelling to guests whenever she travels.�

View PhotosExterior, Wood Siding Material, Metal Roof Material, Prefab Building Type, House Building Type, and Gable RoofLine Sculptor Lia Harmsen rents the dwelling to guests whenever she travels.�

Sculptor Lia Harmsen rents the dwelling to guests whenever she travels. 

Photo by Henny van Belkom

Photo Categories: exteriorwood siding materialmetal roof materialprefab building typehouse building typegable roofline

Exterior, Gable RoofLine, Wood Siding Material, Metal Roof Material, and Prefab Building Type Chosen for their climatically self-regulating properties, the materials used for Indigo are eco-friendly and non-toxic.�

View PhotosExterior, Gable RoofLine, Wood Siding Material, Metal Roof Material, and Prefab Building Type Chosen for their climatically self-regulating properties, the materials used for Indigo are eco-friendly and non-toxic.�

Chosen for their climatically self-regulating properties, the materials used for Indigo are eco-friendly and non-toxic. 

Photo by Henny van Belkom

Photo Categories: exteriorgable rooflinewood siding materialmetal roof materialprefab building type

Exterior, House Building Type, Metal Roof Material, Wood Siding Material, and Gable RoofLine A sky-lit window brightens the sleeping loft.

View PhotosExterior, House Building Type, Metal Roof Material, Wood Siding Material, and Gable RoofLine A sky-lit window brightens the sleeping loft.

A sky-lit window brightens the sleeping loft.

Photo by Henny van Belkom

Photo Categories: exteriorhouse building typemetal roof materialwood siding materialgable roofline

On the studio side to the north, the wooden volume provides space for stonework tools and a kitchen countertop. In the living room to the south, the volume accommodates a small kitchen and leads to the bathroom, which sits under the lofted bedroom.

Exterior, Cabin Building Type, Wood Siding Material, Gable RoofLine, and Metal Roof Material The back of the volume acts as a wall that separates the living spaces from the sculpture studio.�

View PhotosExterior, Cabin Building Type, Wood Siding Material, Gable RoofLine, and Metal Roof Material The back of the volume acts as a wall that separates the living spaces from the sculpture studio.�

The back of the volume acts as a wall that separates the living spaces from the sculpture studio. 

Photo by Henny van Belkom

Photo Categories: exteriorcabin building typewood siding materialgable rooflinemetal roof material

Dining Room, Concrete Floor, Chair, Table, and Wood Burning Fireplace All the interior woodwork, including the bed and staircase drawers, was custom-made by Blind Interieur.

View PhotosDining Room, Concrete Floor, Chair, Table, and Wood Burning Fireplace All the interior woodwork, including the bed and staircase drawers, was custom-made by Blind Interieur.

All the interior woodwork, including the bed and staircase drawers, was custom-made by Blind Interieur.

Photo by Henny van Belkom

Photo Categories: dining roomconcrete floorschairtablewood burning fireplac




Staircase, Metal Railing, and Wood Tread A hearth by de Vogelsangh warms the live/work prefab.�


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    Earn $10,000 by moving and working to Vermont!



    Work From Home? Vermont Will Pay You Up to $10,000 to Move There





    Do you work remotely, like cold winters, and have the freedom to pack your bags and move whenever you’d like? If you answered yes to all three questions, Vermont wants to claim you as one of its own.

    On May 30, Governor Phil Scott of Vermont signed a bill into law that will award up to $10,000 to remote workers who move to Vermont beginning in 2019, Quartz reports. To be considered for a grant, you must be a full-time employee of a business based outside of Vermont and primarily work from home or out of a co-working space. The unorthodox measure is aimed at countering the state’s aging population and giving the tax base a much-needed boos The grants, intended to offset the cost of relocation and work expenses, will be awarded to 100 new workers each year from 2019 to 2021, and 20 new workers will be supported each subsequent year, according to The Hill. The grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis to those who move to Vermont on or after January 1, 2019.

    Grant recipients will receive up to $5000 per year, based on their individual expenses, and up to $10,000 total throughout the course of the program.

    Not quite ready to book that one-way ticket to the Green Mountain State? You can try another one of Vermont’s programs called “Stay to Stay Weekends,” which connects visitors with local employers and realtors to give them a feel for the neighborhood. June 1-4, August 10-13, and October 19-22 are the next upcoming weekends, and three communities—Brattleboro, Manchester, and Rutland—are participating.


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      What is going on with the Burlington Mall Redevelopment?

      Hole in the Mall: It's a 'Precarious Moment' for Burlington's CityPlace Project 

      By  @KATIEJ7D

      click to enlargeCityPlace Burlington project - JAMES BUCK

      • JAMES BUCK
      • CityPlace Burlington project

      A series of construction deadlines for the downtown CityPlace Burlington project have come and gone without any real progress, and city officials appear to be losing patience with the developer. 

      Don Sinex vowed two years ago that the 14-story mall redevelopment would be open and occupied by January 2019. Later he said that the foundation would be poured by that date. The construction financing and tenant commitments have not come through, either. 

      Last week, as snowflakes drifted into the gaping dirt hole in downtown Burlington, Sinex declined to make any more time-specific promises. He has been evasive with city officials for two months, according to emails obtained as part of a public records request, and would not provide Seven Days with an updated time line. If erected, CityPlace would be the tallest building in Vermont, with 288 apartments, 230,000 square feet of office space, and parking for hundreds of cars, plus a grocery store, a preschool and retail space. 

      Now city officials are considering new ways to prod the New York City-based developer to get shovels in the ground. On Tuesday, Neale Lunderville, interim director of the Community & Economic Development Office, and a city consultant, Jeff Glassberg, will update the city council on the project. Their recap could determine next steps. 

      The city's development agreement with Sinex and his company, Devonwood Investors, offers Burlington some leverage, including the opportunity to take the developer to court if he does not get going. The 46-page legal document required that the work "continue without interruption" once Sinex started demolishing the former mall. That work finished in early August, and the construction site has been inactive since. 

      There's a "high degree of concern," said Glassberg, who was hired by the city to oversee the project. "We're at a precarious moment." 

      Sinex insists nothing is amiss. "We are in full compliance with all our agreements with the City," he wrote in an email. 

      Within the next few weeks, Glassberg said, the future of CityPlace will likely be determined: Either the financing will come through or the antagonism between the developer and the city will amp up and any remaining goodwill could disintegrate. Sinex owns the property and is the ultimate arbiter of its future. 

      Some smell blood in the water. 

      Two separate developers have informally approached the city, wondering about the standstill and expressing interest in purchasing the property, according to Lunderville. 

      He refused to identify the developers but said both were locals. 

      Erik Hoekstra, a managing partner at the Burlington development company Redstone, acknowledged he might have been one of them. When construction stalled, he told the city to keep him apprised if things went south. "If we can help somehow, let us know," he recalled saying during one of multiple recent conversations with city officials. 

      If he owned the site, Hoekstra said, he would build a substantially smaller project than the one Sinex has proposed. There's little demand for office space in Burlington, and the parking is expensive to build, Hoekstra said. 

      "There's a financial feasibility limitation, and there's a market demand limitation," he said of the CityPlace project. 

      Sinex maintained that he's not selling and remains "completely dedicated to the completion of the project." 

      "Devonwood will work tirelessly to insure that the benefits of this transformative project come to fruition to benefit all project stakeholders as well as the City of Burlington," he wrote in an email to Seven Days

      But, he added, "I get everyone's frustration." 

      Sinex has attributed the delays to a series of factors beyond his control. In January, workers found asbestos in an old roof of the mall. In March, a citizens' group challenged the project in court. Those two issues set the schedule back several months, he said, though the mall was demolished over the summer. 

      In August, when foundation work was supposed to begin, Sinex blamed the city for slowing the pace of construction. He said Burlington had been late in handing over the plans for Pine and St. Paul streets, which would be reconfigured as part of the development and paid for with $21.8 million in tax-increment financing. Burlingtonians approved the TIF money at the ballot box in 2016. 

      At Sinex's urging, the city council agreed on August 27 to amend the development agreement so he could get a foundation permit without a contract for the rest of the project. 

      He vowed to restart work immediately, but it has yet to commence. 

      The longer a project languishes, the more risky it becomes, according to Glassberg. Construction delays increase the chances that something will go wrong and can lead financiers, contractors and potential tenants to question their commitments. 

      Sinex has no financing to construct the $222 million project. Instead, he has paid for the work thus far with $56 million in equity financing out of his own pocket and from Brookfield Asset Management, a Toronto-based financier that owns 51 percent of the project and is one of the largest real estate developers in the world. 

      A bank may be reluctant to fork over so much money with a lawsuit looming over the project, according to Burlington-based municipal and real estate attorney Brian Monaghan. The suit, filed by a contingent of city residents represented by attorney John Franco, alleges that the city didn't properly notify the group about amendments to the project and violated the settlement agreement from a previous lawsuit

      Sinex hasn't endeared himself to the construction industry, either. Several people familiar with the project said he had fractured relationships with the contractors who work for him, further slowing progress. All refused to speak on the record, though reported last month that Sinex planned in August to fire the contract manager, PC Construction, but never followed through. Sinex confirmed that PC is still in his employ. 

      Now there's also a danger of losing tenants. Sinex only has one committed to leasing the space, according to Lunderville: The University of Vermont Medical Center, which signed an agreement last year to lease 100,000 square feet of office space — nearly half of the total. The hospital originally planned to move into the building in January 2019

      Those at the hospital "share concerns about the unexpected delays and are hopeful for progress," according to Michael Carrese, a medical center spokesperson. 

      The hospital recently revised its contract with Sinex to reflect a December 2020 move-in, another medical center spokesperson said in a follow-up email. 

      The hospital is a key part of the redevelopment plan, according to Lunderville. "If they are not part of the project, it becomes harder to do the project in its entirety," he said. 

      Lunderville and Glassberg have asked Sinex for updates and a specific time line regularly since September, according to emails obtained by Seven Days

      On September 26, Lunderville, Glassberg and Mayor Miro Weinberger flew to New York City to meet with an executive vice president from Brookfield Asset Management. Lunderville wanted to discuss the status of financing, the foundation permit and a work plan, he wrote in an email. 

      At that meeting, "the mayor pressed them to continue construction as they said they planned to do," Lunderville said in an interview with Seven Days last week. Weinberger asked that foundation work begin immediately, Lunderville said: "The mayor was very clear. He wants this project to go forward." 

      After a flurry of press inquiries in early October, Sinex wrote that he was "mobilizing for foundation work" and urged the press to "be patient." 

      A month later, nothing has changed, and he's blaming the majority partner in the project for the silent cement mixers. "Once Brookfield authorizes Devonwood to do so, Devonwood will pull the foundation permit and restart the construction work," he said. 

      Sinex would not explain why he had not yet received that authorization. Brookfield Asset Management did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

      The city can take more concrete steps. The development agreement gives it the right to ask a judge to enforce a time line if Sinex does not hold up his end of the deal. The agreement doesn't offer specifics, but according to Monaghan, the Burlington attorney, that's intentional. City attorneys "can ask the court what they want," Monaghan said, calling it a "pretty good relief clause." 

      More importantly, the agreement is effectively "protecting the city [and] protecting public resources," Weinberger said in a recent interview. It will continue to serve its purpose "either by helping push this project back on track, which I think is a real possibility here, or through the city taking an escalating series of steps in the months ahead," he said. 

      Neither Weinberger nor Lunderville would specify what, exactly, the city is considering — or when. "We don't want to broadcast" our strategy, Lunderville said. 

      Most immediately — and easily — the city could revoke Sinex's encumbrance permit, which allows him to block about 30 parking spaces and other public areas around the construction site. 

      Meanwhile, elected officials who once supported CityPlace have started distancing themselves from the project. City Councilor Dave Hartnett (D-North District) recalled how in 2016 he knocked on doors and made videos on Church Street advocating for the redevelopment. 

      "Seems like we put so much trust and faith into Don Sinex and got nothing in return," he said. "It leaves me bitter." 

      Hartnett recently proposed turning the construction site into a seasonal parking lot. 

      Councilor Jane Knodell (P-Central District) said she hadn't "given up hope" of completing the project without enforcement action from the city. "I'm sure we will redevelop that site," she said, adding, "It may not be exactly the project that got permitted." 

      City Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) is "advocating for patience." 

      "We can act hastily, we can act aggressively, but where is that going to get us?" he said. "It would be inappropriate; it would be unwise; it would put the city at a disadvantage." 

      Glassberg is cognizant that things could change quickly, but he sees the city as well positioned for whatever happens next. "Strictly from a real estate value, what sits there today is more valuable than it was six months ago," he said, noting that an empty site downtown is much more appealing to developers than "an aging, decrepit mall." 

      The city has one last-ditch option: It can withhold the $21.8 million in TIF dollars for the redeveloped streets around the project. That bill is due upon the project's completion. 

      If Sinex doesn't "meet the city's requirements," Glassberg warned, "the city's not paying for it." 

      Correction, November 9, 2018: A previous version of this story reported the wrong day of the city council meeting.


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        Downtown Burlington's Cathedral For Sale!

        Downtown Burlington Catholic church headed for the real estate market

        Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Burlington hosted its last Mass on Saturday as the parish plans to sell its prominent downtown property.

        The property has received substantial interest from developers and will likely be listed for sale in January, Steve Donahue, principal of Donahue & Associates real estate firm, said.

        The parish has contracted the firm to sell the property, which is located on Pine Street between Cherry and Pearl streets, across from the ongoing CityPlace development and near the Church Street Marketplace.

        Declining attendance and financial difficulty has lead the Immaculate Conception parish to merge with St. Joseph’s parish in the Old North End. Immaculate Conception had been the Burlington Diocese’s cathedral for more than 100 years, until 2001 when it became a co-cathedral with St. Joseph’s. It was downgraded to a parish earlier this year.

        Donahue said his firm is currently examining zoning and density regulations and is planning on listing the property in early January. He said the property will likely become a high-density multi-use development.

        “It’s going to be a very highly desired, sought-after large-scale development that is going to have interest from locals and folks outside the area, and many of those have already surfaced and reached out,” Donahue said. “There’s a long list of folks waiting to get more details on the offering.”

        The city of Burlington has assessed the total property value at just under $4.5 million. It is too early to estimate what the asking price might be, Donahue said.

        Immaculate Conception was designated as a cathedral in 1867. But the old cathedral was destroyed by arson in March 1972 and was replaced by the modern-style building.

        Donahue said that whoever buys the property will likely pursue a project similar to the CityPlace project.

        “The entire Cherry Street area is getting a tremendous facelift, an infusion of a lot of development,” he said. “I think anyone who is looking at the Immaculate parish property is looking at the quality of development that is happening across the street and will probably mimic that with something similar.”

        The bell tower at Immaculate Conception. Wikimedia Commons photo

        The Rev. Lance Harlow, who was the pastor of Immaculate Conception and now is at St. Joseph’s, said the parish was unable to recover many of the parishioners who left during the five-year period it took to rebuild the church in the 1970s.

        Harlow said church attendance at Immaculate Conception also decreased over time, in partbecause of the city’s urban renewal efforts, which replaced housing with commercial buildings downtown.

        “Without the people, there’s no money, and without the money, there’s no parish,” Harlow said.

        Harlow said an influx of immigrants from African countries and Vietnam into the Old North End has help bolster St. Joseph’s, and the money acquired from the sale will help ensure that St. Joseph’s remains financially stable.

        “We realized we have a church a block away, we need to close Immaculate Conception and focus on building it up,” he said. “St. Joseph is being built up because we have these immigrant communities coming in.”

        Immaculate Conception’s last Mass was attended by around 240 people, and the building was officially declassified as a church Saturday.

        Immaculate Conception’s altar is being moved to St. Joseph’s, Harlow said, and some of the other objects inside the church are being moved to local Catholic schools.

        CityPlace developer Don Sinex, who has butted headswith city officials as his project has hit delays, said via email that he had inquired to the parish about the property in the past.

        “I have spoken to the Church about this property a few times in the past (a few years ago) but I have not heard much about it for the past year,” Sinex said. “I am unsure whether I will have any interest, however until I see the offering material, which I have not seen as yet.”

        Donahue said that he did not think the opposition to the CityPlace project would discourage developers from pursuing the Immaculate Conception property, since CityPlace was able to successfully acquire the permits it needs to move forward.

        State architectural historian Devin Colman said that the current building and landscape have historical value, though it appears likely, due to the location and interest in the property, that it will be substantially redeveloped.

        Colman said the building and landscape were designed in a very intentional way. The trees line up with angles of the building and the colors of the building’s brick mimic the brown tree trunks and other foliage in the landscape.

        “It’s very unusual in a rural state like Vermont to have a designed landscape as part of a project like this,” Colman said.

        The landscape is also significant because it is the work of Daniel Kiley, who, Colman said, is the leading landscape architect of the 20th century and was based in Charlotte.

        Colman said if the building and landscape were replaced, it would be a significant loss for Vermont’s modernist architectural heritage.

        “We don’t have a lot of modernist buildings, and each time we lose one, it’s a shrinking pool that we are looking at,” he said. “It’s important to remind people the 20th century happened in Vermont, and these are the buildings that reflect what people wanted at that time.”

        While the architecture of the era has fallen out of favor, Colman said, every era of architecture goes through a similar process of being loved when built, disliked 30 to 40 years later and then appreciated more in following decades.

        Colman, who lives in Burlington, said he felt like the property is often overlooked. He said losing the green space downtown would be a loss.

        “I would encourage folks to stop and really look at it and think about what it would be like to have a big block of buildings there, losing that green space,” he said. “I think every city needs places to pause and take a step out of the urban hustle and bustle.”

        Donahue said developing the block lines up with the city’s vision for downtown.

        “With the encouragement of growing the city as far as folks living in the downtown and working in the downtown and growing the tax base, I think it’s yet another opportunity for the city to grow in ways that are consistent with the mayor’s vision and others folks’ visions,” he said.


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          Understanding Vermont Property Taxes


          Education Tax Rate
          Land Gains Tax
          Land Gains Withholding Tax
          Property Tax Adjustment
          Property Transfer Tax
          Real Estate Withholding Tax
          Use Value Appraisal Program or Current Use

          A property tax is a levy on property that the owner is required to pay, with rates set as a percentage of the home value. Property assessments include two components-the improvement or building value, and the land or site value. Your property taxes help to fund local programs such as schools, fire stations, and municipal governments like select boards.

          Additional information to help you with understanding property taxes, including�how to appeal your property taxes�can be found on the�Secretary of State's website.


          The Homestead Education Tax Rate is based primarily�on the education spending per equalized pupil of all the pupils residing in your town. Many town districts are also members of union school districts. Each town and union school district will have a tax rate based on its spending per pupil. For towns with multiple school districts, the tax rate is a combination of those rates.

          Visit our�Education Tax Rate FAQs�or�view the�Education Property Tax Rate Table�for more information.

          LAND GAINS TAX

          This tax applies on gains made from the sale or exchange of Vermont land held by the seller less than six years. The land gains tax rate is inversely proportionate to holding period. The tax applies to only the gain attributed to land (not buildings or structures). This tax is not imposed on land which is part of the first ten acres beneath or contiguous to the sellers principal residence, or land purchased to build buyers principal residence (some conditions apply). Land may include timber and timer rights sold providing the underlying land is also sold within six years (some conditions apply).


          Anyone who purchases Vermont property that was held by the seller for less than six years is required to withhold 10% of the purchase price of the land from the seller and remit it to the Department of Taxes immediately after the sale on Form LGT-177, Vermont Land Gains Withholding Tax Return To Be Completed By Buyer (Transferee).��If a seller is a nonresident of Vermont, the buyer is required to withhold Vermont income tax, and the Vermont Withholding Tax Return for Transfer of Real Property must also be filed with the Department on�Form RW-171, Vermont Withholding Tax Return for Transfer of Real Property.

          A purchaser who fails to withhold or remit the tax is personally liable for the amount required to be withheld, plus statutory interest and penalty.


          Property Tax Adjustments assist many Vermont homeowners with paying their property taxes. You may be eligible for a property tax adjustment if you meet these eligibility requirements:

          • Your property is declared as your homestead
          • You were�domiciled�in Vermont for the full prior calendar year
          • You were not claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer
          • You own the property as your principle residence as of April 1; and
          • Your household meets the household income�criteria

          The�homestead declaration,�property tax adjustment claim, and household income form, are generally submitted together with an income tax return. The credit is calculated by comparing property taxes paid based on property value to the amount allowed based on household income.�The difference (if any) is applied as a credit to the property tax bill in the following tax year as State Payments. The maximum credit amount is $8,000. ��


          This is a tax on the transfer of title to real property based on the purchase price paid by the buyer. A Property Transfer Tax Return must be filed with a town clerk�whenever a deed(s) showing the transfer of title to real property is delivered to a town clerk for recording. A town clerk cannot record any deed unless it is accompanied by a completed Property Transfer Tax Return. �You may use�myVTax�to file your return. Tax preparers who file more than five returns or certificate requests per calendar year are required to use myVTax for filing.�If you file fewer than five returns, you may�order a specific form online�or by contacting us at�(802) 828-2515.


          This tax requires taxpayers withhold 2.5% of the consideration for real property being sold by a non-resident of Vermont. The withholding is required to insure that the appropriate amount of taxes on any gain resulting from the transfer is paid when the non-resident seller files a Vermont income tax return.�

          (Property Valuation and Review staff examine�the income tax returns associated with withholding to determine final tax liabilities relative to the withheld amounts).


          The�Use Value Appraisal Program�(Current Use) is the valuation and taxation of farm and forest land based on its remaining in agricultural or forest use, instead of its value in the market place. �This program keeps Vermont's agricultural and forest land in production, slows the development of these lands, and achieves greater equity in property taxation on undeveloped land.

          This program includes conservation land owned by qualifying nonprofit organizations and the exemption from all property taxes of eligible farm buildings. When an application is approved and recorded in the municipal land records, a lien is established on the enrolled land to recover a land use change tax should all or any portion of the enrolled land become developed. �Currently, more than 18,000 properties are enrolled, totaling more than 2.3 million acres which represents approximately 1/3 of Vermont's total land area.


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            Home Buying Goes High-Tech As Millennials Become Largest Real Estate Buyers!

            Home buying has gone high tech and the market has millennials and fintech companies to thank.

            Rewind a few years and most people shopping for a home would scoff at taking a virtual reality tour, applying for a mortgage on their mobile phone or purchasing a house without stepping foot in it. But millennials, the newest crop of homebuyers, grew up with a smartphone attached to their hip and are much more comfortable buying everything from clothing to a house over the Internet. According to a Redfin survey released earlier this year 45% of millennial homebuyers made offers sight-unseen in 2017.

            And despite talk the younger generations aren’t purchasing new homes, the National Research Association found consumers aged 36 and younger represented the biggest share of home buyers, 34% of all purchases, last year.

            Millennials, as well as their older counterparts, start their home searches online. But they are willing to take it a step further and the real estate fintechs know that. They are rolling out virtual reality tours, speedy online mortgage applications and live streaming open houses.



            VR Tours Popular Among Buyers

            Take VR tours for starters. In January Coldwell Banker Real Estate polled 3,000 U.S. adults to gauge their interest in virtual reality home tours. It found that 77% of survey respondents want to take VR tours of homes before visiting while 84% want to see video footage. They don’t just want to get an idea of the layout and condition of the home. More than two-thirds or 68% said they want to use VR to see how their current furniture looks in the home. What’s more 62% of survey respondents said they would go with a real estate agent who made VR technology available. Recognizing the demand, Sotheby's International Realty offers customers 3D and virtual reality tours of its properties. Sotheby's said on its Website that the 3D and VR Tours are made possible by placing cameras throughout the home. Users can view the 3D tour directly from the Sotheby's website and VR tours via a mobile device that is paired with a VR headset.

            Real estate has also gotten more social with some real estate agents using Facebook to host real-time open houses via Facebook Live. RE/MAX, the real estate company, recently highlighted one agent in Winnipeg, Manitoba that uses Facebook Live for his open houses, giving viewers a real-time tour of the house and simultaneously answering questions from the comment section. The live stream is recorded automatically, turning the open house into a virtual tour that can live indefinitely online.

            Mortgages Get Speedier Thanks To Tech

            Technology isn’t only disrupting the home search process but it is changing the way people apply for and are approved for mortgages. Take Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage mobile service that enables a would-be borrower to apply for a mortgage in minutes. The loan closes in less than a month, something most traditional lenders can’t do. Rocket Mortgage is a pioneer in this area but it's not alone. Lenda, the mortgage lending fintech that’s been in the market since 2014, boasts the ability for borrowers to fill out the the application in minutes  and for the loan to close in two weeks. The company told American Banker earlier this year the goal is for a mortgage transaction to take thirty minutes. Lendra is able to speed up the process by having the underwriting begin as the customer fills out an application. Lendra also automates as much of the work as possible including income and employment verification. It enables customers to log into their bank accounts from the platform to get the bank statements necessary  for the mortgage, furthering speeding up the process.  Other fintechs going after the mortgage market include Social Finance, otherwise known as SoFi and Roostify.

            Voice Command Real Estate Searches Coming

            Still in the early phases of deployment, a new technology making its way into the real estate market are chatbots. Thanks in part to’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri voice activated assistants, the ability to interact with the Internet and devices via voice is growing in popularity. That hasn’t been lost on a handful of technology companies that are working on apps to enable users to search real estate listing and get information via natural language commands. Ask DOSS, a startup out of Houston Texas, is working on an intelligent personal assistant that is said will be similar to Siri, but exclusive to the real estate market. Users will be able to ask the app questions about a property and get instant answers 24 hours a day. The company is developing the app for the residential real estate market but said on its website the next phase of development will be answering questions and displaying listings for commercial properties. A beta launch of the app went live in October of 2017. The company is working on a relaunch and is tight-lipped about when it will bring it to the market.

            With all this technology at the ready, fintechs are transforming the way we buy homes. The older generations may not be ready for it, but millennials and those younger are. They have come to expect technology to drive all aspects of their lives including the home purchasing process.


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              Lawn To Lake

              RAISE THE BLADE - MOW HIGHER! 

              What is healthy soil and why is it important? How you care for your lawn affects the health of our waterways, especially Lake Champlain. To improve the health of your lawn, soil, AND the Lake, we recommend:

              • Cut lawn to 3"

              • Leave the clippings

              • Follow the "1/3" rule

              Read more about healthy lawn tips>>

              Lake Champlain Sea Grant, UVM, and UVM Extension are researching if differences in soil and grass health exist between lawn cut to 2" and lawn cut to 3" where clippings are allowed to decompose. Ten local businesses/organizations have allowed researchers to use a portion of their lawn to manage and study over time.   

              Read more about Lake Champlain Sea Grant "Raise the Blade" research>>


              Find out how your lawn mowing practices compare to others.

              In 2017, Lake Champlain Sea Grant and partner organizations asked for people across the Lake Champlain Watershed to share information about their lawn mowing practices. This information informed our “Raise the Blade” campaign to encourage home and business owners not to cut grass shorter than 3” in height, and to allow the clippings to decompose in place. Over time, these actions will build healthier soils and reduce polluted runoff from reaching nearby waters. Please join us in reducing runoff by raising your lawn mower blade to 3 inches! 


              DON'T P ON YOUR LAWN! 

              Lawn care habits affect local waterways!"P" stands for phosphorus—the most problematic pollutant in Lake Champlain and in many other lakes in Vermont and northern New York. Phosphorus is a nutrient found in most lawn and garden fertilizers. When fertilizers run off from lawns and into lakes, they feed unsightly, smelly and potentially toxic blue-green algal blooms. 

              Look for the middle number on fertilizer bags to indicate it's phosphorus-free!Make a Switch! It's easy for home owners and businesses to switch to P-free (phosphorus-free) lawn fertilizers to reduce urban sources of phosphorus. Doing so may help reduce algal growth in your favorite lake—and you can still have a beautiful lawn!

              It's the Law! New laws in Vermont and New York that took effect January 1, 2012, prohibit the application of phosphorus fertilizers except in certain circumstances. Fertilizer with phosphorus may be applied to new lawns (or non-agricultural turf in the 1st growing season in New York) or if a soil test indicates a phosphorus deficiency.



              Composting Association of Vermont | Cornell Cooperative Extension 
              Lake Champlain Basin Program Lake Champlain CommitteeLake Champlain Sea Grant
              UVM Extension | Vermont Agency of Natural Resources


              website by Lake Champlain Basin Program 


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                State of the Lake - Lake Champlain Report


                Matthew Vaughan, State of Lake
                Matthew Vaughan describing water quality at Lake Champlain Basin Program’s State of the Lake report release.

                GRAND ISLE – The good news from Lake Champlain is that no new invasive species have made their way into its waters since 2014, but the by now familiar bad news is that phosphorus levels in many parts of the lake remain disconcertingly high.

                These were among the findings in the 2018 State of the Lake Report released on Friday. The report, a health check compiled every three years by the Lake Champlain Basin Program, covers water quality, aquatic species, and economics. The basin program, a creation of Congress, is a partnership of the states of Vermont and New York, and the Canadian province of Quebec, to monitor the health of the lake and its more than 8,000 square mile watershed.

                “Without monitoring and assessing the results of all this work, we wouldn’t know if we were making progress,” said Melville Cote, EPA project manager, addressing those assembled for the report’s release at the basin program’s Grand Isle offices.

                The emphasis on invasive species monitoring is so that Lake Champlain doesn’t suffer the fate of the Great Lakes, whose fisheries were devastated when the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 allowed the introduction of non-native species.

                Vermont in recent years has ramped up efforts to stop invasive aquatic species from entering its own great lake. Boat greeters are stationed at access points around the lake, to educate boaters about invasive species and to remove plant material from watercraft entering and leaving the lake. Greeters have removed 4,782 invasive specimens from the 95,177 boats they have surveyed, according to the report.

                As a result, the water chestnut that in 1999 choked more than 25 percent of the narrow south end of Lake Champlain, clogging boat motors and destroying fish habitat, has been significantly reduced. Removal may soon get more high-tech with the use of drones to detect any new spread of water chestnut all around the lake.

                A long term sea lamprey management program has led to a significant decrease in the lake’s most notorious invasive species. Sea lamprey come equipped with a suction-cup mouth — and a ring of many teeth. They feed on freshwater fish by latching onto their smooth sides, and draining bodily fluids.

                There has been a marked decline in the “wounding” of salmon over the last 15 years, but for reasons that are not entirely clear, the wounding of lake trout “has increased dramatically” in the past two years, Ellen Kujawa, technical associate for the basin program.

                Even so, the juvenile lake trout population nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, and for the first time in a century landlocked Atlantic salmon have begun to reproduce naturally in the Winooski River, Kujawa said. “For the most part, Lake Champlain sport fish continue to thrive,” she added.

                The stubborn phosphorus problem is in part a result of the geography of the lake. For every square mile of water, 18 square miles of land drain into the lake, which is significantly more than the drainage into the Great Lakes, said Matt Vaughan, technical coordinator with the LCBP.

                “Most nutrients come from sources on the land, so the relatively high land-to-lake ratio for Lake Champlain poses significant challenges in limiting pollution,” said Vaughan, who added that the lake’s tributaries deliver around 2 million pounds of phosphorus each year.

                “Long term phosphorus loading trends have not improved for most Lake Champlain tributaries,” he said.

                Phosphorus levels are highest in the Missisquoi Bay, the South Lake and St. Albans Bay — areas that face a potent combination of shallow water and heavy agricultural runoff. ANR Secretary Julie Moore said the northern bay areas have cyanobacteria blooms that “continue to be persistent despite all our efforts to reduce nonpoint source pollution.”

                Although 38 percent of the lake’s phosphorus load comes from agricultural lands, developed land contributes more than twice as much phosphorus per square mile, according to the report. The state is using edge of field monitoring to determine the effectiveness of agricultural best practices such as cover cropping and no-till planting in reducing sediment runoff into the lake, Lake Champlain Basin Program manager Eric Howe said. Moore called the ongoing effort to reduce phosphorus across the watershed a “sustained heavy lift” by partners around Vermont, New York and Quebec.

                Lake Champlain generates $300 million in tourist revenue each year, and a decline in water quality could lead to a $16.8 million decrease in summertime business, the report warned. Speakers at the report release highlighted the importance of funding infrastructure, like boat access points and lakeside bike trails, that connects tourists and residents to the lake.

                “Vermont’s crown jewel,” Gov. Phil Scott called the lake on Friday. “Water quality goes hand-in-hand with the growth of our economy,” Scott said, though he added, “From my perspective, we don’t have to choose between the environment and our economy — we can support both.”

                Mortgage Free

                Mortgage Free

                It may be an all too common belief that a person will have a house payment and a car payment for the rest of their lives.  However, with a plan and some determination, you can be mortgage free.

                Planning for retirement is obviously important and many times, an activity plagued by procrastination.  Some homeowners' goal is to have their home paid for by retirement, so they won't have payments.  It makes sense to eliminate a sizable recurring expense before they quit working.

                By making regular principal contributions in addition to the payments, the debt can be eliminated by the target retirement date.

                Assume a homeowner refinanced their $300,000 mortgage at 4% last year for 30 years with the first payment due on May 1, 2017.  With normal amortization, the home will be paid for at the end of the term.  

                Additional principal contributions with each payment will save interest, build equity and of course, accelerate the payoff on the home.  An extra $250.00 a month would pay off the mortgage 7.5 years sooner.  $786.81 extra with each payment would pay off the loan in 15 years.

                Having a home paid for at retirement has the apparent benefit of no house payment.  A debt-free home is also a substantial asset that could be borrowed against or sold if unanticipated events should occur.  

                To make some projections to pay off your own mortgage, use this use the Equity Accelerator calculator.

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