By Inge Schaefer
Having considered the question “Who Owns Colchester?” in previous columns and realizing that a huge segment of our community (approximately 47 percent) is locked up in residential or home ownership, it follows that a look at how our community home values are holding up is warranted — especially after the long recession.
Despite home values declining nationally, in Chittenden County they have risen. The county’s median home value increased from $258,000 from 2007 to 2009 to $268,500 from 2010 to 2012, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
And, here’s more good news: According to the Northwestern Vermont Board of Realtors (NVBR), Colchester’s change in its median sales price was up from $240,000 in 2012 to $257,500 in 2013, a 7.3 percent increase.
If we look at two neighboring communities, Essex and Milton, our home values look even better. According to the NVBR, the median sales price in Essex in 2012 was $257,000 and in 2013, they lost pace with a decline of 3.1 percent to $249,000. Milton did better with a median price of $198,000 in 2012, increasing by 6.6 percent in 2013 to $211,000. According to Charlotte Gardner of Gardner and Gardner, “Colchester is unique because there are so many lakefront properties that one sale can skew the statistics when there is a large divergence in values.” Having said that, both Gardner, who this year celebrated 44 years in the real estate business, and Linda Murphy, a 17-year Realtor with Brian French Real Estate, agree that Colchester sales are more brisk than they were three to five years ago.
Here are a few more statistics that provide a fuller picture of Colchester’s real estate scene in 2012 compared to this year. New listings last year were 248 compared to 272 this year. Of those listed, 147 closed in 2012 and 160 have closed in 2013 (9.7 percent higher). In 2012, it took 102 days to sell and 85 days in 2013. The inventory of homes available for sale in Colchester in 2012 was 132 and is 104 in 2013. The percent of original list price received in 2012 was 94.6 percent, and this year that increased to 95.1 percent, which is fairly consistent with Essex, Milton and Chittenden County overall.
Keep in mind, when selling a home, you and I might look at the assessed value (the amount that determines how much property tax we pay in a year) and say, “That must be what my house is worth,” and it might be. Or it might not. Gardner says, “assessments often have a correlation to fair market value, but they do not determine fair market value. That might be more impacted by what is available for sale, what has sold in the last three to six months, what terms and conditions are available to buyers for borrowing.” The location and desirability of your home obviously becomes a factor as well.
As to why Colchester might be outselling neighboring communities, Gardner says that one of the reasons Colchester is desirable is its mid-point location allowing an easy commute to Franklin County and eastern Chittenden County. Murphy reminds us that our lakeshore and mountain views are attractive, and families like the many safe neighborhoods available in town, along with our good schools. Gardner also recalls that buyers have indicated that “proximity to work, bike paths, schools, marinas, and services were among their interests.”
In my next column, with the help of our town assessor Bob Vickery, I’ll take a look at how sale prices compare to their assessed values. I’ll also be talking with our new Development and Community Affairs Director Kathy Walker on what’s happening on the commercial side of property sales.
You may remember that in the spring, I contacted Brian Chipman of the Essex Fish and Wildlife office to talk about the fishing scene in Colchester. John Gobeille, the wildlife biologist at the facility, has been kind enough this fall to provide some information on what’s going on with deer, turkeys and other wildlife in our area. By the time you read this, rifle season for deer will have ended (Dec. 1), but the popular muzzleloader season takes place Dec. 7-15. Gobeille says there is some deer hunting in the northern part of town near Chimney Corners and in and around Sunderland Brook, but most Colchester hunters find other towns to be less populated and not as heavily posted.
Waterfowl season goes through Dec. 19, and duck hunting locally has been conducted in the Half Moon Cove Wildlife Management Area on the lower Winooski River, and along the shores of Lake Champlain, Malletts Bay and Malletts Creek. The LeBlanc parcel (110 acres) on the Munson Flats along Route 7 has recently been purchased by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and is rich in wildlife including moose, deer, turkey, and waterfowl. Future projects on this parcel will include a parking area for access and some habitat restoration work along the stream banks. The purchase was made with Duck Stamp funds acquired from hunters when they buy their hunting licenses.
Speaking of turkeys, that season is over. Apparently, there are lots of turkeys here (no, I will not touch that, but it’s tempting), however, access to the land with the owners’ permission is a challenge. It seems turkeys are attracted to the acorns and nuts of the oak and hickory trees during the fall as they build up their reserves for winter. These trees are abundant in the town’s eastern uplands, Malletts Bay and Colchester Point. Living in the Airport Park area off Porters Point Road, I have seen lots of wild turkeys in recent years and they are gorgeous, that is compared to the domestic variety. Colchester is such an exciting place to live! Many thanks to Gobeille who can be reached at 879-5696, or John.Gobeille@state.vt.us, should you have additional questions.
The Colchester Community Chorus Holiday Concert is Friday beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the high school. The music is always pure pleasure and the little surprises (Harpist Heidi Soons is one this year) add such fun to the performance. I know the “Ira Allen” Vermont Teddy Bear is going to be there, and who knows, maybe his namesake! Bring the whole family, you will be delighted. The event is free (donations accepted) and open to the public and this year a special 250th Anniversary reception with refreshments will be available at the end of the performance.
On Dec. 9, the Historical Society invites you to its holiday party at 7 p.m. in the United Church of Colchester on Main Street, with refreshments and singing by the CHS Special Chorus & Chamber Choirs. Please come!
That’s it for now – shop locally this month. God bless!