Vermont Festival of the Arts

August is a spectacular time to be anywhere in Vermont. But in particular the Mad River Valley shines with arts culture in all forms during the month of August, and that is thanks to the Vermont Festival of the Arts. If you live here, there are an endless number of opportunities to attend art related events, and even activities for everyone to tap into their artistic side all month long. Their website (see link above) has enough to explore to suck you in for hours – and it’s well organized too – so go there to find what you can take part in on a daily basis. But here is a SHORT run-down of what you can experience; July 31st (and Aug 1 & 2) – Tweed River Music Festival August 1st – Stained Glass Demo August 2nd – Fairie House Building August 9th – Taste of the Valley August 15th – Pie eating contest August 22nd – Cooking Classes at The Store August 28th – Valley 9 and Dine September 6th – Mad River Valley Craft Fair   If you’re a visitor you just can’t go wrong coming to the Mad River Valley for a day or a week during August – check out the Vermont Festival of the Arts website to find what appeals to you. Come wake up the right side of your brain and head on over to one of these spectacular... read more

Celebrating the 4th in the Mad River Valley

It’s almost time to get your Red, White and Blue on, and the 4th of July in the Mad River Valley is worth the price of admission. The parade in Warren is not your typical parade – there may be some emergency vehicles and fast cars in there, but you won’t find any Marching Bands or Shriners driving itty-bitty cars (what’s that all about anyway?). You will find political statements coming out the wahzoo, you might find some African dancing, you will definitely see an intricate float display from one of our iconic communities, yes, there will be candy, and probably a giant soaking gun and maybe, just maybe there will be Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. In the past, he’s been a staple of the Warren Parade, and there’s a bit of chatter going on around this year: will he be there or won’t he? My prediction is: Yes, he will be there. Oh and there will be what is my wife’s favorite part of the Parade: a fly by from our Vermont Air National Guard. Once the parade has passed – make your way up to the Brooks Field at the Warren Elementary School for food, music and kid friendly festivities. Since the 4th is on a Saturday, don’t forget to visit the Waitsfield Farmer’s Market. If you’re here Friday night getting ready to wave your flag on the 4th, I highly recommend having dinner at Mad River Glen’s General Stark’s Pub (or any summer weekend evening for that matter)  – that deck is just as awesome in the summer as it is in the winter And as... read more

Understanding the language of real estate – what did that Realtor just say to me?

Real estate agents (we call them licensees, for reasons that will become clear later on) licensed in the State of Vermont are required to take 24 hours of Continuing Education courses every two years in order to maintain their license. The Vermont Real Estate Commission, which is made up of 3 real estate brokers, 1 salesperson, an attorney and 2 members of the general public, have established that this is a reasonable amount of training to keep Licensees and Brokers up to speed with the ever changing rules and regulations of our industry. The truth is, this is a bare minimum to someone just starting in the business. Like most rookie licensees in the beginning, I had just passed my real estate licensing exam when I started working in the business and I was exempt from any required  course work for two years (this is no longer the case). I did, however, take a Code of Ethics class right away, which the National Association of Realtors requires of its membership upon entering into their fraternity. It was a four hour course that could have been taught in greek for all I understood about the language they were speaking. So it occurred to me that if Realtors speak a different language, it’s possible that the consumers they serve could be as confused as I was, and perhaps it would make sense to provide a bit of translation. So from time to time I will do so, most notably as the questions arise in my day-to-day activities working as a broker in the Mad River Valley real estate industry. What exactly... read more

Lending a hand in the Mad River Valley

Sure, I can help you with that. As American Flatbread prepares to celebrate their 30th anniversary by throwing a huge party for those who volunteer in our community, I thought it might be a good moment to think about those who volunteer, and what they mean to communities like ours. I moved to the Mad River Valley because I felt an immediate connection to the place on my first visit while I was in College. Some friends had moved here, I visited a few times, and the next thing I knew, I was living here. Initially I didn’t give an awful lot of thought to what it was about this place that I loved so much. On the surface it was clear – I loved skiing, and there was a lot of great skiing here. I grew up canoeing, and there was terrific paddling everywhere you looked. I was learning to mountain bike, and sure enough, a growing community of mountain bikers existed here. Check. check. check. But this was the most unique place I had ever lived, yet there is skiing and mountain biking everywhere. What made this place so great? I suppose at the time it may have been that it was the first place I had ever lived where people were different than where I grew up. They were people who chose the outdoors over the indoors, put recreation and lifestyle before career, accepted that one may need to work a few jobs in order to commit to that healthy outdoor lifestyle over all else. Where I came from people thought I was a nut for... read more

Spring into Summer in Vermont’s Mad River Valley

So here we are, the epic winter of 2015 behind us, and now it’s time to revel in all that Vermont has to offer in the warmer months. It’s one of the many things that I love about Vermont – the distinct seasons. Taking me from the highs of our mountain tops deep with snow, to the lows of our valley floors flowing with clear water. Having youngish kids, we spend as much time around the rivers as we can – this time of year, it’s mostly skipping rocks, but I bet the water will be warm enough for swimming on a hot day not too long from now. There are miles of easy walking trails around the valley – many of them right along the Mad River. If you’re not familiar with the many trailheads that provide access to those walks, you can find them here: on the Mad River Path website. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike – we’ve got plenty of those as well. Where to even begin with those options. Only have an hour or so? Then the hike to Sunset Rock in Warren, Vermont is the way to go. Looking for a hike that takes a half a day or so – then Burnt Rock in Fayston Vermont is a nice hike that rewards with some spectacular views at the top. I’ll stop there, but the list goes on – you want an all day hike? Then head to Camels Hump, or do a gap to gap hike: Lincoln Gap to the Appalachian Gap taking you across the peaks of our Mad River... read more

Mad River Valley Vermont Real Estate – Time to Refinance

We have been talking about historically low interest rates now for so long that homeowners and homebuyers have actually begun to take it for granted that they will remain historically low. Well, if you follow the news, you already know that the Fed will begin putting an end to that some time in June. If you have decent credit and a job, you might as well make the call to your friendly neighborhood mortgage guy and see what bounty awaits for your mindfulness. When I made that call I found that the savings over the life of my mortgage were over $50,000; thats a lot of cake no matter how you split it up, and it cost me next to nothing. When you work in the Mad River Valley real estate industry as I do, you speak with a great many mortgage brokers. And when you listen to what the good ones have to say, you can learn some very interesting things. You might even save a few bucks in the process. Case in point. I started receiving notices from the bank that owns my mortgage about 6 months ago. They were offering me exceptional,  good-looking, super-terrific opportunities to refi my current mortgage, and lower my monthly nut by increasingly significant numbers . Of course they were. I’m one of their best clients, right? It must be because of my exceptional reputation, my obsessive compulsive tendency to pay early and often, all the referrals I give that tiny local bank in the Citi. I’m not a number, I’m a name, for heavens sake. This is clearly my reward. Needless... read more

Bidding wars, are they worth it in the Mad River Real Estate Market?

I’ve never had someone walk into my office and say “lets go to war over this property” or “ let’s have a really nasty negotiation and put everyone involved on the defensive”. And the reason you never hear that is that no one really wants negotiations to be hostile. No one wants the person (or people) on the other side of the transaction to be on the defensive. It’s counter-intuitive and irrational. So what is the deal with bidding wars, and why on earth would you want one? To start, every Realtor has an opinion on this subject. There are some who love them and there are some that hate them. Those that love them generally enjoy the fight and feel as though they have performed their job to maximum efficiency. Those that hate them have probably been involved in one that went terribly awry, and the experience left them sitting alone at the table with more questions than answers – generally from their client.  Those that do not have an opinion on bidding wars have never experienced one, plain and simple. To answer the first question, though, you need to answer another, more revealing question: who benefits? A bidding war, by definition, is when two competing offers are presented on the same property, during an overlapping time period, thus allowing the opportunity for a competition between two buyers, resulting in a higher sale price for the property. In theory. So the short answer is that the Seller benefits by getting more money for their property. The Realtor benefits collaterally because his client does well and is generally happy... read more

Vermont Hilaria

While I was thinking about writing today, I got to wondering what the history was behind April Fool’s Day. I found that it actually goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times. Now you’re thinking “Alright Cliff Claven, what more useless information do you have?”. But seriously, how much more appropriate this year is the description of the ancient version of April Fool’s day – then known as Hilaria – than this: “its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings.” Say goodbye to winter cold, bring on the warm laughs. In previous years, local businesses have gotten involved in some great pranks: there was this one about traffic lights being installed in our non-light town. Or this one about Mad River Glen purchasing Mt Ellen. My personal favorite was a sign in the field of the iconic barn at the corner of German Flats and Route 17 owned by long time Fayston legend Arthur Williams declaring the site as a “Future home of McDonalds”. Now what better year than this cold one we’ve had in the Mad River Valley to celebrate Hilaria. I’m not wishing the snow away, oh no. But I am wishing for some corn snow to soften the turns, sunny skies to bring on the goggle tan and warm temps so we can shed the layers. And more specifically I’m ready to enjoy a cold beer on one of our iconic ski area... read more

Vermont Homestead Declaration

2017 Upate: Link here for the current VT Homestead Forms YAWN. You must think I’m crazy, sitting here expecting you to listen to me talk taxes. I know, you can’t think of anything more boring. Trust me. I’m with you on this one. 500 words or less. Give me a chance, hang in with me here. Form HS-122 – Section A For residents of Vermont, the Department of Taxes has messed with us good on this one. First it was to be filed yearly. Then it became file it once until your circumstances change. Back to filing yearly. Make up your mind, which is it??? Well, it’s yearly now, love it or leave it. The good news is – the form takes but a second to file. Even I could file it, but I know better to stay out of that part of my life and I leave it either to my wife or our accountant. You can do it online, no fee for the service. You can also download a fillable PDF copy here: 2014HS-122. Really, you can do this, but you will need a copy of your tax bill in front of you. When do you have to do this? BY APRIL 15th. And this is key: you need to do it by April 15th whether or not you’re filing an extension for your taxes. Section A has nothing to do with your income, Section B does, but if you follow the instructions – you’ll see a place where you can check that you will be filing a Property Tax Adjustment claim later (as in, you’re filing an... read more

8 Ways to screw up your home sale

Anyone who knows me (personally or professionally) will tell you that I have an opinion about most everything. Be that as it may, I try to limit opinions that I put down in writing to the topics I actually know something about. One such topic is the business I make my living in – the real estate industry; in particular the Mad River Valley Real Estate industry. I recently read what I found to be a fairly revealing story by Michael Corbett of Trulia on selling your home in Time Online,  I was struck by the simplicity of the message, and found the subject matter to be topical. Entitled “8 ways to screw up your home sale” the message is pretty clear. These are the mistakes that many home sellers make. And despite the fact that they make these mistakes, those that follow seem to make the same mistake. And when their house doesn’t sell, they find another Realtor, and make the same mistakes again. According to Corbett, the mistakes are: Selling FSBO, Over-pricing your home, taking lousy photos, refusing to make obvious repairs, keeping all your junk and clutter, ignoring the backyard, hiding issues from prospective buyers, and letting your ego interfere in negotiations. First of all, I agree. But I’ll elaborate because this is really important, and it’s one of the reasons the real estate industry is treading water, as it is. FSBO’s Owning real estate is personal. Selling real estate is business. Separate the two and hire someone you trust. Unless you work in the real estate business for a living, you fall into the 1st... read more

Luck o’ the Vermont Irish

$17 dollar ticket to ski Mount Ellen. Mad River Glen is offering the same shamrock deal, but they’re making you work for it a wee bit – you have to flaunt the color; the “wearing of the green”. I have no doubt there will be beer flowing of the green variety and music to boot so get out your stomping shoes. That’s what I call lucky in the Mad River Valley.... read more

Town Meeting Day – Elections the Vermont Way

Last year in the town that I am proud to call home, fewer than 60 people turned out to vote on the School Budget. Thats not a typo. 60. Out of approximately 1000 registered voters. To discuss and vote on a $1.7m school expenditure budget. Do you really think that your vote doesn’t matter? It does, as well it should. We live in one of the last great places on this planet where your individual vote both makes a huge difference, and may be performed at the lone cost of taking a few hours off from work. In a world where citizens in fledgling Democracies risk their lives to vote, we cannot turn out 10%. Sadly, the concept of “pure democracy” has morphed and become diluted over time to represent something less than the Framers of our Constitution likely envisioned. The idea that the community came together as a whole to vote on the issues of the day in a fair and open forum quickly became a gathering of the most informed, educated or mobile in a community. Meanwhile the less informed, un-educated, or otherwise immobile stayed home, milked the cows (so to speak) and pondered how the decisions made by others would affect their lives during the foreseeable future. While the concept of Democracy is still wrought with complications – low voter turn out due to poor public opinion of politicians, a general morose over the value of an individuals single vote in a pool of millions, or simply an inability to take time off from work – in Vermont we have an opportunity each year to participate in a form of Democracy... read more

Taking a Tumble at Mount Ellen

For some reason people always ask me what my favorite ski trail is. I dont really know why. After all, it is a very subjective question, and we all find pleasure in nature in very different ways. But I ran into a client at the ski area the other day and I found myself asking, “what was your favorite run (of the day)”. I couldn’t stop myself. It just popped out. And I wasn’t just making conversation. I have NO TROUBLE there. But then I had this epiphany. I realized I was asking because I wanted to know more about them. I knew who they were, I’d gotten to know them quite well during the process of researching real estate, and later constructing an offer and purchasing a home for them in the Mad River Valley. But there is a difference between developing a professional relationship and skiing with someone.  And what I learned is that there is a whole lot more to learn about people when you take a few turns with them on the mountain. You learn something about their personality, what gives them joy, how they handle adversity; you learn how they manage the challenge of staring down that which intimidates or scares them. Their skiers acumen, if there is such a thing. We skiers ALL have a favorite trail and I had never really thought about why my favorite trail was my favorite trail. Until that moment. When Sugarbush Resort’s Mount Ellen opened in 1963 as Glen Ellen, the trails were named to honor the Scottish heritage the resorts moniker suggested – Highlander, Royal Tartan, Brambles and... read more

It’s going to be a Sweetheart of a week in the Mad River Valley

  So the start of a holiday week is nearly upon us. Here’s hoping you have been lucky enough to get lots of skiing in already, and you’ve got rock solid skier legs so can happily take run after run, after run, after run and never tire out. In case you need a moment to let your legs recover, let’s look at what else the Mad River Valley has to offer; or even, if your legs aren’t whipped – you still have to get out and see all that there is do in Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and surrounding towns! Start your weekend off by watching (or participating if you are reading this and you are 15 years old or younger) the Jr. Mogul Challenge, how about you take part in the Women’s only Telemark Clinic, support the MRG Freeski Team at the their Lasagna Dinner by eating and watching a screening of the latest Meathead Film all at Mad River Glen (check the full line up events at MRG here). Weekend events at Sugarbush: Torch Light Parade and Fireworks, live music all over the mountain, Local Artisan Market at Lincoln Peak in Warren (2/14-2/16). During the week – take your kids to see some awesome birds of prey, or talk yummy Cider with the brewers at Citizen Cider. And don’t forget – we have two great Nordic centers. Ole’s Cross Country Center is offering up some sweet Valentines love; bring your sweetie in for a ski on their gorgeous trails, give him or her a smooch in the shop and there will be some extra treats in store for you... read more

Are you Nuts? (Pricing Your Property & other huge mistakes Sellers might just make)

Last summer I gave a pretty typical number of listing presentations and was passed over a pretty typical number of times along the way for other real estate offices. I listed some, I didn’t list others. This happens. Its part of the business. If I were planning to sell my home (and I didn’t do this for a living) I would certainly want several different opinions about the value of my home. Afterall, I am not selling a used car. Or a coffee maker. There are many things that factor into the value of a home and as a seller you owe it to yourself to listen and make the best decision for you and your family. However, be careful. There is ALWAYS someone willing to make you a pitch, and the best advice I can give a prospective seller is to listen, not talk during a listing presentation. You may just find out what your house is worth rather than find out that the Realtor you are about to hire will list it for just about any price that seems to make you happy. And if you just want someone to list it for the price that makes you happy, you might as well list it for sale on your own, because you have already tainted the two most important aspects of hiring a professional broker to sell your home; The Market Evaluation &  the brokers extensive knowledge in a complicated industry. Despite the complexity of the market, and the vast difference between a median $300,000 home and a $1,000,000 luxury home, there are some standards in the... read more

Groundhog Day – UPDATED

When you live it Vermont it would be sacrilege to hope for an early end to winter (I, for one, am not even close to being done skiing). However, in our house Groundhog day does bring a little spring fever; for the start of baseball season is indeed right around the corner – at least for the big-leaguers. Us Little League parents and kids need to wait 3 more months regardless of what the groundhog says. We can wait. Somewhat patiently. Until the spring comes so that we can toss a ball, we do hope that on Monday Feb 2 ‘ole Punxsutawney Phil*** sees his shadow and crawls back into his den for another 6 weeks of winter. And in that vein, lets talk about what we have going on in this beautifully snowy winter land of the Mad River Valley that can keep us out of trouble in the meantime. Thursday Jan 29: Everyday Cooking – From the Sea class at The Store Thursday Jan 29: $30 Thursday at Mount Ellen (and most other Thursdays, except holidays, until the end of March) Saturday Jan 31: Mad River Glen Beer Lovers dinner & Full moon snowshoe Sunday Feb 1: Mad River Valley Mountaineering Race ** **UPDATE 1/31/15: Race has been postponed until March 22! ***UPDATE 2/2/15: Shadow appears, forecast for six more weeks of winter!!! (in case the snow coming down today wasn’t enough of an indication) Live Vermont, Live Mad River. Cheers,... read more

Roll Back the Clock Day

What’s that you say? “It’s not daylight savings time – what are you, confused?” No, no confusion here. In our fair home here in the Mad River Valley it’s Roll back the clock day at Mad River Glen next Tuesday January 27th. What exactly does this mean? It means my friend, you can ski and a classic New England ski resort for $3.50 – the price of a lift ticket at Mad River Glen in their first year of operation in 1948. Whaaat? How can you pass that up? You can’t. So, curiosity got the better of me, and got to wondering about other 1948  prices in our wee Town. Fayston School budget** – $6697.52 – of that, $3400 was the salary for two teachers Town of Fayston budget** – $23155.29 – of that, $3773.26 were road expenses, and $4.50 was an expense for porcupine bounties. (No joke, I couldn’t make that up.) Items on the warning** the same year for Fayston Town meeting day (Not familiar with town meeting day you say? It’s a New England thing, and well, that’s a topic for another blog). Article 11. Shall the license for the sale of malt and vinous beverages be granted in this town? Article 12. Shall spirituous liquors be sold in this town? [Dang, don’t you wish you could go back in time and listen to those debates?] Article 14. To see if the Town will vote to raise the amount of High School tuition from $100 to $150  So. Go, ride the single chair, you’ll thank yourself later. **As found in the Fayston Town report for the year ending... read more

The Bums Rush

When I moved to the Mad River Valley in 1994 I had just spent a year working for British Telecom in London. BT was the largest corporation in the UK at the time. I took the job fresh out of college as a way to travel, see the world, and learn a bit about the “Corporate Life” I assumed I was destined for eventually. A year later I had traveled plenty but already knew that corporate life was not for me. I found myself doing everything I could to get out-of-doors, take time off from work, to travel up to the Lake District, to get out of the suffocating city. I needed the fresh air. I needed Vermont. I moved back to the states and soon found myself in Waitsfield, Vermont at the invitation of a friend who had stopped here on our way home from a summer journey a year earlier. I didn’t have plan. I didn’t really have a place to stay, living alternately in a loft, on the floor, in a tent and eventually an apartment in town. As winter grew closer I started hunting for a year-round job but eventually settled on a seasonal one as a liftie at Sugarbush. The classic ski-bum job. Initially I was a little embarrassed, a University graduate working for $5.00/hour, standing in the freezing cold, day after day after day, months removed from a  year of jet-setting around Europe. It was a challenging transition, but soon I embraced it. Not for the job so much as for the opportunity. It turned out to be the perfect job for a... read more

5 of the best Vermont Restaurants

Check out this great article about a bunch of awesome Vermont restaurants! Not only are there several on the extended list located right here in our small, vibrant valley nestled in the Green Mountains; but two of them make the top five (!) and two more in the top five are a short, scenic drive away!  What’s for dinner? Live Mad River. Cheers,... read more

What is a buyer broker, and why do I need one?

One of the greatest confusions in the real estate industry surrounds the question of who works for who in a real estate transaction. With that as a starting point, its no wonder that the industry is rife with confusion, and frequently misinformation, which may lead to disillusionment, disappointment, anger and even litigation. The general perception is that realtors are simply in it for themselves and act in a manner consistent and supportive of this perception. This is an allusion I intend to dispel – not by writing on the subject mind you – but in the manner in which I work on a daily basis for my customers and clients. After all, shouldnt it be as simple as walking into a real estate office and hiring someone you like to work for you? Well it should be, but it isn’t. So the best way to answer this question is to take a few steps back and answer another question. What is brokerage and how does it affect a consumer in the real estate market? In the real estate industry, a broker is any licensed real estate professional who performs transactional services – in other words, a real estate agent. To compound  that confusion, they need not hold a brokers license to perform brokerage duties – they need only have a Salesperson’s license and work under a licensed broker. But just because they are working WITH you does not mean that they are working FOR you. And there is a tangible difference, that is really not all that complex. Regardless of whether you are selling a home or buying a... read more

3 keys to a smooth real estate transaction

When you work as a Realtor, you are involved in all kinds of real estate transactions. There are easy buyers and difficult sellers. There are easy sellers and difficult buyers. There are unrealistic requests and there are outrageous holdups. And there are misunderstandings – sometimes lots of them. But most buyers and sellers don’t do this for a living so these hold ups, challenges and misunderstandings feel like a much bigger deal than they need to be. A good broker will help their client understand, but in the moment, it is hard for a buyer not to feel frustrated. So what can you do to ensure a smooth transaction?   Get pre-qualified before you start shopping – this seems obvious, but most buyers take it for granted.  The math is easy and most people know what they can afford because they are already paying rent. Furthermore, they can go online and find any number of free mortgage calculators, pop in the down-payment they can afford and an interest rate that seems about right, and instantly find a monthly payment that works for their particular income profile. However, buyers are frequently lulled into a false sense of security simply because they have saved a reasonable amount of money for a downpayment, and they earn enough to cover a likely mortgage. Yet knowing what a buyer can afford is very different from what the bank thinks that buyer can afford; and since the bank is taking on most of the financial risk, buyers have to play by their rules.  There are any number of things that can affect a buyer’s loan... read more

Ten Most Beautiful Towns in Vermont

As if you didn’t need another reason to live in the Mad River Valley. In case you do, here you go: The Mad River Valley made it to a top ten list on the culturetrip.com, it’s no David Letterman top ten, but it’s awesome none-the-less. Live Vermont, Live Mad River.... read more

Merry Christmas!

While Santa is making final preparations for his trip around the globe (don’t forget to track his progress with the awesome help of NORAD) I wanted to take a moment to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Now that the shopping is done, the gifts are all wrapped I can sit back and enjoy all this Valley has to offer for this holiday. Both our ski resorts, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, are open for daytime fun on the slopes and have packed lists of evening entertainment for everyone. Check out their websites for lists of events. And don’t forget about all the other activities the Mad River Valley has to offer, here’s a sampling (in no particular order): TWO cross-country Ski centers: Ole’s Cross Country Center and Blueberry Lake Cross Country & Snowshoeing Center. The Skatium, nothing beats skating under the stars. Pools for a little indoor activities at The Bridges and SHaRC. Movies at the Big Picture Theatre and Cafe. And that’s doesn’t even touch all that there is to offer in our small valley, and if you’re willing to take a short drive to Waterbury or Burlington or head south to Middlebury you can expand your horizons. So sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of the mountains, or if you’re in an energetic frame of mind, go out and enjoy all the activities and events the valley has to offer. Either way, get out there and LiveMadRiver. Merry Christmas, Doug... read more
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