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Private Paradise, or the Middle of Nowhere?

by Nancy Jenkins, CRB, CRS

Private Paradise, or the Middle of Nowhere? 

Realtors weigh in on the value of seclusion for Vermont homes

Free Press Correspondent

The Nancy Jenkins Real Estate calendar hits mailboxes every year, delivering 12 months of “property pin-ups” - breathtaking photographs of gorgeous homes.

Whether the houses are perched on dramatic waterfront cliffs or tucked into seemingly endless treelines of natural woodland beauty, they share one common aspect: no visible neighbors. What the calendar seems to be selling - along with the homes themselves, of course - is the idea that seclusion and privacy are essential components to elite properties.

“People who love privacy, love privacy,” Nancy Jenkins said. “For those people, it’s an absolute requirement when they are shopping for a home.” Yet Jenkins says those people are in the minority, even in a place such as Vermont where abundant land remains undeveloped and affords those middle-of-nowhere settings for homes.

“I see very few people who must have total seclusion,” said Jenkins, estimating that less than 25 percent of the buyers she deals with are looking for one of those “calendar homes” with few, or no, visible neighbors.

That preference is also reflected nationally. A recent survey of U.S. homebuyers by the National Association of Realtors found that while more than 60 percent listed privacy as an important factor when shopping for a home, less than 10 percent said they were interested in seclusion.

That highlights an important distinction according to another Vermont realtor, Geri Reilly.

“There is a difference between seclusion and privacy,” Reilly said. “Seclusion is when people really want to be by themselves, and I don’t see that very often. Most people want to be in a neighborhood - they don’t want a house right behind them, but they want to be able to see their neighbor’s lights.

“It’s just the comfort of knowing someone is there.” 

Whether it’s the fact that nearly every slasher-type horror movie is set at a cabin the middle of the woods, or simply the human tendency to take comfort in community, many homebuyers are made uneasy by property on which they feel too alone.

“Seclusion is very much a split decision for people,” Jenkins said. “Some of them don’t want privacy at all - in fact, they get nervous about it. They would much rather live in a neighborhood that feels like Anywhere, U.S.A.

“I’ve had some people whose biggest obstacle to a house was that they didn’t think they would feel safe there, because it was too isolated.”

Jenkins said some of those customers who do want to be far away from their nearest neighbors have jokingly referred to wanting ‘naked privacy,’ or the ability to behave however they’d like on their property without having to worry about who might be watching.

“Those places can be hard to find,” Jenkins said.

While the need to practice nudism isn’t exactly driving the Vermont real estate market, the broader criteria of lifestyle largely is. Many people who move to the Green Mountain State do so for its abundant outdoor activities: skiing, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, etc.

Having a virtual outdoor playground literally right outside your door is what fuels many of the customers looking for a home far off the beaten path.

“The people who are really into the outdoors, and want to be able to go hiking and mountain biking, they want trails right on their property,” Reilly said, adding that such customers also tend to have different priorities when they look at a real estate listing. “They are more about the land itself, and less
about the house,” she said.

While that aspect of lifestyle drives some customers out into more isolated properties, the flipside - wanting to be close to amenities and more urban-oriented activities - remains a larger force in the market. Even retirees and second homeowners who come to Vermont to “get away from it all” don’t
want to be too far removed from the fulfillment of their everyday needs.

“As people retire, what they want is amenities - ideally, with walkability,” Reilly said. “They want to be able to walk to the village, walk to the coffee shop, or go get something to eat without having to get into the car.”

That sense of convenience isn’t limited to retirement-aged people, either; Jenkins said families with young children also favor more settled areas with amenities closer within reach.

“When you live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, it can be a lot easier to manage than getting everybody into the car every time you want to go somewhere,” Jenkins said.

Even younger, single Vermonters have a tendency to stick closer to the action rather than escape to a place where the soundtrack to life is provided largely by crickets.

“Take Burlington, for example,” Jenkins said. “You live there because you want to be in the mix. You want to be part of that downtown vibe, the arts and music and restaurants.”

Yet both realtors agree that the common ground between the two extremes is what is most commonly sought by homebuyers in Vermont. The ideal property is one that strikes a balance of proximity to the
state’s amenities and cultural attractions, with the tranquility you expect to get from settling down in
northern New England.

“What a lot more people want is that calm, comfortable lifestyle,” Jenkins said. “Peace and quiet - Thoreau’s Walden. That’s what people are looking for.”

That doesn’t mean those calendar homes on their expansive tracts of land are going to languish unsold on the market, however.

“Every person is different, and every property is different,” Jenkins said. “It’s all about finding the right match.”

2017 Scholarship Winners!

by Nancy Jenkins, CRB, CRS

This is the 20th year we have awarded the Nancy Jenkins Scholarship, which provides $1,000 in tuition support for two college-bound high school seniors. We were delighted to receive a number of applications, all from teens showing a terrific determination to succeed in their life goals. 

Congratulations to our 2016 Winners!

Kayla White from CVU will be attending Lyndon State College studying Nursing. 

Bidhya Chamlagai from Burlington High School will be attending UVM studying Nursing.

It is our honor to help our young people learn and grown and we wish them much success in their studies and their future. 

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Contact Information

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Nancy Jenkins
Nancy Jenkins Real Estate
140 Kennedy Drive, Suite 102
South Burlington VT 05403
Fax: 802-846-4899