Super Specific Moving to Vermont Questions
March 8, 2019 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I've gotten a few different job offers to teach in Vermont. It's a move I've been planning for years and was hoping to get a bit of direction about where I can get max $125k home value (assume all the teacher jobs pay about the same).

1. Want something between no neighbors for miles and neighbors within throwing distance.
2. Needs to be a major enough street that will be plowed by the time school starts.
3. I only need 2 bedrooms so anything more than that is going to be wasted space.
4. Local hiking, biking, internet, kayaking, maybe a diner are all I need.
5. I am happy to pay less and get a fixer upper.

I've hung out extensively in North Hero and Burlington and love them equally. For maximum value, I'm looking at Bennington, Winhall, Middlebury and St. Johnsbury, leaning toward Winhall.

Vermonters, what am I not factoring? What do you think?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a Burlingtonian.

re: 2: we have municipal street and sidewalk plowing; they time both for the morning commute and school opening; re. 4: we have all of the above in town (although the local telecom will be no longer locally-owned, long story) with the possible exception of hiking, which would take a half-hour drive to the east to get to the foothills of Camel's Hump or Mansfield.

I do not know what you mean by "where I can get max $125k home value". If by that you mean the purchase price of a home, I think Burlington will be particularly challenging.
posted by Earthtopus at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'd say the main factor I'm not seeing is your acceptable driving time for the commute from home to work. The distance between Burlington (or St. Johnsbury) to Bennington, for example is almost 3 hours, so it's hard to offer suggestions without understanding the options.

I second Earthtopus' question. Is $125k your maximum budget for a house?
posted by jeremias at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2019

Forgot to mention I don’t want more than 25 minute commute, that’s why I’m specifically looking in communities where job offers are likely. And $165k max but would prefer closer to $125k.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:36 PM on March 8, 2019

You need to look at real estate prices in those places. Bennington has 38 homes under 150k for sale according to Zillow. Play around with it and Trulia.
posted by mareli at 2:54 PM on March 8, 2019

Middlebury, by contrast, only has one listed. You want to have choices.
posted by mareli at 2:57 PM on March 8, 2019

Decide how fast an internet connection you need and look into whether you can get that where you're thinking of living. There are places in Vermont where there is nothing available but DSL or satellite and even if you can get cable you might be dissatisfied with the speed.

Also check out cell phone coverage. You can't automatically assume you will have coverage at your house or along the route you take to work. This map should be helpful.
posted by Redstart at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

And $165k max but would prefer closer to $125k.

Yep, not Burlington and not Middlebury unless you want a fixer (and even then...). It's almost easier to find a four bedroom some places than a two bedroom but once you figure in the cost of heat, you are not saving much, if anything. Keep that in mind. I live in Randolph. You could definitely get a house for that price, with all the other stuff. A few other things to keep in mind

- road plowing is one thing but can you get out of your driveway? A lot of people pay a decent amount ($50-75 a snowfall) to get their driveways plowed so they can get out of them. Just parking at the end of your driveway means you have to break through a snow berm to get out on to a plowed road which can be challenging. This is no big deal, but it's part of housing costs.
- INTERNET is mission critical. There are a lot of places that are really rural but also have great fiber connections but it can be street by street. Make certain you know what your internet options are. I have DSL at home (by choice) but we also have cable as an option. People who live further out of town can get fiber.
- Worth thinking about exactly the sort of street you want to live in. When I first lived in VT in the 90s I was on a state highway. The good news was it was always plowed! The bad news was there was serious traffic so it was totally unsafe for outside pets and could be pretty noisy in the morning and wasn't good for walking.
- The Winhall Library is open 12 hours a week. If it were me, that would not be enough library. It's the only town I really don't know anything about of the ones you have listed. It's worth knowing that there's a whole different weather system if you live in the mountains versus not. And also the northern part of the state has Serious Winter (St J for instance) and the Southern part of the state much less so.
- property tax is serious business so take the tax estimates on places you'd look at seriously. I rent in my town partly because it would be hard for me to beat the deal I have now (three figure rent and HEAT INCLUDED) with the property tax. It's not always the case but towns with lower taxation usually either have a lot of businesses in town (only four Wal-Marts in the state) or very bad schools. Smaller house and smaller lot will be a lot less tax though once you live here you can get a homestead exemption maning if you live here your rate is lower than someone with a secondary house here.
- keep in mind a 25 min commute in summer could easily be an hour in the winter so check those roads on the 511 maps NOW and get a taste of it. Having a good car with good tires will expand your options considerably. VT opened up to me more once I had an AWD car.

If I can help with anything else, let me know. I've been here for over 20 years and it's really my chosen home.
posted by jessamyn at 5:22 PM on March 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hi there. I'm in Bennington. A few thoughts:

Culturally, my sense is that Vermont can, very coarsely, be divided into "Burlington" and "not Burlington." Burlington is progressive and funky and cool and has great restaurants and shops and cultural events. The rest of Vermont has some of those things, but also has fewer shops and good restaurants (particularly non-Northeast US food). They aren't absent, but they're trickier to find. Don't get me wrong - I love the place I live. It's just that spending time in Burlington doesn't give a complete picture of what the rest of Vermont is like.

Winhall is really in the boonies, is my sense. As jessamyn said, weather-wise, there are "mountains" and "not mountains." Winhall is definitely "mountains." I assume you'd be looking to teach in Manchester or Londonderry? Those would be OK places to teach, but could be a longish drive in winter weather conditions. That said, my experience with the schools is that they seem to have hair triggers with delays/snow days. Many, many times, we've had pretty unnecessary snow days and, by comparison, almost no cases of having school when the roads were dicey.

On real estate: you can definitely find something in your price range down here in the Bennington area, particularly if you're willing to go out of town (which also helps with your desire to be a bit more isolated). Consider Pownal, Shaftsbury, Arlington, Sandgate in Vermont, but ALSO consider Eagle Bridge, White Creek, and Cambridge in New York. House prices right over the boarder in NY seem to be cheaper and NY State is, like, a 3 minute drive from my house. I have lots of friends in White Creek who have great houses that they got for way less than what we paid. More out in the country, too. You definitely pay a premium for the green license plate.

My wife is a public school teacher, so I have some experience there, too. The schools in Bennington serve a broad population, which can be a challenging environment to teach in. That said, there are some great teachers and great kids. It can be tough, though. There's a lot of rural poverty and all the things that go along with that. My sense is that Manchester is much more monolithic in that the families are way more well off. I am happy to give you the lowdown on the local schools if you are interested - Memail me.

Comcast is the only choice for fast internet in this area. It's stupidly expensive and I despise Comcast as a company, but I will grudgingly admit that it is fast and reliable.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:15 PM on March 8, 2019

Betelgeuse alludes to it but I would stress that culturally Vermont is very much a mixed bag. I would argue that southern VT is more like what most non-Vermonters ('flatlanders') think VT is like. Northern VT (roughly, North of Montpelier) is a little more hardscrabble and remote, and more flinty and old-school Yankee (generally- there are notable exceptions, specifically Burlington and it's suburbs, and St. Johnsbury) It is filled with fine people but there is some real poverty and hard times up there. I would split it further into North West and North East (the storied NE Kingdom), with the west being more Burlington-y and the NE being more Newport (which made the national news recently, not in a good way (oh, and this too.)).

The Northern half of the state has the best outdoors stuff, but it's a much harder nut for a schoolteacher (exceptions aside). You should move there- they need you! But know that it can be a real challenge.

I love VT and it will always be my home (I grew up in the NE) but its reality is more complicated than it appears. If you have any questions about the Northern half let me know, that's my old stomping grounds and my family is all over it. The Southern half of the state is very nice but to me it's mostly notable for Basketville ;)
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 6:45 PM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of good answers here. I am chiming in because I work for the fiber ISP Jessamyn referenced in her answer. There is a map on the website that shows the service area. MeMail me if you have any questions about the service or the area.
posted by terrapin at 5:34 AM on March 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

One thing you may not know about if you're coming from another state is that there have been some serious school issues over the past maybe 5-10 years. There was some statewide legislation (Act 46) that first nudged and then forced school districts to consolidate in the name of "efficiencies" and many small towns which had declining populations merged with larger districts (not always of their own choosing) and many small schools are closing. This caused the loss of a lot of jobs and a lot of people who kept their jobs but increased their commutes. And people, surprise, aren't seeing the costs savings they'd been promised. There's a lot of bad feeling about this on all sides so you may wind up working somewhere with people who have been pretty recently disrupted and it's worth understanding maybe what the issue is. Here's an editorial about it in Seven Days, you can google around for more.
posted by jessamyn at 12:08 PM on March 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I accepted an offer for a school in Londonderry and I am very excited! This past year I had more challenges than I would have asked for (hip replacement, moving from awesome house to janky apartment, left comfortable well-paying job to an eh job, put down my absolutely favorite cat) and in order not to implode into a ball of depression, I forced myself to consider this as my transitional year. During the year I wasn't allowed to complain about anything and I had to create an ocean of lemonade from all those lemons.

This move is huge but also symbolic that I was able to Make Things Happen. The dream of having mountain views and apple trees and keeping bees and fostering cats and dogs is coming true.

Thanks for everyone's help!
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:35 AM on March 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

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