Addison County real-estate maven Connie Houston is bullish on Vergennes. With the record setting 29th annual Vergennes Day just past, it's easy to be optimistic about the Little City and the surrounding area. Travel and tourism have been good to Vergennes in the recent past; the future prospects for the historic municipality are even better.
Despite a near meltdown of the housing market in Vermont and nationally since mid 2009, local realtors have managed to slog through the darkest days of the real estate depression. While there's plenty of excess inventory locally-ditto for most regions across the U.S.-there is a silver lining to the gloomy story, at least in Vergennes.
Houston just moved her Vergennes Lang-McLaughry-Spera real estate office from Green Street to a new building at 268 Main St., owned by Terry Thomas of Bristol. Located at the northwest corner of Main and Water streets downtown, the cozy building has a colorful history morphing from blacksmith shop to motor garage to bait shop-to real estate office since the early 1900s.
On a mid-week morning last week, the Main Street corner was busy with traffic and pedestrians; an outside observer can't help notice that Vergennes is a bustling city with its best days ahead.
Houston and her four agents-Nancy Ryan, Nancy Larrow, Richard Esty and Karla Huizenga-are like realtors coast-to-coast, they're pounding the streets and back roads in search of marketable properties, enthusiastic buyers and flexible sellers.
"We're gaining in market share," Houston said. "I think it's the best time ever for first-time buyers in our area. The interest rates are low and the selection of inventory is the best ever."
A quick glance at the Vergennes-area real estate market should please any first-time or second-time buyer: neat, trim houses are set amid peaceful, leafy neighborhoods that conjure up America's bucolic past. Yet, Vergennes is a city on the move with a large aerospace manufacturer-Goodrich-as a vital community member and a one of the most dynamic toy companies-WowToyz-in North America. Both firms have plans to hire more employees while many other businesses remain anemic.
While the "selection of inventory" may be the best ever in Addison County, Houston admits it comes at a price. And the backlog will take awhile to move.
"Actually the higher-end home sales are the slowest," she said.
Gone are the days-at least for the foreseeable future-where Vermont McMansions are sold faster than boxes of McNuggets. And it's doubtful new development projects of bloated trophy homes, such as those in Shelburne and South Burlington, will be undertaken any time soon.
"Vergennes is a good place to be," said Houston. "You can see the activity around town. Across the street from us there's new commercial construction, WowToyz and Goodrich are adding new employees, the old laundromat is reborn as a bakery and even the historic Stevens Building is getting a makeover."
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Houston was the highest ranking elected Republican official in Vermont. Today, while still keen on local and state politics, she has turned her career focus to the real world of business, her roots. Houston says that Vermont's economic recovery will depend upon business growth, lower taxes, and the real estate market.
"We'll need business-friendly elected representatives in Montpelier," she said. "That's why I believe we can have strong businesses, lower taxes, and an excellent quality of life right here."
And that may be just the silver lining we're all looking for.