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Vermont Public RadioMaple Sweet Real Estate renews Vermont Public Radio top shelf advertising contract. Listen to VPR to catch Maple Sweet Real Estate radio ads thrice weekly, including prime drive times, throughout 2013.

Giant Lumber Slabs in line to Skating Heaven

Tucked away at the edge of the Freeman Brook and Flat Iron Road in historic Warren Village, an incredible new business is born. You’d never know what was hatching inside without an invitation or some inside information.

Stacked outside the otherwise innocuous two bay garage converted into an open studio are thick slabs of hardwoods divine. The side room full of wood samples including a palette of mahogany shipped by Gibson for guitar neck experimentation. But music isn’t the main focus here in this brilliant and buzzing space.

Welcome to Warren Pieces.

The woodstove crackling, fueled by the scraps of progress. Tools across the floor, sawdust, the intoxicating aroma of exotic hardwood.

Luscious Detailing

Matt Groom & Whitney Phillips are at work.

Whitney walks in and though it’s first thing in the morning, he’s unusually clear as his wife Jesse is in contraction, the waves every twelve minutes.  Any time now….  As if their powerful industrial incubation wasn’t enough.

Stylefully Induced Camber for extra Spring in the Ride

Witnessing the start of something so clearly loaded with promise and success would be a thrill under any circumstances, but seeing the intense focus on a product so dear to boys across the planet is, for anyone who has ridden or likes to ride, like walking into a candy shop for the first time.

When I was in my early teens I’d jump the subway in Manhattan and go all the way down to the epicenter of 1970’s skateboarding, Paragon Sports. There were hundreds of boards displayed in force with kids riding through the store, wheels and tracks of every shape and color. G&S was big in long boards. But nothing in that store came close, even in the heart of the largest US city, to the ultra-fine craftsmanship on clear display on Flat Iron Road in Warren this week. Local luxury defined.

Nest of Champions

Rare Highly Sought After Spalted Maple, Choicest Raw Materials Selection

Matt shows off one of the new purchases, a radio frequency driven wood welder harnessing dielectric heating: disturbed water molecules cause friction with twenty seven million cycle changes per second translating to heat, vastly accelerating wood curing time, allowing faster production without sacrificing strength. Matt’s comes to Warren Pieces from Matt Groom Building & Remodeling, already widely acclaimed for carpentry & design excellence.

Mahogany Core, Brightens Wet

Artful Forms, Jagged Foot Grips, Wide Trucks

Skateboard Wall Hanging Piece with Rear Illumination

Exquisite Surfaces, Like No Other. Spalted Maple Detailing.

Camber Master, Hand Made Press

Whitney Phillips & Matt Groom, Warren Pieces

Warren Pieces is aiming for a special niche market, with long boards at $350, other price points to follow. Out of the gate, they can’t make enough to keep up with the traffic through the shop. One purchase after the next, for a friend or relative here or far away, a real piece of Vermont to show the surfing dudes  you don’t need an ocean to rock. It won’t be long before the word will get out, the online orders will pour in, and Matt & Whitney will be celebrities on the world skateboarding circuit.

When you take your board home, it won’t just rest in the corner or under you bed. They’ve designed stunning wall mounts to be illuminated from behind that are works of art themselves and would make any adolescent’s room jump.

QR codes will be etched in copper on board underbellies for an instant link to Warren Pieces, the website evolving now.

Everything about this entrepreneurial effort sparkles.

With Whitney’s years of sports branding and sales with Mad River Rocket the original extreme sled co., and Matt’s discerning eye, stylistic excellence and superior craftsmanship, this is one new business you can bet on. Whether you stay at the Relais & Chateau Pitcher Inn around the corner or more modest digs, don’t miss this visit.

To order your own Warren Pieces skateboard or one as a gift for family or friend, reach Whitney @ 802.371.9020 whitney@warrenpieces.com or Matt @ 802.279.3597 matt@warrenpieces.com

Stiletto Grace, Pintail.

Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for more info on Warren Pieces, to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look into Vermont’s real estate market. Skateboard showings an option…

Referrals & recommendations are welcome & appreciated.
Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.

Information Disclosure: information provided and relayed by Maple Sweet Real Estate is not represented to be accurate or free of errors. While substantial efforts are made to obtain and convey information from sources deemed dependable, Maple Sweet Real Estate does not guarantee or warranty such information is accurate or reliable. All information should be independently verified.

If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency’s listing.

Two Visions Come Into Focus

President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney hold starkly different views on recent reforms—and on the best way to preserve the American dream.
SEPTEMBER 2012 | BY ROBERT FREEDMAN

 

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, agree on this: Home ownership is central to the American dream. But in an exclusive REALTOR® Magazine Q&A, the 2012 presidential candidates offer differing takes on how to keep that dream alive. Obama says he has a two-part focus—to prevent a repeat of the lax mortgage practices that led to the housing crisis and ensure that financing remains available to responsible home buyers. Romney says the path to restoring home ownership is through a vibrant economy, which he wants to spur using an across-the-board cut in tax rates and by trimming burdensome rules. Obama also provides a vigorous defense of his signature legislative accomplishment, health care reform, while Romney calls for reforms that promote competition without government intervention.

How do you plan to vote?Answer our poll.

Home Ownership Incentives

The federal government has historically supported home ownership as a central value of the United States. To what extent do you support preserving federal home ownership incentives, such as the mortgage interest deduction?

Romney: I believe in the American dream of home ownership. The best way to get the housing market going again is to get the economy moving in the right direction. What most struggling home owners need is good, quality jobs, not confusing regulations imposed on lenders. We need policies such as 20 percent across-the-board cuts in tax rates, sensible regulation, and open markets that create a growing economy. Policies like these will help Americans achieve their economic goals, including buying a home.

Obama: Home ownership is a critical component of economic opportunity, and I am committed to keeping responsible home owners in their homes and to ensuring Americans have a fiscally responsible path to home ownership. One of the policies I signed into law as president was an expansion of the first-time homebuyer tax credit that helped more than 2.5 million families purchase a home for the first time. Since I took office, I’ve taken action that—combined with private-sector efforts my administration helped catalyze—enabled more than 5 million home owners to get mortgage modifications, while expanding access to refinancing and targeting investments in the communities hardest-hit by the housing crisis. Now, I’ve put forward a plan to help responsible borrowers refinance their mortgages and save $3,000 per year.

Lending Standards 

Four years after the collapse of the mortgage market, banks continue to limit the availability of mortgage financing in both residential and commercial real estate markets. On the residential side, bank standards often exceed those set by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. What steps should the federal government take to change this dynamic, given the broader economy’s reliance on a healthy real estate sector?

Obama: We need to restore trust in the underlying foundation of the mortgage market so borrowers have the confidence to purchase a home and lenders have the confidence to issue a loan, and that’s why we’re mobilizing all tools available to fix our nation’s broken mortgage servicing and foreclosure processing system. To do this, we need to reduce uncertainty in the market so lenders once again provide credit consistent with the standards set forward by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. That’s why we’re working through the FHA and with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to provide greater clarity about lenders’ obligations in making FHA- or GSE-backed loans. We’re also working hard to reduce barriers to refinancing for responsible borrowers, and we’re committed to the same objectives for new originations.

Romney: The most important step the federal government can take to help creditworthy borrowers is to repeal and replace the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Banks and financial institutions are paralyzed: Regulators are simultaneously directing lenders to reduce risk (i.e., tighten underwriting) and to loosen standards. And many community banks face thousands of pages of new rules (over 8,000 pages at last count), and half of the expected rules proposed by this administration haven’t even been finalized yet. In short, banks are hiring lawyers, not making loans. The rules of the road need to be clarified so that responsible borrowers have access to mortgage credit.

Underwriting Mandates

Federal banking regulators have drafted rules that would go beyond lenders’ restrictive lending policies by setting a minimum down payment amount for home mortgage loans to be considered safe and therefore available at more affordable rates. Where do you stand on the federal government mandating minimum down payment amounts and credit requirements for lenders to apply in their underwriting standards?

Romney: A big part of the problem is that the government, and not the private sector, is the dominant force in mortgage finance today. With taxpayers still on the hook for trillions in mortgage loans, of course the government will continue to play a role in setting some basic minimum lending standards. However, we need to encourage private markets to provide mortgage loans at reasonable interest rates across all market conditions, with simple and understandable contracts for home buyers.

Obama: We’re committed to the goals of Wall Street reform, which includes ending an era of reckless lending by banks without adequate skin in the game. At the same time, we’re committed to maintaining widespread access to mortgage credit for responsible American families, which is the key to providing the middle class with access to home ownership and the key to returning to a robust, but sustainable, housing market recovery.

Health Insurance

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling to preserve the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate says the penalty for individuals who fail to purchase health insurance falls under the federal government’s authority to levy taxes. If Congress repeals the law, what steps do you propose to address the REALTORS® and millions of other small-business owners and independent contractors for whom affordable health insurance isn’t available in the market?

Obama: Before the Affordable Care Act, too many people went without health care. Self-employed individuals were some of the hardest hit and often vulnerable to being denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition. Because of the law now, it will be illegal for insurance companies to deny you coverage or charge more because of a pre-existing condition. When the law is fully implemented, people who don’t get insurance through an employer, as well as small businesses trying to find coverage for their employees, will be able to shop in new exchanges, where they’ll have the same purchasing power as big businesses and be eligible for tax credits that make coverage affordable. The law isn’t perfect. We are always willing to work with people of both parties to strengthen it, but we cannot go backwards.

Romney: We can fix the challenges facing our health care system with reforms that emphasize market competition and patient choice. By putting patients at the center of our health care system and making insurers and providers compete against each other for our business, we can lower health care costs and protect Americans’ access to the care they need, including the doctor they choose.

Environmental Regulations

Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of home owners who were told by the EPA to undertake costly mitigation and monitoring of their property before they could get a hearing to determine the presence of wetlands on their property (Sackett v. EPA, 10-1062, March 21, 2012). What steps can the federal government take so that future environmental disputes like this don’t end up in court?

Romney: Respect for private property, clear laws, fair enforcement, and the right to be heard before being deprived of money or property are bedrock principles of our free society. I will modernize our outdated and ambiguous environmental laws, regulations, and enforcement practices to advance our common commitment to natural resource stewardship in ways that restore these principles to prominence. Such actions include providing a speedy and objective process to resolve technical disputes without subjecting our citizens to the senseless delay and expense of going to court.

Obama: With the regulatory process, we’ve made strides to increase transparency, encourage public participation, and promote accountability. The net benefits of regulations issued in the first three years of my administration exceed $91 billion, including both savings and new revenue—25 times greater than in the same period of the previous administration. We are also revisiting rules on the books to see if they make sense so we can continue to produce far greater savings. Agencies have already issued hundreds of regulatory reform proposals, just a fraction of which are expected to save businesses $10 billion over the next five years.

Infrastructure

Although the economy is struggling, and government at all levels is wrestling with budget deficits, is there a place for public investment in infrastructure, including transit projects, which historically has helped pave the way for private investment in communities?

Romney: There is a place for public investment in infrastructure. However, we must be mindful of our budgetary constraints when making these investments. To that end, there are many things apart from spending that the government can do to ensure that public investment in infrastructure is possible—eliminating burdensome regulations, for example, or speeding up project approvals and engaging in private-sector partnerships.

Obama: So much of our infrastructure is in need of repair, and we need all of it to deliver American products around the world. There are hundreds of thousands of construction workers who’ve never been more eager to get back on the job. That’s why I’ve proposed a six-year surface transportation plan to improve the nation’s highways, transit, and rail infrastructure. The proposal is fully paid for, with part of the savings from ramping down overseas military operations. And last September I put forward the American Jobs Act, a set of proposals to create jobs now. Congress passed two of the proposals—cutting payroll taxes by $1,000 for a typical family and extending unemployment insurance—but it left on the table more than half of the plan, comprising infrastructure investments that independent economists estimated could create as many as 1 million jobs. I’ll continue fighting for these and for Project Rebuild, another part of the American Jobs Act, which would help repair our housing infrastructure by putting construction workers back on the job rehabilitating and repurposing distressed properties in hard-hit communities.

Vermont’s forests

are lush with treasure. Exquisite tiger maple, hemlock for tenacious post and beam house frames, sweet maple sap which sugared down, covers pancackes across the land and gives our green mountain state a claim to fame.

Misty Trail

Defining Current Use

What then is Vermont’s Current Use Program? It’s often referred to as “the most important, most successful conservation program in Vermont.”

If you own 27 or more acres, you’re already likely familiar with this increasingly popular land tax reduction and deferral opportunity, but to the layman less familiar with tree related tax breaks, the name Current Use itself is cryptic enough without tackling taxation intricacies.

Current Use landowners practice long term forest management to achieve taxation based on forest valuation vs fair market valuation. This very substantial savings which can be as much as 70 to 80 per cent of what the taxes would be otherwise, comes at a cost. The state attaches a permanent lien to the deed until such time as the landowner withdraws, the legislature ends the program, or the parcel is discontinued by the Division of Property Valuation & Review.

Woodpeckers of North America

The Tax Benefits

can be huge. By placing your forest or agricultural property in Current Use you can dramatically decrease your yearly tax burden. For forested land graced with valuable timber, periodically required forest management (ready the chain saw) can yield the added bonus of incoming checks for the land owner from the logger harvesting precious hardwoods.

Starksboro Chain Saw Workshop, Addison County

For forest land to qualify, you need at least 27 acres for 25 to enroll with a two acre exclusion for your house site. When purchasing land already enrolled, with the plan to continue enrollment, you can’t move the excluded area but, assuming you have well over 25 acres, you can withdraw another section to build your home, though you’ll incur a land use change tax. This withdrawal penalty is also levied if you decide to withdraw the entire property from current use. One of the most common questions and concerns: so how much will it cost me to withdraw from the program?

Use Change Tax Calculation

Elizabeth Hunt, one of the three Current Use personnel listed on Vermont’s current use website is immensely helpful. According to Elizabeth, Use change tax determination is based on the assessed value of the land enrolled divided by the town’s CLA, or Common Level of Appraisal or Adjustment, the tax department’s attempt to adjust assessed values to fair market value. To get the state’s assessment of your enrolled current use acreage, call Elizabeth or the state’s current use department. Once you’ve divided the enrolled acreage current use assessment by the CLA, and multiplied that figure by the percentage of the number of acres being withdrawn, you’ve got your alleged fair market value of acreage being withdrawn. Your use change penalty depends on how long the land’s been in current use. If ten or more years, the penalty is ten per cent of the fair market value of the land being withdrawn; if less than ten years, then 20 per cent.

Pine, Areas to Prune

H.237, a bill intended to strengthen the current use tax base, proposed a change in the percentages the use change tax is determined by. Property held less than 12 years would incur 10%, property held 12 to 20 years 8%, and property held over 20 years just five per cent. It passed the House in 2011 but not the Senate. An effort was made to incorporate it into miscellaneous tab bill H.782 this year but it stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. Proponents of the bill include the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

Vermont Hemlock, Strong Post & Beam Frames. Billings Museum, Woodstock, VT.

For more details on penalty calculation  see pages 16-18 of Vermont UVA (Use Value Appraisal) manual. Family members can step into the shoes of a current use owner but new owners inheriting an unrelated property owner’s current use land have to start the clock ticking all over.

State of Vermont Acres Enrolled in Current Use Graph

For more details on the entire program, see the same manual and the Vermont Division of Forestry site.

The Vermont graph below shows the increasing popularity of Current Use, especially in Forest.

Foresters, Loggers & Harvesting

Engaging a forester to prepare your forest management plan may run up to a couple of thousand, varying, including application fees.

Be sure to get a contract with your logger once you get that far. There are stories of property owners wondering what happened to their checks once the loggers were long gone.

Have Culvert, Will Travel

Vermont County Foresters are excellent resources for current use information and can recommend non-county foresters to prepare forest management plans and help you oversee your forest  during program inclusion, as well as recommend dependable and honest loggers to work with.

Click here for a Current Use Application, and here for a Change of Ownership Form.

Before cutting any of your enrolled forest, you or your forester must submit your forest management plan, or all the land must exit the program, a change tax levied, and eligibility denied for the ensuing five years during which taxes would go back to normal.

Gustav Klimt, Tree of Life

If your management plan calls for cutting but the timber values are depressed, you can delay cutting up to a couple of years with county forester approval.

On harvest yield, you might expect 1,000 to 1,500 board feet per acre. Harvesting may occur every ten years or more. Wind throw from storm damage can necessitate cutting earlier.

Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont’s real estate market.

Referrals & recommendations are welcome & appreciated.
Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.

Information Disclosure: information provided and relayed by Maple Sweet Real Estate is not represented to be accurate or free of errors. While substantial efforts are made to obtain and convey information from sources deemed dependable, Maple Sweet Real Estate does not guarantee or warranty such information is accurate or reliable. All information should be independently verified.

If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency’s listing.

2011 Vermont Property Transfer Summary Data. 

This data allows you to view the average sale price in each town for parcels under and over six acres, as well as for open land. A fantastic reference point.

Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont’s real estate market and Vermont legislations related to real estate & VT property owners.

Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
Referrals & recommendations are welcome & appreciated.
If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency’s listing.

H.272 is a proposed Vermont Legislature Private Roads Bill discussed by the House Committee on Commerce & Economic Development.

I took care of it last year!

Many Vermonters are used to handshake agreements on road maintenance which in many cases have worked brilliantly over the years, in others leading to differences and financial inequality while some year round and second residents paid for their share or more than their share while others refused to or were otherwise unable to contribute, and in some contentious cases, legal disputes.

Four years ago on January 31st, 2008, Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association and a major purchaser of residential mortgage loans on the secondary market setting loan underwriting and legal requirements for loans sold on the secondary market, announced they would permit mortgage loan delivery for properties without road maintenance agreements or covenants provided these properties were properties located in states with statutory provisions on private road repair and maintenance.

Mud Season

Since the mortgage crisis, lenders, including Fannie Mae, have become stricter in underwriting standards enforcement leading to closing delays and uncertainty for Vermont homeowners. In 2011 H.272 was to go into effect by July 1st but the committee determined additional research was called for to ensure the legislation meets Fannie Mae requirements, remaining a top Vermont Association of Realtors agenda item for the 2012 legislative session, now in full swing.

Commerce & Economic Development Committee member and South Burlington Representative Michele Kupersmith, in an email excerpt to State Representative Adam Greshin:

“The bill was pulled back into committee for several reasons, including: class 4 roads may require inclusion; VLCT concerns may not have been fully vetted; and affects on adjoining landowners may not have been fully vetted. In addition, I would like to consider the possibility of providing a forum for dispute resolution, prior to having to file an action in Superior Court. Chair Botzow is very intent on moving forward with this. We will schedule testimony in committee as soon as we can…”

View H.272 as introduced in 2011.

Vermont Legislature in Session

Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont’s real estate market and Vermont legislations related to real estate & VT property owners.

Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
…..
If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency’s listing.

The Economist Magazine Special report: Personal technology  Beyond the PC

Mobile digital gadgets are overshadowing

the personal computer, says Martin Giles.

Their impact will be far-reaching.

IF YOU HAVE a phone, these days even space is within reach. Last year Luke Geissbühler and his son, who live in Brooklyn, popped a high-definition video camera and an Apple iPhone into a sturdy protective box with a hole for the camera’s lens. They attached the box to a weather balloon, which they released about 50 miles (80km) outside New York City, after getting the approval of the authorities. The balloon soared into the stratosphere and eventually burst. A parachute brought it to the ground. By tracking the iPhone’s inbuilt global positioning system, the Geissbühlers were able to retrieve the box and the video of their “mission”, which shows the curvature of the planet clearly. The results can be seen at www.brooklynspaceprogram.org.

The iPhone and other smartphones are proving extremely useful on Earth too. These devices, which let people download and install applications, or “apps”, from online stores run by phonemakers, telecoms companies and others, are starting to displace ordinary mobile phones in many countries. Ofcom, Britain’s telecoms regulator, recently reported that more than one in four adults there uses a smartphone. Nielsen, a market-research firm, reckons the devices make up the majority of mobile-phone purchases in America. Emerging markets are embracing them as well: in Indonesia, BlackBerry handsets made by Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) have become a status symbol among the country’s fast-growing middle class.

Sales of tablet computers, though still small, are also growing rapidly. Since Apple’s iPad arrived last year, a host of rivals have appeared, such as RIM’s Playbook, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Sony’s Tablet. All eyes are now on Amazon’s Kindle Fire. With smartphones, which seem to be surgically attached to the hand of every teenager and many an adult, tablets have opened up a new dimension to mobile computing that is seducing consumers. Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, believes that in 2011 combined shipments of smartphones and tablets will overtake those of personal computers (PCs).

The revolution is mobile

This marks a turning-point in the world of personal technology. For around 30 years PCs in various forms have been people’s main computing devices. Indeed, they were the first machines truly to democratise computing power, boosting personal productivity and giving people access, via the internet, to a host of services from their homes and offices. Now the rise of smartphones and tablet computers threatens to erode the PC’s dominance, prompting talk that a “post-PC” era is finally dawning.

PCs are not about to disappear. Forecasters expect 350m-360m of them to be sold this year and the market is likely to keep growing, if slowly. With their keyboards, big screens and connectivity to the web, PCs are still ideal for many tasks, including the writing of this article. And they continue to evolve, cheap, light “ultrabooks” being the latest in a long line of innovations. Even so, the Wintel era—dominated by PCs using Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Intel’s microchips—is drawing to a close. The recent news that HP, the world’s largest computer-maker, is thinking of spinning off its PC business to focus on

A new tech landscape is taking shape that offers consumers access to computing almost anywhere and on many different kinds of device. Smartphones are at the forefront of this change. The Yankee Group, a research firm, thinks that sales of these phones will overtake those of ordinary “feature” phones in many more countries in the next few years. But other kinds of machine, from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console, which allows gamers to contact friends while they play, to web-enabled television sets, are also helping people stay connected.

In part, this emerging array of devices reflects changes in society. As people come to rely more heavily on the web for everything from shopping to social networking, they need access to computing power in many more places. And as the line between their personal and their work lives has blurred, so demand has grown for devices that can be used seamlessly in both.

The consumer is king

The rise of tablets and smartphones also reflects a big shift in the world of technology itself. For years many of the most exciting advances in personal computing have come from the armed forces, large research centres or big businesses that focused mainly on corporate customers. Sometimes these breakthroughs found their way to consumers after being modified for mass consumption. The internet, for instance, was inspired by technology first developed by America’s defence establishment.

Over the past ten years or so, however, the consumer market has become a hotbed of innovation in its own right. “The polarity has reversed in the technology industry,” claims Marc Andreessen, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has invested in several consumer companies, including Facebook and Twitter. Now, he says, many exciting developments in information technology (IT) are appearing in the hands of consumers first and only then making their way into other arenas—a trend that tech types refer to as the “consumerisation” of IT.

The transformation may not be quite as dramatic as Mr Andreessen’s remark implies. Armies, universities and other institutions still spend vast sums on research, the fruit of which will continue to nourish personal technology. Moreover, this is not the first time that individuals have taken the lead in using new gadgets: the first PCs were often sneaked into firms by a few geeky employees.

Nevertheless there are good reasons for thinking that the latest round of consumerisation is going to have a far bigger impact than its predecessors. One is that rising incomes have created a vast, global audience of early adopters for gadgets. Around 8m units of the Kinect, a Microsoft device that attaches to the Xbox and lets people control on-screen action with their body movements, were sold within 60 days of its launch in November 2010. No consumer-electronics device has ever sold so fast, according to Guinness World Records. “These people will absorb new technology on a scale that is simply quite stunning,” says Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s head of research and strategy.

The cost of many gadgets is falling fast, giving another fillip to consumption. Smartphones priced at around $100—after a subsidy from telecoms companies, which make money on associated data plans—are starting to appear in America. The cheapest Kindle, an e-reader from Amazon, sells for $79, against $399 for the first version launched in 2007. The cost of digital storage has also fallen dramatically. A gigabyte (GB) of storage, which is roughly enough to hold a two-hour film after compression, cost around $200,000 in 1980; today a disk drive holding a terabyte, or 1,024GB, costs around $100.

The growth of the internet and the rapid spread of fast broadband connectivity have also transformed the landscape. So has the rise of companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon, whose main aim is to delight individuals rather than businesses or governments. Apple, in particular, has been to the fore in the democratisation of IT, creating a host of impressive devices such as the iPhone and the iPad. Much of the credit for its success goes to Steve Jobs, who stood down in August as its chief executive.

Techtonic shifts

This special report will examine in more detail the forces underlying the reversal in polarity to which Mr Andreessen refers and how they are affecting individuals, businesses and governments. The combination of new devices with pervasive connectivity and plentiful online content is raising citizens’ expectations of what personal technology can achieve. And it is leading them to bring their own devices into the workplace, where some of the technology they are expected to use now seems antediluvian by comparison. This trend is challenging companies to rethink their IT departments’ habit of treating employees as digital serfs who must do as they are told.

The burgeoning global market for smart consumer technology is also inspiring an outpouring of entrepreneurial energy that will create many more remarkable products. And it is encouraging organisations of all kinds to adapt innovations from the consumer world for their own ends. Companies are setting up online app stores for their employees; hospitals are handing out specially modified smartphones to nurses; soldiers are trying out tablet computers to control drones and experimenting with “battlefield apps”. Many more such opportunities are likely to emerge as the technological and economic forces behind this popular computing revolution gather steam.

Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont’s real estate market and using your own technology to access property.

Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
…..
If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency’s listing.

Heavy Lifting

Mortgage Rates for 30-Year U.S. Loans Fall to 3.94% as Record Low Matched

By Prashant Gopal – Dec 15, 2011, from http://www.bloomberg.com

Mortgage rates for 30-year U.S. loans declined, matching the lowest level on record, as the European debt crisis drove investors to the relative safety of Treasury bonds.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to 3.94 percent in the week ended today from 3.99 percent, Freddie Mac (FMCC) said in a statement. That rate, first reached in October, is the lowest in records dating to 1971. The average 15-year rate fell to an all-time low of 3.21 percent from 3.27 percent, according to the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage-finance company.

The housing market has been weighed down by an 8.6 percent unemployment rate, tighter lending and foreclosures even as borrowing costs fall. Yields on 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for consumer loans including mortgages, dropped this week amid concern thatEurope’s fiscal crisis will hobble U.S. expansion.

“To the extent Europe’s credit crisis is lowering Treasury yields and mortgage rates, that would support the U.S. housing market,” Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said in an interview yesterday. “Unfortunately there are negative ramifications from Europe’s crisis, in particular the drop in equity values and the impact on consumer confidence.”

Lower borrowing costs have helped boost refinancing as homeowners seek to reduce their monthly payments. U.S. home-loan applications climbed 4.1 percent in the week ended Dec. 9, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association index. The Washington group’s gauge of refinancing climbed 9.3 percent, while its index of purchases fell 8.2 percent.

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By Kerri Panchuk, Housing Wire, a LinkedIn Today Post

Barclays Capital (BCS: 11.84 0.00%) analyst Stephen Kim predicts a housing recovery buoyed by improving jobs numbers and the fact prices for nondistressed homes will have stabilized without government support.

“In the absence of a government homebuyer incentives, prices for non-distressed home sales have stabilized for almost a year,” Kim said. “This is the most important trend in the housing industry right now, and we are amazed at how little attention it has been getting from the media and the street. This stability on the part of nondistressed prices has occurred despite a very high share of distressed activity and continued declines in overall prices.”

Barclays said recent economic data — including higher job creation in November, housing starts and improved homebuyer traffic — point to some improvement potential in the sector.

In mid-2010, the federal homebuyer tax credit expired, leaving the housing market without training wheels for the first time since the 2008 economic meltdown. Yet, prices in some housing markets remained stable on the back end.

With its new outlook in the market, Barclays upgraded D.R. Horton’s (DHI: 12.68 0.00%) stock to buy and raised price targets for D.R. Horton, Lennar (LEN: 19.27 0.00%), Toll Brothers (TOL: 21.30 0.00%) and Meritage Homes(MTH: 22.92 0.00%).

At the same time, the investment bank raised its 2012 earnings-per-share estimates for D.R. Horton, Lennar, Meritage Homes, Pulte (PHM: 6.48 0.00%) and Toll Brothers, while lowering its estimates for KB Home (KBH: 8.23 0.00%).

“Thus, the key to timing housing’s recovery depends primarily on when these first-time buyers decide it is safe to buy a house,” Kim concluded.

Write to Kerri Panchuk.