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Vermont Cracks Forbes Top 10 Happiest States

by Travis LaForce

How content are the residents of your state? And what about their mental and physical health, how do they rate their communities in terms of those important measures? Those are the questions posed by the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which just released the results of its research for 2013.

Based on interviews with more than 178,000 American adults living in all 50 states conducted from January to December 2013, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is actually an average of six different indexes, which track:

  • Life evaluation
  • Emotional health
  • Work environment
  • Physical health
  • Healthy behaviors
  • Access to basic necessities

In a nutshell, the heartland and “fly-over” states won out big time; only one coastal state (Washington) and not one state housing a top metropolitan area made the top 10. Even more specifically, the west and midwest are doing the best job wowing their residents, with 9 out of the 10 of the top 10 states falling in those categories. And even within these areas, there are some surprises, particularly the predominance of prairie and mountain states among those most pleasing to their residents.

(For more detailed data on health, here’s a list of America’s top 20 healthiest cities.)

The biggest surprise was the leap of North Dakota from number 19 to number 1, followed by neighboring South Dakota’s leap from 12 to the number 2 spot.

Another big improver was Washington, which hadn’t made the top ten since 2008 when the list was launched. Hawaii, which had been number one for the past four years, dropped to eight place. Here are the 10 happiest states, in order of first to last:

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Nebraska
  4. Minnesota
  5. Montana
  6. Vermont
  7. Colorado
  8. Hawaii
  9. Washington
  10. Iowa

Full state reports won’t be available until April, but a few things jump out as factors in the happiness quota of some of these states. North Dakota, for example, has been in the midst of an oil-related economic boom, and was ranked highest in two of the six sub-rankings: work environment and physical health.


In another interesting insight, the poll ranks the well-being of the nation as a whole, using the same set of criteria. And perhaps surprisingly to those touting continuing improvements in the economy, the well-being of the country as a whole dropped from 2012′s 66.7 to 66.2, the same as 2011, suggesting that the upswing in the national mood may be over.State State “happiness” rankings are tracked in the annual Gallup-Healthways well-being index. (Photo: Gallup-Healthways)

 

In a separate ranking, Gallup calculated the 11 states that had made the steadiest improvement since 2010, when the recession officially ended.

The states on that list, in order, are

  1. Nevada
  2. Montana
  3. Vermont
  4. Nebraska
  5. Iowa
  6. Maine
  7. Arizona
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Mississippi
  10. Texas
  11. California

Some of these are the same states in the top 10, but others, such as Nevada, Arizona, California, and Texas, are states hard-hit by the downturn that have made strides in recovering.


To delve a little deeper into what constitutes “well-being,” the Healthways researchers have developed a series of 5 criteria that can be used to evaluate quality of life. They are, and I quote:How Do You Define Happiness?

  1. “Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals;
  2. Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life;
  3. Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security;
  4. Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community; and
  5. Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.”

By those criteria, how would you evaluate your life and the place you live? Comments below, please.

For more health news, follow me here on Forbes.com, on Twitter, @MelanieHaiken, and subscribe to my posts on Facebook.

 

Vermont Housing Market On The Rise

by Robin Shover

Northwest Vermont ended 2013 with a stronger 
real estate market, helped by a recovering national 
economy and positive local trends such as low 
unemployment and new job creation

Our region is demonstrating sustainable gains in pricing and demand as the state’s economy strengthens. Given that Vermont didn’t experience the massive housing slowdown that crimped some other U.S. regions, our recovery is experiencing smaller gains than those cities recovering from steep drops in real estate values.

With the U.S. and local economies continuing to improve, the Vermont real estate market is expected to strengthen in 2014. Already in early 2014, our Agents are seeing strong interest from buyers. Given our leading market-share position –we handle more sales and purchases than any other office in Northwest Vermont by a margin of four percentage points – our Agents have the pulse of the marketplace.

Rising interest rates are driving both first-time homebuyers and homeowners looking to step up into another property. While rates remain historically low, they crept up from a low of 3.5% in May to about 4.5% by year-end. With rates expected to

rise again in 2014, that’s prompting some Vermont buyers to seek properties and lock in rates at current levels.

Vermont’s housing prices are expected to rise 1.5% in 2014, according to the New England Council. While that may be smaller than what other states report, Vermont largely has sat out the boom-and-bust real estate cycle witnessed in other regions.

The four counties comprising Northwest Vermont saw median sale pricing gain 2.2% last year, while the number of residential transactions jumped 12.3%. Pending listings, or the number of homes that went under contract during the period, rose 8.2%, which may indicate strengthening consumer confidence.

Inventory has tightened from the summer months. Still, because sellers are feeling more optimistic, inventory has expanded from December 2012 and 2011, when the U.S. economy was still stabilizing.



Growing businesses and institutions such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Dealer.com are adding jobs to the region and pulling new homebuyers into the market. The state’s unemployment rate stood at 4.5% in October, far below the nationwide rate of 7.3%.

All real estate is local, and that’s certainly true in Northwest Vermont. Pricing and demand can vary dramatically from town to town. For instance, Chittenden County includes Charlotte, which boasts the region’s highest median sale price at $531,500, as well as Winooski, with one of the lowest median sale prices, at $195,000.

Multi-Family

Investors continued to seek multi-family properties, pulled by the region’s low vacancy rates, competitive rents and a diverse and growing professional base. Sold listings rose 5% last year, while median pricing gained 3.7%.

While the pace of sales slowed after a strong 2012, when unit sales jumped 16%, investors have been hampered by a lack of inventory, given current owners are choosing to hold onto their properties because of the attractive characteristics of the market. That may put continued upward pricing on pressure in 2014.

 - See more at: http://www.hickokandboardman.com/vermont-market-report/trends.html#sthash.wg3xvxEG.dpuf

Should I Buy a Home Now?

by Robin Shover®

I'm often asked if this is a good time to buy a home. Some clients are concerned that home prices may fall further than they have already. They are assuming that the best course of action is to wait for the bottom in the market and then buy. The problem with this approach is that you don't know where the bottom is until you see it in the rear view mirror, meaning until you've missed it!

Home prices are one factor in determining your cost of ownership, but so are interest rates and financing availability. Even though interest rates have gone up in the last six months, they are still near historic lows. Since your monthly mortgage payment is a combination of paying down your principal and paying the interest owed, if home prices come down a little further but interest rates up, it could cost you even more to service a mortgage on an identical home!

While a home is a major investment, it is also the center of your personal life. It's important to live in a home that reflects your taste and values, yet is within your financial "comfort zone." To that end, it may be more important to lock in today's relatively low interest rates and low home prices, rather than to hope for a further break in prices in the future.

Please give me a call if I can be of any assistance in determining how much home you can afford in today's market.

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Robin Shover®
Keller Williams Vermont
302 Mountain View Drive, Suite 300
Colchester VT 05446
Direct: 802-373-4949
Fax: Fax: 802-654-8505