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      Blog :: 2013

      The Most Expensive Food in the World, the Mafia, and International Thievery

      Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on the finest real estate, selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont or to get more details on local Vermont real estate market conditions.

      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.

      Small Grows Up. The new Retina iPad Mini Wired Review

      Apple iPad mini

      Small Grows Up

      Rating: 9/10 Nearly flawless

      • The iPad mini with Retina display is roughly the same size as the original. It's ever-so-slightly thicker, and has a little bit more heft, weighing in at .75 pounds for the LTE model and .73 for Wi-Fi only.
      • WIRED

      Gorgeous 2048 x 1536 pixel display. 10-plus hour battery life will more than serve your cross-country plane flight, or close to a week of casual daily use. A7 processor (with M7 co-processor) offers more power than you may ever need on a 7-inch tablet. Tons of Retina-optimized apps to choose from.

      TIRED

      Pricey -- similar sized and specced tablets go for closer to $200. Stereo speakers both located on one end of the device. Would be nice if it had TouchID like the iPhone 5s, but with the problems cropping up related to that feature lately, we're wondering if not including it was a smart move after all.

      This is the iPad mini we've all been waiting for.

      When the first generation iPad mini debuted last year, it was a terrific product. Apple's first stab at a smaller tablet looked more far more elegant than the competition, managed to squeeze a larger 7.9-inch display in a traditionally 7-inch tablet form factor, and featured remarkable battery life. But its 1024 x 768 resolution display was a major let down compared to the Retina displays on the iPhone and full size iPad, as well as the growing number of HD screen-sporting Android tablets. And inside, a two-generations-old A5 chip powered the tablet -- nothing too shabby, but not really impressive, either.

      Apple stepped up its game for this year's iPad mini. The new mini is essentially the same tablet as the 9.7-inch iPad Air, right down to its 2048 x 1536 resolution Retina display. It's just packed into a smaller package. A new A7 processor meshes with iOS 7 to create a super-powerful slate that gets all-day battery life. The only real difference between the two is the pared-down size, and the $100 cheaper starting price.

      The iPad mini with Retina display is roughly the same size as the original. It's ever-so-slightly thicker, and has a little bit more heft, weighing in at .75 pounds for the LTE model and .73 for Wi-Fi only. Last year's model weighed .68 pounds.

      Compared to Google's flagship 7-incher, the Nexus 7, the mini is about a tenth of a pound heavier, but marginally thinner, while squeezing in a larger 7.9 inch display. It's comfortable to wield one-handed, but I feel less confident waving it around than I would a tablet with a slightly rubberized back. The aluminum is more attractive visually, but "soft touch"-type materials like you see on the Nexus 7 are, well, handy.

      While the Nexus 7 sports an excellent 1920 x 1200 resolution display, the screen on the new mini looks even better. Side by side, there's just no comparison. And the old iPad mini might as well be 8-bit compared to the pixel-packed Retina screen. It's obvious in graphics -- the icons in Safari, app icons on the homescreen -- as well as in text, which doesn't render nearly as well on the old iPad mini. On the Retina mini, text maintains crystal clarity even when zoomed in to a ridiculous level. In an HD Planet Earth video, the definition of pebbles on a beach and leaves on trees are razor sharp, creating a greater sense of depth than the old mini's display.

      At 100 percent brightness, I only lost about 10 percent battery life per hour while watching Netflix over Wi-Fi. Streaming a 1080p HD YouTube video over Wi-Fi ate up even less -- more like 8 percent per hour. Streaming Rdio and other lower intensity tasks like reading and web surfing made a minimal dent in battery life. Apple's 10-hour promise seems right on target, if not at the low end of what its 23.8 Watt-hour battery can deliver.

      "The old iPad mini might as well be 8-bit compared to the new pixel-packed Retina screen."

      The device can get noticeably warm during CPU intensive activities like heavy gaming or HD playback, but not alarmingly so. And it handles those activities swimmingly. Situations where I noticed ever-so-slight stuttering on last year's model, the 2013 iPad mini handled with aplomb. Again, it's basically an iPad Air but packed into a smaller package, which is kind of mind blowing.

      For a 7.9-inch tablet, the stereo speakers are exceptionally powerful, but they still don't have the depth and bass you'd get from a pair of dedicated speakers -- no surprises there. While stereo (each speaker is positioned on either side of the lightning port at the bottom of the device) they're still located on the same end of the device, so if you're watching a film in landscape mode, you only get sound from one end. I find this a bit irksome.

      When I reviewed the iPad Air after getting my hands on the iPhone 5s, I was largely struck by its lack of TouchID. But between using the Air more regularly, and seeing some inconsistencies with TouchID arise, I'm far less affected by the Retina mini's lack of a fingerprint sensor than I was before. Although, it would be convenient.

      While the Retina mini doesn't include 802.11ac Wi-Fi like Apple's notebook offerings, the company did addMIMO to the mini (and the Air), which means it can share or receive more data in parallel, and maintain a strong Wi-Fi signal farther away from the base station. Indeed, videos loaded faster on the Retina mini than on the first gen model, and apps downloaded noticeably quicker.

      The iPad mini is exactly the type of product we expect from Apple. Stunning good looks, a display so high resolution it'd take a magnifying glass to pick out the pixels, and unparalleled performance. This is the smaller iPad that should have debuted last year, but hey, better late than never.

      Photos: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

      Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on technology, selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont or to get more details on local Vermont real estate market conditions.

      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.

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        Hommage to Frank Gehry

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        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on architecture, selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont or to get more details on local Vermont real estate market conditions.

        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.

        Comments

        1. shore residences on

          I just could not go away your site prior to suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard info an individual supply for your guests? Is gonna be back frequently to check out new posts

          1031 Exchanges

          image1031 Exchanges allow you to defer the gain on the sale of a business use or investment asset as long as you acquire another business use or investment asset. This includes office buildings, rental real estate, business equipment, franchise equipment and even aircraft.

          More importantly, they allow you to use the money you would have paid in both federal and state capital gains taxes to improve the quality, value, and sometimes, location of their holdings and better plan their financial future. The long term windfall amounts to an interest free loan from Uncle Sam to leverage larger investments, diversify your portfolios, and substantially increase wealth.   image

          1031 Exchanges allow you to get an interest free loan from the government and avoid paying capital gains tax at the time of the exchange and to preserve your investment capital by deferring rather than paying the capital gains.

          Leveraging Assets With Interest Free Loans from Uncle Sam

          Leveraging Assets With Interest Free Loans from Uncle Sam

          There are three replacement property rules:

          1. 3 properties: you can identify up to three properties without regard to value, or:

          2. 200%: you can identify more than three provided the replacement properties do not exceed 200% of the vallue of the relinquished properties, or:

          3. 95%: you can identify any number of properties regardless of value provided the exchanger purchasers 95% of the identified properties. This is the most perilous and rarely used rule, nerve wracking for the investor who should have a back up plan in case the 95% isn't realized.

          You've got to exchange for equal or greater value property.

          The first step is to find a good QI, a qualified intermediary to set up the exchange. Choose a reputable firm with experience.

          If the projected capital gains tax exceeds $20,000, it's likely a 1031 is worthwhile. Going even or up in value will avoid taxable boot but that doesn't preclude cashing out on some small portion which would then be taxable.

          image

          There are two key timelines to complete a 1031, and most importantly, you have to set up your 1031 before closing on the property you'll exchange.

          You have 45 days to identify up to three replacement properties from the time you close on  your relinquished property and no substitutions are permitted after the 45th day, or identify an unlimited number of replacement properties as long as they don't surpass 200% of the value of the relinquished property or properties.

          Second, you have to close on the replacement property within 180 days of your closing, not from the day that property goes under contract. These two deadlines are non-negotiable. If you can't perform within these time frames, the 1031 is dead and the taxes become due. Presidentially declared disasters are the only allowable extension.

          Once the 1031 is set up, you close on your original property by selling first to the QI who then sells immediately to the buyer. The proceeds of the sale are then held by the QI who acts as our trusted holder until you close on your replacement properties. You are not permitted constructive receipt of any of the funds and can't touch any of these funds until you close on the replacement property or it becomes boot and is instantly taxable.

          [youtube=http://youtu.be/taYaLYZk6S4]

          Like kind exchanges, required by 1031 exchanges, are commonly misunderstood. Like kind includes any other real estate. A single family can be exchanged for an apartment complex, a condo, an office building or even raw land or a shopping center.

          imageA duplex does not need to be exchanged for a duplex; you could purchase a 25 unit rental complex. An airplane is business equipment can't be exchanged for a 25 unit rental property. It matters not what kind of real estate, rather how that real estate is used. It must be for business, commercial or investment use and owned for at least a year.

          Convert investment property into personal property by exchanging for a private residence and renting it out of the gate and moving in after the first two years of ownership. Be aware though that the first two years of business use will be fractionally deducted from the residential use years in calculating the section 121 $250k/$500k personal residence exclusion at the time of sale. If owned for 10 years, two of which were as a rental, just 80 per cent of the personal residence exclusion would apply at the time of sale. You'll need to live in it for at least a year and own it for at least five years.

          Certain kinds of personal property can be exchanged for other personal property too as long as they fall into the same asset class or product code. Reverse exchanges occur when the exchanger purchases the replacement property first, placing it in an SPE (Single Purpose Entity, renamed by the IRS as an EAT, Exchange Accommodation Title Holder) and then closes on the relinquished property before taking title to the replacement property.

          You can also relinquish an investment property for a raw piece of land of lesser value and improve it during the 180 day period, then conclude the 1031 on the then improved more valuable piece of property.

          image

          Harnessing Time Liimits to Expand Wealth

          Can you buy first and then sell?

          Yes, but this is a riskier 1031 known as a reverse exchange. Riskier as you have to find the buyer and close within 180 days, a potentially much murkier endeavor than buying in six months.

          Swap till you drop. Continue swapping until your gone. Step up in basis, at the time of your death: your children or inheritance recipients can sell the property for what it's worth at the time of your death, and not be taxed on a gain calculated based on what you originally paid for the asset.

          Contact a 1031 QI (Qualified Intermediary): Edmund & Wheeler at 603.444.0020, exchange@section1031.com

          Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont or to get more details on local Vermont real estate market conditions.

          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.

          Comments

          1. propertyfareast.com on

            Just want to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is simply great and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

            The Changing Lives of Women: NPR Special Series

            Moving Out And Buying In: Single

            Ladies Emerge As Homeowners

            First-time homeowner Amanda Cowley in her new home in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. After married couples, single women are the largest demographic group of homebuyers.

            First-time homeowner Amanda Cowley in her new home in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. After married couples, single women are the largest demographic group of homebuyers.

            Gabriella Demczuk /NPR

            It's hard to remember that just a few decades ago it was difficult, if not impossible, for a woman alone to take out a mortgage. Federal legislation changed that.

            And yet, it's still surprising to learn how dominant single women have become in the housing market today: Their share is second only to married couples, and twice that of single men.

            Amanda Cowley repaints her bathroom during renovations made to her new three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse.

            Amanda Cowley repaints her bathroom during renovations made to her new three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse.

            Gabriella Demczuk /NPR

            In Washington, D.C., Amanda Cowley lives in her dream home -- a century-old rowhouse in a gentrifying part of the city. The 37-year-old and her boisterous dog, Sadie, moved in at the end of last year. The renovated first floor has tall windows and big, open space. Upstairs, there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

            "This is the painting-in-progress piece," Cowley says, gesturing to the paint cans and tarp that line the hall. It's quite a do-it-yourself project. But all this space is a big reason Cowley bought the place.

            "I wanted to be able to have family come to town and feel comfortable and not be sleeping on my pullout sofa," she says. She's even thinking of getting bunk beds for her two nephews.

            'Waiting To Get Married'

            It's a huge step up from the 800-square-foot condo she bought seven years ago. But by renting out the basement, Cowley's mortgage is actually lower. And it was time for a change.

            "I realized I was sitting around waiting to get married and move out of my condo," she says. "And then it started to get really depressing to be there for that reason. I was like, 'This was an awesome place to live in when I'm 30, but if I'm still here when I'm 45, it's done.' Like, I'm gonna get 12 cats and give up."

            Now -- besides her one dog -- Cowley says there's room for a family, should that happen. Or for her parents to move in, should they need to.

            "There is room to have the rest of my life in this space that there wasn't in my 800-square-foot condo," she says, "no matter how fabulous a place it was to have cocktail parties."

            It turns out a lot of women are thinking beyond cocktail parties.

            Jessica Lautz of the National Association of Realtors says two-thirds of female buyers own single-family homes.

            "And most of them are three-bedroom, two-bath, great homes," she says. "So it's impressive."

            In recent years, single women have made up between 16 and 22 percent of homebuyers. Lautz says surveys show they place a higher priority than men on having a place to call their own, and will do more to make it happen.

            "We asked did they make any sacrifices like cutting spending on entertainment, on luxury items they don't necessarily need, on clothing, even getting a second job," she says. "And consistently, single female buyers are making those sacrifices more than other buyers."

            Perhaps because, on average, single female buyers earn less than single men, and they're also typically a few years older -- but not always.

            A Home, An Investment

            Graphic designer Kaleena Porter sits with her dog, Moby, in the living room of her new home in Northwest D.C.

            Graphic designer Kaleena Porter sits with her dog, Moby, in the living room of her new home in Northwest D.C.

            Marie McGrory/NPR

            Graphic designer Kaleena Porter, 26, can still hardly believe she has her own place. It's a garden-level one bedroom, in a different D.C. neighborhood.

            "I'd never thought about buying," she says.

            But there was a tenant's dispute in her old building, which forced her out. At first, buying seemed confusing and scary. But she's so glad she did it.

            "It feels good, actually. It makes a lot more sense," she says. "I feel people shouldn't have to rent, like it should be illegal or something ... your rent money should be going toward some kind of investment."

            Like Amanda Cowley, Porter's surprised to learn that far more single women than men buy homes -- she never would have guessed it. And the statistics, she says, are sad.

            Her boyfriend rents with two others, and, she says, at first he found the idea of her buying a place "intimidating." But he's come around.

            Porter says she's changed as well.

            "All of a sudden here I am owning a house, and having a dog, and being grown up. So it's kind of fun!" she says.

            With that, it's time to feed her mutt, Moby, and take him for his evening walk. It's a simple, settled routine she's come to love.

            Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont or to get more details on local Vermont real estate market conditions.

            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.

            Previously Owned U.S. Home Sales Climb to 4.92 Million

            By Shobhana Chandra & Michelle Jamrisko, Bloomberg.com - Feb 21, 2013 4:14 PM ET

            Sales of previously owned homes increased in January and an index of leading indicators climbed for a second month as the rebound in housing helped to broaden the U.S. expansion.

            Purchases of existing houses rose 0.4 percent to a 4.92 million annual rate, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. A gauge of the economic outlook for the next three to six months advanced 0.2 percent after a 0.5 percent December gain, according to the New York- based Conference Board.

            A sustained pickup in housing will depend on faster progress in the labor market, fewer foreclosures and easier access to credit. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
            Mortgage Bankers' Stevens on U.S. Housing, Economy
            Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- David Stevens, chief executive officer of the Mortgage Bankers Association, talks about the outlook for the U.S. housing market and economy. Stevens speaks with Mark Crumpton on Bloomberg Television's "Bottom Line." (Source: Bloomberg)
            Toll Brothers Raising Prices, Demand `Huge': CEO
            Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Douglas Yearley, chief executive officer of Toll Brothers Inc., talks about the company's fourth-quarter earnings, outlook and regional housing markets. The largest U.S. luxury-home builder reported net income that trailed analyst estimates and projected narrower margins. Yearley speaks with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock." (Source: Bloomberg)

            Improving home sales combined with dwindling inventory spurred the biggest advance in property values since 2005, helping mend household finances. The gain in housing, the industry that was at the center of the financial crisis, may help consumers overcome an increase in the payroll tax and rising gasoline prices that pose a risk to spending.

            "The economy has legs," said John Silvia, chief economist atWells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, a unit of the largest U.S. mortgage lender. "A lot of people are much more confident. Housing has picked up, and I think it's sustainable."

            Stocks fell, following the biggest drop since November for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, after minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting that were issued yesterday signaled policy makers may consider slowing the pace of asset purchases. The S&P 500 fell 0.6 percent to 1,502.42 at the close in New York.

            Other Reports

            Other figures todays showed jobless claims climbed last week, consumer prices were unchanged in January and manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly contracted in February for a second month.

            News today out of Europe indicated the region is still struggling. Services and manufacturing in the euro area contracted at a faster pace in February, a report showed.

            In the U.S., rising gasoline prices are compounding the damage done by the two percentage-point increase in the payroll tax, causing Americans to remain pessimistic about the economicoutlook in February.

            The gap between positive and negative expectations was minus 7 this month, unchanged from January's three-month low, according to the Bloomberg Comfort Index. By contrast, the measure reflecting present conditions for the week ended Feb. 17 rose to minus 33.4, the highest reading this year, from minus 35.9 in the previous seven-day period.

            Survey Results

            The median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected the January pace of existing home sales at 4.9 million. Estimates ranged from 4.7 million to 5.1 million. The prior month's pace was revised to 4.9 million from a previously reported 4.94 million.

            The number of previously owned homes on the market fell 4.9 percent to 1.74 million, the fewest since December 1999, today's report from the Realtors' group showed. At the current sales pace, it would take 4.2 months to sell those houses, the fewest since April 2005.

            "Inventory has increasingly become the story of the housing market," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a news conference as the figures were released. "We do expect some relief in inventories as the spring season comes around." He also said that "only the homebuilders can truly relieve the inventory" shortage.

            PulteGroup (PHM)Lennar Corp. (LEN) and D.R. Horton Inc. (DHI), the top three U.S. homebuilders by market value, said orders rose in the most recently reported quarter. A report yesterday from the Commerce Department showed single-family home starts increased in January to the highest level since July 2008.

            Construction's Impact

            Gains in construction will probably ripple out to other parts of the economy.

            "If housing starts really do pick up as we expect and the economy picks up as we expect, I think what you'll see is pretty good growth in the residential business" Gregory Hayes, chief financial officer at United Technologies Corp. (UTX), said at a Feb. 7 conference. The Hartford, Connecticut-based company's products include Carrier air conditioners and Otis elevators.

            Tight supply and growing demand are helping firm property values. The median price of an existing home rose to $173,600 last month, up 12.3 percent from January 2012, the real-estate agents' report today showed. It marked the biggest 12-month increase since November 2005.

            Fewer Delinquencies

            Rising prices may be helping struggling homeowners find buyers. Home loans that were more than 90 days behind in payments or in the foreclosure process fell to 6.78 percent of mortgages in the third quarter, the lowest level since 2008, from 7.03 percent in the previous three months, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report today. The rate was 7.73 percent a year earlier.

            The improvement in the economic outlook is not only driven by housing. Six of the 10 indicators in the leading economic index contributed to the increase last month, led by stock prices and the spread between the federal funds rate and the yield on 10-year Treasury notes, today's report showed.

            "The indicators point to an underlying economy that remains relatively sound but sluggish," Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, said in a statement. "The biggest positive factor is housing."

            Applications for unemployment benefits rose for the first time in three weeks, returning to levels seen prior to the holiday period and indicating little change in the pace of firings. Jobless claims increased by 20,000 to 362,000 in the week ended Feb. 16, the Labor Department reported.

            Little Inflation

            The cost of living was little changed in January for a second month as a drop in energy costs offset gains in clothing, hotel rates and airline fares, another report from the Labor Department showed. Over the past 12 months, the consumer-price index increased 1.6 percent, the smallest year-over-year gain since July.

            The news today on the manufacturing front was less positive. Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly contracted in February for a second month, according to data from theFederal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The bank's general economic index dropped to minus 12.5, the lowest reading since June, from minus 5.8 in January. Readings lower than zero signal contraction in the area covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

            The reading followed New York Fed data released last week that showed factory activity rebounded after six months of contraction, raising prospects that factories could contribute to expansion this year.

            Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont or to get more details on local Vermont real estate market conditions.

            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.

            Cochran's: Old School Ski Area, Place of Champions

            http://youtu.be/AAP8Ou_lMfI

            Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont for your snowboarding, skiing and other recreational pursuits or to find out more about this legendary ski area with $5 Friday night skiing.

            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.

            Snowcraft. Surf Inspired Snowboarding Evolution

            [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx4m8EiA6ws&w=560&h=315]

            Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 for info on selling or purchasing a house, condo or land in Vermont for your snowboarding, skiing and other recreational pursuits.

            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.

            The Great Maple Syrup Heist

            January 2013, from Bloomberg Businessweek, Global Economics

            The Great Canadian Maple Syrup

            Heist

            On the morning of July 30, 2012, an accountant named Michel Gauvreau arrived at the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, housed in a huge red brick warehouse on the side of the Trans-Canadian Highway in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, about two hours northeast of Montreal. Inside, baby-blue barrels of maple syrup were stacked six high in rows hundreds deep. Full, each barrel weighs about 620 pounds. With grade A syrup trading at about $32 per gallon, that adds up to $1,800 a barrel, approximately 13 times the price of crude oil.

            Global Economics

            Global Economics

            The fiscal year was coming to a close, and the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers had hired Gauvreau's company, Veragrimar, to audit its inventory. Québec dominates the maple syrup market, and since 2002 the Federation has operated as a legal cartel, setting production quotas and prices, authorizing buyers, and stockpiling syrup. There were around 16,000 barrels here, about one-tenth of Québec's annual production. The gap between the rows was barely wide enough to walk through, and the rubber soles of Gauvreau's steel-tip boots stuck to the sugar-coated concrete floor.

            He scaled a row of barrels and was nearing the top of the stack when one of them rocked with his weight. He nearly fell. Regaining his balance, he rattled the barrel: It was light because it was empty. He soon found others that were empty. After notifying the Federation's leaders and returning with them to examine the stockpile, they unscrewed the cap on a full barrel. The liquid inside was not goopy, brown, or redolent with the wintry scent of vanilla, caramel, and childhood; it was thin, clear, and odorless. It was water.

            The Federation would need two months to tally the losses to the stockpile. Sixty percent, or 6 million pounds of syrup, had vanished, worth about $18 million wholesale. The bold and baffling heist counts as one of the largest agricultural thefts ever, dwarfing the 860 head of cattle snatched in Queensland, Australia, last spring and the potato patches the size of a football field that were dug up in British Columbia in August. Siphoning off and transporting so much syrup was no mean feat. It would have taken more than 100 tractor-trailers. "To steal that amount of maple syrup means you have to know the market," says Simon Trépanier, acting director of the Federation. "We are talking about big players."

            See the Bloomberg video on the inside story.

            The theft was also an existential threat to the Federation, which had viewed its growing strategic reserves as the final step in stabilizing prices, locking in buyers, and ensuring loyalty from its producers. For the past decade it had struggled to overcome opposition to its reign in a series of legal battles the local media had christened "The Maple Wars." Some observers have suggested that their attempts to control the syrup supply had, in fact, catalyzed an underground economy.

            "With the benefit of hindsight, this is something you would have expected," says Marc Van Audenrode, an economist with the Analysis Group in Montreal, who has studied the industry. Indeed, the syrup trail soon led to free-market renegades inside and outside the province who opposed what was, in their view, a Communist program. It wasn't just about syrup, or money. It was a miniature Canadian Cold War.

            Maple syrup may not rank among Canada's most financially important agricultural exports, but nothing says "Eh!" quite like a liter of boiled-down tree sap. Ten species of maple, including the sugar maple, are native to Canada. By the early 19th century the multipointed leaf had become a popular icon for French-Canadians living in the Saint-Lawrence Valley; it wasn't long before the leaf became a national symbol featured on coins, military uniforms, and eventually the country's flag.

            When Prime Minister Stephen Harper travels abroad, his gift bag for foreign leaders includes a selection of the country's finest maple syrup. It remains both a national point of pride and a durable punch line. At Canadian markets, you can find maple sugar, maple butter, maple pork rub, maple vinaigrette, maple coffee, maple tea, and, as of last year, maple perfume.

            Syrup production occurs between February and April, on the 20 to 25 days when the temperature rises above freezing, creating pressure that forces the energy-rich sap--which is about 3 percent sugar--out of a tap hole in the trunks of maple trees. On a recent morning, Philippe Turcotte, 39, an affable man with a speckling of gray in his goatee and mustache, took an ATV tour of his family's 12,000-tree sugarbush in Drummondville, Québec. A tangle of plastic tubes stretches from tree to tree, converging on a vacuum pump in a wooden shack at the back of their property. From that shack, the thin sap gets pumped about half a mile over the hill to a barn, where reverse-osmosis raises sugar concentration to 14 percent. Then Turcotte fires up his $25,000 stainless steel Dallaire evaporator--model name: L'Enfer ("Hell")--and boils the syrup until it reaches a sugar concentration of exactly 66 percent.

            For 2012, Québec estimated maple syrup production of 96.1 million pounds, which has a wholesale value of about $270 million. Approximately two-thirds of bulk exports head to the U.S., with the rest going to Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., and other countries. For most producers, maple syrup is either a hobby, a second career, or a source of retirement income, but their investment and revenue are not trivial. Turcotte's sugarbush can produce 35,000 pounds of syrup each year, worth about $100,000, but it's going to be many years before he pays off his equipment improvements. Turcotte, who also works for the telecommunications company Bell Canada (BCE), says he would not be where he is today were it not for the Federation. "They took this industry out of the backwoods," he says. "For myself, business has never flourished so much."

            Early on, maple syrup producers banded together in this region to form trade groups and develop joint marketing plans. In 1989 the Agriculture and Food Marketing Board in Québec, which sets regulations and arbitrates legal disputes, oversaw a vote that empowered the Federation alone to set the rules for the production and marketing of maple syrup throughout the province. Over the next 10 years, the number of tapped trees increased from 20 million to 35 million. The short production season often resulted in price fluctuations, and by 2000 supply had also outpaced demand: Syrup prices fell to C$1.56 ($1.57) per pound from C$2.20 in 1998. Producers were unable to get bank loans or invest in new equipment.

            In 2002 and 2003 the Federation created a central sales agency and a quota system for bulk sales. Producers obtained their quota based on their two best production years. The rules have nudged the wholesale price up from an average of C$2.06 per pound in 2002 to C$2.82 today, but the province's 7,300 producers also have to pay their dues: C12¢ per pound sold. For the 20th anniversary of the cartel, in 2010, the Federation's enthusiastic young inspector, Mathieu Audy, penned an ode: "With the principles of unity, solidarity, and social justice, producers have pursued their common interest and traveled the countryside in search of consensus!" It sounds better in French.

            Solidarity to some, however, is devilish centralized planning to others. If you live in Québec and want to tap a maple tree to sell syrup wholesale, you either have to buy land from someone who has been granted an allocation or apply for a new allocation from the Federation, an uncertain process that could take years. Twelve hundred producers are on the waiting list. Producers are free to exceed their quota, but they'd only get paid once the Federation's entire inventory was exhausted. They're also on the hook for storage fees. The quota also calls for intrusive oversight at times. For instance, if a producer fails to sell to the Federation one year, Audy or his peers could ask him to provide electricity bills to prove he wasn't boiling syrup. Buyers and producers caught circumventing the system are hit with hefty fines. "We have a rotten system in Québec," gripes Roland Champagne, a producer in Inverness. In the woods, a rebellion started.

            Nevertheless, by the summer of 2012, the Federation had largely prevailed over its malcontents and was nearing a milestone that would cement its dominance. To fully stabilize prices, actuaries calculated that the Federation needed to maintain reserves of 40 million pounds of syrup, and the Federation was building a facility to accommodate that. Meantime, it had begun stashing its surplus syrup at a rented warehouse in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford. The only security was a guard who was supposed to stop by each day.

            Etienne St. Pierre, a 69-year-old widower, has lived his entire life in Kedgwick, New Brunswick, a working-class logging town 100 miles from Maine surrounded by mixed evergreen forest in the northernmost remnants of the Appalachian Mountains. His great-grandfather settled here in 1905 as part of a land grant program; today, his four brothers and two sisters all have houses along one short stretch of Route 17. After retiring as a mechanic in the early 1990s, St. Pierre started a sugar farm producing about 65,000 pounds of syrup each year and selling it to Québec. But for three straight years, from 1993 to 1995, he lost about half of his sales as one buyer after another declared bankruptcy.

            He decided that if anything went wrong, he'd rather be the one declaring bankruptcy. He sold his sugarbush to his only son and set up shop in an office attached to his home, launching SK Export in 2002 to package and ship syrup. His business plan was simple: Avoid the Federation and sell directly to distributors in the U.S. In the first year he exported thousands of barrels of New Brunswick syrup to Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, whose syrups, candies, and baking mixes sell at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), Safeway (SWY), and other chains. In 2006 he sent advertisements to producers in Québec, promising 25 percent to 50 percent cash. "Our system is very confidential," one flyer noted. "St. Pierre is a very honest person and very well known in the region," said another. St. Pierre's opinion is that Québec's provincial rules don't apply to him. "As soon as you cross into New Brunswick, the Federation can do nothing. There's no border. No duty," he says.

            The Federation begged to differ. On April 17 an undercover investigator working for the Federation--and operating under the dashing alias Jacques Leblond--phoned St. Pierre, asking if he'd buy four barrels of Québec syrup. Mais oui, said St. Pierre. The next day, Leblond's partner drove four barrels from the stockpile to New Brunswick. St. Pierre graded his syrup and assigned Leblond a confidential number, 95, by which he would be identified. One month later, Leblond received a check for C$3,550.65 made out to Buyer 95. That was less than the Federation would have paid, but the payment came promptly.

            The Federation expanded the investigation the following year, discovering more about St. Pierre's trade network. Québec producers were shipping thousands of barrels of syrup to St. Pierre via a remote farm, where the owner earned a dime for every pound it stored. One couple, Jean-Pierre and Lise Caron, ignored the quota system and sold St. Pierre their entire annual production in 2005 and 2006. The Federation demanded that St. Pierre pay C$264,166 in damages and submit all his bank statements from 2004 to 2008.

            St. Pierre, a mellow man who dons a navy shirt and slacks to work each day, ignored this and other demands, believing the Federation is not entitled to any money. His second-in-command, Julienne Bossé, took a stronger tack: She scribbled her response on a subpoena and faxed it back to the Federation. "F-?-?- you gang of A-holes," she wrote. "Ha! Ha! Ha! ... We will keep buying maple syrup forever." In another letter, she taunted the Federation for continuing to get the address of SK Export wrong and helpfully provided a creatively spelled alternative: "7348 Rue Funck You." When Bossé wasn't penning screeds to the Federation, she helped make syrup-filled chocolate maple leaves and melt-in-your-mouth maple meringues for sale in the gift shop.

            After the Federation reported the theft from the Strategic Reserve to the Québec provincial police, known as the Sûreté du Québec, the agency began a vast investigation that would involve interviews with nearly 300 people in the industry, reviews of export statistics, and forensic analyses of syrup kettles, forklifts, and scales, tracing two-thirds of the stolen syrup to companies in New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario, and the U.S.

            At 10 a.m. on Sept. 25, Etienne St. Pierre was in his usual navy-blue outfit, working in the office after a recent scouting trip to China, when two police officers from the Sûreté du Québec arrived with a search warrant. Bossé knew their Québec warrant was no good in New Brunswick; at one point she says she pretended to wipe her derrière with it, gave the police the bird, and locked the side door. When the officers went to another door and asked for the keys to the warehouse, she snatched them from St. Pierre and tucked them into her ample bosom.

            The police relented, returning that evening at 11 with a stamp of approval from a New Brunswick judge, but they still had to pry open the warehouse door with a crowbar. Inside, St. Pierre had more than a million dollars' worth of syrup. The next day he told the authorities that about 700 to 800 barrels came from Richard Vallières, one of Québec's most notorious "barrel-rollers," an unauthorized middleman who had run afoul of the Federation in the past and paid thousands of dollars in fines. The police seized St. Pierre's forklift, his confidential list of suppliers, and all his syrup for forensic analysis. The next month they took between 75 and 100 barrels from an unmarked warehouse near Québec City that Vallières had rented to stash and cook fermented syrup. Neighbors said they frequently smelled the maple wafting across the parking lot, and Vallières made no attempt to hide his operation.

            In early November, I met Vallières in Kedgwick, where he was keeping a low profile, regularly lunching with St. Pierre and establishing his own sugarbush. A chubby, nervous guy in his 30s with a six o'clock shadow and a baseball cap, he was willing to speak only for a few minutes through the open window of his idling pickup truck. He owed back rent on the warehouse and hadn't returned to it since the raid. He said he typically bought from producers who had exceeded their quota but couldn't guarantee that purloined syrup didn't pass through his hands, and he had no idea who could have carried out the theft.

            Five weeks later, on Dec. 18, as snow blanketed the Saint-Lawrence Valley, the Sûreté du Québec arrested Vallières at his home near Québec City, charging him with conspiring with five others to commit the theft at the warehouse and sell the stolen maple syrup. TV cameras filmed him being hauled into the courthouse in handcuffs. One member of the gang had rented space in the same warehouse, merely moving the syrup from one section of the warehouse to another and out the other loading dock. In total, prosecutors have charged 22 suspects, including St. Pierre, who is accused of knowingly possessing and trafficking the stolen syrup. St. Pierre is out on bail and says he had nothing to do with the theft.

            The stolen syrup still worries law-abiding producers within the Federation. "My biggest fear is that this syrup is going to hit the market, and big buyers are not going to buy our syrup," says Turcotte. The Québec television station TVA Nouvelles reported that at least 70 truckloads of stolen syrup have already made it to three distributors in the U.S., including Bascom Maple Farms in New Hampshire, one of St. Pierre's clients and the largest maple supplier in the U.S. Bruce Bascom says he fully cooperated with the Sûreté du Québec and they have ended their inquiries, but he declined to answer whether the company purchased any stolen syrup. Two Vermont companies that reportedly purchased the syrup, Maple Grove Farms and Highland Sugarworks, did not respond to requests for interviews.

            Gone Forever?

            Gone Forever?

            There is no guarantee that the Federation will get its syrup back across international boundaries. "This is what bothers us," says Trépanier, a slim technocrat who is passionate about the Federation. "Everybody knows it is stolen, but nobody can do anything about it. It's incredible." At least until the full story comes out, he says the Federation is obligated to sell to Bascom and other companies that reportedly received stolen product.

            Large questions loom about whether Québec's tightly controlled system will survive in the long term. In 2002, the first year the new rules went into effect, Québec claimed 80 percent of world maple syrup production. The Federation has raised its quota from 68 million pounds to 115 million pounds today, but its market share is slipping. In 2011, its share dropped to 71 percent of the market as U.S. states and Canadian provinces without quotas have risen to supply cheaper syrup, according to buyers. Last June, Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) inserted the Maple TAP Act into the draft of the Farm Bill to provide grants to farmers to tap trees on private lands and to promote the industry. New York has 280 million tappable maple trees--three times more than Québec--but very few are tapped. The bill stalled in the House in September and may not pass until well into 2013. Trépanier is watching all these developments closely. "We are not idiots," he says, adding that in his mind climate change ultimately will tip the syrup scales in favor of his countrymen.

            On a recent afternoon, the side door to the warehouse where the theft took place was open, and a clanging sound echoed off the walls. It had a funk of spilled beer, and the floor glistened with patches of dried syrup. Two men with grimy work gloves climbed up stacks of battered barrels in the dark, knocked them down with a boom, and rolled them into the back of a trailer. "They're empty," said one of the men as he banged on the barrel. "Scrap!"

            Twenty-five miles away in the town of Laurrierville, the Federation was preparing its new warehouse. When the Sûreté du Québec called to say they had no place to store the syrup they seized from St. Pierre, Trépanier offered to help. "We have a new building," he said, "and there's some space in there."

            Borrell is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.