Saturday, December 15, 2007

Skating Around

Whether you like blades or wheels, Monroe has plenty of opportunities for you.

The Roller Den is under new ownership. It is run by a fun family who puts enthusiasm into their establishment, making it a great time for the entire family. They offer both roller blades and old fashioned roller skates for rent or you can bring your own. They play a large variety of music and get everyone involved with games. It is good fun on a cold winter day. Stop in to see if you still remember how to skate backwards or do the limbo!

If ice is more your thing, State Line Ice & Community Expo offers indoor open skating every weekend through March. Come rent a pair of skates or bring yours and try out the ice. Warm up with some cocoa or warm pretzels in between practicing your triple toe loops.

If you prefer to watch the action on the ice, Monroe Youth Hockey Association is in the middle of their season. Come cheer on the Avalanche! Visit their website for a full schedule of events and come support youth sports in the area.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a farmette just outside of Monroe.

If you enjoy older homes and are looking for space in the country, look no further! This 8.49 acre farmette is waiting for a hobby farmer or family who wants to spread out. The classic square brick home has four bedrooms, a large farmhouse kitchen, formal dining room and living room as well as a family room/den. The current owners have lovingly cared for and restored this home, refinishing the wood trim to its glory. Hardwood floors gleam throughout the home, and two sets of pocket doors add to the period charm. There is a full walk-up attic and a full basement, giving you storage options galore.

Outside, a paradise awaits. Towering oaks and elms dot the lawn, and a double row of trees provide a barrier between the home and the road. The land has been turned into a homestead with everything you could ask for. 21 varieties of fruiting trees are growing in the orchard and 5 varieties of grapes are in the vineyard, plus there are strawberries, red and black raspberries, rhubarb and perennial herbs. A large open field awaits your horses or livestock. The sturdy traditional red barn has been immaculately cleaned and is waiting a new life. There are also two other sheds, a chicken house and a silo, each in good condition.

This property is a slice of country living in an unbeatable location. Located just three minutes from Monroe on Highway 11/81, you will never have to worry about being snowed in after a winter storm or wasting too much time ferrying the children to and from events. The motivated sellers are asking only $265,000 for this idyllic country estate.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Everyone loves a parade

The annual Holiday Parade is tomorrow, Friday, December 7. This is one of our favorites. In the last seven years, the parade has grown tremendously, going from a three minute blink-and-you-miss-it gathering to a fifteen or twenty minute event. We love the way it become an evening parade a few years ago. It is fun to gather on the Square with all the buildings illuminated, watching the parade with mittened hands clutching steaming mugs of cocoa from Cafe Claudee, Chocolate Temptations or Fox's Feathercreek Bakery. With the move to an evening parade, it became tradition for the participants to find ways to illuminate themselves and their floats too, adding to the fun. Precision Drive and Control even donates generators for use on a first come, first serve basis to help light up the floats.

The parade starts at 6 pm. Take a trolley tour of area homes before, during or after the parade. In previous years, the trolley tour just before the parade goes through with the other floats.

Stay on the Square after the parade for an evening of fun as well. Wisconsin Community Bank has children's activities and Santa reception following the parade. Stop in at Monroe Theatre Guild's new building, half a block north of the Square across the street from the library. They are having an open house afterwards. Exercise your vocal cords at Turner Hall where they will have a candle lighted tree and carol singing starting at 7 pm. If none of this trip your trigger, simply stay for dinner at any of the restaurants downtown. There is something for every appetite downtown, from fried rice at Chopsticks to quiche at Cafe Claudeen, hamburgers at Suisse Haus to gourmet offerings at Turner Hall's Ratskeller. Garden Deli, Bullets, Bonnies, Baumgartener's...there are many choices downtown.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a stunning renovated brick home on the Sugar River in Albany, WI.
This is a really unique home. There are many older homes in our area, but few have been redone like this one in Albany. The owner is a general contractor from the Rockford area who had the home redone for his family over 2005 and 2006. It was gutted; even the interior walls were redone. The plumbing, electrical, roof, tuckpointing, mechanicals and energy efficient windows are all new. You name it, it has been done for you.

The historic nature of the home was respected during the remodel. New oak floors gleam in the living room and dining room, and oak trim graces the home throughout. The downstairs features back to back fireplaces in the living room and library, both original to the home. The kitchen and first floor laundry both have extra-tall cabinets, making the most of the high ceilings. Three bedrooms on the second floor and a third floor bonus room will give you plenty of space for a family at any stage of life. The master bedroom suite has an attached sunroom overlooking the Sugar River and tree-filled yard. Put your writing desk, your treadmill or a chaise lounge in here and enjoy a cozy sanctuary away from the rest of the family. The attached two car garage was added on, and the seller went to the trouble of obtaining brick to match the rest of the home. Little touches like that show the care with which the renovation was done.

This is a special house awaiting a family to turn it into a home. The asking price is $280,000, and the seller would very much like to see this go to someone who appreciates older homes.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Arts in Cheese Country

For rural Wisconsin, the arts thrive here in Cheese Country. The center of the arts community in Monroe is the Monroe Arts Center. Frehner Gallery hosts exhibits by artists from both the local area and from greater Midwest. Upstairs in Gunderson Stiles Concert Hall, you can hear concerts or lectures or see a play.

Currently in Frehner Hall is an exhibit of oils and watercolors by two artists from Rockford, Illinois. This exhibit is mostly paintings of animals, making it especially enjoyable for children. The opening reception was earlier this week, but the exhibit will be there until December 21. The next exhibit, Layered Destiny, opens on January 3. Come meet the artists at the reception and sample the handmade nibbles presented by Adair and Sue.

Monroe Theatre Guild is performing A Christmas Carol in Gunderson Stiles Concert Hall starting on December 8. An excellent community theater group, MTG has been working hard on this performance since early October. Start your holiday season with a traditional performance of this classic production, and support MTG and the MAC at the same time.

Also starting next week is MAC's annual Silent Auction fundraiser. Bidding starts on December 7 and continues through December 16, ending during intermission of the final performance of A Christmas Carol. Support the MAC and bid on everything from Dr. Najat's honey and handmade rosettes to handcrafted jewelry and woodcrafts to services like a $50 gift card for Pro Image Car Wash.

I'll be bidding furiously on a package of those rosettes. Grandma used to make them, and I simply do not have the knack. Anything to support a good cause, right?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Are warranties warranted?

In the last decade, home warranties have been growing in popularity. People wonder if home warranties are all they are hyped up to be and how they can impact a home sale.

Consumers are familiar with warranties. From cars to computers, many of our larger purchases in the United States automatically come with warranties. A home is the single largest investment most people with make in their lives. It is no wonder that warranties have been expanding to include homes. As with all warranties, though, there are limitations and loopholes. Consumers must be certain of what they are purchasing. Not all home warranties are created equally. Some do not cover repairs of roofs or other major mechanicals; hot tubs or pools require special riders.

The average home warranty is purchased by the seller as a perk to entice a potential buyer. Sellers have the option of purchasing a warranty that covers the house while it is on the market as well as for a period of time after the home is sold, usually a year. This usually costs slightly more than the standard warranty, which covers the home only from the date of sale. The extra cost is a deterrent for some. Most sellers will never reap any benefit from this coverage. It is like insurance. If the furnace goes out or water heater dies while a home is on the market, the seller pays only a deductible instead of having to pay for a new unit. The benefit is that the seller is not putting extra money into the home, money that may then have to be rolled into the asking price of the home or is simply lost to the seller. Sellers need to decide if the extra cost of the extended warranty is an insurance they wish to carry before deciding to sign up for it.

Once a home is sold, the buyer is protected under it for a specified period of time. During this time, if the major systems of the home stop working or if there is damage to them, the buyer is protected, paying only the deductible instead of full repair or replacement costs. Many buyers, especially first time buyers, do not have the reserves necessary for a furnace replacement. When a seller offers a home warranty, it can be a significant selling point for these buyers.

Sellers must decide if warranties are something they wish to offer, and they must be careful consumers of warranties. Talk with your realtor about the benefits of different warranty plans or ask your realtor for the details on the warranty before you purchase it.

Polls have shown that buyers prefer homes with home warranties, and industry data indicates that homes with warranties sell faster and for slightly more. However, purchasing a warranty is only one part of the puzzle. It will not guarantee that your house will sell for top dollar or sell extremely quickly. It could sway buyers to see your home in a more favorable light, especially with an older home or starter homes. As a seller, warranties are something you should at least consider.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What's brewing?

Are you looking for something different to do on Friday? Stop by Minhas Brewery for their open house celebrating the new Lazy Mutt Farmhouse Ale.

The new beer has been developed by the Brewmaster (and scuba diving fan) Kris Kaval and staff to be the flagship product of a new line from Minhas, formerly Huber Brewery. The brewery has been a Monroe landmark since 1845. If you live in the area and have never taken a tour, stop in for the open house celebration from 3 until 7 pm. The museum and guest area have all been refurbished, so even if you are like us and have been there before, stop in to see the new look and sample the new beverage.

If you see us there, be sure to ask Luis about his embarrassing story involving Kris Kaval and a non-local beer!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hyped Up

The media is certainly getting some mileage out of the idea that the housing industry is in recession. I am frequently asked about the housing bubble bursting, and many people comment on the well-publicized buyer's market.

My response is always the same. The media is blowing things out of proportion, at least here in the areas that make up Cheese Country - Monroe, Green County, Lafayette County and northern Illinois. Things are returning to normal after an incredible year in 2005. It would not be normal or healthy for the market to remain long term at 2005 rate of growth.

In 2004, 386 residential properties sold in Green County. In 2006, 378 residential properties were sold in Green County. This is not a huge drop. Even in 2005, the boom year, that number of residential properties sold only went up to 408. The fact that prices and home sales have not remained at the 2005 rates is a good thing for the long term health of the real estate market in our area.

In between 2000 and 2003, the number of residential properties sold in Green Country varied from 299 to 348. At the current rate of sale, 2007 should finish with 350 residential properties selling.

The market here has not done the drastic flip that it did in places like Minneapolis and San Francisco. It has not dropped off terribly; it is not depressed. Cheese Country still has a vibrant real estate market with something to suit everyone's taste and budget.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Things to Do

A new exhibit opened at the Frehner Gallery at the Monroe Arts Center today. The impressionist oils done by Denise Presnell-Weidner are quite striking. The MAC concert series has also begun for the 2007-2008 season. The Clayton Miller Band is performing next weekend, and final Sunday Concert Series performance for fall is on November 11.

This weekend, you can brunch for a good cause at the Green County Historical Society's Benefit Breakfast, then head over to historic Turner Hall to sample some traditional Swiss music during Swiss Fest.

There is always something going on in the area. Try your hand at curling during the Apline Curling Club's open house. Sample lefse and klub at the Yellowstone Lutheran Church Norwegian Supper (it is even free!). Start your holiday shopping early at the Brodhead Jaycee's Fall Arts and Crafts Fair. Come on out and meet some of the varied people who call Cheese Country home. I can't promise that you will enjoy eating klub, but I can promise that you remember the fun of trying something different. What more can you ask for?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Market Days

The crisp fall breezes, abundance of pumpkins and addition of hot spiced cider to the Turner Hall stand must mean that another Farmer's Market season is drawing to a close. I hope all of the vendors had a great year because we have certainly enjoyed all of the local goods and produce for the past five months.

Thanks to the efforts of the efforts of tireless supporters and the Main Street Initiative, the market began expanding this year. I hope the vendors found it to successful because from a patron's point of view, it was a very good thing. The addition of non-food vendors like the woman who sells paintings and paints the faces of the young and young at heart as well as non-produce food vendors like Noel's Jams, Didier Honey, Turner Hall and Cafe Claudeen drew my family and others down to the market on a regular basis. We loved the picnic table placed next to Turner Hall's stand. It was a perfect place to gather around, visiting with friends and acquaintances and inviting us to spend more of our morning. All these combined to make the Farmer's Market a destination and event, not just an errand to run.

Let's not forget the produce. From Ken and Luann Parr with their herbs, kohlrabi and arugula to Janet of Simple Abundance Farms with her organic flower arrangements, there is something for everyone. The rhubarb and greens of spring flowed into summer's strawberries from Margherita, bulbs of garlic, fresh sugar snap peas and every variety of tomato and summer squash you could desire. Fall saw us walking home with a bag bulging with leeks, winter squash, onions and beets.

One of our favorite characters at the Farmer's Market is Noel. He creates Noel's Jams and Jellies and has been a staple at the Farmer's Market for years. His jams, jellies and pickles are all made from produce he and his wife grow on their farm, with the exception of the pineapple of course. We recommend the huckleberry, but every flavor we have sampled, from blackberry to currant, has been delicious. Noel is part of what makes the Farmer's Market special. Quick with a smile or a joke for the kids, he supports all the other vendors. He never hesitates to recommend another vendor's goods or to pitch and watch another booth when another vendor has to leave for a minute. There is a real sense of unity at the Farmer's Market, a loyalty between the vendors themselves as well as between the vendors and regular patrons. It is part of what makes market shopping special.

We will miss the Farmer's Market over the winter, but look forward to seeing everyone again in the spring.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Relocation Station

Luis and I relocated to Monroe back in 2001. We knew very little about the community back then, but we were taking a chance and following our instincts. It was a wise decision.

Monroe is home to many people who have taken a similar chance. Swiss Colony and Monroe Clinic bring in new residents on a regular basis. Others have stumbled upon Monroe, like we did, and recognized it as a fabulous small city to live in. It is an easy drive from Madison, Janesville, Beloit, Freeport, Rockford and Dubuque, making it convenient for commuters. Monroe is far more than just a bedroom community, though. The business sector is active here and in all of Green County, with industrial, retail and service industries all having a strong presence. It is a great place to work, shop and play, a community where you can live your life.

If business is bringing you to town or if you are considering living here as a commuter, take a chance like so many before you. Monroe and Green County have much to offer, and residents are welcoming to newcomers. Let me be among the first to say Welcome to your new hometown.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Hello and Welcome to the new blog for Cheese Country Realtors!

We are Luis and Brenda Carus. Married since 1995, we are partners in every sense of the word. We parent our four children and work together as realtors in the state line area of Wisconsin and Illinois. We relocated to Monroe in 2001 and enjoy life in our adopted hometown. Monroe has a unique combination of urban and small town elements, making it a great place to settle down and live life.

Why call ourselves Cheese Country Realtors? The rolling hills of Green County, Wisconsin, are home to an abundance of master cheese makers and small cheese factories, including the only one in the United States that still makes Limburger. Monroe even has a biennial festival called Cheese Days. Cheese is an integral part of the cultural heritage here in Green County.

Our main website is over at, and you can visit us over there for specific information on buying or selling a home or to search for a home in are area. Drop us a text message or call if you want to talk more about real estate in Cheese Country.

Keep reading Cheese Country Realtors for snippets about what makes life special here in Monroe and Green Country. We'll post about upcoming events and hidden treasures in the area. So, whether you are currently living here, new to the area, thinking about moving here or just someone who enjoys reading about Wisconsin, please check back often!