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?