Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the Old

Many people use the start of the New Year to clean out not only their lives, but their homes. If you are decluttering, please consider rehoming the items that are in usable condition instead of setting them on the curb.

If you like to give directly, post the item on the Green County Freecycle email list. Freecycle is a national organization that facilitates bringing together of people who have things they no longer need and people who could use the items. You send an email describing the item you are hoping to give away, where you are located (city is fine, no address necessary yet), and how people can contact you. Please be honest about condition. Freecycle is a great way to have the satisfaction of knowing that your donation is going directly to someone who will use it and appreciate it.

St. Vincent de Paul has a large center in Monroe located over at 501 1st Ave near Kutter Harley Davidson. You can drop off items between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday or 10 am through 4 pm on Saturdays. If you have larger furniture items, St. Vincent de Paul will come pick them up. You can call them at 608-329-7837 or email to arrange pick up details. They will also take your excess plastic grocery bags and reuse them to package shopper's purchases.

Another place that can use plastic grocery bags is Bargain Nook. These resale stores raise money for the Hodan Center and use the funds to provide work, therapy and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. Locations are throughout the region, and stores locally are in Darlington and New Glarus. Bring in those bags or gently used clothing for donations.

If your children are leaving the infant, toddler and preschool age behind, you might be left with clothing, toys and accessories you no longer need. The Carenet Pregnancy Center of Green County can help these items reach pregnant women or families with young children who need them. Their main clothing location is located in the Hope Community Center at 1508 11th St, and they have offices just west of the Square on 11th Ave. Call them at 325-5051 for hours and drop off details. Carenet is a Christian ministry with a focus of preventing abortion by giving support to women in a crisis pregnancy situation.

Green County Humane Society could always use donations too. They are always looking for animal related items like pet toys, collars and leashes, but many do not realize that they can also use blankets and towels too. If you have some that are getting too old to be usable for people, the Humane Society can probably put them to very good use.

Be creative in your thinking, and most anything can be given a new purpose in life. Books or DVDs could be donated to the local library. Games, video games and toys could go to any of the local churches or YMCA community rooms. Vintange clothing and hats might be useful for the Monroe Theatre Guild.

Start the New Year with a clean slate and a clean living space while knowing you are helping others too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What to call Monroe?

Is Monroe a City or a Town?

Officially, we are a city, but as is the case with so many things, size is in the eye of the beholder. I often refer to our community, Monroe, WI, as a city, but then a couple of days later, I will call it a town. It really is both, depending on your point of view.

I grew up in the country, first on a dairy farm and then in a home that could not see a single neighbor. The nearby towns that I call my hometowns are each home to about 2000 people. Those to me are small towns. The closest city was Madison, WI. Back then, the population was about 200,000 people, so Madison was the "Big City" to me.

My husband was born in Philadelphia, PA and lived in Caracas, Venezuela before his family moved to Madison during his elementary school years. From his point of view, Madison barely qualified as a city, and the communities I grew up around were blips on the map, the country.

When Luis looks at Monroe, he sees a Norman Rockwell small town. I look at it and I see an urban area, a small city. We are both right.

Why is it a city? Monroe is home to about 10,000 people. It is the largest community in Green County; you'll need to drive thirty to sixty minutes in any direction to encounter a larger city. We have everything you'll need to live your life locally:

  • Stores: grocery, clothing, hardware/home repair, pet or large animal feed, home decor, pharmacy, shoes, jewelry, ethnic food, medical equipment, big box stores and many independently owned specialty stores.
  • Medical care: Monroe Clinic and Hospital, dentist, chiropractors, orthodontists, podiatrist, dermatologists, optometrists, orthopedic care and more.
  • Cultural events and the Arts: Monroe Theater Guild, Monroe Arts Center, Shakespeare on the Edge and Primitive Soul Art Studio, Monroe Band Concerts, Concerts on the Square, multiple dance studios and options for music lessons.
  • Sports: Hockey, figure skating, archery, curling, softball, volleyball, high school sports, cross country skiing,
  • Restaurants: Cafes, coffee houses, diners, bar and grills, ethnic or American food. Whatever your dining choice is, it is here.
  • Professional Services: Lawyers, accountants, financial planners, real estate services, banks, web design, computer repair, graphic design, architects, insurance agents, printers, travel agents. Construction/trade services, automotive repair, machine shops, beauty services, cleaning services, moving companies, delivery services too.
  • Houses of Worship: Monroe itself is home to over 20 different congregations of different religions.
  • Recreation: Parks abound in the city, and state parks are nearby. Monroe has a large swimming pool open in the summer months and both an indoor and outdoor ice skating arenas. The Cheese County Trail and Badger State Trail are both in town too. There is a movie theater in town and a drive in theater just a mile south.
  • Eduction: Monroe has an excellent public school system, a charter school option and a virtual school. There is also a vibrant homeschooling community in the area. Black Hawk Technical College has a campus here as well.
  • Government Services: services at every level of government (federal, state, county, and city) are in Monroe. Post office, USDA, County Clerk, state and county health services, UW extension, City Hall, and the list goes on.

What makes Monroe a small town? For a community of 10,000, it has such a small town feel still. Why?

  • Is it the way that cars will stop for you while you cross a road or the fact that you can buy an hour of parking on the Square for a nickel? When we first moved here, you could buy 12 minutes of parking for a penny. The penny meters are now gone, but only because the city could not obtain parts for them anymore.
  • Maybe it is the way that people greet each other by name when bumping in to each other. When we first moved here, we marveled over the way people walked into a restaurant and greeted half of the other patrons like old friends. Now we understand.
  • You are likely to see the same people at your children's Little League games, the Art Center gallery opening and Fiesta Cancun restaurant. You can have an impromptu business meeting when you bump into someone at the Corner Cafe or soccer field.
  • The librarians, store owners and postal clerks take the time to know your name, chat with your children and ask about your job. You might stop in at the library to check out a book and walk out with a recipe for something you have always wanted to try. (Ask Maggie at the circulation desk for her noodle recipe!)
  • Neighbors talk, help each other shovel out after snowstorms, treat each other to baked goods and borrow/lend the proverbial cup of sugar.
  • Kids walk to school, play outside and use the parks.

Big or small? Whichever you call it, Monroe makes a great place to live. Come on and visit for a weekend, a week or a lifetime.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ringing in the New Year

Yes, I am skipping head in the holiday scheme of things, but it is already December 20. If you have not made your plans yet for New Year's Eve, there are a few events going on in the area.

Tofflers New Year's Eve with Joel Pingitore and the Play Ground of Sound
Toffler's in New Glarus often features live music, and New Year's Eve is no exception. Their blue moon blacklight party will have live blues inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, and there will be free party favors and champagne at midnight. 200 5th Ave., New Glarus. Starts at 9 pm, no cover charge.

New Years Eve Party at the New Glarus Hotel
Ring in the New Year with dinner and entertainment at New Glarus Hotel. They will have a special Dinner Menu that includes Swiss items, Steak dinners, Fish, Chicken, and Combo Dinners with price ranging from $25.00 to $35.00 per dinner. Entertainment will be provided by the Zweifel Brothers with Gary Hendrickson starting at 8:30 pm. Turn your evening into an overnight with a lodging package available in conjunction with Chalet Landhaus.

Old Year's Night Event at Turner Hall
Turner Hall in Monroe will also be hosting a New Year's Eve event. Enjoy their wonderful menu while you celebrate the end of 2008 and look forward to 2009.

There are abundant dining options all over Green County, with something for every taste and budget from Chopsticks in Monroe to The Dining Room at 209 Main in Monticello to Glarner Stube in New Glarus.

You might also be joining friends for an at home celebration like we usually do. You can pick up a hostess gift of micro-brewed beer or quality wine at Brennan's or Beverage Mart to bring along for the evening.

No matter where or how you choose to celebrate, please remember to be responsible. Monroe Taxi is running, or designate a driver. Start 2009 in a fun, but safe way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pitfalls of Purchasing at Sheriff's Sale

One person's misfortune can be another person's opportunity, and no where is this more true than in the world of real estate right now. With foreclosure rates at recent historic highs, there are opportunities to purchase homes for lower than normal prices through either foreclosure listing or through sheriff's sales.

The increase in foreclosures nationwide has led to an increase in people purchasing homes through sheriff's sale. Purchasing a home through sheriff's sale seems like an easy process - show up with proper financing in order, bid, win - but there are some hidden pitfalls to be wary of.

It would seem like any home purchased through a sheriff's sale would have a title free from liens and encumbrances. This is not necessarily true. Most of the time, yes, the purchaser will obtain a home complete with a clear title. Most lenders will do a complete title search and name every lien holder in the foreclosure complaint.

However, some banks are handing foreclosure work over to asset managers. These asset managers may not be as complete at they should be, cutting a few corner and failing to do a complete title search. It is a rarity, but it is completely possible and likely to happen more often as the foreclosure rates peak. The Wisconsin Realtors Association is even making a point to warn that buyers purchasing at sheriff's sale should be careful and have an attorney review title. A sheriff's sale deed is similar to a quitclaim deed. It makes no promises and it passes along all liens other than those listed in the foreclosure complaint to the new owner of the property. If there were three lien holders on a property, but only two were listed on the foreclosure complaint, the third lien is still active and becomes the responsibility of the new property owner. Do not get stuck paying for the previous owner's debt.

Another concern with purchasing a property at sheriff's sale is price. There is a perception that bargains are to be found at a sheriff's sale. This is not the case in all circumstances. I am reminded of a property that was valued for fifty thousand less than than what was owed on it. A buyer purchasing for the opening bid at sheriff's sale would have vastly overpaid for it. Buyers should consult with a qualified appraiser before purchasing a home at sheriff's sale to insure that the price they pay is fair and just in today's real estate market.

Please proceed with caution and with guidance if you are purchasing a home through sheriff's sale. It is possible to find a wonderful home or investment through these sales, but someone navigating these waters for the first time should take the time to become fully educated on the process.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GRI, CRS, SRES - say what?

Some Realtors have the alphabet trailing their names on their business cards. Abbreviations, abbreviations, abbreviations. What do they all mean?

All Realtors are required to complete continuing education on a regular basis in order to stay current on changes in real estate law. Some take things one step further and pursue additional education in order to offer better service for their clients. Those letters represent the additional education. They are called designations, and the Realtors who earn them proudly display them to the world.

The National Association of Realtors offers a variety of different designations. They may focus on certain type of real estate, helping specific segments of the population and more.

ABR stands for Accredited Buyer Representative. It is someone who is specifically trained in working as a buyer's agent during the sale process.

Graduate Realtor Institute or GRI indicates that a realtor has gone beyond the basics. They have taken an additional 90+ hours of education in professional standards, marketing, contract law and more.

CRS is a Certified Residential Specialist. These Realtors have taking extensive additional training in the sale of residential property specifically.

You might see SRES more often in the coming decade. A Senior Real Estate Specialist has extra knowledge in assisting senior property owners in their life transitions.

GREEN is another designation that will probably become more common. New this year, GREEN Realtors have training in environmental issues in real estate and the marketing of eco-housing. It is similar to the Eco-Broker training that I have taken, but the new kid on the block so to speak.

CCIM stands for Certified Commerical Investment Manager. Commercial real estate is a different ball game from residential, and some Realtors who focus on commercial sales opt to reach the pinnacle of the field with the help of CCIM training.

e-PRO is one that you see on our website. e-PROS have studied how to best use modern technology to market property and help buyers. Luis is a certified e-PRO.

ALC stands for Accredited Land Consultant. An ALC focuses on farm and ranch sales plus all types of land sales: undeveloped large tracts, transitional land, sub-developments, wholesale lots etc.

A Realtor who has not earned any designations is still competent in the practice of real estate sales, but sometimes, as in all professions, some decide to take the further step into higher education. That alphabet is our way to letting the world know.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What makes a reasonable offer?

It has been said time and again, but the real estate market is nothing if not local. Everything about the world of real estate can and does vary from state to state, city to city, region to region.

Even things things that we all know as truths of real estate are actually very, very local. What percentage of the asking price makes a reasonable first offer? What ever number you say may be perfect for where you are, but not for somewhere else in the nation.

I have come to realize this as I have often worked with people relocating to the Monroe area or who are purchase weekend property here. These buyers do not understand the local real estate norms, and consequently, they have accidentally insulted some sellers.

Around our area, homes tend to sell for fairly close to asking price.

In 2008, homes in Green County for 95.75% of asking price on average, and the average selling price over the last five years has been 96.86% of asking price. Going back 10 and 20 years showed this is even slightly lower than normal; the average selling price for both ranges was 97% of asking price.

Buyers need to know this type of information when putting together an offer. Some buyers may want to offer no more than 80 or 90% of asking price due to repairs required or other reasons, and that if perfectly fine. However, I have seen some buyers who make what they consider a reasonable first offer of 80% of asking price and they puzzled by why the seller does not even respond. The buyers did not understand that their offer was a slap in the face, a low ball offer that the seller considered insulting.

Relocation is never simple. Buyers need to learn about the community they are joining. Instead of simply asking about school systems and health care, ask your Realtor about pricing norms too.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Downtown Monroe Holiday Shopping Guide, Part 4

Today we finish up our series on shopping local this holiday season. No matter which of these wonderful businesses you decide to support, I can make you one promise: Your business will be appreciated. Just yesterday I heard someone mention she had been doing some local holiday shopping and she was sincerely thanked in multiple stores for supporting Monroe. Your purchasing choices are as important as ever, so make them count by supporting the independent, locally owned and operated businesses that contribute so much to our quality of life here in Monroe.

If you have guy's guy on your list, swing into Martin's Sporting Goods. Archery, gun sports, fishing and more are covered in Martin's. He also has a selection of sports themed collectibles and baseball cards. Consider a membership to the SCWA for any archery enthusiasts on your list. Members can shoot at the range during any off time, and they save on the regular range fees as well.

Consider the gift of the arts. Primitive Soul Art Studio is just west of the Square. Jennifer offer a wide range of classes for all ages. How about a membership to Monroe Theater Guild or Monroe Arts Center or tickets to any of the performances?

Any family would appreciate the gift of a portrait package from Portraits by Dawn, Creative Photography or Dalton's Photography. Or photograph the kids and present the grandparents with a stunning professional portrait by any of these talented photographers.

Bibliophiles will appreciate books or gift certificates from Old Friends on the Square (north side) or Fireside books. Fireside changed location this year, and they are now just slightly further off the square on 15th Ave, around the corner from Dr Patterson's orthodontist office. If you do not catch the bookstores open, Cafe Claudeen keeps a selection on hand from Fireside and Old Friends has a booth in the Monroe Antique Mall.

Perhaps the gift of pampering and salon services is on your shopping list this year. Pick up certificates for manicures or pedicures from Renee's Nails on the southwest corner of the Square or Star Nails on the same corner. Laura Lea's Nails is on the south side. Salons abound as well, and treat your recipient to hair care from Haircrafters (just northwest of the Square), Hair on the Square (southwest corner) or Just a Hair Better (northeast of the Square). If a full service salon and day spa in order, you must stop by Studio 906 slightly off the Square to the northeast. Haircare, nails, facials, body treatments and more are on the menu of services. Men are welcome at any of these establishments, but if he is more comfortable at a barbershop, pick up a gift card for Barber Shop or Barbers II (just south of the Square).

Culinary enthusiasts would appreciate anything from Kookaburra's on the north side of the Square. Le Creuset, spices, Bob's Red Mill, Stoneware kitchen and much more are on the shelves and Laura will help you pick out just the right gift. Also check out Bauman Kitchens and Gifts. Sure you can design an entirely new kitchen for someone if you are feeling exceptionally generous, but there are also many culinary accessories there: bow knives for bread, sea salts, pepper mills, wine racks, Silpat mats and much, much more.

Consider a floral arrangement from Monroe Floral on the south side of the Square for hostess gifts this holiday season or surprise someone with a delivery of fresh flowers.

Monroe Medical Equipment does not sound like a normal place to pick up a gift, but they carry a variety of lift chairs or mobility scooters that could be the perfect thing for someone who needs a little help getting around theses days. If you are going for the big gift, consider furniture, area rugs or the refurbished appliances at Genthe's just one block north of the Square.

And while you are downtown, stop in at the Re/Max Towne Square Realty office to say hi. There is always something yummy in the candy bowl. Just tell the receptionist that Brenda and Luis told you to stop in for a treat, and give us a wave to let us know you are taking the local shopping challenge too.

We will see you Downtown!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Downtown Monroe Holiday Shopping Guide, Part 3

Who knew there were so many options for local, independent shopping in Monroe's Downtown? The thriving community of independent businesses is on of the things that attracted us to Monroe when we decided to relocate here ourselves nine years ago. Please see Part 1 for downtown eating establishments and gift certificates or Part 2 for home decor, art and collectibles.

Up this time, clothing and accessories in the Downtown area of Monroe, WI.

Clothing is always a popular holiday gift, and there are a variety of places in the Downtown area to pick up exactly what you need.

Uptown Girl is located on the north side of the Square. Billed as a "boutique for curvy women", Uptown Girl specializes in excellent quality plus size women's clothing. Hard to find brands and boutique lines are well represented, and they also carry Haflinger shoes from Germany, Pandora and Trollbeads charm jewelry. If you cannot find the right thing there, pop over to Town and Country Styles next door where you will find an large collection of comfortable, quality clothing and an even larger collection of accessories.

Nancy's, on the south side of the Square, features women's sizing from 6 to 20 plus petites in a variety of quality brands like Woolrich, Picadilly, Pendelton and more. Also on the south side, you can stop in to pick up quality item for the children on your holiday list. Our Kidz Kloset is has been undergoing a renovation on the storefront (oh, it is lovely!), but the same high quality brands of clothing, accessories and toys are still found inside. For newborn through tween, you will find just what you need for a holiday, birthday, baby shower or baptism gift. It is my go to store for high quality girls tights, infant shoes and wooden toys! Sizes go up to 14 for girls and 7 for boys. We can't forget Monroe Mania! Their Monroe-themed apparel is just the thing for any Cheesemakers or Cheesemaker fans on your list. Das Baumhaus is on the corner. Yesterday I talked about their collectible gifts, but they have a very large collection of women's clothing, jewelry, purses, scarves and more. You can find a little bit of everything in Das Baumhaus.

Keep on walking over to the east side, and be sure to visit JoAnn's Dress Shop. Their variety of special occasion dresses is wonderful, plus they have a great collection of skirts and refined outfits for women who do not like to live life in jeans and sweaters. If my husband is reading this, I am rather partial to the red dress currently in their window (hint, hint). A full service dress shop, they do alterations as well. JoAnn's will make sure that whatever you pick fits and flatters.

Special occasion outfits can also be found at Julie's Bridal Gallery on the west side of the Square. New to Downtown this year, Julie has wonderful dresses, and it great to have formal wear on the Square again. Also on the west side is Burrington Shoes. The Burringtons offer men's and women's shoes, slippers, handbags, laces, etc. Brands include New Balance, Red Wing, Irish Setter, SAS and much more.

Slightly off the Square to the southeast is where you can find Heartland Graphics. More Monroe apparel is here or design a customized print for your family or organization. Heartland Graphics also stocks Girl Scout uniforms and accessories.

Why should you shop local? Each dollar that you spend at a locally-owned, independent business circulates six times more in the community than each dollar spend at non-locally owned businesses. Buying that skirt at the dress shop helps JoAnn to buy a book from Kathy at Fireside, allowing Kathy to purchase lunch from Cafe Claudeen, helping Claudia to pick up shoes at Burrington's. Keeping these establishments alive makes a difference in the quality of life we enjoy in our community.

And our series on keeping it local this holiday season continues. Check back tomorrow for Part IV.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Downtown Monroe Holiday Shopping Guide, Part 2

As the holiday season approaches, many of us need to cross a few items off of our gift lists. If you are wondering about where to shop in Monroe this year, this series of posts is for you. Here are some ideas for the Downtown area. There are so many great businesses that I will be breaking this up into a series of posts. See Part I for downtown eating establishments and gift certificates.

If your holiday shopping list includes collectibles, figurines or home décor items, options abound in Monroe's Downtown area.

On the east side, start at the Monroe Antique Mall. Two buildings, multiple floor, countless vendor booths. You are certain to find the perfect gift for any lover of classic items. A few doors down is Europa. Europa moved to the Downtown area last year and they have been a wonderful addition. They are known for their collections of heirloom lace items. The imported lace curtains, table runners, and doilies are heirloom quality the likes of which are rarely found in the United States any more. Europa also features home decor items, framed art, figurines and gifts. The decorated martini glasses are a hoot, and Luis is a huge fan of their tuned wind chimes.

On the east side of the Square, you will find Bauman Kitchens & Giftware. Browse the three floors of collectible figurines and glassware. Their door chimes are a favorite in Monroe, too. Next door, is the place to stop for any teens or young adults with a sense of humor on your list. Dilly Bean has a large collection of eclectic gifts. They feature metaphysical themed dragon and fairie gifts, Reniassance Fair style swords and collectible knives, body jewelry, garden chimes, spinners, books and much more. Do not forget to stop in at Schwartz Pharmacy either! More than just a pharmacy, you will find collectible figurines, children's collectibles and small toys, and Monroe-themed items.

Over on the south side of the Square, stop in at The Green Door for a variety of home decor items including custom furniture, rugs, framed art and more. Their items are perfect for anyone who love decorating. Stop in at House to Home on the south side for more decorating items. House to Home relocated from just off the Square to their current location earlier this year, so give them a great welcome this holiday season. Finish off your travels on the south side of the Square with a stop in Das Baumhaus. One of the most eclectic stores in the downtown, you can find anything there - collectible figurines, framed art, women's clothing and accessories, unique cards, and children's collectibles (Webkinz, Beanie Babies and more). Pop just slightly off the Square to the south to visit Wing and Pond Gallery. They have an extensive collection of framed art work, all beautifully matted and skillfully framed.

Please consider shopping locally owned, independent businesses for your holiday shopping this year. Each dollar spent at a locally owned business recirculates in the community approximately six times more than each dollar spent at a non-locally owned companies. The muffin I buy at the cafe allows the cafe owner to purchase something at the dress shop next door, allowing the dress shop owner to shop at the pharmacy and so on.

Next installment - clothing for children and adults.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Downtown Monroe Holiday Shopping Guide

If you are wondering about where to shop in Monroe this year, here are some ideas for the Downtown area. There are so many great businesses that I will be breaking this up into a series of posts.

If a chocolate lover is on your list, stop in at Chocolate Temptation on the east side of the Square, but do it early! They sell out every year as the end of December nears, so place your order as soon as possible. If you are too late for the chocolates and truffles, consider the array of coffee beans and syrups for the home coffee enthusiast. Gift certificates are also available.

Speaking of gift cards, consider one for any of the eating establishments in the Downtown area! On the west side of the Square, you will find Chopsticks, featuring Chinese American cuisine. Historic Baumgartners Bar and Grill is also on the west side, and their front cheese store is always a hit. You can pick up some classic candies there for stuffing the stockings too.

Visit the south side of the Square for Garden Deli. The sandwiches, soups and baked potatoes are a great lunch or light dinner. They will deliver to the Downtown area, a bonus for busy professionals on your list. Walk a little father south for Corner Cafe, which is open early for breakfast and lunch. A little off the south of the Square is also where you will find Suisse Haus with their great burgers and popular pizza or Bullet's & Bonnie's, a favorite combination of casual or elegant dining depending on your recipient's preference. Turner Hall is also in that area. Treat someone to a fantastic dinner in their Rathskeller or a casual pizza eaten while playing a game in the bowling alley side of things.

Stop on the east side for Fox's Feathercreek Bakery. Who would not love to pick up a loaf of their fresh bread, their pies or fabulous cakes? Cafe Claudeen is also on the east side, and your lucky recipient can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner there or stop in anytime for a coffee and pastry. I am enjoying one of their cherry muffins as I type this, actually. I highly recommend them! They also feature a selection of teas that you can wrap up with the gift certificate.

New to Downtown is Barrett's. Located just one block east of the Square, Barrett's features American cuisine enjoyed in a refined, relaxed environment. Be sure to stop in and give them a try if you have not already done so!

So many wonderful dining options exist in our Downtown area. Surely the people on your gift lift would enjoy the gift of enjoying any or all of them.

Please consider shopping our locally owned, independent businesses for your holiday shopping this year. Each dollar spent at a locally owned business recirculates in the community approximately six times more than each dollar spent at a non-locally owned companies. The muffin I buy at the cafe allows the cafe owner to purchase something at the dress shop next door, allowing the dress shop owner to shop at the pharmacy and so on.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Robin Hoods in the making

South Central Wisconsin Archers (SCWA) is getting ready for the 2009 Youth League season.

If you have not heard of SCWA's Youth League, you are not alone. They seem to be one of the better kept secrets in the Monroe Area. SCWA has a shooting range in the lower level of the commercial building across from Wisconsin Community Bank, underneath Dr Thompson's chiropractic office.

They do not offer youth lessons, but no previous archery experience is necessary to participate in the Youth League. The children are guided by more experienced archers under the watch of the coordinator, Allen Metz. There are 10, 15 and 20 yard shooting lines depending on age and skill level. Children must be at least seven years old to participate. Beginners must also attend a safety clinic.

Shooting dates are every weekend in January and the first, third and fourth weekends in February (March 1 for high school students). The annual Youth Tournament will be on March 7. There are also SCWA Indoor Archery Tournaments on January 1, February 1 and February 22, and the children can participate.

Registration is only $20 for the entire season. Children may use their own equipment if they have it or the SCWA has equipment they can use. Contact Allen Metz for more details and a registration form:, or 608-429-1819.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Searching for homes online

The internet is a vast space. These days, we can find almost anything we want online if we just search hard enough.

Almost anything.

If you are in the market to buy a home, you have probably discovered the wonderful array of options available to search for houses all by yourself from the comfort of your home. Surfing around almost any real estate site or any Realtor's site (ours included) will usually give buyers or sellers a link to search for homes in the extended area. On the home page of our website, we provide two links - Featured Listings and Search IDX MLS. Featured Listings take you to the pages for the homes we have listed ourselves. That second link is the topic of this blog entry.

The MLS is a concept most people are familiar with nowadays. Standing for Multiple Listing Service, it is a compilation of all member office listings. There are some misconceptions about what the MLS is, though. It only features the listings of member offices. Membership in the MLS is not required for real estate brokerages, so there are some homes that are not featured by default. Also, sellers have the option of opting out of featuring a property on the MLS, so the information on these properties can only be obtained from the listing real estate office.

In the new age of internet marketing, there are some further limitations of the MLS that are not understood by the general public. When you are searching a database of homes or properties online, you are not searching the full MLS. You are only searching the properties of sellers that have decided to allow their homes to be submitted to an Internet Data Exchange (IDX for short). Depending on marketing strategies, not all member agents or all sellers want their properties disbursed over the internet as a whole. These properties can then be found only on the sites where the Realtor has made the choice to feature them or by working with a Realtor yourself. Your Realtor can search the full MLS to find all of the featured properties that might fit your needs.

Sellers also have the option of allowing IDX for their property, but refusing to give address or location information. This is why some homes that come up in your IDX MLS searches have photos, pricing and descriptions, not nothing about the address.

IDX MLS is a wonderful option for buyers who are starting the home buying process or sellers who want to know about the competition, but please be aware of what you are actually searching when you search an IDX MLS database. The only way for the public to fully search the MLS is to work with a qualified Realtor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things to Do around Monroe, WI

Winter activities are starting in full force, and with them come the annual holiday events. There is a lot to do in and around Monroe in the upcoming weeks!

~ The annual Christkindlemarkt is happening this weekend, November 28 and 29, at Turner Hall in Monroe. The Christkindlmarkt is a German tradition dating back to the 14th century. Ours features unique items from hand-selected quality vendors for your holiday gift-giving. A European cafe and Swiss baked goods round out this special shopping experience.

~ Rainbow Fleece Farm in New Glarus is having their annual holiday Open House on November 29 and 30. Call for directions or more information. 608-527-5311

~ A new art exhibit is opening in Frehner Gallery at the Monroe Arts Center. " Delight the Eye and Stir the Senses" by J. Eric Anderson is an exhibit of watercolor landscapes from rural Wisconsin and Illinois. The opening reception with the artist is on December 4 from 5 until 7 pm. The exhibit will run until December 27.

~ The annual Holiday Lighted Parade in Monroe is slated for Friday, December 5 at 6 pm. Watch the floats and other parade entrants circle Monroe's Downtown Square, pop in to some of the Downtown merchants to get a good start on your holiday shopping, take the kids to visit Santa at Wisconsin Community Bank, visit one of the cafes for a hot drink and finish off your evening at Turner Hall for their Alpine Carol Sing and Tree Lighting event.

~ Monroe Theatre Guild is presenting their annual production of A Christmas Carol. Last year's show was a stunning success, and this year is shaping up to be just as good. The show is playing at the Monroe Arts Center on December 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 7:30 pm and on December 7, 13 and 14th at 2 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children under twelve. MAC and MTG member save $3 on each adult ticket. Tickets are available now at MAC. Purchase in person, order via phone at (608) 325-5700 or visit their website.

~ The annual Festival of Trees is back this year! The fund raising event helps out area non-profits like Green Haven Family Advocates, Green County Humane Society and more. It starts at 6 pm on December 6 at Ludlow Mansion. A silent and live auction will be running through the evening, and the decorated trees will be auctioned near the end. Re/Max Towne Square Realty is donating a tree to benefit Green Haven Family Advocates. Pamela Lakowske, the broker/owner of Re/Max Towne Square, did a fantastic job decorating the tree with a crimson and gold theme. It is on display now in the front window of our office on Monroe's Downtown Square. Tickets are available through the Chamber of Commerce.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday Decorating for Home Sellers

The winter holidays are coming quickly. A quick glance in the window displays downtown and at the yards in town are enough to let us know even without a calendar.

This time of year is both harder and easier to sell a house. Traditionally, fewer people are looking to move in the next five to six weeks, so there are likely to be fewer showings. However, the buyers coming through your home between now and January are not tire kickers. These people are usually serious about buying a home. When sellers get a showing request during this time, they need to be sure that their home is in tip-top shape.

This is the time where a little extra effort can pay off big. Do something to set yourself ahead of the competition.

Many people like to do a little holiday decorating, and this is an area where some sellers slip up. Remember that you are hoping to move. This is not the year to set up a lights display that rivals the local landing strip. Start transitioning to your new home already.

Maybe you always have a yard full of decorations and your house draped in garland. Break that tradition this year in preparation for your move. Begin the mental process of moving.

As a general rule, less is more with holiday decorating and home selling. Take a minimalist approach. One arrangement on the dining room table. One holiday tree. A tasteful wreath on the door. Buyers do expect to see some holiday decorating. Do not forgo decorating completely, but do not over do it. A simple set of holiday towels can add a nice accent to a bathroom. The towels, a mini tree, scented pinecones and a holiday bathmat is overdone.

Ask your Realtor for frank and honest feedback on your holiday decorating plans, and follow his or her suggestions. You are paying for the Realtor's expertise, so use it.

Keep it neutral. Avoid highly personalized decorations like the handmade stockings with all the children's names embroidered on them. The point it to help the buyers see themselves living in your home. Also, ours is a multi-cultural society. While many do celebrate winter holidays, it may not be the same holiday as you. Bring out the creche or menorah for your celebrations, but not during showings.

Buyers can be sensitive to scents and noises, so choose yours with care. During the holidays, sellers may have strongly scented potpourris or spice scented air freshners out that are competing with the tree, the cookies they baked the day before and more. Keep scents soft and neutral. The same goes for music. Holiday music can be easily overdone and many get their fill from stores, elevators and more. Go neutral and non-holiday with your musical selection.

Once the holidays are finished, remove the decorations promptly. Those decorations can seem stale to buyers looking in January, so be sure to pack them away instead of putting it off.

May all of our home sellers receive the best holiday gift of all - an accepted offer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Realtors who work

As a seller or a buyer, most people want to be sure they are getting the best service possible.

Experienced, hard working, motivated, knowledgeable. Those are the attributes many use to describe the realtor they want working on their side during the home buying or selling process.

During the real estate boom years, many people obtained their real estate sales licenses. The business was there to support people who did not have the knowledge or will to go out and find it for themselves. Times are leaner now, and the ranks of realtors are starting to thin out a little.

Perusing the recent statistics for the South Central Wisconsin MLS board (the board the covers our geographic area) recently was an eye opening experience. In the SCWMLS, 71% of realtors have successfully closed zero transactions to date in 2008. Zero.

A little further probing revealed that Luis is in the top 6.7% of realtors in the local MLS board for transaction closed in 2008, and Brenda is in the top 15.5%.

Which type of realtor do you want working for you as you start the process of selling or buying a home?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Putting the 3 Rs into practice

Reading, Writing and 'Rithmatic? No. I mean the 3 new Rs.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.

The Monroe Clinic has an expansion project underway, and they are doing a stellar job implementing the new 3 Rs into their construction plans.

A few existing homes were acquired by the Clinic and had to be removed in order to accommodate the expansion project. Before razing the homes, all of the cabinetry, appliances, light fixtures, radiators, windows and other reusable parts were removed. The Clinic donated them to Habitat for Humanity of Green County. The donations will help the new Habitat homeowners have better quality fixtures than they might normally be able to afford while reducing the mortgage cost at the same time.

Other parts of the homes will find interesting lives after recycling. Bricks and foundation materials were saved to be used for things such as the garden border in a Habitat home. They will also live on as the base for the new parking lot for the Clinic and a fire pit that a local Boy Scout troop is constructing.

During the construction process, the Monroe Clinic is also working to reduce waste. As anyone who has worked in the trades knows, construction sites can be very wasteful places. The Clinic is utilizing practices to divert at least 50% of construction waste to other uses in order to prevent them from ending up in landfills. In the work done to date, they have been surpassed their goals and have been able to divert 65% of the construction waste to other uses.

The Monroe Clinic is also showing forward thinking in the new addition itself. The project was developed using LEED principles. It will include such things as green space, limited use of asphalt, heat reducing roofing and more.

Kudos to the Clinic for setting an example for the community and showing how easily green building concepts can be incorporated into local building projects!

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a two bedroom Cape Cod in Monroe.

This 3 bedroom Cape Cod has charm and character. There is original woodwork throughout the home, including oak columns at the entrance of your formal dining room and original trim on the door frames and staircases.

A great home to start raising a family in. There is a full fenced in backyard and beautiful deck. There are two bedrooms upstairs, and downstairs the office/family room could make a wonderful sunny playroom or third bedroom.

Many updates have been done already including a new roof and furnace plus electrical updates. This one is ready to move in to. A home warranty included for your peace of mind.

Contact Luis or Brenda Carus at 608-214-5796 for more information or to set up a private showing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lending a helping hand

Like most rural communities, Monroe has a very strong community of people who are willing to lend a helping hand when needed. There are many service groups in our area - Kiwanis, Jaycees, Knights of Columbus, Optimists. You can find a listing of the many groups in our area via our website.

We have thrown our membership hat into the Optimists ring. The Optimists have the motto of "Bringing Out the Best in Kids." Through various fundraisers, the local Optimists clubs raise thousands of dollars every year to support many local groups, give scholarships to local students and help the families of children with cancer.

The Optimists rally around local families who have a child diagnosed with cancer. Usually our groups help pass support on to families in other communities, but this fall they are coming together to help a local family who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

This week, they are doing a food drive to help make sure the family has this basic need met. With so many of the family's resources going elsewhere right now, food is needed. Please consider dropping off what you can to help. A collection box will be at the Swiss Alps restaurant through Thursday, November 20. If you can, please stop in to donate.

If you are not a member of the Optimists, consider attending their meeting this week and bring your donation then. The morning club meets from 6:30 to 7:30 am every Thursday morning at Swiss Alps. Come for breakfast, listen to the weekly speaker, talk with the members and start your day in a different way. Breakfast is only $5, and guests attending their first meeting get it for free.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New on the Square - Kookaburra's

Monroe's Downtown Square welcomed a new business last month. Kookaburra's joined the line up on the north side.

Located between Town and Country Styles and Merle Norman, Kookaburra's features culinary goods from stoneware to spices, from Le Creuset to Bob's Red Mill.

Pull the wooden spoon door handle and walk in. You will be greeted by Laura, a cheery woman in a retro apron. She may be packing up spices on the large center island or cooking up something tasty on the stove in the middle of the store. She will encourage you to try some of the samples distributed around the store. Take her suggestion! She encouraged me to try the Hot Pepper Jelly, and it is fantastic. Laura suggested using it as a dip for egg rolls, which would be perfect, but is not something I ever would have thought of.

Walk around and browse her selection of culinary tools and treats. She carries Le Creuset pots, stoneware and silicone goods. The demi-teapots are adorable, and like all Le Creuset, our grandchildren will probably be using them long after we are gone. There is also a large selection of Stonewall Kitchen mixes, jams, stoneware and utensils. The toaster tongs have been a huge hit in our family.

As you walk toward the back of the store, you will find a collection of dried spices and other culinary basics. There are bags of spices and a handy collection of tinned spices. All are high quality, aromatic spices. It was great to be able to pick up a packet of cayenne pepper, paprika and bay leaves without having to run all the way to the grocery store. Laura mentioned plans to add other high end tidbits like vanilla beans and espresso powder, neither of which can be found anywhere in Monroe, forcing serious cooks to shop out of town before Kookaburra's.

There is a large collection of Bob's Red Mill stone milled flours and gluten-free mixes as well as children's cooking items such as aprons and cookie kits. Fido will appreciate the handcrafted gourmet dog treats. Just be sure to warn the kids that the cute little hamburgers and faux royal icing topped cookies are for the dog or they will surely want to nibble.

Kookaburra's is open daily, and on Wednesdays, they are open until 7 pm. Stop in today or tomorrow (November 15 and 16) for their Open House celebration. Laura will surely be cooking up something on the store's stove, and it is guaranteed to be tasty. Pick up an entry form for Kookaburra's Cookie Contest while you are there. The contest will be on December 6, but entry forms are due by November 29. There is a $2 entry fee, and the winner will receive a Kookabura's gift card.

On second thought, don't pick up that entry form. I am entering and I want that gift card!

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Being an EcoBroker®

That little planet in a nest graphic that I have on our website and blog actually has a meaning. I have earned the right to use it by becoming a Certified EcoBroker®.

EcoBroker® is an education and designation program for real estate professionals who care about the environment and want to promote energy-efficient and "green" features in homes and buildings. Since environmental issues are near and dear to me, becoming an EcoBroker® was a natural step on my real estate eduction.

That little logo, the EcoBroker® logo, is the symbol of environmentally responsible and sustainable practices in the real estate industry. Certified EcoBrokers® help our clients and the planet get the most when buying or selling a home.

As an EcoBroker®, I can help you find homes that are healthy, comfortable, and cost-effective.
  • Save Money: EcoBrokers® know energy-efficiency and the monthly cost-savings you can realize with insulation, windows, appliances, and heating and cooling systems.
  • Find Homes with "Green" Features Easily: With interest in energy-efficient, healthy, and safe home features, EcoBrokers® make it easy to either find homes with these attributes or to help you make improvements.
  • Live Comfortably: EcoBrokers® help you improve your home environment by addressing indoor air quality, ventilation, use of low VOC paints, radon testing, and reliable water testing.

Anyone can price your home. It takes marketing to really sell It. Promoting green features sets you apart from the competition.
  • Sell for More: EcoBrokers® understand the benefits of green features in your home and are able to effectively promote them, selling your home's value and increasing your sales price.
  • Distinguish Your Home from the Competition: Many home owners do not promote the energy efficiency and environmental attributes of their homes, missing a large market.
  • Attract More Buyers: Over 90% of buyers identify energy savings and home environment as key factors when deciding to buy a home.

Being an EcoBroker® is about more than just talking PV panels and geothermal heating. It also means I have received additional education about issues many people do not consider environmental, things like asbestos, radon, indoor air quality and more.

Whether you are a full out greenie driving an EV and looking for a vegetarian lunch in this rural community or a mainstream buyer who still forgets to recycle sometimes, an EcoBroker® has specialized knowledge that can help you in the home buying or selling process.

And if you want that vegetarian lunch, try visiting Cafe Claudeen in Monroe. They have great coffee and teas, superb desserts and usually have a veggie option or two on the rotating lunch menu.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Children's Miracle Network

Re/Max and Children's Miracle Network have long teamed up for a good cause. Many Re/Max agents give a portion of each commission to Children's Miracle Network. In our office, every single agent follows this practice, making a a Miracle Office. Luis and I give generously. We give the donation in the name of our home buyer or home seller instead of giving the standard floral arrangement or bottle of wine closing gift.

This holiday season, we are also helping out Children's Miracle Network by supporting their Miracle Festival of Trees. Please consider sponsoring a tree or help to decorate one.

In our area, Children's Miracle Network helps fund programs at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. Please consider making in a donation yourself or in someone else's name as a holiday gift this year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a ranch in Monroe.

This one has everything you need! Spacious ranch, corner lot, close to schools, finished basement, two car attached garage - what more could you ask for? This three bedroom ranch home has some newer windows, newer carpet, and a fantastic basement rec room complete with a huge bar for entertaining.

Asking price is only $119,900, and the seller's are motivated. Come take a look at this one today!

Call or text Brenda at 608-214-5796 or drop us a line via email for more information or to set up a private showing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Celebrando Story Time

Miss Kris and the Monroe Public Library will be presenting Celebrando story time once again this fall and winter.

Celebrando story time is an evening presentation of stories in both Spanish and English. Songs or flannel board games may be presented, and a craft and snack follows the stories. Children do not need to be bilingual in order to attend as everything will be presented in both languages.

This story time event happens the second Tuesday evening of the month and starts at 6:30 pm.

The first of this season's series will be on November 11. The stories will be Ana Cultiva Manzanas (Apple Farmer Annie), Nuestro Autobus (The Bus For Us), and Gracias, Día de Acción de Gracias (Thank You, Thanksgiving). There will be flannel board games about colors and a craft featuring making turkeys. Miss Kris will be reading the English versions of the stories, and I (Brenda) will be the reader for the Spanish stories.

Please bring your family to enjoy the evening and say hello!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a two bedroom home in Monroe.
You will be snug as a bug in this updated two bedroom home!

Entertain all summer long with the large deck and back yard. Come winter, you are sure to appreciate the fact that there are some newer, high efficiency windows. The furnace was new in '05, water heater in '06 and there is newer 100 amp service.

Whether you are buying your first home or downsizing, this one is priced right at only $58,000. It could also make a great investment property.

Call Brenda Carus at 214-5796 for more information.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Meet me at the YMCA

The Green County YMCA has long been a popular place for Monroe area residents. The facility has done a great job with keeping up with our community's needs. Their latest project was another renovation.

Started mid-summer, the project is now complete.

Members have often questioned why the main entrance was not the doors by the parking lot, and the YMCA has listened. With this renovation, the front and back spaces have been flipped. Members and guests now use a bright and airy entrance that is right next to the main parking lot. The offices are here, along with a large window into the gymnastics room. Parents can sit on the comfortable sofas while while waiting for children in gymnastics instead of making due with spots on the floor at the edges of the room.

The youth center and childcare rooms have been moved to the former front of the YMCA. The babysitting room is in the same place, but now the childcare room is right next door, a much more logical set-up. The youth center is called the Y Lounge, and it now occupies the entire space once devoted to the front entry and offices. This expanded space has air hockey, foosball, games for youth, a Wii, Net Nanny protected internet access, a homework area, and sofas to lounge on. The doors to the gym are still there, which is a great idea given the way that many teens utilize both spaces.

This remodel has made the Green County YMCA a much more intuitive space and more user-friendly for those of us living and working in the Monroe area. All the great Y programs for children and adults are still in place, including partnerships with many of our local employers and health insurance companies.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mum's the word

Fall is here, and this season showcases the beauty of the mums and the sedums. It seems winter is overtaking fall later each year. While we know these sunny and warm falls days are numbered, we are still able to get out, crunch in the leaves and enjoy the fall flowers and foliage in the area.

The peak time to see the fall colors in the Green County area has probably already passed by, but still I thought I would take a moment to share a couple of glimpses of this year's fall display. My apologies for not having full trees to share; I was not able to find one that seemed just right for photographing that day.

The green tree right behind this golden one is one of the few in the area that have not fully turned yet. It must be confused by the unseasonably warm weather we have been having. Still, most of the trees are gorgeous shades of gold, yellow and crimson.

If you are thinking of sneaking in a few final fall hikes, the leaves are superbly crunchable right now. Cadiz Springs State Recreation Area, New Glarus Woods State Park and Yellowstone Lake State Park all have hiking trails for any ability.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Go Green Team, Part 3

If a property has green options that increase the energy effiency of the home, the buyer might consider looking into the option of energy efficient financing. Also, if buyer is putting into place systems that will further increase the efficiency of the property, it is possible to include the cost of these upgrades in the mortgage without increasing their down payment.

Many buyers are unaware of the existence of energy efficient financing options. There are a number of banks and private mortgage lenders that offer these options. Locally, there are banks that have policies in place for energy efficient mortgages. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA also offer energy efficient mortgage options. Energy Star has a special mortgage option, and you can see a list of partner banks on their website.

FHA's energy efficient mortgage program has historically been the most widely used. It allows homeowners to roll the cost of energy efficient upgrades into their mortgage. The total cost of these upgrades cannot exceed 5% of the total loan value and they must be between $4000 and $8000.

Energy efficient mortgages can offer other benefits for buyers as well. If a home already has energy efficient systems in place, it can result in a lender offering a different interest rate, lower closing costs, or a different debt to income ratio requirement. The rationale behind this is that buyers will be spending less than the average amount on utility costs, freeing additional income for the mortgage payment. This type of financing will require the home to be certified in some manner (please see Go Green Team Part 2 for information on green home certifications).

Improving energy efficiency is not only good for the environment, but it can benefit the pocketbook as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Get out the Vote

If you are new to Cheese Country, you might be wondering where you should go to vote next week. Visit to check your registration and to enter your address to find out the location of your polling station. You can also view sample ballots and find out all the current electoral districts and office holders for your location.

Wisconsin is a very easy state to register to vote in, so even if you have not registered yet, do not worry. You can register at the polling station on Election Day, so do not worry about having to make two trips. What do you need to register in Wisconsin? If you are not registered to vote, you will need:

1) A Wisconsin driver’s license if you have one, or (if you do not) the last four digits of your Social Security number; and
2) Proof of residence, including your full name and current address, such as one of the following:

• A Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID card;
• A current residential lease;
• Any utility bill (online cell-phone bill print-outs count!) from the past 90 days;
• A bank statement;
• A paycheck;
• A property tax bill from either 2007 or 2008;
• Any document issued by a unit of government [for students attending a UW school, this includes any letter sent to students by the school].
• Student photo ID (If you live in a university-owned dorm, it doesn't need your address)

If you have no proof of residence, you can still register and vote if you bring an eligible voter from your municipality who shows proof of residence and affirms you live at your address.

It does not matter who your candidate of choice is in the many national, state and local elections happening next Tuesday. What matters is that you get out and vote!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Driving Down Your Driving Time

As we in the United States are waking up to the end of cheap oil, many are starting to reevaluate how we get around. Around Monroe, we saw many more bicycles out this summer, and we noticed that the Badger State Trail going through Monroe had a great deal of pedestrian and bicycle traffic this year.

As more people start using self-propelled transportation, home buyers are starting to pay attention to nearby amenities. What is nearby, what can they walk to? Monroe itself is a highly walkable community. I recently visited Walk Score to check how walkable some of our homes for sale are considered by this index. Now, Walk Score is not perfect; they are missing some of our downtown coffee shops, retail establishments, grocery options. However, it is an interesting glimpse into what is around the area.

This brick house on 15th Ave is very close to downtown and gets a Walk Score of 86/100. Over on 14th Ave near the Middle School, this gorgeous brick bungalow gets a Walk Score of 72.

For someone looking for a lot of space, this huge brick home on 22nd Ave scored at 68 at Walk Score. The cute white Cape Cod on 14th Ave scored 62, and this two bedroom starter on 11th Ave earned a 72.

Both of the commercial properties we have listed at the moment (over 4000 square feet on 15th Ave and the lease right on the Square) score very high as well, 86 each. The property on 15th has room for living quarters on the second story, so you can reduce your footprint even more.

If you are looking a community that will allow you to leave your car behind for much of the year, Monroe has great potential. If you are flexible and willing to put in some time pedaling too, the options increase even more. It takes me five minutes in the car to drive to the grocery store or I can bike there in 12 minutes. Most parts of town have a school within easy biking range, and the YMCA is within 15 minutes of most of town via bike.

Whether you have lived here all of your life or are thinking of coming to the Monroe area, I encourage you to take a look at the Walk Score website. Even for those of us who have been here a long time, it is a good reminder of what is close by.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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 $240,000, and the seller would very much like to see this go to someone who appreciates older homes.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Open Houses

Open houses have been a mainstay of the real estate industry for decades. Sellers have come to expect the sign in the front yard advertising that the house will be open on Sunday from 1 until 3 or whatever time. They look for the ad in the newspaper proclaiming to their community that their house is for sale and will be available for viewing.

Yet I rarely do an open house. Some sellers question this policy. Naturally, I will do an open house if a seller very much wants to try it. Yes, once I did have buyers who viewed the house first at an open house, but that is not the norm. Open houses are where I connect with new buyers, not where I sell houses. From a selling perspective, they are a waste of time these days.

With today's technology, buyers do not have to wait until Sunday at 1 to view the house they are interested in. A quick journey around the computer gives buyers what they want to know when they want to know it. Today, people want information on their schedules, and as a realtor, it is my job to market a house to today's real estate buyer. High quality, well edited photos are now selling houses in the way that open houses used to do. 80% of buyers are searching themselves on the internet, contacting realtors to see the homes after previewing the online open house of photos, description and virtual tour. How available is your home? Is it on one site, five, ten, fifty? A strong web presence is more important in my marketing plan than sitting at your kitchen table editing photos in Photoshop and walking the neighbors through. (That is how I spent my last five open houses.)

So, instead of looking for your realtor to put the open house sign in your yard, make sure she puts it where it really matters today - on the internet.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Things to do

There is a lot going on in Cheese Country this first weekend in October!

The annual Chili Cookoff and Oktoberfest is happening on Monroe's downtown Square on Saturday. Chili judging happens at noon, and all proceeds benefit Monroe Youth Hockey. There will also be face painting, a pumpkin patch, scarecrow making, balloons and music. The Monroe Farmer's Market is also running on the Square on Saturday from 7 am until noon.

Before or after your visit to the Chili Cookoff, walk over to the library for the annual Monroe Stamp and Post Card show. The show is open from 10 am until 3 and will be in the second floor meeting room of the library. There will be a silent auction of post cards and stamps as well.

The Wisconsin Solar Tour takes place on Saturday and Sunday, and there are stops in the area. Up in Blanchardville, visit the Hankley House. Inn Serendipity, a favorite of this blog, is open between Clarno and Browntown. New this year is the Monroe Super 8. Now Travel Green certified, the hotel has a wide array of environmental and energy conersving systems in place. Please click on each name to visit the the MREA page for each property listing date and time each location is open as well as directions.

Fall festivals abound! The village of Albany is having their fall festival on Saturday in downtown Albany, and St Victor's in Monroe is having theirs as well on Saturday and Sunday.

A new exhibit is opening in Frehner Gallery this evening. "Fall into Art" with the Driftless Area Artists is a multi-media exhibit, and the opening reception is from 5 until 7 pm this evening. Come back on Saturday from 10 until 4 for Art in Action, an event designed to bring the public closer to the art and the artists. There will be video studio tours, and the artists will be on hand to demonstrate their art and discuss with the public.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a home on 14 acres on the Pecatonica River.

A private riverfront hideaway awaits. This two bedroom home sits on 14 acres following the curving bank of the Pecatonica River. Woods, water, open spaces, what more could you ask for?

The home has many updates including oak kitchen cabinets, laminate flooring, new garage with radiant heat and more. Expand your living space even more with the upper floor of the garage. It is already studded with subfloor and waiting to be finished.

This one is priced to sell at only $185,000. Call, email or text Brenda or Luis today to set up a private showing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Singin' the Blues

As mentioned in my last post, Berghoff and Blues is happening this weekend in conjunction with Cheese Days.

The festival, now in its 11th year, features excellent blues performers and Berghoff Beer, brewed locally by our own Minhas Craft Brewery. Our brewery is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the Midwest, and it turns out wonderful products like Minhas brews, Huber beers including Berghoff and Blumers sodas. The brewery is open for tours this weekend, as it is most weekends. Come, learn about the brewing process and then stay for some music and refreshments. Concessions stands will be operated by Monroe's Lions Club to raise money for local projects.

Friday, Sept 19:
6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Perry Weber & the Devilles featuring Tony Menzer & Jimmy Voegeli

Saturday Sept 20:
1:00 - 3:15 p.m. Ernie & the Po Boys
3:45 - 6:30 p.m. The Blue Olives
7:00 - 9:30 p.m. The Crashers

Monday, September 15, 2008

Come to Cheese Days!

Sing it with me!

Come to Cheese Days in Monroe.
That’s the place for you to go.
Music, dancing, yodeling, too.
And a big parade for you.
And we know you will be pleased.
When you taste Green County Cheese.
Come to Cheese Days, come to Cheese Days,
Come to Cheese Days in Monroe!

Every other year, Monroe is home to the oldest food festival in the Midwest. We don't call this blog "Cheese Country Realtors" for nothing. The area around Monroe is dotted with cheese factories, and this coming weekend, September 19-21, is their time to shine.

The Square will be filled with festival attractions. The popular Cheese Tasting Tent is always the big draw on the west side. The south side of the Square is home to the stage and the ever popular Optimist's Cheese Curds stand. Get in line early for your cheese curds tickets, and remember to bring your patio chair to enjoy the acts on the stage for a while. Food vendors, crafts and hospitality tents usually line the north and east sides.

Cheese Days is too big to be contained on the Square, so venture farther afield. The Swiss Post Bus Trolley will be running continuous loops with stops at Minhas Craft Brewery, the Cheese Days Arts and Crafts Fair, Turner Hall, and the downtown parking ramp. From the parking ramp, riders can transfer to the Park & Ride Shuttle Bus with free parking at Shopko and Wal-Mart. The carnival midway is usually in the parking lot half a block south of the Square, behind Dr Healy's Eye Care and in front of Suisse Haus.

New this year are artisan demonstrations at the Arts and Crafts Fair near the Monroe Middle School, a display on the history of Cheese Days at Monroe Arts Center, and a Cheese Days Limerick Contest. Returning crowd-pleasers include the cow milking contest, polka lessons, old time cheesemaking demonstration, arts and crafts fair, vintage car and tractor show, carnival, retail tent with commemorative Cheese Days merchandise, "Berghoff and Blues" with live blues and cool brews at the nearby Minhas Craft Brewery, and the "Heart of Cheese Days" exhibit sponsored by Monroe Swiss Singers at Turner Hall.

Enjoy "Family Farm Adventure" sponsored by Green County Farm Bureau. Kids and families will blast open the barn doors to an exciting "ag-venture" where they can meet dairy calves, discover what a cow eats and drinks, learn how cheese is made, "milk" a cow, and test their knowledge of ag facts with fun games and prizes.

The event is capped off by the enormous and enormously popular Cheese Days Parade. Beginning at 12:30 on Sunday and running for about two hours, the extravaganza features drum corps, horses, clowns, and a variety of entertainment. The parade is led off by decorated Brown Swiss cattle, followed by many floats paying tribute to Swiss heritage, cheesemaking, and the dairy farming legacy of Green County. It is a huge event, drawing participants from as far away as Chicago and Milwaukee.

Visit the Official Cheese Days website for a full schedule of events.

You can even listen to the Cheese Days Song to brush up on your warbling.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go Green Team, Part 2

As home buyers become more environmentally conscious, sellers would be wise to start advertising environmental features of their homes. As mentioned last in Part 1, specific is important. Rather than calling a house green, Realtors would do well to encourage sellers to get an independent third-party certification for their homes.

Many such certification exist, and the list is sure to grow in coming years. Different certification mean different things, and customers should be offered information on exactly what the home is certified as.

The Energy Star Qualified Homes is a nation program that looks at a variety of energy efficiency measures, and all of these measures can also positively impact the health of people living in the home. The homes must have tightly sealed air ducts, which reduces energy consumption at the same time as improving indoor air quality. They must have improved insulation. The insulation levels require tight building envelopes which also reduce moisture, drafts and noise. Visit Energy Star Qualified Homes for more information.

For existing homes, consider having an Energy Rating done. An Energy Rating determines where homes fall on the HERS Index. A score of 100 represents American Standard Building (or an "average" home), and a score of zero means the home has zero net energy usage. A lower score is considered better, obviously, and homes can score over 100. A HERS Score is specific proof of energy efficiency, and is one way to advertise green without greenwashing. Visit RESNET for a list of Certified Energy Raters nationwide.

The United States Green Building Council offers a well-known green certification. Better known as LEED Certified, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System is considered a national benchmark for design, construction and operation of green homes and commercial buildings. Locally, Artisan Design:Build has done LEED certified work and is familiar with the process.

Green Built Home is a Wisconsin specific program that certifies both new construction and existing home. Their website is filled with resources for green remodeling, checklist and a directory of cooperating building professionals. Green Built Home is a specific, recognized certification in this area.

There are many other independent certifications, and these programs are often state specific. Visit Green Building Certification Programs for an extensive list broken down by state.

Next part, green financing...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a 65 acre farm near Orangeville, IL.
This farm consists of 65 acres of rolling hills location with a spring fed creek that runs through the pastures. The home and buildings are located 600 feet off the road on the hill, with private gravel road access. Every side has long views of farm country - pastures, oak trees, Red Angus cows and waving fields. The sun set and sun rise are beautiful in this open sky country, and the stars look like you can reach up and touch them.

The outbuildings are superbly maintained. The large dairy barn has been steel sided and boasts an open cathedral roof. It has been built into the hill so you can drive into the hay mow for easy hay storage, and there is plenty of room below for equipment storage or animals. Forty acres of the tillable land are leased on a year to year basis, providing dependable annual income.

Horse lovers – take note! There is a regulation-sized riding arena already tiled with sand base included on the property as previous owners did riding exhibitions here.

The 2307 sq. foot ranch home has 4 bedrooms including a spacious master bedroom, 1 ½ bathrooms upstairs and 1 full bath downstairs. The lower level family room down is 24 x 22 with all new Berber carpet (April 2008). There are cathedral ceilings in the living room, dining room, kitchen and in the master bedroom, wood paneling throughout the home for a very warm feel, a wood burning fire place in the upstairs living room, and 12x12 Italian quarry tile in the dining room, kitchen, bathroom and utility room. Generous 2 foot overhangs on roof line prevent excessive solar gain in the summer pair with good insulation and all electric heat to help protect you from fluctuating fuel oil or LP costs.

The exterior walls all have 2 x 6 lumber construction. Appliances are included, and the home will have a one year home warranty for buyer’s peace of mind.

Outside, wildlife abounds. Deer roam in and out to drink from the creek. Many species of birds call this area home, including pheasants, quail, red tail hawks, woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals and about 15 pairs of swallows that grace the property with their acrobatic flying maneuvers and help keep the property free from bugs. At night you’ll hear the hoot owls, crickets chirping and frogs croaking in the creek bed.

Call or text Luis at 608-214-5797 to set up a private showing.