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 https://vpa.wi.gov/ 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.