Thursday, January 29, 2009

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a large brick home in Monroe.

Room, room, room! Your family will have all the space you need in this 2900 square foot brick home in Monroe. Four bedrooms on the second floor will end the fights over the kids sharing rooms. On the main floor, you will find a formal living room and dining room, both with stunning original woodwork. The bonus room could be a sitting room, office, playroom or a fifth bedroom. The large kitchen has room for an active cook and a table for casual family meals.

Old meets new in the finished basement. Walk downstairs and you will find a large space waiting for an office or playroom and an enormous media room with attached kitchenette. You will be the one hosting the Super Bowl parties or stock it with snacks for the teens and have the peace of mind of knowing where your teen is on Friday nights because his friends will want to hang out in this great space. There is also a large separate laundry room in the basement, and here is where you will find the newer furnace.

Spend summer evenings on your screen front porch talking with friends or hang a hammock on the upstairs back sleeping porch for rainy day naps.

The location cannot be beat. Only a block to East School Park means the kids will have plenty of space to run. Walk to events at the Fairgrounds and let the kids bike downtown or to the Middle School. This house is a gem waiting for a new family to call it home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Support the Middle School Food Drive

The Monroe Middle School is sponsoring a food drive this week.

On Friday, students from the school will be collecting non-perishable food items from businesses around the Downtown Square and delivering them to the Interfaith Food Pantry.

If you are able to contribute, drop off your donations at a participating Downtown business before 11:15 on Friday morning. Re/Max Towne Square Realty is a drop off point. Bring your donation in and just let Deanna at the front know that you are contributing to the food drive.

If you are able to participate in any way, thank you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our Neighbors

There are some great communities in the Stateline Area. One of the largest is Freeport, IL. Located just half an hour south of Monroe, Freeport has some wonderful options for outdoor recreation this winter:
  • Oakdale Nature Preserve is a wonderful natural area, 133 acres of forest, prairie and streams In the winter, there are 4 miles of cross country ski trail available for public use. You can rent skis from the Freeport Park District for only $10-15. Contact Freeport Park District details. Oakdale offers recreational and educational programs throughout the year and has a nature center, lodge and auditorium available for rental or parties.
  • Krape Park is a draw for the entire Stateline Area. It has been designated an "Outstanding Multi-Use Facility" by the Illinois Parks and Recreation Area. This time of year, bring your ice skates or sleds to join in the winter fun. During the warmer months, paddle boats are available for rental and the Merry Go Round is running. There is a large children's play area, a mini-golf course and a picnic area. Enjoy a concert in Koenig Theater or bring the fishing poles and cast your lines from the pier on Yellow Creek.
  • Bring the ice skates to Taylor Park as well. There is a large lighted ice skating area available for public use. In the summer months, this popular parks hosts sports leagues and picnics.
If you prefer indoor recreation during the cold months, consider some of the Freeport Museums:
  • The Stephenson County Historical Society is houses in a home rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.
  • Tour their museum on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Spend some time at the Freeport Arts Center. Their galleries feature permanent and rotating collections and exhibitions. Come on February 6 for their Wine, Cheese and Chocolate fund raising event. Tickets are $15 for members, $18 for non-members, or $20 at the door.
  • Learn about the important role the railroad played in the development of our area at the Silver Creek Museum.
Whether you are vacationing in your own back yard or making our area a getaway destination, have fun exploring both the Green County, WI and Stephenson County, IL areas!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sugar River Dairy Yogurt

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Green County area. We are home to many artisan and small businesses. I thought it would be interesting to feature some of these businesses in the upcoming weeks.

Sugar River Dairy is an artisan business located in the hills outside of Albany. Named for the Sugar River that meanders through the area, Sugar River Dairy focuses on making just a couple of things and doing them extremely well - yogurt and their new line of sour cream.

Owners Ron and Chris Paris are one of only three artisan, homestead yogurt makers in Wisconsin. They focus on small batch, non-homogenized yogurt created with milk from local cows. The cows eat grass in pastures, and they live their lives without the synthetic growth hormone rBGH.

Ron and Chris create Sugar River Dairy yogurt without additives, stabilizers or high fructose corn syrup. What they do use are high quality, natural ingredients. Natural vanilla. Live acidophilus cultures. Organic cane sugar. Berries. Peaches.

I first tried Sugar River Dairy yogurt a few years ago, and I have not bought any other kind of yogurt since. It is like no other yogurt I have tasted - smooth, creamy and rich with just the right amount of tang.

Ron and Chris offer plain and vanilla yogurt as well as raspberry, blueberry, peach and strawberry. The fruit flavors are only in 6 oz cups, and the vanilla and plain are offered in larger 24 oz containers. Locally, you can purchase them at Brennans or Piggly Wiggly. Sugar River Dairy yogurt is also available in Madison at Whole Foods, Willy St Coop, the Westside Community Market and more. The new line of sour cream is a little harder to find.

You can also tour Sugar River Dairy to see how they do things. Just call ahead (608-938-1218) because they do take two days a week to do their deliveries.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Consider Marmoleum

Homeowners these days are often considering the environmental impact of their choices when remodeling or updating their homes. From low VOC paints to reclaimed cabinetry, there is a wide range of sustainable products out there.

One area that is generating some press is flooring. Floors are one area of homes that are often overlooked even though they make a huge difference in the general feel of a home. There are many choices for sustainable flooring including recycled fiber carpeting and sustainable bamboo and cork floors.

People are also turning to a very old option again - linoleum. These days, it goes by the name marmoleum, but the product is the same. It is made in a process that is mostly unchanged in the last century and a half. Linseed oil (from flax) is combined with things like pine rosin, natural pigments and wood flour. Heat, roll, press and cure.

There is no off gassing associated with marmoleum, and there appear to be no health concerns associated with the creation of marmoleum, its use or disposal. Marmoleum outlasts many other flooring options because it hardens and becomes even more durable over time.

From an allergy perspective, marmoleum beats recycled fiber carpeting hands down. Carpeting will always trap allergens, unlike wood and tile floors. Marmoleum has the benefit of being anti-static, so dust and dirt do not stick to it when you clean. The anti-bacterial properties of linseed oil are also present in marmoleum.

If you are changing the flooring in your home, give marmoleum a look. Unlike a few decades ago, the current variety of colors is extensive, and you can chose from planks, tiles and sheets.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a custom built, 4 bedroom home in Freeport.

This well thought out, custom built home has all the details! Go green without even trying with energy saving features that make sense for every family.

Light pours through tilt-out, low E, double paned windows. The entire home has solid 6 panel oak doors, even the closets. Oak trim is also throughout the home. The custom kitchen has oak cabinets and a huge pantry with swing out shelving.

Stay warm or cool without paying a fortune thanks to the high efficiency features not found in just any home. There is R-38 insulation in the attic and R-18 in the 2x6” construction walls. The builders utilized a raised heel truss system to allow space for the full depth of 24" of insulation to extend to the edges of the walls, an energy saving feature that also helps prevent the build-up of ice dams. There is a high efficiency furnace and water heater. In the summer, you will appreciate the efficacy of the whole house fan and how quickly it can cool off your new home without even using the central air.

Upstairs are four spacious bedrooms including a master suite with walk-in closet, double wide jetted tub and extra large shower. In addition to the formal living room and dining room this home features a roomy family room with gas fireplace and a bonus room with exterior access. If you work from home, this is the perfect place for your home office.

A spacious deck overlooks the development and miles of countryside. There is a walkout basement with 9’ ceilings and a bathroom rough in, should you ever decide to expand your living space.

Enjoy your life in this home near all of the Freeport area amenities. You will be close to the Jane Addams Recreational Trail, lakes and rivers. Freeport has a multitude of parks. Krape Park is home to four season recreation opportunities including ice skating, paddle boat rentals and even a Merry Go Round. Read Park has a public aquatic center and skate park, the Oakdale Nature Preserve is a stunning public natural space with miles of trails. Little Cubs Field is a unique community asset, a nearly exact replica of Wrigely Field, Little League sized, that is free for anyone to use. Freeport is home to golf courses and an active league sport community. Enjoy the arts through community theater, professional performances and more.

All of these features plus a desirable location in the Cherokee Hills subdivision makes this one of a kind home a must see!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Things to Do around Monroe, WI

What is going on in Green County in the upcoming week or so? Here is a sampling of events to consider attending:

~ Classic? Vodka? Dirty? Chocotini? Appletini? Here is another plug for the Young Professionals of Green County and their first gathering for the New Year. They are sponsoring a Martini Tasting on January 22 starting at 5 pm. Come meet at Flanagan's Shenanigans on the south side of Monroe's Downtown Square. Luis and I will be there, so be sure to say hi if you come.

~ Unleash your inner thespian! Monroe Theatre Guild is holding auditions for their next production this week. They are looking for 5 men and 5 women to star in Godspell in early April. Auditions will be held at the MTG Stage Building on Thursday, January 22 from 6 until 8 pm and on Saturday January 24 from 10 am until noon. The MTG Stage Building is on 16th Ave across from the Monroe Public Library. Prepare a piece of music to perform acapella or with the MTG’s pianist. Ages 16 and up only, please.

~ Puempel’s Old Tavern in New Glarus is having live music by The Raindogs this Saturday evening starting at 7 pm.

~ You can also hear live music at Toffler’s, also in New Glarus. The Kristy Larson Honky Tonk Trio takes the stage at 9 pm.

~ Come to Toffler’s earlier in the day for the Badger Blast. Cheer on the Badger Men’s Basketball team starting at 2 pm on Saturday, January 24. There will be brats and chips for $3 and all UW-Madison Alumni will get their first beer on Bucky.

~ Bring the family to the Monticello Fisheree/Chickeree on Sunday! The annual Ice Fishing and Grilled Chicken fund raising event takes place at Lake Montesian. Place your dinner order early as only 500 chickens will be grilled and sold. Prizes will be offered for the largest fish and the most fish caught during the Fisheree. Contact Wade Wittenwyle for more information (608-938-4536).

~ Goosechaser Farm near Blanchardville is preparing for their monthly culinary workshop, so make your reservation now. The January theme is Comfort Foods – from Mac and Cheese to Cream of Onion Soup. Their culinary workshops are approximately 2-3 hours long, and classes are limited to 8 people. Refreshments are provided, and students will enjoy the food they prepared at the end of the class.

~ Make plans now for the Regional Arts Program Workshop at the Monroe Arts Center on February 28. The workshop runs from 10 am until 3 pm. More details can be found by contacting MAC.

There are always things going on, so come out and enjoy life here in the Green County Area!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pre-Approval versus Pre-Qualification

For a number of years now, sellers have preferred offers that are accompanied by a letter from a bank indicating that a buyer has the ability to purchase the property. These are referred to as pre-qualification letters or pre-approval letters.

Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing at all.

A letter of pre-qualification indicates that a buyer has spoken with a mortgage lender. It means that the buyer has given the mortgage lender information about income, monthly debts, and assets. The lender runs an electronic credit report. Then, based upon credit score and the information the buyer gave the lender, the lender estimates the amount of the mortgage loan the buyer can afford. A letter of pre-qualification is basic and is completely unverified other than the credit score. The buyer is not required to submit documentation of income or assets.

A letter of pre-approval means that the buyer has gone through a more stringent process and indicates a firmer commitment from the lending institution. The buyer has completed an application and undergone a full credit check. The bank completes employment and income verification. Letters of pre-approval often specify that a buyer has the ability to purchase a specific property or to take on a mortgage of specific amount. Letters of pre-approval are not loan commitments; these must still be obtained to satisfy a financing contingency if one is included in the offer. However, a letter of pre-approval is a superior form of judging a buyer's ability to purchase when weighed against the letter of pre-qualification.

Either letter is better than none when submitting an offer to purchase, especially in today's economic times. Sellers want to know that the offer they are considering has a solid base in reality. Buyers should always make a mortgage lender their first stop in the home buying process.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Skiing in Cheese Country

Now that last week's sub-zero temperatures have passed, people around the Green County area are starting to head outdoors for winter recreation again. If cross country skiing is your winter sport of choice, there are some great local trails available for your use.

Right in Monroe, head to Twining Park. There are 1.1 miles of trails here, nothing too difficult. If you are trying cross country skiing for the first time, consider starting here. Limited quantities of rentals are available in the Twining Park Warming House on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 7 pm and Fridays from 4 until 7 as long as the wind chill is above zero. The rental cost is $5. If you have outgrown or unused equipment, consider donating it to the City of Monroe for the rental program.

Forest Prairie Park is just north east of Monroe on Hwy 59 heading towards Albany. Head out past the Green County Airport, then take the first right on Forest Prairie Rd. There are 8 miles of marked cross country ski trails here, and as a city park, there is no fee or pass required.

If you are up for a challenge, try the Browntown-Cadiz State Recreation Area. There are 10.5 miles of ungroomed trails here, just waiting for you to ski through. A State Park Pass is required for your vehicle.

Yellowstone State Park has 4.2 miles of groomed trails, and offers a shelter as well. A State Park Pass is required for your vehicle.

The Badger State Trail, Cheese Country Trail and Sugar River Trail are open for cross country skiers as well, with a total of 32, 47 and 24 linear miles of trail respectively. Be warned that neither of these are groomed for cross country skiing, and you will need to share the trail with other winter recreation sports users.

Since we have winter weather no matter what we do, we might as well get out and enjoy it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Unpack the Moving Van

Re/Max Towne Square Realty has moved!

We are now on the west side of Monroe's Downtown Square at 1007 16th Ave. We are still facing the Courthouse, just a different side of it as we moved across the street and down half a block from our old location.

The building has been redone inside and looks great. Here is a preview, but feel free to stop in to take a peek. Just tell Deanna at the front that Brenda told you to pop in for a look.

Office hours remain the same:
Monday through Friday from 9 am until 5 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am until noon.

Either Luis or I are usually in the office, so stop in anytime!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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 Pecatonica River meanders along the entire northeastern boundary of the property. Look out the northern side of your home to a grassy plain, look east to the river or look south to a hill and trees. There is a little bit of everything in this private retreat.

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 is just waiting to be finished. The possibilities for this space are limitless. Master bedroom with ensuite bath and patio overlooking the wooded hillside? Family room and recreation area? Divide into bedrooms? Artist's studio? Let your imagination run free!

There is a second detached garage that has space for two vehicles and storage. Use it for additional vehicle parking (teens? classic cars?) or create an oversized workshop.

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Things to Do around Monroe, WI

If you are looking for something to do in the upcoming week, there are some great events going on in Monroe and Green County.

~ Styles ala Carte takes place again tomorrow, Thursday, January 15. Enjoy lunch and a fashion show at Turner Hall in Monroe from 12 until 1:30.

~ This weekend in New Glarus is the annual Winter Fest Veterans Reunion. The early bird gathering is on Thursday evening, and events take place throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

~ Feel like karaoke? You can warble away on Thursday starting at 8 pm at Donna's Place in Monticello or Friday starting at 8:30 at the Nest Tavern in Belleville.

~ If you would rather watch others doing the singing - or dancing or acting - then come to the annual MAC Community Showcase of Talent. It takes place at the Monroe High School Performing Arts Center on Friday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17 this year. Showtime is 7:30 pm both nights. Tickets are $10 and are available via the MAC website or at the door.

~ If green issues and sustainability are important to you, attend the upcoming webinar sponsored by UW Extension. This is the fourth in the series, and it will take place from 11:15 am until 1 pm on Tuesday, January 20. The topic is sustainability and strategic planning. You can attend in person at Yodel Hall in the Government Services Building in the Pleasant View complex just north of Monroe, and the webinar is linked to other UW Extension groups. The series continues throughout the spring, and you can view more information here.

~ The Young Professionals of Green County are having their first gathering for the New Year. They are sponsoring a Martini Tasting on January 22 starting at 5 pm. Come meet at Flanagan's Shenanigans on the south side of Monroe's Downtown Square. Luis and I will be there, so be sure to say hi if you come.

Don't let the cold winter weather force you to hibernate! Get out and enjoy the many options for entertainment available in the next week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is That a Lawn or a Cross Country Ski Trail?

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening.

It happened again today.

A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight.

My buyer and I pulled up to a home in the country. The setting was wonderful - mature trees dotted the spacious yard. Such a peaceful spot. The snow stretched out in front of us, unblemished by anything more than the tracks of a few animals.

Walking in a winter wonderland.

Wait a minute. That unblemished snow covered the driveway and front walk.

We had 40 inches of snow in December, more in January. There was a thaw in between there, but there was still close to three feet of snow stretching out for about hundred yards between us and the house. Thankfully, we had an ice storm in there too, so there was enough of a crust of ice on the snow to allow us to balance on top of most of it, wading through only about six inches of powder.

If buyer cannot get to a house, they cannot fall in love with the house. If they cannot fall in love, they will not buy. An inaccessible driveway also makes the home feel difficult to care for in the winter months, a negative before they even walk in the door.

Even if a home is vacant, hire out a local service to come clear the driveway and walks. In our area, that will cost about $30 per snow in the city, $50 in the country. It is an investment in selling your home.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland is a lovely song, and a great description for yard stretching out behind a home. Just don't let it describe the sidewalk and driveway please.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a three bedroom home in Browntown.

Space, space and more space. Need more space for the family? How about space for the workshop and big boy toys? This three bedroom home on 1.13 acres has everything you need. The rambling ranch has a unique floor plan that includes the all the basics - living room, dining room, bathroom, bedrooms - along with an eat in kitchen and an enormous rec room that has a wet bar and half bath.

Privacy is yours when you relax on the the secluded back porch. Overlook a landscaped yard and miles of valley without seeing the neighbors.

The enormous detached garage is large enough to park two semis with room for more, so bring on the big boy toys! You are near the Cheese Country trail for riding an ATV or snowmobile and only minutes from Cadiz Springs for fishing. Trailer the boat a short drive up to Yellowstone or take the camper and spend the weekend. This garage has room to store all of these and more, more, more!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Future Forward!

Have you heard of Future Forward!? Do you want to know more?

Future Forward! is a group dedicated to improving the quality of life in Green County to help attract and retain young professionals to our area.

If you are curious about their mission or would like to help in any way, consider coming to the next meeting. Future Forward! will be meeting on Thursday, January 8 from 5:30 until 7:30 pm at Minhas Brewery. There will be a social time from 5 until 5:30 that will include a sampling of Minhas products and a light supper.

The meeting will include a workshop to list Green County's many assets for young professionals. They will also be brainstorming the gaps, things the area lacks that could help us better attract and retain local talent. First hand prospective is really appreciated, so any young professionals in the area are welcome to come and help with the thought process.

Do you have ideas of projects, programs, learning opportunities, business ideas or social events that could help improve the quality of life in the Green County area? Please consider attending.

I will be there, and I hope that you can attend too!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

Vacant Houses + Wisconsin Winters = Potential Disaster

It seems to happen every year. A seller has a vacant home and does not get there to check on things regularly because of being busy or being out of the area. The homeowner assumes everything is fine because the furnace was running and the heat was set somewhere in the 50 degree range.

Until the unthinkable happens. A power outage takes out the electronic pilot. Something trips a circuit breaker. A weird fluke interrupts things and the furnace stops functioning. Even if the homeowner or a neighbor is checking in once a week or every few days, a home can sit in the bitter cold for days without anyone knowing.

No heat in these Wisconsin winters means one thing for a home - frozen pipes.

This does not need to happen. There is a nifty little gadget called a Freeze Alarm. It is battery operated and sits in the home, monitoring the temperature. If the temperature falls below or rises above parameters set by the homeowner, the freeze alarm will call for help.

Freeze alarms are not cheap; models can run over $400. However, a basic model can be purchased for under $100. Freeze alarms are easy to locate online, and offers a variety of them. You will also have to maintain a basic telephone line for the freeze alarm to call out on.

Even with those expenses, a freeze alarm can be a bargain when balanced against the cost of repairing burst pipes and the damage they can cause.

Don't be caught unaware this winter.