Friday, May 29, 2009

Business Spotlight - Sequels

The only constant is change, and change is something that we do see in the businesses that line Monroe's Downtown Square.

A new store joined the Square earlier this month. Sequels features higher end consignment furniture. Do you prefer to buy consignment pieces due to the lower environmental footprints associated with reusing? Have you outgrown your college furnishings, but do not have the budget for more refined furnishings yet? Did you just purchase a new home and ran out of furniture before you ran out of rooms? Maybe you simply prefer saving a little money while still furnishing your home with high quality pieces. You need to stop in to see the rapidly changing stock at Sequels.

I was in Sequels a couple of times over the course of a few weeks, and the inventory varied greatly. The hand painted canvas featuring a glorious red poppy that I had my eye was long gone by the time I went back for it, and I noticed that the stock of larger furniture pieces was very different as well. The prices are very fair at Sequels, and people who are quick to recognize the deals should not delay in purchasing like I had. From custom furniture and home decor pieces to art work and china, the stock at Sequels is bound to be snapped up by people with an eye for refined decorating.

Sequels is located on the east side of Monroe's Downtown Square. Rosemary is the owner, and she is a lively woman who is a treat to chat with. Pop in, say hi and browse a bit.

If you spot something floral and hand painted, give me a call. My living room needs something new. I wonder who snapped up the poppy painting...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Property of the Week

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

Don't miss this fabulous contemporary home!

If you are like us, you know you have driven by this home and wondered what it was like. It does not disappoint. Quality shows, and right away you will notice the quality construction used to when making this home. Come inside and enjoy the combination of today's decor along with fashionable retro styling details.

The large open living space has a soaring vaulted ceiling with the fireplace taking center stage as it reaches all the way up. This space is bright and sunny with a wall of atrium windows, perfect for bringing in reluctant winter sun to life your spirits or nurture delicate plants. The roomy kitchen has granite counter tops, a built-in eating area and hip cork floors. The three bedrooms and two bathrooms are all generously sized. Downstairs, a finished basement awaits. Entertain the entire extended family or let the teens and kids hang out in this large area. The large lot is in a great location near the schools.

If cookie cutter ranches are not for you and you enjoy quality homes with well planned details, you must come see this home.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things to do

It is time to take a look ahead at what is going on in the area in the upcoming week:

~ The Young Professionals of Green County are going mini golfing on Thursday, May 28. Join us at 6:30 pm at Swissland Mini Golf in New Glarus. The cost is only $7.50, and I've been told that YPs can feel free to bring the family. On June 11, the YPs will be having a business showcase featuring Brenda talking about the benefits of working with an EcoBroker and green real estate for everyone while touring a local home. More details on that to follow.

~ The kids from the Shakespeare Project have their show on Thursday evening at Monroe Arts Center. Shakespeare on the Edge is a local non-profit that supports teens making connections to the world through the works of Shakespeare. These teens have been working on their pieces since February; come out and support them in their performance while enjoying some of the great works of theater.

~ Come to Breakfast on the Farm on Saturday morning. The annual event is being held at Bruegger farms N4253 and N4611 Rechsteiner Road between Monroe and Albany off of Hwy FF. Just follow the signs. Breakfast is served from 6 am until 10 am. After you eat, enjoy the petting zoo, craft show, wagon rides, live entertainment and more.

~ Goosechaser Farm is having another culinary workshop on Saturday. This month's class targets cooking with children, particularly those between 4 and 8. Bring the favorite child in your life along for an entertaining, delicious and informative event. Check with Stef to see if space if still available.

~ Did you get the kids signed up for the puppetry classes at Monroe Theatre Guild? Our kids are looking forward to them.

~ Lindo Theater in Freeport is beginning their discount family movie series courtesy of FHN. Tickets are only $3 for the 10 am showing. This week, they are showing "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian".

~ Get outside! Hop on the bike and enjoy a leisurely ride on one of our area bike trails. If you prefer hiking, you can hike on the trails as well, or stop in at New Glarus Woods State Park, the Cadiz/Browntown Recreational Area or the Oakdale Nature Preserve (Freeport) for a hike through the woods or prairie. If you plan on spending time in your own yard gardening, remember that you can get the supplies you need at the independently owned nurseries in the area, and some of the Farmers Market vendors are selling vegetable and flower starts as well.

~ Live music! Enjoy Blue with Jimmy Voegli at Tofflers in New Glarus this Saturday evening. The Monroe City Band begins their summer concert series at Twining Park on Monday eveningat 7:30 pm. Also, make your plans now to attend next weekend's Brooklyn Bluegrass festival.

~ Don't forget to get out to the Farmers Markets locally in Monroe, Belleville and Paoli. The fresh foods taste so good, and it is great to buy local.

Have fun! The weather is supposed to be great, so enjoy your weekend here in Green County!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If it sounds too good to be true...

There are lots of rumors floating around about the $8000 tax credit and whether or not it can be used as a down payment on a home.

Earlier this month, there was a lot of horn tooting excitement because it was announced that it would be possible to use the anticipated tax credit refund as collateral for a short term loan which could then be used as a down payment for a FHA mortgage. This was thrilling news for many first time home buyers out there, and the information was coming from reputable sources - the US government, National Association of Realtors.

A day later, with much less fanfare, the news changed. It was not said that the tax credit could not used as a down payment in this fashion. Oops. The details are being worked on, and while the change is anticipated, nothing has been finalized yet.

FHA requires that a buyer has a down payment of 3.5%. This money can be from the buyer's savings, a gift from a relative, from an approved non-profit group or government agency (down payment assistance program), from a secure loan (ie against an IRA or real property) or from employee contribution programs through the workplace. FHA does not allow for the down payment to come from unsecured loans like those that would be taken out against the anticipated tax refund. The excitement stemmed from early words that the language in the FHA approved sourced for the down payment would be changed to allow for this, but it did not happen.

The tax credit is real, and it is a huge bonus for anyone who has never owned a home or who has not owned one within the last three years and who closes on a home prior to December 1, 2009. There are rules, regulations and limitation on it though. Any buyer who is anticipating receiving this credit should talk not only with a knowledgable realtor but also with a repuatable mortgage banker and/or tax accountant about this.

We all have limitation on our knowledge. I do not pretend to know it all, which is why I hesitate to give advice on matters like the tax credit to my buyers.

Please, be wary of those in our profession who are too free with financial advice. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Local activists succeed again

Here is another example of what can happen when a group of people work together towards a common goal:

Back in March, we mentioned the local effort to bring a Smithsonian exhibit to our area. Well, I am thrilled to report that the group was successful in their efforts to get Brodhead selected to host the exhibit.

Brodhead and Green County will be one of the sites for the national Smithsonian exhibit, "Key Ingredients: America by Food”. The exhibit will in our area from May 6 until June 17, 2011.

Congratulation to the Brodhead Chamber of Commerce, Lea Brockman and everyone in the community who worked to make this possible. The exhibit should be a wonderful experience for our area and a great way to showcase our local food traditions.

Three cheers for our local activism and spirit of cooperation!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

If you are not going camping for Memorial Day weekend, come out and enjoy our area events!

~ There is still time to enroll the kids into the MTG puppetry classes for next weekend. Kids 8-12 can take Introduction to Puppetry with Suzanne Miller and Kris Ault, using the Monroe Public Library puppets. Kids 6-9 can come in the afternoon for Sock Puppetry, creating their own sock puppet character based upon a story, and there will be a short performance as well.

~ Adults, come to the Stage building either Friday or Saturday evening for MTG Uncorked, the theatre guild's original content content comedy/variety show. Shows are on both evenings at 7 pm, and both are very affordable for an evening's entertainment at only $10 for members, $12 for non-members.

~ Come out of the Farmer's Market! There are new vendors this year in addition to most of the great people from last year. Paoli and Belleville also have their farmers market on Saturday morning.

~ The annual New Glarus community festival is this weekend. Bring the family to this old fashioned festival! Talent show, sports tournaments, kids activities, bands, food stands and more. The festival is on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

~ Albany is having their Yesteryear's Days also this weekend. Come Friday for a street dance. There will also be a tractor pull, chicken barbecue, Memorial Day parade and more throughout the weekend.

~ Train enthusiasts! Come down to Freeport to the Silver Creek Museum on Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy rides on the Silvercreek and Stephenson Railroad antique steam train. The 1912 Heisler steam locomotive will pull an antique red caboose reported to be the oldest in the state along with two other cabooses and three passenger flatcars over Yellow Creek and farmlands for a four mile train ride. Come to the museum to purchase tickets for the rides and for the ice cream social. Once there, you can also browse the museum.

~ Catch a movie at the Goetz or Sky-Vu drive-in this weekend. Sky-Vu drive in is showing Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Marley and Me. Enjoy a classic Sky-Vu pizza with your movie. Goetz Cinema is showing Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, and Angels and Demons.

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Should you move up?

The current dip in home prices along with historically low interest rates has some owners considering whether or not now is the time to move up to their next home. Should you?

There is no right answer for everyone when it comes to this question. Instead, there are few things home owners should think about before making this decision:

  • The lower prices that are making homes seem more attractive to you also mean that your home will sell at a lower price than it would have two years ago. If you have owned your home for less than four years and did not put much money down, you might not be able to sell it for enough money to cover your mortgage and closing costs while still having enough to cover moving costs, closing costs for the new home and a downpayment.

  • How much equity do you have in your home? If you have owned your home for a number of years, you might have a lot more equity than you realize. We'll be happy to do a market analysis to see what your home is worth in today's real estate market. Equity can become cash for your down payment, helping you move up without having to increase your mortgage load.

  • Can you afford a larger mortgage payment? Most people move up the rungs of the ladder of home size and expense. You need to take an honest look at your finances to be certain that you can cover the increased costs of the larger home. The current very low interest rates do help buyers purchase more home for the money. However, the increased costs do not only include the mortgage payment. Do not forget to take into account larger property tax bills, home owners insurance rates and, very often, higher utility bills.

  • Is your neighborhood still a good fit? If you live close to work or the children's schools, do you want to move? If your job or lifestyle has changed since you bought your home, you might considered looking at a location that better fits your current needs.

  • Have your outgrown your current home? Has it outgrown you? Empty nesters might considering downsizing to a smaller yet more elegant home. Young families might be looking for something with a larger yard or more bedrooms. Remodeling is sometimes a more perfect solution than moving, but not everyone wants to tackle a remodeling project and not all yards will accommodate expanding a home.

There are many things to consider when thinking about moving up to another home. Give us a call if you would like to talk about your options here in Cheese Country. We would never pressure a homeowner to sell, so do not worry about calling just to talk.

Monday, May 18, 2009

EAA Fly-in Breakfast

We made it over to the EAA Chapter 431 pancake breakfast at the Brodhead airfield on Sunday. If you didn't, go ahead and get out your calendar to mark it right now for next year's event.

The breakfast of pancakes, sausages, eggs and juice was $6 per person, and the food was good. Some pancake breakfasts aren't so great anymore, but this is one of the good ones. The people manning the griddles even made up some Mickey Mouse pancakes for the kids, much to their delight.

There were small planes landing and taking off all morning. It was interesting to see all of the different styles and how differently they handled. Some of them popped right up during take off, others took their times, going almost to the tree line before we saw the tires lift off the ground.

The pilots fly in from around the state for the breakfast, and most are quite happy to take a minute to talk about their planes and where they are from We saw this unique turquoise one with the bubble cockpit and talked with the pilot from Kenosha about it for a little while, learning about the weight and speed.

The day is interesting in that it is also a quiet lesson on courtesy, respect and personal responsibility as well. There are no control towers at the small community airfields that dot Wisconsin's countryside. The pilots communicate with one another to coordinate take off and landing orders. Once on the ground, the pilots taxi to the spot of their choice. The people on the ground are free to walk around, but they are on the lookout for taxing aircraft. Spectators are also welcome to walk up to the aircraft and look at them, but everyone is aware of importance of being hands off and respectful of the machines even without supervisors and ropes separating the public from the planes. Pose the family right by your favorite planes for a photo, just be careful not to touch.

Be sure to take the time to walk down to the hangers at the south end of the airfield. Some are open for the public to view the planes and aircraft memorabilia. Talk with the owners because some of the planes and parts are absolutely fascinating. The Brodhead airfield is well-known among antique aircraft enthusiasts for the unique and amazing planes from the including the only flight worthy Butler Blackhawk in existence. Every year, the Brodhead chapter of the EAA in conjunction with the Brodhead Pietenpol Association hosts a gathering of vintage aircraft as well as other regular events.

The Brodhead airfield, EAA Chapter 431 and Brodhead Pietenpol Association are among our hidden treasures here in Green County. If you have not taken the time to attend one of their public events lately, come out to the next one and enjoy a piece of world history right in our backyard.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Local Paradise

Green County sits on the Wisconsin-Illinois border, so there are sites in Illinois that we consider our area attractions. One of these sits about 15 minutes south of Monroe in the small community of Winslow, Illinois.

Drive down Hwy 73 heading south and you will see this unassuming sign on the side of the road:

The gravel drive looks like it goes into an old commercial building, but turn in and drive anyways. As you drive back there, things open up and you will see a lovely green space with a waterfall, small pool, and small creek meandering through.

Be sure to park the car and wander around. There is a quaint covered pedestrian bridge overlooking Indian creek, the perfect spot to snap some photos of the water tumbling over the rocks below.

There is a man-made waterfall next to a small pool of water a little further back in the park. The bench positioned here is a great place to sit and relax for a while as you reflect on life.

Enjoy a picnic lunch in the gazebo area, another great spot for photo ops as it nestles there into the rocks and greenery.

There are walking trails in Paradise Cove as well, so hike on back through the woods to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Be sure to bring some containers to hold water if you go to Paradise Cove. The site is famous for the artesian well where thousands of gallons of water have bubbled out of the earth every day since 1927. The city uses this as their water source, and the public is welcome to come fill their person water containers from the spigot next to the pump house.

The water is sweet and clear, flowing cold from the earth. There is also a decorative water wheel turned by the water as it flows, which kids always enjoy looking at from the overlook platform.

Geocachers, be sure to bring the GPS. There are a geocache and an earthcache hidden within Paradise Cove.

Paradise Cove is a fun and different way to spend part of a day in our area.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

Have you had a chance to look at your calendar for the upcoming week yet? Here are some things that you might want to add in:

~ The Monroe Farmer's Market is starting up again! The first market of the season is today from 2 until 5 pm. The markets will run every Wednesday afternoon and every Saturday morning through fall. The Freeport Farmers Market starts on Saturday.

~ Future Forward Green County is having their large joint meeting tomorrow, Thursday, at Flanagan's in Monroe.

~ Come to the Monroe Public Library on Saturday from noon until 3 for the third meeting of the Monroe Lego Club. This is the last meeting until fall.

~ Raise money for Habitat for Humanity. There is still time to get in on the Bike 4 Habitat ride taking place this Saturday. There are 15, 30 and 50 mile routes available. The starting point is Veteran's Memorial Park in Brodhead. Check-in starts at 7:30, and the ride goes from 8 until 5 pm, with dinner lasting until 5.

~ The Belleville Fire Department is having their annual Fish Boil event on Saturday evening from 5 until 8 pm. Adults are $10, kids under 12 are $5 and kids under 5 are free.

~ Come to the Brodhead Airport on Sundy for their EAA Fly-In pancake breakfast. If you don't have a plane, don't worry. You can drive there too. They serve from 7 am until noon. Be prepared to catch your pancakes - it is tradition for them to just flip the pancakes through the air towards your plate. Plane rides are available if the weather permits.

~ There is still time to register for the upcoming Monroe Theatre Guild events. MTG Uncorked is a live comedy skit event schedules for May 22. There are also new children's workshops coming up: Advanced Scene Study for older kids, puppetry workshops for younger ones.

Be sure to take a look these area calendars for additional events: Green County Spotlight, Green County Tourism, Stephenson County CVB.

Loan Options for service veterans

There are many types of home loans out there: conventional, FHA, Rural Development, and much more. One type that we do not commonly see utilized is VA loans.

VA loans are available for Veterans of the US Service Branches. VA guaranteed loans are loans made by private lenders that are then guaranteed by the federal government in case of default.

VA loans offer several benefits for home buyers. They can often be made with no downpayment required. The interest rates are quite favorable. There is no private mortgage insurance required. The loans are assumable. Closing costs are often comparable to or lower than other types of loans.

Being a veteran does not guarantee that you will be able to obtain a home loan, though. The lender still will have credit and income requirements, and recent bankruptcies may disqualify you from obtaining a VA loan for a while.

A VA loan is a great option, so be sure to talk with your Realtor and your lender about them if you are a veteran. For additional information, please talk with your local VA office or visit the VA website.

Scavenger hunt

The Brodhead Public Library is having an online scavenger hunt to celebrate their grand re-opening this weekend.

Find the clues to figure out the famous movie quote Booker Wormly has in mind, along with the name of the movie it is from. There are optional bonus questions too. All correct entries will be entered into a drawing at the re-opening celebration on Saturday, May 17.

To get started, go to the public library section of the events calendar on the City of Brodhead website. You can pick up an entry form at the Brodhead library, or it is downloadable on the Green County Spotlight website once you get that far in the Scavenger Hunt.

Have fun searching!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

April Market Report

April has passed up by, so it is time to take a look at how the real estate market did locally did during that month.

First, the number of single family homes that sold in Green County in April of 2008:
  • 18 homes sold in April of 2009,
  • The average sale price was $140,824,
  • The median sale price was $125,200,
  • The highest priced property sold was $340,000,
  • The lowest priced property sold was $25,000.
Things have dropped a little bit since April of 2008:
  • 29 homes sold in April of 2008,
  • The average sale price was $156,5197,
  • The median sale price was $130,000,
  • The highest priced property sold was $355,000,
  • The lowest priced property sold was $76,000.
Obviously the number of homes that closed in the month did fall some.

However, it is great to see that the median price jumped back up a little bit from the March 2009 position, and it just a little bit lower than it was in April 2008. This is really good news for the area.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Property of the Week

This week's featured property is a custom home near Monroe
This one a kind home is filled with upgrades galore. There are elegant arches over doorways and windows and flowing curved walls. Enter the home into the large living room with gas fireplace. There is a formal dining room with hardwood floors, beautiful lighting and long views from the large window. There is an oversized curved sunroom with hot tub and panoramic views of the countryside. The custom maple kitchen has tons of storage and a breakfast bar. You have to see the size of the pantry to believe it. Stay comfortable all winter long thanks to the in floor radiant heat, R-70 ceiling insulation and R-25 wall insulation.

The bedrooms are all oversized with enormous walk-in closets. The main floor master bedroom opens with double doors into a surprisingly large room that could be a home office, study, den, family media room, toy room or nursery. This room has a custom mural by local artist Suzanne Miller gracing one entire wall. Downstairs, you will have another larger family room as well as two more bedrooms, a full bathroom and a walkout to the patio and yard.

The home is fully handicap accessible with no stairs at any of the entrances; 8' garage doors to accommodate taller vehicles; large doorways; low pile carpeting; keyless entry and two way swinging doors from the extra-large garage; wide, shallow stairs on the strengthened staircase to the lower level and more.

Outside the landscaped yard offers room for the kids or grandkids to play. There is a large Cleary building on the property for extra storage of all those big boy toys or for a workshop. The home security system will offer you peace of mind.

Located in the desirable Edelweiss subdivision, you will be only moment from Monroe. This custom home is truly special and a must see.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

Are you ready to get out and enjoy some time around Green County this weekend?

~ There is an exhibit opening in Frehner Gallery at the Monroe Arts Center. "Watercolors with Spirits" opens on Thursday with a gallery reception from 5 until 7 pm. Plan ahead for an upcoming event at MAC: Creole Stomp will be performing there on May 16. Tickets available via their website, by phone or in person.

~ Business owners and community activists, there will be a Town Hall Meeting with state legislators and city government officials regarding Prevailing Wage and the issues surrounding it. The meeting will be at City Hall in Monroe starting at 7 pm.

~ Bargain Hunters! Come down to Monroe for the annual Citywide Garage Sale Day. There will be a benefit sale for the Humane Society at Monroe Auto Sales on the west side of town.

~ Stop by Green Haven's annual plant sale in front of Amcore Bank on Friday and Saturday to pick up some plants for the moms in your life. All proceeds go to Green Haven's laudable programs.

~ Spend the day around Brodhead and tour some of the local farms. These are not your average family farms. You can stop in at Sugar Maple Emu Farm (emu), Scotch Hill Farm (goats, CSA), Kinkoona Farm (sheep), Morningstar Farm (organic fruits and veggies), and Nieman Farm (dairy). Celebrate local foods and fiber by visiting the producers and learning more about buying direct.

~ Albany Fire Department is having their annual Spaghetti Dinner on Saturday evening from 5 until 8 pm at the Lion's building in Albany. Visit with your neighbors and enjoy a hearty meal while helping raise funds for this small town volunteer fire deparment.

~ "The Sunshine Boys" is playing at Winneshiek Players theater in Freeport this weekend and next. Come enjoy great comedy locally for only $12 per

~ Are you taking mom out for Mother's Day? Many of the local restaurants will be open for brunch and lunch on Sunday. Some fill up quickly, so call ahead for reservations if mom has a favorite place to dine.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Giving Credit where Credit is Due

Congratulations to New Glarus Brewing Company! Our homegrown talent has received an award from Alliant Energy's Shared Savings program.

Shared Savings is a program that promotes energy efficient updates and planning for businesses. New Glarus Brewing Company participated with construction of their new facility on the hill just south of New Glarus.

They developed an energy efficient waste water treatment facility to ease the burden on the municipal facility. They utilized green building practices while building the entire facility. The brewery also developed the facility with energy efficiency and environmental principals in mind. Shared Savings helps businesses identify, implement, and finance these improvements.

Congratulations to Deborah and Dan Carey for their forward thinking environmental stewardship! We are proud to have business owners like the Carey's in the area.

The next time you open a bottle of Fat Squirrel, you can do so with the knowledge that it was made by a brewery that not only cares about a quality product, but also cares about preserving our environment.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Infinity Yoga Studio

I talk a lot about the businesses that line our Downtown Square here in Monroe, but not everyone knows about our hidden Downtown businesses. These are the establishments that are not front and center on the square. They may be on the second story of a building or in the lower level.

Of of these is Infinity Yoga Studio. Infinity is in the lower level of one of the buildings on the west side of the Square. The entrance is in the alley facing the City parking garage. Talk a walk in the alley on your next trip to the Square and look for their doorway.

Their class line up includes Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates and Stability Ball classes. The classes meet at various times including early morning, mid-day and early evening. Each class is $10 for a drop in session, or you can purchase a punch card package that brings the price down to as little as $7 per class. Registration is easy, and their website has information on where to call or email to sign up. You can also register by simply showing up about 15 minutes before classtime.

Infinity Yoga Studio is having an open house event on Sunday, May 3 from 1 until 4 pm. If you are in the area, this is a great time to check out the studio and get a feel for what they offer. They will also be hosting some area small businesses for a Mother's Day gift idea expo. The event is free, and parking in the City garage is always free.