Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 Things to Take the Trauma out of Home Buying

Buying a home can be a frightening process, even if you have done it before. The National Association of Realtors has assembled the following list of tips to help ease the process:

1. Remember, there’s no “right” time to buy, any more than there’s a right time to sell. If you find a home now, don’t try to second-guess the interest rates or the housing market by waiting. Changes don’t usually occur fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won’t stay on the market long.

2. Don’t try to be a killer negotiator. Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price may lose you the home you love.

3. Accept that no house is ever perfect. Focus in on the things that are most important to you and let the minor ones go.

4. Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation. A home’s most important role is as a comfortable, safe place to live.
5. Don’t ask for too many opinions. It’s natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas will make it much harder to make a decision.

6. Remember your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself—room size, kitchen—that you forget such issues as amenities, noise level, etc., that have a big impact on what it’s like to live in your new home.

7. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to get approved for a mortgage, investigate insurance availability, and consider a schedule for moving. Presenting an offer contingent on a lot of unresolved issues will make your bid much less attractive to sellers.

8. Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-home-buying budget. Even if you buy a new home, there will be some costs. Don’t leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.

9. Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big commitment, but it also yields big benefits.

10. Find a real estate professional who’s simpatico. Home-buying is not only a big financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the practitioner you choose is both skilled and a good fit with your personality.

(adapted from the National Association of Realtors Realtor Magazine Online)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

Our apologies for missing last week's thing to do post. It was vacation week around here.

~ The New Glarus Fire Department celebrates their 107th anniversary this Saturday. Join them for fire truck rides, water fights, music, food and more.

~ Baumgartner's plays host to Bill and Mol playing original pirate ballads and much more. This is a rollicking fun show! Tofflers hosts Rivalry, an emerging melodic rock band that was recently featured a Summerfest.

~ We've mentioned the Piazza concerts before, and there is another this weekend. Reptile Palace Orchestra will play this unique outdoor venue at dusk, and the pre-concert potluck has a food theme of Fish, Fowl and Crustaceans. These are large, private concerts where you can expect to have a hat passed to compensate the musicians. The hosts love to meet new people, so consider yourself invited.

~ The Albany Lions Club is sponsoring their annual Steak Fry. Come on down for a steak with all the trimmings. Serving starts at 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

~ Ever been to the Argyle Mud Volleyball Tournament? This event is good muddy fun. and it benefits the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department. It takes place Sunday at the Legion Park in Argyle.

~ The Green County Entrepreneurs and Inventors Club meets again on Monday from 6:30 until 8:30 in the New Glarus Room of the Monroe Hospital. Meetings are always free, and refreshments are provided. This month's topic is Entrepreneurs in Government.

Music galore is in the region this weekend. Come enjoy any of the concerts listed here or one of the ongoing summer community concerts in Brodhead and Monroe. Bring a picnic or grab a meal at one of our locally owned restaurants before you come. Remember in today's economic climate, our neighbors need our help in supporting their businesses more than ever!

Tuesday, July 28, 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!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A call for help

The construction on Monroe's Downtown Square is in full swing. Yes, it is more difficult to get where you want to go in the Downtown area these days.

It is even more important than ever to take the little bit of extra time necessary to get to the Downtown businesses right now. The local, independent cafes, stores, salons, restaurants, offices, and pubs need our business to stay alive. Pretty much every business is still operating under standard business hours even if the sidewalk is missing and the street is torn up. Many have alternate entrances through the alleys to the rear of the buildings during the times that the fronts are inaccessible. If you are unsure of the best way to get into a business, call ahead and ask.

Some businesses will even offer curbside service right now. Call ahead with what you need. They will give you a total and meet you at your car when you arrive. Schultz Pharmacy has long done this for people who need it, and many other businesses are happy to offer the same service.

Keep our Downtown vibrant. The construction will be over in just a few months, and the Downtown will be even better. Let us all do our part to keep our favorite businesses here to enjoy it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Inventory and the Market

When I wrote the June and May market reports, I noted that things are holding steady with regard to home sales and that the prices actually rose slightly.

Some may wonder why homes seem to be moving so slowly around the area when the numbers show that about the same number of homes are selling right now. The answer lies in the housing inventory, the number of homes that are for sale right now.

Every month, new listings appear on the market. I took a look at most of the decade today. About the same number of homes have been listed every month for years; between 55 and 65 new listings appear most months.

Looking at history, between 30 and 35 homes sold on average every month until last fall. Things slowed down for a while in 2008 and early 2009 with all the worry about the housing bubble, the presidential election and the economy.

Even though the number of homes sold dropped, the number being listed did not. This resulted in a build up of our housing inventory. This is why the days on market number is so much higher than this time last year even though we are currently selling the average number of homes every month once again. The market will even out, but in the short time we do have to work through the increased inventory.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

I should have posted some of these events a few days ago because there are some great things happening tonight!

~ The second Stirring the Pot picnic and discussion event takes place this evening on the lawn of the Monroe Arts Center. Chef demonstrations begin at 5:30. Bring your blanket, your dinner and enjoy watching Representative Brett Davis with his friends from Peppercorn Banquets as well as Chef Kate Thomas from BTC as they show us how to prepare some favorite dishes. Discussion will follow the cooking demonstrations, and stay for the live music.

~ Also this evening is the annual Pork Producers Dinner. This popular annual event moved to July this year, and it now takes place at SLICE. Tickets are $8 at the door, and serving starts at 5 pm.

~ The Young Professionals of Green County have a business showcase at Kookaburra's on Monroe's Downtown Square on Thursday evening. Laura will be demonstrating how to make some fun and easy summer appetizers and dinners along with Stef from Goose Chaser Farms. $10 per person.

~ Belleville hosts Bastille Day this Saturday. Who knew we celebrated that here in Green County? The day is full of family events: K-12 talent show, live music, fishing demonstrations and contest, quilt show, bike races, wine and cheese tasting and more. Stop by the Green County Humane Society area in Liberty Park to celebrate Bastille day fully - by liberating a pet and adopting it. Hey, we can be cheesy here in Green County, can't we?

~ Brodhead hosts Twilight in the Park on Sunday evening. This live music event in Veteran's Park is free for everyone. This week's featured act is Opan Jii playing jazz. There is also music at Toffler's in New Glarus on Saturday evening. Join them to hear the Kristy Larson Honky Tonk Trio.

~ The Stephenson County Fair is going on all weekend at the fairgrounds in Freeport. From 4-H judging to grandstand events and demolition derbies, all the classics are here. Are you up for something special? Participate in the American Barnstormers Flying Circus! Aviation enthusiasts have the opportunity to go up in a vintage bi-plane for ride. Go all out and sign up for the Stearman flight. This is a trainer plane, and for 30 minutes, the passenger will be able to fly. The pilot will handle take off and landing, but once in the air, the flying is up to you. No flying experience is required. Interested? Call 815-232-1078 to sign up.

~ Lena is host to wilderness survival skills workshop this Saturday. The focus is Nature Observation, Movement and Camouflage. Learn to how move in the woods without being seen or heard. All ages are welcome, contact the Lena Parks Department to register (815-990-0146).

~ Finish off a fun filled Freeport Saturday with Stargazing at Oakdale Nature Preserve. The Tricounty Astronomers will be at Oakdale at dusk to watch the night sky.

~ Next week, be sure to keep your calendar clear! It is Farm Technology Days (interesting even for cityfolk in my opinion), the Green County Fair, Fairy Tale Theatre performances, the youth triathlon, and Christmas in July on Monroe's Downtown Square. Can we get a couple more days in our weekend please??

~ Biking enthusiasts! There is still time to sign up for next week's Swiss Cheese and Spotted Cow bike tour. This event takes place from July 22 through July 26. Tour the gorgeous back roads of Green and Lafayette Counties as you travel from Mineral Point to New Glarus, Monroe, Galena and finally back to Mineral Point. All of these communities are well know and frequently mentioned in Midwest Living as places to go. Microbrews, local foods, wineries, art studios, bakeries, chocolates, cheeses, beautiful countryside and charming small communities await. You'll average about 60 miles a day over rolling terrain with stops in all of the best places. Participants rave about this tour and come in from all over the nation. Local bike riders, are you ready for a vacation in your backyard?

Tuesday, July 14, 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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

June 2009 Market Report

Another month has closed, so it is time to take a look at the market statistics again.

First, the number of single family homes that sold in Green County in June of 2009:
  • 32 homes sold in June of 2009,
  • The average sale price was $148,459,
  • The median sale price was $140,957,
  • The highest priced property sold was $765,000,
Now, let us take a look at June of 2008:
  • 32 homes sold in June of 2008,
  • The average sale price was $147,003,
  • The median sale price was $136,000,
  • The highest priced property sold was $375,900,
  • The lowest priced property sold was $43,000.
This makes two months in a row that the median and average home price was higher in 2009 than in 2008. Approximately the same number of homes sold in both years for two months in a row as well.

Days on the market is still higher, however. The average days on market for June 2008 was 72, but it was 158 in June of 2009. This is a reflection of the higher than average inventory of homes currently for sale. If approximately the same number of homes sold both years, but there are more homes currently for sale, that means that each home has to sit on the market longer. Sellers need to be aware of this data when planning. Homes that are not competitively priced from the list date will sit on the market longer.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wisconsin's New Asbestos Rules

There are many older homes in our area. Now, I am huge fan of older homes in general, loving the higher ceilings, plaster walls and charming woodwork. However, older homes bring with them older technology. Things that were once standard practice but now are considered outmoded or even dangerous.

Old electrical systems including knob and tube wiring. Lead paint. Asbestos. These three are among the most common hazards in old homes. When you are looking at homes, talk with your realtor, and when you make an offer, be sure to address these issues if you have any concerns about them. Home inspectors are an invaluable asset to any home buyer, and the cost of a home inspection can be money very well spent in the long run.

Asbestos in homes is more common than most often realized. It can hide in the insulating wraps around pipes, in the siding or in the insulation. The only way to know for sure that asbestos is in a home is to test for it. However, industry experts recommend only testing materials that are damaged or have been disturbed. Undisturbed asbestos in good condition will not normally release fibers into the air.

New rules regarding asbestos went into effect in Wisconsin in May of this year. Vermiculite insulation, which is often found in older homes, now is assumed to contain asbestos unless it has been tested and proven otherwise. This is a bit of a catch-22 for some sellers. It is best to leave undamaged or undisturbed asbestos containing materials alone, yet in order to test, it must be disturbed, potentially releasing fibers into the air. The only other option for these sellers is to disclose the presence of the vermiculite insulation and let buyers know that the sellers do not know if this contains asbestos.

Another change these rules bring with them is that asbestos or suspected asbestos materials may only be removed by certified asbestos contractors. Do it yourself-ers need to be aware of these changes.

Bottom line is that when it doubt, sellers must disclose to buyers the presence of any material adverse fact (anything that has a significant adverse effect on the value of a property, could reduce the integrity of the property, pose a significant health risk to the occupants, or information that indicates that either party is not intending to meet their obligations under the contract). Sellers, if your home has vermiculite insulation or "slate" siding, buyers must now be given that information. Buyers, if you are looking at a home that discloses possible or actual asbestos, ask questions and have an expert in to advise you. Asbestos concerns can range from minimal to severe, and it is important to know exactly what you are dealing with.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

Don't forget to check Monday's post for additional things to do this weekend.

~ Moonspinners of Northwest Illinois, a fiber arts guild, has their monthly meeting tonight from 7 until 9 pm at the Methodist Church in Organgeville. New members are always welcome.

~ Stef from Goose Chaser Farm is doing a workshop entitle Sustainable Styling from Thursday through Saturday. Photographers, come learn from an expert. Stef is a professional, and she teaches this workshop that blends photography, love of food and sustainability to help other professionals capture the essence of green styling. There is one day on location at our favorite herb farm, one day in the studio, and a workshop session on marketing. Contact Stef immediately to check on availability if you are interested.

~ The Monticello Homecoming Celebration takes place this week. From Thursday evening through Sunday, enjoy small town festivities with a carnival, softball tournaments, fish boil, beer stand, talent show, motorcycle ride, chicken barbecue, water fights, parade and more.

~ Downtown Monroe plays host to another Concert on the Square at 6:30 on Thursday evening. The band this time is "Stranded in Iowa". Boxed suppers are available from Turner Hall, Garden Deli and Cafe Claudeen.

~ New Glarus hosts their annual Maxwell Street Days. Walk around town and browse for deals on the sidewalk table on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Shop for bargains through the entire town on Saturday at the annual New Glarus Citywide Garage Sale.

~ Green County Humane Society's Pedal for Paws takes place on Saturday. Bike 12, 15 or 30 miles in support of the Humane Society. Registration is $35 for individuals or $60 per family.

~ Cheer on your favorite team as the Cubs take on the Cards at Little Cubs Field in Freeport. These are the Little League versions of those teams, of course. The Black Earth Cards are coming in to play the Freeport Cubs. Game time is 3:10 pm. Even if you don't like the majors, there is a special exuberance to a Little League game.

Here's to another great weekend in the Green County area!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Looking ahead to a busy weekend

This weekend is shaping up to be a full one here in Cheese Country, so I am giving a heads up on some of the Saturday activities. Spend a day vacationing here in your backyard or make a day trip to our area.

I've often talked about Inn Serendipity here on this blog. Lisa and John are great friends of ours, wonderful people. If you have never met them or are curious about their eco-destination B&B and farm, this is the weekend for you. Every July, they have an open house day on their farm celebrating energy independence and the good life. You are invited to join them for an all-day feast of friendships, food, fun and renewable energy.

From 10am to 5pm, Inn Serendipity will host a farm celebration, welcoming those who yearn for a bit of the good life in the country. Children's activities, farm tours, and potlucks (bring a dish to pass) for lunch (12noon) or snacks (anytime). The day-long educational event is free of charge. Bring along a dish to pass (to share with 5-6 people), and your questions about wind turbines, solar panels, squash and the employment world of free-agency. Copies of ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet before Profits and Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life, co-authored by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko, will be available for sale, as well as John's children's books.

The open house will be followed by the Piazza Potluck and Concert featuring "Andina and Rich" at Terry and Nancy's at Prairie Herbs Farm about twenty minutes from the farm. The Piazza Potluck begins around 6:30 pm (theme is foods and drinks made with or that go with caffeine) and concert begins at dusk (8:15ish); a hat is passed to pay for the band (suggested donation is $12/per person).

Before or after your visit to Inn Serendipity, stop on at the Downtown Square in Monroe. Don't be afraid of the construction down here; businesses are still open and people are still here!

Laura at Kookaburra's on the north side of the Square is sponsoring a visit from the Swiss Colony NASCAR drivers and cars. NASCAR on the Square event July 11th, 2009.

Drivers Jeremy Miller and Nathan Haseleu will be available for autographs and pictures from 10a-4p. Bring your family and friends and make a day of it on the square!

After visiting with the drivers and getting photos of the cars, be sure to stop in at Kookaburra's. Laura has a new stash of wonderfully funky aprons in stock. Be sure to walk all around the Square to check out the specials and changing inventory. If you haven't been there recently, you might be surprised by some of the new offerings in the stores.

While you are walking around the Square, head over to Europa. Heather is celebrating her first anniversary as the owner of this long-established Monroe business. She will be having specials and surprises through the day.

If you are on the Square before noon, be sure to pop down for the Farmer's Market. Every Saturday, Kurt is there with free coffee, lemonade and snacks. I will also be in the office until noon, so pop in and say hi!

Whether you spend all day at Inn Serendipity or on the Square or bop back and forth between the two before heading to the concert, you are sure to have a great day here in Green County!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Declare Mortgage Independence

As a Realtor, I consider it one my jobs to make sure that my buyers know what they are getting into. When looking at homes, it is easy to get dazzled, and buyers can start talking themselves into things that make me cringe.

So, in the spirit of Independence Day, I present How to Declare Mortgage Independence.

No, I'm not suggesting anything shady here. This isn't like how to stop paying taxes. This is how to plan ahead so that down the road you can be one of the people who own their American Dream outright, no mortgage, nothing owed to the bank.

The key here is planning ahead. This is a crucial thing to do when buying any home.

Don't let yourself get house poor. Talk with the bank first and know your buying power. Then, decide if you want your house payment to be the maximum that it can be or if you want something lower. If you buy a house at a price that is under your maximum, you will be more able to cope with emergencies, save for luxuries or pay extra on your mortgage.

Go for the shortest term mortgage you can afford. A 30 year mortgage is pretty standard, but in the long term, it costs you thousands upon thousands more in interest than a 15 year mortgage. With a 30 year mortgage, many also feel like paying it off will be impossible. I mean really, 30 years to own my house? Most of us scoff and feel like that will never happen. However, a 15 year mortgage, now that is something different. Hey, just 15 years ago, I was graduating college. That is a time period that feels more doable to many people.

Pay extra on that mortgage when you are able. If you already have an adequate savings, direct a little extra towards your mortgage. If you paid attention to buying under your ability, you are more likely to be in this position as the years go by. Surprise money? Instead of spending all of it on a vacation or treating yourself, take at least a portion and put it towards your mortgage.

Plan to stay put. Houses are not like cars. You cannot trade them in every 3-5 years for something newer. Well, you can, but you'll end up losing money in most markets. The early part of this decade, when people were selling after 3-5 years and making large amounts of money on their homes, was an anomaly when you look at history. When you look at homes, plan for your long term needs. How many kids do you think you'll have in 5-7 years? Plan for enough bedrooms. Are you getting older with retirement on the horizon? Look for things than can accommodate reduce mobility just in case. Think long term, not just "Oh, we'll sell in a couple of years and get what we need then." If you can stay in a home for the better part of a decade or more, you will reap bigger benefits when you do sell.

If you waiting for enough years in order to have your home appreciate significantly and have a significant chunk of your mortgage paid off when you do sell, you can buy a more expensive home without having to increase your mortgage expenses.

You can declare mortgage independence, but only by planning ahead.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day Weekend!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Things to Do Around Monroe

~ Have you made reservations for this month's Famous Fossil Wine Down and Cookout? Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of. The July menu includes rib eyes on the grill, seasonal salad, Mrs Mike's chips, wine specials and Famous Fossil Sangria, all served on the patio at the winery overlooking the vineyards.

~ Enjoy live music at Tofflers in New Glaurus on Friday night. Enjoy the sounds of Mark Harrod on the patio. On Sunday, the Alex Wilson Band will perform at Caribbean Coffee and Cream in Brooklyn from 2 until 5 pm.

~ There is still time to sign the kids up for Fairy Tale Theatre through Monroe Theatre Guild, and scholarships are still available. Visit the MTG website for details.

~ From Friday through Sunday, "Eight Miles of Ag-tiques" will line highway 69 from Monroe to Orangeville. International Harvestor. John Deer. Minneapolis Moline. Oliver. Allis Chalmers. Massey Harris. If these names mean anything to you, come see your favorites. If these names mean nothing to you, find out why the are special. There will be displays at farms and businesses lining Highway 69 filled with vintage farming equipment and one farm will even feature a draft horse demonstration.

~ Washington Church in Monticello celebrate their anniversary with an annual music fest on July 4. There will be 5 bands playing starting at 11 am and going until 4 pm.

~ Monroe's big Fourth of July celebration takes place on Saturday at Twining Park. Events kick off at 11 am. Watch the soccer, volleyball and softball games or enjoy entertainment in the band shell. Food vendors will be in the park all day. Children's events are scheduled from 11 am until 3 pm. The big fireworks display starts about 9:30.

~ Brodhead's Fourth of July celebration on Saturday starts with a parade at noon and finishes with fireworks at dusk. This year's event will feature special events celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Fire Department.

~ You can also find fireworks celebrations in Brooklyn at Legion's park. There will be bands, games for the family and a grand fireworks finale.

~ Stephenson County will be having a big fireworks display for Independence day on Friday evening at dusk at the fairgrounds in Freeport.

~ Green County Entrepreneurs and Inventors Club meets on Monday evening at 6:30 in the New Glarus Room of the Monroe Hospital. This month's featured speaker is James Schneider of Blue Chip Training & Marketing. His topic will be "Building and Maintaining a Winning Business Attitude."