The Polar Vortex & Septic Systems

Nothing can put fear into your belly like watching the contents of your toilet rise versus circling down and out to your septic system. Screaming “NOOOO!” will not stop it and you can’t push it back. Will you run away or stand there and watch the overflow in disbelief? If you could only turn back time.

Let it flow!

The plunging temperatures (pun intended) of the Polar Vortex were something most of us have never seen in our lives. We’re only starting to realize the impact it had on different aspects of our lives. Frozen septic systems have been one of the casualties. The combination of our relative lack of snow, to protect and insulate the ground, along with the plummeting temperatures left many septic lines frozen. If the pipe that leads from your toilet to your septic tank is frozen solid, no amount of pressing the flush lever will cause things to – flush.  

You can’t peck away at the problem.

As a result, the poo pumping experts in our area are working as fast as they can to help those in need. They’re pulling out their bag of tricks to thaw the lines and get things moving again. They’re also suggesting to those who have vulnerable systems or shallow septic lines to protect and insulate them in the Fall with straw, leaves or something that would provide a buffer from the chilling reach of Mother Nature.

Life Up North requires that you always be prepared and the whole situation has people considering their Plan B – an outhouse, or privy as they call it in sophisticated circles. Having an outhouse on site means you’ll never have to be caught with your pants down! You do need to get a permit to have one, because it’s actually considered a legitimate kind of septic system. But once you have the go-ahead, you can let your creativity and your sense of humor run wild! We love a good outhouse and have collected a healthy batch of photos of our favorites over the years. Check out our Pinterest Board for some inspiration for your Plan B. One day you might be very happy to be freezing your tail off! ~ Wanda Boldon

Northwestern WI: The State of the Market

Now that the dust has cleared after the State of the Union address, the coast is clear for us to share the State of the Market for our area. At the end of every calendar year, we extract data from the MLS and from the real estate recordings at the County Register of Deeds and compare it to the previous year’s findings. When it comes to reading the tea leaves, we combine forces with our entire team to make sense of it all and draw some relevant conclusions. Our shared experiences are stirred into the data and we arrive at a few points of brilliance. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves!

Point of Brilliance #1: Steady She Goes
Total sales in 2018, in terms of dollars-sold, was much the same as 2017. However, homes and cabins sold faster than the previous year and for an average of 3-4% off list price. We saw many properties sell for full price and also had multiple offers on properties that were “the hot ticket” for buyers. (If you want to know if your property is “hot”, invite one of us over and we can let you know!) Vacant land and lake lot sales were much the same as the prior year – stable and still a bit soft. The element that kept the market from growing more is Point of Brilliance #2.

Point of Brilliance #2: Low Inventory
We’re sitting in a virtual corn field with this one and chanting, “If you build it, they will come.” There are a few things that we simply can’t change quickly, and this is one of them. For every 5 buyers we work with, we have one matching property. It’s frustrating for buyers and it’s frustrating for us. But we have a finite amount of lakeshore and land to go around, and we’re also suffering from a lingering aftermath of the downturn, where few new structures were built. So why, you ask, aren’t the prices shooting through the roof? Refer yourself back to the downturn. No one has forgotten how that felt and no one wants to make a foolish real estate purchase. AKA: Mamma ain’t raised no fool.

Point of Brilliance #3: Changing Buyer Pool
Change can be sneaky when you’re immersed in the midst of it. One day you wake up and feel like things have changed overnight, except they haven’t. This one is kind of like that. Suddenly, we have more and more buyers looking to move here, live here, retire here. The way people live and work has become uber flexible and living Up North is now a viable option for more buyers. As a result, the ratio of wannabe weekend-owners to wannabe resident-owners has shifted, and we’re selling more properties that are geared to that buyer pool, like “higher end” Voyager Village homes and alternative recreational homes. We’re also selling futures. Because the folks who aren’t able to pull the plug and move right now are looking to buy something they can slide into when the time is right.

2019 is here to stay and the Spring Market is upon us. We say, “Bring it on!” If you want to be a part of next year’s statistics and contribute to a future Point of Brilliance, give us a call. We’re here to help! ~ Wanda Boldon

Prepare for a Successful Winter Inspection

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Selling your property in the winter may not sound like a lot of fun. But our Spring market is starting now and buyers are poised to find the right place. So yes, it’s prime time, if you want to be a part of the Spring market. If you’re concerned about cleaning and moving, we have great resources to help you with any hurdles you need to clear. Tell us what you need and we’ll get you connected!

If you’re a buyer, you’re likely anxious and excited to get into your new property in the Northwoods so you can prepare for the precious summer days that are right around the corner. Yes, literally, right around the corner! By the time you get an accepted offer, get your financing in place and do your inspections, it’s here.

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To help things move along smoothly, I asked Chad Imme from Pillar to Post Inspections if there were things that both buyers and sellers should keep in mind regarding inspections in the winter. Chad and his wife, Wendy have a successful home inspection business that serves our area. You can see their glowing customer reviews on their Google and Facebook pages. Chad said it’s not easy to inspect a home in the winter. But he said it’s more successful if there’s good cooperation from the seller and if access is provided to the important areas.

One of those important areas is the roof. If it’s snow covered, it’s helpful to get an age on the shingles and to gain access to the attic. One thing you can actually see better in the winter is heat loss and ice damming. The roof will show you that in clear sight!

The bare areas show heat loss.

The bare areas show heat loss.

Sellers can also help by making sure the pilot lights are lit on any gas appliances, like stoves and fireplaces. A home inspector’s insurance generally doesn’t cover them for activities like lighting pilot lights. Without a pilot light, it’s difficult to understand if those items are working properly.

The lights are on and no one's home!

The lights are on and no one’s home!

Septic systems are concerning to many buyers who live in urban environments where a municipal sewer system magically takes everything to a place far, far away. In a rural environment, septic systems are critical to the functioning of a property and they can be expensive to replace. If the access lid is above ground, it can be opened. If the access lid is buried in snow, it’s helpful for the seller to flag the location so it can be easily found and shoveled out. If the access lid is below ground, it’s difficult or impossible to get a look inside. The drain field can offer some clues about the condition of the septic system as well. If the inspection pipe is full of ice, it’s an indication that the drain field is saturated and may need to be relocated.

People come in two camps: those who want to look and those who look away!

People come in two camps: those who want to look and those who look away!

Furnaces can be easily tested in the winter. If the seller has had a recent tune-up, they can show a receipt or provide something in writing from the person who did the work for them. However, for air conditioning units, if the temperature is below 60 degrees, they can’t be tested. It would do damage to the compressor.

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So with a little planning, sellers can prepare for inspections that may be a part of a buyer’s offer so that buyers don’t have to be afraid to go ahead with a purchase – even in the winter! ~ Wanda Boldon

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New Wine Bar in Webster, WI

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There’s something new blossoming in Webster on Cedar Street. It’s named after the state flower of Wisconsin and is called Violet on Cedar. “Violet” is a wine bar that serves small plates, soups and dessert. It’s the creation of mother and daughter duo, Virginia Harstad and Ginna Lauré. They both spent their formative years in Burnett County, but their outside education and experiences have led them to this exciting new collaboration.

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The idea to create a place that offered wine and food germinated in 2012 when they sat down to write a business plan. Over time, they’ve allowed the idea to unfold as the right elements came along to make it happen. Among those elements was finding the right space and location, finding the right chef and food plan, and then preparing themselves with the knowledge they needed to do it right. Ginna even traveled to Napa, CA to earn a Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust so that she felt confident in her knowledge of wines and wine service.

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Once they purchased the real estate that would become their vision, they acquired the zoning change and permits required to transform the 3 bedroom, 2 bath home into a 38 seat space, complete with bar area, a professional kitchen and a dedicated baking room. The interior is open, fresh, light and bright. It’s a comfortable place to linger with old friends and to meet new ones as well!

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The next step was to begin testing and tasting food concepts. They worked diligently with their chef Hans Eckstrand to create food ideas and recipes. To hear them talk about their food and what they plan to present to patrons can be summed up in one word: flavor! The menu will be everchanging along with some staples. And rest assured, if you require a gluten-free environment, this is a safe place for you! They also joined forces with Lisa Benson at Webster’s Fresh Start Coffee Roasters to create a house blend of coffee called – you guessed it, Violet.

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They’re taking things one step at a time, so that Violet can grow and develop in a way that maintains their vision. But the future holds ideas for private parties, wine tasting events, developing the outdoor green space for summer use and expanded hours.

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They’re open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 4:00-8:00pm and have menu and wine updates on their website and Facebook page. Stop by this weekend for their Open House on Saturday, January 12th from 4:00-8:00pm. When you arrive at 7438 Cedar Street, it will feel like you’re arriving at the home of a friend. When you leave, you’ll know that to be true! ~ Wanda Boldon

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Navigating Transition

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The nuts and bolts of our work involves real estate law, property evaluation and pricing, marketing and representation of properties, contract drafting and overall knowledge of our geographical area and community. But the deep reality of what we do is help our clients through transitions.

It’s our privilege to be a part of people’s lives as they make decisions to change and transition to something new. Our work puts us square in the middle of all the questions and issues that surround the process of change. Whether we’re working with a seller or a buyer, they each need help navigating their way to new territory.

Yellow River, near Spooner, WI

Yellow River, near Spooner, WI, December 2018.

December 2018, three days later.

December 2018, three days later.

Like the weather, change can happen quickly. Before you know it, things aren’t the same anymore. What no longer works for one person, now becomes the ideal for the next. We help connect those dots by truly getting to know people and understanding their goals. We are a conduit.

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Another aspect of what we do at our firm is help people build careers. In the last 30 years, we’ve helped people of all ages create a rewarding work life that fits their goals. Being able to live in this beautiful area, have challenging, meaningful work and financially create your own destiny is a dream come true, in our opinion. We’re always on the lookout for someone special and new who wants the same thing for themselves.

It's never too early - or too late, to start learning.

It’s never too early – or too late, to start learning.

We’re agents of change at CENTURY 21 Sand County Services and we never stop asking, “Are We There Yet?” ~ Wanda Boldon

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Great Property For Sale: 29008 W. Yellow River Road, Danbury, WI

We are honored to represent this beautiful new listing on the Yellow River with access to both Big and Little Yellow Lakes – about a 30 minute boat ride from the dock.

MLS# 1526160 Yellow River, $389,000

MLS# 1526160 Yellow River, $389,000

Yellow River, near Danbury, WI

Yellow River, near Danbury, WI

This year around log sided chalet has an expansive great room with lots of glass and a beautiful fireplace.

Great room with wood burning fireplace

Great room with wood burning fireplace

The kitchen has an open flow to both the great room and dining area, with lovely wood and tile flooring.

45The loft, above, is home to the owner’s bedroom suite – a spacious area with a pretty wood lofted ceiling and includes a full bath, walk-in closet and a large sitting area that could be used for hobbies or office space.

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When your friends and family arrive, there is plenty of space for them to unpack their bags and make themselves at home, with 3 additional bedrooms and a large room that could sleep extras or become a quiet space to get away from it all.

The large deck spills out from the great room and could hold a sizable dinner party, lots of potted plants and flowers – and even a portable bar! The fire pit is close enough to interact with any action that’s happening on the deck as well as the dock area.

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The wood fired sauna is a great place to warm up before a hard core session of yoga as well as a place to warm your bones after cross country skiing or snow mobiling.

Wood fired sauna

Wood fired sauna

Inside the sauna

Inside the sauna

The property has two stick built garages, both have cement floors and log siding that ties into the home. The largest was built in 2009 and has solar panels. What a great place to work on your sleds, store your boats and tell tall tales!

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When we asked the owners what they loved about the property, this is what they had to say…
“Home away from home, only 2 hours away from the Twin Cities, makes it easy to get away and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Yellow River or take advantage of the many area activities.  Great river activities, either relaxing on the ride down to the lake, kayaking or all day fishing. The cabin is great for families to gather to enjoy ‘Cabin Olympics’, including bean bags, ping pong, horseshoes, darts and maybe even a wager at the casino in Danbury.  Great location for walks, runs, bike rides, cross country skiing or ATV’s and sledding on the local trails.  Ending the day relaxing in the wood fired sauna or just enjoying the serenity from the covered deck!”

If this property looks like it could be YOUR home away from home…or the home you never want to leave, make an appointment with us to see it right away! ~ Wanda Boldon

Inside the New Webster Health Center

1For over a year, we’ve all been watching the changing landscape at the site of the old school in Webster. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in such short time! The exterior is visually impressive, but what exists inside might surprise you.

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I was fortunate to get a private tour from Dr. John Ingalls, a familiar face to many in the community and the name behind the original dream that started the process of what we have today – the Webster Health Center.

Inside, the Clinic has a bright and welcoming reception area, 19 exam rooms, 2 procedure rooms and a full dental clinic – all built to grow with the future needs of the community.

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The Clinic has an army of medical professionals and specialists to serve the needs of young and old alike and there is a first class physical therapy room (P.T. stands for pain and torture, right?) with machines and equipment like we’ve never seen here before!

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6If you’re interested in reserving “classroom” or presentation space, there are community education rooms available for your group or event.

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Perhaps the most surprising thing that I discovered was the Webster Wellness Center – a dedicated space for the ongoing fitness classes that are offered. You can take dance fitness, yoga (including senior yoga), kickboxing, circuit training and steady-as-you-go, to name a few. Classes are offered Monday through Saturday and the pricing ranges from $7 for a one time walk-in to $125 for an unlimited 3 month session. “Hello, New Year’s Resolution!” My suggestion is to round up a friend or two and meet up for a class a couple of times a week.

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What a wonderful transformation to have watched the old school come down and now have a welcoming door to open. The Webster Health Center – now doesn’t that feel better? ~ Wanda Boldon

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Thirty Years in the Making!

A brown box arrived in the mail this week. We weren’t expecting anything, but it didn’t seem unusual. From time-to-time, packages arrive and then our memory is sparked with what’s inside. But sometimes our memory isn’t sparked. Whatever. That’s when you just open the darned thing and find out. (Perhaps sing a little tune while opening. “Happy Birthday” comes to mind.)

After we opened the box, we were silent. Could it be? Thirty? Years? Well, it certainly said so on the piece of fancy hardware that we pulled out of the box! It must be true.

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So there, we’ve said it – WE’RE THIRTY YEARS OLD! Well, ahem – not me. But the firm is thirty years old. It feels kind of good to say out loud, like when a three year old announces to you that they’re three. It feels that kind of good!

Dave Boldon, Broker, CENTURY 21 Sand County Services, Inc. "Thirty Years Old"

Dave Boldon, Broker, CENTURY 21 Sand County Services, Inc. “Thirty Years Old”

A lot of things got their start in 1988, like Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign and “The Wonder Years” television show. We’re the same age as British singer/songwriter Adele and we were all singing (or plugging our ears) to Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” thirty years ago.

A lot of great things have happened at CENTURY 21 Sand County Services over the last 30 years. Perhaps the greatest things we can cite are the thousands of interactions we’ve had with people to help them transition to the next stage, whether it be to sell a property or to buy one and become a part of our special life here. And so, we will keep asking ourselves the question and keep asking our clients the question, “Are We There Yet?” and look forward to opening another mystery box even farther down the line. ~ Wanda Boldon

What is Vintage vs. Dated?

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Determining whether your home has vintage versus dated style can be a fine line, and in many regards, much in the eye of the beholder. To that, some may say, “Who cares? It is what it is. My home is just like me – aging like a fine wine.”

That may be true. If that’s the case, we would call you and your home “classic”. If you think about defining “classic”, a few things come quickly to mind – Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress, the Ford Mustang and a Friday Night Fish Fry.

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But more likely the case for you AND your home, is that it’s not so cut and dried. Think about John Travolta’s bell-bottomed pants in “Saturday Night Fever”, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and Jello salad – all interesting and unusual. A person could do something with each, in the right context, and if you felt like it. But they’re not for everyone.

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Such is the case with homes and cabins. In an area like ours, many properties have classic elements like knotty pine walls, stone fireplaces and log accents. These things have defined our Northwoods life for years and stood the test of time. But for those who dared to think outside the box, in the name of style when they built or made decorating choices, the jury is out. And who exactly IS the jury? It’s the buyer of your property. You will be judged. After the judgement, you will either be rewarded or penalized. Yes, we’re talking money now.

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Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling, this is a relevant topic. For sellers, it’s an opportunity to look at your property with fresh eyes and determine what can be changed or updated to help your property show beautifully. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of playing up the right features. Sometimes it’s a large renovation. Rely on a real estate professional to help you understand what makes sense for your property and the current market. They can help you make good choices so that you are ultimately rewarded in the end.

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If you’re a buyer, you can also rely on a real estate agent to help you envision the possibilities in a property. Depending on your end-game, skills and comfort level, you could do well by making some simple changes to a property that doesn’t really shine right now. We also often find buyers who are looking for a specific kind of lot in a specific kind of location. It can be frustrating to wait years and years for the right kind of lake home to come for sale on the right kind of lake. Try seeing things with different eyes and you may start to see some exciting possibilities.

MLS #1525070, Bone Lake Drive, $198,000

MLS #1525070, Bone Lake Drive, $198,000

MLS #1525070, Bone Lake Drive, $198,000

MLS #1525070, Bone Lake Drive, $198,000

The place where you dwell is ultimately a very personal space. It should feel good to YOU and suit the kind of environment that you choose. But when the place where you dwell becomes a marketable item, you have other things to consider. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to hear the truth. Once you know the truth, you can make decisions from a better place. ~ Wanda Boldon

Leaf Peepers – Come Out, Come Out!

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We survived a week of rain, wind, cold and s***. It’s over. Now the coast is clear to come enjoy what Mother Nature has created this Fall season – the beautiful colors! Fret not. The masterpiece was not destroyed with last week’s weather. It’s still here, waiting to be appreciated.

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After you absorb the luscious surrounds in the crisp autumn weather, you may find yourself wanting to find a road that leads to a special place where you can kick off your boots and warm yourself by the fire. If that urge occurs, we’re here to help you find it! Contact us and let’s get started! ~ Wanda Boldon

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