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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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

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

Are We There Yet?

Picture this: You’re a couple of months away from kicking off your big season. The team is tuned up; playing sharp, healthy and looking good. You have a tingling in your bones that you just may have this game figured out. You could take it all the way. Maybe someday, someone will even come to you for lessons on how it’s all done. Then the phone rings. It’s the home office. They’re calling to tell you the team colors are changing and so is the logo. Everything needs to be turned and churned. And they tell you not to worry – you’re going to love it and that you will even thank them someday. Nausea rises. What’s this going to do to the team…and the FANS?

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Yup, that’s kind of how it felt when we received the word this winter; CENTURY 21, our trusty and beloved franchise was changing its logo and colors. They called it a rebranding and modernization of our brand’s image. At first knowledge, the blood drained out of our faces – just a little bit. Then we may have grumbled and said a few choice words – just a little bit. But then the more we let the news sink in, the more it began to grow on us. We might even thank the home office one day – just a little bit.

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20180806_091320And so, the turn and churn is underway. The new, more smart, sleek and sophisticated color palette along with the new C21 seal replace the old black and gold colors and logo. It’s not just symbolic, it’s a real opportunity for us to set a new bar, to shine through and to show what it means to be extraordinary real estate agents. It’s an exciting time for our brand and our firm and we accept the challenge: to be relentless, to defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences. It’s time for kickoff! ~ Wanda Boldon

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Trending: Property Condition & Disclosure

“Septics, Foundations and Flashing – Oh My!” The topic of property condition and disclosure is a hot button for buyers and sellers alike these days. We’re finding that the difference between having a great experience versus a not-so-great experience is very much connected to what’s behind the curtain!

If you’re a buyer looking at a property that someone else has owned and maintained, there can be a lot of mysteries. If you don’t have a lot of familiarity with how things work, especially with rural living, you need someone to help you understand what to look for. That kind of assurance can come from a qualified inspector as well as a real estate agent you trust. You can also refer to what the seller has disclosed in their Real Estate Condition Report.

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

From a seller’s perspective, it may have been years since you’ve sold a property. You may not know how to prepare your property to sell or what kinds of things you should disclose. You too, need someone to help you understand what to look for and what to do. Likewise, that kind of assurance can come from a real estate agent you trust, a qualified inspector and your Real Estate Condition Report.

Are there code violations here?

Are there code violations here?

Inspections are an opportunity for buyers to get to know a property better. An inspector can share maintenance tips to keep a property in good shape. They can point out areas to keep an eye on and they also look for defects. In Wisconsin, it’s not a requirement to have your property inspected before you list it. But we have a recent example of two siblings who inherited the home where their parents lived. They never lived there and didn’t know much about the workings of the place. They chose to get an inspection, so that they could address any major issues (defects) before listing and so that they wouldn’t get blind-sided with problems down the road when a buyer was involved. It served them well. Their buyer had great confidence in the property, which resulted in good feelings on both sides when an Offer to Purchase came into play. Win-win.

Is that dryer vent kosher?

Is that dryer vent kosher?

The Wisconsin Realtors Association has released a new version of the Real Estate Condition Report, which we feel will be beneficial to both buyers and sellers. It’s much more specific so that sellers can understand areas of concern in advance and be clear about what they know. It’s also divided into categories so that buyers can easily zone in on areas that are important to them.

How do I fix this?

How do I fix this?

Talk to your real estate agent. Tell them your concerns and ask them if they see anything that needs to be addressed. Review the Real Estate Condition Report with them and find out what items they feel may be defects and which items fall under the category of maintenance. (“My dog is missing a left foot” is a defect. “My dog needs his nails trimmed” is maintenance.) Your agent should have knowledge and resources to help you put your best foot forward, so that in the end, everyone can lock arms and skip down the yellow brick road together. There’s no place like home! ~ Wanda Boldon

How Quality Photography Leads to Happiness

Mud Hen Lake - Siren, WI

Mud Hen Lake – Siren, WI

When we discuss the real estate marketing process with Sellers, we explain to them that their “first showing” is online. Buyers thoroughly digest photos online before they contact us for a physical showing. Because of this, the photos we use to represent a property are critical to the success of everyone involved – Sellers and Buyers.

Ham Lake - Danbury, WI

Ham Lake – Danbury, WI

It makes us scratch our heads when we see new listings hit the MLS with poor photography. It’s kind of a public humiliation to everyone involved! So why does anyone let it happen? It takes work, timing and skill to beautifully represent a property. One can’t just hire a professional photographer and wash their hands of the process. If an agent is too busy to personally take and/or get involved with helping to achieve great images, the results show it.

Crooked Lake - Siren, WI

Crooked Lake – Siren, WI

At our firm, there are a few guidelines that we live by:

  • A head shot should be an exterior shot of the main dwelling. If you can’t show the outside of a dwelling in the head shot, it makes you wonder why…?
  • Efforts should be made to capture images on a picturesque day. If the weather isn’t cooperative, re-shoot when it is.
  • If the seasons change during the course of the listing, so should the photos.
  • Wide angle lenses should not be the “meat and potatoes” presentation of a property. They are for special effect only and should be used sparingly.
  • Drone photography is not appropriate for every property and should be left in the hands of a professional. Most drone shots done by amateurs (agents) in our area make it look like the woods around the property are lying down. (Sad.)

Real estate photography should flatter a property, but it should also paint a clear and realistic picture. Great photos attract the right Buyers. The right Buyers write better offers. Better offers lead to successful closings, where the Sellers and the Buyers are both happy. Happiness is all it’s cracked up to be! ~ Wanda Boldon

The Spring Market: We’re Here For YOU

Are you in? If so, here are some insider tips you need to know, whether you’re a BUYER or a SELLER, before you take the plunge.

BUYERS, where do you begin? Online, of course! Go to the site that will give you the best, most accurate information, the most photos and easiest interface. For our area, you can’t top the www.c21sandcounty.com site. Why? Not all companies belong to both the Northwestern Wisconsin MLS and the Twin Cities MLS simultaneously. Therefore, if you’re searching on a Twin Cities based web site or on one of the “big box” sites that miraculously knows everything and yet nothing, you’re missing out on properties. The CENTURY 21 Sand County Services site has a search function that was specifically designed for searches in Northwestern Wisconsin. It pulls complete information from all sources and then boils it down to an interface that helps you get what you want quickly. The map-based search of Northwestern Wisconsin is front and center, so you can quickly see what’s available. Then, you can narrow things down by property type, price range and even a specific lake. Once you find a list of properties that interest you, you can save them for later. You can also monitor new listings as they come on the market. The “new listings” feed is continuously updated so you won’t miss out on a thing!

Next, get an agent involved. Don’t settle for someone who merely has a license to show you property in Wisconsin. Choose someone who is a local expert. You will benefit by getting more complete detailed and background information about the properties you view and will have fewer surprises after the closing. If an agent has to drive over an hour to show you properties, they’re not local and there’s no way they can be experts!

BUYERS, when all is said and done, and you’re ready to go to closing, be aware of one other thing. There is a trend in the industry toward charging buyers a closing fee. Yes. That means your agent charges you a fee for the privilege of working with them. This fee is on top of the commission they’re earning from the sale. If this makes you froth up, you’re not alone. The CENTURY 21 Sand County Services Team does NOT charge a buyer closing fee. None. Not. Nada. We give you full service and nothing less, with no extra charges.

SELLERS, is it time to move on? It’s a very personal and potentially sensitive time, and you need help. Start by finding an agent who you trust and makes you feel comfortable. Listen to your gut on this. But also rely on referrals and previous customer feedback. Do an online search to find out more before you hand over the keys. On top of that, you want a knowledgeable agent who will lead and manage the whole process – someone who will stay in touch with you, someone who has a good rapport with other agents and someone who prepares you for what to expect. That’s not too much to ask.

Next, consider the company’s marketing package. Finding the right buyer for your property is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach. Every property is unique. Seller’s goals are unique. Look to your agent for innovative ideas to personalize the marketing of your property and of course, expect great photography and presentation.

Ask if the firm has dedicated support staff. Find out who will manage the ongoing listing details and who will contact you to coordinate showings.

Lastly, skip forward to the closing process. Does the firm have an in-house closer who prepares the closing documents, including your Deed, who is able to close cash transactions on any day, at any time and personally attends closing along with your agent?

WE DO. At CENTURY 21 Sand County Services, it is our goal to offer you all of this – whether you’re a BUYER or a SELLER. It’s our mission to defy mediocrity and deliver an extraordinary real estate experience. Let us show you! ~ Wanda Boldon

Team CENTURY 21 Sand County Services

Team CENTURY 21 Sand County Services

New Listings for Spring Buyers

The Spring buying season is underway and we’re just beginning to bring in some great new listings. Now is the time to look, if you want to be enjoying yourself when the weather turns. Just to remind you of how that looks, here are a couple new listings you can warm up to!

3649 Bay Drive $285,000

3649 Bay Drive $285,000

“Go jump in the lake!” This 4 bedroom (plus office!), 3 bath home has 3 acres of land and overlooks Loon/Cadotte Lakes. Dog lovers and kid protectors – this one has a fenced yard!

Quick and easy access to boating and fishing in the summer, trails and ice fishing in the winter.

Quick and easy access to boating and fishing in the summer, trails and ice fishing in the winter.

Attractive, low maintenance landscaping and a fire pit waiting for your coals.

Attractive, low maintenance landscaping and a fire pit waiting for your coals.

“Garcon!” This 4 bedroom, 3 bath home on 2 acres of lush woods and landscaped paradise has venues all over the place to share with others or to savor on your own. Table service, not included!

4521 Wilderness Way $214,900

4521 Wilderness Way $214,900

Grill-side dining, just steps from the screen house.

Grill-side dining, just steps from the screen house.

Overlooking the wood chip paths and pine forest.

Overlooking the wood chip paths and pine forest.

Let us know when you’d like to take a look and we’ll make arrangements to give you a personal tour! – Wanda Boldon

Inspections – Setting Your Expectations

 

i110An Offer to Purchase is more than a Buyer offering to purchase a property for a particular price. It’s a whole package of intentions, permissions and promises. Depending on the situation and the property being pursued, Buyers should weigh carefully how their package will be received by a Seller, if they truly are earnest in wanting to own the property. Because from the Seller’s side of the fence, they tuck themselves in bed at night and dream of getting an offer with few or no hurdles to clear – “cash, no contingencies”!

Hurdles (contingencies) can include financing, inspections and a myriad of other things. Getting a bank loan is pretty straight forward and understandable to most Sellers. They don’t generally think twice about how that happens. But inspections are one of those things that can instill a dribble of fear in a Seller. Ask a group of ten people about their experience with a home inspection and you’ll likely get at least a few horror stories.

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Some Buyers don’t feel the need to inspect. They either feel well informed because they have a personal skill set that allows them to “self-inspect”, they feel the property was priced appropriately for its condition and will take it “as is” or they want the Seller to look favorably on their offer and accept it without blinking. For everyone else – they just want to know that there isn’t something horrible lurking below the surface of what they’re about to buy.

But inspections don’t have to be spooky if everyone understands what to expect from the process. Those expectations should be set by the agents involved in the sale as well as the inspector who is hired to do the work. Agents should review the language in the Offer with the Buyer and Seller so that everyone is clear about the mission. Buyers should attend their inspections because it’s a great opportunity to learn about the “care and feeding” of their new treasure and a good inspector will teach and share as the process goes along.

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Anything can be negotiated in an Offer, but in our area, it’s customary for Buyers to pay for their inspections. The most common types we see here are home, well (with a safe water test) and septic inspections. What we’re looking for are significant defects. The biggest concerns are the things that bear the biggest price tag to fix like heat, roof, well and septic. It’s not a witch hunt to see how many puny things we can find wrong!

If everyone understands the purpose from the get-go, and you get the right inspector, inspections can be a fun and informative process! And hey, let’s face it – you haven’t lived until you’ve seen your reflection in a septic tank!  – Wanda Boldon

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