Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tree Hugger

Passers-by, both vehicular and on foot, stop in awe at the sweater that hugs a tree in the Westmorland neighborhood.  No doubt, it's an odd sight!  A sweater on a tree?  What's up with that?

For the past several years, the owner of the house has had a much smaller "muffler" knit around the tree trunk each winter.  This year, she went wild.  She knit squares and patches and flowers in bright, sunny colors.  As Fall approached, she could be seen at the base of the tree assembling the bits and pieces around the trunk.  As the sweater grew up the trunk, out came the ladder
so the artist could reach to the branches to knit together more parts and pieces.  And the glorious tree sweater was born. If she had a taller ladder, no doubt the sweater would reach higher into the branches.

For neighbors, its a bright spot on these cloudy, cold and sometimes gloomy days of winter.  Which is precisely why the owner created the tree sweater.  In her words, "I can't look out my window at gray and brown all winter.  I need to see something bright and cheery."  And bright and cheery it is!

She has received notes, comments from dog walkers and bikers and smiles from children.  It has brightened the days of the neighbors as well as the artist.

A reason to smile on a cold winter day since it's not everyday you see a tree wearing a sweater!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Customer Service

Great customer service isn't what it used to be, so I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I found a note in my mailbox.  It read:

"Hi! My name is Mary and I am your new mail carrier.  I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I am new to this route and I will do my best to provide excellent customer service.  If by chance you receive mail that does not belong to you please put it back in your mailbox and do not write directly on the mail as it needs to be forwarded on.  If there is something I need to know please leave me a note. I am happy to make changes when needed.  Have a great day and I look forward to seeing you when I'm out and about.  Sincerely, Mary"

Wow!  I was shocked and delighted!  We don't think much about the mail service or the carrier who delivers it.  We expect it. The mail arrives, we sort it, pitch it, file it, etc.  Here is a person who takes pride in her work. She cares about her customers, she wants to help, she wants to provide the best service she can.  Good for her, and lucky for those of us on her new route.

In my business (Real Estate), great customer service is what sets me apart from others.  It's what I pride myself on and what my clients expect and deserve.  Sadly, it's a philosophy that has been missing in this country in recent years.  I'm glad there are still people who see the value of making a difference through customer service.  Evidently Mary is one of them!

Friday, January 9, 2015

2014 November/December Home Sales

As 2014 came to a close, home sales on the near west side of Madison continued to be healthy.  Although there was the normal seasonal downturn, between mid-November and early December, there were 50 sales.  Not a bad number for the tail-end of the 4th quarter.

Below is a list of sales through December 5, 2014.

2014 November/December Home Sales
6413 Inner Dr
138 Lathrop St
2920 Colgate Rd
910 Hathaway Dr
621 Constitution Ln
1021 Lorraine Dr
5603 Hempstead Rd
1513 Madison St
3510 Gregory St
310 Eugenia Ave
438 Virginia Ter
6329 Piping Rock Rd
4429 Hillcrest Dr
6 Cheyenne Cir
321 Falles Ct
309 Glenway St
3919 Shawnee Pass
563 Chatham Ter
5337 Oak Crest Pl
491 Rushmore Ln
621 Bordner Dr
1441 E Skyline Dr
1202 Frisch Rd
1101 Lincoln St
2615 Kendall Ave
205 Highland Ave
3546 Heather Crst
1030 Waban Hl
25 N Spooner St
301 Park Way
6652 Offshore Dr
1121 Valley Stream Dr
514 Caldy Pl
1714 Fritz Ave
118 S Whitney Way
1406 Whenona Dr
4306 Mohawk Dr
206 Marion St
1902 Rowley Ave
22 Lathrop St
1205 Pontiac Trl
711 S Orchard St Unit 206
106 Farley Ave
1234 Wellesley Rd
3525 Tallyho Ln
6410 Masthead Dr
3532 Cross St
5905 Old Middleton Rd
3605 Sunset Dr
* Prices are estimated. Actual sales price unavailable.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fresh Start

Out with the old, in with the new.  That’s the theme this time of year as hundreds of thousands of people make New Year’s resolutions.  It seems like a good time to start fresh, to turn over a new leaf, to begin again as we enter a new year.  These folks pledge to lose weight, get organized, save more money, eat healthy, exercise more, quit smoking, quit drinking alcohol, and so on.
These are all admirable declarations and the timing sounds right, but according to a recent study by the University of Scranton, a mere 8% of American’s who make New Year’s Resolutions are successful in achieving them.  And only 64% keep the resolution beyond the first month. 

Perhaps there is a better way.  I would argue traditional resolutions are all “me” driven.  Maybe we should change our mindset for resolutions and become more “other” focused.  And what if we re-pledged these promises every month or even every day?

For instance, I plan to:
Be generous - give more, take less.
Be kind – do unto others…
Help – not only when needed, but anytime.
Laugh – or better yet, make someone else laugh.

While these things may not seem as grand or impressive as losing weight or saving more money, they will hopefully make me a better person and help someone else at the same time.   All the best for a new year filled with giving, kindness and laughter. What's your New Year's Resolution?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Year End Real Estate Thoughts...

As we enter December, we look back on a year that was. More than anything else, it was a year which indicated that we are returning to normal in the real estate market. How do I define normal?

The first word that comes to mind is "seasonal." For the first time since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, we saw housing inventories and closed sales more in line with the typical "end of school year" and "beginning of school year" seasonal spikes that we have been accustomed to over the past decades.

The second word that comes to mind, (actually the next two words) are: "Interest Rates." When a real estate market recovers, we have historically seen a rise in interest rates each and every time. While in most cases, the increase is a simple supply and demand type of response, this time around the feared rise in interest rates is more tied to global economic conditions and interactions than in earlier periods. During the 1978-1982 time period, a strict internal supply and demand situation tied largely to population growth caused housing, as well as just about every other segment of the consumer market, to experience rampant inflation. Economic leaders took bold steps to cool all markets... and cool they did by raising interest rates on housing loans to as much as 17%.

Will we see that same precipitous rise in rates again? There is little dispute that some type of increase is definitely in the cards for next year, however no one is predicting the double digit rates of the 80's. Instead, we will likely see small moves by the Fed possibly as early as the end of the first quarter of 2015. That said, with the lower rates, consumers are wise to recognize that a rise in rates from 4% to 5% represents a 25% increase in your interest rate...ouch! No time like the present to get moving.

Predictions for next year?  I see a very fast market early on in 2015 with inventory evaporating faster than it did in the spring of 2014. I would recommend that buyers move now to have set up a search profile to keep you abreast of offerings in our market. And for smart sellers, I'd advise to list now so you can sell your current home and also find a new one while market supply still allows you some very good selections. This is not a typical, programmed, "act now or lose it" recommendation. Those looking to lock in a new home with a great fixed mortgage rate are in a race with the Fed...a race you don't want to lose.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Twenty Things

I attended a funeral recently.  It made me think about how fragile life is and all there is to be thankful for.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s the perfect time to count your blessings.  Below is a list of 20 things to be thankful for – there are more, of course; this is just a start.  Some of these are complex, most are simple and give the greatest joy.  In no particular order:

·        Good health - even if it isn’t perfect, it could be worse!

·        Happiness - often it’s the little things that mean the most.

·        Family - both immediate and extended who are loving and well-adjusted.

·        Giving – of time, talent or treasure.

·        A want for nothing.

·        Great friends-who stand by me no matter what.

·        The ability to read and write.

·        Hugs – nothing means “I care” more than an embrace.

·        All five senses that I use every day.

·        Savings - even a little is better than nothing.

·        My dog – unconditional love!

·        Challenges – they help us grow and are often opportunities in disguise.

·        Freedom - to say and do what I want (within reason, of course!).

·        Fresh air and water – don’t take these for granted.

·        Smiles – both given and received, they brighten everyone’s day.

·        Sunny days - always bring a smile.

·        Cloudy days – make the sunny days all the better.

·        Kindness – a little goes a long way.

·        A warm, safe place to call home.

·        People like you – Friends and clients who trust my guidance and counsel.


What are you thankful for?  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Curb and Gutter

Real Estate is all about location, location, location.  So it was with alarming dismay that the city has decided that Sunset Village, the neighborhood that I live in needs curbs and gutters, in addition to new sewer laterals and perhaps the addition of sidewalks.  That's a lot to swallow...sheesh! 

We have lived in our home for 11 years (I am a life-long resident).  One of the draws of the Sunset Village neighborhood is the "rural-like" setting within the city.  The abundance of trees and their aesthetic value cannot be underestimated.  Surely, despite promises to the contrary, many trees will be lost with the addition of curbs and gutters (let alone sidewalks!).  You cannot put a value on trees that are, in many cases, 100+ years old. At a time when the city will be losing thousands of trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, clearly the loss of additional trees is distressing.
There is also concerned that the addition of curb and gutter will narrow the already narrow streets of the neighborhood.  During the winter, the snow piles narrow the streets even further and backing out of driveways when a car is parked across from the drive is already a treacherous feat.  Addition of curb and gutter will only exacerbate that issue.

Finally, but certainly not of little effect, the financial impact is also a concern.  At a time when MG&E is proposing increased rates, the Madison Water Utility has proposed a 30% increase in costs to customers and now the assessment for water and sewer laterals, as well as curb and gutter poses a tremendous financial unknown.  All of this on the heels of Sunset Village bearing the highest increase in assessed property values in the city.  And the Madison City Council has recently approved increasing property taxes again.  I can't imagine the impact these increased costs will have on those on a fixed income.
So, the neighborhood has started a petition opposing the installation of curbs and gutters.  Nearly all the residents on my block have signed the petition.  While the construction work is a year away, it's never too early to voice an opinion.  Stay tuned.  We'll see what happens as the story unfolds.