Home Buying Process

Five Things to Look For in a New Neighborhood

So you’re on the home-buying market. Congratulations! Madison is a great place to live. Even so, you’re probably already overwhelmed by decisions: Wood or brick? One- or two-story? Carpet or parquet flooring?

And that’s not even including one of the most important factors in any new home-purchase: location, location, location. It might not be everything, but it’s almost everything. It will determine your commute, change your social life, shape your children’s education, and affect a host of other aspects in your life.

You probably have your own list of things to look for when looking for your new abode. But if you want a bit more guidance as you do research, we at ABODO have put together a handy checklist of things to look for (and avoid) as you examine possible settings for your new house. You will also learn more when you meet with your Realtor for a buyer consultation.

1.  School Districts

If you don’t have children and don’t plan on having them, skip to the next item. But if you have a family — or think you might have one within the next few years — school districts should be a major component in your neighborhood choices. There is a full list of Madison and surrounding schools with information here and other sites like, niche k12 offer testing statistics, user reviews, and contact information for hundreds of thousands of schools nationwide — public, private, and charter. It might be a good idea to schedule a tour, or attend an open house, so you can get an idea of how your child (or potential child) might fit in with the culture and educational philosophy. Here’s a map of Madison’s public school districts. You might also find the annual report from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction helpful. It collects data — test scores, AP enrollment, graduation rates — for public schools in Wisconsin, so you can compare schools across districts and cities.

2. Property Taxes

You’ll be paying taxes on your house and the land it sits on, so it’s a good idea to know the general tax rate in the neighborhood you’re investigating, and what it gets you. If you’re in the market for a particular property, it’s easy to find the value of the house and attendant land up for purchase. Just visit the Madison Assessor website and use this handy search tool: You type in an address, and the Assessor will give you the value of the property, the amount of recent taxes paid, and a host of other details about the property and area. You can even see how recently the roof of your potential home has been replaced.

3. Neighborhood Parks

Local parks — state, county, or city — provide health benefits and recreational opportunities beyond your backyard. Plus, studies show that nature sojourns are linked to lower blood pressure, reduced obesity rates, and mitigated pollution effects. Fortunately, Madison is loaded with parks and biking trails — it’s repeatedly named one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation due to its expansive system of off-road trails.

Scope out the local parks and what they offer, such as tennis courts, basketball courts, grills, or beaches. Also, do a little research into which local parks often host festivals or concerts throughout the year. Armed with that information, you can decide how close — or far — you want to live to these events.

4. Safety Concerns

To check up on the crime rate in your potential future neighborhood, visit NeighborhoodScout.com to get a general sense of where crime is happening, CrimeReports.com for a map of that labels types of offenses as well as trends, or FamilyWatchdog.us for a map and details of nearby sex offenders.

5. Eye Test

This neighborhood measure is the easiest to research: just take a look around and see how you feel. Does it feel like you and your family would enjoy living here and walking around? Is the location close to what is important to you? If you value privacy and large lots but also want to live close to downtown, you might have to decide on how important the commute is to you vs the yard size. Location and neighborhood are important factors and makes the difference in a house feeling like a home. It’s a simple test, and it shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

Just Sold! 533 Kelly Street, Sun Prairie, WI

Just Sold! 533 Kelly Street, Sun Prairie, WI
Congratulations to John and Sharon, the new homeowners of 533 Kelly Street in Sun Prairie! They were looking for a solid home to put some sweat equity into and fix up and remodel. This was the perfect fit and a great location for them. The home was listed at $99,000 and sold for $95,000 in 43 days.  Amenities include: remodeled kitchen with oak cabinetry, hardwood floors, and full basement with bathroom. Private back yard with spacious deck and 1.5 car detached garage. 
 
We are happy to announce this sale by Carlos Alvarado. He is an expert working with buyers and brings great knowledge, experience and patience to the process. Feel free to contact Carlos Alvarado today at 608.438.6757 or carlos@thealvaradogroup.com.

JUST SOLD! 4310 Sentinel Pass, Madison WI

JUST SOLD - 4310 Sentinel PassAfter many months we are happy to congratulate the Rodriquez/Zuniga family on the purchase of the FIRST home! During a time that has proven challenging in the lending industry Carlos Alvarado and Dave Clem at M&I Bank worked hard to help this family buy a home that they loved and that would cater to their big family dinners, great parties and that place they can call home.

4310 Sentinel Pass is just south of the beltline off of Seminole Highway and features four bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,908 square feet. On the market for 41 days it was listed for $219,900 and sold for $200,000 in July 2011.

Thinking about buying a house? Check out our buyer tips and contac Carlos Alvarado for a consultation today, 608.438.6757, carlos@thealvaradogroup.com!

Wisconsin VA Home Loans

  Moving with your Military Family 

Military families are well aware of how tiring it can be to move often. With military installations scattered across the country, these families get to see a number of great cities; however, finding a place to call home delivers a good feeling and living in the Midwest provides a central location, so military families are never too far from friends and family. Madison, WI serves as a great place for service members and veterans to call home and can be a very affordable option, especially when they use a VA loan to finance their home.

The VA loan program, created in 1944, is unmatched in the benefits it provides to service members and veterans. Unlike any conventional loan, VA loans in Wisconsin allow qualified homebuyers to finance 100 percent of a home purchase without paying anything down. Any conventional home financing option comes with a down payment, some as high as 20 percent, which cuts into the purchaser's savings. VA loans also offer a high loan limit in Wisconsin, which means homebuyers can fully finance their home up to $417,000 without putting a penny down.

Conventional loans' monthly payments can be costly, in large part because of private mortgage insurance (PMI). This monthly charge does not exist in the VA Home Loan program, thereby reducing military homebuyers' payments each month. In addition to lowering the payment, VA loans offer negotiable interest rates. VA-certified lenders are happy to reduce interest rates on Wisconsin VA loans because the VA backs up to 25 percent of each loan. Other benefits to Wisconsin VA loans include:

  • No prepayment penalty
  • Lower closing and concession costs
  • Capped interest rates for active duty members
  • VA Streamline, a way to refinance and lower interest rates
  • More lenient qualifying standards than conventional loans

Eligibility depends on discharge and service history. Veterans with a dishonorable discharge are ineligible for a Wisconsin VA loan. Honorable or injury-related discharges are permissible. Military homebuyers who may qualify for a VA loan fit one of the descriptions below:

  • While on active duty, military members who served for 90 days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime.
  • Reservists and National Guard members who served for at least half a dozen years.
  • Active duty personnel who meet the service requirements above.
  • Spouses of service members who died in the line of duty or because of a service-connected injury.

Completing a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is the first step in obtaining a Wisconsin VA loan. COEs are available through the VA or from a VA-certified lender. The latter is available to answer any questions about VA loans in Wisconsin.

Guest post by Matt Polsky with the www.vamortgagecenter.com and the www.vabenefitblog.com.

There are many lenders in the area that can help with your VA loan. Please check with your preferred lender to see if they can help or email Matt Polsky for more information at mpolsky@vamortgagecenter.com.

FREE Home Buyer Education Classes

Great Home Buyer classes for people looking to buy in the Madison WI and Dane County areas..and for FREE?! Space is limited so please call Project Home at 608-246-3737 for more information or to register.

Classes will be held Tuesday July 12, 2011 AND July 19th, from 6:00 pm to 9:30 p.m. Homebuyers must attend both sessions in full and a 1 hour counseling session to be scheduled individually. Classes located at Project Home's Training Center, 1922 S. Stoughton Road Madison WI. 

The First Time Home Buyer Education classes offered by Project Home and GreenPath, Inc. allow first time home buyers to learn about homeownership in an environment that encourages questions and protects the potential home buyer from being solicited. They learn about the pros and cons of home ownership, money management skills, credit issues, how to choose a realtor and lender, down payment assistance programs, shopping of a home and obtaining financing.

We began this partnership in April 2011 and in the first 3 months of classes we have had 67 individual participants in 50 households. We are reaching the populations targeted - 96% are first time homebuyers and approximately 74% are at or below 80% of County Median Income and therefore may be eligible for most down payment assistance programs.

To receive funds for most down payment assistance programs, potential homeowners must complete education and/or counseling. This program is designed to meet the National Industry Standards for Home Ownership Education and Counseling created by the National Advisory Council of NeighborWorks® America. Our course is 7 hours of face-to-face group education and 1 hour of 1-on-1 counseling.

The Housing Center is a joint venture between Project Home and GreenPath Debt Solutions to expand and sustain affordable home-ownership in Dane County. 

Project Home is a local non-profit organization offering help to Dane & Green County residents for the last 40 years. Project Home's mission has been to improve the quality and affordability of housing for low-to-moderate income residents. With the rising cost of housing, utilities, and building materials, it is difficult and expensive to tackle the repairs that all homes need. Project Home provides services that will improve homeowners' comfort, safety, and reduce energy bills.

GreenPath Debt Solutions is a nationwide, non-profit financial organization that assists consumers with credit card debt, housing debt, and bankruptcy concerns. Our customized services and attainable solutions have been helping people achieve their financial goals for 50 years.  The Madison office has been serving local customers for 12 years.  Ellen Bernards has been a housing counselor and housing educator for the last 7 years and was the 2010 recipient of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling's Individual Counselor of the Year award.

This information provided by Ellen Bernards, GreenPath Debt Solutions. Thank you Ellen for all you do!

334 Amoth Court, Madison Near East Side Condo for Sale

334 Amoth Court Madison WI condo for sale

Near East side of Madison now offers a corner condo listed by Alvarado Real Estate Group on the 2nd floor right in the heart of Schenk's Corners in the Atwood neighborhood. This is a great place if you are looking for convenience, walkability and a sweet place to call your own. This condo association is made up of 18 units. Each building has an entrance to 4 units creating a small knit community. Enjoy an open floor plan with natural sunlight and a deck surrounded by mature trees. Large walk in closet, large bathroom, huge storage area. Move in ready and condo fees are only $175/month. 

  • 1 BR, 1 BA, 737 Sq. Ft.
  • 2nd Floor garden-style condo
  • exterior parking included
  • For current price and more photos visit the Alvarado Group MLS Data page.

Amoth Court, Madison Condo Features

  • Surrounded by mature trees.
  • Walking distance to all the Willy Street / Atwood hotspots.
  • Unit completely remodeled in 2005 with new appliances, flooring and mechanicals.
  • New siding on all buildings in 2010.
  • New roof, 2010.

Near East Side Neighborhood Features

  • Just blocks from Lake Monona
  • Vibrant, healthy community living
  • Award winning restaurants within walking distance
  • Local grocery shopping: Willy Street Co-op, Jenifer Street Market
  • Great parks close by: Yahara Place Park, Yahara River Parkway, Orton Park, Olbrich Gardens & Park
  • On the Capitol City Bike Path
  • Walk to Schenk's Corners

This property brought to you by Sara Alvarado, Listing Broker - Alvarado Real Estate Group. For a private showing please contact Sara at 438-5005 or sara@thealvaradogroup.com.

It's all about the Down Payment in Madison's market!

Save for Down Payment to Buy a Madison WI Home For Sale

Saving for a Down Payment

While Madison WI's real estate market presents challenges for many, it still remains an optimal market for first time home buyers and investors. Reasonable home prices, a healthy inventory (search Madison homes here) and still low interest rates create a winning combination for those looking to make the leap from renter to owner. Many of the Alvarado Group's featured listings are a perfect fit for first time home buyers.

As a result of tightened lending standards, however, securing a healthy down payment is even more important than ever. The days of zero-down loan programs are a thing of the past and more money on the table upfront can mean a faster approval for your loan and, perhaps, a better rate.

While you should be sure to leave some cash reserves in place to handle unexpected costs associated with your new home, there are several steps you can take to start building a sizeable down payment. Here are some worthwhile suggestions:

Set up an automatic savings plan

Every financial advisor will tell you that when money comes directly out of your paycheck and into a savings account before you even receive it, you will hardly notice the difference. For most, this was money spent on mindless discretionary purchases, anyway, from a daily latte to random online shopping -- chances are, you won't miss it at all.

Sell something

You might have a high-ticket item in your possession that you really don't use or need -- perhaps a boat, motorcycle or even an extra big-screen T.V. Cashing in any collectibles or assets can free up funds to go directly into your down payment savings.

Liquidate investments

Liquidating stocks, mutual funds, savings bonds or other investments can also help. Cashing in any extra assets will only add to your growing down payment sum.

Look into government programs

Talk to your WI real estate agent or mortgage professional to see if you may qualify for a special home buyers program. For example, HUD's Good Neighbor Next Door program offers teachers, police officers, firefighters or other public servants extreme discounts on homes in certain neighborhoods.

Don't be afraid to ask

If there is an event coming up in your life that friends and family will most likely get you a gift for, don't be shy -- let people know you are saving to buy a home and would appreciate a check. Loved ones will be more than happy to contribute to this cause. If you're fortunate enough to receive a very sizeable gift, however, let your real estate agent know; lenders may want to know how your down payment was funded in order to make sure you can handle monthly mortgage payments on your own.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. Please contact the Alvarado Group team for more detailed information about securing a down payment, and be sure to share these ideas with others (real estate tips via Twitter) you know who may soon be making the move to homeownership!

JUST SOLD! Understanding Buyers Helps to Sell Homes.

Treichel Street, Madison Just Sold

Congratulations on your new home!

JUST SOLD! This 5 year new home was not easy to sell though. On paper it looks like an amazing deal: 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, built just 5 years ago and the back yard borders a large park area/soccer field all for an asking price of $169,900. But with so many homes for sale in this Madison neighborhood the objection to the floorplan was constantly noted by potential buyers along with the lack of storage. Selling a home in today's market is more than just pricing it right. It is important to present the home in its best light and to promote it to a targeted market.

In a popular Madison area neighborhood on the Southeast side, this split level home has a living room upstairs, wonderfully vaulted ceilings, kitchen, dining area and a master bedroom and master bathroom. The lower level has 2 bedrooms a full bathroom and the mechanical room (with some space for storage). Understanding and listening to what Buyers really want takes skill and patience. What did buyers object about this great home? They want all 3 bedrooms on the same floor. They want the master bedroom to provide a bit more privacy (it was a negative that it was directly off the dining/kitchen area). Buyers want storage. They want their basement to provide storage and this home had a lower level that was completely finished which cut into storage space. Buyers also want a family room. However, when you get into a lower price range you find that buyers make concessions. The Buyers that purchased this home loved the fact that this home was move in ready with neutral and warm paint colors, nice window coverings, newer appliances and didn't mind the floorplan. The 2 car attached garage gave it the storage they needed (coming from a rental with no garage) and the proximity to the green space in the backyard was a huge bonus for them. At a final sales price of $163,500 this home was an amazing opportunity for the Buyers. 

There is give and take in buying a home on a budget.

The Buyers love their new home. The Sellers are relieved to finally move on to new places.

And we loved making it happen. Our team of Realtors are here to help Sellers understand the complexities in selling a home right now and planning their future real estate moves. The Alvarado Group team has trained agents that specialize in helping Buyers understand what their needs and wants are in their next home and the best way to get there with the least amount of added stress to their already busy lives. We love helping our clients (and from what we hear from them, they feel the love too!), we love engaging with the community and we are passionate about a strong local economy. We don't just have a mission, we live our mission.

2645 East Lawn Ct., Madison WI Home For Sale

2645 East Lawn Ct, Madison WIAbsolutely sweetest home, incredibly maintained and in move in condition. 2 bedrooms on main floor, hardwood floors, open floor plan from kitchen, eating area to living room and updated bathroom. Kitchen features newer appliances, new flooring, new sink, tiled counters. Lower level finished with amazing detail. Currently used as a family room & 3rd bedroom - great bonus room! Ceiling fans in almost every room, updated electrical, loads of shelving in basement and garage. Beautiful deck, fenced yard. One yr home warranty included.

- 2 BR, 1 BA, 972 Sq. Ft. - Newly finished lower level rec room - Beautiful deck, fenced yard - 1 car detached garage

2645 East Lawn Ct Updates and Features

  • New tile floor in kitchen in 2010
  • New granite kitchen sink in 2010
  • Replaced refrigerator in 2009
  • Replaced stove in 2006
  • Replaced washer and dryer in 2003
  • Added deck in 2003

Madison's East Side Neighborhood Features and Highlights

  •  Walk to area restaurants, Famous Ella's Deli, shopping & Walgreens
  •  Easy commute access to Downtown or Aberg to Stoughton Road
  •  Close to the bike path and parks
  •  Visit the Hawthorne Library on E. Washington
  •  Minutes from Downtown, Capitol & Beltline
  •  Walkscore of 68 (pretty good!) at www.walkscore.com

Madison School District Information for 2645 East Lawn Ct.

Closing Day vs Moving Day - Madison Real Estate Insider Tip

New Homes Madison WI

keys to your new home

For those that are buying Wisconsin real estate now - there are IMPORTANT insider Buyers tips that you need to know about. It isn't as simple as shopping around for the best house, writing an offer, and then moving in. You need to know what neighborhood you want to live in, maybe research schools and understand Madison's short sale and foreclosure market. You need to learn about how market conditions locally will affect your negotiating position. It is crucial to understand the financing process and what the pre approval and loan commitment process means. We also will educate you on the inspection process and how the condition of the home can also affect your financing.

What about closing day vs moving day?

Here are the Top 3 Important Factors to Consider:

Pick a realistic and manageable closing date.

Don't assume you can change it later. Most likely your offer reads, "Closing shall be no later than ____" and there is a date in the blank spot. You can close earlier, although all parties need to agree but you can't close later. To close later you must amend the offer. To close earlier, you just need to coordinate schedules and it is not necessary to get an amendment signed by all parties. Sellers have complicated moving schedules as do Buyers so just remember that the closing day you write into the offer will most likely be the day you go to the title company for the closing if all goes well.

Consider Your Lender.

Your lender may be doing all they can to expedite the closing so it will happen quickly and in the timeframe you have agreed upon with the Seller. However, life is not as easy for lenders anymore either. The Buyers lender may be the cause of a delayed closing. It isn't abnormal for underwriters to ask for more documents even days before the scheduled closing date...which can postpone the closing date. Prepare for the worst and expect delays.

Your moving date should NOT be the same date as your closing date.

If you are the Seller, try to arrange to move out a couple of days prior to closing. You can even pre sign documents at a convenient day and time so that you are not rushed the day of closing. You may ask, "Where do I go if I can't get keys to my new house until I close on my current house?" There are a couple of creative ways to plan a different moving day from your closing day.

  • Negotiate a pre closing occupancy on the house you are buying. Now you have a couple of days to move into the next house before you actually close on it. Sometimes the Sellers won't allow this but may allow you to move your belongings into the garage. And this can be enough to create a smoother transition.
  • Stay with a family member or a friend. There are times that moving on the day of closing is what ends up happening. And that isn't the end of the world. It just takes a lot of planning and optimism.
  • Negotiate a post closing occupancy on the house you are selling. If the Buyers that are purchasing your home are in a lease and have until the end of the month to move out, it usually works out just fine to ask them if you can stay in your home a couple of days after the closing date to give you needed time to move into your new home and clean out the house you are selling. Many homebuyers are agreeable to this.

As a Homebuyer, my recommendation is to give yourself a 2 week buffer in planning your move. If you are negotiating a quick close and are hoping to close in 30 days, understand up front that there may be delays so don't plan to move on closing day. Don't order furniture or appliances to be delivered on or the day after closing. Don't arrange for the carpet replacement either. By assuming everything will go smoothly and you will close on time sets you up for frustration if there are delays. And the goal is to set yourself up for a smooth move - not a stressful one. If you give yourself additional time and things go well and you close on time, then you can move things up (and if not, then you wait). But it is easier to have extra time then to cancel and rearrange due to delays.

As a Seller it isn't as easy. There are risks in selling your home in any market, and especially in today's market. Again, there is a chance that something could go wrong the day before or the day of closing which would delay closing. As a Seller there isn't much you can do but prepare to move and continue with your moving plans. But if something goes wrong, it is smart to have backup plans. Make sure your Realtor continues to market your home. Negotiate a reasonable amount of earnest money so that if something goes wrong, you are compensated appropriately for the time and money lost.

Madison WI real estate is not what it once was.

I know I'm not telling you anything new. The media inundates us with a ridiculous amount of doom and gloom when it comes to the real estate market. It is all perspective. There are houses being sold. People need bigger, they need smaller and they are moving out of state. As long as couples continue to marry, and as long as children continue to grow and move on with their lives, there will be a need to move to a different space. There will always be someone that wants to move South or North...you get the picture right?

Sara Alvarado, real estate broker

keys to your new home

A buyer's market doesn't mean that you are out of luck if you have a house to sell. It just means that you may get a better deal on the house you are going to buy then make a ton of money on the house you have to sell. You could wait until the market turns around and then get more money for your current house and pay more for your next house. That is simplifying a decision that is based on many factors.

Please call Sara Alvarado at 608.438.5005 if you want to discuss whether now is the right time for you to buy and sell.