Blog :: 06-2010

Madison's Best Parks!

James Madison Park, downtown Madison

Beautiful James Madison Park | Downtown Madison

Madison WI has the best parks and it is one of the things that adds to our Madison Style! We have Dog Parks, we have Kid Friendly Parks (no not all parks are kid friendly) and we have Romantic Parks.

In Madison, we love to picnic at the park, wake up early and stroll with our coffee in the park and meet friends to watch the sunset over the lake. Yes, there are a lot of small neighborhood parks that make living in our great neighborhoods so fabulous, but there are also some signature Madison Parks and here is our list of favorite TOP 10!

1. Wingra Park is a gathering place for soccer games, boat rentals, picnics and has a fun playground for the kids. The views are beautiful!

2. Olin Park on John Nolen Drive. Beautiful area overlooking Lake Monona, the Capitol and has a playground and shelter you can rent out.

3. James Madison Park on E. Gorham overlooks Lake Mendota and features a boat rental (also check out West side's Wingra Park for boat rentals), basketball courts, a playground and lot's of summer time fun.

4. Hoyt Park has great hiking trails, playground, basketball courts and shelters for rent. 

5. Olbrich Gardens. There is so much to say about our amazing Olbrich Gardens. It is not only a great tourist attraction but a regular place for us locals! And voted one of the the top ten most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture Magazine!

6. Westmorland Park offers a huge park for playing, soccer games, tennis and a great shelter for neighborhood gatherings, perfect for the Westmorland Community.

7. Orton Park has its own block in the heart of the Willy Street neighborhood and features a great playground, benches strategically placed amongst gorgeous huge trees and is just one block from the Lake. Orton Park is also well known for the Orton Park Festival, held each year in August.

8. Picnic Point is tucked away in the middle of University life and busy activities and offers students, professors, athletes, families and friends a 1 mile escape along the beautiful peninsula.

9. Vilas Park is a favorite family Madison destination on 42 acres! You can always find large family gatherings grilling out, playing at the famous Shoe playground, visiting one the few FREE Zoo's in the nation (Henry Vilas Zoo) or spending the day at the beach, frisbee games, canoeing, fishing and the list goes on and on! Don't miss ZuZu Cafe across the street for a great local cafe.   

10. I'm forgetting one...What's your favorite neighborhood park? Or are you in the process of figuring that out and looking for homes in a specific area? Fantastico! We can help!

No, seriously...tell us your favorite park and why.

2826 Hoard Street, Madison, WI - Darling 3 BR Cape Cod

2826 Hoard Street, Madison, WI

2826 Hoard Street, Madison WI

You'll love this cozy Cape Cod on Madison's East side. Main floor offers hardwood floors throughout, newly painted, bright and sunny living area. Two bedrooms and full bathroom on 1st floor and 2nd floors features huge master bedroom with great closets and extra storage. The kitchen has a large sliding glass door that brings in additional light and gives access to the outdoors featuring a huge two level deck (that can hold a hot tub) overlooking an adorable yard. 

 Click here for more photos and the current list price!

Hoard Street Recent Updates & Features:

- Interior rooms & garage exterior recently painted - New disposal and kitchen faucet in 2007 - Kitchen cabinets stripped and re-varnished in 2006 (and new hardware installed) - Windows replaced in 2005 - Bathroom flooring replaced and plumber made needed repairs in 2004 - New water heater installed in 2003 - Front loading washing machine new in 2003 - Refrigerator replaced in 2003 - Water softener included (not a rental) - Behind garage is approx. 10x10 enclosed gated space that has been a great garden or makes the perfect dog area. - Great landscaping includes: Lilacs, Mulberry tree that fruits, perennials (daffodils, lilies) - UHP warranty included in sale (value $495 includes water softener coverage) *Please note that the ages of mechanicals/appliances should be verified by Inspector for accuracy.

Madison Eastside Neighborhood Features:

- Walk to area restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, Walgreen's - Walk to Famous Ella's Deli - East commute access to Downtown or Aberg to Stoughton Rd. - 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's Schools for 2826 Hoard Street:

- Emerson Elementary, Sherman Middle School and East High School

With all these great updates and charm, what is not to love? Contact our team for a showing today or call the 7 days a week cell number: 608.438.4315 or email team@thealvaradogroup.com.

Starting with Something Free in the Madison WI Real Estate Market

Foreclosures in Madison WI real estate market

Foreclosures can bring new opportunity

Guest post by Michael Carlson, Madison Area Community Land Trust

When You Start With Something Free

Homes live and they decay. Foreclosed homes - any homes - demand stable or permanent occupancy. Many foreclosed homes have fallen into disrepair, or are old, or have been neglected, or bear projects abandoned by owners in the midst of foreclosure. These properties need more money, but of a certain type, namely, capital improvement dollars. The project at 709 Gannon in Madison, WI fascinates both in the mechanics of its capital improvement financing, as well as its broader implications for home lending policy.

Madison Area Community Land Trust and Operation Fresh Start jointly purchased the Madison property with help from Buyer Specialist Darcy Haber of the Alvarado Real Estate Group, and paid with MACLT's allocation of federal, Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding. The NSP dollars are issued federally, distributed to the states, and then municipally administered. The fund acts as a grant, which we're not obligated to repay: In a sense, a home has been donated to MACLT and OFS, on the condition that it be both bank-owned and located within a 'HUD-qualified census tract.'

MACLT chose to exhaust the grant dollars on the acquisition of the foreclosed home, reserving a nominal portion to cover the cost of administration. The grant effected a transfer of title free and clear to the Land Trust.

The Land Trust will sell the home to an income-qualified homebuyer. MACLT, like many of the housing non-profits around the Madison area, sells homes to households who earn incomes of 80% or less than Dane County's median income. Practically, those incomes can support a mortgage of $100,000 or less.

The Board of Directors authorized MACLT to borrow up to $100,000 in construction credit to carry out a 'deep green retrofit,' through which the home will be reconstructed using techniques that reflect a modern understanding of energy-efficiency, healthy building systems, and the like.  Residential Services staff from MG&E, the local power utility, have partnered with the project in the review and development of construction specifications and performance modeling.

Operation Fresh Start, Madison WIConstruction will be carried out by Operation Fresh Start, located on Madison's East side, whose participation not only maximizes the sweat-equity value of the dollars borrowed to build, but whose joint ownership brings an additional infusion of federal subsidy to defray the cost of building materials. OFS will fully remediate the lead paint on site; they intend to deeply insulate the shell of the home and install new mechanicals; they will reconstruct the west facade to take advantage of solar gain; they will rebuild the rooflines, to protect the home from wet Wisconsin winters and springs, and to better shelter the interior from hot summer sun; they will restructure the interior to optimize space and build in accessibility; they will reconstruct the ceiling, to add architectural and aesthetic interest to a comparably small interior: These tasks paint the broad strokes of the 'deep green retrofit.'

The qualifying homebuyers will be pre-approved for a mortgage somewhere between $85,000 and $110,000. The quality of the improvements they stand to inherit, feels almost surreal. The funding volume is a builder's dream, and only a conservative, pragmatic ethic restrains what might be built, given how much money there might be to spend.  In any event, MACLT will repay the construction loan from the proceeds of the sale, which itself is paid by the homebuyer's first mortgage. 

MACLT anticipates and budgets upon $75,000 in capital improvements to the property. Because we bought the Madison WI East side property outright, and because the Land Trust model insulates homeowners from the liabilities of land ownership, the homebuyer's mortgage dollars match the construction dollars virtually one-for-one.  Because the buyers can afford up to $110,000, our incentive - the almost embarrassing incentive, for an 'affordable housing provider' - is to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade: Upgrade the systems, upgrade the form, and upgrade the longevity of this structure, to endure for the next 100 years. 'Best practices' are well-known, and here the money exists to implement them, at a price the homebuyers can bear. Free transfer of title catalyzes the volume and the quality of these capital improvements.

When debt that was attached to the initial building of the home, is erased, new, productive money can flow into the home. In a sense, 'improvement dollars' buy you more than 'new build dollars,' -- as they intensify, rationalize, and perfect an existing, workable 'substrate' whose own construction dollars may have been spent less intentionally - and thereby shrink the total volume of loan needed by a potential buyer, even as the end product excels against the marketplace.

What needs to be done in housing, can in fact be supported by the reality of the incomes available, given free transfer of title to a responsible steward. Further, the free transfer stimulates at least two other loans - one to the steward or builder for construction, and one to the buyer - and both loans reactivate the home's asset value and recalibrate that value to market reality.  When a bank releases the existing debt on the home, it frees itself to create new, productive loans that flow to right where they're needed, and at a volume that the occupant can responsibly bear.

In a sense, these piles of foreclosed, bad mortgage debt can restructure or crystallize themselves around an endeavor to finance capital improvements into pre-existing housing stock, and to fix the new mortgage loans to the cost of those improvements. The leap of faith, is letting go of the old, in favor of the new.

818 Emerson Street, Madison, WI - Charming Cape Cod

818 Emerson St, Madison WI

818 Emerson St, Madison WI

Are you looking for charming, updated kitchen and baths, a nice walk to Monona Bay, downtown and a fabulous community to call your own? This home has classic Cape Cod charm, a warm fireplace in the living room and open dining area for great entertaining along with a completely remodeled kitchen, granite counters, first floor family area with French doors & a separate office.

Beautiful backyard features a deck, huge yard to play and a hot tub. Enjoy the renovated lower level family room that includes a full bathroom with extra deep tub, a finished laundry area and mudroom. Sellers have loved this home and neighborhood for many years and are now moving only 2 blocks away! Check out current price and more photos...

818 Emerson Street Updates and Important Information

- New Water Heater in 2009  - 2005 Updates      New vinyl siding (addition area on back)      Roof - complete tear off      Central air unit replaced - 2004 Complete Kitchen Remodel      Granite countertops      GE dishwasher      Frigidaire refrigerator      Jennair stove/oven      Sink, faucet & disposal      Tiling, cabinets, fixtures and more - 2004 Drain tiles and sump pumped installed in the basement - 2004 Lower level family room finished - Wood burning fireplace in living room recently cleaned and checked by Hanson & Sons. - Home warranty included, UHP (value $425)

Bay Creek Neighborhood Features

- Active neighborhood association that meets every second Monday of odd months - Neighborhood website: http://www.geocities.com/bay_creek/index.html - Neighborhood party every Fourth of July in Goodman Park - Neighborhood yard sales - Back to school Ice Cream Social at Bernie's Beach in late August or early September - Bay Creek Bulletin newsletter - Two public flower gardens (Marguerite Pohle Flower Program) - "Safe Lawns, Clean Lakes" campaign to educate people about the direct relationship between the health of the lakes and the use of lawn care chemicals - Close proximity to Madison's first City pool--the Goodman Pool. - Neighborhood involvement in EnAct, a program that teaches residents how to live a more sustainable lifestyle in eight fun meetings. The first team was created in 2000 and several have formed since then. New teams can start at any time.

Does this home and neighborhood call to you? If so, don't delay and call us today for a showing! Call: 608-577-3767 or email: office@thealvaradogroup.com and we'll help you schedule a showing.

Madison Style: Is it just in Wisconsin or is it a state of mind?

Madison family biking on Madison's great bike pathsIn Wisconsin, Madison Style is something you've got, you want to have or it just depends on the day. I love living in Madison, I love Madison Style and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else! (please note that this post is dated June and not January).

You know Madison Style...

- You're shopping at your local market and support Dane Buy Local. Yes, you'll end up at the big stores every once in a while but as long as you make sure your tote bags are from local markets and not from 'you know where', you can maintain your Madison Style. Take it to the next level with all our fabulous farmers' markets.

- Biking. Biking to work, for play, or even just having your bike attached to the back of your hybrid car shows your Madison Style. And hang out at the local bike shops because they are awesome, and we have tons! Madison also has some of the best bike paths!

-  Drink beer. This is going out on a limb for me since I don't drink beer (oh no, I'm losing credibility!) but you know you've got Madison Style if you are drinking good beer. If you aren't sure what good beer is, order the Spotted Cow. Or make a weekend of testing all the local brews and you're sure to make great friends and find the right beer for you. If you are not a beer drinker, Madison Style is all about healthy water bottles and local coffee shops.

-  Play at the Park. Maybe it is because when it is nice out we HAVE to enjoy it so you'll see Madison Family Style playing at Madison's great Parks, having picnics, sipping coffee, chatting with friends. And up that a couple of notches by going to the numerous festivals we have in Madison.

- Get active. And I don't mean physically (although that is an important part of Madison Style too). What do you believe in? What cause are you willing to speak out about passionately? That is how Madison Style gets active. You could wait for someone to ask you to join a committee or Madison neighborhood group but more powerfully, get involved with something that lights you up.

- Read the Isthmus. It is clearly crucial to stay informed and entertained.

- Madison Style is authentic. We are Midwestern nice but with Madison Style. Friendly, kind and persistent.

Loving Madison every day!

Because you wanted to know what is up with the Green Building movement...

Green Homes Said to Sell Faster, But Appraisals Remain a Sticking Point

From the National Association of Home Builders online newsletter

Green Built Home Certified on Commonwealth Ave. in Madison WI

While official statistics may be lacking, many builders attending the NAHB National Green Building Conference in Raleigh, N.C., on May 16-18 said that they have been able to sell sustainably built homes considerably faster than the traditionally built new homes that have been languishing in today's tough market.

Green builders, however, have little immunity from the tight financial conditions that have been plaguing the housing market and imposing difficulties for both home buyers and sellers. And the widespread problem of low appraisals -- driven largely by a glut of foreclosed properties and a slow market -- has been doubly frustrating for green builders because the vast majority of appraisers are unable to recognize the value that green features add to the home.

Energy efficiency, according to speakers at the conference, remains the most salient aspect of the industry's move to sustainability, and is the one benefit that's most easily recognized by consumers. Unfortunately, the prospect of sharp reductions in monthly utility bills has not gained much attention from the lending community, and mortgages recognizing those savings remain mostly an idea whose potential has been largely unrealized.

Another ongoing challenge is that the concept of green housing is not well understood by the general public, conference panelists said, and a significant share of prospective buyers are actually turned off by it. Green builders were advised to market the specific benefits of their homes rather than selling green, and to avoid providing too much technical information, which can quickly go over the heads of buyers and discourage sales.

While builders have found that there are buyers who are willing to pay a premium for green features, speakers at this year's conference emphasized that the price gap between green and standard housing is closing, helped along by tax and other incentives. In general, however, home buyers may be reluctant to pay more for certain items unless they can be shown how these will pay for themselves through lower operating and maintenance costs over a reasonable period of time.

Several builders were on hand in Raleigh to discuss how they have been successful in moving sustainable construction principles into affordable housing. Those attending the conference also heard how green is being incorporated into the multifamily sector and factory-built housing, the latter profiting from a manufacturing process that inherently provides greater precision and holds construction waste to a minimum.

Industry professionals attending the show seemed to feel fairly optimistic about their business prospects and expected green to give them even more of an edge as this segment of the marketplace becomes further established during the full-scale housing recovery that will emerge in the next couple of years.

But the mortgage market isn't geared up to do an effective job of providing financing for those green homes, they were told, a complaint that hit an especially raw nerve at the conference.

Green Homes Face a Red Light

"Green homes face a red light," said Rick Porter, CAPS, CGA, CGP, CMP, MIRM, of PorterWorks. "Appraisers don't understand costs and buyers can't get the full financing they need."

In a show of hands from the audience at Porter's breakout session on the latest in appraising and lending on green building, only a few said that one of their customers had ever been offered an energy efficient mortgage (EEM) or energy improvement mortgage (EIM) or that an appraiser had solicited information on the energy features of one of their homes.

Citing Fannie Mae guidelines advising lenders not to assume that an appraiser is competent, Porter told builders, "You have every right to say I want a competent appraiser. You do not need to roll over on this. If they have not seen or appraised a green home, ask for an appraiser who has appraised one of these homes or has knowledge in energy efficiency."

Builders have the misperception that they are not even allowed to talk to appraisers these days, said Porter, but as long as they are not unduly trying to influence the valuation, they can voice their concerns through the lender and Appraisal Management Company.

The Appraisal Institute has initiated a one-day seminar on green building and it is presenting webinars, he said, "but I don't know if this is enough." Only about 25% of the nation's roughly 105,000 appraisers are even a member of an organization, "so they are nomads." In the meantime, underwriters are "tinkering" with appraisals.

As part of the third-party verification process, Porter said that builder should be sure to obtain a residential energy report form from the HERS (Home Energy Rating Systems) rater and provide copies to the lender and appraiser, as documentation that the home is qualified for an EEM or EIM.

Porter also said that Fannie Mae's Universal Residential Appraisal Form (Form 1004) should have a box at the top for information such as the HERS rating and its certification. In the version of the form that exists today, towards the bottom of the front page there is one line provided for additional green features, such as special energy-efficient items.

To make appraisers and lenders more knowledgeable about the value of green, Porter said that builders should also be handing out or referring them to "Marshall & Swift Green Building Costs." Selling for $98.95, the publication includes the costs of the most common green items for new construction and retrofits, including labor and other factors. About 1,500 items were recently added to the list.

Comps a Sacred Cow

Porter said that taking the cost approach is "a start" to moving away from appraisals based on comparable sales made nearby and recently. Finding suitable comps has been difficult enough for traditionally constructed homes in a down market, but even more problematic for innovative homes with features that are not commonplace.

"Who made comps the sacred cow?" Porter asked. Moving to a different approach, he suggested, and compiling market information at the national level might be able to substantiate such claims as "green homes sell faster."

The good news in this regard is that Multiple Listing Services have begun to include information on green features, and a Green MLS Tool Kit is now available to educate Realtors® about gathering data on green homes so that comparables will be possible. The bad news, he said, is that only an estimated 20 to 40 of the 850 MLSs in the U.S. have started tracking green so far. Also, a disproportionate number of new green homes are not listed because they are custom built. "The answer is to build some specs," he said.

Also, lenders need to factor in utility and maintenance costs to the calculations they use to qualify buyers for mortgages, he suggested. "What happens to the $400 differential" between a house built in the 1960s with an average monthly expenditure of $500 for energy and an Energy Star house that costs $89 a month? Lenders, he said, "are not looking at the full cost of ownership."

Demanding Energy Efficient Mortgages

In effect, the energy efficient mortgage treats savings on energy as an addition to the borrower's income. While these loans exist mostly in theory, "you need to start demanding these," he said.

Although it has been hardly used, Porter said that the Federal Housing Administration's 203(k) is "the loan right now to get a home green and energy-efficient" and the answer to the energy retrofit that most existing homes need. The loan enables cost-effective energy-saving measures to be financed as part of the mortgage and enables the buyer to qualify for a larger loan amount by considering the monthly savings on energy and allowing higher qualifying ratios. The actual amounts are based on the HERS report.

While no one to date has systematically estimated the actual value green adds to a home, Porter (along with at least one other speaker at the conference) referenced early research calculating that every $1 in annual energy savings brings roughly $20 in additional value. Finding enough data to reach such a conclusion is one problem, and further complicating things is that fact that the bottom line on how much energy is saved ultimately depends on the behavior of the occupants of the home.

Conducted by Rick Nevin and Gregory Watson and published in 1998 by The Appraisal Journal, beyond making calculations, the research concludes that: "The implication for appraisers is that cost-effective energy efficiency investments do appear to be reflected in residential housing market values. Therefore, the appraised value of energy-efficient homes could understate their actual resale value if the comparables used in the appraisal do not reflect the value of a cost-effective energy efficiency investment."

As an additional resource, Porter mentioned www.dsireusa.org, which is a compendium of available incentives for features that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. "Lenders and appraisers need to know about them," he said.

For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.

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