Blog :: 09-2010

Saving Water in Madison WI - Toilet Rebate up to $100!

Alvarado Real Estate Group is committed to setting ourselves apart from the rest in a way that means something to us, in a way that not only helps our clients, but helps our planet Earth too. The homes we live in create a sacred place for our families...and that takes energy and resources. There are many ways we can make changes in our homes and lives that will not only increase our enjoyment but can also be less stressful on the planet.

One of the reasons we love Madison WI is the dedication the city has to sustainability at the city level. Madison has a Water Conservation and Sustainability Plan to reduce per capita water usage 20% by the year 2020. How amazing is that? And they can't do it by themselves...the city needs us all to participate so they've created a wonderful program to help homeowners (and apartment building owners) to replace water wasting toilets (which can use up to 3 gallons of water with each flush) with an EPA WaterSense rated high efficiency toilet that only uses an average of 1.28 gallons of water per flush and they'll send you an rebate up to $100!

How can Madison Homeowners save more water?

1)      Purchase a new toilet (anytime after January 1, 2009). The toilet model must be on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WaterSense list {click here for the list}.

2)      Submit the original receipt of the toilet and the application {click here for the application form}. Please remember to keep a copy of your receipt for your records. Send your receipt and application to: Madison Water Utility, Toilet Rebate Program, 119 East Olin Avenue, Madison, WI 53713.

3)      The City of Madison will send you a rebate of up to $100 for residential customers!

The City of Madison Toilet Rebate Program:

-You must be residential customers of the Madison Water Utility, and the installation address must be in the customer service area of the utility.

-You must live in single-family homes, condos, or apartments in buildings no larger than four units.

-Rebates are for replacement of existing larger-capacity toilets, and are not for new construction.  -The program is for only one rebate per household.

More details about installation, rebate details and disposal of old toilets can be found on the Madison Water Utility website[youtube] [/youtube].

How to Get Invited to an Alvarado Real Estate Group Party

Madison's Betty Lou on Lake Mendota

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Have you partied with the team at an Alvarado Group Client Appreciation Party or have you been invited to an Alvarado Group Client Party?

If you can't answer yes to either of those options then you are in the right place to find out how to get invited to the next fiesta! Here are the rules:

1. Buy or sell a house with The Alvarado Group in the past 12 months (based on the date of the party).

2. Refer someone to The Alvarado Group that ends up hiring us to help them. They don't have to have bought or sold yet - but a client agreement must be in place at the time of the party.

3. Marry (or be truly committed) to one of our great team members (and depending on the type of party, offspring are invited too). If you are a parent or sibling you do not get a free ride. You must follow rule #2 (the referring rule) or you may want to consider investing in real estate at least once a year.

And now...for a taste of the fun.

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Alvarado Group party in Madison WI

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Alvarado Group party in Madison WI

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Darcy Haber at Alvarado Group party in Madison WI

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

Alvarado Team on a Betty Lou Cruise

1953 Sachtjen Street, Madison WI Home For Sale

Madison Northside Neighborhood Home for sale

Madison Northside Neighborhood

This sunny 2 bedroom ranch used to be a 3 bedroom until a smart homeowner changed the 3rd bedroom into a beautiful dining room that connects to the kitchen and opens up the floor plan dramatically. Living room features a large window that brings in great sunshine and warmth. Hardwood floors and a wood burning fireplace add great character but one of the BEST features is the amazing & fenced backyard & screened porch. Best lot in the neighborhood!

Madison Northside Property Features

  • 2 BR, 1 BA, 1140 sq. ft.
  • Beautiful hardwood floors
  • Large screened porch
  • Huge fenced backyard
  • Close to Warner Park

View current price and more photos - click here!

- Kitchen updates in 2009 include: solid surface counters, installed in 2009, new dishwasher, 2009, new stove/oven, 2009, sink and faucet new in 2009 - Washer and dryer new in 2006 - Brick wood burning fireplace in good condition - All hardwood floors were refinished in 2005 - Roof is approximately 10 years old (2000) - Huge completely fenced yard with large screen porch off garage - Window coverings are newer and negotiable - Furnace & water heater are 18 yrs old (remember there is a one year home warranty included!) - Central air and water softener are approx 12 years old - Drain tiles and sump pump were installed by previous owner. No water in basement!

Neighborhood Information, Madison's Popular Northside

- Enjoy the famous Rhythm and Booms 4th of July fireworks that takes place annually just blocks away at Warner Park - Just a short walk to Madison Mallards Minor League baseball games - Great shopping, restaurants and local stores nearby too! - Close to busline & easy commute downtown, minutes to airport - Take advantage of the Warner Park dog park, Lake Mendota, and the Warner Park boat launch - Vibrant and active Sherman Neighborhood Association offers many neighborhood opportunities: Annual Potluck Dinner, Earth Day Cleanup, Flower Weekend, Neighborhood Garage Sale, December Holiday Party! - Northside Town Center and Northgate shopping centers create a truly walkable neighborhood.

Madison School District Information for 1953 Sachtjen Street

Mendota Elementary School Sherman Middle School East High School

Contact a team member for a showing, call 608.251.6600 or email:

Parade for the Planet and Sustainability Fair in Madison WI on 10/10/10

Madison's Parade News from Alvarado GroupMadison WI Event & Parade Info

Join us for the first annual Parade for the Planet and Sustainability Fair

12-4pm, Sunday, October 10, 2010 - State Street, Madison, Wisconsin

This parade is for you if you...

  • Have worked to reduce your carbon footprint
  • Are concerned about climate change
  • Want to send a message to our leaders to enact policies reducing our use of carbon fuels
  • Want to join with people across the globe to save our planet

Students, congregations, businesses, agencies, non-profits, neighborhoods, and families throughout the Madison area have already been taking many creative and determined steps to lower our carbon emissions.  We invite you to join the Parade! Organize a delegation from your group to celebrate your efforts and ask our leaders to increase theirs. Help us build a movement to stop climate change

Please contact Nathan Gorst at or visit the event website:

About is a global movement to stop climate change. Local members are organizing the Parade and Fair as part of the Global Work Party being held by on 10/10/10. (Read our mission statement.) Over the weekend of 10-10-10, citizens around the world will complete work projects and celebrate in their communities to show concern for the planet. Our government leaders will take note of the many ways we are all working to reduce our carbon emissions. Leaders will be encouraged to increase their own efforts to create policies and programs that will reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million or less. Find out more about the Global Work Party at

Madison's Green Realtors

Alvarado Real Estate Group is committed to creating awareness and inspiring change for greener homes and living. As trained EcoBrokers we help our homebuyer clients understand homes from an energy and health related perspective as we tour and guide through the decision making process and we help our Seller clients differentiate their home from the competion. We also give our clients Green Home Care Packages when they move into their new homes and do our best to promote ways to create a more energy efficient and healthy living space for their families and for the planet. And as a local and independent Madison WI business we are able to create business policies and office standards with our values at the forefront. Whether it is saving paper, conserving energy or making decisions about our office space and furniture - we are committed to being innovative in every aspect of our business.

Mortgage Options for Madison's Homebuyers

Madison WI homebuyersWhile many great deals exist in today's real estate market in the Madison WI area, securing the optimal mortgage is a critical part of your home purchase decision.

Our team of Madison WI real estate professionals are well versed on the factors in many mortgage loan package that will determine whether or not you can afford the house you want to buy. A couple of years ago it was easy for many people to get a loan for a home and the question wasn't, "What are you pre-approved for?" it was, "What are you comfortable paying each month?" Because banks were approving borrowers for more than they were comfortable spending. Now things are different. The most important factors to take into consideration are: interest rate, points, mortgage type, closing costs and fees, and down payment and mortgage insurance. Here's a closer look at each:

  1. Interest Rate: The interest rate determines the amount of your monthly payment. Keep in mind that different lenders offer different interest rates, so it is important to shop around. Generally, a short-term or adjustable-rate loan will offer a lower interest rate because you agree to repay the lender more quickly or to pay fluctuating rates.
  2. Points: Points are fees charged by the lender to originate your loan. A point equals one percent of the total mortgage amount. Lenders will charge different numbers of points for different loans, so it is important to understand how many points a lender will be charging. For example, in some cases, lenders may advertise very low interest rates, but build a high point charge into the cost of issuing the loan, making the deal less valuable than a loan at a higher interest rate.
  3. Types of Mortgage Options:
    • Fixed Rate. On a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate does not change for the entire life of the loan.
    • Adjustable Rate. Adjustable rates, on the other hand, are interest rates that fluctuate based on market conditions. Since no one knows how the market will behave, they are riskier than fixed-rate loans. Over the life of the mortgage, you could end up paying more or less than you would have with a fixed-rate loan.
    • Balloon. The next common type of mortgage is a balloon payment loan. A balloon payment loan allows you to make relatively small monthly payments for an initial period, but requires a lump-sum payment toward the end of the term. These are risky to consider unless you are confident that you can either refinance the loan or sell the home at the end of the initial loan period.
  4. Closing Costs: Closing costs and fees are additional amounts that the buyer and seller must cover during the course of the mortgage loan transaction. They include items like credit report fees, appraisal fees, title search fees and title insurance.
  5. Down Payment and Mortgage Insurance: When searching for the right type of mortgage for you, the amount of your down payment, the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI) and other factors, such as whether you are a first-time home buyer, a teacher or a peace officer, will also affect your monthly mortgage payment.

A professional real estate agent, such as a member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, or a trusted mortgage broker can help you decide what makes the best financial sense for you. Check out more home buying tips on our website where we also have a very handy mortgage calculator and a page of frequently asked questions from Buyers. Or simply contact us at 608.251.6600 or, we are happy to help!

REAP Food for Thought Festival, Madison WI

REAP vegetablesThe annual Food for Thought Festival is a fun, festive forum that explores and celebrates our many opportunities to eat more pleasurably, healthfully and sustainably.

Join us for the 12th Annual REAP Food for Thought Festival September 24-25 2010 - [Full Schedule]

Featuring Keynote Speaker Ann Cooper*, the "Renegade Lunch Lady"

Friday Night Forum 7-9 pm, Sept. 24 Room 3650 Humanities Building, UW Campus 455 N. Park St., Madison  [MAP] Food for Thought Festival Event Information 8 am - 1:30 pm, Saturday, Sept. 25 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. - Off the Capitol Square, Madison, WI Sara Alvarado will be at the Resilient Research Center table with information about Badger Rock Middle School in the morning.

And after you have juiced up at the Food for Thought Festival - come down to the Willy Street Fair (Saturday, 9/25 and Sunday 9/26) and don't forget to stop by the Alvarado Real Estate Group booth.

*About REAP

[from their wonderful website] Research, Education, Action and Policy on Food Group (REAP) is building a regional food system that is healthful, just, and both environmentally and economically sustainable. REAP is a non-profit organization located in Madison, WI.

REAP connects producers, consumers, policy makers, educators, businesses and organizations to nourish the links between land and table.

REAP is committed to projects that shorten the distance from farm to table, support small family farmers, encourage sustainable agricultural practices, preserve the diversity and safety of our food supply and address the food security of everyone in our community.

A "healthful, just and both environmentally and economically sustainable" food system is one that provides:

  • Nutritious, safe, and affordable food to all segments of society,
  • Fair compensation and safe, healthful working conditions for family farmers and food producers,
  • Support for agricultural and processing practices that protect our soil, water, and genetic diversity,
  • Access to a variety of regional foods that come to our table with minimal energy-consuming transportation or packaging,
  • Public policies that promote a secure and sustainable regional "foodshed."

The Alvarado Real Estate Group is a local real estate company made up of a team of EcoBrokers. We are connected to many homeowners and families that are committed to learning more about sustainability, living in an eco friendly and healthy way and leaving as small of a carbon footprint as possible. That is why it is a part of our business and personal lives to support these organizations and community events. We appreciate you for your partipation and support as well. Thank you.

Do you know what impacts your Credit Score? It's Quiz Time!

Understanding Credit Scores from Alvarado GroupTake the Alvarado Real Estate Group's monthly quiz and find out if you know what impacts your credit score: According to credit experts, 42% of U.S. consumers have credit scores between 550 and 699. As a result, these consumers typically don't qualify for preferred interest rates and, depending on their overall credit profile, they may not even qualify for certain loans and credit cards.

As a Madison WI Real Estate Broker, I have worked with many home buyers and sellers throughout my years in the business and have seen first-hand how credit scores can really upset the opportunity of securing a favorable mortgage. Most clients I work with don't have a clear picture of what impacts their credit profile and, more importantly, don't know what steps they can take to help improve it. I find this short quiz, from credit consultants, to be very helpful when it comes to understanding how your credit profile works.

1. To have the best credit-profile impact, what is the maximum amount of your monthly credit line that should be used?

a) 70% b) 30% c) 50%

2. What is the number-one contributing factor to a good credit score?

a) Length of credit history b) Amounts you owe c) Payment history

3. If you pay 2% each month on your credit card (typical minimum payment), when will you pay off a $3,000 balance at 10% interest?

a) 18 years b) 6 years c) 3 years

4. After paying off a high-interest credit card, you should:

a) Continue using it occasionally b) Close the account c) Use the full amount of available credit every month

5. Applying for credit cards in order to just receive a free sign-up gift (t-shirts, mugs, etc.) has no impact on my credit profile?

True or False

6. Rewards points on credit cards are a good deal when:

a) I get cash back b) I get free airline tickets c) I carry no balance each month

7. To have a credit score, I must have at least one creditor reporting activity on my credit report for:

a) 12 months b) 8 months c) 6 months

8. Credit bureaus that manage your personal credit report data and credit scores are a:

a) Government entity b) Non-profit agency c) Regular business corporation

9. Banks and credit card companies think you are creditworthy by how many credit offers you receive by mail?

True or False

10. Credit scores are used by lenders mainly to:

a) Tell how I compare to other consumers b) Tell if I make my payments on time c) Predict the likeliness that I will repay my loan on time

Answers: 1 - c, 2 - c, 3 - a, 4 - a, 5 - False, 6 - c, 7 - c, 8 - c, 9 - False, 10 - c

If you find you answered more than half of these questions wrong, you're not alone. ApprovalGuard says that the majority of consumers do not know the answers to these and similar types of questions. The good news is it's not too late. With a good understanding and proper guidance of how credit works, consumers can learn how to effectively manage their personal credit profile. For more information, you can email me at and since I'm not a credit expert, I can connect you with the right person if I can't answer your question(s). Please feel free to forward this quiz to others.

From a local Madison WI perspective, credit discussions come up a lot in conversations about short sales and foreclosures. This is a hot topic because there are so many factors in understanding your best options if you are in financial distress. And I'll save that for another post so stay tuned!

Willy Street Fair! September 25-26th, 2010 in Madison WI

willy street fair, madison wi This is not just for Near East side fans, the Willy Street Fair is for everyone in the Madison area and surrounding to celebrate the last days of Summer with 6 stages of entertainment, a parade at 11am on Sunday, award winning local & national beers, fantastic foods from around the globe, fabulous hand made arts and crafts and all for a good cause - to support the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center and Common Wealth Development.

Alvarado Real Estate Group is a supporter of this Fair and will have a booth, so come visit us to fill up your water bottle with ice cold water and check out our inventory of great listings in the area. We are involved in supporting neighborhood events like these because for us it is what creates strong communities and we work with clients that want to move into a community, not just a house. It is what makes a neighborhood desireable and helps people feel a part of a community and not just a homeowner on a street. And we all benefit from that in many ways.

The Willy Street Fair is especially meaningful to everyone on our team because of our strong connections to the neighborhood and not just because our office is located 1/2 a block off of Willy Street on S. Livingston. Sara Alvarado grew up on Rutledge where her Father, Bruce Wunnicke, had his first residential real estate office on Willy Street and Sara went to Marquette Elementary through 3rd grade. Her two children attended Red Caboose for the past 9 years (as did Sara herself in preschool). Darcy Haber has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and is a strong community organizer. Kathryn Wunnicke also lives in the area on Atwood Ave. And this year Julie Campbell is the proud mama of her son Sean, who is performing in a band at the Willy Street Fair. How exciting!

Madison Area Event Info for The Willy Street Fair, 2010

Saturday and Sunday, September 25 and 26, 2010

Saturday hours: 2:00 pm - 9:00 pm (800 block of Willy Street)

Sunday hours: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm (800 - 1000 blocks of Willy Street). Parade at 11am starting at Plan B. Willy Street Raffel starting at 6:30 pm. Tickets are 1 for $2 / 3 for $5 / 10 for $10 and can be purchased at Willy St Coop, Common Wealth Develoment and the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center.

Click here for the complete schedule.

We hope to see you at the Fair!

Remodeling your Madison Home? New Lead Regulations You Need to Know About

Painting your Madison HomeWhile we're all aware of the health risks posed by lead, you might not realize that even common renovation projects can be hazardous in terms of lead. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), activities like sanding, cutting and demolition can create dangerous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to both adults and children.

As Madison WI Realtors, we are committed to keeping our clients informed on current regulations pertaining to home safety issues and ways to keep your home healthy. To protect against the lead risk, on April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. Under the rule, as of April 22, 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child-care facilities and schools built before 1978 must be EPA certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. That means that when you are checking out our list of preferred vendors in the Madison area, it is important to ask the right questions.

Home Remodeling Tips

If you are embarking on a home-improvement project, be sure to use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices. Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.

Make sure that your renovators employ the following practices - and you, too, if you're a do-it-yourselfer:

  • Contain the work area
  • Minimize dust
  • Clean up thoroughly

According to the EPA, to permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. For other tips on painting the interior of your home read this great article from This Old House website (who we can also thank for the photo!).

For more information on the dangers of lead and the new regulations regarding remodeling, please visit, or email us directly at I encourage you to pass this important information along to anyone you know who might be renovating their home soon.

World Car Free Day Event in Madison WI

Car Free Day in Madison WI

photo by World Car Free Network

As Realtors that make house calls and show homes to our clients it can be hard to be car free (although Darcy is regularly spotted biking to appointments) but it is a part of daily habit to think about ways to reduce our use of cars as much as possible. We also see first hand that people are also changing the way they think about their car use as we meet with clients that are choosing the location of their next home based on their ability to be a one car family and watch them figure out if a home they like is really in a walkable neighborhood or not. So join us in celebrating World Car Free Day here in Madison WI!   

Madison Events Information

World Car Free Day Event - September 22nd 5:00-6:30pm

Join Mayor Dave on a walk around the Capitol followed by a meet and greet where everyone will be invited to share their alternative transportation stories and win alternative transportation PRIZES provided by Machinery Row Bicycles, Planet Bike and Community Car!

5-5:30pm Walk around the capitol starting at the north end of the square by Hamilton Street

5:30-6:30 Meet and Greet on the sidewalk in front of The Old Fashioned

Mayor Dave will be speaking and light refreshments will be provided by Willy Street Co-op.

This is a fun way to celebrate all you do to help make this a better planet, to stay healthy and to connect with like minded friends.