Today’s aerial video of a NW WI lake.

Can you name this lake?

Inspect and maintain your septic system

A conventional septic system requires maintenance, inspection, and service every three years to ensure continued operation.

Most waterfront homeowners in NW Wisconsin utilize a conventional septic system. Not only is a properly functional system designed to protect their family’s health, but also to protect the surface and groundwater from contamination.

Conventional septic system diagram

Conventional septic system diagram

Steps to ensure a properly functioning septic system:

  • Pump or inspect your septic system every three years.
  • Divert surface water away from the drain field.
  • Avoid driving or parking on the drain field to prevent soil compaction.
  • Avoid obstructed drain lines by keeping roots of trees and shrubs away from the drain field pipes.
  • To prevent drain field clogs, avoid putting cooking grease, oils, coffee grounds, cigarettes, sanitary napkins, tampons, disposable diapers, paper towels down the drain or toilet.
  • Compost your vegetable scraps rather than using a garbage disposal.
  • Conserve water with low-flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads.

How do you know if your septic system is malfunctioning?

  • Sewage is backing up in the basement or drains.
  • Water is ponding or creating wet areas over the drain field.
  • Bright green grass over the drain field.
  • Dense aquatic plants along only your shore land.
  • Sewage odors.
  • Bacteria or nitrate in nearby well water.
  • Biodegradable dye flushed through your system can be detected in the lake.

Out exploring? GPS and phone maps are great. But don’t forget the big picture.

Out exploring? GPS and phone maps are great. But don’t forget the big picture.

Scenic drive in Barnes, WI

Scenic drive in Barnes, WI

These days, more and more people are forsaking paper maps for phone or dash-based mapping systems. But when you’re looking for real estate, and maybe even when you’re just trying to find your way back to town, don’t forget the big picture.

Don’t get me wrong. I love gadgets, and I love technology. I’m no luddite technophobe. In fact, I’m the designated software trainer for the Edina Realty agents in northwestern Wisconsin. But I firmly believe that paper-based maps still have a place.

Here’s why. First, larger maps help you see the big-picture context. Without them, you’ll be looking at the world through a tiny window. Plus, when you’re driving through a dead zone your phone or tablet will only work if you’ve planned ahead and preloaded detailed maps of that particular area. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t.

So I’d especially like to recommend two entire books full of good old paper maps:

  • Northwest Wisconsin Fishing Map Guide, Northern Region. You can also find maps, fisheries info, and other lake information by going to the menu above and clicking on NW WI Lakes & Rivers. But when you’re out driving around, this 224-page volume can be an invaluable reference. Although it’s intended for anglers, it includes great maps and lake information that’s helpful for the non-angler, too. Available from Amazon, and also at finer bookstores, hardware stores, and bait shops everywhere.
  • Wisconsin Atlas and Gazetteer, by De Lorme. These 96 pp. of large-format maps show all the roads in Wisconsin—including the smallest dirt back roads. They also show terrain features, boat landings, and other points of interest. (For more about specific communities, you can also go to the menu above and click on NW WI Communities. And for the quickest routes to get here, click on Get Here.)

I love my phone, and buyers have told me the Edina Realty Mobile App can be extremely helpful. But to supplement your phone, tablet, or dash system, don’t forget plain old paper maps. They run on a user-friendly page-based operating system. Their batteries never die, and they work everywhere. Try one today.

Septic Systems Simplified

Septic Systems Simplified

I’d like to address a topic that may not be very glamorous. But it’s one that’s important to know about when you’re buying a home or cabin in NW Wisconsin.

If you’re living in town, then you probably have city water and sewer. All you need to worry about now is paying a small bill every month. But once you move to the country, you’re on your own. Don’t worry though. Most of the time these systems work just fine.

septic-system

Still, before you buy a home or cabin, it’s important to know about its septic system. Repairs and upgrades can be expensive. Here’s a quick overview; to really understand septic systems thoroughly, you may wan to do an online search on some of these terms and read further.

The first question you should ask is what type of system a particular home or cabin has. There are three main types: conventional, mound, and holding. You may also hear about something called a “separate gray water system.” One other term I’ll explain briefly is “perc test.” You’ll want to know what it is and why it’s important.

A conventional septic system runs waste water and solids into a large concrete septic tank where bacteria digest the solids. Liquids run out the other end into a drain field that’s made of perforated pipe buried in a gravel-filled trench. Solds that don’t digest settle out into a sludge at the bottom of the septic tank. Every two or three years, you’ll need to have this sludge pumped out. It’s not expensive, and it’s no big deal. It’s just part of owning a home or cabin that’s outside the city limits.

A mound system is similar, except that the drain field is above ground level inside a large mound of gravel and dirt. It’s used in certain special conditions – most often when the soil isn’t permeable enough, there isn’t enough soil before you reach bedrock, or the water table is too close to the surface. Although the mound can be landscaped in a way that makes it less noticeable, it’s still going to be there. Another negative is that mound systems often require a pumping system in between the septic tank and the drain field. Otherwise, these systems work just like a conventional septic system.

A holding tank is just what it sounds like – a hold tank that needs to be pumped out a soon as it’s full. I see them most often at older lakeshore cabins. They’re usually only used for sites that are unsuitable for either a conventional or a mound system. Sometimes, however, they were installed because they were a less expensive alternative.

As you’d expect, a larger tank is better. But it still needs to be pumped out eventually. And when it is, a large tank will cost more to empty.

You may be able to upgrade a holding tank to conventional or mound system. But even if you can, it will be a fairly expensive undertaking. Meanwhile, pumping out the holding tank will be a regular expense. If the system serves a small cabin that’s only used on a dozen weekends every year, that’s less of an issue. But if that cabin becomes a full-time, year-round home for a family of six, then you’re going to have a monthly pumping bill.

To help with that problem, some homes and cabins have a separate “gray water system.” (You’ll also see them used on conjunction with conventional and mound systems.) Gray water, as opposed to “black water,” is all the waste water that hasn’t come from a toilet. Depending on local codes and regulations, your gray water can sometimes be released with little or no processing; you could even use it to water your lawn or garden. Just be careful about what soaps you use, and avoid pouring too many household chemicals down the drain (probably a good idea anyway).

Finally, here’s one more term you should know about. If you’re building a new home or cabin, you may hear about something called a “perch test.” That’s short of “percolation test,” and it’s a measure of how permeable your soil is. If your building site is on clay soil that’s relatively impermeable, it could mean you’ll need a mound system or holding tank. It it’s on relatively sandy soil, you can relax. You’ll probably pass your perch test with flying colors.

This was an important topic, but maybe not a very fun one. If you read all the way to here, then perhaps you are ready to start shopping for your country or lake home or cabin – www.JeanHedren.com

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Realtor Magazine: What to Expect from an Aging Population

Realtor Magazine full story: What to Expect from an Aging Population

By 2030, it is expected that a quarter of the U.S. population will be 50+. Affordable senior housing options or adapting current homes to meet accessibility needs of seniors.

Understanding the housing needs for this group will be crucial.

  • People are living longer and want an active lifestyle as long as possible.
  • Women are more likely to live alone.
  • High housing costs are a challenge.

What effect does the 50+ population have on the NW Wisconsin real estate market? Talk to Jean Hedren, a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES),  who has helped many 50+ buyers and sellers.

Classic lake cabin on Lower Eau Claire Lake, Gordon, WI

This appealing midcentury cabin on Lower Eau Claire Lake, Gordon, WI  features 109′ of level sandy lake frontage that’s perfect for swimming and fishing. And, by the way, the cabin is pretty nice too. Comfortable, open living area with gas fireplace and bathroom that includes a dry sauna. Guest cabin offers additional sleeping room. Two cabins, one affordable price.

Curious to see more? Call Jean Hedren, NW Wisconsin Realtor, at 218-590-6634.

Someday it would be great to have a place up at the lake. Someday…

In all the years I’ve been in this business, no one has ever told me they wish they’d waited another ten or fifteen years to buy their lake home or cabin.

Sure, it’s good to be prudent. And hard-working couples, especially those with with young children, may not have a lot of extra time or money. Someday, after they’re retired and their children are grown and gone, they’ll have plenty of both.

But instead of waiting for someday, right now is a great time to begin building memories at your cabin or lake home. And at this stage of your life, there’s no need to skip directly to the luxury lake home where you plan to live out your retirement.

If you’re ready, I’d be glad to show you a couple of those dream lake homes; I’m listing a few of them right now. But I can also show you some surprisingly affordable alternatives. You might call them “starter cabins.”

Sure, you may need to make a few compromises. But when your kids grow up, they won’t remember that the kitchen in your cabin didn’t feature high-end stainless steel appliances. They’ll remember roasting marshmallows and making s’mores down at the campfire. They won’t remember that your cabin wasn’t on the biggest lake with the biggest muskies. They’ll remember the four-inch bluegills they caught from the end of your dock.

Maybe someday is today. And if this year is the year, it’s not too early to get started right now. Here’s why: It may take us a while to find the lake and the cabin that are just right for you. Figure a little negotiating before you have an accepted offer, and then typically about another 60 days until the actual closing can take place. (With new banking regulations that have recently gone into effect, the only exceptions are generally cash offers with no inspections or other contingencies. They can usually happen faster.) This means that if you’d like to start enjoying weekends at your new cabin this summer, it may not make sense to launch your search in May or June.

To learn more about the cabins and lake homes for sale in NW Wisconsin, give me a call at 218-590-6634. Or, you can reach me at jeanhedren@edinarealty.com.