What the heck’s a “flowage,” and why is it called that??

Minong Flowage

All over northern Wisconsin, the term flowage has worked its way into dozens of lake names. Here in northwestern Wisconsin, we have the Minong Flowage, Gordon Flowage, Chippewa Flowage, and Tigercat Flowage—and that’s just for starters. And despite the number of flowages in northern Wisconsin, people who live on any one of them can often be heard calling their home lake simply “The Flowage.”

So what exactly is a flowage, and how did they come to be called that?

A flowage is simply a lake that’s formed upstream of a dam; it’s a regionalism that’s rarely heard outside of Wisconsin. In other parts of the country, especially in the South and the West, a flowage might be called a reservoir. A flowage, like a reservoir, can be any shape and size. Some, like the Minong Flowage and Gordon Flowage, were formed when dams flooded large, sprawling areas. Others, like the Colton Flowage in Washburn County, are smaller and have a simpler shoreline that resulted from the flooding of a long, narrow valley.

Nor is the term’s use universal; even around here, plenty of lakes upstream of dams are simply called “lakes.” Examples include Trego Lake, Hayward Lake, Nelson Lake, Moose Lake, and Lake Namekagon. And then there’s the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes that includes Lower Eau Claire Lake, Middle Eau Claire Lake, and Upper Eau Claire Lake. Each lies above a small dam. Although smaller lakes might have been there from the beginning, it’s the dams that give these lakes their present size and shape.

But why “flowage,” especially when it describes the one part of a river that’s no longer flowing? Webster’s defines flowage as a) an overflowing onto adjacent land, b) a body of water formed by overflowing or damming, c) floodwater especially of a stream. That first definition is key; it’s related to a whole body of real estate law surrounding the concept of “flowage easements,” which grant someone the right to flood land.

Flowage easements are most often granted to the state and federal government, but in the past they were often granted to utilities that built dams for generating electricity. Here in northern Wisconsin, flowage easements were also granted to logging companies so they could build dams for regulating water flow during the spring logging drives. They built dams, the water upstream of the dams rose, and then the water flowed onto the adjacent land. And that’s how we got the term “flowage.”

To learn more about any of the lakes and flowages mentioned in this post, go to the menu above and click on NW WI Lakes & Rivers. And for all your northwest Wisconsin real estate needs, whether you’re buying or selling, call Jean Hedren at (218) 590-6634. www.JeanHedren.com

Gordon Dam
Gordon Dam

10 reasons to hit the right home selling price

Pricing your home right from the start can result in a quicker sale. 

  1. Strategic pricing that’s based on a thorough, up-to-the-minute market analysis. If our price is too low, we leave money on the table. If our price is too high, we leave your home on the market unsold. Later, it’s likely to sell for less than it would if we priced it correctly from the start. A strategic, fact-based listing price that helps your home get noticed and sell more quickly for the best possible sale price.
  2. Each new listing creates a buzz in the local real estate community. The right price will attract more Realtors to show the house. The right price will generate more calls and email inquiries.
  3. Homes tend to sell closer to the asking price during the first few weeks on the market, resulting in a higher price in a shorter time.
  4. Fewer mortgage payments and less interest paid means more money in your pocket.
  5. The right price sends the message to the buyer that your home is a better value compared to others on the market.
  6. Less time on the market means less time keeping the home ready for showings.
  7. In a fluctuating market, it is better to sell now as prices may decrease even more.
  8. The longer the house sits on the market, buyers may think there is something wrong with the house.
  9. Keep your ultimate goal in mind – selling now means moving on with your life.
  10. If there are no showings, the price is too high. If there are several showings but no offers indicates good marketing, but buyers will react to overpricing when they step into the house.

Request a free home evaluation. 

What type of mortgage loan works best for you?

What type of mortgage loan works best for you? 

Your mortgage loan consultant will be able to discuss the best mortgage loan program for you. Basically all mortgage loans belong to two main groups: conventional and government.

Conventional loans

Two types of conventional loans:

  • Fixed rate: Traditional type of financing. The interest stays the same for the full term of the loan, typically 15 or 30 years with predictable and stable payments.
  • Adjustable rate: An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) interest is linked to a financial index, such as a treasury security, so the monthly payment can vary over the life of the loan, usually 25 to 30 years. There are lower initial payments. Some ARMs can be converted to fixed rates generally after the first 5 years.

Government loans

  • FHA loans, which are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, are typically designed to meet the needs of first-time homebuyers with low or moderate incomes. FHA loans can be approved with a down payment as little as 3.5 percent and a credit score as low as 580.
    Often called “helper loans,” they give a boost to potential borrowers who may not be able to secure one otherwise. For this reason, FHA loans have maximum lending limits. Talk with your lender to see what the FHA loan limits are in the counties where you are searching.

    And remember, because the agency is taking on more risk by insuring FHA loans, the borrower is expected to pay mortgage insurance both at the time of closing and on a monthly basis, and the property must be owner-occupied.

  • VA loans, backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are guaranteed to qualified veterans and active-duty personnel and their spouses. VA loans can be approved with 100 percent financing, meaning VA borrowers are not required to make a down payment.Unlike FHA loans, borrowers do not have to pay mortgage insurance on VA loans.
  • USDA loans, backed by the United States Department of Agriculture mortgage program, are intended to support homeowners who purchase homes in rural and some suburban areas. USDA loans do not require a down payment and may offer lower interest rates; borrowers may have to pay a small mortgage insurance premium in order to offset the lender’s risk.
  • WHEDA: Low down payments and below-market interest rates. Interest rate is fixed for 15 to 30 year loan term.

Ready to enter the buyer’s market?

Need help financing a new property? Understanding the loan types is step one, but you’ll need the help of a qualified expert to get you into your dream home.

Reach out today to get help connecting with a trusted, local mortgage specialist.

Start your property search at www.JeanHedren.com

Shoreland zoning protects your property values

If you’re shopping for waterfront property, you should know about shoreland zoning and the rules that go with it. No one likes rules. But the first thing you should know is that these rules don’t just benefit fish, birds, and wildlife, they benefit you

By preserving the up north qualities of our lakes and streams, these rules also preserve your property values. Even up here in NW Wisconsin, some lakes have a more urban feel. Other lakes, however, still have a relatively undeveloped feel – even though most of their shoreline is developed. Views are preserved, privacy is preserved, and so are property values.

Second, it’s important to know that certain minimum standards are in place in Wisconsin. In some counties, and even on certain lakes and streams, the rules are more strict. Existing homes, of course, are grandfathered in. But if you’re building on shoreland anywhere in Wisconsin, you’ll need to meet these minimum standards:

  • Lot size. Lots served by a public sanitary sewer must have a minimum average width of 65 feet and a minimum area of 10,000 square feet. “Unsewered” lots must have a minimum average width of 100 feet and minimum area of 20,000 square feet.
  • Buffer strip. Clear-cutting of trees and shrubs isn’t allowed in the strip of land from the ordinary high-water mark to 35′ inland. One exception is for a 30′ wide path, for every 100′ of shoreline, down to the water. That allows you to reach the water, have a great view from your living room, and still protect your privacy. (And also, by the way, preserve the view of whoever lives across the lake.)
  • Setbacks. All buildings and structures must be set back at least 75′ from the ordinary high-water mark. Exceptions include piers and boat-hoists. And, if an existing pattern of development exists, some counties may have a “setback averaging” system that allow homes to be built closer to the water. On certain bodies of water, though, setbacks are increased to 125′ – or, in rare cases, up to 300′.

This is just an overview; for details on these and other shoreland zoning provisions, contact the DNR or county officials. Keep in mind, too, that existing homes are grandfathered in. When you buy one, you obviously can’t do much to change the lot size or setback. You can, however, take steps to restore the buffer of natural vegetation along your home’s waterfront.

But don’t try shoreline restoration just because it’s good for the environment. Do it if you’d like to increase your privacy, see more birds and wildlife, and catch mroe fish. (And also, by the way, spend less time mowing your lawn.)

Buying or selling in NW Wisconsin? Call Jean Hedren, Edina Realty NW Wisconsin Realtor. 218-590-6634. Or visit www.JeanHedren.com.

 

The North Country Hiking Trail: Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Highway 53 Trailhead

The North Country Hiking Trail: Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Highway 53 Trailhead, Douglas County, WI

North Country Trail - Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53 trailhead

North Country Trail – Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53 trailhead

Looking for good places to hike in northwestern Wisconsin? Check out this 3.3 mile segment of the North Country Scenic Trail. It’s right here in the Gordon-Solon Springs area. Because it traverses relatively open terrain, this segment is a good place to enjoy the vista. Near the north end of the route, there’s also a nice walk-in campsite overlooking Leo Creek.

Please check back now and then; I’ll occasionally be posting more trail segments. I’ll try to include a couple photos with each post, but not enough to take all the fun and mystery out of exploring the trail yourself. Stay tuned…

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Finally, here’s a road map to help you find the trailhead:

Road Map

Road Map

Fall activities in Northwest Wisconsin: The Bird Sanctuary (Douglas County)

Fall activities in Northwest Wisconsin: The Bird Sanctuary

If you’re looking for things to do here in Northwestern Wisconsin, you should know about the 4,000-acre Douglas County Wildlife Management Area (DCWMA). On some maps it also appears as the Douglas County State Wildlife Area. Around here, most people just call it “The Bird Sanctuary.”

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Here’s a quick overview, courtesy of the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary. To learn more about the Bird Sanctuary, you can visit their website.

First, you should know The Bird Sanctuary isn’t just for birders and wildlife watchers. It’s also a great place for picnicking, berry-picking, hiking, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing.

On their website, the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary also mention that this is a great place for “wildflower observations.” That’s a nice way of saying you can look and take all the photos you want, but please don’t pick them. Some of these wildflowers, even if locally abundant, are apparently quite rare.

The North Country Hiking Trail runs through The Bird Sanctuary, and you can also hike on lots of other trails. Horseback riding is allowed on designated trails.

(Tip: Whether you’re hiking or riding, the Bird Sanctuary’s open terrain can be a good place to escape summer’s mosquitos and deer flies. You’ll still encounter a few, but not quite as many as you would in the nearby woods.)

Although none of the hiking trails within The Bird Sanctuary are designated for biking, its the paved and dirt roads are great for biking. (Some of the sand roads, however, are quite soft.) Nearby, you’ll also find lots more roads and trails.

As part of their educational outreach, The Friends of the Bird Sanctuary sponsor an annual series of fun programs and outings, many of them with a hands-on outdoor component. They’re led by wildlife biologists, naturalists, historians, and other experts from around the region.

If you’d like to watch sharptail grouse dance in April and early May, you can reserve the ground blind that’s positioned right nest to their dancing grounds. It’s free of charge, and a rare opportunity to watch this fascinating courtship ritual.

For a modest fee, you can also rent The Bird Sanctuary clubhouse for an event of your own. It’s a popular venue for summertime wedding receptions, birthday parties, and other events. Be sure to make your reservation well ahead of time.

Why This Habitat is Different

The first thing you’ll notice is the wide open spaces. The Bird Sanctuary is one of the our region’s final remnants of grassland savanna—small stands of pine and oak sprinkled through open grassland, with a few clumps of hazel and aspen thrown in for good measure. Until the arrival of European settlers, naturally-occurring fires created an ever-shifting mosaic of these grassland clearings, which are sometimes called “northern pine savannas” or “northern oak savannas.”

Early settlers didn’t think much of these places. They called them “barrens.” Over the years, as newcomers plowed fields, planted trees, and suppressed fires, these open areas gradually disappeared. These grasslands—and the wildlife they support—once covered over a third of Wisconsin. Today fewer than 40,000 acres remain, and 4,000 of those acres are right here in the Bird Sanctuary.

Many species depend on this unique ecosystem, and much of what little remains is in isolated pockets too small to maintain the genetic diversity that’s necessary for species’ long-term survival. Northern Wisconsin has only a few remaining contiguous pieces of grassland savanna that are as large as the one preserved here.

The Bird Sanctuary also happens to be a great great habitat for humans to explore. For directions to the Bird Sanctuary, click here.

Handy hunting reference – 2018 Wisconsin Hunting and Trapping Seasons

2018 Wisconsin Hunting and Trapping Seasons dnr.gov

A Home Inspection: The Best Investment You’ll Ever Make

A Home Inspection: The Best Investment You’ll Ever Make

I advise all my buyers to hire a home inspector.  I tell them it’s the best investment they’ll ever make.  If the inspection uncovers issues so serious that they decide to walk, it can feel like money wasted.  But if it helps them avoid big surprises they would have encountered later, then it’s definitely money well-spent.  That’s why I very rarely write up offers that don’t include an inspection contingency.

I even advise buyers to hire an inspector when they’re considering a foreclosure or other distressed property that’s being sold “as-is.”  More information can help them, in the words of that old song, “know when to walk away… and know when to run.”  Or, they can move forward with confidence, armed with solid information about just what they’re getting into.  And even when a home is being sold as-is, that doesn’t necessarily mean there can’t be a little negotiating if an inspection uncovers major issues.

It’s also important to remember that a condition report is very different from an inspection report.  Yes, sellers sign on the dotted line to signify that they’re telling the truth.  But even though they’re completing the condition report to the best of their knowledge, they may not know about all of their home’s issues.  So no matter how much you trust the seller’s condition report, it doesn’t take the place of an inspection.

If an inspection uncovers major issues, you have two choices: you can walk, or you can ask the seller to “cure.”  The seller can resolve the situation by either fixing it or giving you a credit at closing.  I almost never advise my buyers to walk away without trying to negotiate a solution.  The only exception would be in the case of serious mold or structural issues.  Almost anything else can be fixed.  If this is a home and a location that you like, work with the seller to reach a fair outcome.

Most homes outside the city limits have their own well and septic, and those need to be inspected, too.  Some inspectors are specialists, while others can take care of all three inspections in the same visit.  Ask your Realtor for recommendations.

Don’t procrastinate on this step; start working to schedule an inspection the moment you have an accepted offer.  The best inspectors can be very busy; here in northern Wisconsin, that’s especially true during the summer months.  So you’ll have plenty of time for any negotiations that might need to take place between the inspection and the contingency deadline, make sure you schedule your inspection for the earliest date possible.

Start your property search: www.JeanHedren.com
Call Jean Hedren, Edina Realty NW Wisconsin Realtor, 218-590-6634

Northwest Wisconsin bucket list: The North Country Hiking Trail

Northwest Wisconsin bucket list: The North Country Hiking Trail

The North Country Trail meanders all the way from Maine to North Dakota, in some cases incorporating existing trails like northeastern Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail. When completed, it will be 4,600 miles long. It’s administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with state and local agencies like the WI DNR, and nearly all trail building and maintenance is done by volunteers.

Although the trail still includes gaps where hikers are forced to settle for paved and dirt roads, the trail sections already completed include more miles than the entire Appalachian Trail. A couple hundred of those miles are right here in our own corner of Northwestern Wisconsin. It’s a vastly underutlized recreational opportunity, and I’d like to help spread the word.

Some great stretches of trail can be found in my own neighborhood, right near Gordon and Solon Springs. One stretch, for example, traverses the Douglas County Wildlife Management Area, known locally as simply The Bird Sanctuary.

North Country trail map - Douglas County WI

North Country trail map – Douglas County WI

Here, courtesy of the Brule-Saint Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, are two downloadable maps. The first is a map of the entire area. The second map is a guide to one segment that’s especially interesting—the Historic Portage Trail and Brule Bog Boardwalk.

Historic Portage Trail and Brule Bog Boardwalk

Historic Portage Trail and Brule Bog Boardwalk

(For more on the Brule-Saint Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, click here. To learn more about their upcoming hikes and other events, click here.)

If you’d like to explore on your own, these maps will help you get started. So far, however, detailed maps and directions to trailheads are still hard to come by for most stretches of the trail. Watch this space; you’ll soon begin seeing them here.

Enjoy the fall colors while you shop for your NW Wisconsin lake home or cabin

Right now is a great time to find your new home, cabin, or recreational property in Northwestern Wisconsin.  Summer is over and autumn leaves are turning their brilliant yellow and red hues.  A smart strategy is to get serious about your search right now.

Beautiful fall colors in NW Wisconsin

Beautiful fall colors in NW Wisconsin

Fall leaves

Fall leaves

Here’s why:  If you’re planning to wait until spring before beginning or resuming your search, remember that a lot of other buyers are doing the same.  Sellers are very aware of this, and some have resigned themselves to not seeing much more activity until April. But once April arrives, they’ll be confident that more buyers will turn up in the months to follow. Home prices might even start a little higher and they’ll be less willing to negotiate on price.

Instead, if you find the place you’re looking for now and put in an offer, you’ll be in an excellent negotiating position.  Many sellers are eager to sell now so they can move on; your negotiating power is even better.  Some sellers will be glad to no longer be carrying those costs through the winter.

While interest rates are still very low, there is no guarantee they will remain at these levels. That’s one more reason to buy now.

This time of year, even Mother Nature is making it easier to find your new home, cabin, or recreational property.  The leaves are falling, and suddenly it’s literally much easier to see what’s out there.  Not only is this a wonderful time of year to enjoy the colors, lake homes and the lakes tend to be more visible.

But if you’re curious about properties you’ve seen online, I’d be glad to help you get a closer look.  To see my listings, go to www.JeanHedren.com.  You can search by county, community and even by the specific lake name. (I’ll also be glad to show you any properties in Northwestern Wisconsin.)  You can also check out my YouTube listing videos – Edina Realty Northwest Wisconsin Homes

There’s no better time than right now to find your new home, cabin, or recreational property in Northwestern Wisconsin.  The leaves are turning, our inventory of available properties is still good, and now is an excellent time to come take a look around.

Take your NW Wisconsin property search while enjoying the fall colors. Download my free NW Wisconsin property search app at www.JeanHedren.com

Jean Hedren, Edina Realty, NW Wisconsin. Douglas, Bayfield, Washburn, Sawyer County real estate. Gordon, Wascott, Minong, Solon Springs, Barnes, Hayward, Spooner real estate, and other NW Wisconsin communities.