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Connecting Buyers and Sellers in NW Wisconsin

By Jean Hedren | Agent in Gordon, WI
  • Out exploring? GPS and phone maps are great. But don’t forget the big picture.

    Posted Under: General Area in Wisconsin, Home Buying in Wisconsin, In My Neighborhood in Wisconsin  |  October 11, 2014 7:29 AM  |  26 views  |  No comments

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

    Scenic drive in Barnes, WIScenic drive in Barnes, WI

    In my last post I told you about how the Edina Realty Mobile App can help power your search for a lake home or cabin. And 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 all of 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.

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

    Posted Under: General Area in Wisconsin, Home Buying in Wisconsin, In My Neighborhood in Wisconsin  |  October 8, 2014 10:52 AM  |  26 views  |  No comments

    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 WisconsinBeautiful fall colors in NW Wisconsin
    Fall leavesFall 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.

  • Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

    Posted Under: General Area in Wisconsin, In My Neighborhood in Wisconsin  |  September 24, 2014 9:39 AM  |  54 views  |  No comments

    Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

    Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

    Looking for good places to bike in northwestern Wisconsin? Check out this 28.5 mile loop in the Gordon-Wascott area.

    Starting point: North Shore Bar, at the corner of Flowage Lane and Stuckey road. To get there from Highway 53, just drive west on Flowage Lane for about 3 miles. Great burgers and pizza.

    Roads you’ll travel: Flowage Lane, Highway 53, Cty. Rd. Y, Bass Lake Road, Cranberry Lake Road, Lost Lake Road, West Mail Road, Cty Rd. M, Stuckey Road.

    Althernate starting points: Downtown Gordon. The Buckhorn features great burgers, Friday fish fries, and daily specials. Or, Gordon Pines golf club at the corner of West Mail Road and County Road Y. Casual dining and full-service bar.

    (By the way, this route passes near lake homes I’m listing on Bass LakeWhitefish LakeLeader Lake, and Cranberry Lake—plus this home on County Road Y that has a spectacular view of the Gordon Flowage. Please give me a call if you’d like to see these homes. Or, start your own search at www.JeanHedren.com.)

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

    Bass Lake RdBass Lake Rd
    Bass Lake RdBass Lake Rd
    Lost Lake RdLost Lake Rd
    West Mail RdWest Mail Rd
    St Croix RiverSt Croix River
    Moose RiverMoose River
  • NW Wisconsin Fall 2014 bucket list

    Posted Under: General Area in Wisconsin, Entertainment & Nightlife in Wisconsin, In My Neighborhood in Wisconsin  |  September 15, 2014 8:50 AM  |  76 views  |  No comments
    NW Wisconsin Fall 2014 Bucket ListNW Wisconsin Fall 2014 Bucket List
  • Stick-built, log, and timber frame homes

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Wisconsin, Design & Decor in Wisconsin  |  September 12, 2014 9:15 AM  |  70 views  |  No comments

    Stick-Built, Log, and Timber-Frame Homes

    This post is in honor of the stunning 3BR 2 BA custom-crafted timber-frame lake home I’m listing in Barnes, WI. It’s on crystal-clear, 55’ deep Bony Lake, which is part of the Eau Claire chain of lakes and connected to Middle Eau Claire Lake by a navigable channel. 

    Timber frame home on Bony LakeTimber frame home on Bony Lake

    Just what’s the difference between stick-built, log, and timber-frame homes? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each construction method? Are all log homes really log homes? And what’s the difference between a log home and a timber-frame home? What about homes that combine elements of both construction methods? For a quick overview, keep reading.

    Here in North America, nearly all homes are now built with light-frame construction that employs dimensional lumber, usually 2x4s or 2x6s. It’s a technique that allows builders to efficiently and economically enclose a large space with less material. You’ll sometimes hear these homes described as “stick-built,” especially when they’re being compared to mobile or modular homes.

    The term also makes sense when these conventional construction techniques are compared to log or timber-frame homes. Compared to logs and timbers, those puny 2x4s and 2x6s are just “sticks.” But put enough of them together in the right way, and you get a strong, durable structure that’s relatively easy and economical to build. So it’s no wonder “stick-built” has become the default residential construction method in much of the world. Sometimes it’s just called “normal” or “conventional” construction.

    Still, here in Northwestern Wisconsin we do see a fair amount of log and timber-frame construction. Some examples are older, relatively modest homes that were built before these designs became newly fashionable. Most, however, are high-end lake homes whose owners chose these construction methods because they appreciated their aesthetics and craftsmanship. Apart from cost, these building techniques have very few disadvantages—and often some real advantages that go way beyond aesthetics.

    But the first thing you should know about log homes is that many of them aren’t really log homes. They only have log siding. It’s shaped like half of a log, and it could be exactly that—half of a log that’s been sawed lengthwise. Or, it could be a thin veneer of wood over a foam core that’s lighter and more insulative. Not that there’s anything wrong with either method; these are fine stick-built homes with very attractive siding. From a distance, or even up close, most people won’t notice the difference.

    Purists, however, may opt for a home whose outer walls—and maybe even some interior walls—are built from actual logs. Real logs, carefully joined together and placed one on top of the other, are more than just decorative. They’re structural. The same construction method the pioneers used to build their tiny log cabins has now been adapted to the construction of luxury lake homes that are far more spacious. Although the logs are larger and builders use giant cranes to lift them into position, the basic concept is the same.

    Log homes can be beautiful, solid, stable, energy-efficient, and built to last. They do cost more to build than a stick-built home of the same size. But for buyers who appreciate the result, it’s worth every penny. Aesthetically, these homes have a special appeal. And spatially, their interiors typically feature much larger open areas than you’d see in a stick-built home. Because the outer walls and large beams do more to support the structure, the interior needn’t be interrupted by as many load-bearing walls.

    All these statements are equally true of timber-frame homes, which are generally built from squared-off beams that are much heavier than 2x4s or 2x6s. Typically these structural elements might be 6” or 12” thick, with a square or rectangular cross section. When it comes to exterior walls, timbers are simply squared-off logs. But true timber-frame construction also features interior posts and beams as major structural elements that make possible an especially open, airy floorplan.

    (The lake home featured here is a great example of that. It includes timber-framing on the outer walls, but also timber-frame structural elements that are visible on the interior. Its outer walls are built with long timbers that have a 6” x 12” cross-section, and at the corners they’re connected with dovetail joinery. Some interior beams are even larger, and that made possible an especially open, spacious floorplan.)

    For a more rustic look, these interior beams are sometimes left rounded; that’s one of those places where the lines between log and timber-frame construction might blur a bit. Traditionally, timbers were carefully fitted and joined together with large wooden pegs, similar to the mortise-and-tenon joints in furniture. Although that’s still done today, you may also see joints that are reinforced with steel gusset plates and giant bolts.

    In practice, many homes include log walls and timber-frame construction. ( Hmmm... If the outer wall is built from timbers, but each timber’s outer face is left rounded, then is the wall built from logs or timbers? And what about log homes with an outer face that’s been squared off?) And for most interior walls, of course, these homes still use traditional stick-built construction. Other homes are mostly stick-built, but include a few beams and timbers whose purpose is both aesthetic and structural. So again, sometimes the lines between these categories can blur a bit.

    For a great example of a home that incorporates true timber-frame construction both inside and out, check out this stunning, custom-designed luxury lake home on Bony Lake in Barnes, WisconsinCrystal-clear, 55’ deep Bony Lake is part of the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes, and is connected to Middle Eau Caire Lake by a navigable channel.

  • The Secret Passageway from Bony Lake to Middle Eau Claire Lake

    Posted Under: General Area in Wisconsin, Home Buying in Wisconsin, In My Neighborhood in Wisconsin  |  August 12, 2014 9:54 AM  |  46 views  |  No comments

    The Secret Passageway from Bony Lake to Middle Eau Claire Lake

    This is the first in an occasional series of blog posts answering an important question: “Sure, the map shows a connection between the Eau Claire lakes. And the fishing guidebook says there’s a ‘navigable channel.’ But can I really get there from here?”

    When you’re looking for a lake home or cabin, this can be important information—especially if you’re interested in a chain of interconnected lakes like the Eau Claire lakes in Wisconsin’s Douglas and Bayfield counties. These secret passageways mean you may be able to live on a smaller, quieter lake—or even on a gently flowing river—and yet still have easy access to a larger lake nearby. It’s fun to explore new lakes without the hassle of loading your boat on a trailer, and the next lake over might be just around the bend and under a bridge.

    But how easy is it to get there from here? The answer, of course, is “it depends.” First, it depends on the size of your boat. How much water does it draw, how wide is it, and how tall is it? If your boat has an awning or visor, can it be folded down? In some cases, the weather and the time of year can even make a difference. If the water is too low, there won’t be enough water to float your boat. Too high, and you may not have quite enough headroom under a bridge. So your mileage, as they say, may vary. Keep your speed down, and proceed with caution.

    Although we’ve scouted these routes by canoe, most are navigable in a fishing boat, a small to medium runabout, or even a pontoon. If it turns out that one or two are not, I’ll let you know. In some photos you’ll see larger motorized craft moving under a route’s lowest bridge or through its narrowest narrows. You’ll also be able to tell a lot from the size of the boats pulled up alongside the docks in these channels.

    Channel between Bony Lake and Middle Eau Claire LakeChannel between Bony Lake and Middle Eau Claire Lake

    I’m beginning this series with the connection between 191-acre Bony Lake and 902-acre Middle Eau Claire Lake in Bayfield County, WI. I’ve just listed this beautiful timber-frame lake home on Bony Lake, and not everyone knows about the secret passageway between these two lakes. If you’re looking for a luxury home on the Eau Claire chain of lakes, then this one should definitely be on your list. (At the moment, I also have other homes available at a range of price points on LowerMiddle, and Upper Eau Claire Lakes.)

    So here it is... The no-longer-secret passageway from Bony Lake to Middle Eau Claire Lake, complete with photos. At most water levels it’s navigable by canoe, kayak, fishing boat, and small to medium-sized runabout. Some stretches are shallow, so proceed with caution.

    Starting from the southwest corner of Bony Lake, head into the outlet shown at the beginning of this post. The channel widens out, and then you’ll pass under highway 27. Sone thereafter, you’ll be able to glimpse Middle Eau Claire Lake through the trees. The final stretch is through a short breakwater that prevents erosion and helps keep the channel open. It’s a little like the shipping channel at Duluth’s Canal Park, but on a slightly smaller scale.

    IMG_0549IMG_0544  IMG_0568  IMG_0557 IMG_0556 IMG_0553

  • Getting to the northwest corner of NW Wisconsin

    Posted Under: General Area in Wisconsin  |  July 20, 2014 7:01 AM  |  49 views  |  No comments

    This quiet, undiscovered corner of northwest Wisconsin is closer than you might think. It’s also a great place to get more for your money.

    Although I’ve helped connect buyers and sellers all over Douglas, Bayfield, Washburn, and Sawyer Counties, I’d especially like to tell you about my home neighborhood. It includes communities like Gordon, Wascott, MinongBarnes, and Solon Springs—plus dozens of deep, clear lakes that are great for fishing, boating, paddling, or wildlife watching. Some of the larger, better-known lakes include the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes, the Minong Flowage, Whitefish (Bardon) Lake, the Gordon Flowage, Upper St Croix Lake, and Lake Minnesuing.

    Here in this quiet, undiscovered corner of Northwest Wisconsin, you’ll generally get a lot more for your money. In many cases, the same dollars will get you more home, more cabin, more shoreline on a clear, deep lake, or more acres of great hunting land.

    And for most buyers coming from the Twin Cities, Eau Claire, or Duluth, we’re actually much closer than more well-known destinations like Cable and Hayward. We’re a little farther north, but not nearly as far east.

    Here’s how it works: From nearly anywhere in the Twin Cities, the fastest way to reach this part of northern Wisconsin is to take 35 north and turn right at Hinckley. At the WI border MN 48 changes to WI 77, which you’ll continue following eastward to Minong. From there, it’s another 3 miles to the Minong Flowage, 9 miles to Whitefish Lake, and 24 miles to the Eau Claire Lakes.

    To Gordon, Wascott, Minong, Solon Springs, Barnes - NW WITo Gordon, Wascott, Minong, Solon Springs, Barnes - NW WI

    But even though this is also the fastest route to Hayward and Cable*, from Minong you’d need to keep driving east for 28 more miles to reach Hayward, 43 more miles to reach Cable, and farther still to reach the most popular lakes in either of those two areas. (Here in this part of northwestern Wisconsin, you’re also likely to find a better value and enjoy a shorter drive than you would if you settled for a location in northern Minnesota.)

    The bottom line: We’re closer than you might think—about 2 hours 30 minutes from St Paul or Minneapolis, 2 hours 20 minutes from Hudson or River Falls, 1 hr 45 minutes from Eau Claire, and 60 minutes from Duluth.

    *An exception might be if you’re driving up from eastern suburbs like Stillwater, Hudson, or River Falls—and maybe even Woodbury. Then, even though you’ll be traveling two-lane roads that pass through several small towns with stoplights, you’ll want to head east on 94, then northeast through Wisconsin. But even by that route, Minong, Wascott, Gordon, Solon Springs, and Barnes are all closer than Hayward and Cable or about the same distance.

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