Get to Know Northwest Indiana: Lowell

 

When looking for a new home, it can be difficult to gather enough information to accurately compare areas of interest.  The town you choose must be compatible with your personal needs and wants (as well as those of your family!).  And, learning this information can require scouring the internet for hours.  Luckily, I’m here to introduce you to the towns of Northwest Indiana and the things that make each one unique.  I will point out some history, fun locations, and points of interest for your consideration.

Looking to learn more about the neighborhoods that make up the Region?  We’ll start with some interesting facts about Lowell and the surrounding towns of Schneider and Lake Village.

 

Marsh in winter

 

Past and Present

 

  • Founded by Melvin Halsted in 1852, Lowell was originally a milling town nestled near the edge of rich hunting grounds.  In fact, the town is named after Lowell, Massachusetts, which had a similar milling industry at the time of Lowell’s founding.  

 

  • Today, you can find plenty of antique shops and eateries in the historic downtown district of Lowell.  These newer businesses reside in the old, brick storefronts that still grace the streets of downtown!

 

  • Just south of Lowell is the little town of Schneider, IN.  Located in the Kankakee River Valley, the area originally attracted hunters and trappers taking advantage of the lush marshland.  Today, Schneider students attend classes in the Tri-Creek School Corporation with Lowell students, and the communities share many public works.

 

  • Just over the border into Newton County is Lake Village, IN. Initially a spot for trading, Lake Village was once part of the Grand Kankakee Marsh and sat on the banks of Beaver Lake, which was drained in the 1800s.  Although Lake Village has its own school district, the area shares many businesses and recreational areas with Lowell and Schneider.

 

 

Places With History

 

 

pumpkin patch

 

Points of Interest

 

  • Chicago commuters can expect about a 1-2 hour commute to the city via I-94 or I-65.  In turn, residents of Lowell appreciate more space and a quieter, rural lifestyle compared to other towns in Lake County.

 

  • Lowell is filled with natural green space, so take a walk around any of the town’s beautiful parks, such as Freedom Park, for a bit of relaxation.

 

  • Although the town is not on a lake, Lowell provides easy access to both Cedar Lake (7.2 mi north) and Lake Dalecarlia (4.4 mi northeast)

 

  • Lowell is home to an interactive, historical treasure: the Buckley Homestead.  Tour the grounds, including an early 1900s schoolhouse, a farmhouse built in 1910, and an 1850s style garden and farm area with animals.  Or, take a walk down any of the low impact walking trails, ranging from .16 miles to about 1 mile.

 

  • Lowell also boasts the oldest Labor Day parade in Indiana, so stop by during September to take partake in the fun!

 

  • Visit during fall to experience Harvest Tyme Pumpkin Patch, a place for kids of all ages to enjoy the best autumn activities: hayrides, a corn maze, a corn cannon, and more!

 

steak

 

Places to Eat

 

  • For casual dining, try The Mason Jar on N Liberty Street.  With a focus on hearty, home-cooked meals and comfort food, it provides outstanding breakfast, lunch, and dinner options as well as a fun atmosphere for everyone in the family.

 

  • Mi Ranchito is another hidden gem for which people travel from miles around just to get a taste.  They’re particularly famous for their margaritas, with flavors such as strawberry, mango, and more.

 

  • If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, try the Prime Rib at McVey’s Restaurant and Bar: the reviews don’t lie.  There’s also a full-service martini bar for those guests who like a fresh drink with their dinner.

 

Interested in learning more about potential homes for sale in Lowell, Schneider, and Lake Village?  Contact me today for more information.

 

 

 


Posted on March 6, 2020 at 8:54 pm
Bob Showalter | Posted in Uncategorized |

6 Midwest Locations Perfect for a Winter Weekend Getaway

 

It’s that time of year: snow is falling, temperatures are below freezing, and you’re looking for a brief escape to forget about all of the shoveling, salting, and shivering.  If you’re not jetting off to somewhere sunny, consider embracing the cold and enjoying a winter weekend getaway in the Midwest.

 

Experience a different kind of vacation and embrace all the Midwest has to offer this time of year.  There’s skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and plenty of other icy activities to excite you and your family.  Or, you can stay in a comfy cabin or luxurious resort with your partner and just soak up the warmth of a roaring fire.  Whatever you choose, there’s something for everyone during winter in the Midwest.

 

Here are 6 locations in the Midwest that are great for a winter weekend getaway.  The best part: they’re all within about 3 hours of Chicago!

 

Couple Skiing

Galena, IL

Travel Time: 2 hours 52 minutes

 

If you’re looking for an escape unlike any other in the area, head to Galena.  While prehistoric glaciers flattened most of Illinois, Galena remained untouched.  As such, the area is rife with deep valleys, steep bluffs, and hills. Spend a day at Chestnut Mountain Resort and ski the slopes; you’ll feel like you’ve traveled much farther than Northern Illinois.

 

Not a big skiing fan?  The town itself has a rich history: 85 percent of its buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places!  Stay at one of the charming inns–such as 305 N Main–and enjoy the lively downtown district filled with shopping, dining, and more.  Don’t forget to visit the home of General Ulysses S. Grant while you’re in town!

 

frozen lake at sunrise

Lake Geneva, WI

Travel Time: 1 hour 36 minutes

 

A favorite among Chicagoans, Lake Geneva is only 90 minutes northwest of downtown, but its small-town atmosphere leaves you feeling as though you’ve traveled hours into northern Wisconsin.  Whether you enjoy spending your time shopping, touring breweries and distilleries, or even observing ice castles, Lake Geneva has an activity to please everyone in your party. 

 

If you don’t have a full weekend to get away, Lake Geneva is perfect for a day trip: grab some food at Oakfire or another lakeside restaurant, get coffee at Avant Cycle Cafe and wander the downtown district, or bundle up and follow the Lake Geneva Shore Path before heading back home.

 

forest in winter

Utica, IL

Travel Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

 

Just 100 miles southwest of Chicago, Utica is an old mining town that sits along the Illinois River.  Although central Illinois is notoriously flat, the scenery around Utica is stunning, with Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks boasting canyons, thick forests, and rolling hills.  

 

Stay in the beautiful, historic cabins at Starved Rock for a romantic getaway.  Or, bring the whole family and spend the weekend at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort, where the kids can roam the waterpark while you hit up the Lazy River or soak in a hot tub.

 

girl ice skating at rink

Angola, IN

Travel Time: 2 hours 46 minutes

 

On the east side of Indiana is a little town called Angola.  Located in Steuben County, Angola is surrounded by 101 lakes, so it’s a great place to bring your boat during summer.  However, there are plenty of winter activities that also make Angola a fun place to sneak away for a day or two.

 

For instance, you can visit Pokagon State Park and take in the icy beauty of nature, enjoy some cross country skiing, or slide down the 90-foot toboggan run at about 40mph.  If you’d rather stay indoors, you could try ice skating at the Thunder Ice Arena or shop to your heart’s content at the Outlet Shoppes at Fremont.  Looking to stay the night?  Book a room at the Potawatomi Inn on the shores of Lake James and sit by the fire as you reminisce about your day.

 

cross-country skiing trail in forest

Merrimac, WI

Travel Time: 3 hours

 

Nestled on the banks of Lake Wisconsin, Merrimac is the winter wonderland you’ve been looking for, with some of the coziest-looking cabins in the state!  Book a weekend at Rustic Ridge Log Cabins with your significant other and enjoy some alone time.

 

Or, stay at Devil’s Head Resort, where you can ski the slopes or stay indoors and enjoy the pool or game room.  There’s also Devil’s Lake State Park where you can borrow some free snowshoes and hike among the frosty pines.

 

Grand Haven pier in winter

Grand Haven, MI

Travel Time: 2 hours 53 minutes

 

Grand Haven is a town full of history on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Originally a fur trading and lumbering town, the scenic lakeside locale now attracts people from every state who enjoy the natural beauty and lifestyle it offers.  Although Grand Haven is a perfect place to visit during summer, there’s plenty to do even when it’s chilly outside.  The town even holds a Winterfest in January complete with every winter activity you can imagine!

 

Grand Haven has many offerings for those adult group getaways, such as brewery tours, tastings at wine rooms, and close proximity to Vander Mill.  It also has some of the coziest Airbnbs, many of which offer that sweet lakeside charm that makes Grand Haven so unique.

 

Hopefully, you’ll visit one of these awesome towns for a winter weekend getaway with your family in 2020.  If you’re looking for information on the local housing market during these chilly winter months, contact me today for more information.

 

 

 


Posted on February 14, 2020 at 3:24 pm
Bob Showalter | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

La Gaviota: A Hidden Gem of Cedar Lake

 

Looking for an authentic Mexican restaurant in Northwest Indiana?  The Region is full of delicious options, but I recommend giving La Gaviota in Cedar Lake a try.  Just check out this review from the local blog Ramble the Region to see why.  From their service to their flavors, La Gaviota provides a stellar experience to customers. 

 

Located on 133rd Street, La Gaviota has a supermarket that sells every ingredient you could ever need.  Or, if you don’t feel like cooking, you can take home pre-cooked meals from the deli counter or a bag of baked goods to share with the family.

 

Then, visit the back section of the store and you’ll find a small dining room packed with customers.  There is also a counter for to-go orders that is always busy!  Like Ramble the Region, I highly recommend the Chicken or Steak Burrito, as the ingredients are high quality and the meat is seasoned perfectly.  

 

If you’re in the Cedar Lake area, stop by this dynamite location for mouthwatering, authentic Mexican cuisine.

 

Looking for homes in the Cedar Lake area?  Contact me to learn more about local homes on the market and start your home buying journey!

 

 

 


Posted on January 17, 2020 at 10:01 pm
Bob Showalter | Posted in Uncategorized |

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

 

It’s that time of year when everyone decides what their New Year’s resolutions will be, and these goals often involve health and self-care: weight loss, quitting smoking, traveling, etc.  While you’re dreaming up those big changes you’d like to make for yourself, you may want to consider some New Year’s resolutions for your home and give your living space a little TLC.

 

While home projects can be time-consuming, some goals–such as a cleaner house or routine maintenancecan be scheduled throughout the week/month/year to help you succeed.  A house that is organized and running properly can bring significant joy to your life if you can make the effort to keep it that way!

 

Here are 6 potential New Year’s resolutions you can use to improve your home and living space.

 

Help your home “shed some pounds” by decluttering

 

Clean, open home as New Year's Resolution

 

Take some time to declutter your space and give your home a brand new look!  Start with the most cluttered area of your home and go room-to-room, or use the KonMari Method to identify items categorically.

 

Give every item a home: a place where it can live and you can find it when you need it (but that won’t clutter up your space!).  You may also want to consider making the most of your floor plan and moving some furniture around. Doing so can provide a fresh perspective for your home and better optimize your space.

 

It’s always great to donate anything you’re looking to get rid of that is in gently used condition.  Here are some organizations that probably take donations in your area:

 

Give your home a “whole body cleanse” and deep clean every room

 

Rubber gloves, sponges, and baking soda for cleaning as part of a New Year's resolution for your home

 

While “Spring Cleaning” is the most beneficial time to clean the outside of your home, you may want to get a head start this year and deep clean the most used areas or features of your house.  Go room-to-room and start with the highest traffic areas, no need to try and do it all at once!

 

You can always get started with these cleaning activities:

    • Deep clean carpets and floors
    • Dust all surfaces
    • Wipe down ceilings and fans
    • Clean windows to let in more light

 

Here are some other deep cleaning tasks you may want to consider if you have time:

    • Clean out your junk drawer
    • Scrub the tile grout in your kitchen or bathroom
    • Vacuum your refrigerator coils
    • Change your furnace filter
    • Clean all ducts and vents, including behind your dryer to prevent fires (you might need a professional for these)

 

After your home is squeaky clean, consider banning shoes in your living spaces to avoid lackluster floors and bacteria/dirt all over the surfaces your family uses most.

 

Help your appliances “get fit” and keep them in working order for longer

 

Front-load washer with white towel sticking out of door

 

Your appliances just finished the rigorous holiday season and could use a break: give them a nice tune-up to ensure they’ll be around for the next batch of cooking, heating, and cooling!  Consult your owner manuals and do some online research to find the best ways to maintain your particular appliances.

 

Don’t forget to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change old batteries!

 

After you’ve checked your appliances, take a moment to inspect for leaks.  Retighten washers on dripping faucets or recaulk surfaces in your bathroom where old caulk may have cracked.

 

Taking the time for routine maintenance and small repairs now can help you avoid larger repairs and bills later!

 

Develop better “healthy habits”: save energy and money

 

LED lightbulbs like the one in this photo are a great way to save energy as a New Year's resolution for your home

 

It’s never too late to start saving energy!  Whether you’re looking to help the environment or save a few dollars, these habits can help you on your way.   Something as simple as switching old light bulbs to LED ones can save almost $100 per year (and they can last more than 10 YEARS!)

 

Here are some suggested actions to save energy or money (or both!):

    • Turn off all lights when leaving a room
    • Turn down your thermostat during the day
    • Ensure there is a tight seal on all windows and doors
    • Seal/insulate ductwork to increase efficiency
    • If you’re planning any home repairs, buy maintenance-free materials: fiber-cement siding, laminate flooring, etc.

 

“De-Stress” by getting your household finances in order

 

Your finances can increase like these piles of coins if you keep track of your finances as a New Year's resolution for your home

 

Having a solid yearly budget can really lift a weight off your chest, so start the new year with a financial plan to accommodate bills, mortgage, travel, etc.  You may be able to put a little more money away this year if you’re diligent!

 

If possible, try paying down your mortgage principal to reduce your monthly interest as well as the remaining interest on the lifetime of the loan.

 

Consider shopping around for new home insurance rates if your policy is almost up.  Other providers may have obscure discounts for which you qualify, or maybe you’re in need of a reassessment.  Whatever the case, it never hurts to see what’s out there!

 

Get mentally organized and make it last

 

Checklist to keep track of New Year's resolutions for your home

 

Schedule, schedule, schedule!  Make 2020 the year of planning and give yourself a break from the exhaustive effort of figuring out how to fit all of the cleaning and maintenance of home ownership into your monthly calendar.  

 

Come up with a cleaning schedule to ensure your home always looks open and bright.  That way, even if you miss a day or week, you won’t be so behind that you don’t know where to start.

 

Plan for monthly maintenance so there’s no wondering what needs to be done during which season.  Create a maintenance calendar complete with monthly tasks so you have time for other fun projects throughout the year.

 

Hopefully, you’ve found these New Year’s resolutions for your home helpful, and may 2020 bring you peace and prosperity!  Are you looking to buy or sell a home this year? Contact me today for information on how to prepare your home for sale or where to find houses that may suit your needs.

 

 

 


Posted on January 10, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Bob Showalter | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

9 Ways to Prep Your Home Before Traveling for the Holidays

 

Traveling during the holidays can be complicated, and the thought of leaving your home may make you anxious.  In fact, ensuring you’ve prepared your house for your departure on top of gift shopping, cooking, and packing can be downright exhausting.  

 

Not sure you’ve remembered everything?  Here’s a list I’ve compiled of 10 ways to prep your home for your absence.  I’ve even included a printable version at the end of this post for your final walkthrough!

 

Make it Look Like Somebody’s Home

 

Have someone keep an eye on your house

Whether it’s a friend, family member, or neighbor, let someone know you will be gone. It’s best to give them a key so they can take care of the little things that will give the appearance that someone is home.  This can include retrieving your mail, moving your trash cans to and from the curb, and watering plants. Doing so can also be helpful in the event of snowfall or a rainstorm so they can maintain your lawn and sidewalks to avoid fines (or lawsuits).

 

Install light timers and floodlights

There’s nothing more tempting for potential burglars than a constantly dark, empty house.  I recommend putting 1-2 lights on a timer to make it look like someone is home.  Or, you can try these handy smart plugs that connect to your phone so you can control the lights while you’re away.

 

Take All Necessary Plumbing and Electric Precautions

 

Unplug all appliances in your home and adjust your thermostat

It’s wise to unplug all electrical appliances in your house that will not be in use while you’re away.  As a result, you save a bit on your energy bill and lower your risk of a fire during your travels. To save even more money, adjust your thermostat to an “energy saver” mode and avoid heating an empty house.  A Nest can even help you control your home’s temperature from afar.

 

Protect your water pipes and turn off your main supply

Consider turning off your main water supply to prevent frozen or burst pipes when you return.  You may also want to leave a faucet in your basement or bathroom running just slightly. That way, water is continually moving through your pipes and drawn out of your lines.

 

Prepare Your Home for Your Return

 

Clean the house and finish all laundry

It’s never fun to come home to a dirty house, so try to tidy up before you leave.  Finish all of the laundry in your home to avoid throwing in a load when you come back. Doing so will not only allow you to return from your relaxing vacation to clean living space, but it will also prevent unpleasant smells or critters from settling in.

 

Clean out your fridge

We’ve all done it: you leave for an extended vacation and forget to remove leftovers from your fridge.  Upon returning, you open the refrigerator door and feel the waft of stinky, rotten air as it hits your face and climbs into your nostrils.  Do yourself a favor and remove any perishable items from your refrigerator BEFORE you leave.

 

Other Considerations

 

Make arrangements for your pets

If you have furry friends in your home, make sure you leave them with a kennel or sitter that understands their needs.  Write a list of medications, common behaviors, fears, and favorite treats for them so your sitter can provide the best care possible for your pets in your absence.  If you use a sitter from Rover, they’ll even send daily photos to let you know your furballs are safe and happy!

 

Check all locks on doors and windows

Before leaving, make sure you’ve secured all of your windows and all door locks are properly in place.  It only takes one unlocked door or cracked open window for someone to sneak in.  As previously stated, consider leaving a spare key with someone who can check up on your home.

 

Check your smoke detectors

Ensure your smoke detectors are working properly in case of an emergency.  If your pets are being watched by a sitter in your home, it may be a good idea to change the batteries in your smoke detectors before leaving to avoid that heart-stopping beeping that seems to drive dogs nuts.

 

Hopefully, you’re feeling more secure about your travels after reading this list.  Don’t forget to pick up your PDF version of this list here, and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

 

 


Posted on December 20, 2019 at 1:30 pm
Bob Showalter | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

5 Factors to Consider When Searching for the Right Neighborhood

 

So you checked your credit, assessed the market, and have begun your search for your new home!  You visit all of the listings sites and save your favorite houses, but you realize they are all in different neighborhoods.  And, you’re not actually sure WHERE you want to buy your new home.

 

How do you know which town or city is right for you?  What factors should you keep in mind when searching for a neighborhood that will meet your needs?  And are there any tools to help you with your search?

 

Here are 5 factors that you should consider when searching for a new neighborhood.  Most of my Illinois clients are moving to avoid high taxes in their area, and I find myself showing many Northwest Indiana properties as a result.  So, I will use both states as examples throughout this discussion.

 

Commute

While the average commute for Americans is around 27 minutes each way, many people end up traveling 30-60 minutes or more during traffic and construction seasonwhich, as we know, is 365 days a year in Chicago.  If you spend 5 hours of your week in the car, finding a home in a neighborhood with convenient commuting options is crucial for work/life balance.  Consider your average travel time to work, proximity to highways, and public transportation when searching for a home.

 

Residents of Northwest Indiana who commute to Illinois have heard it before: “You come all the way from INDIANA every day?!”  But the truth is, Northwest Indiana provides great options for commuters to travel to work in a timely manner.

 

For example, the average driving commute for Dyer residents who work in Chicago is 39 minutes.  Compare that to the 51-minute average drive from Naperville, and you’re saving yourself 2 HOURS of driving time per week!

 

Do you prefer to take the train to work?  The South Shore Line train has stops in Portage, Hammond, and other Indiana towns, and it provides quiet cars, discounted tickets in bulk, and Wi-Fi.  You’re just a 45-minute ride from downtown at any given time.

 

Safety

Safety can be a big factor in searching for a home.   Whether you have a family or just want to walk the streets worry-free, consider doing some research into each town’s safety rating.

 

Northwest Indiana provides some of the safest towns to choose from in the entire state.  While Federal Fair Housing laws do not permit agents to discuss neighborhood safety, there are plenty of tools you can use to do the research yourself, including Safewise, Niche, and the National Council for Home Safety and Security.  These lists account for violent and property crime as well as resident reviews.

 

Often, a good way to research a neighborhood is to drive around at different times (morning, midday, weekdays, weekends, etc.). Doing so gives you an idea of the town’s atmosphere and an opportunity to imagine yourself in that environment. It can also be comforting to see police and fire stations, hospitals, and other emergency resources are close by.

 

Taxes

Benjamin Franklin once said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes.  Taxes are a huge factor in your new monthly home payment, and knowing what to expect when it comes to federal, state, and county taxation is key to budgeting accordingly.

 

There are several tools you can use to research the taxes you might pay in different areas.  Financial website Kiplinger provides a detailed map showing the difference in taxation among US states:

 

Neighborhood tax map at state level

 

Likewise, you can compare state-to-state taxes with their list tool, as I have done here with Illinois and Indiana:

 

Neighborhood tax statistics: Illinois and Indiana

 

The area in which you choose to buy a home can affect your buying power.  For Illinoisans looking to move to Indiana, the difference in buying power can be significant thanks to lower taxes.  For example, a budget of $180,000 in parts of Illinois can equate to a $230,000 budget if searching in Indiana!  Understanding how tax percentages play into your house payment can change which homes you can afford in different neighborhoods.

 

Education

If you have children, education is a category you should research.  Take a look at schools in each neighborhood, paying attention to academics, student programs, and athletics (if applicable).

 

Northwest Indiana provides some great schools, and there are plenty of tools to help you pick a district.  Niche compiles school lists based on data involving graduation rates, college readiness, teacher quality, and more, and U.S. News provides “Best High School” rankings that include some Indiana schools.  

 

If you’re looking to provide a stellar elementary, middle, or high school education for your childor all of the aboveNorthwest Indiana has wonderful options for schooling in each neighborhood.

 

Social Needs

When searching for a home, consider neighborhoods that can provide you the excitement you need.  Whether you’re extroverted or introverted, search for areas with the right amount of social interaction for your comfort level.

 

Do you prefer a tight-knit community where everything is within walking distance?  You can use sites like Walk Score to gauge an area’s walkability and see how close your potential home is to local restaurants, shops, parks, etc.

 

When it comes to towns that offer social events in Northwest Indiana, you really can’t go wrong with any neighborhood.  From weekly activities to holidays, each one hosts events throughout the year. Just take a look at this list of “20+ Places to See Santa Claus in Northwest Indiana” posted by local blog Ramble the Region.

 

If you require retail therapy regularly, the areas surrounding Southlake Mall in Hobart and Shops on Main in Schererville are filled with shopping opportunities at major retailers.  Many townssuch as Valparaiso and Crown Pointeven have downtown areas made up of small businesses you can support.

 

In Summary

Commute, safety, taxes, education, and social needs are important factors to consider when searching for a new home.  Although the importance of each factor can vary from person to personsomeone with children may prioritize education and safety over taxes or commutethese categories encompass many of the circumstances individuals should consider when searching for a town or city that can meet their needs.

 

My Home Search App is a great tool to use when searching for the right neighborhood in which to buy a home.  The best part: if you open the Home Scan feature, point your phone at any house for sale, and tap the screen, the app can provide you more info with no search required.

 

Contact me today if you have any questions regarding the right neighborhood for you and your family!

 

 


Posted on December 7, 2019 at 12:40 am
Bob Showalter | Posted in First Time Homebuyers Guide, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,