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Lake Geneva Fourth of July Fireworks

Lake Geneva Fourth of July Fireworks

If you’ll cast your memory back to 2015, our summer didn’t really begin until Independence Day Weekend. Even then, the temperatures warmed but the sky was pale. It was pale because of those whipped up Canadian wild fires, which were likely deliberately set to cast that hazy high sky over our celebratory weekend. It wasn’t until after that Holiday weekend that the sun broke through and warmed our skin. This year, we’ve already had more nice days in June than we had during the entire summer of 2015, if we can even call it a summer. It was a terrible summer. We can say it now. Now we’re smug. Like when we had a 1992 Cadillac STS and we thought it was super cool at the time, and we worked so hard to convince our friends that it was cool, but now we can just look back and realize what a horrible, embarrassing thing that really was.

This coming weekend, it’s time to make the weekend last a week. July 4th is a Monday, which is ridiculous but necessary. This means Tuesday is a wash. If Tuesday is a wash, why bother start something on a Wednesday? And if we’ve now agreed that our Wednesday is far from an ideal time to start efforting then who could ever suggest Thursday matters? Thursday hardly matters during a normal week in February, let alone a week where we celebrate our delicious Independence in July.  Friday, if by now the other days are lost, well Friday is just a throw in for the weekend. This is why next week you are supposed to take the week off. If you have a lake house, I’ll see you at the lake. If you have a lake house on another, lesser, embarrassing lake, then I’ll see you at this lake and we’ll set about remedying your geographic mistake. If you’re thinking about brunch right now and how you hope to get in the line Sunday early, like super early, then just stop it and email me so we can make this, and every weekend that follows actually mean something.

Now that we’ve cleared next week’s schedule, you have some fireworks to watch. Fontana is having their explosive display on Monday night, at dusk. That’s the Fourth of July. The fireworks are launched from barges in front of the Fontana beach, so prime viewing is anywhere on the West end of the lake, ideally from shore. If you’re boating, be careful and drive slow. If you’re driving the boat, don’t be a messy drunk about it. Fontana, with it’s brazen timing of its fireworks, is encouraging you to let Tuesday slide, just as I’m then encouraging you to let the other weekdays that follow slide. Fontana fireworks will be the best display in the area, so it’s worth your attention. But there are others.

The Grand Geneva has their fireworks scheduled for July 3rd, as does Geneva National. This is nice, because they’re being conscientious and assuming you’d like to go to work on Tuesday morning, but we all know you don’t. The Lake Geneva Country Club has their display on Saturday, July 2nd, meaning if you love fireworks you have three days in a row of fireworks. The Geneva National display will be viewable from a boat parked in Williams Bay. The Lake Geneva Country Club fireworks will be visible from much of the North shore on the Eastern side of the lake, or from your boat parked on that end. It’ll be fun.

So that’s your schedule, and as always, if you’re up and you see some real estate you like, just let me know. Here’s a new video of my beautiful lakefront lot in Loramoor listed at $2.34MM. If you want a beautiful, easy lakefront property and you want to build a beautiful home, then what on earth could you be waiting for?

 

Fireworks photo credit Terry Mayer

The Summer Of Our Lives

When it rains now it only rains for some of the day. When the clouds come, they never stay. When the sun warms in the morning it stays warm in the afternoon, into the evening, the moon rises without much mystery. It’s just up there, and we can see it. We needn’t wonder where it is because we can see where it is, hung up there around those stars in that dark sky. The lake blows blue most days. The light pours through my morning windows bright, and it’s early, and when I wake up and I think about the day I don’t really wonder what it’s going to be like, I just know it’s sunny and if it isn’t then it will be soon. This is the summer of 2016, and it just might be the summer of our lives.

But then again it might not be. If you’re not here and you don’t see this and feel this then what is it about this summer that can make it any different from the summers that came before? What will make it different from the summers yet to come? When my son fly fishes for bass from the piers once the sun has dipped enough to leave the Western piers shaded, how could this matter to you? Do your kids know about this sort of thing? Do they know that later in the day the sun settles somewhere to the west and once it does the bass decide that they might like something to eat? Do your kids know that when you throw the fly line with your five weight it’s best to double haul with your left hand to speed the line up and soften the delivery? Do they know that a mouse fly is effective even though mice rarely, if ever, fall from piers and into the water? Do they care? Do you care? Does anyone care?

My son cares, and so he fishes and he double hauls and when he doesn’t think I’m around he grabs a spinning rod because he blames the fly rod when the fish won’t bite. He’s officially the worst fisherman in the world, or so he told me last Friday night. He fishes all day and then some of the night, and when I join him I try so very hard to catch a bass or a northern pike for him, so that he can see how it all works. He missed a fish off the municipal pier on that last Friday night, the fish rose to his fly and then missed his fly and he was both angered and invigorated at once, but recharged in his purpose nonetheless. He hurried his line back in and up into the air, false forward and false back, enough to feed the line into the cast, enough to let the momentum push that line and carry that fly away from the pier to the spot where the fish had tried, and failed, to eat. That cast sent his fly into the air, his line unattached. He scoured in disgust, he was the most unlucky fisherman in the world. Tears filled his eyes.

There are certain days when I must leave this town, travel to another town where another pursuit is slowly plodding forward. On those rare days my son rejoices, because without parents near he can fish all day. Last Friday was to be one of those days, but really just the afternoon, and he knew that with his mother and me out of this town that he could fish, uninterrupted, for the entirety of the afternoon. When we turned around a mere 45 minutes into our trip because of a traffic jam straight out of the most fiery hell, he wasn’t happy to see us. In fact, he walked from one pier to the next, putting distance between his pursuit and us, his pursuers.  That’s why I took him to the municipal pier later that evening, to make up for the inconvenience of returning home before I was scheduled to.

My son, today, will fish. He’ll go to the piers and he’ll fish. He’ll look for bass and pike, and when they won’t bite he’ll look for bluegills that will gladly and greedily sip a dry fly presented to the shallows. Later today, I’ll fish with him, if only for a bit, trying to catch something to show him that there’s more life under this surface than he could ever imagine. But imagine he does, and he dreams and he fishes and he spends his days under that sun and on those piers. He wouldn’t have it any other way, because he doesn’t know it any other way. It’s the summer of his life, and he wonders how someone could ever spend it doing anything else.

The Ash

The Ash

The oldest man with some knowledge of trees died 11 years ago. Other men lived longer, but those men didn’t know anything about trees when they were younger and for every year they aged they knew even less. This matters because the old man who knew of trees knew things that no one else knew, but his formal schooling in the land where he was from had ended before it began. He needed to work with his father, to work on those trees near that town where he was raised, to cut them and to saw them and to chop them and to stack them. He learned some things, like how to wedge the back cut when felling a giant Oak, but he didn’t learn other things, namely, how to write. He could write his name, he could make big Xs on trees that needed to be felled, but his written abilities were limited even while his knowledge of trees was not.

What he learned when he was a young man was that a variety of tree would go dormant, sometimes for up to 12 years, and then the tree would come to life, and he only learned this by chance. In his town there was no spring, no fall, only winter and summer, the latter lasting mere weeks, the former covering everything else in a heavy cloak of snow and ice. He knew of deciduous trees, how they lost their leaves one day, the day that was believed to be what fall would be like, and then the next day they looked dead. When it snowed the trees looked especially crooked, old and wrinkled, gnarled even. Then, on the day that most thought to be spring, the leaves popped back out and the tree was alive again. The leaves thrived for the short summer, and the cycle repeated. You needn’t know how to write to understand that this is how trees work.

But one spring, a certain tree didn’t leaf. The summer, no leaves. The winter, well it looked the same as the last winter and the same as the last summer. The next year, the same thing. No leaves. Some around town took to cutting down their trees, they’re dead!, they’d say. But the young man and his father were busy filling an exhaustive order for the largest lumber yard in the entire area, and that summer and the next they were only cutting down Eastern Red Walnuts. Nothing else. There were so many trees and such a larger order that nothing else was cut during those years.  The snow piled high in front of their small house, the only wood that burned was wood left over from the earlier year. While the man and his aging father hiked to find and cut these Eastern Red Walnuts, or ERW (pronounced, convincingly as errrrr), the other men in town set to chopping down the sort of tree that had withered and died.

After some time of this, the order was filled and the family bought a new goat and two new horses. The horses were big and strong, tall. They were fit with the finest of hardware, leather and brass, each the finest of its variety available. The horses would haul a wagon, this was also new, bought with the small windfall that had come their way as a result of years of back breaking, literally for one hired log chopper, dedicated work. The other men in town were jealous, and rightfully so. With the work done, the man and his dad looked about for the next round of work, for the new trees that might have recently died and would need to be cut, chopped, and stacked, or cut, sectioned, and milled.

While wrapped up in the focus for the Walnuts, the trees in town that had withered and died had all been chopped down by the other men in town. This meant every dead tree had already been removed from the community owned properties and from those large yards where the families who owned the distributorship lived, and this left very little work for the man and his son. The old trees that they could find were the dead and dying trees on their own property, those trees that were once tall and proud and full of life. One morning, the man and his elderly father decided to rid their property of these dead trees. They gathered their saws, one for felling and one for sectioning, and set about marking giant Xs on the offending, dead trees. When the last tree was marked and the first tree was to be harvested, the man and his father paused.

If they cut down these trees, there would be nothing but splitting and stacking and sectioning and cording. The work, after such a long and dedicated focus on the Walnuts, appeared to be a task so daunting that they were uncertain if they were up to it. The man had wanted to take a job in town, to clean the dust from his hair and the dirt from his nails and see if he might be a success selling paper and board feet for the local mill, but his father had needed his help and so the clean shirted jobs had to wait.  On that day, with a forest of dead trees awaiting them, they decided that it was time to quit. The father was old, his eyesight failing, his back long ago retired. The man and his father agreed that it was time for new things, a city job for the young man and retirement for the old man. The dead trees would stay upright for now.

And so the young man went to town and earned his living. He was a great success at the mill, earning not once, but three times, the salesman of the month. He returned home infrequently, but on that summer day when the word came that his dad was on his death bed he packed his things and hurried home.  When he arrived, his grief was set aside when he discovered the forest of his youth, alive again with green leaves bold and waxy. The trees, those trees that were believed to be dead, the trees that the town had unmercifully cut down and burned in their stoves, those trees were alive again. It turned out they were never dead,  only mostly dead.  The young man hurried inside to find his mother in quiet tears and his father dead. The  last words, scribbled on a bedside notepad, the ash tree. It lives. 

 

PS. I’m aware this post has caused lots of brain damage. The point is, these Ash trees are all dead and it makes me very upset. So I’m hoping they’re not really dead, and that they’ll all come back to life in the near future, but if I wrote it just like that you wouldn’t have had to endure such a difficult read. 

Another Lackey Lane Sale

Another Lackey Lane Sale

Sometimes, you just want what you want. You want to be on the lake, that’s smart. You want to see a weekend like the one just ended and you want to see it from the front row, up close and personal. You want to be on a road, something of pedigree, something that matters, not just any road.  You want the road to be easy. You want it to be on this shore or that shore, but you want it to be quiet and peaceful and you don’t want the rumble of a wayward motorcycle tour to interrupt your Sunday. You want a dead end, that’s what you really want, but you know it’s not easy to find a dead end. Bonnie Brae is a dead end, and if a car wanders down to your end of the lane home you can be sure it’ll be quickly followed by a many pointed Y turn, but Bonnie Brae is not on the shore you want. You end up looking and looking, content to be patient but wishing it wouldn’t take so long.

Then Lackey Lane comes to life with not one, nor two, but three properties available. On a street so small, an exodus so large. And so you see those 100 level feet and that wooded approach and you say that Lackey Lane is where you want to be. And then last Friday you close on that lakefront, the one with the small brick ranch that would be so much more at home in Niles. $1.91MM for 100′ of frontage, that Lackey Lane location, and a dream that someday soon you’ll have built a new home on Lackey Lane that will compliment but not mimic the newer homes that have already been built on that short little lane.

You’ll remember that last Wednesday I also sold the $4.275MM Pickell built home on Lackey. You’ll also understand now that $1.91MM makes thorough sense. It’s not that easy to find a location on the lake where a $1.91MM land buy can lead to solid, demonstrable value in the $4.5MM range, but on Lackey that’s possible. That’s why this post is about the two sales I just completed, sure, but it’s more about the one property that’s left on Lackey Lane. If you’re a buyer on Geneva right now, you should be letting me lead you to Lackey. The house that’s available is fine. You could fix it up and live in in for a long while. Or you could do the likely thing-  buy it, tear it down, and build at the same time the adjacent, new neighbor is building.  If there are few streets where $4.5MM all in costs are easy to justify (Loramoor is another one), then there are even fewer where you can build a new home next to another new build, at the same time.  The convenience of one singular disruption is difficult to fully appreciate until you’ve spent a summer next door a new build.  Just ask anyone in the 1030 area of South Lakeshore Drive, Fontana.

But I lied a bit, because this isn’t just about the available lot, and it’s not just about a fabulous client who let me help him into the new Lackey property, it’s a bit about me, because real estate requires shameless self promotion. That sale pushes me over $140MM in sales since the start of 2010, including $10MM worth of sales in just the past two weeks.  No single agent (operating without a multiple person team) has sold so much real estate in Walworth County since then, and that’s exceedingly humbling to me. Additionally, no other active top agent has, since that cold day in January of 2010, an average sales price in excess of $1MM. I think those things matter, and they should matter to any lakefront buyer or seller seeking to buy or sell some slice of Geneva Lake.  I’m well aware that these production numbers wouldn’t be possible except for the loyalty of my incredible and growing client base, and for that, I’m supremely grateful.

To the newest owner on Lackey, congratulations and thank you.  The market should be keen to watch a new home rise from that site over the coming months, and I’m certain we’ll all be the beneficiaries of what promises to be a most beautiful new home. If you’re a buyer and you want to have a beautiful new home and a lovely family as your next door neighbor, we need to start talking, like stat.

Lackey Lane Sells

Lackey Lane Sells

It should be no secret that the cool  people are buying at Lake Geneva. It’s not just the people, but the cool people. The kids who live in the city who know that city life is for weekdays. The young affluent set that realize brunch lines are best left for 24 year olds who have yet gained the financial ability to escape the clutches of that tall city for two days a week. This is the group that has learned of Lake Geneva, embraced Lake Geneva, and are benefiting from Lake Geneva. Our market is benefiting from them as well, as there’s a new generation coming to these shores to indulge in the things that make this place so darn special. But while this new generation of buyers is needed and wonderful, the last generation is still active in the market.  Each year there are new faces, new families, new kids jumping into their dad’s arms from white wooden piers for the first time, but each year there are also the others, those who have been here who just felt the need to do something different. Something bigger, something smaller, something on this shore instead of that shore.

This week, I sold W3818 Lackey Lane for $4,275,000. I negotiated that deal on behalf of a cherished client last November, and from that day in mid fall through this day in late spring, the property was under contract. The buyer waiting with nervous anticipation. The seller, presumably, hoping the deal would hold together and close. It did, and the buyer need only sit in a lakeside lounge chair on a day like today to realize the reward of the effort. The seller need only check his bank account balance to see his reward. The deal worked, and for that we can all be pleased.

The lake has a considerable absence of printed sales in the $4MM range. The reason for this is quite simple: There just aren’t that many high quality, newer homes on reasonably large but not huge lots. The trend on this lake has been clear: Buy a beautiful lot between $3-4MM, tear down whatever might have been built on the lot, and build new. The new build costs for these larger homes are safely between $3-6MM.  The lake has gone long on builds with all in costs between $7-10MM, and yet these newer properties, excepting the incredible home on Pebble Point, have not typically come to market. The cliff-top sale in Fontana in the low $5s last year was as close as we’ve come to touching on this particular segment. But what’s less common is a $2MM lot with a $2-3MM house on it. These are the types of properties that the market could more easily absorb, and this is where Lackey Lane fits in.

This sale, for as common as it might look in this market, is somewhat rare. It’s a newer Orren Pickell built home, so it’s of pedigree. And along those lines,  please don’t forget that builders matter here. If you wish to obtain some level of premium when you look to sell your newly built or dramatically renovated home, I do hope you’ve chosen a builder wisely. Pickell, Lowell, Engerman, these are the names that matter to this lake. Don’t think they don’t. And so this home was built properly, with the proper elevated finishes one would expect from a renowned high end builder. The landscaping was ideal. The lot level, 100′ worth. The home large but not too large. The sale making perfect, complete sense.

When this home first came to market last summer, the asking price was $5.275MM. I thought it had a chance to sell in the $5 range, but only because the inventory was low and this was a most beautiful home that the market wasn’t expecting. Alas, it did not sell, and when the price was adjusted a couple of times over the course of the fall, my buyer took notice. That’s why he’s sitting on the pier right now contemplating just how terrific life is on a Friday morning when the water is glassy and clear and the fish swim, dodging only the toothier fish and the plastic baits of the trolling fishermen. The seller of this property was wise to reduce until he found his market. The buyer was wise to wait.

With a decided absence of very recent comps in this range, how do we ascertain value? Well, we look at the land first. 100′ level frontage, $2MM all day. Two more comps on the street for tear downs bear that out. One of those I’m closing on today, the other is available. It should be noted that the other one on Lackey at $2.15MM, along with my Loramoor lot at $2.34MM are the best, easiest options for a buyer seeking a new home on Geneva Lake in the $3.5-4MM range. So if the land is worth $2MM, what’s a 6189 square foot Orren Pickell home going to cost us? Well, it’s probably going to cost between $2-2.5MM. And so there you have it, the cost approach for helping pin point value. In the case of this house, there’s a very real chance that the purchase price is  below replacement cost. If we’re considering a lakefront purchase, isn’t that a pretty nice data point?

For now, the new owner will be content in his new lakefront. I’ll be content to have helped. The market will be content to have printed another high value sale.  The question is, does a brunch line on Sunday morning really make you content? And yes, I know the hollandaise is amazing.

Swimming Pools

Swimming Pools

I’m old enough to remember when owning a swimming pool was a bad thing. It was a liability, that pool. If a seller had one, the Realtor would exclaim, what a fantastic pool! Then the Realtor would read the expression of the buyer, and if the expression soured and waxed puzzled, the Realtor would tell the buyer that the pool can easily be filled in stone and then what a fantastic patio you’d have!  This is how it all used to be. Pools looked cool in photographs but in person buyers tended to shy from them, worried about the insurance cost and the maintenance cost and the process of it all. This isn’t how it is today.

Today, buyers at Lake Geneva look for pools.  They crave pools. They love them dearly. In fact, I would have sold one of my large lakefront listing s several times over had it only possessed a pool. Pools are all the rage now, and if you have one, you’re in luck.  Not all pools are created equal, so if you have a liner pool with a wrinkled floor, people won’t love that. If you have a tiny kidney pool like you’re under a lanai in Naples, people won’t love that, either. But if that pool is large enough, without being too large, and the surrounding patio is high quality and your furniture is just so, then your pool is adding value to your home with every underwater sweep of the cleaning robot’s arm.

In this, there is danger. The real danger aside, there is danger in the way this pool can transform your weekend. Pools are great, but they can ruin you and your weekend. They can make your soft children softer, make your weekends less about a lake and more about a pool. They can change everything, and in that there is a warning to heed: Beware the pool, even the lakefront pool, for it can be an instrument for evil.

A dear friend of mine is building a pool at his lakefront home as we speak. This pool is nearly complete, nearly ready to be splashed through and cannonballed into. The anticipation is, at this point, nearly unbearable. The pool will be the focus of much love, of some frustration, of horror when the first dead chipmunk is found cramped into the filter. Nearby frogs will at first rejoice, then regret their decision to jump into that chemically bath. The children will frolic in the way that children can. All of this is fine, but vigilance is required if the pool is going to be merely an auxiliary feature and never take the place of the primary feature that is the 5400 acre pool in front of the new pool.

But how can we make sure this doesn’t happen, that we don’t soften up our soft children so much that they prefer the chlorinated comfort of a synthetic lake over the real thing? Well, I’m glad you asked. The first think we must do is initiate rules. Country clubs have rules, and if we’re making our lakeside lawn into a similar club then we must initiate and abide by our own set of parameters. First up, no swimming in the pool if the lake is reasonably calm, the sun reasonably high, and the water reasonably clear. I will allow pool swimming if the lake is turned up something fierce, like on a holiday weekend afternoon, but that’s it. Otherwise, if it’s sunny and the lake is ready, use the lake. The pool isn’t for those times.

The pool is for the month of May. For some of early June. The pool is for late September and October. The pool is for the time of year when the lake is not warm enough for comfortable swimming. This is why the pool exists. The pool is also for the aforementioned periods during the middle of summer when the lake is acting somewhat unruly. These are the only pool rules you need. Don’t use the pool when the lake is better. Don’t use the pool because it’s convenient. It’s also convenient to eat ice cream for lunch every day but even I don’t do that every day.   The pool will be easy, and it’ll be tempting, but why are we at the lake? Are we here to hide in the shade of a large umbrella while our kids tip toe around the shallow side of the pool with Spongebob floaties on? Or are we here to indulge in the lake, to dive from piers, to feel the rush and bask in the nature of it all? I’m not going to answer that question. I shouldn’t have to.

Geneva Lakefront Sale

Geneva Lakefront Sale

We tend to buy real estate based on emotion and sell it based upon fact. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever bought or sold real estate. We buy it because we love it, because we want it, because it makes sense in some ways, sure, but mostly because we just have to have it. We sell it because we still love it, we still want it, but we know there are better ideas or better options, and so we adopt a more pragmatic approach and we move on past the thing that we so dearly loved. The hang up in real estate is when we’re buying something that we don’t truly love, that we don’t really want. Then every hiccup is perceived to be a bad omen, every slight difficulty a catastrophic event. When we sell, if we don’t truly understand that selling is what’s best, we cling to this real estate like grim death, knowing we have to sell but badly wishing against it.  Then we poison the process with emotion, the side of the process that’s supposed to be more fact based. This is real estate.

On Friday, I sold 976 South Lakeshore Drive in Fontana. I represented one of my favorite clients in that transaction, and the deal came together in the way that we wish all deals might. We listed the house, we showed the house, we received an offer on the house, then another, and then we sold the house for $3,300,000. Just $95k off of our original April ask. That’s a scenario that most sellers dream of, and indeed it is a process of which I’d love to be a consistent participant. For now, we’ll leave aside the part of the deal wherein I represented a fantastic seller as that family pursues the ultimate lakefront arrangement, and we’ll instead focus on the truths of this deal and try our best to learn from them.

I sold this home to this seller in 2013 for $2.95MM. The seller did some improving of the home, but nothing too overwhelming. The property just sold for $3.3MM, representing a 12% increase over the 2013 price. This is Takeaway #1 from this sale: The lakefront market is up around 12% from 2013. Is this a uniform number, benefiting or cursing all lakefront homes? Of course not. Some have risen more, others less, but this is a solid benchmark, proven out not by my own interpretation of the market mood, but by cold hard statistics. Other properties have been bought and resold over recent years, but these properties often have had some form of dramatic renovation between the time they first sold and the time they most recently sold, so those statistics offer simply more proof of a market tendency to overpay for renovated kitchens.

This property, at the time that it hit the market, was the only lakefront home in Fontana listed for sale under $7MM. As a result of that market gap, the seller of this home could have taken a common seller approach of assuming that because he was the only game in town, the market would dramatically overpay for the rights to own his exclusivity. I hear this often from sellers, and when they explain just how rare their property is I tend to daydream about things that don’t make me lose all faith in humanity, like trout streams and the lake on a calm summer morning. The sellers explain, if a buyer wants this particular thing, in this particular location, they’ll have to pay. Unintelligent sellers call this the “price of admission”. It is true that there is a price of admission, but you know I like to compare real estate to cars, so to be a seller offering his rare property for a ridiculous number is akin to me listing my 5 year old BMW for $100,000 because that is indeed the only BMW in Williams Bay listed for sale. If you want that sweet BMW, you’ll have to pay up. Sellers of houses are just as ridiculous, and this seller didn’t succumb to that absurdity. Instead, we discussed the market, targeted a price range, and we listed the home at what the market indicated would be an acceptable price. One month later we had two buyers in line, proving our theory correct.

The lakefront market as a whole is relatively slow right now. There are two other lakefronts closing this week, both to buyers whom I’m pleased to represent, and another in Lake Geneva with a shared pier. Don’t ask how I feel about shared piers. Two weeks ago the older lakefront home on the hill in Cedar Point closed for $1.515MM, representing a reasonable ransom for a house with a tremendous view and approximately three trillion stairs to and from the water.  YTD there have been 9 lakefront sales. 2015 had ten lakefronts closed as of June 13th, with two of those sales being involved in a trade. The market today feels somewhat sluggish, but it’s actually right on track. Last year, from June 14th through December 31st, there were a whopping 20 lakefronts closed, meaning 2016 has some big shoes to fill. The market could very well turn on in a similar fashion to last year, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to do just that. The only difference between last year and this year is that our inventory is tighter, and without enough dry tinder there’s no way to get that fire quite as hot as last year.

 

Affordable Lake Geneva

Affordable Lake Geneva

Take to the highways and county roads this summer and you’ll notice plenty of things. You’ll notice that semi drivers often change lanes with relatively little warning, which is especially rude when I’m in the middle of writing a lengthy email. I’m beginning to think it’s not just texting and driving that’s dangerous, but also emailing and driving. Perhaps the public awareness campaigns will tweak their message. You’ll also notice motorcycles. I’m afraid of motorcycles, I admit it. My dad told me once that a motorcycle driver took a corner too fast near some house he lived in when he was a child. He said he had to go in the house to get towels and sheets to help his mom mop up the blood from the street. I find this to be implausible, completely and utterly so. There’s no way you’d worry about mopping up the street especially if rain was in the forecast. You’ll also notice campers and RVs and tow behind camping apparatuses. The world goes camping, even if we don’t.

There’s something else that’s common on these roads in this season and in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that are towing these camping things: The occupants of the car are generally in a fair mood. They’re going camping, with that pop up camper thing, and they’re happy about it. They’re driving someplace far, or someplace near, but they’re going to get there and then they’re going to set up their camper and they’re going to pop open their folding lawn chairs and they’re going to eat hotdogs around the fire. When night falls, they’re going to sleep in that camper, mom and dad in the bed part that sticks out over the bed of the truck, and the kids somewhere else. I’ve never been in one of these camper things, so I’m just imagining how it all works. But regardless of the cramped quarters, the lack of finesse, these people who do these things are content. They’re content because they’re getting away from their weekday lives and living differently, if only for awhile until the time comes to pay the park attendant the weekend rent and fold the camper back to its traveling form.

I’m never going to camp like this. Odds are, neither are you. But we can do things like this in a more comfortable way, and we can do them affordably. For every $7MM listing that Lake Geneva can offer you, there are 20 $189k vacation condos. For every $800k association home with a  boatstlip there are five $220k association homes with lake access. This is a market for the affluent, sure, but it’s a market for anyone who has a few extra dollars of disposable income and a feverish desire to get out of town on the weekends. Lake Geneva has always been the place, but it’s not just the place for business icons and those of affluence, it’s for everyone who wants to make a few sacrifices and spend their weekends living in a different place, in a different way, just like those happy campers who clog up in the interstate.

Along those lines, consider the economical Lake Geneva vacation condominium. I have some rules for this sort of purchase, and it includes avoiding condo-tels, because those are ridiculous.  You’re also not allowed to buy some condo in some absurd setting, like the condos that were created in the part of Williams Bay best left for lower value housing and commercial buildings. So let’s look at the condo market, and consider where you should be considering. Willabay Shores, this is an easy one. Priced from the painfully low $130s up through the $250s, these are simple two and three bedroom condominiums. They’re not new, so be ready to do some updating, but they’re walkable to the lake and the Williams Bay beach, and they have a pool and tennis courts and one car garages. You’ll feel part of the scene here, because you are part of the scene. Grab a fishing pole and walk across to the piers to fish. It’s terrific fun, and Willabay is still cheap.

Bayside Pointe is just up the road from Willabay, a bit farther from the water but still close. The units are newer, larger, so if you’re looking for newer and larger and you’re in the $200-300k price range, these are worth a look.  You won’t get any lake access with Willabay or Bayside Point, but you’ll be close. Can you tell that proximity matters? Walking distance to the lake is a good thing, and you should want it. Unless you’re considering Geneva National, in which case you’re not walking distance to any lake (Como doesn’t count in this context), but you’re tucked inside a beautiful enclave with what I deem to be the finest golf in the area. You needn’t be a golfer to vacation here, because who could hate beautifully manicured lawns, even if there are small holes with flags sticking out of them every so often?  If you’re a buyer in the $100-$300k range and you’re looking for a Lake Geneva vacation home, Geneva National should probably be the first place you consider. I have two condos in GN in this entry level range pending, and the buyers are making wise decisions. The values are still depressed, so there’s still value to be found. Yes, the market there is subject to some tumult, but you won’t mind so much when you’re living large in a very affordable vacation home.

In Fontana, affordability is nicely intertwined with the extremely unaffordable. In town, you can buy a condo for $700k. Or you can buy an Abbey Villa between $199-$299k. The villas are older, so they’re not huge and they’re not particularly high end (unless you find a renovated unit), but they will get you into the Fontana scene on the cheap. They’re sort of part of the hotel but mostly not part of the hotel, but you have pools to use and the beach a short walk away. You can’t bring your pets to the villas, so if you need to bring Fido each weekend, the villas won’t work. If you need to bring your dog, consider Abbey Hill. A bit farther from the lake, but still close to the scene. The units here are diverse, interesting, and I’ve always liked this place. In the $200-300k range, there’s no better option in Fontana.

Abbey Springs might take offense to that statement, and if they did they’d have a point. Want the whole scene in one development? The tennis, the golf, the pools, the beach, the restaurants, etc and etc? Then Abbey Springs is for you. Units between $140k and $350k offer a bit of everything, including some very odd floor plans.  The designs are a bit haphazard,  but they’re also fun and quite effective. I’d be considering Abbey Springs if I wanted an amenity packed association in the heart of the Lake Geneva scene.

If you’re looking for an affordable weekend retreat, skip the camper and the packing and the cramped sleeping arrangements, and just talk to me about a Lake Geneva vacation condominium in one of these terrific associations.

Rabbit

Rabbit

My dog eats rabbits. He hears them in the grass. He smells them on the air. He sleeps at night and dreams of rabbits and then he wakes up and he sees rabbits. He loves rabbits. But he doesn’t want to play with them, he wants to eat them. There are rabbits near my outbuilding, the one that I intended to finish beautifully to match the house, until I realized that beautiful is expensive. I should have known that, I am married, after all. And so I never finished the building, even though when asked I promise that it’s on my list of things to do. I don’t mean it, but I say it because what could I say? No, I don’t plan to do anything with that little mini-barn? I’m just going to leave it like that, to rot in place, that’s what I’m going to do. So of course I wouldn’t say that, but what my dog doesn’t yet know is that there’s a family of rabbits living near that small barn. A bunch of little, delicious, adorable rabbits.

There’s another rabbit that I’ve known for quite some time, and it’s in the front yard of my parents’ house. It’s a nice rabbit, friendly and calm, still. I don’t remember when I first saw that rabbit, or how it came to be. When I was young, I’d jump over the small pine tree that my dad planted when my twin brother died. It was a little tree then, always Christian’s tree. My brothers and I could take a running start and leap over the top of it. When we’d do that, the rabbit was nearby, under that tree, off to the side, watching then as it does now. But the tree is big now, so tall that no one could ever jump over it.  The rabbit has spent time under that tree, tipped on his side, buried in the leaves and pine needles.

Because no one uses that lakeside lawn in the winter, the rabbit is mostly a summer rabbit. In the fall we might see him, but rarely. In the spring, around Easter, when the eggs are hidden in the yard, we see him then, too. He’ll be under the large tree,  kicked on his side, or stuffed in the hedge of evergreen that separates my parents lawn from the association lawn to the north. In the spring, he’s often in the way. The pier boards must be moved to the water, the Laser sailboats carried from their winter saw horses to the summer ramp. The rabbit knows no fear, and so he sits there while the work is done, and he sits there when the work is done.

The other day he was there, looking as he does, bright eyed. He was facing the lawn, away from the lake, sitting high on the bricks that line a flower garden. The rabbit was put in a place where everyone, not just those who knew him, could see. He was prominent, favored, in a place of importance. It was nice to see. He’s just a rabbit, after all, but he’s been our rabbit for so long that no one knows what the lawn was like without him. He’s seen it all, at this point, and there’s no telling just how much more he’ll get to see.

Staycation Madness

Staycation Madness

In life, much of our time and energy is spent justifying our established positions. If I’m a Democrat, I spend some energy defending my positions, no matter whether or not they’re exactly correct or incorrect. If I’m a Republican, I do the same.  If I love tacos, I’ll explain to you that I love tacos, and I’ll encourage you to eat them, too. If I think the best band in the world is Oasis, I’ll explain that to you as best I can.  If you live in the Chicago area and you’re thinking about a lake house, and it hasn’t yet become obvious to you that Lake Geneva is the only place to consider, then I’ll spend most of my time trying to convince you of its merits. And if you write for the Wall Street Journal, you’ll waste a column on something as absurd as the notion of a staycation.

Last summer, Mr. Straus and Ms. Missett paid $1.988 million for a two-bedroom apartment in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca, which they use as their weekend getaway. “What I love is that unlike the Hamptons, it’s a quick subway ride down there, and it totally feels like you’re on vacation,” Mr. Straus, 56, said. In comparison to the hustle and bustle of Midtown, their cobblestoned Tribeca street is “quiet—it feels like a country home.”

No it doesn’t.  It can’t. There’s no way a cobblestoned street makes an apartment feel like a country home. There’s nothing that can be argued here if we’re considering the falsity of that statement. An apartment is not a country home, period.   That would be like me saying that because I paved the gravel driveway that leads me to my country home, and I threw garbage all around the margins, that my country home feels like a city home. If an apartment feels like a country home to this nice couple, then it’s obvious that they’ve never owned a country home. The fact that the article doesn’t challenge the most absurd claim leaves me somewhat weak and feverish.

Real estate agents, according to the WSJ article, are pointing to proximity as the reason someone would buy a vacation home a handful of blocks from their primary home. In Miami, another silly couple bought a condo 13 miles from their primary home.  This is no less absurd than the Tribeca couple, but it does explain something about vacation home buyers: They don’t always understand the purpose of the vacation home.  Do we have two homes just so we can sleep in a different bed on the weekends? Do we have this other home so that we can pay twice the mortgage, twice the taxes, and have twice the headache? Do we have this second home just so we can say we do, or so we can put up those drapes we really like that just don’t work well with the color palate of our primary?

The answer to those question is don’t be silly. But the answer is obviously not well understood, otherwise people wouldn’t be buying a vacation home so near their full time home. The reason people do this is apparently born out of convenience, because a couple in Manhattan can jump on a subway and be in Tribeca in some short period of time, or so I presume. A couple in Miami can drive 13 miles to their “vacation” condo in a similarly short time. But what is accomplished by this? Proximity is important, yes, but a vacation home can be too close. If the scenery isn’t different and the activities aren’t different and there’s no time to decompress while driving with a dose of anticipation, then what is the purpose of this nearby home?

Yesterday, I went mountain biking. I should say that I hate mountain biking. It’s just a terrible, terrible thing. If there was a service that would drop me off at the top of a hill somewhere and then pick me up at the bottom, once I coasted my way down, I’d be interested in this. But the pedaling up and down is really quite redundant, and so I hate it. But I did it anyway and after that I went down to fish with my son, who had been fishing off the piers for no less than 7 hours when I picked him up. At home, I pulled some weeds and fired up my tractor to gather the piles of weeds that my wife had pulled earlier in the day. I did these things because I live in the country, at this lake, and those things I did are not the same things you can do in the city.  If a cobblestone road makes you feel like you’re living in the country, then you’ve never been to the country. If your son didn’t fly fish off a diving board as a summer storm rumbled in the distance, then you need a lake house.

 

Home Improvement

Home Improvement

The seller had a tree in her yard that had died many years ago. The tree first lost its leaves. Then it lost some branches, and then, some bark. The leaves were cleaned and hauled away and the branches, too. The bark was mowed over and made into mulch, and no one much cared. But the tree was there in the yard near the lake and it was dead. When I came along, the tree had been dead for some time. The owner was going to have that tree removed. And so after several months of discussion the tree was removed. The owner was pleased with her new view, and touted the tree removal as a feat of great success, one that would surely lead to a most immediate sale, now that the tree was gone and the view improved.

Another owner replaced his formica countertops with ones of granite. The granite was $3100, and what a lofty sum that was. The crew arrived on time and with little effort had removed the offending, 28 year old countertops. Soon after, the new tops were carried in and glued into place. They shone with the light of a thousand candles, the proud owner’s face reflecting the glow. The house had lagged on the market for some time, but now, with these countertops, who could resist the over-market price tag? That night, the counters were wiped clean with the wipes the granite company left. The owner turned off the kitchen lights and felt the deep satisfaction of a home improvement well done.

The problem with these scenarios is that neither represent an actual improvement to a house. This is going to come as a shock to some, but cutting down a dead tree does not enhance the value of ones home. The tree, you see, should have been cut down as a matter of course, not as a special capital improvement project. In the same way, a new furnace and hot water heater don’t matter when pricing a home for sale.  Will a new hot water heater and furnace help a buyer out and perhaps encourage them to make an offer if they are considering a similar home that doesn’t have these new mechanicals? Of course, but improvements they are not. This revelation runs contrary to everything every home seller has ever thought, or will ever think.

The tree example is a true story. The countertop story, true also. The hot water heater and furnace, I hear that all the time.  The roof was old and so it needed replacing, improving. The bill was $8500. That’s a lot of money, after all.  A new roof is nice, but it’s not an improvement. Neither is the furnace. Neither are the countertops. Neither is the dead tree that you removed. That’s all maintenance. Maintenance is not capital improvement, it’s just something that everyone who owns a home has to do. The tricky part is what exactly constitutes regular maintenance and what might veer off into the actual improvement category. But I joke, because that’s not tricky either.

New countertops on top of your existing cabinets, maintenance. New countertops, cabinets, appliances? Improvement.  New appliances? Maintenance. A new hot water heater? Maintenance.  Replacing an asphalt composition roof with an asphalt composition roof? Maintenance. Replacing a three tab composition roof with an architectural shingle, still maintenance.  Replacing that roof with a cedar shingle or slate? Improvement. Fixing your deck posts because they were rotted? Maintenance. Replacing your entire deck with Ipe, improvement.  You can see how this isn’t all that difficult, but it’s a concept completely lost on the modern day seller.

So when you tell me that you’ve painted your windows and fixed your leaky roof, please don’t expect me to be thrilled. It’s just maintenance. It’s no different than if you go to trade your car in. What a beautiful shiny car it is! But it’s old and it has 180,000 miles on it, and there’s a tear in the driver’s seat. When you bring it to the dealer and he offers you $3500 on trade, you should then interject that you recently had the oil changed and you ran it through the car wash. He’ll be thrilled and then he’ll give you $4000. Just kidding, he’ll give you $3500, because oil changes, like new roofs, are just part of life.

 

(Above, the front door on my house after I put a fresh coat of varnish on it. The process made the door look better, but it wasn’t an improvement. It was just maintenance.)
Manhattan

Manhattan

I generally agree with the concept that what happens on the coasts will someday find its way to Lake Geneva. This is the case with both good and bad. New York has fantastic pizza. Lake Geneva will someday also have fantastic pizza. Washington had a Starbucks, and then a couple of decades later, we have a Starbucks.  This is good. In the same way, when something trendy happens on a coast, it’ll also soon happen here. But there are limitations to this, and that’s why the current correction of sorts afflicting Manhattan doesn’t mean there’s a correction coming swiftly to the Lake Geneva vacation home market. Here’s why.

My knowledge of the Manhattan real estate market is limited, obviously. If it weren’t, you could question my dedication to the Lake Geneva market. See, when Ryan Serhant opens offices in Miami and LA,  he’s not doing so because he’s somehow a Miami expert. He’s doing so because he’s a businessman and he’s smart enough to know his name will mean something to people even when it likely means nothing. Anyway, I don’t know anything about Manhattan real estate aside from what I read and what I see on television. What I see on television is that new developments are coming online all the time, and those new developments are not loaded with $400k condos. They’re filled with $4MM condos and $7MM condos and $14MM condos.

Lake Geneva is filled with $200k cottages and $300k condos and $800k houses and $3MM lakefronts. It’s a mix of things, with no particular segment requiring a tremendous amount of liquidity annually. This is one of the problems with Geneva National, as you’ll recall. It’s simply too big to maneuver through years of low volume without causing a price adjustment in the process.  The lakefront market on Geneva functions differently, as low volume is generally a result of low inventory, which in turn creates a market where prices escalate. So if you’re a buyer on Geneva you’re wishing for inventory and if you’re an owner on Geneva you’re wishing against it. This isn’t very difficult to understand.

But it’s back to Manhattan and those buildings and the sheer volume required to keep that market moving forward, appreciating and rare. What’s the number? I don’t know, because I’m typing from Williams Bay this morning. But the simple reality is that markets in forward motion require more buyers than sellers. Turn the tide and the market will stall. Turn it for long enough and the market will decline. If Manhattan is experiencing a decline, that’s too bad, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Lake Geneva. There will be a decline coming to our markets within a few years, this you can be sure of. But until the sellers outpace the buyers, that won’t be the case. I’ll be sure to let you know when it is. For now, I need to run home to snap some aloe open and lather it on my bright red nose and cheeks. The Lake Geneva sun was benevolent yesterday, and my face carries the proof.

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

The man in front of me wore a checked shirt of blue and white. I wore a similar shirt, mine more white than blue, and no fewer than six other men on the small plane wore the same pattern in the same colors. The older men in first class wore solid blue.

The checked shirt man bobbed his head long before the plane launched into the sky. He bobbed his head as we cleared the coastal state and then still he bobbed when we made it over Lake Erie. The bob was the same the whole time, shallow and quick, always the same beat. Whatever he was listening to was consistent, song after song, either that or he was stuck on repeat and he bobbed to the same song in that same shirt in the seat in front of me for the entirety of that westbound flight. I wished I hadn’t been so annoyed by the constant motion. I tried to video the bobbing, but the phone was on 9% and the passengers behind me would have been able to see what I was doing. I preferred to be simply one of the men in the checked shirts on that flight, and not the man who videotaped the other man because of his insistent, steady bob.

Once I flew home from the Cayman Islands, which island I cannot remember. Two days before the return flight that island sun had burned my face so badly that I spent those two days that followed slinking around the shady side of the pool and icing my face down with the bartender’s ice. I went for a walk at night and carried with me a neatly folded paper towel so that I might wipe the clear puss that was weeping from my burnt face. I never said this story was pleasant, but the pre-flight history is important because my mood was sour when I boarded that plane, and increasingly it worsened as the man in the seat in front of me spoke loudly in a heavy foreign tongue. I had no headphones, but had I it wouldn’t have been certain that I dared touch them to my crisped ears. I could do nothing but sit and listen to his heavy exaggerated dialect, and the farther into the flight the more he spoke, the louder, loud enough for everyone to hear, no matter their seat. My face wept, my ears buzzed, my patience was not traveling well.

And so yesterday I sat on that flight home, back to this place, to the place we take for granted. You take it for granted and I take it for granted because we’re told by the world that our place is nice, but it’s not that nice. It’s nice for Wisconsin, those people from other places say. I’m back after a short visit to a bigger city where bigger things exist, but I’m reminded today that these bigger things are not better, that far away city no more important than this small village. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and while this is typically a warm up for summer, this year it appears as though it really is summer. Enjoy it, bask in it, solemnly remember those who made this safe life possible, and don’t take any of it for granted. Not this place, or this time, or these warm days and this clear water. It’s special, and sometimes you need only sit in coach behind a checked shirt man whose iTunes was stuck on repeat to realize it.

Bits and Pieces

Bits and Pieces

I’ve decided to change the major theme of my magazine. Instead of Summer Homes For City People being a Lake Geneva lifestyle magazine that features writing from yours truly and the finest real estate that this vacation home market has to offer, I’m going to make it more of a game. You see, no matter how hard I try, I make mistakes in the magazine. A period should be followed by a space, I know this, but sometimes in the magazine the errors of cut and paste leave things cramped, like this.And sometimes when a phrase is italicized, the first letter of the following sentence, the letter that isn’t italicized, is. This is terrible, but it happens. Sometimes, the errors are less subtle, sometimes, you miss one digit of a four digit address for one of your favorite listings. Sure, a buyer will find their way to the location and see the sign, but that’s not the point.

Did you know that it’s the year 2016? I know it, too, but there’s one spot in the new issue that would rather you believe it’s 2015.  This is the game, find the glaring error and win! What you’ll win I can’t say just yet, because I’ve just now thought of the game, but you’ll definitely win something. This way, when the 2017 magazine is printed, it’ll be exciting, because when you mail in your error submission with a SASE you stand the chance to win something seriously important. In this, the magazine errors won’t look so silly, they’ll just be part of the game, and the game will make the magazine even more important and even more special and then people will say WOW!, this magazine is not only tolerable to read but the game the author created is a hoot. This is what they’ll say.

For now, the magazine is out, and it’s decent. It’s not my best effort I fear, but I’m just one man and sometimes I should have more help. I was delivering magazines on Saturday morning, and then again on Sunday morning, when I noticed that Lake Geneva is in mid-summer form already. It’s May, not even the last of it, and we’re already acting like it’s July. This is important, because a Midwestern summer needs to be stretched to one side or the other, ideally both, otherwise we’re left feeling cheated when the cold October winds blow. If we can get some of May, which we’ve had, and we can get some of October, which we’ve had in prior years, then the summer feels long and it feels important  because it is both. Summer in May is a nice phenomenon, which leads us to Dennis Miller’s line on global warming: One man’s global warming is another mans, Hey, it’s nice out!

The market is performing exceptionally well, perhaps as a result of the weather or as a result of interest rates or just as a result of intelligence. The entry level market is on fire, with $250-$550k type homes in Country Club Estates selling with ease. New inventory, aged inventory, it doesn’t seem to matter, it’s selling. The lakefront remains busy, and a new deal on the lakefront at the tippy top of Cedar Point proves buyers don’t mind stairs if they have a view, especially when the price point is in the mid ones. There are other deals, and one that I’ve neglected to mention over recent weeks is a contract on the spec home being built in the Elgin Club. That’s a small lot spec home, but it’s selling for a very nice number, rumored to be in the mid $2s. New homes always sell well when they’re of the right style (paint your trim white, please).

I superjetted yesterday, and I really would like it if you’d wave at me when I’m jetting. I’m the only guy with the black Superjet who wears a hat and sunglasses when I jet. I do that because I don’t like my hair blowing in the wind, because I have so much of it and it looks ridiculous. I wear sunglasses because it’s bright on the water, and that’s that. I boated yesterday as well, and the lake looked to me as it would look during any summer weekend. But it’s May, so it was better than July, because in July we expect it and in May we’re thankful for it. The lakefront is buzzing with construction, and in coming weeks I’ll be outlining the new builds on the lake, with photos to show you what you’re missing.

The bridge in Fontana is open, so the painful 9 month project is finally, mercifully, finished. It was a terrible inconvenience, as you’re likely well aware, and so now it’s open and life is better and everyone is happier.  This week brings some big meetings for me, with some exciting new ideas on the horizon. We’ll see how it all plays out, but for now, I’m going to go back to pouring over my magazine to find the errors. There’s no telling what I might win if I find them all.

 

Boxed and Burlap

Boxed and Burlap

I was in Chicago Wednesday. It was a crisp spring day, the sky and water in a matching shade. The city, when viewed from the approaching interstate, no matter which one, is not a terrific thing. The city looks too congested, hazy, too city-like. But when viewed from Lakeshore Drive, the city comes alive. It would be hard to view the city from that direction and consider the city a mess. And so I spent time in the city and I visited a few coffee shops and restaurants and marveled at the variety in such tight quarters. In Lincoln Park we walked past three coffee shops to go to the fourth, because that one was better, or just different, it was hard to say. So many people can support so many shops, even when they’re all nearly the same. I enjoyed my visit and my meetings and returned home as I always do, happy to have been and happier to be back.

In Walworth County, we do not have the luxury of superfluous shops and stores, because we don’t have the population to support such variety. I’m happy for this small town setting with small town concerns, but businesses that rely on foot traffic can face an uphill battle because of the demographics. That’s why I root for local businesses that open, even as I know most of them will fail. A new ice cream shop in Williams Bay? Well, we already have two, maybe three, four if you count that one place, so you’ll be the fifth? And you’ll be serving Blue Bunny Ice Cream, the same kind the gas stations sell? I’d rather treat you as farmers treat farm animals, because you never get to know something you know is going to be dead in a few months.  But alas, I cheer on businesses that I think the community needs, and businesses that will benefit the community they serve.

I have had a dream for decades that I would someday buy the Geneva Lakes Bait and Tackle store and turn it into a high end outfitter. I’d run guides through the shop, and make it a high end sporting store. That dream is probably no longer viable, but that corner of Williams Bay where Highways 50 and 67 intersect has been the focus of much growth. Mercy Hospital is big and bold on that corner, important for the area and a nice thing to have nearby so many recreating daredevils.  The Belfry Theatre, as you read here last year, is being refitted and should be open soon for a summer concert series. Lakeland Church is helping the effort; their church being located just to the north of that intersection. The sore spot has been the site immediately across from the hospital, just north of the Belfry, north of my someday bait and tackle shop.

That corner property was a mix of run down old this and beaten up that, and you’ve likely noticed over recent months a revitalization of sorts occurring on those grounds. A new barn was built, the property cleaned, the old house remade. The style fits my eye, whites and grays and a bit of modern intermixed with a decidedly country vibe. The business is Boxed and Burlap. My friend Jon Neighbors and his lovely wife whom I’ve never met are the owners, and what they’re doing deserves your attention. The property is being turned into a destination with multiple purposes, most notably the tree and plant business that occupies much of the property. But that’s where the similarities to other greenhouses and nursery operations end. The old house is nearly complete in its transformation to coffee house. The tour I went on yesterday revealed a very cool space that will likely become a very popular coffee spot. In Williams Bay, we’re long ice cream but exceptionally light coffee.  Boxed and Burlap fixes that.

There will be additional goings on, with one building undergoing a conversion to an artists studio where you can take some art and pottery classes, should that be something you’re interested in. I love art, but I barely have the patience to draw a heart around my name when I sign my wife’s anniversary card, so you won’t find me working on my pastels anytime soon. But the space will be there, so that’s nice if you’re artsy. There will be live bands, seasonal festivals, a farmer’s market, and more. The vision of the owners has proven to me, before they’ve proven to anyone else, that this business will work.

But for it to work, and for the community to benefit from it for years to come, it needs your help. I’m not going to tell you to visit them this weekend, but I am asking that you visit them over Memorial Day Weekend. The coffee shop should be open, so stop for an espresso and take home a lilac bush while you’re at it.  Help this business succeed not for the sake of the owner, but for the sake of the community. Failed businesses aren’t a benefit to anyone, and important, high visibility corners are an especially important component to any thriving community.  Hopefully this summer I’ll see you at Boxed and Burlap.

Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

I can feel it. It’s in the air. It’s in the way the grass looks and so many lilacs. Everywhere lilacs. The boats are here, they’re in the water and they’re on trailers and they’re everywhere. The streets are more alive than they were in April, more alive than March. Everything is more alive than February. It’s about that time when the people who know find their way to the lake. Not to any lake, but to this lake. To this place. To the place that’s better than all the other places combined. It’s nearly summer in Lake Geneva, and you’re either ready or you aren’t. There’s no real in between now. A week from Friday is Memorial Day Weekend, and if you’re not ready, you never will be.

The market shows signs that many people understand this coming inevitability. They see summer on the near horizon and they’re trying their best to be prepared. There are deals pending all over the board, with an especially strong showing in the $200-$600k price range. Buyers in this range are paying attention and they’re making their moves to be ready. There are 10 lake access homes pending this morning priced under $600k. There are another 12 condominiums in Geneva National pending under $600k, and no fewer than three pending in Abbey Springs. The market is alive in this pricing segment, and with the only exception being the lakefront condo market. Currently that market is attracting interest, but there aren’t any pending sales to speak of.

And that brings us to the lakefront market. To the big time. The lakefront currently has 28 homes for sale (counting South Shore Club- 1 property, and counting one property that’s only sort of lakefront), with three more vacant lakefront parcels available. That’s 31 lakefront properties available, and of those there are four pending. The four pending include one on the hill in Cedar Point in the mid $1MMs, two on Lackey Lane (mid $4s and $2MM), and a fresh contract on my lakefront listing at 976 South Lakeshore Drive in Fontana ($3.395MM). I tried to tell you that the new Fontana lakefront was going to sell, and after a month on the market we fielded two offers within a matter of days and now the property is under contract.  The market loves Fontana, this we all know.

Of the 31 active lakefronts, I have 10 of them listed. That’s significant, because if you’re a buyer looking for inventory, then you’d be wise to talk to the agent that handles the inventory. That’s me. Of the four pending lakefront sales,  three of those are my properties, either on the buy or list side. That’s also significant, because of the obvious. I think at this point there’s been enough beating around the bush. If you’re selling lakefront property on Geneva Lake, I’m your guy. If you’re buying lakefront property on Geneva Lake, I’m your guy. It seems as though there’s very little reason to argue at this point.

The lakefront is going to do one of two things this summer. It’s either going to stall out on new inventory, in which case we’ll see buyers ultimately pick off the inventory (much of it is quality) that’s currently available. If the inventory stalls, there’s no way we come close to matching the 2015 volume statistics.  Prices might tighten up, which will be good for existing sellers, but we just won’t see the same sort of movement that we saw in 2015.  Either that happens, or we add inventory, which will be snapped up by buyers who have already dismissed the available properties. This was the case with 976 South Lakeshore. It came to market at a time when little else was available, and because it’s a unique and special property, it sold quickly. If new inventory presents in May and June, expect July and August to be banner months. That’s the trend from 2015, where the lakefront market was sluggish until the end of June.

Weather does play a roll in this, no matter how much we’d prefer it didn’t. If we have a hot, sunny summer, sales will be good. If we have a rainy summer, with poor weekend forecasts, sales will lag. If it’s 77 and sunny every day from now until Labor Day, this won’t be good for any of us. Because then we’ll be selling entry level lakefronts for $5MM and our buyers will be international sorts and we’ll all be priced out of our own market. So let’s hope for a large percentage of sunny days, but not too many.

 

Lakewood Estates

Lakewood Estates

I was the first broker to try my hand at selling the new Harbor Watch condominiums on downtown Lake Geneva’s waterfront.  I believe the year was 2002, because I was at that building for an open house when my wife called to tell me she was pregnant, and my son was born in 2003. So let’s assume it was 2002. The market back then was humming, the sky, some wondered, was it really even the limit? The market was ready for new things, for bold things, and with condominiums listed in the million dollar range, we were offering both. I hung on to that listing for a year, maybe less, maybe more, and I didn’t sell any of them. Buyers wanted fireplaces (we had none), they wanted more privacy (we had little), and they wanted to pay less (not happening). We offered a product that the market wasn’t ready for.  During the two or three years that followed my listing tenure, the building sold out, at prices less than we had originally wanted but still, sold.  The market caught up with the product, and the product made some price adjustments to hurry up the union.

Last year, I introduced Lakewood Golf Estates to the market. There was some initial interest, some slight interest along the way, and then, over the winter while the project sat off market, some more tepid interest. There was interest, sure, but no one bought anything. In that, I failed the development because the market didn’t respond. Late last year, just before the listing was to drop from the market to refresh, we made a bold price shift. Lots that were $450k would now be $250k, and in that, the developer listened to what the market had been telling us all season. We were priced too high, too soon, it was just too much of a gap between the market’s expectation and our price point.

Today, I’m bringing Lakewood Golf Estates back online. The prices are reflecting those huge discounts to last summer’s ask. The development is one year older now, the trees one year stronger, the gate now nearly completed.  When you ask a buyer to envision something there is always a risk. The buyer might envision something different than the developer, different than the agent, and in that interpretation of what might be, a sale can be lost. Now, we’re back, we’re done, and we’re ready to sell these lots. There are just 16 lots in total, which you’ll recognize as being a reasonably low total. I’m anti- mass development, as everyone by now knows, which is why this development fits my eye so well. It’s small, it’s exclusive, and it’s representative of the type of properties that vacation home buyers wish for at Lake Geneva.

To recap what we have here, it’s a development on a golf course, but that’s where the similarities to golf course developments begin and end. The golf course here is the private, member’s only Lakewood, where there will be a maximum of just 50 members allowed (per current membership information). The course is a full 18, and it’s complicated and simple at once, with the 75 acre private lake playing a large role in many of the golf holes. I’ve played the course often, and have set a course record for most balls lost, which is better than not owning a course record at all. The golf is good, but that’s not all we have. There’s a private, member’s only clubhouse, and access for owners to board horses in the on-site barns. We have pastures galore, and one needn’t be a horse lover to appreciate the way a grazing horse swooshes his tail on a summer afternoon. The lake itself is an attraction, too, with 75 stocked acres that kids and adults alike will find pleasure in fishing. It’s a great lake for practicing sailing in small scows, and for paddle boarding and kayaking and canoeing, etc and etc.

If you took a flier on this last year but didn’t like our pricing, come back for another look. It’s a unique development minutes from downtown Lake Geneva, and I’m of the opinion that the prices are finally correct. If you’d like a private tour that includes a round of golf on the house, let me know as I’m happy to oblige.

Spring

Spring

Spring started a couple of months ago. I guess it was in March. March is when spring starts, the calendar says. Before that, it’s winter. And when spring ends, it’ll be summer. That’s how this whole thing works. Spring comes and the birds chirp and the grass greens and the weeds need pulling. Yesterday, some animals ate the tops off of some poppies that are growing in my garden. The tops, right off. Now I have to deal with that, which is an issue for me, because I’m busy and it’s my birthday and I don’t feel like shooshing away poppy eating varmint. I can’t kill them, because I’m still too soft. Even at this grizzled age I can’t kill things.

When spring started, it started with some wind and some rain and then some snow, still with the wind.  Rain again, wind. Windy, some sun, rain.  We had good weekends during this spring, more good than bad, in fact. That’s not something anyone would debate. The weekends, three of the last four, have been really solid. This weekend that starts right about now is going to be lame, so just plan on it. Three out of five isn’t bad, especially for spring. Because spring, with its birds and its flowers and all the greening, it’s really a terrible season. It’s good for, almost literally, nothing.

Sure we can shake off winter, slowly. But that’s because we have no choice. We can’t abandon winter and jump to summer, because when we make that jump we have to stay nimble, because we’re just going to end up jumping back. Boating on Sunday, shivering on Monday. Rain on Tuesday. Sun on Wednesday! Wind Thursday. Rain Friday. Tolerable Saturday. Sunny Sunday! This is the cycle and who could love it? Not me, not now, and I don’t care about the birds singing and the grass growing and the rest of it.

And what of these birds? What are they? I love when the Sandhill Crane honks and calls its way across the sky. A hunter told me this year that those birds are delicious. He said he’s heard from other people that they are the Filet of the Sky. Sounds delicious, I thought, and when he said it I could see that he knew about the taste from experience, and then I wondered what he does in those dark, deep woods he owns. I wouldn’t ever tell you that a bird I’ve never eaten is the Filet of the Sky, even if I’d read it in a book somewhere.  And the birds at my feeders, they’re not the good kind of birds. Another neighbor has Orioles. Bushels and flocks and baskets full of Orioles. I have a feeder dedicated to the Oriole and they don’t even consider it. Two years ago I did, but not this year. Not last year, either. My neighbor gets them all, and so I’m left with my wrens. I am the Wren King, which isn’t really such an incredible thing. I’d rather be the Oriole King, and they’d call me Cal.

But on Facebook some people have said Happy Birthday, so that’s something spring is good for. Another year older. Milestones, not really. There are no milestones in middle age, just decade markers. I’ll be at a new decade two springs from now, and then I’ll write something about it, assuming I’m still here writing three days a week, even though that’s unlikely if you don’t actually email me to tell me you’re ready to buy a house. Come to Lake Geneva, where we have so much spring we can hardly take it! We have sun and rain and wind and green and birds and poppy-eating rabbits, usually we even have them all on the same day.

South Shore Club Lot

South Shore Club Lot

Increasingly, buyers build what they want, where they want, oblivious, either ignorantly or happily so, to the fact that their build is pricing them right out of the market they’ve chosen. This happens on the lake quite often, but it doesn’t matter. If you’re a lakefront buyer and you wish to build a $12MM home that you might someday wish to sell, it might not matter that you’ll only get $8MM for your home.  There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal on this topic, and to spare you the click, it basically explained that if the super rich want a $2MM workout room, or a $1MM master bath, then that’s what the super rich get. In the same way, wealthy folks might buy a yacht for $20MM that they’ll someday trade in for $7MM, assuming they’ve kept good care of it.  This is why the super rich can do what they please; because it just doesn’t matter.

But when you tear down a home in Cedar Point that you paid $300k for, this should be something we first think about. If $300k is the land basis, that’s fine, assuming you’re on the parkway or somewhere otherwise special. If you’re in the back of Cedar Point, that’s nice, but that’s not a location that I’d like to cement $300k in land cost.  Then, with $300k locked, you build the home for another $400k. It’s a nice enough home, after all, and those marble counters aren’t free.  When the house is done your neighbors gather and everyone gushes. They might not have done that black tin ceiling in the kitchen with those red accent walls, but still, they applaud your remarkable, or at least memorable, sense of style. You’re proud, but you’re also $700k into your home, so when you come to me to sell it I’ll get to deliver the news: No one feels like paying over $500k for a far off water home in Cedar Point.

This is why we have to be smart, and we have to be aware of our surroundings. The South Shore Club might have a higher price point than most associations around the lake, but the theory remains. Take into consideration your surroundings and build accordingly.  When I was selling the vacant lots in here like so many free hotcakes, some existing owners were none too pleased. Why would I undercut the market like that? How dare I! But what they didn’t realize was that the market dictated those vacant lot prices based on the ability to resell the built inventory.  When I sold a built home near the pool for $1.8MM, how could the lot next door be worth much more than $500k? If the home cost $1.2-1.6MM to build, the vacant lot couldn’t really be worth $1MM anymore. The market set the prices and we responded accordingly. The result was a market that has since benefited tremendously from market based pricing.

Today, I have another vacant lot in the South Shore Club coming to market. It’ll be available next week, but because you’re smart and aware, you know about it today. The lot will be priced at $649k, and it’ll be the only lot available in the South Shore Club. Because it’s the only lot available, some owners would like to think the lot could be worth $1MM. It’s the only one available! If you want to play ball in this stadium, this is the price you’ll pay! If you can’t afford it, look somewhere else! These are the utterings of sellers who don’t understand markets. These are the words of sellers who would rather price something at an unattainable level because they have failed to separate their intense love of their own property with the actual conditions affecting their property.  I don’t like sellers like that, but I like sellers like this one in the South Shore Club, because our pricing, even when offering something that is otherwise unattainable, makes complete market sense.

So there you have it, the South Shore Club, back in play. If you thought you missed it, you didn’t. Get in now. You could buy some existing house in the South Shore Club, sure, in some boring location with some odd features and strange this mingled with absurd that, or you could buy this lot and make your own retreat.  If you love huge master suites, go for it. If you need a dedicated ping pong room, who am I to argue? If your wife needs a quilting room because she quilts, so does mine! Once, for a few minutes.  Whatever your aim, bring it here. To the South Shore Club, where I’m offering you a mulligan.

The Cartoon Boat Must Go

The Cartoon Boat Must Go

I just love it when firetrucks drive down the road in town. They drive slowly, with their lights on and their water canon blasting. What fun it is to see that triumphant arch of water spray from the slowly rolling truck and onto my lawn!  Sometimes, the fire truck blares through town because they need to practice what it’s like to blare through town. And then they roll up on a house that isn’t on fire and douse it with pumped water.  What a hoot it is when the owner comes out and wonders why his house is covered in water. The firemen just shrug their shoulders and blast away, and the owner smiles and goes back inside. He wouldn’t want to get sprayed!

And sometimes I love it when the policeman races through town and pulls someone over. Was the driver speeding? No. Was the driver texting while driving? No. Did the driver roll through a stop sign without making a complete stop? Of course not. The cop pulled the driver over and then pulled him from his car and read him his rights, then he told him that he was going to jail and so many people driving by laughed. What a terrific example of solid police work! But then the cop told the driver that he was only joking and that he was just practicing and that the driver could go about his business.

Later, the ambulance, sirens roaring, lights flashing, driving with a terrific urgency.  The ambulance is in a hurry, on a mission, heading from here to there to pick up someone who is in distress.  Stop signs ignored, red lights meaningless. The pace is hurried, there’s not much time. But then the ambulance pulls into Burger King and the EMTs get out and laugh. What a fun training mission that was!

It was obvious to most that these were not literal examples of our rescue and police workers practicing their craft.  Yet it seems as though the Linn Township Fire and Rescue Boat doesn’t understand the joke. The cartoonish boat that has been marring my view for the past year is at it again, and it’s getting really, really old. The fireboat takes joy in driving around the lake shooting its water canon. If we were in the Wisconsin Dells, or another similarly cheesy venue, this might be acceptable. But here, on this lake, in this place, the fireboat is not welcome.  Might it someday be needed to throw water onto a burning boat- a boat that would burn with or without the water being pumped over it? Sure. And for that the boat should exist. But should it be spinning around the lake each weekend firing water from its canon so that little children and no one else can find amusement in the feat? Absolutely not.

But they’ll say that I’m a killjoy. That they’re just training, or having fun, or delighting kids.  They’ll say this is necessary. Really? Does the firetruck troll around town shooting water? Does the police cruiser rip through residential neighborhoods with its siren and lights on, just to show the taxpayers what they bought? Does the EMT walk through a park sparking his defribulator paddles together so that kids can enjoy the show? None of these things would happen, yet the fireboat goes out every weekend, cruising around the lake as though the gas it sucks is free, shooting this absurd spout of water into the air.  We get it. It shoots water. Now put it away because it has no place in public view unless its extinguishing a fire.

Yesterday, after a Mother’s Day feast at my house, I took to the lake. I was privileged to catch a ride on the most beautiful boat that this lake has ever seen (with apologies to the steamers of the gilded age). The boat was smooth, sleek, as sexy as a boat has ever been.  That’s the aesthetic of this lake. That’s the style that is at home here.   That’s what people pay some of the steepest prices in the country to experience. And yet, the day before, there was the cartoon fire boat, spraying water into the air as if anyone cares. To the Town of Linn, I implore you to put your stupid boat away. It’s ridiculous, cartoonish and unnecessary. It’s a sideshow on a lake that doesn’t want it. If you object to that classification, remember my example of the fire truck. Would you applaud a firetruck roaming around downtown on summer weekends with its water cannon firing?

If you’re reading this and you agree with me, please email the Town of Linn – linnfire@wi.rr.com and the Linn Chairman – jweiss@townoflinn.com. Tell them we get it, the boat has a canon, now put it away until it’s time to be used.  We don’t want our weekend views interrupted by their cartoonish water display.

Trust Fall

Trust Fall

A sudden twinge of pain. A shallow breath. A pain here, another there. The symptoms of something, but of what? A quick google search reveals what you already suspected. You’re dying. Classical symptoms, classical profile, soon it’ll all be over but the weeping, and there’s a very significant doubt that more than a few will weep. Maybe your mother, but that’s about it. Your kids, sure. They’ll be sad for a while, at least one could hope. The funk sets in, the languid life lived as one who will soon depart from it. The world will go on, and you don’t find encouragement in that fact. It’ll go on, all right, the same as it did today the same as it did the day before, but you won’t be there. The absence won’t be noticed, no one will care. The car passing outside your window right now won’t know if you’re in that office or not. Soon, no one will remember you, unless your friends hold a golf outing in your memory. But that, like all things, will slowly fade and everyone will move on and they’ll be happy that your wife found a new husband, and so quickly and she’s so happy! It’ll be just fine, and the pain comes again and the breath feels shallow and so you nap a tortured nap. Death, soon.

But you don’t do this for long, because you go to the doctor who studied about your pain and your breath and he says you’ll be fine. He says you have anxiety and you’re not really dying at all. For the advice, you’ll owe him money. If you have Humana, you’ll think your insurance will pay for the visit, but they won’t. You take your family to Chili’s. Another year, another near miss. And when your car sputters and the light comes on, you google and find yourself on a message board. The members use words you don’t really know, but you’re smart and you can figure things out. The member forum contributors have names like TieRod (everyone assumes his name is Rod). Others are Sparky (and they assume his nickname is Sparky, but it might only be for this forum, no one knows for sure). The moderator doesn’t even use a name, just V-10. We assume he has one of those BMWs with that size engine. You search for others that have discussed what it is that your car has. You search for the positive, something like, yeah, my car did this and then I did that and now it’s fine.

But after some time you don’t find anything and that sputter persists and the black tape you stuck to the dash glass over the shining cartoon image of the engine has begun to peel and sag. You take the car in to a mechanic named JEFF, the cursive signature stitched into his shirt a reassuring endorsement. He’s been there long enough to have the personalized shirt. The mechanic says your car has a this and a that, something serious, but not fatal. You agree to have him fix it, for a price. When you return to the dealer two days later your car is ready, it’s been washed, the invoice is $870.54. Good, you think, because you had feared it might be over a thousand but it wasn’t. You take your family to Chili’s in your car, the one newly fixed.

You’ll need to sell your house soon. You’re looking to upgrade, to improve, because your health is okay and your car is fixed and it seems like the time is right. You’ll need to sell the house. A Realtor is summoned, the one with her name on the city bus bench. She arrives, a yellow Hummer with her name emblazoned on the side and her face, too. She looks nothing like the photos, but that’s okay because you don’t look like you did 20 years ago, either. You ask for her advice, what’s the house worth? She tells you $375k. Maybe $385k, but certainly not $395k. Your list should be $389k. Start soon, clean the clutter, fix those holes in the drywall, clean up the oil stains in your garage, the drips that dropped from your car before you had it fixed by Jeff. You thank her for her time, for the sweet brochures, and you tell her you’ll let her know.

You toss and turn that night, not because of the shortness of breath and the slight wheeze that the doctor said was nothing, but because you question the advice. Why would this agent tell you $389k? The neighbor once asked $429k for his house. He’s not better than you. The agent must have just wanted to get your house sold immediately, so she under priced it. She wants her commission, that’s really all she wants. Yeah, that’s what’s going on here. You get it. You’re not dumb. You weren’t born yesterday. In fact, when you fill out online things where your birthdate is required you have to scroll way, way down the list. This isn’t your first time. You’re not to be trifled with. Nice try, Realtor lady, but that’s not going to work with you. Those four comps she showed you on your street, and her lifetime of sales and experience, those aren’t going to just steal money from you. When you wake up tomorrow you’re going to find a Realtor with the right number, because that Realtor knows you, and your house, and they know that you once replaced the water heater just because. It wasn’t even leaking!

I get it. Realtors aren’t doctors. We aren’t even mechanics, though shamefully, some Realtors do wear name tags. Realtors aren’t really motivated by a desire to help you with your housing goals, just as a mechanic isn’t motivated to help you with your tie-rod assembly. The mechanic fixes your tie-rod because he wants to make a living. A Realtor works on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights because she wants to make money. She puts pictures on Facebook of a kid running through some lakeside lawn with the title “WELCOME HOME”, because she wants to make money off the emotion. You’re working at your desk today and not laying in bed because today you want to make money. You didn’t buy that stock because you want the company to usher in world peace, you just bought the stock because you liked the dividend and think the stock will appreciate- because you want to make money. Realtors are greedy, you say, they just want to sell your house or sell you that house to make money, you say. Guess what? You’re right. There’s never been a successful Realtor who wasn’t motivated to make the wage that can accompany success in this business. Is that an indictment on the real estate business? That depends, does a printing press operate because they love the thought of people reading the instruction manual that comes tucked into a package of a a wireless router, or does the printing press print those manuals because they are trying to make money?

The real estate business is clouded by the thought that Realtors are representing their financial interests, rather than those interests of their clients. This, in the presence of agents who have not proven themselves honest and effective, can be the case. But this can be the case with the printer, and with Jeff, and with your doctor who prescribed you some medicine that you might not have needed, even though it might help if you actually have that thing you think you have, the thing that makes your breath shallow when you’re nervous. Want to find a Realtor who isn’t very good at their job? Find one that doesn’t find motivation in the promise of wages for success. All this is to say you can’t discount a broker’s advice just because you’re afraid he’s going to make money if you listen to him. That’s the way the business has been structured. If you’d rather pay me hourly for my time, I’m happy to discuss a fee-based arrangement. But you know what would happen then? You’d assume that open house I’m doing is just a ploy to bill you for my time.

Lake Geneva Mexican Food

Lake Geneva Mexican Food

Growing up, I ate some tacos. Not a lot of tacos, just some. They came in one variety. Ortega hard corn shells stuffed with ground beef that had been mixed with some taco seasoning.  Then some shredded cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce and maybe, just maybe, some diced tomatoes. I didn’t like tomatoes until adulthood, and I still can’t eat a large raw piece of stand-alone tomato, so it seems to me as though I wouldn’t have added the tomatoes then, either.  These were our tacos, and they were pretty good. So good in fact that Taco Bell built an empire around the recipe. Norwegian-German kids from Williams Bay loved their mother’s tacos and they loved their Taco Bell.

But these are not tacos. There is no seasoning called “taco”. Taco is not a flavor, no matter what Dorito’s and Ortega would have you believe. My first real taco showed up sometime about 15 years ago, but I didn’t enjoy them then the way I enjoy them now, which is to say, too much. Tacos now are authentic, made with just corn tortillas and some meat and some scratch-made salsa. Maybe some hot sauce of Mexican origin. Maybe some sour cream. Onions and Cilantro, that’s it. These tacos are real tacos. They’re good tacos, and fortunately for you and for me, they’re everywhere around Lake Geneva.

Mexican Restaurants in Lake Geneva are not like Mexican restaurants in Chicago, at least not like the ones we’ve all heard of. Xoco is fine. Big Star is, too. Antique Taco, good stuff. None of our taco places are like those taco places. Our taco places do not smell the best. They smell like raw meat and the exterior of avocados. There’s an imported smell in these taco stands, and it’s not one you’d bottle if you had a choice. They say food looks and tastes better when served on a white plate, in a green room, with the smell of something neutral in the air and dimmish lights. This is not what you’ll find in our taco establishments. What you will find is authentic Mexican fare, cooked by Mexicans, eaten mostly by Mexicans, and if you’re lucky enough to wander into one, you’ll find simple tacos that stand up to anything Rick Bayless can turn out.

If you drove around Lake Geneva, Walworth, Elkhorn or Delavan, these taco places, excepting one (Los Agaves), wouldn’t stand out. They don’t say TACOS on the sign, with some hipstery font and old timey graphic. They just say something in Spanish, and there’s a store front that’s typically stacked with so many things you can’t see inside. Middle shelf, refried beans by the can. Top shelf, pots and pans, bottom shelf, rendered lard. In between, some swim shorts and maybe a small guitar, the kind tourists strum when vacationing beachside in Cozumel.  There is no real effort here to make you want to come inside the shop.

But you must. Because inside is a grocery store and a restaurant, mixed together carelessly, but purposefully. There might be four tables, maybe three, maybe 12. The sound of a griddle griddling will greet you at the door, along with that aroma that you’d rather not meet. But this is just the subterfuge, and this is what keeps vacationers out of these establishments.  What out-of-towners don’t know is that if they pass these up in favor of another burger joint, the joke is on them. Just like Pier 290’s scene justifies the visit, the taqueria’s food makes up for the lack of scene.

With that, and in honor of Cinco de Mayo,  the Lake Geneva area’s best Mexican restaurants:

 

Lake Geneva

 

UNNAMED MEXICAN GROCER. I don’t know what this place is called. It’s on Broad Street, a few blocks north of downtown, right next to RRB Cycles.  Tacos are best, with burritos a close second. The Pastor and Steak, mexican style with avocado is the best call.

Tienda El Racho. This is on Elkhorn Road, north of town, across from Geneva Auto Body. It’s good.

 

Walworth

 

La Mexican, on the square in Walworth.  In addition to serving terrific tacos out of their restaurant, this is the best Mexican grocer in the area. Lots of fresh produce, and like all Mexican grocers, somehow they sell limes 10 x $1.  They’re lime suppliers are the best, and cheapest. If I’m making Mexican food at home, you can bet I’ll be shopping at La Mexicana first.

 

Williams Bay

 

Lucke’s is not a Mexican restaurant, no matter the menu. It’s fine, but that’s not the sort of place I’m talking about.
Delavan

There are many taquerias here, but only one favorite. The grocery store Supermecado is very good, very complete. I get their Pastor to cook at home sometimes. But the taco place I prefer is Los Agaves. It’s more of a restaurant than the others on this list, and that makes it more approachable. The chicken tacos served Mexican style with their house salsa is the way to go. Don’t do something stupid and order a quesadilla. Both are on the main brick-paved drag downtown Delavan.

 

Elkhorn

 

Supermercado is at 28 South Washington. It has the same name as the place in Delavan, but I have no idea if it’s the same owner, or just a geographic coincidence. This place has burritos that are my favorite. Opt for the chicken or steak.

 

Dining out this summer? Don’t be silly and fear the unknown. Hit up Lake Geneva’s authentic taquerias, and you’ll be pleased.

 

 

Geneva National Value

Geneva National Value

I’ve spent a fair amount of time this year in Geneva National. I’ve shown most of the houses that are on the market inside those gates. I’ve generally been underwhelmed.  Many of the houses are older now, in need of kitchens or baths, paint and trim. They have bright shiny brass this and oak that. They’re just not right anymore. Sellers have been a problem, too. They’ve been stubborn, acting like they haven’t a care in the world and that if this buyer fails to come up the minuscule 1.5% to match the seller’s number, well then the seller stands his ground and lets the deal fold. This has happened twice this year, and in both instances the offending seller is still offering his home for sale. Sellers are being foolish in GN, but this is mostly the situation for sellers of the single family homes. They’re unwilling to recognize that their 2006 valuations still have nothing to do with their 2016 valuations. But alas, Geneva National offers redemption.

And it isn’t found by way of the single family homes, it’s found in the lower priced condominiums. Those units at the Lakelands, the Woodlands, the Highlands, yes, the names are repitious and boring, painfully so, but there is value to be found. Consider the broad Lake Geneva vacation home market is, by my keen eye, still between 10-20% off the prior cycle highs. This number is the broad measure, as certain homes have appreciated beyond their highs, and other homes are still off as much as 30%.  Markets are unfair, and a rising tide might life all ships but the truth is that some ships are more buoyant than others. Some have leaks.  In Geneva National, the market has rebounded nicely, and 2015 booked a huge number of transactions, but still, value abounds.

A nice enough Woodland unit sold in 1992 for $119,900. That unit is available today for $136,900. It isn’t a stretch to assume the seller will lose net money on that sale, even after 24 years of ownership. Another Woodland unit sold for $219,900 in 2006, at what would have likely represent the peak for GN in the last cycle. The market in GN started fading before the rest of our market did, with a strange feeling starting in 2007. That same unit is offered today for $149k. Lest you think I’m a Woodland abuser, a Lakeland unit currently listed for $175k first sold for $200k. In 1992. That’s 24 years, a span where something on the lake might have appreciated 400%, and in GN, this unit is losing significant money after such a long period of ownership.

Why does this look bullish to me? Why would I not take the opposite approach and say that GN just can’t hold it together over a long period of time and as such should be avoided? Because of the market conditions that show us which sort of properties are being replaced. See, the reason I’m anti-development is because of what mass development does to the existing housing stock. If you own a $199k vinyl ranch in Elkhorn, congratulations. Your $199k vinyl ranch was likely $199k in 2000 and it’ll probably be $199k in 2020. That’s because they can keep building small $199k vinyl ranches on cheap farm land until the end of time. In Geneva National, they’re no longer building 3 bedroom 2 bath condominiums for $149k. The newer stock, excepting the complicated Cobblestone Court, is generally $250k and up. That’s because it doesn’t make much economic sense to try to flood the market with $169k brand new condominiums. And because of that, your $130-240k condo purchase in GN is likely a very good, rather safe, idea.

Yes, some of the older buildings are GN are subject to special assessments as they repair and replace the cedar siding that has given out over time. This is unfortunate, but it’s a fact of condominium life everywhere. The pure condo model wherein the owner pays a little bit of money each month into a collective fund so that when the roof needs to be replaced they have money; that’s a sweet, tender concept. But what actually happens in most cases is the owner pays in every month and then when  major capital project needs to be completed, the owner is special assessed to pay for it. In that, the condo model is dead. But as long as the condo buyer knows this in advance, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Most specials are amortized conveniently and will not represent too much hardship for the assessed owner.

So today, consider Geneva National. If you like the houses there, terrific, so do I. Except the brass and oak ones, most are offered at or below replacement value, giving little reason to consider a new build there as long as this overhang of housing stock exists. Look to the older condominiums, the ones that need some paint and trim work, and maybe some new counters and appliances. Those are the units that can be bought right, and those are the units that represent value even in this well performing market.

A Walk

A Walk

I walk these woods. Those woods. New woods and old woods. Your woods and my woods.  I walk them all. I walk them in the rain. My mood on pause. I wish for little but search and search and search. Is it this journey that I find so appealing?  Would a walk be a good walk if only for the walk itself? I cannot believe in that futility. Walking is only accomplishment if it takes you from someplace and to another, as if a wanderer lost who after a lifetime of walking has finally found something. I don’t know if I’ll find that something today, but I’ll walk anyway.

From above, or from a distance of any variety, there is no rhythm to my walk. It makes little sense. Has something been lost that absolutely must be found? Is this search one of life or death, or is it a search of whim, meaning nothing outside of the time spent? The walk this week was in the rain. My boots were muddied, and these were new boots. New boots wouldn’t normally be brought along in the rain and the mud, but the walk matters to the boots just as it matters to me. Boots left clean in closets aren’t really boots at all. These new boots carried me, or I carried them, through the brambles and through the mud and around those trees and on that walk. The rain soaked my shoulders and soaked my head and soaked my new boots. After some walking, they were new no longer.

I never know what to wear on this walk. I wear a shroud of mystery if you consider the viewpoint of passing strangers. What would he be doing in there? Why would he find that walk to be so necessary, and why now? Why in this rain and with those boots and under those Lilacs that have just now, in this cloudy damp, bloomed?  I wonder, too, why I must do this, when the walk is often fruitless, the thoughts narrow and the mud deep. The boots dirtied and worn and wet. I opt for jeans, a shirt, a jacket, something dull in color like the sky and the ground and everything except those blooms on the Lilacs that are early.

The Lilacs tell us the bass will be in soon. They tell us the bite will be on, though the warden tells us the fish cannot be targeted and they shouldn’t be caught. Catch and release doesn’t matter when it’s a no catch season. Once you’re not allowed to catch, the release is a given, and the latter doesn’t disallow the prior. The Lilacs bloom and the bass bite and I walk these woods. It’s this week, it was last week, it will be next week. I’ll walk this walk alone in the rain, and with my son in the rain. He’s come so far, so fast. He’s become what I wished he would become. He walks the woods, his younger mind sharper, his eyes focused, fresh. Mine are weary and aged, duller than I’d like them to be.

But walk we must. Because we have morels to find. We have ramps to dig. My son has orders to fill. It’s morel season in Wisconsin, and we’ll keep walking until we find them.

Summer Homes For City People

Summer Homes For City People

When I first hatched this idea to write and print a self aggrandizing magazine, I ran the concept past my father. I told him what I’d do, and as he sat in his chair watching the news in the distance, I could tell that he didn’t get it. When he said, I don’t get it, I was certain it was a good idea. Later, I told a friend of the idea. This wasn’t an old friend, but a new friend, which was good, because an old friend might find cause to support a new idea purely out of kindness. The new friend asked what would be in the magazine. Stories that I’ve written, I replied. He laughed and mocked, which is likely what I would have done if someone told me the same. Still, I printed that first magazine that was more like a pamphlet, and seven years later, I’m about to print that magazine again.

Much like this blog, the magazine has become a blessing and a burden. The magazine helps me, it helps the properties I represent, and it helps the area. It showcases the best of what we have to offer, and without any other market allegiances vying for attention, I’m able to produce a Lake Geneva magazine focused solely on Lake Geneva. There is no other magazine in the market that does what my magazine does. Yes, that’s congratulatory, but when you work in an office by yourself, self congratulation is a necessary action.  The magazine is also a burden, because when you have 84 pages to fill and no one to help fill them, it becomes a task of herculean proportions. Soon, though, the magazine will be complete and then it will print and then I’ll hand it out and only then will I find out just how many accidental grammatical and spelling errors fill the pages. Somewhere, just somewhere, like finding Waldo in a clouded picture, you’ll find where I’ve written THE when I had intended to write THIS. Proof reading only works when your brain doesn’t automatically fix read mistakes.

The magazine, as of this morning, is nearly complete. Bruce Thompson has elevated the photo game, an example of his fine work is below. There are last minute photos to add, on account of too many winter listings and an intense desire to leave wintery things out of a summer magazine. There are still ads to finish and at least one ad to sell. By the way, do you know anyone that might want to buy an ad from me? @Properties and Keefe aren’t allowed and neither are bowling alleys in Burlington, or theaters in Whitewater. Speaking of other magazines and promotional bits, stock photography of Maine and of sandy Lake Superior beaches have no place in my glossy. But everything else might be fair game at this point. The cover of the new issue is above, and yes, it looks like the other covers. That’s sort of the point. No one has ever picked up a copy of Gray’s Sporting Journal and bemoaned the cover looking similar to the last.  For sellers, there might be one spot open to have your home featured in this new issue, alongside some of the most beautiful and impressive properties to ever hit the market here. If you want to have your Lake Geneva home positioned near other Lake Geneva homes, my magazine is your only option. Other magazines feature Lake Geneva next to Lauderdale, which leads me to ask the next obvious question. Lauderdale who?

But the magazine hasn’t just been important for me and for the market, it’s been important for other magazines, too. For instance, did you catch my story in last year’s issue about  Morel hunting? If you missed it, no matter, because another Lake Geneva real estate magazine just ran a similar story.  If you miss something in my 2016 magazine, don’t worry, because if you wait long enough you just might find the same article, minus the good parts, in another local glossy. For now, a sample of the new issue, and a promise that I’ll do my best to make it a terrific issue.  Look for it by Memorial Day Weekend on newsstands around Lake Geneva or wherever cool things are found.

2016 SHFCP sample

 

Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

I have lots of brushes. I have small brushes and smaller brushes, medium ones, too. I have huge brushes, trust me, there’s no problem with my brushes. I have great brushes, the best. Other people, not so many brushes, sad. But still, these brushes of mine are varied and I store them not in a wide-mouthed jar labeled BRUSHES, THE BEST, but in my mind. These aren’t real brushes, you see, they’re just the sort of brushes that I use to paint these insights into this market. I use them as I attempt to explain what’s going on here, what you’re part of or what you’re missing out on. If you want to know about my brushes, I assure you there’s no problem. Today, let’s use the yugest brush I have. Let’s talk macro. Other agents can’t use this brush, it’s too big. Sad!

The market today is active. Across the board, active. My development loving friends will say, A HA!, but when the new development market is active that just means there’s a single house being built in that empty subdivision behind Reek School, which means there will be four homes there. Out of 35 total lots. So, no, the development lovers out there are still out of luck even though the market has reached some form of normalcy and activity is widespread. The primary home market is buzzing. A quick glance at neighborhood and towns that I don’t deal with shows an incredible amount of sales activity in the $90k to $250k range, so let’s be happy for that but let’s not be too excited because the primary market here means very little to the vacation home market.

The entry level lake access market on Geneva is performing wonderfully this year. Five of the 23 lake access homes priced under $400k are pending as of this morning. I’m sure there are others that aren’t properly labeled in the MLS. Six of the 34 lake access homes priced from $400k to $1MM are pending as well. That’s not a tremendous number of pendings in that segment, but it’s not terrible.  The market is lacking inventory of homes with boatslips in the  $450k to $850k range, so if you’re a buyer looking for something like that I feel your dissatisfaction. If you’re a seller who owns something like that, let’s talk about it. Overall, there’s a high degree of buyer activity in that range but mostly boring inventory that has been on the market for quite some time. What we could use is some new inventory in Oak Shores, Lake Geneva Club, Shore Haven, and the likes.

The co-op market on the lake has been quiet of late. There’s a single home available in the Congress Club, though that home is priced more like lakefront than association, so it’s a bit outside the bounds of what a typical co-op buyer seeking out inventory in the Harvard Club, Belvedere Park, and the Congress Club might be hoping to find. The other associations haven’t a single available property, though there may be one coming back on in Belvedere Park soonish. The Harvard Club had a private sale last year, so that’s good for them. Remember, if you’re a buyer hoping to find something in one of these clubs, you’d be wise to let me know so I can try to free something up for you. I’m the leading broker in these co-ops over the past seven years, so no one has the inside track like I do if we’re talking co-ops at Lake Geneva.

Last year at this time, the entry level lakefront market was chock full of inventory. Today, that inventory has sold off. There are just two true lakefront homes on the market under $2MM this morning, and that’s a rather shocking situation.  The lowest price lakefront is my listing for $1.475MM on Lakeview in Linn Township, that super-cute cottage owning 50 feet of frontage, a traditional H-slip canopied pier, and a rare boathouse at the water’s edge. The only other home with private frontage under $2MM is on the tippy top of Cedar Point, that listed just under $1.6MM.  This development is good news for listings like my one-off lakefront on South Lakeshore Drive listed for $1.395MM (photo above). That’s a home that plays like lakefront, but isn’t technically lakefront, though you’d be forgiven for repeatedly assuming it is. That’s a home that I feel is poised to sell really right at the moment, so a buyer looking for lakeside fun would be keen to consider that property.

The rest of the market is somewhat interesting. This morning the MLS shows just two lakefront homes pending sale, and both of those are to buyers that I’m extremely happy to represent. Both properties are on Lackey Lane, so there’s just one Lackey Lane opportunity left. The market has some offers being considered, and there are properties that are the object of much attention (my new listing at 976 South Lakeshore, for one), so I’d expect something to pop in the next month or two and we’ll see several more lakefront contracts come together. Last year the lakefront market was very slow until mid summer and then finished with a remarkable flurry that saw our lakefront sold numbers push to record highs. That’s volume, not prices, so if you’re of the “it’s too expensive already so I missed out” opinion, then you’re not looking at the right information.

With that, my brushing is complete. I will return my brushes to their storage container, which I promise you is the best. There’s no problem with my figurative brushes and their figurative storage container. The losers who suggest there’s a problem are just jealous of my many different brushes. Sad!

New Ideas

New Ideas

I can’t imagine a life where I am forced to sell terrible real estate. Real estate itself, the business, is bad enough, but if I were forced to sell things that were ugly or otherwise horrible, I shudder to think of that life.  Somewhere, in some town, right now, a Realtor is waking up to his schedule. He has six showings today, all properties in the $90k range, because $100k is just too much. If he’s lucky today and he sells one, in two months time, after working through the inspection issues and considering the lender hangups, he’ll close on that $88k sale. If things go well, he’ll make a paycheck of $2112. Then he’ll split that gross with his office, and he’ll walk away with $1372.80. They won’t round up. He’ll pay taxes on the income and when all is said and done, he’ll have a little change in his pocket for some of that first morning, before the check is spent and he’s hunting down the next one. This is real estate in America.

So yes, I’m lucky. I’m fortunate to have a client base that owns some of the most amazing lake properties here, which are some of the most amazing lake properties anywhere. I have buyers that count on me to guide them through this inventory, and I have other buyers that I haven’t met yet who are reading this and should, as of pretty much right now,  make an introduction so I can help fix their summer. But in this mix of lakefront and lake access properties there are other things that I do as well. Not things that I do often, nor things that I do particularly well, but other things. That’s why I brought over another agent to work with me on these other sorts of properties that haven’t, until now, been right for me. Vicki Hansen is my new licensed assistant, and she’s here to help with the condo buyers and listing projects that I’ve previously been poorly servicing.  She’s nice, so if you’d always thought about working with me but then thought, sheesh, this guy seems like a super huge jerk, then email me anyway and I’ll let Vicki work with you.

With the addition of Vicki I’ve been able to add some off-water inventory that I find interesting.  One such property just came to market yesterday, and it’s in the picture above. It’s called Simera, which means something, though what exactly I’m not sure. It’s a modern retreat overlooking the hills south of  the lake, and it’s an absolutely dynamite house.  A decade ago I wouldn’t have liked this house, I admit it. I would have thought it to be too modern, too unsymmetrical, too something else. But now I’m enamored with it, and Dwell magazine agrees. It’s a house that was designed by its owner, who is also a well known architect. It’s a new house nestled in between two original silos, and in that, there is the mix of old and new, of conventional and modern. Of form and function. At $625k, it’s not expensive.  It’s a country property that’s just a few minutes to the lake, so someone could have their country retreat, with fields of wheat and beans waving in the distance, but still make a quick jaunt to the Lake Geneva Yacht Club for Friday fish fry. It’s both things, and it’s worth a look.

Below, another new listing. This of a vintage four square in downtown Lake Geneva. The Maple Park District is just off the lake, and it’s home to many of these original Lake Geneva structures. This one is a brick fortress, with original details and finishes, updated with new this and that over the years. There’s a robust lake view, an easy saunter to town for morning coffee or evening appetizers.  It’s a home for those who love vintage things, who find peace in the age of it all. It’s an exciting location, near town and across from the lake, but the perennial gardens that the owner has nurtured over the years has left this place feeling like an oasis in the middle of an otherwise bustling resort town. Consider this property at $699k to be a way to delve into our scene without completely breaking the bank.

976 Main Street

Below, something else. Something more affordable. This four bedroom home on Jewell Drive is just up the street from Pier 290 in Williams Bay. It’s not fancy. It doesn’t have dedicated lake access. But it’s newer and nice and $289k, and you can walk to dinner and walk to the boat and walk to town and then, when you think you’re done for the day, you can walk somewhere else. It’s close to everything in the Bay, and that used to mean very little. But now,  with the addition of Pier 290, you can walk there, and you can hang out there, and that place can essentially function as your lake access.  This is an easy house, with three finished levels, a private back yard deck, and that convenient access to all lake things. If you have friends in the Loch Vista Club, Oakwood Estates, or Summer Haven,  that’s good, because this is wedged in between all of those associations and you can be close to those friends, without being on top of them.

Jewell Drive Williams Bay

 

Below, another interesting bit. This property is just $549k, offering 5 acres at Black Point Farms. It’s super close to the lake, but possesses no dedicated lake access. The Owl Tavern is close, with their smoked meats both delicious and tempting. The house is large, the property ample, the opportunities endless. That’s not entirely true. There are ends to these possibilities. For instance, if you wished to open a Bed and Breakfast here, I could not help you with that.  Otherwise, the opportunities for someone searching for a lake house that offers up plenty of room to breathe, those are endless here. It’s as these others, different but close, easy to join in on the lake fun but at the end of a lake based day there is a quiet retreat here waiting for you. Five rolling acres worth on Maple Ridge Road.

Maple Ridge Road Home For Sale

These are some of the properties we’ve been bringing to market of late, and as you can see, they’re varied, they’re interesting, and they’re all available for summer 2016. The thing about summer 2016 is that it’s right around the corner. Lurking, sort of, but really just standing there in plain sight. There’s no secret to this arrival. There’s no trick to understanding what’s about to happen. It’s just another summer in a lifetime of summers, but it’s the first summer that you can fix. If you’re reading this from a desk and you’re looking forward to brunch tomorrow morning, then your life makes me exceptionally sad.  Any of these homes can fix that, and I’m here to help.

New Loramoor Listing

New Loramoor Listing

Sometimes, 50 feet of frontage just won’t do. It’s tough for me to write that, but it’s true, and the market has proven it true time and time again. If you have a certain budget, let’s say somewhere under $2MM, you will generally aspire to lakefront. This is good. This should be your goal. But lakefront under $2MM can be difficult, troublesome, remarkably underwhelming. That’s why buyers often turn to the off water market in hopes of finding something in this range, and many times, they find something reasonably nice.  They find a cool house with a pool, like my sale last summer in the mid $900s on Main Street. Or they find a super fantastic house for $2.2MM without a pool and without a slip, like the one that sold in Knollwood last year. Or they find a house without a pool but with a slip, and they pay $1.35MM for it because it’s sort of nice and they like it, which was the case recently of a sale off Maytag Point.  Buyers don’t always want private frontage, because they want more house or more land or more charm than lakefront on a budget can offer.

Loramoor Lake Geneva

Good thing for these buyers, because I just listed a new property in Loramoor.  Loramoor is a fantastic association, whether on water like my vacant 110′ lakefront lot ($2.34MM, buy it and be smart), or if you’re off water in one of the association homes.  But while off water has some association homes, and they are all desirable and generally worth $1MM+, they are not all created equal.  My newest listing is at W3036 South Lake Shore Drive, in Loramoor. That address should tell you something. This home isn’t inside the association off the primary drive, rather it’s located directly off of South Lakeshore, with 3.3 manicured acres and a private gated entrance. This home has nothing to do with association living as we know it at the lake. This home is an estate, with a house and grounds that qualify the lofty assignment. At $1.895MM, it can be yours.

Loramoor Lake House

The property itself does tell much of the story. There’s the brick pillared entry with gate, the private drive, the 3.3 private acres. But there’s also a detached garage, measuring at least 3 cars worth with a finished upper level for use as an office or bunk room or studio, should you be an aspiring artist. There’s an in-ground pool surrounded by an intensely large stone patio. There’s an outdoor kitchen with grill and refrigerators and enough counter space to entertain as many people as you see fit. There’s that lawn, that huge, sprawling lawn, and there’s a water fall feature that you’re not expecting. The small playhouse is finished as well as many homes that I sell, though it’s small, so it’s a playhouse, and it’s doubtful your children or your friends’ children will appreciate the wainscoting on the ceilings.

The house itself is roughly 5000 finished square feet, with six bedrooms and five bathrooms and a three car attached garage.  The house is formal in design, but supremely functional as a lake house for a large group of family and friends. The kitchen is appointed nicely with SubZero and granite.  It opens out to a breakfast room, which opens to a screened porch, which commands a spectacular view of the pool and grounds.  The upper level is loaded with bedrooms, some owning their own bathrooms. The master is on the main level, which is good in the event that your knees have been bothering you. The lower level is a game room with wet bar (for easy pool service), and of course there’s a bedroom and bath down there as well. The space walks out to that backyard where the action is.

Loramoor House With Pool

But this isn’t just a nice house on a nice lot somewhere near the lake. It’s a house that’s part of Loramoor, so I have a transferable slip here and a slight lake view from the property. If you’ve thought about lakefront here, or looked for something off water under $2MM, this is the house that you should come see. It’s unlike anything in our market, and it’s ready for immediate use. Summer is coming, and it’s coming soon. Ready or not.

Instant Summer

Instant Summer

As I understand it, when the temperature drops in Florida panic ensues. Someone rushes to the store to buy supplies. Another person hurries out to throw blankets on the orange trees. Some old woman goes to the store to buy plastic so she can cover up her garden flowers that look the same in January as they do in July.  Jackets fly off shelves, water bottles are scarce, gas lines wrap around palm-tree lined blocks. Things are not as bad as they could be, like when Atlanta experiences gridlock from 1/2 inch of snow, but things are generally very, very bad. This is what happens when the soft people face weather based adversity.

Compare that with those of us who live in this place. Last fall, it was nearly Thanksgiving. We had set out our finest dried corn arrangements and dusted off our turkey based decor. We were ready to celebrate the fall harvest. Then, just days before the fall event, it snowed. It snowed a lot. It was, as I recall, our largest snowfall of the winter and it happened a month before winter was set to start. Did anything strange happen as a result of this strange event? Did we rush to the stores and leave the shelves bare? Did we hoard gasoline in our red containers, expecting things to go from bad to worse?  Or did we all just wake up and go to work, knowing that Thanksgiving would be just fine, if a bit white and a tad wet?

It was pretty nice out last Thursday. Warm, a bit windy, but sunny and pleasant. Friday was more of the same, and while showings homes that afternoon I spied the canopy crews diligently snapping up pier canvas.  Lawn crews bustled and hustled, raking and thatching and fertilizing and mowing. The grass has been green for a while now, but it hasn’t been this green since last August. The harbor has been filling with boats since the middle of last month, but now it’s fuller, and the detailers are hard at work shining and washing and buffing those floating fiberglassed houses. On Friday it looked as though things were working out in our favor, but it couldn’t be forgotten that less than one week before I had been skiing on a thick base of white snow in this same state.

Saturday awoke sunny and calm and finished sunny and calm. In between the same pier crews bolted in their piers while the canopy crews snapped on their canvas. The lawn men raked and mowed and trimmed and mulched. The efforts were smooth and rehearsed, never mind that it’s mid April and in any other year we might not see this sort of pier activity until the first week of May.  By Saturday afternoon the boats began to appear in greater numbers. Sailing scows slowly cut their zigs and zags from one point to another. The powerboats chugged and others raced, some just spun a slow circle around the lake to see what they had missed over the winter that started on that Sunday before Thanksgiving.  New homes have been built, others razed. New pools are going in, patios expanded, landscaping made different, made better.

This exploratory spring ride is necessary for each boat owner, and by Saturday the discovery of spring was well underway. Sunday it continued, more boats, more sun, warmer temps still. Stand Up Paddle boarders plied the water, the women wearing bikinis under that hot April sun. Kayakers paddled their way from one place to another, their peace interrupted only by the slow rolling wake of a Streblow or two. A Lyman heading West, the crew in short sleeves and sunglasses, holding their faces to the sun, reveling in the chance. I sat on those pier chairs above and watched it unfold on that summery afternoon of April. It doesn’t take us long here to ready ourselves for this coming season.  In fact, it doesn’t take us anytime at all. There is no panic. We launch the boats and zinc our noses and begin the march towards the season we wish would last longer than any other. Sure it’s only April, but the best way to enjoy summer is to indulge it the moment it teases us with a warm afternoon and a gentle breeze more befitting August than April.