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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.

 

Sellers, Wake Up

Sellers, Wake Up

I suppose we all pick and choose. We pick the data that supports our positions, whether the decisions involve personal choices or business decisions. We pick the favorable bits, discard the rest, and apply what we like to our situation.  Religion follows this path as well, and many pick and choose the parts of a doctrine that fit their particular version of a particular belief system.  In real estate, buyers pick the data they like, and sellers pick from another pile. In the middle of these two positions lies the truth, but many times a side subscribes to a belief, whether it’s backed by data or not, and they hold solid.

Sellers in this market are making mistakes. They are missing opportunities. They have been fed the words of an increasing market, and they have latched on to a promise. The promise is that the days are now good, but better days are sure to follow. They are walking from deals they should be taking now, because of something that might be waiting for them in the future.  Their behavior is foolish.

If someone walked into your office this morning and offered you a $20 bill, this would be nice of them. If, perhaps 8 years ago, another person had walked into your office and offered you $22 dollars, that was nice of them to do so at that time. You spent all of the years in between looking for that person to come back to bring you $22. The day they brought you those dollars, you feasted like a king at lunch. You ordered the soup AND the salad, and you ordered a lemonade because it was summer and you were thirsty, but also because you had those $22. You were pleased with your $22, but no one had walked up to you with a handful of dollars since.

But this day, you have a new benevolent visitor in front of you, and they have a $20 bill. They are offering it to you.  Their hand holds the crisp bill, their arm outstretched to you. But you waive it off. You say that once someone offered you $22, and if they don’t offer you $22, or perhaps $23 because of inflation being what it is, then you have no interest in their offering. The visitor is confused, and insists, but you are staunch and principled and you decline. The visitor leaves, with their $20. You sit back, content to wait for the next $22 offering.

This is an absurd example, but this is how absurd sellers are behaving in this market. They are making market mistakes. They are missing opportunities. They are taking solid, market rates and turning them away because they believe, based on some news story they read in some newspaper once, the markets are better. In fact, they might even get better next month, too. The demographics, they say. The stock market, they insist. The rising tide is at work lifting all ships, they remind. But they’re wrong. And they’re losing deals left and right because of a stubbornness that will prove to be their undoing.  Certain properties are hot, and they will sell because the market supports their sale but aged inventory is no longer in a position to refuse offers because of a few percentage points worth of argument.

Some would suggest that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I’m not sure I agree. I’d so much rather have two birds, because if I’m super hungry and all I have is one bird, and I have guests coming over for dinner and I know that there is a certain time of the afternoon when I’ll see two birds in that bush, then I’d wait until that time. But a bird in the hand is always worth 1.05 birds in the bush. Sellers have lost their perspective, and as a result, there’s a good chance they’re going to spend much of this year regretting the decisions they made when the year was still young.

New Fontana Lakefront Listing

New Fontana Lakefront Listing

It’s no particular secret that buyers like Fontana. If I have 100 lakefront buyers call me this year, there’s a strong chance that 75 of them may specifically ask to be in Fontana. Why this is I cannot be certain. I grew up in Williams Bay, to the north of Conference Point, to the south of Gage Marine. I pumped gas at Mel’s Gas Pumps. I pumped gas and forgot money, a condition that I only discovered once the last drop of gas was pumped into my father’s Boston Whaler.  Mel was forgiving, so long as I hurried home and hurried back with the few dollars I owed him. I explored the wild woods of Conference Point, and climbed the bent and broken willow that sticks out at a difficult angle from the very tip of that point. Because of this I am familiar with Williams Bay and that familiarity has blossomed into nostalgia and that nostalgia means I would be more inclined to buy real estate in Williams Bay than in neighboring towns.

976 14

Fontana has, for eons, been home to many cottages. Glenwood Springs, Country Club Estates, Buena Vista, Indian Hills- these associations are loaded with homes, many of which used to be rental cottages.  As a result of this, many would be buyers were first introduced to the Lake Geneva scene by way of Fontana. Chuck’s and Gordy’s played a role as well, with many first beers consumed at Chuck’s, and many first boats bought at Gordy’s. This prior familiarity is possibly a reason why people love Fontana. Or it might be the new streets, the new lights, the new beach house, the quaint and tidy nature of it all. For whatever reason, Fontana is king.

 

971 1

 

976 South Lakeshore Drive is just East of Fontana, just East of the original Westgate property, in fact, on the original Westgate property. The tell is the old (but fantastically and beautifully remodeled) cut granite boathouse tucked into the hillside at the water’s edge.  The entry gate is of the same cut granite. The home that resides there is not old, rather it’s somewhat new in the context of lakefront homes on Geneva. It has four bedrooms,  high end bathrooms, an upscale kitchen, a huge lakeside deck, a screened in porch, and a most remarkable view of the lake. A view so remarkable, that upon deciding to list the home with me this week, the owner questioned her own sanity.  Are we crazy to sell this?

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Today, 976 South Lakeshore is on the market for $3,395,000. The home is fresh, clean, updated and ready for summer. The boathouse is at home among the finest on the entire lake, perhaps the finest? The pictures prove the statement.  The pier is large, two slips worth, and the frontage is wide, 142 feet of meandering flagstone shore path providing a clue as to the beginning and the end of it.  Four bedrooms, four baths, a full boathouse with living area and storage, that huge wooden pier, that Fontana location, it’s all unique and rare, but that view, that view is the extra special bit. Elevated just enough, but not too much, this home is, as I mentioned, positioned adjacent the original Westgate home which means the homes to the immediate West are set back, far out of view. The result is a view that extends over that manicured lawn and all the way to the Fontana beach, then again back to the East all the way past Cedar Point to Black Point and beyond. Yerke’s and Conference Point fall in between. Now that’s a view.

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The home won’t be on the MLS until later this week, but today you know about it. You know about it because you have the good sense to read this blog, because you know by doing so you’ll know what the market is doing before the rest of the market does. I’m showing this home today, and I’ll be showing it this weekend as well. If you’d like to have the opportunity to own this piece of the lake, you’d do well to let me know. Here you can walk to Gordy’s for a lazy Sunday lunch, or walk to the Lake Geneva Yacht Club for fish fry.  You could do those things, or you could just sit on that couch and quietly take it all in.

Ski

Ski

I’ve been sitting at this desk for 20 minutes and I can’t think about anything to write about. Not a single thing. Part of the problem is that I’m tired. I’m tired because I had a lot of appointments yesterday, but those don’t make me that tired. Sure, it’s not great fun to have lots of appointments, but if given the option of having too many appointments or none at all, there’s no Realtor worth his or her salt that would opt for the silence of nothing.  It was a good day, if a miserable, cloudy, rainy day. It was a day where people were introduced to the market, people decided to buy here, and others thought about what a life on these shores might be like.

I’m interested to see if this week is indeed the start of some better weather, so that’s preoccupying some of my mind. It’s sunny now, but faded and silvered, and really not entirely bright. But it’s better than yesterday, and that’s probably good enough for now. Will it be 60 soon? Will the forecast hold and will it build and will we someday soon complain that it’s just too hot? Too much, too early, we’ll all say. I would like to say that, because I haven’t said it for a long time and just typing it makes me wish I could say it out loud and mean it. It’s so hot,  I’ll say, and sweat will form on my brow and we’ll all have rosy cheeks because it’s too hot, and we haven’t yet adjusted.

But I’m really just thinking about Saturday now.  On Saturday I took my family skiing to Granite Peak. It’s a nice hill, this Granite Peak. It’s at Rib Mountain, so sometimes people will call the hill Rib and other times Granite, but when you go there and see all the granite you’re probably going to call it Granite Peak from then on. We drove there Saturday morning, and what a beautiful morning it was. We stopped at Starbucks and ordered three breakfast sandwiches, which were really quite good. The kids said so. My wife didn’t order one, but she ate most of mine, so when it was all said and done and we were many miles up the road I decided that next time I’m just going to order her one whether she says she wants one or not.

The hill was tall, and though there was no snow anywhere in sight, the hill was covered in it. Remnant blown snow from when the winter was young, and late fresh snow, the sort that has fallen here and there over the past weeks. It has fallen and stuck to the mountain, the Wisconsin mountain, which is only a mountain in theory, because we know that out West the mountains are big and they’re incredible and it’s always sunny except when it snows, and the powder is deep and Colorado is nirvana and blah blah blah. The day started well, and the day went well. Until 3 pm.

We had all skied the day away, and by 3 it was nearing the time to leave. My son was off, racing up and down, working on sweet jumps, marveling at the skiers and snowboarders who launch themselves into the air as if they’ll be landing in a pit of soft, squishy foam. My wife and I visited him on the far side of the hill, then returned to the small side where my daughter was happily working on her turns. The bunny hill is a good hill, and though she has ventured to the larger hills she prefers the peace and the quiet and the easy living that happens on the smallest hill.

We saw her skiing, and we finished our last run and retreated to the car to change. It wasn’t but a few minutes after we left the hill that the call came over the loud speakers, “David and Michele Curry please report to the nearest patrol station”. It seemed that the tone wasn’t rushed, it wasn’t worried, so my wife went to find out what they wished to see us for. A few minutes later, it was apparent. Our daughter was injured. How injured, no one at the base of the hill knew. Very injured? I guessed not, because the bunny hill is small and what could really happen there? Could she have slipped and cut her hand on the edge of her ski? Did she fall and decide to get a lift down the small hill on the towable rescue sled just because the ski patrol had to follow some protocol?

No. She had fallen and she had broken her leg when the skis didn’t release from their bindings. The night that ensued was not fun, not for her, not for anyone. My son cried from worry. Wausau is a nice enough place, and the hospital was clean and smelled like carrots, but when the day was over and the night had set in, the drive home was still three hours. My daughter was in terrible pain. Intense, searing pain, each bump in the road making for a squirm and a sigh. The night was long and the cries were frequent and the pain medication no where near potent enough. And so the day that started with really good breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks had ended with two broken bones in a 10 year old’s lower leg. She’ll be dealing with the pain for quite a while during this few month recovery, though the prognosis is good and no surgery is required.

As for me, I’m tired and I really can’t think of anything to write about.

Just A Dusting

Just A Dusting

It’s snowing again. And the coffee tasted the same. The man at the corner with the portable Stop sign waved, but he didn’t want to. The FREE AIR at the gas station was still free, the hose coiled on the ground, dirty and wet. Just a dusting. The man on the television said it would be just a dusting, maybe an inch, two tops, but probably just a dusting. That’s what he said last week, Saturday.  The wind blew and blew and the snow came in bands, alternating the sky between bright blue and dark with snow. Just a dusting he promised, but it was more than a dusting, it was an inch.

My car has a low tire. It’s had the low tire for a month, maybe longer. The tire is new, which leads me to believe that there’s a nail somewhere in the tread, maybe a screw. Whatever it is, it’s sharp and it’s stuck in that tire and that’s why I leave the car in my garage most of the time.  I washed the car a month ago, under an intense spring sun, so bright and so big that the water dried on the car too fast and now I have hard water streaks and spots. The snow today will help with that, but the snow might be hard too, even though there’s barely a dusting in the forecast. There’s more than that on the hood of the car already.

The fire is on again. I say it’s on, rather than it’s burning, because it’s a fire for lazy cheats. There’s a gas line under all that soot, and so when I make the fire it’s really just about turning a valve and then sparking a lighter. I bought the lighter at the gas station two days ago, about one month after the last lighter, the winter lighter, gave out. When I bought the lighter I felt nervous, like a kid buying a lighter because I was going to go have a smoke with the cigarettes I found on the side of the road when I was walking home from school. It was spring then, too. So I told the gas station clerk that the lighter was for my fireplace, because I didn’t want her to wonder.

The fire burns but it only burns because of the lit gas. I don’t have kindling here. There’s paper, some of the local one with my name in it because I’m a rebel who doesn’t like mass development when there aren’t masses of people to buy the mass produced vinyl sided product. But I don’t burn that paper because I throw it out. I mean, I recycle it. Yes, I recycle it, that’s what I meant to say. The fire burns wood that came from Black Point, from the back yard of a client’s house where he cuts down small, dead trees and stacks the cylinder-like logs. I load those into my fishing truck that’s really a silver Lexus and I drive those to my office. My son loads the wood into my open storage containers and when he’s done I give him $2.

It’ll snow for a while still, I think. The man on the TV said it was only going to snow for a little longer, but no one believes him anymore. It might snow all day, it might not. It might be like last Sunday when the temperature rose 40 degrees during the day and then started the next morning where it had started the prior one. What sort of warm front only lasts a few hours? I asked the weatherman through his Twitter account but the question stumped him, so he didn’t answer. It’s spring now and it’ll only be a dusting.

Lake Geneva’s Lackey Lane

Lake Geneva’s Lackey Lane

Williams Bay is a big bay. Fontana Bay, also a big bay. Geneva Bay, big.  These are the bays we know from maps and from vernacular and because we know this place.  But there are other bays, small ones, nuanced and slight, formed from the most delicate positioning of the shore relative to the water. These bays are all over the lake, but if you travel the lake exclusively in summer you won’t notice them. Piers have a way of dulling the edges and making the lakeshore appear uniform when as a point of fact it is anything but.

These small bays are really nothing more than drawn out impressions in the shoreline. You wouldn’t sit in a boat and nudge your guests to look to the shore while suggesting that this is, indeed, a fine bay.  There is one such barely bay to the north of Conference Point. The point juts out into the depths and as the shoreline recovers from that trauma there is a gradual bay that curves from that point all the way to a place somewhere around the Oakwood pier. Would you know this bay? Probably not.

Basswood is another bay like this, where boats don’t follow tight to the shore because Black Point makes them want to cut away from shore to by-pass the tall, rocky point. This makes Basswood a preferred stretch for owners, because boats don’t clip the Slow-No-Wake buoys. The water tends to be calmer in these small bays and it might be for that reason alone.

Basswood Lake Geneva

Another bay occurs on Lackey Lane, just West of the Birches. That’s because boat traffic rounds Black Point and rarely pushes South quickly, because the next point created by the Narrows is already in sight.  This creates a boat lane that bypasses near shore adventures and spares the Lackey shoreline from that rush of traffic. In this, there is a secret. Find a spot on the lake in one of these nuanced bays, and you’ll be pleased.
Lackey Lane has historically been low on inventory. That’s because it’s a short, dead end lane, a rare piece of the area that combines uniform, level lakefront with a dead end drive. There are just 11 residences off Lackey Lane, and only 9 if you count the lots that measure approximately three quarters of an acre in depth and 100′ of frontage on the lake.  There’s a beautiful Orren Pickell home on that lane that has been pending sale for several months to a client of mine. That property, listed in the mid $4s, will be marching off to closing soon.

Two other properties on Lackey hit the market last fall, both modest homes, both on those easy lakefront lots. As of last weekend, I have a buyer in place on one of the listings. That’s a buyer who sees the value in Lackey, in the nuance that is a dead end, quiet lane combined with a slight bay on the lakeside, mixed with 100′ of level frontage. That home that’s under contract will be razed to make room for a new home, and in that the transformation of Lackey that began with the Pickell home will continue.

Lackey Bay

Luckily for you, there is one home on Lackey left.  I have that property co-listed, and it’s my goal now to find a buyer who appreciates the unique nature of Lackey Lane. Listed at $2.15MM, it might be one of the best values on the lake right now. The home is dated and a bit rough, but it could easily be renovated and turned into something special. Think about what our local spec home remodeler did to the boring ranch at the end of Geneva Bay Drive, and then apply that sort of polish to this home on Lackey. Or, tear it down and be all-in around $4MM on a street that has proven the ability to support that built value.

Either way, Lackey Lane is calling, and if you’re listening, we should be meeting there this weekend.

Woodhill

Woodhill

By now, everyone knows Basswood. It’s a street on the lake, or it’s the street on the lake, either position is acceptable though the latter is preferred. On a  lake where there’s little uniformity of parcels, it’s obvious that there would be little uniformity of value. A large home here, a small home there. Some giant estate here, a small house next to it, on top of it. There’s not much by way of consistency here, and in that lack of consistency there is character. Like finding anonymity in a crowd, Geneva is a group of different things that all make up a rather magical whole.

But Basswood is one of the last few enclaves of near perfection in design, perfection in purpose, and perfection in execution. The large lots have, for the most part, been spared the subdivider’s stakes. Subdivisions like Oak Shores never broke up the expanse. It’s just a street with large lots, most in the 150-200′ range, and impressive homes. It’s also the street that’s anchored on its Eastern edge by Woodhill.

You likely don’t know this estate. It isn’t in the guide book and the captain of a slowly chugging tour boat won’t point it out. The family that owns Woodhill isn’t named Wrigley or Schwinn or Maytag. They’re just a family that decided many decades ago that this 4 acre wooded parcel on Basswood was a great place to call home. And so it went, a generation raised summering on this shore, on that Basswood shore. A generation spent playing in the woods, slopping through the stream, catching frogs and fireflies and diving from the long, white pier. Life was good at Woodhill for all who had the privilege of calling it home.

Woodhill Basswood Lake Geneva

In the early 1980s it was decided that the old cottage that had played host to so many family weekends for so many years would need to be replaced with something bigger. Something modern. Something better, perhaps, but mostly just something, more. The new house was designed by the owner and his architect, an owner it should be mentioned, who was a contractor and real estate investor who knew his way around a set of plans and a job site. In 1984 the new Woodhill was born of brick and concrete and that cedar shake roof.  The four wooded acres and 205′ of lake frontage now played host to a brand new family home.

The new home was ample, with more than 6000 square feet of living space spread out over three finished floors. There were five bedrooms, five fireplaces (all masonry, all woodburning, of course), and an expansive lakeside patio made of the finest bluestone the owner could find. The house was built to last of flexicore and brick, with two kitchens and two wet bars, and a cherry wood library. Today, the Walnut and Oak floors glisten as new.

Basswood Woodhill Estate

Over the years, another savvy purchase. Lot 12 in the Lindens was available, and adjacent, and 1.5 wooded acres with a transferable boat slip. The lot was purchased to maintain privacy and future opportunities for Woodhill, and today, it might be the only lot of its kind that exists in the Lake Geneva market.  Off water vacant lots exist, but this lot is barely off water, with lake views and that slip and a most exclusive Lindens membership.

Woodhill Basswood Library

Today, it has been decided that Woodhill will be sold. The decision has not come easily, nor has it come joyfully, but it has come. Today, you can be the next steward of Woodhill, a sale that now includes the two tax keys of W4350 Basswood (1.93 and 2.22 acres, respectively), and the 1.49 acre Lindens lot. With 205′ of frontage, 5.65 total acres, and the ability to build another home (possibly two), this is the most compound-ready property to hit the market in years. $6,950,000 is our ask, and for that sum, your family can be the next to own Woodhill. If your ownership turns out to be even half as memorable as the current owners’,  your future generations will thank you.

Ban Words

Ban Words

Apparently, BAE means “Before Anyone Else”. All this time I just thought it meant Babe, but without the B. I thought it was just a time saver that gained popularity with the younger crowd.  Whatever it means, it was recently put on a list of words that we shouldn’t use anymore.  As someone who is nearly always ahead of the curve, I never started using BAE,  so to stop should be rather easy.   Another word we’re no longer supposed to use, according to the anonymous group of pizza eaters who came up with this list, is Nation. It’s not really the word we’re not supposed to use, it’s a particular context.  Cubby Nation, for example, should never be written or spoken, ever again. Badger Nation, Irish Nation, etc. Never again.

It’s nice of people to put these lists together for us. Some people use the lists annually to scrub their resumes, or their LinkedIn page. Others ignore the list and are Tweeting, right now.

Picking up BAE heading to opening day! #RedSoxNation

But we’re not these people, and so we learn and we adjust and we stop using stupid words that should have never been used in the first place. But one group loves using words in strange ways, and that group will never, ever, stop using them. Realtors love words. We love them.  But we only really love the same words, a handful of them, and we’ll use them until the day we die or someone takes our gold blazer from us, whichever comes first.

I have several sellers who hire me because they like the way I write real estate descriptions. They hire me to write something, then I write it, and then they correct it as if it were an 11th grade English assignment.  I had one seller tell me to remove the word “charming” from any description of their home. The home was boring, basic, not old and not new, it was just a house that I thought might do well to aspire to be charming. The seller said that charming was a word used to describe old cottages, and of course we know cottages are always, always, old and rickety, without plumbing, heat, and with the Daily News from 1922 serving as the only insulation. Charming was scrubbed. The home never sold.

And so with that, this: The short list of words we either have to straight away ban, or limit their use to the appropriate context. Bad real estate descriptions must be disallowed.  First up, BREATHTAKING.

Breathtaking Instagram

 

We can’t be doing this anymore. There was no further explanation of how this taking of the breath worked. Did the Colonial seize your breath and then give it back before taking it away again? It wasn’t clear. What was clear was that the property was a $200k type old house without any character or appeal on a lot that you’d never be able to remember if you actually did go see it. I have never had my breath taken away, never. I see kids on TV fall off skateboard ramps and they appear to have had their breath taken away, but none of them would feel the same upon seeing real estate, no matter the estate. So let’s stop using that word, forever.

HISTORICAL. What does this even mean? Is something historical just because it’s old? Is Black Point historical because it’s a point, and we named it black? What does historical mean?  It means, “of, or concerning history”, or “belonging to the past”. Does Black Point belong to the past? In this context, I suppose a super old, super vintage home could be considered historical. But can’t we just call it charming? If General Patton camped in a house before taking the adjacent city, I’ll allow historical to be used. Similarly, if a home was build in the mid 1800s or earlier, I’ll allow it. But a 1984 raised ranch? It can’t be breathtaking or historical, no matter what.

 

Above, a beautiful Lake Geneva sunset. Really nice? Yes. But if it took your breath away please consult your physician, immediately. 

 

Lake Geneva Buyers

Lake Geneva Buyers

I had never written a blog post from the day I was born in 1978 through March 28th, 2007. Then, on March 29th. I wrote one. It wasn’t really a post, it was more of an introduction. But every blog since the beginning of time has started with an introduction. And so that introduction and then some fits and starts and lack of commitment to the idea. Since then, 1531 blog posts have been published here, which is meaningful, I think. If you’re a Lake Geneva buyer and you’d like to know about a certain association at the lake, you could search that association on Google, or you could skip that step and just come to this Lake Geneva real estate blog and search the association. The blog has been somewhat important to my career.

There have been common themes written here.  The first theme is that you’re wasting your life if you’re affluent enough to have a Lake Geneva vacation home and yet you don’t have one. That’s the first and most important theme. The next theme is that if you’re wealthy enough to have a vacation home and you don’t have one in Lake Geneva, then you’re just being ridiculous. The other themes are all sort of spun around those two most important themes. The third theme is that if you are indeed looking at Lake Geneva, then you should be working with me. That’s actually the most important theme, so the other themes are somewhat less important, assuming you care about my children and their future.

Another theme that I’ve often touched on is the desire of sellers to find buyers, and to find them in all the places that they live, the places that they work, the places that they think about Lake Geneva real estate. I’ve oft wished for a new medium, a new place where the buyers hang out, where I might enter and meet them all and them sell them all properties at the lake. But this secret location, this secret medium, it doesn’t exist. I’ve given sellers extreme exposure at times, and yet, when a buyer does materialize the buyer hails from places we already know. The buyer for a Lake Geneva property is usually already in Lake Geneva.

Not that he or she lives here, but that buyer is usually already somehow connected to the lake. Rarely, if ever, has a buyer found an ad in a magazine and decided, based on that introduction to this market, that indeed Lake Geneva sounds like a nice place to spend several million dollars.  The buyer may be aware of the lake, aware of the market, aware of the need to transform his weekends, and that ad may push him over the top, but that ad was rarely, if ever, the initial catalyst for the purchase. I deal with this often.

And it got me thinking, where do these buyers come from? Who are these buyers? Where do they live? Why are they here? Thankfully, these are questions that I can answer. I wouldn’t have asked them if I couldn’t. In the past 36 months, there have been 60 (MLS)  Geneva lakefront and lake access sales over $1MM. There have been another 12 lakefront and lake access lots (several in the South Shore Club) closed over $500k. That’s 72 sales in 36 months, and that’s a pretty large sample size. So where do these Lake Geneva buyers call home?

That’s kind of a tricky question, as I can only look at the address where the tax bills is mailed, which is, more times than not, the location of the new owners primary home. Sometimes the tax bill goes to an attorney or an accountant, but rarely. 11 of the 72 times the tax bill is being sent to the Lake Geneva address of the home they bought here, but does that mean 11 of the 72 buyers are primary owners? Of course not. Of those 11, I would estimate just three are actually calling their Lake Geneva address their primary. So what of the other 61?

Eight are in Chicago proper. Four in Barrington. Four in Hinsdale. Two in Wilmette, two in Winnetka.  Three in Naperville, two in Lake Forest, two in River Forest.  Three buyers call Texas home, four are from Florida, one from Hermosa Beach, California.  Of the 61 properties that don’t list the property address on the tax bill, two are from other parts of Wisconsin, eight are from Florida, Texas, and California, and the remainder, the overwhelming majority, are from Illinois. None of this should be a surprise.

Then again, there is one tax bill sent to Marseilles. That’s by Ottawa. In Illinois.

 

Barron’s Top 20 Second-Home Resorts

Barron’s Top 20 Second-Home Resorts

When the Chicago Tribune talks about vacation homes, it likes to talk about South Carolina. And then also about Uruguay. If not those, then Arizona, maybe Florida. Sometimes, Michigan. Other times, Door County. Once in a while Green Lake. Other times strange lakes in strange places that I’ve never been to. If the Chicago Tribune is doing the writing, then the elephant in the room is Lake Geneva. It’s so close and so known, they’d rather just ignore it. For their shame.

Barron’s is headquartered in New York. That’s a far distance from here when measured in miles, but really it’s farther than that.  I subscribe to Barron’s for no other reason than I once subscribed and I now subscribe annually when I notice they’ve billed my credit card again. I should probably cancel my subscription, but I can’t now. I can’t because the fine New Yorkers at Barron’s like Lake Geneva.  They like like us.

Last week, the Barron’s Top 20 Second-Home Resorts was published. Never mind that the title is clunky and actually  makes very little sense, we’ll just accept the accolades and bask in our nationwide importance. In this report, the super-intelligent, savvy folks at Barron’s compiled 20 top vacation home markets, and they ranked them based on something that’s not entirely clear. Some proprietary combination of something with another something, divided by a few, averaged and then stacked in order.

Number 1 on the list, Austin, Texas. Austin sold 568 homes priced over $1MM, which is incredible and should be congratulated. But Austin is also being overrun by Californians, so we know that Austin won’t be weird for long, it’ll just be strange. Next on the list, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We’re runner up really, silver medalists on a national stage.  Here we were, just minding our own business, when New York decided that this little town in fly-over country is worthy of their list.

The snippet on Lake Geneva explained that our market is hot, up 10% over the past year. They told the country what we already know, that our market is exclusive. That’s it’s rare and it’s hot and it’s only for the discerning.  Then they talked about other, lesser markets, like Park City and Vail and Hamptons and Lake Tahoe. But these are all the unimportant places in the country. Perhaps they could all try harder next year to dethrone us from second place.

I wish they would have interviewed me for the article, but they didn’t. They might have called, but if BARRON’S shows up on my caller ID I’m going to assume it’s related to the subscription that I’ve forgotten to cancel for 10 years, and I wouldn’t have answered it anyway. They did mention the $6MM Stone Manor unit, which is my listing, so in a round about way I was mentioned.

The author accurately noted that our sales volume was up 30% from 2014, and that there’s roughly 2 dozen lakefronts for sale is correct (the actual number is just 19 today). But in that there is a common mistake made. Stating that our market appreciated 10% over the past year is simply incorrect. It’s incorrect because in low volume markets there’s nothing accurate about averaging any given year’s worth of sales and assuming that the resulting tally is somehow an indicator of appreciation, or depreciation. That’s because low volume markets offer too many variables to be constrained by the simple math of averages.

Last year, Geneva printed 11 sales over $2.4MM, including five sales over $3.79MM. In 2014, we closed just 3 sales over $2.4MM, and 2 over $3.79MM. That 10% price appreciation you’ve heard about? It didn’t actually happen, we just sold more higher priced homes relative to the year prior. Sure, the market was up, and I’ve guessed it was up around 5%. Why is the number a guess and not an accurate reflection of the data? Because the data is too easily skewed, and my guess is based on the nuance that makes this market what it is. What is it? The #2 resort market in these United States.

Michigan failed to make the list, but if Barron’s would just agree to do the Top 10,000 Second Home Resorts, I’m confident Michigan will make the cut.

For Sale Lake Geneva

For Sale Lake Geneva

When you sell a car, you can sell it one of two ways. You can either sell it because you’ve already bought another car, one that you now love very much. When you have a new car, the old car is no longer important. Who could want two cars unless one is a truck and another is a go-fast sports car? Or perhaps if one is a bumbling SUV and the other a sedan, that might be okay. But for this purpose we have one car that’s older and another one that’s newer, and they’re the same sort of car. No one needs two Dodge Intrepids. No one.

And so one is sold. It’s put out at the road with a sign in the window, or it’s put online, with some pictures and a short description:  I bought a new Intrepid. This is the old Intrepid. No further explanation would be needed. Everyone would understand. And so, because you have tow Intrepids and one is new, you sell the old one. $4200. You let it sit at the road or online for a few weeks. Someone who doesn’t even own one Intrepid offers you $3500. It’s less than you want, but you sell it because you have two and one is old.  This is one of the ways to sell a car.

The other way is to sell a car that you don’t really want to sell. It seems odd, but this sort of sale happens all the time. The car is worth $4500, but you list it for $5900 thinking that if someone is silly enough to buy it, you’ll sell it. And so that car sits and sits but your price stays firm. $5900 OBO. The OBO is only out of habit, because only serial killers write FIRM next on a car window sign. No one bites. No one looks. Your car sits at the road and it rots online, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because you like that car and you’ve decided that it might be nice to have two Intrepids, in case one is in the shop and you have to go out to dinner.

People sell houses in the same manner. They set imagined targets based on once believed values, or based on nothing at all. They wait for someone to call, to drive by, to look in the windows and like what they see.  These are the sellers that we’ve become accustomed to, but these are not the sellers that we wish to find. We want to find the seller who has two of the same thing, the seller who genuinely wishes to no longer own one of them. As the market improves and inventory dwindles, this is our charge. We must find the seller who has what we want, yes, but we must find the seller who has decided to sell because she has to, not just because she sort of wants to.

 

Have a wonderful Easter Weekend.

Deadlines

Deadlines

I think about the days when I won’t write on this blog. I think about how admitting that is to somehow run afoul of the unwritten rules of a real estate professional. I cringe at the word professional. Cringing at the word is also running afoul of those unwritten rules, though I’ll bet they are written somewhere. New agent materials, written. Trade magazines, written. Written by people who tell you what to do and how to be successful. Wear a crisp shirt. Don’t be yourself. Don’t talk about safe neighborhoods and whatever you do, don’t say anything that might be construed as being somehow offensive.  Don’t tell people that you fished Delavan Lake yesterday and you were, for the first time in more than a week, happy to have a cold.  Um, Dad, what’s that horrible smell?  I don’t know son, I have a cold.  I think it’s the lake. See, don’t say anything offensive, and don’t let your hair be messy and don’t ever talk about how you look forward to the day when you don’t sell real estate.

I think about those days in the future, and I think I’ll try to write stories or articles or blog posts or something, and with the meager scratch I’ll earn I’ll just live on that. I’ve written for some magazines already, and it doesn’t seem that hard. Just sit here, think about something not related to real estate, and write it. Then, send the written thing in to the magazine and have them brutally reject your written thing, and you.  I sent a bit into Gray’s Sporting Journal once. I received the courtesy of a rejection email, and it stung. But I’m a glutton for things that sting, (see, Real Estate Profession), and so I emailed back. I asked what about the piece was wrong. Was it the topic or the style or the fact that I always put periods inside the quotation marks?  I was expecting a blistering critique, a sharp dagger to slice through my dreams. I braced myself for the reply.

The writing is not up to the Gray’s Sporting Journal standard. 

That’s all he said. He didn’t thank me for my thoughtful question. He didn’t even soften the edges.  He didn’t say one thing was wrong, he said it was all wrong. And so I’m happy to write for the Drake Magazine (pick one up at your favorite bookstore), where they let me write about fishing with my wife (I hate it), and fishing with friends (hate that, too), and they let me make fun of Iowa. See, when it comes to real estate, Michigan is the one who deserves my ire.  I never wanted to hate Michigan, but any state that produces a commercial aimed at romanticizing Escanaba is a state that has earned my spite. In trout fishing, Iowa is the embarrassing one. Wisconsin has glorious trout streams. We have so many that you don’t dare try to count them without your favorite quant nearby to assist. But Iowa, they have streams stocked with silly trout that don’t spook when you cast your line over their heads. They have hatchery fish that are more likely to eat a Dog Food Emerger than a Pale Morning Dun. See, this is why I have to write for a fly fishing magazine, because you don’t even know what I’m talking about.

In January, the publisher of that magazine emailed me with an assignment. An assignment. I’ve never had one since high school English, and those were assignments I could cheat on (the internet wasn’t available yet, but Cliff Notes were). This assignment was different, and I’d be getting paid for it, and so I had to focus.  I was to write about the early season opener in Wisconsin, which again, is meaningless to you if you’re not interested in fly fishing. But the early season opener is a big deal, and this year it was earlier than in every year that has come prior. This winter, Wisconsin anglers could fish for trout, so long as they released them. I gladly accepted the assignment, which was due by March 1st. I had more than a month to write this piece, and it only needed to be 800 words or so. Cinch. My career was blossoming.

And then the month of February passed, and my assignment went as most of my prior assignments. Unfulfilled. I couldn’t write. I sat at this desk, stared at this screen, typed words on this tiny keyboard, but a story never materialized. The month was a failure because the deadline only reinforced my writer’s cramp. I couldn’t think of anything, and when I did think of something, I wrote it and quickly realized it was the wrong thing. I stared at my office fireplace, hoping the flames would give me inspiration. They didn’t. I watched a fly fishing video or two on that office TV, hoping something would kindle in me an angle. It didn’t. I fished once that month, hoping that the snowy solitude would show me the way.  The fish ate my fly, and snow felt right under my boots, but I had no angle. The deadline was looming.

And I had nothing. But when the deadline was just a day or two away, an idea. I hurriedly plunked it down, read it once, fixed a few words and eliminated a few commas (I do love the comma), and sent it in. I waited for the reaction of the editor. Would he know that I had written this in haste, because the deadline was so near? Or would he reject it because it was, in the words of Gray’s, not up to the standard? When his email arrived in my inbox, it took me a few minutes to open it. I didn’t know if I could stand the rejection, the humiliation. I didn’t want to fail at my first assignment in the field.   If I flunk my first test, how would I someday retire early to while away my days on a Geneva plying sailboat or in those cold clear Wisconsin streams?

He said the angle was different, the tone not what he expected, the outcome unpredictable. But then he said he liked it, and looked forward to running it in the Spring issue. And with that, a deadline made. A dream intact. But the deadline almost paralyzed me, and I nearly missed the prize. You might not realize it, but you have a deadline, too, and it’s rapidly approaching. It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2016, the weekend that should be your launching point for your first Lake Geneva based summer. You see the gray of today, you see the possible snow of tomorrow, you see the calendar and you think you have time. But you don’t. You’re as me, pressing your luck, not willing to do the work required to obtain the reward.  You have 55 days to get this right, now don’t blow it.

 

Lake Geneva Foreclosures

Lake Geneva Foreclosures

Lake Geneva Foreclosures. Those three words were types into search engines with terrifying frequency over the last decade. In the early part of the past decade, the 2006 part, those words were typed because buyers were looking for deals. They were looking for anything that wasn’t on the market, something rare, something unique, something in trouble that might spell opportunity. In the middle part of the past decade, those years of 2009 through 2013, the words were typed more solemnly, with purpose and diligence, seeking still opportunity. And now, the words are typed, but it’s half hearted, well intentioned but wishing more than expecting. There might be some foreclosures still lurking, but there probably aren’t. Still, the words are typed, Lake Geneva Foreclosures, hoping something might still be out there, something that the rest of the market hasn’t been paying attention to.

That’s why I’m here, fighting through this wretched head cold, scouring the lis pendens filings and the sheriff’s sale notices.  In an effort to make this somewhat concise, I kept my sensitive eyes peeled for signs of foreclosure activity in our most foreclosure prone associations. I don’t see a single unit in Geneva National pending foreclosure, according to recent LP filings. I also don’t see anything at GN scheduled for a sheriff’s sale. In the MLS, Geneva National has one short sale listed and one REO, that of a $150k type condo that doesn’t appear to me to be any particular form of value. Geneva National seems to have made it to 2016 damaged but unbroken by the foreclosure trouble that had plagued it from 2009 through 2014. The market has sufficiently absorbed most of the trouble there, though I’d still be keen to avoid newer enclaves so I don’t face a Foxwood type situation. Foxwood, for the uninitiated, was the latest and greatest thing in GN, a beautiful enclave of higher end homes and duplexes. And then the developer lost the project and all of the unfinished lots and now it’s in limbo. It’ll come back, sure, as a newer, better thing,  but we all know it won’t be.

Abbey Springs doesn’t have any foreclosure issues, which continues to amaze and impress me. Abbey Springs combines relatively high association dues with price points that range from the mid $100s to $1MM. That association is large (592 units), and it seems to me that some of those owners would have run into a bit of financial trouble over recent years. Alas, that has proven to not be the case, and Abbey Springs scoffs at your foreclosure interests. Country Club Estates has one sheriff’s sale pending, and that’s of our old friend on Shabonna that has been in and out of foreclosure trouble for as long as I can remember. As an owner, I’d imagine this sort of thing is exhausting. I once fought with Aurora Healthcare over an egregious medical invoice and after like a month of battle, I caved and paid the extortion. I can’t imagine the effort required to continually fight with a bank over a house.

With that theme in mind, the foreclosure in Williams Bay on Conference Point is still there. Still. There. It’s been years, or decades, maybe my entire lifetime, and it’s still there, still on the market, still listed as a Short Sale. I’m sure it still attracts the attention of the uninitiated, because it’s so much house in such a nice spot for a reasonable sum of money. Maybe someday that home will sell, but had we been holding our breath waiting for that day we’d all be thoroughly and completely dead. The same goes for the foreclosure that’s been on and off in Loramoor. It’s no longer worth thinking about. There’s an REO in Cedar Point Park that’s pending sale in the mid $100s, and that’s a home that I once made a personal bid on before realizing that the home, even with a substation renovation, will still be odd, still weird, still unloved by the market.

The IRS seizure of a lakefront house to the East of Cedar Point is still hanging out there, as best I can tell, still awaiting its turn on the IRS auction block. If you’re interested in this property, let me know and I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this interesting spectacle. All in all, there’s very little going on in our foreclosure market.  In 2012, Walworth County had one single family foreclosure sale every 1.3 days. In 2016, we’ve averaged one sale every 3.85 days.  Of those sales this year, the most expensive closed for $210,000, so it’s fairly obvious what sorts of properties remain sensitive to default.

If you fear you missed out on the foreclosure crisis and the buying opportunity that it sometimes presented, don’t fret. I saw several commercials over the weekend (On Wisconsin!) for Rocket Mortgage. Looks to me like you just punch in some numbers on your phone and then you get a mortgage, which sounds completely and entirely fantastic.  If Rocket Mortgage and their algorithms turn you down, you can then check with Sofi, which is another company making loans super duper easy. Or, if you’d like to go the stringent, more traditional route, FHA will still lend you 96.5% of the purchase price, assuming you have a rock solid credit score of at least 580.  So don’t feel left out, it won’t be too many more years before there’s a new foreclosure crisis waiting for cash buyers.

South Shore Club at Lake Geneva

South Shore Club at Lake Geneva

The South Shore Club at Lake Geneva is old now. It’s been here for a long time, or for a lifetime, assuming the life is young and the long time isn’t viewed in any historical context. It’s not new, but it’s not old like the Chicago Club, or the Harvard Club, or the Lake Geneva Club.  But there’s nothing misunderstood about it now, nothing curious, nothing that needs so much explaining. The market was created, the market stumbled, the market found its footing and now the market is doing what’s best for the Club. It’s resting.

Last year, the last two pieces of aged inventory sold. That was my listing on Forest Hill Court, and the vacant lot immediately to the West of it. Those two properties, one build and one vacant, had been for sale for years. Literally, years and years. Then last fall they sold. Both at discounts, both at prices that represented significant losses for the sellers. But they both finally sold and with those sales, the South Shore Club removed the last piece of stubborn resistance.

Over the winter, nothing has happened in the South Shore Club, and that’s exactly what needed to happen. Then, a couple of weeks ago, an old bit of inventory made new again. A home that was built on spec near the tennis court on Forest Hill came back to market. That home had sold for $1.6s but was then improved, so the $1.9MM ask wasn’t out of line with market expectations. That home sold quickly and somewhat easily. Today, if you were only watching casually over the winter, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know about that sale (it hasn’t closed yet).

The market is quiet now, but it’s only quiet if you’re not on the inside. On the inside, there is at least one home privately offered for sale, though it isn’t listed. Inside, there aren’t any lots on the open market but there are two that might be sold if the price is right.  Outside, it looks as though the SSC has finally found its balance, and so long as the market there continues to release bits of inventory slowly, one at a time, the market will continue to improve. That’s what it looks like on the inside, too.

If we rewind to the spring of 2012, the South Shore Club at Lake Geneva was a total market disaster. It hadn’t printed a sale in forever, and vacant lots hung heavy on the MLS at lofty prices. When I took over the marketing of the club that year, the sale for $3.575MM on Lakeside changed everything. That sale showed the buying public that there was liquidity in the SSC, and that if you watched a property for too long it was likely to sell to someone more motivated than you. That sale begat another, and before 2012 had turned to 2013 we had a handful of sales, both lots and homes, and the market was on its way to correcting itself. But the full correction hasn’t been apparent until now.

That’s why that little off-market sale for $1.9MM matters so much. It means a buyer who just joined the club found immediate and easy liquidity to leave the club. It means the market is functioning as it should, and it means that sellers of SSC homes are no longer signing up for a lifetime of open houses and fruitless showings. It means the market is strong and the recover is complete.  If you’re a seller, you have an opportunity now. If you’re a buyer, work with me and I’ll get you into the South Shore Club even though there appears to be nothing available.

Spring

Spring

The trees in my front yard are budding. The trees in my back yard are budding. The trees at my office are budding. I’d be willing to bet most of my things and some of yours that the trees in your yard are budding, too.  The streams run high today, high with runoff from the thundery rain that fell on Sunday and again last night. The worms that will dry and die on my driveway today are the same worms that will dry and die on your driveway. Is it better to be those worms that must wait for the drying death or better to be the worms that washed into the trout streams where they will be eaten by the hungry trout that spent all winter wondering where the worms went? I’d prefer the stream worms, because at least they have an option. That’s more than we have.

The silence of winter has been replaced with a most boisterous cacophony of birds. Song birds, little birds, big birds. In fact, birds so big that they swarm overheard in such great clouds, headed from the south and to the north, stopping here to breed, or to rest, or to eat our worms and rile up our dogs. The Sandhill Cranes are the superior Crane, making the Blue Heron look like a silly thing, like a small thing, like an unimportant thing. The Sandhill announces its arrival with such a great squawk that even the song birds and the Robins seek shelter.

The ice of winter is generally quiet. The expansion booms and echoes are loud, but the rest of it is quiet. That quiet ice is all gone now, replaced with wind whipped waves that crash into shore and loudly announce their return. They’re here now, the waves, and the water is anything but quiet. On Sunday, it was quiet, still, flat and smooth. The rare birds flew high over head and the song birds hid in the bushes that we’ll only know to be lilacs once they bloom, which is around the time the smallmouth bite heats up and the morels push free from the soil. It’s not quiet anymore.

But in the quiet of winter there are things we can do. I skied this winter for the first time since childhood, and I skied so much that you’d think I enjoyed it more than I did. I made fires this winter, so many that it would be foolish to attempt a count. There were morning fires and evening fires, and yes, afternoon fires, too. There were fires upon fires, and when Able Dave comes to clean my chimney he’ll stand back and wonder the age of my house. Who could burn so many fires in such a short period of time, he’ll wonder.

In the winter, the waiting is accepted. There’s nothing to do but burn those fires, ski those slopes, pack that snow, and wait. We wait in the quiet in the winter. But it’s spring now, and we still must wait. Now we wait in the noise, we wait in the wind and the thunder and under the lightening and around those birds. They’re chirping again, even though it’s colder today and it’s windier today and the ice is still gone and those overhead birds have been grounded. The worms are drying and others are being eaten. It’s getting louder, and soon it’ll be summer. The noise is the only sign we need.

Glenwood Springs Sells

Glenwood Springs Sells

I think it’s great when someone comes up to tour some vacation homes on a Friday and buys one on a  Sunday. But I admit to you that in 20 years of selling real estate that’s only happened like once. And maybe that one time I’m remembering is something I’m imagining, like a dream I dreamt so many times that I now believe it to be true. The sorts of buyers that I work with tend to be far more methodical. They tend to be discerning. They tend to be slow moving, sometimes to the point where their deliberations become the reason they miss out on opportunities. Often, being thoughtful can cause buyers to overlook incredible value because they’ve convinced themselves that to be eternally patient is somehow better than being opportunistic.

Last week, I closed on the sale of an old house on Linden in Glenwood Springs. This house is in pretty rough shape, which might be giving it too much credit. It’s a tough old house, but it’s on a double lot with a lake view and a private pier so what difference does it make if a marble dropped in the living room somehow ends up making a visit to each main floor room before it settles?  Like most sales, this one tells a story, and it’s not a story of finding a buyer by placing an ad in the New York Times, or by pulling a full page ad in Mansion for $18,000. This is a story like most Lake Geneva stories.

In February of 2009, this old house came to market for $949,000. For those who weren’t paying attention to the market then, the winter of 2009 was an interesting time. The stock market melted in the fall of 2008, but it wouldn’t stop melting until spring of 2009, and the housing market from late 2008 through late 2009 wasn’t quiet sure what was happening. There were well known local Realtors here telling us, and I quote, “Lake Geneva is Different”. The supposition was that we wouldn’t crash like other markets because we’re better than other markets. We’re stronger, less dependent on leverage, more stable. I admit to finding myself in that camp on some days during that confusing winter.  In February of 2009, the seller in Glenwood Springs was buying that narrative, and so $949k it was.

The market worsened from late 2008 all the way through 2011, and so this house sat. The price was reduced and reduced some more, and then in the fall of 2011 the home sold for $499k. A far cry from the $949k initial list in 2009. Fall of 2011 was likely our market bottom here, but it wasn’t a uniform bottom. Entry level lakefront wouldn’t bottom until mid 2012, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that entry level lakefront still hasn’t recovered from that bottom. The higher reaches of our lakefront market have fared very well since that 2011 bottom, but how has Glenwood Springs done?

The Linden house was sold, but the new owner was mostly buying it because it was there, and at $499k it was cheap. In November 0f 2014, with the markets vastly improved, the old house on Linden came to market for $675k. The owner would make a nice return for the risk they took at the bottom of the market. They would make money, and they would celebrate over drinks. A toast, to the investor!

But last week I sold that home for $465k.  The 2011 risk on owner lost a sizable sum of money. Perhaps $100k when all fees and carrying costs are factored. Now a new buyer, a new opportunity, a $465k price for a double lot with a lakeview and a private pier. Since the 2011 low, two neighboring homes on Linden have sold, both in the $700s, both older homes. I sold one of those homes. The market proved fickle yet again, and the new buyer is the beneficiary of seizing the moment.

But the moment was almost lost, because this buyer had actually looked at the home with serious intent last summer. At that time, the list price was in the mid $500s and we were guessing that a $500k price might get the job done. The buyer decided the timing wasn’t right and we never engaged the seller in a negotiation. Then, in late January, I thought the time might be right, and the buyer bid. The timing wasn’t convenient for the buyer, as a family vacation was already planned and underway, but he found the time and made the bid.  When the dust settled, we had paid $465k- a price well below the 2011 market “bottom” price. The buyer won, and I’m pleased to have represented him.

It would have been easy to watch this property over the years and assume something was wrong with it. It would have been easy to take a pass. Every buyer but one did just that. But the new buyer found the motivation at the right time, and his family now gets to spend summer lakeside, swimming from their private pier, enjoying the Glenwood Springs scene, while the other more methodical buyers remain methodical in their city and suburban homes, wondering when the time will be right.

 

Chicago Developer Denied

Chicago Developer Denied

I feel at least some relief. On Monday, a Chicago Developer held a meet and greet. It was so very nice of this group to do this. They’d set up shop at a bar, ask that neighbors join, and share the details of their massive suburban style development. Eye witness reports tell us that four people showed up. On Tuesday, a crowd of 100 or more gathered at the Walworth Town Hall to listen to the Developer from Geneva, Illinois once again pitch his suburban proposal for our rural lands. The anticipation was rivaled only by the resignation in the eyes of those present.

Resignation because the crowd was overwhelmingly opposed to this development, excepting the three hands that were raised when the crowd was asked who favored this development, and the expectation was that the board would continue to subscribe to the will of the developer over the will of the people. No matter that those in favor included one who worked for the Chicago Developer, one who has worked for the developer, and one who likes to talk about rural life but apparently doesn’t want it to last. The Developer was so pleased with his Monday meet and greet that he brought it up at the meeting, as if it was a triumphant civic display of warmth.

I spoke, the crowd spoke, but no one knew if the board was listening.  The developer spoke of conservation and of Chevy’s, then again of parks and roads and sewers. He pointed to his maps. The board listened. But when it came time to vote the board surprised and one by one they voted no. The crowd erupted in cheers.  The developer hung his head.

At approximately the same time, the City of Delavan (apparently) denied this same Developer’s request to extend city water to another large suburban development on the northwest side of Delavan Township. Two weeks ago, the Village of Williams Bay told us that the attempted condominium project on the Keg Room site was dead. The Developer from Kane County is having a very bad month.

As the Walworth Town Board explained to the developer that the lots were just too small, the number too many, it was obvious to me that Walworth County finally found some footing in this battle against development. The Walworth Town Board had, just months prior, ushered this development forward to the plan commission, who approved it unanimously. The change from then until Tuesday was overwhelming community outcry, a rejection of the agenda of a suburban developer at the expense of our rural lifestyle. The board was shown that overdevelopment has become a pandemic in Walworth County, and that the only way to stop it is one development proposal at a time.

Walworth County is a lot of things to a lot of people. The 102,000 people that call this place home love it for various reasons. Some moved here to enjoy life lakeside. Others moved here to have a five acre plot with a barn and some chickens. Others still, like me, grew up here and never felt the allure of big city lights. This county is, at its very core, rural. The county was rural before it was a tourist destination, and it was a tourist destination before it had any industry. Today the county is a healthy mix of those three, but what keeps it bucolic is the rural nature of the lands surrounding the lakes.

Imagine Geneva Lake. Imagine the ring of deciduous green surrounding it, the interwoven nature of large and small lake homes, of old ones and new ones. Rejoice in the magic of that mix. Then, imagine what the area would feel like if not for that ring of agriculture that surrounds the lake. Imagine field after field of ranch homes, from the border to the lake. Imagine how the drive would feel, how the views would hurt our eyes. Imagine how different this place would be.

Proponents of uncontrolled development tell us that development is necessary, that progress is unavoidable. They tell us not to be so sensitive, not to sensationalize the removal of one 110 acre farm field. There are other fields, they say.  They tell us that they were here when those fields were as they are now, and they tell us that we cannot stand in the way of development. Development, they say, will happen whether we want it to or not. And everyone supposes they’re right.

But they’re only right if the county no longer cares what it looks like, and no longer cares what made it special in the first place. This week, we successfully delayed a development in the Town of Walworth. This week, I have taken a breather after three months of consistently and aggressively fighting this proposal. But this week is more than that, this week is the week that the residents of Walworth County stood up for the future of this community. This week, a town board listened.

But the battle is far from over. Developers will continue to see the incredible wealth of Walworth County and seek to exploit that with high density housing. The task now is to remain vigilant, because the default position on development is to approve it, not to scrutinize and ultimately reject it. This week, it has never been more clear that Walworth County will no longer bow at the feet of  Development which seeks to profit at our expense.

Harpoon Willies

Harpoon Willies

I can’t tell you that I’m a regular at Harpoon Willies. When I walk in, no one winks at me a knowing wink. No one gives me a head nod, the sort you’d give a friend when you saw him. No one really, particularly, especially cares.  But alas, Harpoons is down the road from my office, and it’s in my home town, and I am nothing if not someone who likes to eat. And so it has gone, a visit to the restaurant now and then, never consistent, never particularly rejoicing in anything in particular.

I have a friend who likes to go there, and on Fridays he goes to order the fish sandwich. It’s a delightful fish sandwich, he says.  It’s fried, like all good fish things, and it’s on a nice bun, with some nice tartar sauce. When I went with him last fall, I didn’t order the fish sandwich. I have never ordered the fish sandwich. I’ve ordered the burger, it’s okay. I’ve ordered the chicken sandwich, it’s not horrible. I ordered pizza there once, and that was pretty good. But never the fish sandwich and never the brisket, until then.

There’s a sign outside of Harpoons. It’s on the West side of the building, sort of accidental. It says SMOKEHOUSE. Or something like that, I can’t really remember. The idea is that there’s a smoker in that side shed, and they smoke meat. And so on that day I ordered the brisket sandwich. I slathered it with their barbecue sauce, sloppy and drippy and sweet. The sandwiches come with a side of chips, but I haven’t like eating lunch with chips since my mom packed my high school lunch, and so I upgrade and order the waffle fries. In case you forgot, I have previously anointed their waffle fries the finest in all the land.

The brisket sandwich was a shocking delight. It was smokey, sweet, remarkable. It was, dare I say, the finest bit of barbecue on a bun that I’ve ever had. I’m not a connoisseur of smoked meats in the way that some of the mouth breathing guys on the food channels might be, but I’ve had more than a few. This sandwich was better than those, better than all of them, the best. I delighted in my new find, and a few weeks later, I went back to order it again.

During that visit, the brisket came out as before, but one bite told me it wasn’t the same. It was tough, rough, difficult. It wasn’t the tender sandwich of earlier that fall, it was the aged version, tough and weathered, ornery. I ate it anyway, but didn’t go back for another sandwich for a more or close to two.

The third visit, the sandwich was as the first. It was divine. It was as good as before, better even. It was perfection. I was now two for three, and the four visit came a few weeks later. That sandwich, too, was delightful. Three for four. Another visit in early January- perfect. Four for five.  After that successful run, I saw fit to share my findings with friends and family. The brisket sandwich had proven worthy.

Three weeks ago I went back, and I brought a client. I told him the sandwich was the best in all of the land. In that competition, there wasn’t even a second place. We ordered. We ate. The sandwich was a bit tough, not perfect, somewhere between great and okay, maybe just mediocre. I pleaded with him, this was an anomaly I said. It wasn’t the way it was before. I asked for forgiveness.

Last night, after the Town of Walworth unceremoniously and wonderfully turned away Shodeen (he’ll be back, and we’ll be ready and waiting), a celebration. The war is far from over, but this battle was ours. Brisket sandwiches all around. The sandwich mixed well with the lingering taste of sweet victory. Spicy, tender, perfect. Lake Geneva has a lot of places to buy food. Most places have one thing they do really well. Harpoon Willies has the brisket sandwich and those waffle fries, and that’s enough for me.  And yes, I’m getting fat again.

New Lakefront Listing

New Lakefront Listing

When I was a kid, I’d walk to Gage Marine. It wasn’t far from my house, and so I’d walk down the shore path, across those green lawns, up those few rail road ties that worked as stairs, and I’d be at Gage Marine. The thing about Gage Marine then is that there wasn’t anything to do there. The pro-shop wasn’t so much a pro-shop as it was a place to buy those little leather pieces that hold together the eye of a buoy lead.

Today, walking to Gage Marine is entirely different. Do I like the food at Pier 290? Not particularly. Do I wish the menu was better, the food better, the burger served on a burger bun? Of course. But for those wishes it would be hard for Pier 290 to be a better place. The restaurant space, the finishes, the scene, it’s all so very nice. And so walking to Gage Marine now is a worthwhile stroll, because there is food that can be eaten and a vibe that can’t be beaten.

New Lakefront Listing Lake Geneva

The other direction, I would walk to George Williams. The camp when I was a kid was old, neglected, uninteresting. There was the ability to order ice cream from some building on campus, as there is today, but that was about it. There was nothing else to do there. My brothers and I would explore the hills of Conference Point camp, digging into the earth that was exposed when the hillside gave way to erosion. We would find gold, or some rocks that were gold in color, which one we were never certain. But George Williams was there and it was boring even though the hills were full of gold.

Today, I can walk to George Williams to listen to the Music By The Lake series, an outdoor lakeside venue where you’re just as likely to hear Some Guy And His Trumpet as you are Tony Bennet or Peter Frampton. The campus has been revitalized, completely and entirely, and I believe you can still get ice cream somewhere.

138 Conference Point New Listing Lake Geneva

My new lakefront listing at 138 Conference Point Road is close to both of these newly reborn attractions, an easy flip-flopped stroll to either, within minutes. Think that’s not important? Try strolling to restaurants and musical venues from most lakefront homes- you’ll  find the task nearly impossible. The house has 103′ of frontage, a large two slip, canopied pier, and a very well maintained three bedroom ranch with a two car attached garage and a walk out lower level. But it’s less about the house here and more about the views. I’ve sold many lakefront homes with fantastic lake views, but the general rule here is that the better the view, the higher the frontage. The reason is obvious. The magic of 138 Conference Point is that the frontage is gently sloping, nearly level, and yet the lake views are absolutely second to none. The views are to Cedar Point, Black Point, Majestic Ski Hill, and points beyond. It’s a peninsula view without the peninsula, it’s tree top view without the hike. It’s a perfect view and the view, house, 103′ of frontage, and the two fireplaces are yours for $2.385MM.

 

 

New Lake Geneva Listing

New Lake Geneva Listing

There are many reasons to frequent this blog. If you wanted to know what my latest hobby is, for instance. How else could you know? You could call me and ask, but what a ridiculous precedent that would set. After all, the internet was invented to connect us without forcing the awkwardness of connection on us. You could read this blog to understand the Lake Geneva real estate market, to know the nuanced movements of pricing and to dispell the concept that every home is a value, every sale a good one.  That’s probably the primary reason to read this blog, though if you’ve been reading along for a while you’ll know that maple syrup season is upon us, which is followed closely by morel season. Still, the markets.

Today, there is no talk of skiing, or of fungus or of fish. Today, just new inventory for you to peruse. One of the terrific things about private frontage is that every variety of private frontage is generally good. Now, there are good spots and bad spots, but even the bad spots on Geneva are better than the good spots everywhere else, so that’s somewhat of a nuance. The other thing about private frontage is that it’s varied. Some lots are wide, others narrow, some deep others shallow. There is no pattern to the frontage until we confine certain types of properties into segments. If we’re talking entry level lakefront homes, we’re talking about smaller lots (60′ or less) and we’re talking about neighbors. Lots of neighbors.

 

Dartmouth Distance

 

Consider the map above. This is Dartmouth Woods. I love Dartmouth Woods. It’s a quaint lakefront association with nice homes and terrific proximity to Fontana and Williams Bay. It’s also tight. The home that just sold last week (a home I really like) for $1.226MM is shown here, with the approximate distance from that home to the neighboring homes. The homes are close, but that’s what entry level lakefront usually looks like on this lake, and that’s absolutely fine. Now consider the map below:

 

South Lakeshore Distance

 

That’s the location of my new listing on South Lakeshore Drive. It’s a five bedroom modern house listed at $1.395MM. It sold for $1.515MM in 2007, and it’s rather nicely updated with new bathrooms and a very flexible layout. It has a slip on a pier that is share by only seven total owners, and this house functions as the lakefront house in the association. But that’s not what’s especially rare here. Consider the proximity to the neighbors, and the quality of the neighbors. To the East, Casa Del Sueno, to the West, a fabulous newer build on a massive lakefront lot. This is a setting that is, quite literally, unavailable to any other entry level home anywhere on this lake. It’s special.

South Lakeshore 2

 

I’ll be available to show this home this weekend, so just ask if you’d like a private tour. I’ll be skiing tonight, but you didn’t read this blog today to find out about that. You read this blog today to find out about this listing before the rest of the world new about it.  You’re welcome.

 

Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

The ice is weak. It has been weak all season, since it first formed, just that skim coat at first, then more ice, stronger ice, but still weak. It has proven this time and time again, first with the great car-on-ice-caper of Winterfest Weekend, then again with the unfortunate death of a snowmobiler just two weeks ago. This is ice that cannot be trusted. This is the ice that must melt and leave us alone.

It melted two weekends ago. It melted more last weekend. The wind whipped it open in many spots, and those spots grew and shifted as the massive sheets of ice broke free and floated the way of the wind. The ice this morning is weaker still. It will be gone soon, gone by next week, by next Thursday, to be precise. Then we’ll be free to carry on as though the ice never was, because we never liked it, we never needed it, we never trusted it.

Spring is coming, and it’s coming fast. The days are longer. The nights are shorter. The winter market, once momentarily filled with the sort of fear that accompanies a tumultuous stock market, has soldiered on. Is this market just okay? Just barely hanging in there? Or is it robust, bold, strong and decisive, filled with buyers who seem to know what they want and others who, if given seven suitable choices, couldn’t even agree on dinner? It’s both, all things, both filled with motivation and filled with procrastination. As with all markets, the motivated are reaping the spoils of this market that is, as of this morning, in spite of the weak ice that still clings, alive and well.

This morning there are four properties with lake access pending under $300k. This is never a surprise to me, as it should always be an active, consistent market.  Interest rates are low and this range of buyer always has inventory to pick from. Fixer uppers and finished products alike, the former being in that price range with better locations, the latter being farther from the lake but shinier, prettier, less troubling. From $300k to $1MM, just three properties are pending, one in the Loch Vista Club, one in Country Club Estates, and one to a buyer of mine in Glenwood Springs. This market segment is light on inventory, as buyers are interested in $500-600k homes with slips, they just don’t care much for the limited active inventory.

Over $1MM is where the real action is today. The single family condo home on Wrigley is pending with a $1.1MM ask. I showed that home far too many times to not be the broker with the buyer, but alas, life, like primary season, is unfair. There’s a deal on Forest Rest of an off water home just over $1MM, and the curiously goofy little lakefront in Knollwood is pending in the $1.1Ms. Last week, the Dartmouth Woods lakefront home that I tried so desperately to sell last summer finally closed in the $1.2s, and that buyer did well to join that nice enclave of lakefront homes on the north side of Fontana Bay.

The newer lakefront for $2.125MM that rests in the shadow of Vista Del Lago is under contract, that to a move up buyer from another area property. The Conference Point lakefront with an old red brick house and 200′ of frontage closed last week for $3.2MM, which is now our second lakefront sale at $16k per front foot this year. In case you’re wondering, no, that doesn’t make it a trend. While I love that location on the lake, I don’t know as though I’d be a dirt buyer in the $3s over there. That will make whatever is built on that property the most expensive property for at least a mile in either direction of shoreline, and I’m not convinced I’d want that distinction. If I’m a lakefront buyer, I want to be surrounded by like kind properties. That’s why 1014 South Lakeshore in the $7s makes sense. That’s why my lakefront lot in Loramoor at $2.34MM makes sense. That’s why my beautiful lakefront on Pebble Point for $4.475MM makes sense.  I like to sell properties that make sense.

The Lackey Lane lakefront in the $4.5MMs is still pending to my buyer, and a new deal this week brings a buyer to a high $2s home in the Geneva Manor. That’s a home assessed at $2MM, so it’ll be fun when the reassessment of that property is done by the city, based on the new sales price. I have little else to say about that sale.

I will add that our local market loves it when out of town brokers show up with buyers. They generally buy things that don’t make tons of sense, which is why we love them. If you’re a buyer, read what I just wrote again.

Inventory hasn’t yet built, just in the way that it didn’t really build last year during this typical spring sales period. I expect lakefronts to trickle on to the market over the coming weeks, as I know I have at least three lakefronts coming soon under my brokerage. If you’d like to know about those before everyone else, you should be working with me. It’ll be fun.

Collect Things

Collect Things

At this age, I have developed many bad habits.  I shamefully subscribe to the theory of food discovery that dictates I eat one piece of pizza to find out if it’s good, and then six more pieces to verify.  At night, I check my phone before I go to sleep. But I check it all day, too, and then again when I’m thinking about going to sleep, before checking again when I’ve decided that indeed,  yes, I will now go to sleep. Then again when I try to go to sleep, and likely again when I’ve gone to bed but can’t fall asleep. My circadian rhythm sounds like third grade band practice.

Last night, when indulging in this last minute phone checking, I saw a little meme on Twitter, perhaps Instagram. These two mediums are useful for different things, but both have become a depository for the sorts of motivational posters that we used to have to visit the mall kiosk to find. Hang In There (kitten with paw outstretched), these sorts of things.  Most of these memes are well intentioned. The one I saw last night said, calmly, Collect Memories, Not Things.  The message was printed over the calm waters of a lake with a pier stretching out into it. It had a lot of likes, or thumbs up, or smiley faces next to it. The people were encouraged.

Because that’s right, we should collect memories, not things. I have some things in the back seat of my car right now.  They’re just things, these new skis of mine that I bought because it was a Tuesday, and they are in my trunk next to the boot things I bought and the pole things, too.  I’ve collected these things, a vast array of them in fact, and they are in my car now hoping for the promised Tuesday snow.

I have some things in my other car today. Fishing things. A few fly rods, glittery gold and graphite models, beautiful examples of the artistic expression that is fly fishing. I love them dearly, these things. In fact, in my collection of other things I would place these particular things near the very top. They are among my most important things, and they’re in my fishing truck just waiting for me to use them. Last night when I was cleaning out the back of that truck, I thought to myself, these are some fine things.

One thing I bought last summer is too big to keep in a car, or inside the house. It’s in my garage, and it’s black and shiny and I slapped an UFF DA sticker on it to honor my grandmother. I did that because they didn’t have any stickers that said “sleep with your socks off so your feet can breathe”, and who could fit a sticker of that size on a Kawasaki jet ski? This thing is in my garage, on a nice little rack that I bought for it. It just sits there now, being a thing, looking at me every day while I look at it. It’s there, ready, waiting for the time that’s coming soon when I might drive that thing to the lake, and fire it up.

Collect Memories, Not Things, the image said. The image supposes that the memories we wish to collect are right in front of us, all around us. The memory of a mall visit on a  Saturday is indeed something you can collect, but only if you’re strange and something is wrong with you, or if the visit is memorable for some bad reason, like they were out of Cinnabons.  That scenery of the pier jutting into the lake, it seems so calm, so normal, so every day. But it’s not, and that’s why it’s a memory. It’s not nothing, it’s something. And someone had to work very hard to buy that pier so that that someone’s family could swim from it, dive from it, lounge on it.

My skis have given me access to memories that I could not have otherwise made. I might have been able to ride the ski lift to the top of the hill with my son, but what would we do when we got there if we hadn’t first collected the things that we strap to our feet? And what of those fishing pictures in my office, the ones with my children grinning ear to ear, holding small trout up for the camera to see? How would we have made that journey if not for the waders and the boots and the packs and the flies and those glistening Orvis rods and reels? How could I remember the nights last summer when I cruised over the waves to meet friends on their piers if I didn’t have that water rocket with the UFF DA sticker?

It’s disingenuous to suggest that things aren’t important. Usually, we must collect the things that get us to the place where we can then collect the memories.  A lake house is among the most precious things, and anyone who already owns one will gladly tell you just how easy it is to collect memories once you’ve collected the house.

Gray Sky Rising

Gray Sky Rising

It’s gray again. It was gray yesterday, too. The same gray as this gray. There is no different variety of gray now. The only change comes later, when the gray twists and builds and puffs dark and mean, wet. This gray today isn’t yet like that gray, the warmer gray, the spring gray that brings the showers which yield the spring flowers that look very little like summer flowers. Summer flowers bloom and bloom, many times, for months even. Spring flowers bloom once, a display that shows what they are and all they can be, hiding nothing, holding nothing back, and like that, gone. The gray builds and the temperatures rise and out West they’ll be saying it’s going to be hot. El Nino they’ll say, but we won’t know what that really means until we’re sweating in our beds at night, wondering why it’s so windy, so wet, so warm and gray. This gray isn’t like that gray.

But this gray is a good gray, because it’s the gray that means things are changing. It might be gray in January, but that gray isn’t like this gray. January is brighter, in my memory anyway, because it’s white and it’s bright and the cold fronts that spell below zero nighttime lows also spell bluebird days. Days so bright and so clear and so cold that there’s nothing to do with them, nothing at all. Squinting is not something.  Who could love a day like that, besides my grandmother? My Norwegian grandmother loved the sunny days of January, because she had nothing to do but sit inside, and if you must sit inside then it might be better to find a sunny sky through those small double hung windows.  I’d rather sit in the warmth of a fireside room with the gray outside because that day can be spent brooding. Who could brood on a sunny January day?  My German grandmother didn’t care about the sun, because she had plates to fire and cakes to build and there’s no reason for the sun to shine when those things must be done.  I don’t like the bright of a winter January because I associate the bright with the cold and the cold doesn’t bother me as much as it used to but I still don’t care for it. A cold sun is a useless sun, no matter how hard it tries to convince you otherwise.

But it’s gray again today and it’s been gray since Monday. Friday, gray. Monday, gray. The days in between, all gray. Except at night, when the sun falls so low that it sneaks some light in pink and purple and orange under that shroud.  The end of the day, a twinkle of warmth in the Western sky. That sunset is later now than it was then, it’s light until 6 and soon it will be light until 7 and then we’ll be walking outside without jackets and we’ll put in our boats and we’ll sit on piers and we’ll complain about other things.  The days are warmer now, cold still,  but a warmer cold. A gray cold, the sort of gray and the sort of cold that tells us it’s soon to be spring. Spring. It’s coming soon, and it’s coming next week, because in the fifth grade they told us that we could spend recess outside without jackets on as soon as the temperature hit 60 degrees. Who could play Four Square with a jacket on? Not me, and so we’d take our jackets off and throw them on the ground and hope the teachers didn’t see. It was only 55, but it felt like 60 and no one could argue with that.

So today, it’ll be gray. Tomorrow, sun. Sunday, who could say? It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters now is that each day is longer, each week warmer. Even when certain days buck the pattern the results are already in. Spring is coming, and it can’t be stopped. The bright days of winter are gone and the dull gray days that mark our slow transition are here. My grandmother is no longer alive to object.

 

Lakefront Rentals

Lakefront Rentals

I placed a renter in a South Shore Club home once. The renter was actually a buyer, but he needed a bit of convincing, and so a house he was looking to buy became a house he decided to rent. A short time later, he bought that house, and owns it to this day. The lakefront rental is an odd creature, but mostly due to the fact that this market isn’t like other vacation home markets. Whenever the Chicago Tribune decides to grace us with their generic commentary on vacation homes, it tends to revolve around rentals. The author admonishes future buyers to be sure they understand the rental rules of the area they’re buying, and to be sure they understand what the rates will be, and how many weeks or days or months they can expect to rent it for. The articles are all like this. Buying a vacation home? Better understand the rental rules! Lake Geneva is different because we don’t really care about rentals, not one bit.

To understand why you must understand that most markets love rentals because they allow the owners financial flexibility. Lake Geneva scoffs at that concept, so much so that our county put in place a 30 day minimum rental ordinance. Whether this ordinance is still in place is something that other people can debate at another time, because all that matters today is the intent. Lake Geneva (and our surrounding municipalities) didn’t want this area to turn into Door County, where the only thing more common than closed antique shops are FOR RENT signs in front yards of in-town cottages. We didn’t want to be that sort of community, and so we made renting somewhat hard. I don’t mind the 30 day rental minimum,  because the intent was to preserve the quality of life for all who choose to own vacation homes here.

But still, the lakefront rental is necessary and there are some available. There are brokers with bits of inventory, there are mass portals with inventory, even airbnb has inventory. But inventory in this context means a few homes here and there, and they are difficult to find.  It’s for this reason that I would like to skip all of the rental talk and make a guarantee. If you’re thinking about buying a Lake Geneva vacation home and you feel the need to rent one first to see if you like it, I assure you you’ll like it. There. I saved you a considerable sum (generally between $20-50k per month). I saved you that uncomfortable phone call when you tell the homeowner that your son threw a baseball through the front window. Which window? Not one of the little ones. The big one. The giant picture window that so wonderfully frames that view of the front yard and the lake beyond. That’s the window your son plans to break, but not now, because I saved you the rental fee, the window replacement fee, and that inescapable knowledge that you’re sleeping in someone else’s bed. You’re welcome.

Because that’s really all this is: It’s a trial. It’s a test to see if you’ll like this place, this vibe, this scene. This would be like setting your sites on a brand new, luxury sedan. You know you like the BMW, in fact, you might love it. And so you go to the dealership, you trace the curves with your hand, and at one point, you kneel down to look into the wheel, as if you know what it is you’re looking for, and at. You pop the hood, never mind the inside of the engine bay no longer features anything but a large plastic cover, emblazoned with mention of twin turbos and Castrol. You look and you think, and while the price is stiff,  who could look at this car under those showroom lights and decides against it? You ask for a test drive, thinking that it’s best you drive this thing before you buy it, but the buying decision has already been made. The test drive just confirms what you already knew. This is the car for you.

To be fair, there are some people who will rent a Lake Geneva lakefront home and decides this isn’t the place for them. They’ll spend some time here and think, nah. These are the sorts of people who dislike large bodies of perfect water, where no matter the tumult of the afternoon before the morning water is clear, pure, filtered and ready to do it all over again. People who hate sunsets and sunrises, these people will hate Lake Geneva. If you hate walking down an ambling path, in front of and next to some of the most beautiful homes ever built, then you, too, will dislike this place. If screened porch book reading is something you abhor, then please save your money and skip Lake Geneva. If the thought of casting a lure from your private pier just as the sun sets that the lake falls flat and everything washes pastel,  then you should stay away.  If you think any old lake will do, then you’ll be better served finding any old lake to vacation at, because this lake is anything but.

I don’t have any lakefront rentals available this year. I’m sure someone does. If you find yourself looking for a summer rental, my advice to you is sound. Just skip it. No one has ever test driven the new 750 and opted to buy a Chevy. In the same way, no one has ever delighted in this place and then decided in favor of some place else. Save your money, don’t rent. Buy.