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  • I'm David Curry, and I sell real estate for Geneva Lakefront Realty in Williams Bay. I write this commentary to help educate and entertain the Lake Geneva home buyer and seller, and unlike the authors of most other real estate blogs, I actually sort of know how to write. And I promise not to RANDOMLY capitalize Words. I write to extol the virtues of the Lake Geneva vacation home, and I have a personal, deep rooted desire to share my experiences and insight with you and ultimately dominate the activity in the Lake Geneva vacation home market. With more than $37MM in 2014 YTD sales and over $110MM in sales since the start of 2010, that goal is easily within reach.

    As an important aside, that sales volume makes me the #1 dollar volume agent for Walworth County for 2014. That's pretty cool. So is the fact that since the start of 2010 I have closed more Geneva lakefront transaction sides than any other agent. I suppose that makes me the Top Agent in Lake Geneva, because there's really no other way to define top.

    I will always attempt to back up my opinions with solid statistics and historical perspective. Visiting this site early and often is hands down the best way to learn about this market. Period. Honestly. My full disclosure statement is available here.






  • Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.

    ~Doug Larson



  • How can I help?

    Email David Curry
    Or text to
    262-745-1993

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Four Short Weeks

Apr 24, 2015 by DC | Add comment
The first recorded day that would have felt somewhat similar to we commonly refer to as "spring" was March 11th. On that day, Lake Geneva warmed to 53 degrees, and on subsequent days, too, the temperature pushed into the 50s and twice, the 60s. But not all 60s are created equal, which is why on March 16th when the temperature blossomed to 69 wonderful degrees, that was a day where we all thought things were better. The week that followed that high temperature was a week with highs that didn't crack. 40. Then, the next week that followed, there was a 43 degree high on a Sunday and a 73 degree day on the Wednesday that had failed to hold and by Friday it was just 47. The month of April has been no less convinced of its seasonal allegiance, and there have been 70s and 40s, alas, there was a 27 this morning.

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All seasons have many different faces, and within those faces, many different moods. When I close my eyes and think of August, I think of 80 degree sunshine, unspoiled by too much wind or too many clouds. This is a wonderful thought, but August a few years ago featured a few days with highs in the 50s, smothered in rain and tossed by wind. Fall is 68 degree crisp October afternoons, but it is also raw, wind lashed and rain soaked. It is brilliantly colored leaves set against bright blue, uninterrupted autumn skies, and the next day it is a dark and brooding sky pouring down rain that unmercifully strips those dandy leaves from their tether. Fall is many things, and winter, winter, winter is many shades of misery dashed with the highlight that is the first blanket of welcome snow.

While every month throws temper tantrums, spring is the most petulant by millions of miles. There is something about spring that engages so much of our emotion, something about that first 60 degree day with unfiltered sun. Something about that first thunderstorm that soaks the ground and something about the way that next morning finds a sepia lawn turned brilliant green. Even now, in the midst of this cold week, on the heels of that most cold night, there is promise in the way the ground looks. A week ago, I wished badly that the perennials in front of my office would come to life. Even while so much around them had greened and sprouted, they looked as though they went the way of most of the things that I plant, dead. But this morning, after this early week cold rain and this late week cold wind, they are pushing up shoots and leaves now appear where a week ago there were none. Even though things look like they're stuck in place, we are marching forward.

But forward to what? Forward to, as I heard a client of mine say last week, Friday night pot-lucks on city blocks where so much wine must be drunk so as to allow the participants to forget that they're spending every Friday night in the city? While this spring is cold, and it's lingering for longer than any of us wish it to, this spring is turning into summer. That's a leap on a day like this, and with a forecast high of 45 degree rain tomorrow, but it's an inevitability that must be prepared for. It feels today like early spring, and the calendar tells us that it's mid-spring, but those with lake houses and summer plans know that spring is something we must simply endure and tolerate, because there's a very bright light at the end of this entirely too long of tunnel: Summer starts 4 weeks from today.

That statement isn't entirely true, so forgive me for the assumption. Summer starts 4 weeks from today for those who have made proper winter preparations. For those who have either bought a lake home recently or those that bought one so long ago. For those privileged, forward thinking few, summer starts, without any hesitation or doubt, on the Friday that falls four weeks from this one. That's no promise of immediate summer weather, mind you, but that is the promise of a weekend spent different, of a weekend spent in leisure. You could, at this very moment, be looking forward to summer cook-outs and your city neighborhood pot-luck. If things go right, you could be looking forward to that Friday night part and Sunday morning brunch. Again, assuming you're up for so much incredible city fun in one short weekend! Or, you could be thinking about summer at the lake, about grilling out lakeside and walking over soft green grass and onto a sturdy white pier. If you could be spending summer that way, then you should be spending summer that way. It starts in four weeks, ready or not.

Two New Fontana Developments

Apr 22, 2015 by David | Add comment
Fontana is not a large city. It's not even a small city. It isn't a town, either. It's a village. A little, sleepy village. Sure, it has a beautiful lakefront and cobbled stone walkways across its boulevard. The cobbled walkways even cross the highway. Fontana has enjoyed a revitalization over the past 10 years, due largely in part to the renovations at the Abbey Hotel. Those renovations have been consistent and impressive, and this year they have some new fancy entry signs that would make a weary traveler wonder if the hamlet of Fontana was actually the Abbey Village. The street projects, the perennial boulevard, the interesting architecture of the beach house and the facility at Reid Park, it's all rather intoxicating. Personally, I think Gordy's should receive the credit for making Fontana matter, as that lakefront scene has improved dramatically over the last twenty years. Still, Fontana.

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Sure the Abbey Harbor was dug out of a water-filtering swamp, one filled with springs and wildlife, and now it's a gasoline choked boat-swap, but the Abbey Harbor is still a main draw for an increasing number of boaters. This adds to the Fontana appeal, because no other community can offer that fine beach, with those cobbled walks, and those fancy public buildings, and that terrific park, and those lakefront restaurants near that large and continually improving hotel. Developers have noticed that Fontana is a highly desirable area, and they've decided it's time to capitalize on that interest. Abbey Ridge was built of vinyl and new pine 2 x 4s, and sold out immediately. The Abbey Hotel turned condominium and sold out its vast supply of hotel rooms in no time at all- before everyone realized that condo-hotels were horrible creations. Then the Mill Street condominiums competed for the Most Boring Architecture award and sold with relative ease. Fontana has been hot for a while.

The Cliff's of Fontana was the latest development to attempt to further the Fontana momentum, but buying land at peak prices, going excessively deep on infrastructure costs, and positioning a suburban looking product in a vacation home market has relegated that development to back-row status. Even though it has a front row seat, on the highway. Go figure. That highway, though the sidewalks across it are cobbled, still makes for a very significant divide between the haves and the have nots. That's why the two new developments coming to Fontana in 2015 both feature locations that are on the lake-side of the highway, and in that, they have a serious advantage over everything (The Cliff's) on the other side of that dividing artery.

First up is something called the Rowhomes of Fontana. If you think that name sounds suburban, good thinking, because it's a development brought to us by another developer from Suburbia. The designs feature staunchly suburban looks, which is nice if you're from the suburbs and want to feel like you've traveled some distance to find another suburb. The design bores me, but the prices are in the $400s, and the size of the units is larger than the market is used to, and so these units will sell. They'll be built this year near the Post Office in Fontana, which is a lame thing to look at, unless you're a retired postal worker from the suburbs, in which case, this project will combine two of your passions. That aside, this development will sell and it will sell out this summer. If you like the idea of a brand new condominium in Fontana priced in the $400s, be sure to contact me. I'll provide you with the market context for such a purchase, and then we can pick out carpet together. Maybe, if we have time, we can go to Bed Bath and Beyond after.

The other property is very near the Rowhomes, but the location is much, much better. The architecture of this development was drawn by Jason Bernard (Lake Geneva Architects), which means the design is delightful and smart, and caters perfectly to the aesthetic that vacation home buyers are seeking. The location is close to Reid Park, which means it's likely a 2 minute stroll to the Fontana lakefront, and there's tremendous value in that easy, flat saunter. The development is called Lakeview Terraces, which is a grand attempt at out-milquetoasting the other milquetoasty name down the road. These units are also large and they feature two car garages, so I'm expecting these to be wildly popular. Large units, great location, brand new, architectural appropriate and interesting- what more could a developer present to the market?

Neither property is being marketed by yours truly, which is sad and shameful, but I'm happy to help you with both properties. The key to each is the overall size of the developments. Both endeavors are small, offering only a handful of units, which means a market that typically struggles with absorption will have no issue at all with these manageable additions. Let's welcome two new developments that are similar yet completely different, and let's rejoice in the fact that these units will add liquidity to the market and fill a need that has existed for quite some time.

Fontana's Beach House, photo by Matt Mason Photography.

Prisoners

Apr 20, 2015 by David | Add comment
The first person we meet in the movie "Low and Clear" is JT Van Zandt. He has a famous father, but that's not important. He's calm, reserved, and he loves to fly fish. This is, after all, a fly fishing movie that promises to explore the relationship between two old friends, JT and a guy named Xeenie. When we meet JT, he's gliding over saltwater flats in a small boat that he built himself. He's talking about life, about his girlfriend, about Redfish. He lives in coastal Texas by way of Colorado, where he learned to fly fish and became friends with Xeenie. When we meet Xeenie, he's the anti JT, and this contrast is on full display as he curses a mighty blue streak at the fish, the wind, the camera crew. Like most movies about fly fishing, it's supposed to be more about the friendship- the human condition- but it's always mostly about the flies and the fish.

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The first fish we see in the film is a Redfish, taken by JT in those Texas waters. The fish is bright and bold, and as Midwesterners we know that Redfish are simply carp, but don't tell that to JT. When he releases the fish, he pauses for a moment and his voiceover says that he can see emotion in the eyes of the fish, and he can hear what it's telling him. "Trust", the fish is saying, "trust". It's easy to think that, because JT is indeed calm and steadfast, and as he gently releases that saltwater carp it's obvious that the fish was right to trust him. This is the movie, and I don't expect you to watch it. I only tell you about it because I, too, have held fish in my hands and had them speak to me. It happened last week a few times, and then again last night.

With my new bike and my undying devotion to fly fishing, I have combined the two into a stealthy form of hobby trespassing. My house is not near Delavan Lake, but it's closer to Delavan than it is to Geneva, and so on certain nights this spring I've loaded a fly rod into a backpack, strapped the pack to my back, and pedaled over to Delavan Lake to fish for panfish in the channels and lagoons that are common on the south and east side of that lake. In the summer, these shallow bays and channels are choked full of weeds and scum, and as such, they are unfishable. During these stagnant summer months the water brews and stales and smells like all things dead and evil, and this is why I wouldn't ever dare consider pedaling over to throw a fly during any moth that falls after April. But alas, it has been April for a while, and the panfish are gluttonous and fall easily to a presented fly.

If I were to drive in my car over to these fishing spots, I would have to park in a location where my car would not be welcome. I'd have to trespass, or at least park in a way that made my trespassing known. By bike, I can dip and dive into the backwater lagoons, and I can hide behind stacks of shore stations and against brushy shorelines. The bike allows me great freedom to go where I am not permitted, and the anonymity is rather delicious. My fiberglass two weight rod bends with each sip of my fly from a crappie or a bluegill, the small fish turning every way, tugging away from my reach. When the fight is over and I hoist that small fish to my hand, I gently release the hook and let the fish back into the water. It's for that brief moment when I hold them in my hand that I hear them speak. Take me with you, they say.

The first time I heard this, I wasn't certain I was understanding. I knew I sensed something in their eyes, but what was it? Was it trust, as JT feels them say? Or was it fear, which wouldn't be likely given the fact that I'll never keep and kill a fish on purpose. It seemed to me to be neither, instead, it felt like a simple plea, emanating from the glassy eyes of that small bluegill. Save me, it said. Save me from this channel and this filth and this stagnant water that clogs my gills and dulls my color. Free me from this watery sentence, from these weeds and this surface scum and these stifling summer temperatures. Take me with you, save me, treat me to something different, something pure, something clean, something- anything- other than this.

With newfound sympathy, I turned the fish away, one after another, for so many of these past few nights. In different spots, after stashing my bike against the trees or down into the weeds, I caught these fish of varying makes and models, yet while the location changed and the fish as well, they all looked at me with those eyes that spoke the same words. I'm helpless to help them, you see, because there are so many and it would be so hard to fasten a large enough water tank to my bike. Instead, I'll just go back again and again, for the next few days or until the weeds choke out the channels, and I'll play with these fish, hoping to entertain them if only for a while, to take their minds off of their surroundings.

Two Curious Lakefront Sales

Apr 17, 2015 by David | Add comment
There's a new commercial on television that features a couple about to board a flight. Just before they step on, a guy carrying flowers rushes up towards them. He's happy to have caught up with the flight-bound couple. We are meant to believe that he's wishing to tell the woman that he loves her, that she can't go off with that guy she's with, that she has to choose him, instead. But this isn't what happens. The flower carrier tells the couple that, "you got the house". Everyone is thrilled! They do a huge group hug, and the commercial is over. This is real estate, brought to you by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Why the sharp increase in commercials from this trade group? Well because Zillow is trying to destroy them, that's why.

The commercial is supposed to show you that Realtors, like me, care. We rush to airports and bring flowers, because we care. We do everything we do because we care. This is the message brought to you by one of, if not the, largest trade organizations in these United States. The problem with the message is that it's entirely and thoroughly wrong. The message tells the consumer that this dorky flower toting Realtor "got" the house for the buyer. This Realtor, without whom nothing in this transaction would have been possible, saved the day. This is why they all hugged. Because the Realtor made it happen. He got them the house. The message is that the getting is the hard part, and it's the part you hug over. As a point of fact, the getting is the easy part. Anyone can write a contract, and anyone can buy flowers at the airport convenience store. Anyone can get someone a house. The NAR, with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in income annually, wants the public to believe that the Realtor in the television spot was integral and necessary, because he got the buyer the house.

This, unfortunately, is and has been the message from Realtors to the world. And this message is precisely why Realtors are generally unappreciated and disrespected. If I'm on vacation far away and I meet someone at the pool who requires some conversation of me, I am generally asked what it is that I do for a living. I reply that I'm in real estate, which sounds horrible coming out of my mouth, even though I've been in this real estate business for 19 years and have enjoyed at least some level of varying success. When I tell them what I do, I immediately envision their mind snapping to a picture of me driving a Chrysler Sebring convertible that has my name emblazoned on the side. I envision them envisioning me with a name tag on my sport coat, sitting at open houses near the cookie tray. I envision them thinking of me rushing through the airport to tell my customer that they got the house.

The commercial could have been fixed if the agent rushing through the airport were to say this: "I wanted to tell you, we didn't get the house. Don't be upset though, because the buyer who did get the house overpaid by 20%, which means they're suckers and their agent should be ashamed of himself". If that were the commercial, I would gladly be the actor/agent. If that were the commercial, it would be the first time the real estate industry as a whole actually introduced the world to their importance. The getting of a house isn't hard, and it doesn't require an ounce of skill. It requires some general knowledge of a QWERTY keyboard and the ability to remember, or at least write down, one's username and password. The getting can be done by anyone and doesn't require a Realtor. It's the getting at the right price that takes skill, and the failure to promote the actual skill is why Realtors will all end up working in cubicles for Zillow as they process real estate transactions electronically via algorithms.

Along those lines of getting the house, there were two sales this week on the lake. One sale was in Fontana, for a bit under $2.1MM, featuring a shared pier and lakefront easement over the smallish frontage. Nothing further to add. The other sale was on Bonnie Brae, that of the home that sold in 2011 for $2.625MM. The market has appreciated since 2011, as we've discussed, but to what extent? Probably 10%. Maybe 15% for some properties, and maybe less than 10% for others. The appreciation that Bonnie Brae just enjoyed? 45%.

I broke the paragraph for emphasis. The buyer certainly "got the house", but at what cost? Was there anything in the market today that would lead us to believe that we're up 45%? Was that home, when purchased in 2011, some sort of outstanding value? Well, let's see what I thought about it in April of 2011 when it sold:



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The pricing strategies aside, the sale doesn't provide much of a sign for our market moving forward. Some sales are harbingers of things to come, this sale was simply a sale of a nice house on a nice lot at a pretty attractive price.




Sounds like I thought it was okay, but certainly not a steal. I'm not going to bore you with statistics that explain why this sale is an outlier of epic proportions, I'm just going to assume you already understand that. The new price reflects a premium that one buyer thought reasonable, and I suppose it all comes back to the airport Realtor. If all that matters is getting a house, consider the job well done.

Lake Geneva Lakefront Inventory

Apr 15, 2015 by David | Add comment
Because I'm nothing if not community minded, I've been hard at work this year trying my best to quench the market's thirst for new inventory on the lakefront. It's not easy, this thirst quenching business, but I'm doing my best. That's why I currently have seven lakefronts for sale, and another one on the way later this week. I do like listing properties, but it's quite a bit of work. It's work to convince the seller that their best interests will be served by hiring me. It's work to have the photographer out to shoot, work to write the narrative (even when it's poorly written), and it's work to set the ads in motion. It's also work that doesn't pay a penny unless that work yields results, which makes this work unlike most work that exists in the world of work. Still, it's good work, if you can get it, and if you don't mind being paid nothing for that work, which I do.

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That's why I have to sell these places, and sell I will. The newest listing is the one you see up there, and in the image below this paragraph. The house is at 946 Marianne Terrace in the city of Lake Geneva, priced at $2.699MM. The home was listed for a spell last year at $2.975MM, but now it's on with me and the price is considerably improved. This home was built in 2007 which means it's newer, and that means it has newer home amenities. There are five bedrooms and four and a half baths. There's a walkout lower level, a two car garage, and some fancy and shiny bits everywhere you look. The 60' of frontage is not particularly wide, but it's more than enough to have a private pier with canopied slip. It's a terrific lake house, walkable to downtown Geneva, and set up for immediate enjoyment.

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Another new listing, pictured below, is in Williams Bay priced at $2.425MM. This home sold five years ago for $2MM, and then the owner set about doing the work that needed to be done. The result is an older lake home that's now in terrific condition. The 65' of level frontage is made even better by the 1.18 acres of wooded depth. There are five bedrooms, two baths, a detached garage, a kids playhouse, and a separate guest house with kitchen and bath. The pier is oversized, the lawn level, the setting wooded. It's on the north side of Fontana Bay, so there are sunsets and sunrises from this spot. It's good, and it's not on the open market, so if you're reading this you've done well to find out what's going on behind these Lake Geneva scenes.

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N2201 Bonnie Brae Lane was first listed a couple of years ago in the mid $4MMs, which is why I just brought that to market last week for $3.399MM. With 2.72 acres of delicious deciduous depth and 102' of level frontage, this place isn't your ordinary lakefront. The owner fell in love with the quirky style of it all, so he hired Chris Hummel to make it bigger and better still. This is a casual house, built for lakeside fun. There's a 20' x 40' in ground pool, three levels of finished space (not including the fourth floor lookout), and of course the tiki hut boathouse at the lakefront. Don't forget the detached garage with studio above it, all off that fabulous road that is Snake.

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In spite of recent showing activity, my Forest Hills South Shore Club home is still for sale, now priced at $1.675MM. This home is poised to be the most economical home ever sold in the SSC, and it's ready for immediate occupancy just in time for summer. Lest you forget about 1014 South Lakeshore in Fontana, that home remains on the open market. For that palace I'm seeking the sort of buyer who understands that they'd be purchasing perfection at a price that's below replacement cost. I'm seeking a buyer who demands the finest everything, but doesn't want to kill two years of their life dealing with a construction project. I'm seeking a buyer who finds that the best of something really is worth aspiring to, because quite simply, this is the best home available on Geneva today.

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With this inventory, the market should be pleased. If I write to you in six months time and I still have all of this inventory, I will most likely then be interviewing for my next job. Until then, I'll be at home trying to make that heart, or a flower, or something that resembles anything at all, out of expresso and foam.

Spring

Apr 13, 2015 by David | Add comment
In Some Town, Illinois, a Realtor is walking into his office. He's done this every day for years, parking in his spot, walking down the sidewalk, up the steps and into the office. He takes his coat off and hangs it on his hook, he only wore the coat today because it was raining, not because he was cold. He walks past the offices, first the large ones with windows where the executives work. Their work is telling him to sell more, to sell bigger homes and more of them, to make more money and higher commissions. He hates the people who work in those glass offices. Past those, past the break room where long ago he learned not to put something that he intended to eat into that communal refrigerator. The cubicles are many, and he remembers the times during boom markets where every desk was filled, and he remembers the lean years where half were empty. Today, they're filled again, and he'd rather they not be. He's tired, and the day hasn't yet begun.

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His desk has looked the same for all of these years, only the computer has made improvements. There are some photos of his wife and kids, three salesman of the year awards, two clippings where he was quoted in the local paper, and a parking ticket that he was supposed to pay by last Friday. His computer screen glows with some life, and he takes pride in knowing his screen was the first screen to be turned on that day. Earlier than secretary's screen, earlier than hot-shot-Josh with his stupid new Mercedes, earlier than the executives who will be in shortly to tell him to sell more. There are new listings this morning, two on Tulip Drive in the $180s, one on Marigold for $219k, and another on Daisy Lane for $149k. He thinks that these streets should be called the FLOWER STREETS, much like those television show millionaire agents call a clutch of their streets the BIRD STREETS. He doesn't think that for long, because he thinks he has someone to buy the one on Tulip, so he emails them:

HI RICK AND TINA;

NEW LISTING ON TULIP. WANT TO SEE IT?

BILL


They do want to see it, but the listing came on the market last night and he only saw it this morning, so when Rick's car is parked at the house later, alongside Josh's new C-Class, Bill just keeps driving. Home to his wife and home to his kids, home where he doesn't have to think about his cubicle and his computer and the fact that his sales have been steadily declining for the past four years, quarter over quarter, with a pattern that looks like he was doing it on purpose. Tomorrow will be better, he thinks.

Today, I drove to my office, too. I walked inside and turned on this computer. I delighted in the fact that I don't have to check on mundane real estate listings, in some mundane town, working some mundane market. I am bursting with optimism this morning, not because I sold anything over the weekend (I didn't), not because my sales figures are better than last year (not even close), and not because I'm not worried about the Chicago Bully Agents opening up shop in town. No, I'm happy this morning because it's raining, and it's warm and the earth smells alive. There are flowers at the end of my driveway and the seeds that I sowed last night in the drizzly rain are undoubtedly awakening even as I type. The grass is greening, and later today I'm going to try to start my lawn mower for the first time this year. Just thinking about pulling the long cord on that old Gravely makes me at once discouraged and giddy. Spring has come to Lake Geneva, and there's little left to do but bask in its moderate temperatures and intermittent showers.

Spring means more than green grass and daffodils. It means more than seeds taking root and freshly tilled garden plots. It means wild onions are sending their greened tops skyward, and it means I'll be grabbing them by the handful and delighting in the way their pungent aroma overtakes my car on the drive home. It means morel season is nearly here, and if you're new to this blog you'll know I take two things very seriously. Lake Geneva real state and morels. But that's not fair, because it's also trout season, and after enduring the misery of throwing wet flies for lethargic trout during the first few weeks of the early season, April and May mean hatches and bugs and dry flies being gently thrown on thin line to enthusiastic wild trout.

Spring means piers and boats, and more of each are hitting the water every day. Saturday meant lunch at Gordy's for the fist time this year, and I deployed my periwinkle pants for the occasion. Summer pants don't get worn in winter, nor do they find their way to my legs in the fall. They are summer pants for a reason, and Saturday was summery enough to warrant their debut. The market was active this weekend, too, with showings all around but mostly on lakefronts. There seems to be increasing activity over the last week, and why would I question the catalyst for that activity? It's spring, and the fever has spread. That fever has me feeling optimistic this morning, and it should have you feeling the same way.

Above, one of many bluegills I caught and released on a fly last night.

Abbey Springs Market Update

Apr 10, 2015 by David | Add comment
For a little while, I considered buying a vacant lot in Abbey Springs. This was when I played golf often, when my game was strong and my vertebra were aligned nicely. I lived in Geneva National for a spell, but golf course living in GN is nothing like golf course living in Abbey Springs. When I lived in GN, if I wished to play a round of golf, or a few holes of golf, I'd have to drive to the clubhouse, check in, rent a cart, wait for my turn at the first tee, and play. I liked doing this, because this was before I had so many more hobbies than I have now, and with no fishing or sailing tugging at my schedule it seemed perfectly reasonable to while away four or five hours with my shirt tucked into belted khakis.

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When this was happening, I longed for the convenience and casual nature of Abbey Springs golf course living. There, you could keep your cart in your garage, and amble on to the course whenever the schedule slotted a wide enough lull. I thought it would be freeing to live this way, without so much scheduling and so many rangers. Offering further enticement was the fact that while I played golf my wife an kids could ride their own cart down to the beach, or over to the clubhouse, or, should I feel family-man-ish, they could join me on the course for a few holes to putt and chip. Such casual inclusion would be frowned upon at Geneva National, but at Abbey Springs things aren't as formal. I liked the idea quite a bit, but my interest coincided with the peak of the market, so vacant lots were very difficult to come by and when they did present they were priced outside of this Realtor's pale budget.

Abbey Springs is, by my eye, best known in this market for offering many different varieties of condominium living. They have small condos and large townhomes. They have some condos so small you'd long for the spacious luxury of a Motel6 standard ground level. You'd be forgiven if, after surveying the wide range of the Abbey Springs condominium styles, you assumed the original architects designed the whole lot after an afternoon spent imbibing. There are designs so odd that you'd swear they were built only on a bet. But alas, they were serious and the results were anything but. The styles are unique and varied, and if you're looking to spend $250k or so and you'd like to be near the lake in an amenity blessed association, Abbey Springs is the answer to your query.

Aside from the condominiums, however, Abbey Springs functions just like a residential lake access community, except one that has loads of amenities. If you're looking for a single family home, as is a common hunt for current condominium owners who have outgrown their small space, you've generally been faced with two distinct options. You could, as the history goes, buy some older, strange house. If the condominiums are unique, some of the single family homes make those condominiums look downright milquetoast. These older variety single family homes are modern without being modern, and they're generally in some stage of decay, either obvious or subtle. If the homes are not old and strange, others are older and small, as was one I sold last year on Rolling Green to a lovely young family from Lakeview. These are fine if you're looking for a single family home in line with condominium pricing (single family in Abbey Springs generally starts around $400k), but what if you want something better? What if you want something newer that isn't weird?

Well, Abbey Springs has you covered there as well. They do new and bold rather well, and they expect you to cough up some serious dough for such a property. If older or weirdish generally costs $650k or less, then new and fancy will run you $900k or more. Thankfully, I'm about to stand in the gap for you and introduce a new offering to the market that will, without any shadow of any doubt, please the Abbey Springs market with a $765k ask on a quality home on a beautiful golf course lot on a perfect street. Look for this listing in the coming weeks, or, if you'd prefer to be the first one to tour it, just let me know. This home is large, it's high end, and it's impeccably maintained, which means it's everything that Abbey Springs homes in this price range generally are not.

Bike Lake Geneva

Apr 08, 2015 by David | Add comment
I liked it when I was young. Back then, I thought my parents refusal to buy me things was part of some master plan carefully engineered to teach me responsibility. By refusing to buy me the things that my friends parents' bought them I figured they were showing me that in order to have nice things I'd need to work for them. I thought it was good, noble parenting. Today, as I think about it, the real reason for that refusal was simple, overwhelming, cheapness. This cheapness is why I was forced to buy my own mountain bike, and what a mountain bike it was.

I was in Junior High, and had been routinely canvassing Fontana Outdoor Sports, looking at the shiny bikes of varying makes and models. After months of deliberation, mixed with denials of funding assistance from those cheap parents, I decided on the Nishiki Manitoba. This wasn't the Giant, or the Trek, or the Specialized, as some of my friends had, but it was a mountain bike, and it was shiny and new and it had all sorts of beefy bits and those knobby tires. It seemed exotic to me, this combination of a word that might be Japanese, maybe Chinese, at the time it didn't matter. It was a far away land, some place where they new about mountain bikes, and they knew how to make them appeal to 13 year old Wisconsin kids. Adding the Manitoba as the model was exciting as well, because back then Manitoba was as foreign to me as Zimbabwe is now. Little did I know and less did I care that Manitoba was simply a nearby province full of flatness. I would have also had no way of knowing that my future wife would be from Manitoba, but this purchase likely set that event in motion as well.

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The bike was white, with black accents. I would ride it down to Doc's to buy egg rolls, and one day after leaving Doc's with an egg roll and a packet full of sweet and sour sauce, I saw Harry Caray leaving Harpoon Willies. I gathered the courage to approach him, and as he stumbled back to his car, with his handlers assisting at each shoulder, I had nothing autograph worthy to offer him except that receipt from that egg roll. CUBS WIN. HOLY COW. HARRY. He wrote over the faint receipt. I kept it for a while, but not for too long because the ink wore thin in the way it does when scratched on a convenience store receipt. The bike was there then, and until I was able to drive a car that bike was everything to me. Where it went I cannot know, but today it's nowhere to be found.

Some years later after I had met and married that girl from Manitoba, we found ourselves back at Fontana Outdoor Sports, in search of bikes. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, so we deliberated for a short while and left the store that day with two shiny new mountain bikes. Mine was a Raleigh, and hers a Giant. They were very nice bikes. A week later we loaded them into our Jeep and drove to the place in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where we had met only a few years before, and we rode our new mountain bikes around the dirt and gravel roads. Those bikes were perfect.

Then, a week or two after that, once we had returned to our home at the time, it was apparent that the remodeling project that was underway at said home was going to be too involved, too messy, too dusty, and we needed to leave for a temporary rental. We left, taking our clothes and dog with us, and left the mountain bikes safely stashed in the garage. The roofer whom I had chosen, likely a recent parolee, commented to me one day about how nice those two bikes were. Were they mine? I said they were. Were they new? I said yes. A few days later, my bike was gone. He was, after all, a male, and as such would have no use for a woman sized bike. I drove to his house to inquire as to the whereabouts of my bike, and he knew nothing about it. That day was approximately 12 years ago, and until yesterday that Raleigh was the last bike I had owned.

My newly torn calf muscle doesn't encourage walking, but I found that pedaling a bicycle on mostly flat terrain didn't bother that shamed muscle. So I stopped at Wheel and Sprocket and talked to a bearded kid who tried his best to put me into a bike that I had no interest in affording. After some resistance, I agreed to buy a basic Trek bike, something I wouldn't have done if Mary Burke had won the governorship, but with her safely returned to political exile, I thought it would be nice to buy a Wisconsin bike. I stuffed the bike in the back of my fishing truck and drove home. I pedaled around the driveway, pleased that my calf still wasn't interfered with, and leaned the bike against the far wall in my garage. I have no roofing projects scheduled, so it should be safe there.

This new biking idea was not born solely out of this leg injury. Instead, I had been thinking about it occasionally when driving past the Kettle Moraine bike trails while en route to and from Rushing Waters Trout Farm. These trails look significant, and they look popular, and on the corner of where the road heads towards the trails there's a bike shop that looks as though it would be equally at home in Boulder. A year or more ago, my wife went with our children and their friends and they rode the White River Trail, just north of Lake Geneva. The ride was fun, I heard, but the disappointment that ensued once they found out that the small restaurant (Pedal and Cup) at the end of the trail was closed on that day wrecked the journey, at least temporarily. I wasn't there, because I didn't have a bike, because the Nishiki was no where to be found and my roofer was riding my Raleigh.

Lake Geneva Market Update

Apr 06, 2015 by David | Add comment
There's very little in our way now. The ice has been turned back to water, the snow has melted, the streets have been swept clean of their winter dirt. Grass is greening, if slowly, and flowers have begun to flower, at least in yards other than mine. Geese are flying north, Robins are hopping around my yard, and my dogs are riddled with ticks. There are bugs again, lots of bugs flittering and fluttering, and there are people out walking in shorts and sweatshirts. Things have turned now, and while there is rain that we must now endure, the rain is our friend as it works to wash and scrub and bring life. Winter is over, spring is here, and summer is closer than the calendar would lead you to believe.

The market has taken notice, but as I scan the MLS this morning the activity seems scattered. There are just two lake access homes priced under $400k pending sale today. That's surprising to me. Those two properties include one boring ranch in Cedar Point and a similarly boring ranch in Country Club Estates. I would expect that market to be much stronger at the moment, as prices under $400k have been rather flat over the past 24 months, and it seems to me that this market should be spurred on by low interest rates, and perhaps more so by the impending increase in those low rates. Values in the Chicago suburbs have been faring well, stock market returns have been significant, and overall this is the sort of market segment that should benefit the most from those macro conditions. Alas, the lake access market isn't as dynamic as I think it should be.




There's a $435k house in Country Club Estates on a pretty cool lot pending sale to a buyer whom I'm happy to be representing, and then there are two homes pending in Glenwood Springs right now. One is a painted up cottage, cute enough to sell very quickly. The other is a tear down variety on a couple of lots. Both are priced in the upper $400s. The market continues its pace from 2014 for one segment, and three homes are pending in the $600-700s. I'm a fan of the Hollybush property that's pending at an ask of $725k, as it's close to the lake and in a quality setting. We'll see what happens with that one, but I'm guessing it's a great candidate for a major renovation. There are two homes in Loramoor, both priced in the upper $600s, both pending sale. One is a decent ranch home with slip, the other a spectacularly unique older home, one of the original Loramoor estate structures. It's a very cool house, and I like it rather seriously. However, it's an absolute project, and as someone that has tackled some serious projects in my life this home makes me wonder if I'd be up to the task. This, coming from the guy that hand dug a crawl space so I could lay proper stringers before re-flooring. Loramoor is a great spot, but that's a serious project.

Speaking of Loramoor and serious projects, the massive stable building has come back to market in the mid $1MM's. That's the home that was owned by famed cartoonist Joe Martin, and took approximately 77 years to sell. When it sold, the market was relieved. Now, just a short while later, it's back to market, after enduring some considerable updating. It's a flip at this point, and we'll see if there's a taker for this monstrous structure now that the hard renovation work has been done. It's one of those unique properties that offers extreme value if the value is being based on the 16,000 square feet, but it also fits oddly into the lake access market purely by the virtue of that massive footage. We'll see if there's a taker, and I hope there is, as one property should never have to spend most of its life with its thumb out, begging for someone to stop.

The lakefront market still features only two on-market pending contracts. One for the shared pier house that blinds my tender eyes, the other of the Bonnie Brae house that seeks to set a new market high for this cycle. Both are difficult sales for me to comment on fairly, so we'll just mention them and move on. There are other pending sales, but they're off-market. A house at the old Westgate property is pending in the low $3s, and a modest home on modest frontage on the north shore of Fontana is pending under $2MM. I'd consider that one a tear down, so there's a large price per foot being payed for dirt. Just my opinion, of course. There's a sale that I have pending on the South Shore priced over $2MM, and that should close within 6 weeks. That deal features a rare combo for me of both a buyer and a seller whom I really enjoy working with.

For these contracts, I continue to see value, but it's not widespread like it was a few years ago. I've written it often, but it bears repeating every so often, just to serve as a reminder to those who enjoy getting ahead of themselves. A market that inspires confidence is a market that encourages mistakes, and I'm seeing plenty of those mistakes being made right now. The lakefront market on Geneva is one that begs compromise, no matter your price point, but buyers must remain vigilant to only buy that which meets most of their criteria. For instance, if you want to be in Fontana, and you want level frontage, that's a tremendous, lofty goal. If you find that, and the house is a disaster and there's an active uranium mine in the front yard, perhaps you should consider taking a pass. The same goes for a property that you find to be acceptable, except that it's priced a billion dollars over the market. This might be a good one to pass on. If you find a property you like and the price is fitting and the house needs a new kitchen and maybe some bathroom work, this is something you buy. You buy the things you cannot change. You buy quality land at a quality market price, and you make the rest work over time.

Speaking of time, I encourage market patience at all times, but if you're thinking this summer should be spent lakeside, you're running out of time.

Ice Is Out

Apr 03, 2015 by David | Add comment



I suppose a better person wouldn't have to do what I have to do. But, alas, it goes something like this:


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Today, we must guess. Not for prize, but for pride. Add a comment to this post if you have a good idea as to when ice-out will be complete. For this post, ice out is considered complete when the area between Gage Marine, Cedar Point, Rainbow Point, and Conference Point has all been turned to water. My guess is April 2, but that's just because I'm pretty certain that's when it will actually be.

I wrote that here on March 13th. Yesterday, on the day that I proclaimed to be the day the ice would leave, the ice, indeed, left. You could work with a Realtor who lacks that sort of incredible predictive qualities, but why would you? I know if I had a choice of working with someone who could accurately foresee future events I'd likely work with him, or her. I'm guessing other Realtors will now read this and be upset with me for proclaiming this previously unknown prophetic prowess, as they tend to be upset with me whenever I say things like that, or whenever I say anything at all.

It's a shortened Easter weekend post today. No opining needed. Have a tremendous Holiday weekend and maybe make sure it includes some Lake Geneva time. One client of mine, when I asked him if he was coming up this weekend, said he couldn't come up, because he had Easter eggs to hide. As a long time aficionado of the Easter Egg Hunt (EEH) I can attest to the regenerative qualities of a hunt that takes place lakeside, as my mother and father (only my mother, really) hid eggs along the shoreline in our front yard from the time any of us can remember and up to, and including, this coming weekend. We have churches in Lake Geneva, too, all sorts of varieties, so there's really no excuse that we'll accept if you choose to stay at home in the boring suburbs or worse, the city.

I'll be out and about, working and playing, churching and egg hiding. Oh, and remember that braggadocios post from earlier this week about how I had lost some weight? Within hours of writing that I tore the calf muscle in my right leg, so perhaps I shouldn't have said anything. See you at the lake, the newly opened lake, the one that's just as big and blue and bright as we all remember it.