Geneva Lakefront Realty
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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 $23MM in 2014 YTD sales and over $95MM in sales since the start of 2010, that goal is easily within reach.

    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.

  • Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.

    ~Will Rogers

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Recent Posts



Vacation Home Search


Alta Vista Sells

Nov 26, 2014 by DC | Add comment
Remember when I said I liked the Aspen Lane sale at $498k? Remember when I said that the main reason I liked it was because the location afforded privacy, and that sort of privacy isn't generally available in a $500k type boat-slipped property? I know I do. I said those things because I meant those things, which is why the sale that I just brokered yesterday is another winner. If Aspen Lane is private, then Alta Vista is that much better.

To own 1.65 acres is to own a lot of land, depending on where you own it. 1.65 acres in London would be worth seventy-nine bajillion dollars. 1.65 acres of Kansas dust would be worth $12.20, depending on the market value of tumbleweed. 1.65 acres of frontage on Geneva would generally cost you $2MM or more, and 1.65 acres on Alta Vista just cost $870k to a customer whom I was very pleased to work with, and a client I was pleased to work for.

This home sold in 2012 for $800k. The buyer then set about fixing some obsolescence that existed at the time of their purchase, and when they approached me earlier this year about possibly selling it was obvious to me that the home would have no trouble finding a suitor. The home was a tudor, in the same way that the home in Cedar Point was a tudor, which is to say the siding pattern screams TUDOR, even if nothing else really does. Even so, this tudor was a nice home in 2012, and it was a nicer home in 2014.

The sales price this time around was $870k, a figure that represents a nearly 10% paper gain for the home, and if this were any HGTV show we'd flash $70K PROFIT!!!!! on your screen many, many times. But this is not HGTV, and I'm not wearing a suit, nor is my twin brother alive and in the business with me. So we'll have to understand that a figurative gain of $70k amounts to a literal break even number, and in that the market should be pleased. Prices are up from 2012, but modestly.

This price fit the market correctly, and a buyer who had found himself in the market for several years finally found what it was he was seeking. And what was that? Well, it was privacy, a boatslip, a nice, attractive home, and some add ins that mattered but not entirely- an in ground pool, a really sweet storage barn, and a Snake Road location that shines no matter the weather.

There have been a lot of sales this year priced between $800k and $1MM in this off-water market. I would gladly admit that I would have rather bought this home than any of the other homes that sold before. The Sidney Smith sale that I brokered was a close second, as that location offered similar privacy and fundamentals, but this Alta Vista location is special.

To the buyer of this home, well done. It'll be a fantastic experience as long as you follow my rules of ownership, which aren't rules at all but suggestions. Granted, they are suggestions that will lead to vacation home utopia, but still, suggestions. To the seller, a big thank you for letting me help with this sale. Whatever comes next should be better than what came before. To a buyer reading this thinking, "Geez Dave, I didn't even know that place was for sale". Well, no one did, except for a buyer working with me. Best remedy your representation situation.

A most Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'm assuming if you're reading about Lake Geneva vacation homes, we all have plenty to be thankful for.

Two Cedar Point Lakefront Sales

Nov 24, 2014 by David |
Earlier this year, a famous flame thrower bought a lakefront house in Fontana. The house was large. It was fancy, with a master bedroom suite to die for and the most obvious of fanciful additions- a wine cellar. Not just any wine cellar, but one with some grape leaves and corks used as decoration. The house was up on a hill, with 100' of lakefront, but that lot wasn't large, or was it deep, in fact, at 100' it was barely wide enough at all. $3.8MM was the price for this home, proving that the market doesn't always care about quality of land in the event that there are grape leaves and corks.

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Last week, a home in Williams Bay sold. Well, two homes sold, both lakefront, both within a stones throw of each other, but only if that Fontana Flame Thrower was doing the chucking. This lot was 114' wide, and the views from this spot on the easterly side of Cedar Point are really quite special. The views to the westerly side of the point are better, but still. The lot was similar to that Fontana lot, though the property in the Bay is not as steep, and the frontage even wider.

The home was nice enough, a tudor of sorts, if we're taking to calling something tudor only because it has the exterior of a tudor, that being some stucco and some wood boards that divide up the stucco. It wasn't fancy, but it was nice, and it was clean, and for $2.125MM it was a nice sale for the buyer and a reasonable price for the seller. Since I'm keen on disliking deals that I wasn't part of, you'll know that I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say that I actually like this sale. I would have liked it a whole lot better sub-$2, but that's just because I like securing extreme value for my buying customers.

There was a time when I'd argue that a house like this in a location like that would always want to be a house in that same price range. In other words, a house like that for that price is best not tinkered with. My thinking being, if that home undergoes a significant remodel, and the new owner sticks another $500k into that home, is that a good application of funds, relative to the possible future value? I'd generally say no, that such a remodel here should be avoided, but the $3.8MM sale in Fontana earlier this year- a sale that I do not believe to be an outlier- shows that fancy and shiny almost always trumps property, so if the new owner wishes to gild the walls, then gild away.

Down the road a bit, where Circle turns to Lincoln, another lakefront sale printed. $1.3MM for this one, a full price transaction was the result of multiple bids. So did the winner of the bid actually win? I'd say I don't think so. Yes, that new owner did get on the lake for $1.3MM. That's always a nice thing. And that buyer just bought a very charming old home, one that I think would do nicely with a lipstick remodel. But $1.3MM buys those things and a shared pier, and in case you forgot how I feel about shared piers, I do not like them, not one bit.

I do not like them with a charming house. I do not like them with a pleasant view. I do not like them for $1.6MM, and I do not like them for $1.3MM. I did not like them at the market peak, and I certainly don't like them now. I will not like them in a year or two. I'll never like a shared pier. Ever.

But I was not the buyer of this house, so we'll chalk this one up to the variety of life dictating somewhat curious purchase decisions. The home likely sold because of that severe drought of quality entry level homes, as I'd bet in the face of considerable competition this home would not have generated such immediate activity. Whether or not I like the sale is a non-issue, as it simply removes another piece of inventory and makes the remainder of the active market that much stronger.

Lakeside Thanksgiving

Nov 21, 2014 by David | Add comment
I think it's good that we give our Federally mandated Thanks next week. It's good because I have had harvest decorations up around my house for a month or so, including corn strapped to my front porch, some weeds tied into a clump on my front and my back doors, and some pumpkins scattered here and there. Some of those pumpkins came from my own garden, where it's always a surprise when something that was purposefully planted actually grows and sends forth its fleshy fruit. Harvest time in that garden is less, "let's go harvest some pumpkins", and more, "hey, I accidentally stepped on this pumpkin that was hidden under these weeds- let's bring it inside and set it on the table".


Other pumpkins came from a wheelbarrow. This wasn't any wheelbarrow, mind you, it was a special wheelbarrow that wasn't special at all until we loaded hundreds of pumpkins, squashes, and gourds into and on top of it. With the help of a physics minded friend, we made that wheelbarrow into a legend, and fit more pumpkins on it than anyone had ever fit before, and indeed more than anyone will ever fit again. This wasn't just some sloppy loading of pumpkins into a wheelbarrow, this was science. And science, as we all know, only exists for our pumpkiny exploitation.

But Thanksgiving. Sometime a few weeks ago, there were pumpkins and hung up weeds and corn lashed to posts, but there were also snowmen figurines, some Joy To The World tins, and a statue of Santa fly-fishing. Christmas had forced its way into Thanksgiving, or more accurately, before Thanksgiving. Harvest time has been confused with gift giving, collecting corn from fields had been disguised as coupon collecting. Black Friday was no longer the culmination of so much November shopping restraint, because Black Wednesday and Black Tuesday and Black Monday, they've all existed for the better part of this month. Thanksgiving has been usurped.

It's a weather thing, to be sure, with snow and single digit temperatures and red cups at Starbucks. There are many forces at work here, which is why I stand alone in my defense of Thanksgiving, which has always, up until right now, been my favorite Holiday. I like the look of Thanksgiving, the sepia of the scenery and the still of the woods and waters. I like the cold air that isn't so terribly cold. I like the ground that crunches under foot, but the sounds of leaf and stale grass crunching, not ice and snow. I like so many things about Thanksgiving, but this year, things are all out of place and I'm weary.

As I think of next week, and of Thanksgiving, I have one bit of advice. If you own a vacation home here, any one of any size, but one with a fireplace, then I think you should spend Thanksgiving in that home. Thanksgiving in the suburbs is fine, but Thanksgiving at the lake is so much better. This shouldn't really be advice that I even need to give. This advice should be obvious. Family lives in city or suburbs. Family flees on Wednesday, to the lake. Family dines and laughs and throws footballs on Thursday. Family drives on Friday to cut down their Christmas tree, if that's their bag. Black Friday sales can wait, there are trees to be chopped.

There's little else I can say on this topic. Thanksgiving at the lake. That's what you need to do. I'm saying this now so that you have time to plan. How's the plan go? Like this: Email everyone who will be in attendance for Thanksgiving dinner. Tell them it's at the lake. Give your address. Tell them to bring desserts and side dishes, depending on which side of the aisle they sat on at your wedding.

The War

Nov 19, 2014 by David | Add comment
It was still warm when everyone told us it would be cold. They said that the cold would come from the north, which is where everyone already knew it came from. It would come early, stay late, and impose its will on all of us for the entirety of the in between. The men who told us this were the weathermen. There are weather women, to be sure, but not nearly as many of them. This is because weather men start weather college with the goal of becoming an anchor. That's what they all want to be. So they press their suits, two for the price of one at the mall, and they comb their hair tight. They will be anchors, all of them, except that there isn't room for all of them. The ones with too much personality, too much giggle in their voice and too much slouch in their shoulders, they become the weather men. Stoic posture and a serious smile is the requirement to anchor, but the absence or squishiness of both is what qualifies for weather man. They all smiled and slouched and then said it would be cold.

They said it would be so cold, so early, that many citizens chose to abandon their posts and flee. Cold Dodgers, that's what we called them, they left for warmer climes, where the cold would reach but not for very long. The cold mass would march towards them, easily conquering this state and the ones around it, and even the ones under it down south, where most had felt they would be safe. Tennessee never stood a chance, as they fell on a Tuesday when the temperature never warmed above freezing, and the snow that fell on Monday stayed all of Tuesday and into Wednesday. Those in the south saw this coming, and they tried to beat it back. They held the state line, and fought it for most of the day, but at nightfall the attack was too relentless, the pressure too steady. They had only light jackets and regular shoes. "I can't feel my toes!" The screams lasted deep into the night until they were only muffled pleas that sounded less like fighting than resignation.

Timmy was only 19. This wasn't his time, and in another time, it wouldn't have been his time at all. He knew the cold. He had visited his grandmother in Minnesota, once. It was Christmas, and while he can't remember what he opened on that bountiful morning, he does remember walking from his car to the house. It was so cold. He made it half way, and thought of going back. Back to his car, back to the county road and the interstate system. He thought, half way from that car to that house, that he should leave while he still could. But he didn't. And that night, he didn't want to fight. His friends said it would be fun. It would be worth it, they said. Everyone was doing it. It was the right thing to do. So he went out that night, and he stayed out that night. He was last seen near a tire fire in the middle of town, huddled next to it but unresponsive. When his friends said they were leaving, that it was too cold, he just mumbled Minnesota. Minnesota.

Those who were in occupied territory did their best to continue as if nothing were wrong. Those who type for a living still typed, with heaters crowded under their desks to warm their legs. Their fingers were still cold, always cold. They blew on them, they stuck them in their pockets, they held them under the desk. Shirley did that on one late afternoon. The irony of it all was that she wasn't supposed to be there that day. She was supposed to be at home, with her family, making dinner. But she wasn't. She stayed on that day, because the snow was blowing and the weather man had said in such a cheery way that people should stay off the roads. So she did. She typed, blowing on her fingers, stuffing them in her pockets. When she reached under her desk, she touched the heater and burned the tips clear off of her fingers. She was only 37.

In the Free Territory, men still golfed. They knew what was going on above the line, and they talked about it like they cared. They had family behind that line, family living under that terrible reign. They talked about the war over lunch, on that patio that people down there have taken to calling verandas. They didn't play golf last Friday morning, because they said it was too cold. They were so cocky just a few days before, certain that the lines would hold somewhere in the Carolinas and Westward to Georgia. They said there were good men there, men fighting along side their brothers, both the ones they knew and others they didn't. But Friday morning they didn't play golf because the line broke. It broke like it always did, late into the night on the heels of so much wind. There was no where that was safe. Maybe they'd play again next Friday, but there was no way to know. The weather man said not to count on it, but he was smiling when he said that. He was smiling the whole time.

Aspen Lane Sells

Nov 17, 2014 by David | Add comment
There's a generally acknowledged acceptance of community. If we haven't yet moved to a community, be it a town or a subdivision, we search for such a community populated by those who share similar opinions and goals. Diversity of thought is fine, but rarely does someone seek out an environment in which they vehemently disagree with those around them. This is, for instance, why I will never move to Madison. We look for communities where our would-be neighbors have the same hopes and goals as we do, and in most cases, if there is some unity of attitude there is a thriving community. This is why lake access associations are generally successful. Whenever you combine bunches of people in somewhat strict geographic constraints, you do have potential for conflict and strife. But when everyone just wants to swim from a pier and walk down a well-manicured parkway, things tend to work out just fine.

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Lake Geneva is loaded with associations. Some big and others small, some loud and others quiet, all of them clean, fun, and safe. But they are communities, these associations, and if you wish to avoid waving to like-minded neighbors, you might be better served in one of our spread out associations. These rare associations still offer community, with shared piers and lakeside parks, but when the communal high-fiving grows tedious, these associations offer a private respite from all that glad handing. Associations like the Lake Geneva Club, Shore Haven, Sybil Lane, and of course, our co-ops like the Congress Club, Harvard Club, and Belvidere Park, these all require some participation in the idea of community. These are tight associations, where everyone generally gets along, but where waiving and smiling is a requirement of most any summer Saturday. Sometimes, people wish to simply be alone.

That's where other associations enter into the mix. I sold a home on Sidney Smith Lane earlier this year. For a little more than $800k, my client purchased a big home on a big wooded lot. His boat slip is at the end of a private drive, and if he wishes for community he can find it on that white pier. At the end of a pier day, he can retire to his property, to his woods and his long driveway, to be with his family without any interruption from passersby. I have a sale pending in Alta Vista, another association with the sort of supreme privacy that can only be offered by large platted lots. Other associations with lake access that match this similar description include Oak Glenn, the very private, very small association located off of Aspen Lane, in between Knollwood and Cedar Point Park. This little enclave has a handful of homes, a nice pier, and privacy galore. That's why someone just bought the only available offering there for $498k. Large lot, lots of trees, close proximity to the lake, slip, two car garage. $498k? $498k.

This little chalet came to market in early 2013 for $599k. It wasn't a bad deal at $599k, to be very fair. It was a simple house, sure, with a spiral staircase and a low basement ceiling, but it was a decent house that wasn't entirely too old. The home sat on the market for all of 2013, then for nearly all of 2014. If a buyer were considering the Lake Geneva Club, similar dollars would have bought them a small two bedroom house built in the 1930s on a tiny lot, without a basement. The spiral staircase and low basement ceiling at this Aspen Lane cottage really, really hurt this property. I'd argue that these two factors are the only reasons you need to consider if you're wondering why this home didn't sell sooner, and for more money. I'd also argue that if this home were on a crawl space, without the spiral or the low basement ceiling, this home would have sold. If Germans still love David Hasselhof, then Midwesterners still hate spiral staircases and super low basement ceilings.

This sale brings up some questions about the market, but it answers more. The sale shows that the market is always going to think $500k for a house with a slip is a good idea. It also shows that buyers who are afraid of work generally miss the best values. There have been some sales this year of homes in less than stellar locations, priced around $1MM. If you gave me a $500k build budget, I could build you a spectacular vacation home on this Aspen lot, and if I wanted to be off-water for $1MM, I'd rather be on Aspen Lane than almost anywhere else around this lake. I'd also be willing to put $130k into this Aspen home, and have it be a more desirable finished product than any other available lake access home priced in the $600s. True value presents in many forms, but its easiest to find here when it's disguised as a spiral staircase and a low basement ceiling.

Abbey Hill Sells

Nov 14, 2014 by David | Add comment
A few short years ago, there was a fire. Abbey Hill, the wooden alpine-styled condominiums on the hill near the stop and sock, suffered a casualty. The cause of the fire wasn't necessarily known, though foul play was not a consideration, and when the smoke cleared the building that housed four condominiums at 850 Hillside was no more. I had a unit for sale there at the time, and my lockbox burned with the rest of it. My insurance company doubted my insistence that the lockbox had a key in it and one hundred thousand dollars cash, but still.


That building was rebuilt, and owners had the chance to rebuild their old interiors. It might have been fun, it was certainly an annoyance, but when all was said and done Abbey Hill had one brand new building. A unit in that new building sold early this year, a bit north of $260k, and my sellers turned builders were once again sellers. $299k was the price to buy a two bedroom unit with a transitional third bedroom/den, attached garage, fireplace, and all that new. It was an aggressive price, sure, but if someone wished for a new unit at Abbey Hill they could either buy ours or head to the beach and pound the ground.

That unit sold this week for $295k. The sellers weren't all that interested in selling, because Abbey Hill is a most pleasant place to watch the Fontana goings on. The buyers are young, as many of our buyers tend to be these days, and they felt the appeal of a new unit in an established setting to be too much to resist. I'm happy for them for their new vacation home, just as I am happy for my sellers that now move on to whatever is next.

Abbey Hill has gone through some gyrations over recent years. The bottom of this last cycle inflicted some serious damage at this condominium complex, but buyers have returned in a very big way. There are no lake rights at this hill. Lake rights. Those are magical words here, as the market has been primed for generations to seek private, exclusive access to that beautiful big body of water. It's hard to break with that history, to consider something that doesn't have access to be a vacation home setting, but Abbey Hill has successfully positioned itself as just that: The rare association to not have any specific access that still feels and functions like a vacation home community.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Abbey Hill. I like the style of the units, which I earlier described as Alpine styled even though that has nothing to do with anything. The spaces are unique without being strange, the square footage ample without being large. It's a wonderful hybrid development, and it's approachable in terms of acquisition cost and ownership cost, and that's why so many people are drawn to it. Fontana is always desirable, and if you don't like the high amenity, high fee setting of Abbey Springs, trade a spring for a hill and you'll accomplish very much the same thing.

Six units have sold here in the past 12 months, priced from the very low $160k to this sale at $295k. There are just three units for sale today, and if I'm a vacation home buyer seeking something economical, I'm heading straight to Abbey Hill. That's not true. First, I'd head to my office, which seems strange for me to do but in this scenario I'm being you. You should head to me. I'll be here, at this office. But only sometimes, so you should probably call first.

North Shore Sells

Nov 12, 2014 by David | Add comment
When that one guy went to Alaska to live, he chose a spot with straight trees. Had he been truly rugged, he would have chosen a plot with crooked trees, like the boxelders and walnuts and mulberries that plague my land. It's not all that difficult to chop down a straight little tree, strip it of its straight little bark, and put a notch into its straight little end. I could do that time and time again, and then some more, until I had something that looked like a cabin. What I'm having a hard time doing, however, is building something with my crooked trees. They're lame. The old timey tools I bought have suffered some casualties- the wooden mallet broke in two while driving a dull hatchet into the unruly end grain of a crooked tree. The twisty-auger-drill is dull and unable to drill through anything. I have adjustments to make, mostly in finding straight trees and sharp tools, and mallets that don't break. If this were real, I would have frozen to death by now.


Alas, the civilized world that exists outside of my crooked tree line has printed a new lakefront deal. $1.5MM for the lakefront on the North Shore of Fontana, with 100' of cliff like frontage both in front of, and behind the house. The sale is important for our market, as it proves that any property, at any time, will sell if the price is low enough and the adjacent inventory light enough. This property was not my listing, and while I brought many of my customers to those old concrete steps, I didn't provide this buyer, either. This is not sustainable, the not listing and not selling of these lakefronts, but with a little help from my friends, we can avoid these sorts of embarrassments in the future. Onto the sale.

To describe this location as "North Shore Drive, Fontana", is to give the location far too much credit. It's off of North Shore Drive, sure, but it is a goat trail that parts with the paved road and extends towards the lake, following the cliff just long enough to provide access to eight or nine lakefront homes. If we were in a holler, walking this route in our boots and waders, with our fly rods and our fishing hats on, this would not be a difficult walk. But here, in this pristine place, this road is an anomaly. There's a rumor that says these owners that access their lakefront homes via this route keep the road sketchy on purpose. The rumor goes that they don't want to encourage tourist traffic, those wandering souls that dip and dive down any paved road, posted or otherwise. If this is why the road is as narrow and difficult as it is, then fine. If it's this way for another reason, that other reason isn't any good.

This lane is a mix of improved, over improved, under improved, and "what does improved mean?". There are large homes, beautiful in nature and in practice, and there are others that remain mostly untouched by gentrification. The home that just sold for $1.5MM was on the untouched side, with very little improved here over the course of time. That vintage nature held much of the appeal, at least for me, as old homes that have not been butchered by some style-depraved decades are rare and should be celebrated. This home was that home, rare, possibly celebrated, but that slope. Front yard slopes are a fact of our hilly life. Homes perch, yards fall, the lake licks the shore far below. But back yard slopes that do not allow a convenient paved route to the home and garage are few and far between. This home was that few, and it was that far between, and the route to the house was troubled first by that goat trail then by an extreme twist and slope that led your car to these old steps. Steps. Lots of steps.

This home originally came to market in early 2012 for $2.195MM. That price, to be fair, wasn't the worst price I've seen. It wasn't a great price, either, and to understand that you must remember that January of 2012 was very close to our market bottom. Sales were rampant, yes, but prices were down. Two million dollars for this home wasn't acceptable then, nor was any lower iteration of that number from that date until the summer of 2014.

Finally settling at $1.7MM, I knew this home was going to sell right. I wanted it to sell in the $1.4s, and had any one of the customers that I brought here thought the reward would be worth the work, I would have sold this in that range. $1.5MM is a fine sale price, but I sure would have loved this sale a whole lot more at $1.45MM. Even so, $1.5MM for 100' of frontage on the north side of Fontana is a good enough win for me.

This sale continues the trend here, of moving these entry level lakefront homes, and slowly but surely removing them from the entry level market. This home will now either get demolished or remodeled, but whatever the avenue chosen, it will no longer be a $1.5MM home. Another one down, even fewer left. If you're an entry level buyer, I'd like to work with you. I'd also like you to realize that every sale in this range is one less property that's ever going to be available to you.

November Markets

Nov 10, 2014 by David | Add comment
I recognize that from time to time, or all the time, I sound like a broken record. I say the same things over and over again, disguised with different words and hidden inside different sentence structures, but mostly, the same. I do this because the writing that appears here three days a week is nothing more than the thoughts that are circling my own brain, and while I am many things I would argue that consistent is among the most noble of my adjectives. My real estate thoughts are based on very simple, very conservative ideas. Buy real estate because you love it, yes, but also buy it because it's the right property at the right time. I admire those who go so deep into real estate that they guarantee their future monetary loss, but I don't think that's something we should all entertain. I also believe that location is more important than anything else, which is why I have long excelled at selling bad little cottages in terrific locations. Viking ranges can be added to good locations, but good locations cannot be added to badly located Viking ranges. This is how I think.

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I also think seasonally, and when the seasons change, so does my thinking. To write in May is to write of so much hope for what is about to come. To write in July is to celebrate the present, to look forward to the continuation of the divine months of summer. To write in November, as I proved last week, can be to write about either a whimsical love of harvest time, or to worry about our impending wintery doom. Alas, if I were writing from Hayward this morning, I doubt I would have anything pleasant to say about this early November sky. Likewise, if I gave up on seasons and moved Florida full time, you wouldn't find me writing much about the weather. Climate consistency doesn't encourage much written romance, it only encourages sun burns. So today, on this November morning, where the sky is as gray as I think it should be, I'll write yet again about market timing. I wouldn't have to keep writing about it if everyone would just listen.

While our Lake Geneva real estate market is impressively active, and contracts are as abundant as the grain in our granaries, there is a very easy truth to understand about this time of year. For those under contract pending a sale, well done. Winter is a fabulous season to try your new Lake Geneva vacation home on for size, and it's also a great time to set about doing the improvements and the adjustments necessary to make that new house a suitable home by the time summer arrives. For other buyers, those who have yet to identify something they love, or something that they feel is priced well enough to possibly earn their affection, this should be a time of active hunting. Not of passive hunting, the sort that waits for some fresh meat to be laid upon your doorstep, but of active, face-painted, rifle toting, traipsing through the marsh and the woods, hunting. This is the time to find the weak members of our inventory herd, and apply very little mercy.

This time has not come just yet, mind you, but it's coming. The market will remain active all winter, barring any economic disasters that tend to spook our buyers, but there is still a small sweet spot for those looking to bag a trophy. And, like the seasonal considerations of weather that I love and weather that I don't love, this is the same advice that I've been giving for ions: Late November and early to mid December is the time to pour over aged inventory, to scrutinize it, to reconsider it, and to make an attempt at stealing it. I realize I'm not mixing metaphors, between stealing and hunting, but if this isn't your first time visiting this site you'll know that mixing metaphors is my middle moniker.

There are benefits and detriments to late season trophy hunting, and those are somewhat obvious. The benefit is that you'll possibly be securing tremendous value. The detriment is that you'll have to consider properties that you've already dismissed. That's because new inventory, whether it's November inventory or December inventory, won't be subject to the same sort of motivation that may exist in aged inventory. See that lakefront over there? The one that's been for sale for a year? That's the one that might sell cheap if you lob in a December 5th bid. The new listing that just hit last Tuesday, that one isn't something you should take aim at, because new inventory won't be served with a similar side of seller motivation. I know I've written about this often, but I've also written about how much I like white piers.

Lake Geneva's Dark Sky

Nov 07, 2014 by David | Add comment
I readily admit that I do not understand space. I can't fathom what it is, how large it is, and the concept that there is no end to what I see when I look skyward on the darkest of nights is a concept that I find truly mind boggling. Apparently, I'm not alone in this wonder, as our inaccurate friends at Zillow have now told us that communities where the skies are especially dark are especially desirable. So called Dark Sky Communities like to boast that they are dark. It's a sign of progress that we now view darkness as a positive, as so much of our ancestors lives were spent trying so desperately to get out of the dark. Now, prosperity dictates that we engage the dark, and the more affluent your dark sky community, the darker your sky.


The folks at Zillow told the folks at the Wall Street Journal that the best luxury spot for dark sky viewing is Stinson, California. Stinson, it seems, is awfully dark at night. I've never been there, so while I'd like to take their word for it, one commenter keenly points out that the typical fog in Stinson would make the dark sky claim somewhat suspect. He's a commenter on a website, which means he can't be wrong. The great hamlet of Stinson has long attracted dark sky aficionados, which is why in 1895 they built a giant telescope there.

The telescope was to be the largest refractory telescope in the world, and even though the namesake of this giant telescope was a shady character with a penchant for dishonest dealings, the telescope was built. Mounted inside an 18' telescope was a 40" lens. It was as big as big could be, without making the lens so big that it would be ineffective at capturing far away objects, like, say, stars. Stinson was so proud of their scope!

Except that scope wasn't built in Stinson, because who would want to build a giant telescope in Stinson? Not Mr. Yerkes, and that's why he built it in Lake Geneva. The sky was dark, and winters cold and clear, and the proximity to civilization appealing. The observatory is still there, of course, and it's still looking skyward. It's a really nice telescope.

Lake Geneva, for some reason other than coastal bias, wasn't included in the Zillow Dark Sky list. It's outside of California, and not in the mountains of Colorado, nor is it on the Eastern seaboard, so it didn't get any respect in the dark sky study. That doesn't really matter, because unlike unmeaningful towns in morally corrupt states, Lake Geneva is a star. Would we have a giant telescope if this were not true?

So Stinson. It's nice that you have some designation. We don't have that designation, and that's for our shame. But we have a giant telescope so big that even ol' Albert Einstein came to take a gander through its lens. Did Al Einstein hang out in Stinson looking at the sky? Of course not. Stinson, when you get a telescope as big as ours, let us know.

Lake Geneva, dark sky certified since Chief Big Foot looked out of his tent and said "I'm not going out there, it's too dark".


Nov 05, 2014 by David | Add comment
If given a choice, most people would not say that they prefer November. There's not much to November. In the progression, August is summer. It is filled with all sorts of special, the waters and the woods, the festivals and so much green. September, most would argue to be fall, but I argue that it's summer, mostly. Some years summer, others years fall, it has no particular allegiance. It's like March, a pivotal month that can swing to either side without any concern for our feelings. October, that's fall. No doubt about it. Fall. The leaves are brilliant, the water still boat worthy, the temperatures vacillating between warm and cool, other times cold. It's a great month, October. I think everyone can agree on that. Rauner supporters and Quinn supporters, some love bankruptcy and some don't, but everyone loves October.


November doesn't inspire any romance. It doesn't have any long breaks to celebrate it, like summer indulges. It doesn't boast warmth and it doesn't dress up in winter whites. It's just a month, in between the month that we all love and the month that signals the start of winter. Winter, that's a season that inspires much discussion. It's a season we all love to loathe, but it's a season with December magic. With holidays and football and sweaters and hot chocolate. You know who drinks hot chocolate in the summer? Communists. Of the several winter months, December is the only one that generates affection. If you moved to a warm weather climate, after being raised in the Midwest, we're all so happy for you. But while you're roasting under a December summer sun, you cannot tell me that you don't miss the winters of your December youth. I think that's a dirty secret, or at least an open lie, of those that move to the south to live their full time lives. They must pretend to not miss winter, and while they may indeed not miss any of January, they certainly miss December.

But November. It's in between full on fall and full on, cheery, young winter. People sing about summer, and Paul Simon sang about spring and fall, but only Axl Rose sang about November. In doing so, he gave it no fair shake. There is no justice in telling everyone about cold November rain. There's cold rain now, but there's cold rain in October, too. June has miserable cold rain, as does May and April and, if we're lucky, June. I've seen cold rain in August and felt it in July. December can offer up cold rain. November is nothing if not a month that falls between the first cold rain of the year and the last, so there's no reason to think that November and cold rain go hand in hand, except for that memorable tune.

I see November today, and I like what I see. I see fields of grain, some standing and some mowed to the ground. I see combines driving at night, their lights bobbing through the fields, methodically, as if guided by GPS and piloted by farmers that are busily tucking their kids into bed via FaceTime. I see corn spilled on the county roads, spilled because the yields are so high, saving some of the pain caused by the prices that are so low. I see pumpkins in fields, strewn about, passed over by the pickers as being less than perfect, not exactly round, too green on one side or yellow on another. I see fields of grass, some bent and others upright, clumps here and there, providing hiding spots for fall deer and pheasants, for grouse and for turkeys. I can see into the woods now, with the leaves out of my way, and I see dimension in forests that in August showed only a dark green hedge. I see November, and I like it.

I used to see this month as a slow death, as a transition between what I loved and what I hated. I used to feel lost in this month, when I couldn't boat nor fish nor stroll with sandaled feet. I used to hate the tease of open water that's too cold to enjoy. I used to wish for it to be winter or fall, but always preferred summer. Now, I wish only for today. I wish for 50 degree days when the wind doesn't blow. I wish for 48 degree afternoons when the rain comes, and blows hard and straight, or falls soft and distant. I don't really mind any of this November weather. Warmth is unexpected, so it's celebrated when it shows. Cold is expected, so it's met with acceptance when it arrives, but a frosty field on a sunny November day is a view that I'd vote for any time it was on the ballot. October is so showy, I love it for the vibrance. December is filled with anticipation, for that first snow and that first wreath and for children's faces on Christmas morning. But November is right now, and whether it's raining or it's sunny, whether it's warm or it's frigid, it fits my eye more now than it ever has before.