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Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

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

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

Bits and Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Boxed and Burlap

Boxed and Burlap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lakewood Estates

Lakewood Estates

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

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

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

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

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

Spring

Spring

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

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

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

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

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

South Shore Club Lot

South Shore Club Lot

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

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

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

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

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

The Cartoon Boat Must Go

The Cartoon Boat Must Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust Fall

Trust Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Geneva Mexican Food

Lake Geneva Mexican Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lake Geneva

 

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

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

 

Walworth

 

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

 

Williams Bay

 

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

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

 

Elkhorn

 

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

 

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

 

 

Geneva National Value

Geneva National Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Walk

A Walk

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Homes For City People

Summer Homes For City People

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

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

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

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

2016 SHFCP sample

 

Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Ideas

New Ideas

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

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

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

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

976 Main Street

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

Jewell Drive Williams Bay

 

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

Maple Ridge Road Home For Sale

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

New Loramoor Listing

New Loramoor Listing

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

Loramoor Lake Geneva

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

Loramoor Lake House

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

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

Loramoor House With Pool

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

Instant Summer

Instant Summer

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sellers, Wake Up

Sellers, Wake Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Fontana Lakefront Listing

New Fontana Lakefront Listing

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

976 14

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

 

971 1

 

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

976 10

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

976 13

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

Ski

Ski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just A Dusting

Just A Dusting

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Geneva’s Lackey Lane

Lake Geneva’s Lackey Lane

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

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

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

Basswood Lake Geneva

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

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

Lackey Bay

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

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

Woodhill

Woodhill

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

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

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

Woodhill Basswood Lake Geneva

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

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

Basswood Woodhill Estate

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

Woodhill Basswood Library

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

Ban Words

Ban Words

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

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

Picking up BAE heading to opening day! #RedSoxNation

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

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

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

Breathtaking Instagram

 

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

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

 

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

 

Lake Geneva Buyers

Lake Geneva Buyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Barron’s Top 20 Second-Home Resorts

Barron’s Top 20 Second-Home Resorts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Sale Lake Geneva

For Sale Lake Geneva

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

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

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

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

 

Have a wonderful Easter Weekend.

Deadlines

Deadlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lake Geneva Foreclosures

Lake Geneva Foreclosures

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Shore Club at Lake Geneva

South Shore Club at Lake Geneva

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

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

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

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

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

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