Sep 04, 2015 by DC
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Generally speaking, if a home on the lake hits the open market, I email the listing to someone. Let's say you're looking for a lakefront for around $1.5MM. If one comes to market, I send it to you. This is because I sell real estate. In the same way, if I have a buyer looking for a home priced around $500k with a slip and such a property becomes available, I'll email that information to that buyer. This is not rocket science. Because I have plenty of clients, and am always looking for more, I send information out when I have it, in the hopes that someone will buy whatever it is that I'm sending them.
This is the way every real estate agent operates. Most set up automated listing reports, so that when you contact them with a question, they add you to their automated list. I don't do this, because I think it's rather insulting to send someone properties that really don't line up with the sort that they're looking for. This is why when a large home in Knollwood came to market earlier this summer with an asking price of $2.2MM, I didn't send it to anyone. I didn't send it to anyone because it was a home off the lake, without frontage, without a slip, without privacy, without and without, for $2,200,000. Got a $20 bill in your pocket? Good. We'll need to collect 110,000 of those in order to buy this off-water, no-slip-having, no-privacy-affording lake access house.
Earlier in the year, another home like this came for sale. This one was on Academy Lane, priced near $1.5MM. I didn't send that one out to anyone, either. Because it was an off-water home without a view, but with a slip, but without any lake proximity of any notable, or acceptable, distance. I didn't send that one out, and just like the one for $2.2MM that I didn't send out, they both sold rather immediately. The reminder for you today is this: Location, location, location? That's the old rule, and you're being naive and old fashioned for even knowing what that means. Shiny, fancy, sparkly? That's what really sells real estate.
The Knollwood sale is likely the first sale of its kind at Lake Geneva, ever. Never before has an off-water home that lacked a slip sold for this sort of money, with one possible exception being a Fontana home that sat high above the lake on the north shore. But even that home had a unique location, towering above the lake, hanging on the edge of the cliff that separates the lakefront from everyone else. This Knollwood home was just a lakeview cottage location, with a cottage lot, surrounded by cottages, but there it was, $2.2MM, and someone aggressively bit it off and closed on it this week for full price. That's 110,000 twenties in case you forgot.
What does this new rash of shiny buyers mean for the market? It means very little, really. It means that if you've built some giant home as an ode to your importance, and that home isn't in a location that supports such an endeavor, you still might be okay, as long as you're okay with losing some money in the quest for liquidity. If you build it exceptionally fancy, they will come. It also means that I'd expect to see some more speculative activity in this market place from here on out. Builders will take notice of this. They'll see that no longer are they bound by some unspoken vow to only build a home that makes sense in the market. There are, at this moment, two different lakefront spec homes being contemplated and planned for. Perhaps these builders should have just bought a little cottage in some unimportant location and built a home there. Throw in some marble showers and a Wolf range and you just might find a live one.
In other news, the auction house in Lake Geneva closed for $2.7MM Well done to the seller, for selling this shared pier property for that nice number.
Sep 02, 2015 by DC
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Some would say that winter starts when the first snow flakes flutter to the ground. Those who say that would be wrong, because we all know that snow can fall during a rare October, and no snow in October could ever make someone believe that it was winter. Even when snow falls in November, Thanksgiving is still to follow and in no way can winter begin before Thanksgiving. Everyone knows that. But snow in October alerts you to the coming of winter, just as some wayward cold front in August alerts you to the coming, more lasting, fall chill.
This week at the lake feels very different. The man who stands on the street near my office is back at his post. He stands on the corner holding a mobile stop sign, and when children need to cross the street he walks out half way to meet then, brandishing his sign towards the oncoming traffic. I see him every day during the school year, first during these warm days, then during the rainy days, and then, finally, in the snow. He's there now, and it feels like he's early. It feels like he shouldn't be there yet, but there he is, walking half way to meet the children who are begrudgingly walking to school.
The lake has been calm these last few days, not calm in the way that summer weekdays are calm, but an off-season calm. There are boats, sure, and there are those taking their last gasps of summer vacation right now. The forecast allowed for some flexibility in those who have that ability, and as I drove through Lake Geneva yesterday I caught a glimpse of a boat anchored at the edge of Geneva Bay. I didn't know who was on board, but I looked over in time to see one of the loungers cannon ball off the bow. No one has yet told him that summer is over.
The street crews in front of my office this morning seem to be in no hurry. There are men walking back and forth, looking at curbs, and looking at the curb in front of my office that was supposed to be an apron. They're looking and walking, radioing and chatting. They aren't in any particular hurry. There's no immediacy to their work, and that's because it's 72 and sunny at 8 am. They walk slowly, like the kids on their way to school, wondering why they'd hurry when this summer isn't going anywhere.
Does it cease to be summer when the kids go back to school? Does it cease to be summer when there is some morning chill, and when the sun sets nearer to 7 than to 8? Does it cease to be summer just because it's September, and because the aisles at Lowes last night were decorated with the oranges and browns of fall? I thought about this last night as I stood outside under a bright moon. I stood and I listened to the chorus of the crickets and the delightful hum of the hoppers. The night was alive, not at all like fall, but just like summer.
Aug 31, 2015 by DC
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I read an article yesterday about how one Japanese day trader made thirty-four million dollars last week. He had a hunch about the markets, and rode large positions of options to an incredible win. I did not do that. I bought some stocks on one day, lost money the next day. Sensing the opportunity, I bought some more on the following day and then lost more on the day after. I have never made a winning stock trade in my life. In the same way, I have never made a bad real estate move in my life. I should, I suppose, stick to what I know best, and leave the real money making to the day traders who buy and sell options in between playing video games and online poker. That trader made money, I lost money, and I expected the real estate market here to respond to the tumult. It didn't.
Showing and offer activity has not slowed down. Maybe it's because everyone was expecting a correction in the indices. Maybe it's because the swing was so low, so fast, and then back up, even faster. Maybe people just don't care like they used to. Our weather has been decidedly lame over the past two weeks. First, the winds blew. They blew so hard for so long that "world class" sailors in large scows decided that it was just too windy for them. In a related development, I've decided take today off because I'm too broke. When the wind stopped, the rain came, and with it the fog and the strange, soggy, summery still that I find so pleasing. But while I found the cool, calm to be tasty, those wishing to squeeze more summer out of these remaining weeks were none too pleased.
Yet for the market shake up and the soggy afternoons, the market hasn't taken notice. There are buyers, so many buyers that in fact it's quite a spectacle. The lakefront market is leading the charge, with a particular attention on those upper bracket homes priced in excess of four million dollars. As a reminder, this market typically prints one sale over $5MM annually. Today, we have buyers for every segment, though it's obvious to me that the market is yielding the best value on aged inventory, and most of the entry level lakefront segment. To make this easy on you, and better than just sending you a picture today with some nonsensical motivational quote, here's the rundown of lakefront activity.
If you read along weekly, which I do hope you do, you'll know that the auction house on the East shore of Geneva is pending sale. That's rumored to be around $2.75MM, also rumored to be a sale to a buyer who was new to the market. Not a surprise. A sale is pending next to my Starboard Cottage listing ($2.375MM), that of an old cottage in tough shape listed at $2.175MM. There's an entry level lakefront in Geneva Manor with no garage and no yard pending for $1.75MM. An off-market home in Geneva Bay Estates with a $2.65MM ask is under contract, having found the buyer easily and quickly without ever listing in the MLS. I showed that home twice, earlier than anyone else. Did you know about that listing? No? You should have been working with me. Continuing our westerly route, I have an offer on my Bonnie Brae listing, though it isn't yet under contract. A lakefront in Cedar Point priced in the mid twos is under contract, a nice house on a reasonably nice lot that will now sell at what I presume to be a nice market price. The Loch Vista lakefront next to my parents' home just sold for a bit over two million, so my father now likely assumes his house is worth well in excess of that (spoiler, it isn't). The little shell of a lakefront on Outing just West of George Williams College is under contract off of an $879k ask.
The Orren Pickell built home on the hill in Fontana is pending sale in the $5s, and an old lakefront in Glenwood Springs with a $1.85MM ask has a buyer. There's a contract on a For Sale By Owner at pier 511, the $4.5MM ask easily assumed to be value by the market. That's the rare offering of a nice enough house on a nice enough lot, and $4.5MM is something the market can easily support. And so after two offers last week, that one is under contract. As an aside, I showed that home several times, to buyers that are smartly working with me, which is why they had early looks at that offering. Keep that in mind if you're working with an agent and you weren't made aware of that property, or the other one in Geneva Bay Estates for that matter. If you think that waiting for ads in a Chicago newspaper is the best way to find a lakefront home here, that's how you end up at auctions and not in the living rooms of off-market listings.
The large ranch-ish house on Basswood is pending with an ask of just under $5MM. That house features a nice lot and some normal finishes, but it's a great spot on the lake so I'm okay with it. I have a contract on my South Shore Club listing priced at $1.649MM, so expect that last bit of aged South Shore Club inventory to be cleared within the next month. There's also an accepted offer with a client of mine on the last available vacant lot in the South Shore Club, lot 8. Rounding out the lakefront contracts, the small vacant lot in the Elgin Club is pending with a $1MM ask. That's no fewer than 13 lakefront properties with contracts at the moment, and it'll be 14 if I can get my other current lakefront contract put together this week. That's unprecedented activity, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Is it frothy? Yes. Are the prices toppy? Not really. Excepting a few sales, these properties all make some sense at the prices they're scheduled to sell at. Some are outright deals, others are market prints. Some are outliers, selling at silly prices. If you'd like to know which ones are which, let's chat.
Aug 28, 2015 by DC
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I can't say that it comes as a surprise anymore. Every season follows this same pattern. When the season is a long ways off, I pine for it. In the dark of winter I wish for those first warm days. I wish for melt. I wish for the return of the singing birds, and I count those quiet days. When those birds do return and the melt along with them, I have little use for that variety of in between. The birds are too loud and the melt too messy. I don't like spring much when it's spring, and so I go about wishing for sustained warmth, for heat, for bright skies and white topped waves. I spend too much time and even more energy wishing for what's next.
There was a time when I thought I might be able to slow this wishing down. I thought I'd find a way to live in the season, to enjoy it so much that I forgot what came next. If I fished and sailed, swam and boated, basked and rested, I might be able to forget what came before and ignore what was to come next. I thought if I made every effort to focus on the present I'd be able to enjoy it more. But instead, all that immediate focus made me realize it was soon to pass, and I felt even more pull towards the next thing, that thing that I tried so hard to forget.
Instead of wishing for time to slow, for wishing the season to linger, for wishing things to just be still, I then tried to think less. I tried to just let the season come, without much reverence for it, without the wishing for it to come and the wishing for it to stay. I tried to live without concern for the weather, to live each day in the same way, no matter the temperature or the sun or the month or the shade of the leaves. I tried to wake each day and work, in July as I would January, thinking that this focus might allow me to live more fully, to live more contently.
But at this late date in August, it's obvious to me that this new attempt has also failed. Instead of living more casually, in drinking the sun in sips whenever I felt like it and in doing so finding more peace and equal rest, I find that my purposeful ambivalence hasn't allowed any more enjoyment than the frantic focus of prior years. If you wish for summer to stay it won't. If you trick yourself into ignoring it, it'll pass just as quickly. These seasons start and they end, and the next season comes. Ready or not.
Today, I know there is still summer left. I know next week it will be warm and sunny, and the water temperature will remain in the seventies, as it has every day since sometime in late June. I know that I'll have time still, time to boat and to swim and to rest. But I also know that I won't casually enjoy any of it. I know that I love football season, and I love jeans and boots and orchards and fires. I know that I love this, but I love what comes next perhaps just as much. I also know that I love orchards and jeans and the way the fields turn from green to gold, but I, too, love the first snow and the way a wood fire warms a room.
Aug 26, 2015 by DC
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I read an article a while back that profiled the lives of those fortunate people who had made the decision to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. These people were fortunate because in spite of their desire to kill themselves by jumping from that bridge, they survived the fall and swam to safety. One memorable line from a survivor detailed how at the point of the jump he realized that every single thing in his life that he was upset about was something that he could fix. Everything except the fact that his feet had just cleared the railing of that bridge.
Even though this gentleman, and many like him, jumped from that bridge and lived, that doesn't make jumping from the bridge a good idea. Sure, you get to share your story at high schools and corporate learning sessions. And you get profiled by the New Yorker, or maybe the Atlantic, which would be pretty neat I suppose. But just because he lived doesn't mean that I, too, will make that jump.
Last week, the second and third auctions of lakefront property on Geneva Lake occurred. The first such auction was held back in May, when a buyer paid the equivalent of $5.8MM, give or take, for a fine home on the North Shore. That auction worked, and so the sellers of two other lakefront homes went to auction with the same outfit, during the same season. One of the homes was a nice enough lakefront, with a shared pier and a shared driveway. The other a unit at Stone Manor.
The auctions were advertised as ABSOLUTE auctions, with NO RESERVE!!!! The auction house advertised the homes all over, and even the Wall Street Journal took the bait and featured the home. The auction for the Stone Manor condo was first, and that auction failed. I do not know the details, because you'd assume an ABSOLUTE AUCTION could never fail, but it did. The seller of this NO RESERVE AUCTION HIGHEST BIDDER WINS decided not to sell, after the bidding came in light. This is rumor, but unless we see the unit close in the next thirty days, we'll assume the rumor was correct.
The other home did sell, and a buyer was whipped into a frenzy by the bidding process and paid what I presume to be an above market price for the home. The buyer may have been aware of the limitations of that particular home, or they may not have been. They likely figured the market context was close enough, and so they bought. They bought because ABSOLUTE AUCTION NO RESERVE is a very enticing concept. Never mind that for buyers the only two auctions this year will have been successful at what I believe to be above market prices. This is the equivalent of shopping the clearance section hoping for a deal, only to walk out of the store having paid full price for an item that was inadvertently placed on the sale rack.
For sellers, they'll see this and assume that the process works, if indeed I'm right in my believe that both auctions from 2015 achieved the goal of getting a buyer to pay a bit over retail. But at what risk did they succeed? Where does the seller of the failed auction go now? Back to another auction? Or back to a traditional brokerage model, one that allows a seller flexibility in price and in structure? Yes, two out of three auctions this year worked. But that one guy also jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and lived to tell about it.
Aug 24, 2015 by DC
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If you've been to the Geneva Inn lately, you know it could use a little tender loving care. Maybe that TLC comes in the form of a wrecking ball, or maybe in a simple coat of paint and some new carpet, but either way, it needs some attention. The building and grounds have aged rapidly over recent years, and if it is to remain some form of shining hillside retreat then some heavy maintenance must be completed, and soon. Service has declined, the food is just okay, and the demand for oak trim and green carpeting has plummeted.
There's a big meeting tonight in the town of Linn. They'll be discussing the obnoxious new fire boat, and the obnoxious little pier that the obnoxious boat is tied to. They'll be talking about how foolish it is to allow volunteer firemen to drive around in that boat on weekends and shoot their little water cannon into the sky. They'll talk about how gasoline does cost money, and how it makes no sense at all to allow a boat to burn up so much gas in the pursuit of lunacy.
Just kidding, they'll be talking about the Geneva Inn, and the proposed plan that would require a rezoning of the two adjacent single family properties. The plan is not entirely clear to me, because it doesn't need to be. The simple truth is that the owners of the Geneva Inn want to incorporate the two adjoining properties into their commercialized zoning. They already own these properties, and they're now seeking permission to act on what has been their obvious plan all along.
A recent article in the Lake Geneva Regional News painted the community response to this proposal as mixed, with some in favor and some against. There are many signs out near the Geneva Inn, all denouncing the plan. There are flyers being circulated, in opposition. There are whispers and hushed tones, mostly against the expansion. The community, by my guess, is wildly opposed to this plan, and Linn Township will be keen to listen to their constituents.
I'm not sure yet where I fall in this debate. In general, I am opposed to all commercial developments on the lake. All and any. I don't like most of the ones that already exist, and I'm certainly not in favor of creating any more properties that lend themselves to lakeside density. That said, I know something must be done with the Geneva Inn. I know they already own these adjacent lands, and I know that this has been their plan all along. This is not a surprise. There is a group that proclaims this expansion to be a violation of long standing deed restrictions, but every commercial project- condo or otherwise- has already broken this old timey restriction. Oh, and every association that came about only after the destruction of a lakefront estate has already done more damage to this ideal than any slight modification of an existing hotel ever could.
The question here is not what is in the best interests of the owners of the Geneva Inn. This entity is wildly wealthy and in no danger of running out of money. This is not a last ditch effort to save a family heirloom. This is simply a profit play, and while I will never begrudge a profit, I will find some error in the execution of this plan. The main piece of this proposed alteration is the addition of an outdoor wedding tent so the Geneva Inn can capture more of the highly lucrative Lake Geneva wedding industry. Neighbors decry the noise that will be generated from such a venue. Has anyone heard the tour boats at night as they churn through the dark waters with thumping sound systems that broadcast YMCA to every lakefront home?
There are wedding tents of this variety during the summer season at George Williams, Abbey Springs, The Lake Geneva Yacht Club, The Lake Geneva Country Club, The South Shore Club, and various private homes around the water. Weddings, whether we like it or not, are a major driver of this local economy. If the Geneva Inn needs to add a tent to make more money, and if the Geneva Inn, in conjunction with the addition decides to renovate and remodel their existing space, does this mean we will have sold our souls for their pursuit of money?
I don't think so. But I also don't think I'm in favor of the expansion. I think, as with most things, there are overblown concerns and there are unconsidered ramifications. I think in the balance there is a solution, and in this case, there will likely be posturing on both sides that will ultimately allow the Geneva Inn some increased presence on that section of lakefront. I don't want the neighbors to be disturbed. I really don't. I don't want this lake commercialized more than it already has been. But I do want the existing properties to be well maintained and successful, and this appears to be the Geneva Inn's time to attempt to become just that.
If you'd like to speak your mind, the Linn Township meeting is tonight, August 24th. Linn Township: 3728 Franklin Walsh St, Zenda, WI 53195
Aug 21, 2015 by DC
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When you buy a lake house, you should be prepared to buy the things that need to fill that lake house. I'm not talking about couches, or end tables, beds or lamps, because those are optional. I'm talking about boats and tubes, skis and life jackets. I'm talking about front yard bocce ball and back yard volleyball nets. I'm talking about trampolines for the water and wake boards for the wakes. Just as I consider bread a vehicle for butter, a lake house is simply a vehicle for the accumulation of water based toys.
You could accumulate these water toys if you live in the city. You could store them in your garage, or in your mechanical room, and you could go look at them from time to time. You could even put those toys into the back of your SUV and drive to some lake, where you could indulge those toys in their preferred habitat. But you wouldn't do that, because that's ridiculous, and we all know that lake things belong at the lake just as city things belong in the city.
When I moved to the country, I rather immediately found out that I would need country toys, and country things. I bought an ATV within days of buying the land. I bought a water tank for the back of that ATV, so I could water the flowers that I planted on that land. Then I bought a shotgun so I could shoot intruders and wild animals, but really just so I could shoot in the general, vague direction of thrown clay pigeons. I bought a tractor, a big green one with a bucket and a tiller on the back, and during the negotiations with the dealer I tried very hard to act the part. I stared at my shoes and spoke with a drawl, like Hillary at a Kentucky fundraiser.
Once I had the ATV, the shotgun, the John Deere, things seemed country complete. Then my wife wanted chickens, or perhaps another baby, so I bought her a new dog instead. He's a fine dog, handsome even. But that wasn't enough, because when you live in the country you have options available to you.
It is no secret that honey bees are dying. They're dying for various reasons, depending on who you ask. The environmentalists would have you believe it's the fault of Big-Ag. Big-Ag would have you believe it's the hippies fault. People in the country think it's the fault of people in the city, and people in the city think it's the fault of the unsophisticates that reside in the country. The United States thinks it's Mexico's fault, and Mexico blames Arizona. There's blame to go around, to be sure, but my wife decided that it was up to us to fix this bee dilemma.
I was told this endeavor would cost around $500. I thought it was a nice idea, to single handedly solve this bee problem. After the first $500 was spent on some wooden boxes, there was another $500. Oh, you wanted bees, too?
The bees arrived in a box, many, many thousands of them. They were dumped into the wooden boxes that my wife had since painted a pleasing light green, and then we waited to see if the bees would like their new home. We planted wildflowers everywhere, so many that I'm almost embarrassed to share with you this picture of the bounty. The bees were happy with their light green boxes, happy with their wildflowers, happy with the sunflowers that came after.
There was another $500 that needed to be spent, maybe for some gloves or a special crow bar, or maybe for a tin smoker. I tried to avoid involvement, as these were my wife's bees, not mine. Once, I walked sort of close to the bee hives (we have two), and I was promptly stung. There are apparently two different sorts of bees in the two different hives. One sort is calm, the other is aggressive and antagonistic. One of the two filled their honey supers (expensive painted boxes that are stacked on top of the other expensive painted boxes), the other hasn't really made much honey, which is likely the fault of Big-Ag.
Last week, my wife rented the devices necessary to extract honey from the boxes. I was not present for this, partly because I was working but mostly because I knew I shouldn't be around for the process. When I returned that night, my wife was rightfully proud of her good work, but nearly every surface of the house was covered in honey. Some of the honey made it into glass jars, and that honey is now stacked proudly in my house. It's good honey, minimally processed, pure, beautiful, delicious, sticky honey.
Because you're reading this, you have a very distinct opportunity. You can buy some of this honey. It's $10 for a 16 ounce bottle. The cost per bottle is approximately $95, so you're getting this honey at a rather impressive discount to actual cost. These bees were minimally handled, and we made sure that the flowers on our property were not treated with any chemicals or fertilizers. The end result is pure honey that came from very happy bees. The bees are happy because we only stole some of their honey, not all of it. My wife is happy because she has successfully navigated her first season as resident beekeeper. And I'm happy because my property is still chicken free.
Aug 19, 2015 by DC
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The Fontana fireworks are on the Fourth of July, or thereabouts. As they are the first real fireworks of the summer they capture much attention. Children are excited, but children are always excited around fireworks. Adults are excited, too, having waited through the long hard winter and the cold, wet spring to arrive at this celebratory time. My neighbors celebrate this weekend with booming fireworks, but this isn't really any surprise at all since they celebrate every summer weekend with booming fireworks.
Once the Fontana fireworks are exploded, there are other fireworks that follow. Some of the resorts light off fireworks around that same time. The Lake Geneva Country Club does the same. Later in July, perhaps in early August, Richard Driehaus throws his summer party and sets off his own private reserve for our public enjoyment. After that happens, Williams Bay waits until the last corn is consumed and the last brat grilled, and then they set fire to their assortment of exploding rockets.
The first firework display matters, because we've been waiting so long for it, but all of those middle displays are really unimportant. They're just fireworks, after all, and though my neighbors have an unquenchable appetite for fireworks, most of us tire of them after some time, and the Driehaus fireworks might as well be the Williams Bay fireworks. But this weekend, our firework desire must be rekindled, because the fireworks this coming Sunday are the last such fireworks of the season.
That's a fateful sentence, and I didn't mean to write it this early in the summer. It's just that this weekend is Venetian Fest in Lake Geneva, and the fireworks that will launch from the Lake Geneva beach (barges, really) represent the opposing bookend to the Fontana fireworks that set this whole thing in motion. I am too reasonable to suggest that the season is somehow over, because we know that summer will linger now for many, many weeks, but if the season is that of the firework, that season ends Sunday.
Venetian Fest isn't something that I regularly attend. That's because I prefer my summer enjoyment to take place on and in the water, not nearish the water. I also have a phobia of things involving tokens. Venetian Fest starts Thursday, or maybe Wednesday, but for sure Thursday, and it runs through the Sunday evening fireworks. Shooting fireworks on a Sunday night is not something that happens often, unless you're my neighbor, because most of our resort towns understand that people need to head home Sunday night, in order to work on Monday morning. The City of Lake Geneva knows you can drive home on Monday morning, and they insist that you try it.
If you're reading this and you already know about Venetian Fest, then that's good. If you're reading this and you've never heard of this small festival, you should come visit us this weekend. You should drive to town and enjoy the carnival, but only for a little while, until your tokens are used up. Then take a walk down the shore path, sit under the shade of a lakeside tree, take in the sights and listen to the sounds. That's what a Lake Geneva weekend is all about, so don't let the festival distract you from the real prize that is any summer weekend spent lakeside.
PS. The ILYA Regatta takes place on Geneva this Thursday through Sunday. This is a big deal for sailors, and it's hosted this year by our very own Lake Geneva Yacht Club. If you want to watch the races, that's perfect. Just don't drive your boat too close to the sailboats and avoid being adrift in their route.
Aug 17, 2015 by DC
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It is mostly true that for every home there is a buyer. There are buyers for the worst of homes. There are buyers for the best of homes. There are buyers for homes on highways and for homes that flooded a few years ago and will flood again in a few more. There are buyers for homes built on fault lines, there are buyers for homes on the sides of active volcanos. Most of these sorts of homes do not have any particular key attraction, but they sell anyway. The opposite sort of home is one that hits on so many levels of perfection that it has no choice but to sell. This sort of home sells because it must, because it's too unique and too special to otherwise be ignored. This is why I sold my listing at 1606 West Main Street last Friday, and this is why the buyer who paid $940k for the gem of a house should be pleased with her purchase.
This sale is just the latest on a laundry list of vacation home activity. The market is hot, and that really does apply to the broad Lake Geneva vacation home market right now, and not just a particular segment. The only possibly exception to that statement is the market segment that should be the hottest- the entry level lake access market. There are just three homes (per MLS) under contract priced below $400k at the moment. That's odd, because interest rates are low and that segment should be the most sensitive to those rates. If you're a buyer for something in that price range and you just read those sentences, consider this a nice reminder to act on your interest (call me before acting).
There are contracts pending in the $500-$700k range that include a cottage in the Lake Geneva Club, a fanciful house in Country Club Estates, and a modest ranch in Geneva Manor. There's one other off water home pending sale in Knollwood, but that's pending at $2.2MM so let's not talk much about that. That's an off-water home. Without a slip. But it's beautiful and overbuilt, which will always attract attention. I have a contract pending on my listing in Abbey Springs ($765k), and there is a contract pending on a Fontana Shores condo listed at $349k. The lakefront condo market is still soft, but there should be some fall buyers that take advantage of that overall weakness. I still have a beautiful four bedroom condo at Vista Del Lago for sale, now reduced to $569k, and a two bedroom penthouse unit at the Fontana Club listed for $489k. Both of those condominiums had offers on them in the past few weeks, but neither deal came together. I'd love to sell those this year, and can promise a buyer that they will be finding value in either property.
While the gyrations of the broad vacation home market matter, the real spectacle right now is on the lakefront. The lakefront market is ripping, and though inventory is approaching all time highs, buyers are keeping up with the supply. There are no fewer than seven lakefront homes pending sale at the moment. That's impressive, and though the only listing of mine on that list is the South Shore Club home on Forest Rest ($1.649MM), I like the activity anyway. There's a listing in the Loch Vista Club pending with a $2.45MM ask. There's home on Main Street in Lake Geneva pending at a $2.175MM ask. The good news about that listing is that I have a better home for sale right next door, and mine is listed at $2.375MM, so it should be deserving of your attention. A listing on Birch Walnut in Williams Bay that first came to market at a laughable $3.5MM ask is now down to $2.499MM and recently received an acceptable offer. There's an entry level lakefront in Geneva Manor listed at $1.75MM with a new contract as well.
The small, curious listing on Outing in Williams Bay is under contract at a high $800k ask. This will look cheap to the market when it prints in the $800k range, but it's a market price that makes complete sense. Yes, it's lakefront in the 800s, which is good, but that's all this house was worth. There are some big contracts pending on a listing in Fontana in the low $5s, and another fresh contract on a Basswood listing just under $5MM. This is significant activity, and I see in the current inventory at least 7 or 8 more lakefront deals that will be printed yet in 2015. If the pending contracts all close, and if my prediction for additional deals ends up being accurate (which it will), we'll add 14 or so closings to the 12 deals that have already closed in 2015, making this year a record year in terms of volume. That's a good thing, but it's also leading some buyers to falsely believe there's some bubble forming.
It is true that I don't love every deal that closes. Some are bad deals. Some are overpriced. Some just make me sad. But most of these deals make sense, and the pricing is still largely under 2008 peak valuations. The best way to avoid purchasing a bubbly home in this market is to work with me. I don't let my buyers purchase outliers, and we'll be sure to make smart market decisions even in a hyper market. Remember the post from last week about the reductions, because while this activity is impressive, the sellers who aren't receiving contracts are going to do everything they can to get the attention of the fall buyers. If this were Beverly Hills we'd be throwing champaign open houses with red carpets that we rented from the flooring store in town. But this is Lake Geneva, and we're not that gullible, so we'll just reduce our prices to attract interest, and if you're a buyer on the hunt, I'm the best guide you could hire.
Above, my listing on Constance. It's really a great house.
Aug 14, 2015 by DC
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Before that day I had never known of the word: Revo. I had heard of other words and brands, like the normal ones that you hear when you're a kid growing up in Williams Bay, but never before that day had I known what a Revo was. Spending all of my life wandering in the Revo wilderness, I had come to the place where my introduction would be made. It was Stone Manor, and the owner of that glitzy condo on that middle floor was wearing his Revo sunglasses inside, during the day, like a rebel. He had at least one giant diamond earring as well, but that wasn't what I took away that day. That day, it was all about those black matte framed sunglasses and those mirrored lenses. Revo.
I couldn't buy that condominium, not then and not now, nor could I buy that giant diamond earring, nor would I, not then and certainly not now. But I could buy those sunglasses. And buy them I did, nearly immediately after my first encounter with them. The year must have been 1999. I wore those sunglasses for quite some time, and the first picture that my wife ever took of me (the first one that I was aware of, that is), I was wearing a blue shirt that I still wear today and those matt black Revos.
This trend continued after those glasses were bought, and it always presented in the same way. I'd see something that I liked, something that someone who had means would own, and I'd buy the bits of it that I could afford. A few years ago, I was checking on a client's house and noticed a shiny new axe in his foyer. It was a handsome axe, big and hefty, tall and proud. I couldn't buy that house, or the furniture inside of it, but within a few days I owned an axe just like that one. And I split wood with it in the winter time and I think about how happy I am to have such a pleasing axe.
I visited a friend's house last summer and he had on display a most beautiful, brand new computer. It was a Mac with a screen larger than that of my first purchased television, which, as a way of mentioning, was a Sharp Aquos that I bought from another customer because I saw it and thought that I should also have it. That Mac was brilliant, and I struggled with the notion of becoming a pure Apple person. I had long resisted the iPhone, opting for the clunky comfort of my Blackberry. Then, I resisted the urge to buy the iPad, because that was simply a bigger iPhone that lacked the ability to make phone calls. Now, I was resisting the Mac, because what is a Mac if not a giant iPhone on a stand? Later that week, I, too, owned a great big Mac, and as I type on it now I feel good about the purchase.
When I was 19, I owned a jetski. It was a Kawasaki 550, and I liked it quite a lot. After some time of this machine, I bought another, a 650 this time, and I zipped and zoomed around the lake with my two stroke toy. After some time of this, the phenomenon dulled, and for a few years I didn't even bother with that jetski. One summer, many summers after I had first ignored the machine, I took it to a mechanic to repair it. I needed to ride it again, to feel the waves and the water, and so I dropped it off and asked that it be made whole. A couple of weeks later I picked it up, paid the $1100 tab, and raced to the lake.
In short order it was obvious that the repairs were not correct, or at least they weren't the right repairs. The ski didn't work then any better than it had years before, and so in haste I gave it away to a friend, and told him I didn't want to see it again. This was at least 10 years ago. A few years after I parted ways with the Kawasaki, my back gave out and I had decided that my jetskiing days, like my Revo days, were over.
Last week, a friend who is also a client asked me to come over to help him with the launching of two new waverunners. Waverunners bore me, but I was willing to help. When I pulled into his driveway I was met with a new trailer and two new toys. One was indeed a waverunner, big and fat and boring. But the other wasn't waverunner at all, it was a brand new Yamaha Superjet. It was the jetski of my youth, and at that moment, before we launched it and before I fired up that smokey two stroke, and before I ever rode on it, the decision had been made. I needed to have one.
It took a while to get my head around such a superfluous purchase. It took longer to convince my wife that it was an acceptable purchase. That last part is still a work in progress and will likely always be a source of contention. Grown men look stupid on jetskis
, she said. How will we buy groceries this month
, she added. Where will you keep it? If only one person can ride it, how is this not a ridiculously selfish purchase?
These are the unimportant questions that could only be asked by someone who has not tasted the unique brand of freedom that only a Japanese made jetski can offer.
Now, if only I could find my old sunglasses I'd really be on to something.