Abbey Hill

Abbey Hill

Man, do we have a lot of Abbey’s around here. The Abbey Hotel. The Abbey Villas that border the hotel. Abbey Ridge that borders the Abbey Villas. Abbey Springs. And least known, situated up on a hill just to the southwest of the Fontana lakefront, Abbey Hill. Abbey Hill, like the Villas and Springs of the same name, was built in the 1970’s. The architecture is more ski lodge chic than much of the architecture of that era, and the units are definitely more interesting than nearly anything that exists at Abbey Springs or the Abbey Villas. Honestly, the architecture is quite impressive, with huge rough sawn beams running at varying angles doing the supporting work that microlams perform today. And to think they built this thing in the early 1970’s, probably pounding thousands of hand cut nails by hand, and cutting these native timbers with hand axes and two man saws. Hundreds of northwoods lumber jacks, brought down from Hayward on dozens of covered wagons, camped in these woods for two years, slowly transforming a wooded hill outside of town into a tres chic condominium.

That was a joke. Just the last part, as the first part about all the Abbey’s is definitely true. I’ve always found Abbey Hill to be interesting, but never overly exciting. The prices used to be cheap, and then they got expensive. How’s that for profound insight? Expensive to the point that a two bedroom unit at Abbey Hill would set you back about the same as a two bedroom unit at the amenity ladened Abbey Springs. What was the point, I figured. Why sit in the woods with only a single swimming pool here when you could drive to Abbey Springs and sit in their woods and swim in their better swimming pools and have private access to the lake? I didn’t really understand what was so great about Abbey Hill.

In 2002, $150k would buy you a decent two bedroom unit at The Hill. The prices increased quickly from 2003 through 2005, and by 2006 most sales were in the $250k to $290k price range. Abbey Hill had suffered a slow 2008 like the rest of the market, but still managed to record a two bedroom sale at a solid price of $265k. This year, the scene is entirely different at The Hill. While low inventory fueled pricing growth from 2003 through 2007, inventory has swelled to a current tally of 6 units on the open market. One unit is pending right now, that unit being the value eroding REO that I tried to tell you about a couple of months ago. The pricing at Abbey Hill today? Two bedrooms start at around $189k. There are still nicer units for sale in the mid and upper $200k’s, but the prices have obviously declined, and declined significantly and swiftly.

The two sales this year both closed in the last 60 days, and both represented pretty solid deals for the buyers. A three bedroom unit sold for $190k in October, and an updated two bedroom sold for $223k just a couple weeks ago. There are several units in the low $200k’s currently on the market, and all signs point to some a winter buying season that should provide Abbey Hill buyers with some pretty attractive deals. If this was Facebook, I’d be a fan of Abbey Hill.

If much of the market has returned to 2003 pricing, as I believe many individual markets here have, Abbey Hill certainly may be one of them. In order for that return to occur, we’d have to see most sales taking place between $150k and $200k, and I think that’s rapidly becoming a reality. There are always going to be nicer units in more desirable locations, with substantial interior improvements that will sell for more money, but we’re focused more on the price of admission here. If the foreclosure sells around $150k, as I expect it might, the entry to the club I’ve been fond of referring to as simply “The Hill”, has just gotten a lot cheaper. I think Abbey Hill represents a significant value at these lower prices, and can envision a scenario where prices soften over the winter, and within the next 18 months when (if) a healthier market returns, Abbey Hill units that are bought at great prices now very well may see significant price appreciation before the broader market does.

If you’re a buyer, and you’ve been considering Abbey Springs, The Abbey Villas, or any other Lake Geneva condominium in the $160k to $250k price range, I think you owe it to yourself to check out Abbey Hill. The two level, two bedroom units are pretty impressive for the price, and the same amount of square footage and style would cost you nearly twice as much as Abbey Springs. Yes, Abbey Hill has only one outdoor swimming pool and a small clubhouse. But it is very close to the Fontana lakefront, and the lodge like architecture is quite attractive, even if most units do need some sprucing up. The Hill would make a fabulous winter retreat, with the lodge like qualities and elevated, mostly wooded views. The best interior feature aside from the soaring, beamed ceilings just might be the cavernous fireplace openings. All units (or nearly all) have massive, brick fireplaces with the biggest firebox openings I’ve ever seen in a condominium application.

Just think about it. A snowy winter weekend. You and your special lady, or special fella, all cozied up by a roaring fireplace, reading this blog on your laptop, at a little known, lodge like development that you might simply refer to as “The Hill”. It’s like The Hills on tv, but without all the plastic surgery.

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