Geneva Lakefront Condo Update

Geneva Lakefront Condo Update

Jeff Johnston Art

Before I was prolific in writing about selling lakefront condominiums, I was indeed prolific in actually selling them. At the volume height of our broader Lake Geneva vacation home market, I would routinely sell lakefront condominiums. Bay Colony, Fontana Shores, Vista Del Lago, Fontana Club, Bay Shore, and on and on. There wasn’t a condo building that escaped my reach, well, except for Stone Manor, and Somerset. Oh, and Harbor Watch, and Geneva Towers too. And Bay Colony South. So maybe there were a few condominiums that held me at bay, though it’s obvious that most did not. The lakefront condo was a staple of our market, and just as Cadillac will never run out of 75 year old men living in Boca, the Lake Geneva market should never run out of buyers in search of an economical way to enjoy their weekends lakeside.

I only wrote that last sentence because I wanted to say something about Boca, not because the part about Lake Geneva has been mostly true of late. The condo market is slow, which is akin to saying that my grandmother is aged. There are buyers active in nearly ever segment of our market here, with lakefront buyers on the hunt and lake access buyers on the prowl. The problem is with the lakefront condo buyer. While other buyers are active, the lakefront condo buyer is missing in action. And when a buyer does surface, as I had one do a few weeks ago, they are many times met with a stubborn seller who bases his or her unrealistic price expectations on nothing more than a whim and a memory of better times.

I pride myself in being able to understand why certain markets are outperforming others, but in the case of the lakefront condominium I must admit that I am stymied by the thorough lack of activity in this particular segment. During the lull years of ’08 and ’09, I understood the problem. Buyers in the $400k to $700k range were mostly absent from the market as a whole, so it made sense that they would be absent from the lakefront condo market as well. During the crescendo of 2010, while the single family markets recovered much of their lost volume, the lakefront condo market didn’t experience the same influx of activity. Why it didn’t pick up then, and why it still hasn’t now, remains a question that I am yet to find an answer to.

The inventory on the lakefront condo market is considerable, but not exceedingly so. There are 19 offerings in Harbor Watch, Vista Del Lago, Stone Manor, Somerset, Fontana Shores, The Fontana Club, Bay Colony, and, though I hesitate to include it, at Geneva Towers. The Abbey villa has harborfront units available, but for the last time, please stop trying to consider those units lakefront. The harbor is the harbor- a silky mix of mud and gasoline- it is not the lake. Ever see someone swimming in the Abbey Harbor? On purpose? Me neither. The most economical units in lakefront developments are comprised of a two bedroom at Fontana Shores and my two bedroom at Vista Del Lago ($469k each). If you’re looking for a slip, that narrows down the economical search to my unit at Vista.

Prices remain consistent, with fewer reductions here than in the broader market. There have been a few reductions of late, but the sellers in those cases are just changing their price from 2006 levels to 2007 levels. They should do well to wake me when they make it to 2011 levels, until then, I was out showing property in the rain all day yesterday, so I could use the rest. I have three lakefront condominiums on the market currently, including a unit at Vista Del Lago, a unit at Bay Colony ($579k) and a unit at Somerset ($1.195MM). It should be noted that my unit at Vista is the most economical unit on the market in that development, and my unit at Bay Colony is the most economical unit in that building, and my unit at Somerset is the only offering available in that complex. I do my best to bring you the best priced properties on the market, I hope you appreciate my efforts.

With the spring market ramping up, we’ll see if the increased buyer activity results in any tidbit being thrown towards the lakefront condo. It makes no sense for the condo market not to experience some form of volume recovery this year, but I hesitate to guarantee that will happen. The simple truth is that the lakefront condo on Geneva represents the most economical way to live lakeside with a view and a slip, and enjoy your summers in a similar manner to the guy down the road who paid $2MM for his private home. If you want a view and a slip and a private pier with private frontage, be prepared to count out $1.3MM. If you want to live the same way in a lakefront condominium, you’re going to need about $450k. Financing permitted.

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