I have many impressions of Door County. I’ve visited there several times. Some of those times have been on purpose. In fact, I plan on taking my new-ish fishing boat up there this fall to work on snagging, er, catching some Salmon. Aside from the fall fishing, Door County seems to be a perfect fit for those who love to eat pancakes with lingonberries for breakfast. Pancakes with lingonberries for lunch. And don’t forget about pancakes with lingonberries and/or cherries for dinner. Personally, I also believe that anyone should be leery of a geographic region who retains the dark name bestowed upon it by early explorers, Death’s Door. But aside from the morbid name and throngs of bike riding Brewers fans, and heaps and heaps of lingonberries, Door County does have one thing on Lake Geneva, many, many more rentals.
And rental signs too. Between the bike riders with their lingonberry stained lips and penchant for eating tasteless, boiled, bone-in whitefish with raw potatoes, Door County also loves the rental sign. Lake Geneva is a vacation destination. This is the first thing, and probably the last thing, that you need to know about our market. These are vacation homes for vacation loving persons of all shapes and sizes, and we’re awfully good at providing the sort of vacation that our savvy ancestors have been craving since the mid 1800s. As a vacation destination, Lake Geneva will have its fair share of rentals. This is good for the market, good for the local economy, and good for those who choose to cram a summertime of fun into one whirlwind week.
I’m working with a buyer who is currently looking for a vacation home at Lake Geneva. The buyer is unique in that while the goal is for a personal retreat, there are intentions of also renting this potential vacation home. The concept is simple and widely embraced from Door County to the Mexican Riviera. Buy a vacation home, or condo, and rent it when you’re not there. The property comes close to paying for itself, and you get to use it when you wish. It is, on the very surface, a win win. The problem with achieving such an ideal financial arrangement is that Lake Geneva doesn’t really favor the short term rental as much as other destinations might.
It’s not that Lake Geneva isn’t ripe with vacation rentals, it is. It’s just that most of our condominiums prohibit rentals shorter than six or twelve months, while others ban them all together (Fontana Shores). Single family homes are subject to restrictions as well. Walworth County adopted a 30 day minimum rental term a few years ago- a policy that cleaned up a preponderance of black and orange “For Rent” signs, but severely impacted those owners who owned for the sole purpose of generating short term rental income. Many vacation seekers can find a week to take a vacation. Many fewer can take a month. The rental restrictions were not aimed at helping owners afford properties that might otherwise be a stretch, they were put in place to effectively eliminate those very rentals.
It’s not that Lake Geneva doesn’t like rentals, it’s just that it doesn’t like short term rentals. While some condominiums will allow a minimum 30 day rental, the likelihood of renting for a 30 day tenure is not high. The market is for weekly and weekend rentals, and that’s how owners can effectively offset ownership expenses if they so desire. Thankfully, there are associations in Lake Geneva that were excluded from the Walworth County 30 day minimum rental period. Abbey Spring and Geneva National are chief among this group, and provide ample options for anyone looking to purchase a vacation home and make the purchase easier through sporadic weekly rentals. A townhouse at Geneva National might rent for $1200 per week, but it won’t as easily rent for $4800 per month. The weekly rental is where the income is at, and if you’re angling towards that potential income, best cast your line in Abbey Springs or Geneva National. Like that? Angling, casting….
If you’ve been thinking about a Lake Geneva vacation home, but your thinking and justifying are both predicated on the ability to rent the unit or house out, your best bet will be one of these two large resort style associations. Counting on 30 day rentals for single family homes and regular condominiums just isn’t wise in our market. For the rest of our market, filled with those who prefer to buy to use and not buy to rent, the 30 day minimums represent a welcome limitation on the possible rambunctiousness of the activities in your neighbors homes. If renting is a requirement for your purchase and Geneva National and Abbey Springs don’t fit your eye, and you also just so happen love the Brewers and lingonberries, perhaps Death’s Door will be more to your liking.
Consult your attorney or Realtor for specific rental limitations on any property you are considering.