I was going to write about the Chicago Tribune’s ridiculous attempt at “discovering” the Lake Geneva dining scene, but I’d rather not. It should be enough to mention that they started off the article with a visit to Popeye’s, which is to fine or trendy dining what a 1992 Ford Escort is to remarkable car design. I’m only surprised they didn’t leave Popeye’s and head to McDonalds for desert before stopping at Burger King for a coffee. So, no, this isn’t about that article because my tendencies already veer towards a total elimination of fluffy nonsense, and today I don’t have the patience to consider the flaws of that entire, back page owning article. I suppose any time Lake Geneva receives press I should be happy, and in that, I will be.
Today we need to talk about the market. We need to huddle close, to whisper, to coordinate our offense and plan a path towards victory. The market, this glorious, wonderful, Lake Geneva vacation home market, is one in transition. The buyers who tour on sunny July Saturdays are all but gone, and the buyers that remain are the motivated sorts, the smart sorts, the ones who realize that this time of year is the best time of year to buy here. For this there are many reasons, but chief among them is that winter is coming, and with it the dark days and the cold nights and the soul searching that joylessly accompanies this coming season. Sellers that are still sellers at this late date are not happy, and their disappointment can and generally does create a buying opportunity. I’ve said that many times before, and I plan to keep saying it until everyone listens.
There are buyers in the market, plenty of them, but they are not uniformly dispersed. If another agent tells you the market is so remarkably hot, just remember that they mean whatever segment of the market they are personally busy with. The primary market may be on fire, but as I don’t sell primary homes I wouldn’t know. I don’t pay attention in any detailed way, choosing instead to only focus on the vacation home market. This is a benefit to my buyers and my sellers, as there is no wasted time spent touring other towns and other lakes. The market that I serve is rather active, but again, everything isn’t active at the same time, and that statement remains true on this pleasant November morning.
The lakefront market is, without any question, hot. It is. This is activity that can be attributed to a lucrative year in the financial markets, or activity that might be present because of increased liquidity in the move-up markets, those lake access homes and condominiums that buyers sometimes flee after a spell in order to find true lakefront bliss. These may be the reasons, but the only real reason is that this lake is 5400 acres of pure vacation utopia, and that should, and is, generally enough to warrant the activity. The lakefront inventory has been stable, which is a good thing for sellers and a difficult thing for buyers. The same homes are available, and buyers have picked through them for most of this year. Most of these over-looked homes will still sell, as old inventory is all made new again by the presence of new buyers.
New buyers are everywhere around the lake, and the fact that several of the lakefront sales this year make very little market sense serves as proof. The lakefront market currently owns an intense level of competition, as buyers jockey and stage, waiting for the next edible morsel to hit the MLS. If we are sellers contemplating a sale, this is a fabulous thing. This is the thing that will make our spring market start even earlier than it normally does, and I’m expecting spring inventory to hit the market in early January as opposed to late January. I’m also expecting prices of those new listings to be higher, as brokers and their sellers understand this is an inventory depraved market, and they’ll list accordingly. To sellers currently on the market, it may not be a smart move to pull the listing next week and wait until January to re-list, as has been a historical norm here. With inventory low and buyers plentiful, it’s best to stay in front of them, even if it feels bad to be continually overlooked.
This is the lakefront market, one filled with activity and haste, but this is not how the broad market is behaving. Abbey Springs is hot, great. Geneva National is just okay. The lakefront condo market has some activity, and will end this year with more sales than any year since 2007, terrific. The lake access market, that single family market comprised of various makes and models of off water homes, isn’t feeling the love. Consider that under $900k there are just two homes pending sale, and one of those has been pending for approximately 8 1/2 years, or so it seems. Excepting that Summer Haven listing at $299k, there is one listing pending in Cedar Point Park at $699k. That’s a parkway home, of sorts, and if you question the sales price let me remind you that there’s a Viking stove in the kitchen, and we all know that the buying mantra of location, location, location goes out the window when shiny, high end appliances are present.
Those are the only two lake access homes under $900k pending sale today, per the MLS. If this strikes you as being a few too few, you’re right. If it strikes your agent as being a SUPER HOT market, then this is something we could remedy together. Activity, judging from my own listings, seems to be somewhat solid, but contracts are obviously anything but plentiful. There are some great deals in this market, from a sweet entry level deal in the Loch Vista Club begging to be sold, to a possibly pleasing number on my cottage in the Lake Geneva Club that has both a view and a slip. There are opportunities in this market, but it’s that time of year where a buyer will need actual motivation to find them. This is not July, where buyers look on Saturdays and buy on Sundays. This is November, and even after a summer of incredible activity there is value to be found for those who aren’t afraid to get a little frost on their boots.
So, how’s the market? I suppose that depends on which one you’re talking about.
Above, my pretty great South Shore Club listing on East Lakeside Lane for $2.295MM