Blog : Markets

Lazy Patience

Lazy Patience

It was good to be a buyer in 2011. And in 2012. 2013, too. We know that now. What a time! We think. If only I could have been a buyer then, say the buyers now.  But was it so great back then? Was everything perfect? I remember a buyer from the fall of 2011. He was worried about the 2012 election. Worried about the economy, or the economy as measured by the stock indices. He bought in the fall of 2011, and the lakefront purchase changed his life. But he almost didn’t buy and it almost didn’t change his life. It was good to be a buyer then, but it wasn’t easy.

If you were a buyer then and you didn’t buy, and in the days that have followed from those days to these days, I understand how you must feel. Shame is a powerful thing, but shame with equal parts regret is devastating. I have buyers today that tell me they wish they had bought. They wish they had upgraded. There were so many properties for so few dollars.  What an amazing market it was, they say, as if they were non-eligible bystanders during the whole show. I should have bought something. Anything.  That’s what a buyer of mine told me in a text last weekend.

Bill Shakespeare once said, “striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.”  It’s no secret that I’ve built myself a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, on the road from Where? , just past Nothing, Unincorporated. I commonly bemoan what it is that I’ve done. I built something too small. I built it a bit too far to this side. I painted that a bit too blue. It was supposed to be gray. The shame is intense.  The deck isn’t finished, the patio never will be, and the gravel driveway is nearly impassable several months out of the year. There were some execution issues. It took two years to build a scant few square feet.

But it did get built. And I do get to sleep there. And when I drive down the road and fish the streams, I feel content. I say hello to the cows in the pasture and wish there was something I could do to help them get rid of those flies that pester and bite. I wander the farmer’s market once in a while, and buy something from someone who made it near there.  The process was painful, the execution questionable, the outcome reasonably acceptable, if full of concerns.  But I’m happy with it. Because it lets me hang my hat when I’m done with a long evening of casting tiny dry flies to wary, wild trout.

In the same way, last Memorial Day I sat lakeside and watched the show. It’s our show, after all. This is our thing.  After a dreary winter it’s easy to forget how much passive fun can be had while watching boaters boat. New boats, old boats, new boats made to look old.  Shore path walkers, some strolling, aimless in their amusement, others hiking, working, efforting. This place is unique, and it’s ours. On that day, was there any difference between the boater who has a Viking range and the one without? Was there any difference in the way that cool May water felt to the owner who has a small cottage a few doors away from the owner who has the larger home closer to the lake?

The great equalizer in the home search is found when you maintain focus on the true goal. If you want a nice house, just buy one in the city or the suburbs. There are lots of them for sale. Shiny ones with fancy things.  But those homes don’t get you any closer to what you want. To indulge in this place. To wake up Saturday morning in a different state with a different state of mind. A different state of being.

The buyers from 2012 who missed out largely did so because they wanted better. They wanted different. Something with a larger living room and another bedroom. A shinier kitchen. One more bathroom. What a tremendous mistake to hold your lifestyle hostage when the demanded ransom is something as trivial as square footage. Or a garage.  Today, buyers are doing the same thing. They’re deciding that an extra bedroom is worth another summer in the city. They’re choosing nothing over better, because they really want best.  I have buyers tell me they’re being patient. Being patient is easy. It’s finding motivation that’s often far more difficult.

Above, the entry at my Basswood estate listing. Now reduced to $8,950,000
November Again

November Again

We all engage in it. A very common mistake. It’s not a mistake like it would be to pay someone to tattoo barbed wire around our biceps, but it’s a mistake nonetheless. I write to you from this desk every other day, and I write to you as if I know the entire lake. As if I know every nook and cranny and every point and bay and every gravel road and paved street. I write like I know, as it comes to Geneva, it all. You listen, you read, and you, too, explore. You think about the lake and you think about what it is and how it looks and you think that you know it all too, and if not all of it, well then certainly most of it. The truth today is that none of us know the lake as well as we think. It’s a big lake. Our minds are small.

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And this is why November is so important. In December, we can get to know the lake. The lake is still then, the activity gone excepting a few brave fishermen that drag lures slowly through the depths, the piers out and the lake a glassy reflection of everything we think it should be. We can explore then. We can hike the shore path and legally trespass through front lawns and peek behind houses and see things that we didn’t know were there. We could do these things in December, but December has but one fatal flaw. It can be very cold in December. Like freezing cold. Like Manitoba cold. If you’ve never been there, trust me on this one, it’s a cold you don’t ever want. December is to exploring what bicycles are to fishing, carbon fiber frame or not.

November on the other hand, November is a month where even a soft guy like me can do some exploring. November isn’t like October and it’s nothing like December, but it’s so much better than August if you’re looking to actually accomplish something. August is a show. It’s busy here then, the lake is busy and pretty and between pretty boats and pretty girls and pretty big fish it’s nearly impossible to focus on the lake. November is free from distraction. There’s nothing going on, and no fisherman in a Lund could ever distract someone from their goal if their goal is to discover what they cannot see during summer.

A goal of mine here, on this site, and in my every day work is to educate. Any agent can be reactionary and make fancy fonted proclamations, but is that some sort of valuable advice? I don’t think it is. I think it’s lame. So while I educate here and educate if you’ll take a ride in my car with me around the lake, there is an education that I cannot give you. That education is one of personal preference. If you’re going to buy a car, it’s nice to know what Dan Neil thinks of that particular car. The gas mileage is sort of important. The size of the engine matters some. But what really matters is how the color looks under the sun and how it takes a corner. Personal preference is what matters far beyond the nuts and bolts, and even though I’d love to shape your preferences for you this is something I cannot do. In order to understand this market and this lake, you must explore.

Vacationing here during August for a week is not the time to explore. That’s a time to be captivated. There isn’t must subjectivity to a summer day at the lake. It’s impossible to resist it. And with this, people give in and they buy a house on a Saturday that they first learned about on a Tuesday. To be a buyer in August is to act quickly and sometimes irrationally, but to be a November leaf kicker and a December buyer? Well that’s pure genius.

So for now it’s November. It’s time to explore. It’s time to learn about little bays and small points that you never knew existed because in August they were masked with piers and shiny objects. On a gray day in November, with some boots and gloves on, you can learn more about the lake in a three hour walk than you every could during a 7 day summer vacation. If you’re here doing this work it’s obvious you already like the lake. The goal here, on this blog and on that shore path, is to find what you love. Whether that’s an association home or a stretch of the lake that fits your eye, now is precisely the time to find that spot.Nove