Blog : Pool

Black Point Sells

Black Point Sells

One of the many benefits of this strong vacation home market is that I get to test my theories on a daily basis. These theories were first penned when the market was in rough shape, which was just a few years ago in reality but so much farther away in the minds of 2018 buyers. The theory relating to the off-water lake access market over $1MM was simple. If lakefront homes were plentiful in the $1-2MM range, then off-water homes in same range would suffer. Why buy off water when the same price put you in the front row? In the same way, if $1-2MM lakefront homes were scarce, then off-water homes in the range would attract buyers. Lake Geneva real estate can be quite simple.

Simple as it may be, the theory was difficult for many off-water sellers to understand. During those dark years, most off-water homes that sought to capture a $1-1.5MM sales price ultimately languished on the market and fell victim to the price erosion that is a hallmark of lengthy market exposure. Most of those homes ended up selling, but rather than finding buyers in that $1MM+ range, most of these homes sold between $900k and $1MM. Buyers rejoiced, sellers wept.

Over time the entry level lakefront inventory dried up, leaving available only true cottages on small lots in modest settings. As that inventory shrunk, buyers turned their attention to the off-water homes that meant something. A slip, a view, a pool, some privacy. Maybe a combination of all of those. In the fall of 2016, I printed the sale in Loramoor for $1.625MM. Then another sale in Glenwood Springs for $1.1MM. Then, in 2017, a super high priced print with no slip in Oakwood Estates north of $1.2MM.  In 2017, another in Maytag Estates in the same range. Then a sale in Fontana north of $1.3MM. The market was moving, and buyers were once again looking for off-water properties simply because the on-water options were so scarce.

Last month, a new offering in this range. This one on Southland, or Black Point, as the tax records would show. $1.699MM for a few acres of wooded bliss, some terrain, a pool and a slip, a large home with pedigree, outbuildings and more. This was a property that the market rarely offers, mostly because it has no true rival. There are locations where off water homes will sell upwards and north of $2MM, but those associations are rare and historically light on inventory. The Lindens, Black Point, The 700 Club, Loramoor, Glen Fern. These are the rare associations, made that way by decades of low inventory and highly polished homes. These are the associations that matter to this segment, and this particular home was among the most rare inside even unique settings.

That’s why a buyer whom I was pleased to represent jumped. We closed on the house last week for full price, which is nothing to be ashamed of. In this context, full price was required, and full price was still less than the seller had paid for the home in the fall of 2011 when the market was in awful condition.  To further prove the strength of this off-water market, consider the home that would come to market just a few weeks ago in the 700 Club. That home hit the MLS at $1.495MM and promptly received multiple offers before finally settling at a contracted price that is rumored to be far over the ask. The market doesn’t always love off-water homes over $1.5MM, but if you give the market something unique in a highly desirable setting, the buyers will find it.

To this buyer who let me guide them through this curious segment of our vacation home market, I thank you. There’s an opportunity at this property to transform it into something without equal in our market, and I’m hopeful that the end reality matches your unique and exciting vision.

Woodstone

Woodstone

The thing about houses, is they’re all the same. A few bedrooms, some bathrooms. The number of each signaling the value, sometimes.  A kitchen down the hall from the dining room, or a breakfast room if space is scarce. The living room, that’s something every house will feature.  A tiny house even has one, with the wheels  and the hitch and the fold out table. Look, the dining room!

Woodstone Lake Geneva

What makes houses different, or better, is where they’re located and what else they offer. If I have a basic house, older and damp, with a roof needing tending to, but that house and that old roof are located on the lake, then I’m in luck. It’s valuable.  Further, if my house isn’t on the lake and it still needs the roof but it’s on 80 acres with incredible rolling hills and a small stream in the valley, then I still have something that others will value.

Woodstone Lake Geneva
Woodstone Lake Geneva

The home at 1593 Woodstone Lane is a nice house. It’s really nice. Built in 2013, there’s nearly 5000 square feet of nice. I won’t insult your intelligence by describing each nice thing. There’s nice wood floors, two fireplaces, a deep and wide screened porch. The kitchen is super sweet, the first floor master bedroom suite both convenient and, perhaps, someday necessary. There are three more bedrooms, bunches of bathrooms. One bedroom has been made into a bunk room with the help of some snappy carpentry. Oh, and the finished, walkout lower level has a large rec room, full bar, and exercise and theatre rooms. See, it’s nice.

Woodstone Lake Geneva

But it’s the extra here that matters. The landscaping is lush, irrigated, and full. For an off-water home, the views of the surrounding wildflowers and hills and deep, dark deciduous border, all divine. Walk out of that large screened porch and onto a stone patio, where umbrellas and lounge chairs surround a private, in-ground swimming pool. Barrington Pools installed this pool, complete with automated cover, to the exacting specifications of the owner, and what a pool it is.

You could buy a lot in Woodstone and build a house. There’s nothing stopping you. But what you’ll do is spend more money to achieve a lesser than result. Why build new and abide the aggravation, delays and expense,  when you can buy this for less than it would cost to replicate? You wouldn’t, because you’re smart. Use as an affordable primary home close to Lake Geneva but with low Linn Township taxes, or continue using as the current owners have: As an ideal vacation home close to downtown and the Lake Geneva Yacht Club.   Available for private tour this weekend. $845,000.

2017 Abbey Springs Market Review

2017 Abbey Springs Market Review

I owe Abbey Springs something. Not money, I don’t think. It’s never paid me very much, so I shouldn’t feel obligated to pay it back. In the mid 1990s, I was a kid with a new, disastrous real estate career, and a desire to play tennis. I don’t know why I wanted to play tennis. I had never played when I was a kid.  We’d sneak down to hit a few balls at Conference Point Camp, on their cracked and heaved courts, but that wasn’t really playing tennis.  I couldn’t afford the Grand Geneva, with their shiny courts and wood lockers. So I played at Abbey Springs, under the tent they’d blow up over their outdoor courts in the winter. It was cold in there, dimly lit, and loud.  The inability to properly relay the score, on account of the noisy blower fan, suited me just fine. Thanks, Abbey Springs.

But that’s the end of the thanking. Abbey Springs the real estate market is really quite a spectacle. It’s a machine, finely tuned, running without a miss, or a knock, or a sputter. The market is perhaps the most unique and widely varied here, with vacation condominiums starting in the high $100s and single family homes reaching or exceeding a million bucks. Remember that sentence.

For the year just ended, Abbey Springs closed 28 built properties including condominiums and single family homes. For all of 2016,  there were 40 prints. Now, if I were were a headline writer for AP,  I’d right this in a way that would appear negative: SALES DROP 30% AMID MARKET TURMOIL. But I’m not AP, I’m just a kid from Williams Bay, and even I know that shrinking sales totals are natural and normal in a market with shrinking inventory.  We cannot sell what isn’t for sale. The sales total for 2017 is fine, the inventory today, at just 19 active properties (four of those under contract) is low. The market at Abbey Springs is in fantastic, healthy condition.

But that’s not really the whole story here, as much as Abbey Springs wishes it were. Consider the upper bracket sales from last year. There were four sales over $800k in Abbey Springs, with the highest sale reaching $885k. That’s nice.  For the last five years, the two top sales in the market registered the same amount: $885k. Nothing higher, and over those five years just five sales over $800k. Seems fine, right?

The prior market top was mid 2007 to mid 2008. We know this.  Abbey Springs, from 2005-2008 sold a lot of product, but where was the top end back then? For those years, Abbey Springs closed four sales over $900k, with the top sale at $1.3MM.  If the markets today are as strong as they were then, why can’t Abbey Springs push over $900k anymore? Where did the $1.3MM sales go?

There’s no particular mystery in this. The market is strong today, yes. But the top end has obviously been redefined, and that new definition falls short of $900k. There has been some inventory over $900k to press that theory, but those homes have failed to sell. The prior market peak found buyers in this range with relative ease. It’s apparent to me that this higher level buyer is still in the market, but has found his or her way outside of Abbey Springs and instead wants a traditional lake home experience. That buyer wants a slip. Maybe some privacy. A smaller association where the beach isn’t so crowded. The buyer who once purchased $950k homes in Abbey Springs has proven elusive in this current cycle.

But maybe that doesn’t really matter. Abbey Springs might not be a million dollar market anymore. Or perhaps there just haven’t been any million dollar homes listed for sale.  Either way, expect Abbey Springs to push forward yet again in 2018, and expect inventory to stay low. If you’re a buyer in search of a lake house experience with added country club style amenities, Abbey Springs is likely your best bet.  Condominiums from the $200k range and single family from $500k. Beach, pool, golf, clubhouse, and tennis courts, though the bubble is no more.

New Loramoor Listing

New Loramoor Listing

Sometimes, 50 feet of frontage just won’t do. It’s tough for me to write that, but it’s true, and the market has proven it true time and time again. If you have a certain budget, let’s say somewhere under $2MM, you will generally aspire to lakefront. This is good. This should be your goal. But lakefront under $2MM can be difficult, troublesome, remarkably underwhelming. That’s why buyers often turn to the off water market in hopes of finding something in this range, and many times, they find something reasonably nice.  They find a cool house with a pool, like my sale last summer in the mid $900s on Main Street. Or they find a super fantastic house for $2.2MM without a pool and without a slip, like the one that sold in Knollwood last year. Or they find a house without a pool but with a slip, and they pay $1.35MM for it because it’s sort of nice and they like it, which was the case recently of a sale off Maytag Point.  Buyers don’t always want private frontage, because they want more house or more land or more charm than lakefront on a budget can offer.

Loramoor Lake Geneva

Good thing for these buyers, because I just listed a new property in Loramoor.  Loramoor is a fantastic association, whether on water like my vacant 110′ lakefront lot ($2.34MM, buy it and be smart), or if you’re off water in one of the association homes.  But while off water has some association homes, and they are all desirable and generally worth $1MM+, they are not all created equal.  My newest listing is at W3036 South Lake Shore Drive, in Loramoor. That address should tell you something. This home isn’t inside the association off the primary drive, rather it’s located directly off of South Lakeshore, with 3.3 manicured acres and a private gated entrance. This home has nothing to do with association living as we know it at the lake. This home is an estate, with a house and grounds that qualify the lofty assignment. At $1.895MM, it can be yours.

Loramoor Lake House

The property itself does tell much of the story. There’s the brick pillared entry with gate, the private drive, the 3.3 private acres. But there’s also a detached garage, measuring at least 3 cars worth with a finished upper level for use as an office or bunk room or studio, should you be an aspiring artist. There’s an in-ground pool surrounded by an intensely large stone patio. There’s an outdoor kitchen with grill and refrigerators and enough counter space to entertain as many people as you see fit. There’s that lawn, that huge, sprawling lawn, and there’s a water fall feature that you’re not expecting. The small playhouse is finished as well as many homes that I sell, though it’s small, so it’s a playhouse, and it’s doubtful your children or your friends’ children will appreciate the wainscoting on the ceilings.

The house itself is roughly 5000 finished square feet, with six bedrooms and five bathrooms and a three car attached garage.  The house is formal in design, but supremely functional as a lake house for a large group of family and friends. The kitchen is appointed nicely with SubZero and granite.  It opens out to a breakfast room, which opens to a screened porch, which commands a spectacular view of the pool and grounds.  The upper level is loaded with bedrooms, some owning their own bathrooms. The master is on the main level, which is good in the event that your knees have been bothering you. The lower level is a game room with wet bar (for easy pool service), and of course there’s a bedroom and bath down there as well. The space walks out to that backyard where the action is.

Loramoor House With Pool

But this isn’t just a nice house on a nice lot somewhere near the lake. It’s a house that’s part of Loramoor, so I have a transferable slip here and a slight lake view from the property. If you’ve thought about lakefront here, or looked for something off water under $2MM, this is the house that you should come see. It’s unlike anything in our market, and it’s ready for immediate use. Summer is coming, and it’s coming soon. Ready or not.