I enjoy the marketplace positioned at the end of any given driveway. It’s a place for garbage, gifts, and sales, depending on the day. For instance, if you had a television that was nice 10 years ago, and you recently replaced it with a much nicer television, you have one of three options at the street. You can put the old, used-to-be-nice-TV out at the road and offer it for sale. $20 seems reasonable. After some time, no one wants your television. A guy stopped and looked at it once, but then he walked up to your house and looked in the kitchen window, too, so it’s not certain if he was a buyer or a taker. After some time, you remove the $20 sign and scratch out a new one. FREE! it says. You don’t even write “to a good home” because at this point, no one cares about this television. Yes, it was nice. Yes, you watched game seven of some important sports series on it, and everyone in attendance marveled at how great the night was, how great the outcome was, how great your nacho dip was, how great your TV was. Those days are gone.
No one wants your free television. That guy came back again, but he skipped the television and just looked in the kitchen window some more. After a week of it being free, and another week of hazing from your neighbors, you move the television from its location and pile it next to the trash cans on Tuesday morning. You tape $20 to the screen that night, to entice the garbage man to take what you no longer want. He takes it. You have now gone through the three stages of getting rid of something. You tried to sell it. You tried to give it away. Then you paid someone to take it. This is the business model for old televisions but also for old lakefront houses. Sometimes, the market hates your house so much that you have to figure out how to pay someone to take it.
That’s not exactly what happened on the North Shore of Geneva, some ways from downtown Lake Geneva and along that Snaking road, but it’s sort of what happened. Four years ago, a lakefront owner decided that it as time to be a seller. That owner had another property to build another house on, so the current property and the current house were no longer part of the future. They were the past, though the past was really the present, and that present lingered and lingered. Four years of market time, four years of trying to tell everyone to buy this house. Four years later, a deal was struck, and this week that seller closed on that house for $5.25MM. The property was 261′ along the lake, and 3+ acres deep. It was on Snake Road, which is always good. While I never liked the house and I don’t like the property, it was a fine sale and a good bit of comp for our market. But the story does not end there.
The neighbor to that Snake Road home, sometime in 2011, also decided that it was time to sell. There was no next property already in ownership, as was the case for the first neighbor, but selling was the goal and an upgrade was the plan. The house, a decent house with elevated frontage and aged finishes, didn’t sell. It didn’t sell that first year, and then it didn’t sell that second year. It didn’t sell in those middle years, either. Last year? It didn’t sell. Last week, it sold. Hurray! $2.495MM for 115′ of sloped frontage isn’t so bad, even if the house needs a bit of love. But the sale isn’t as it seems, and the other Snake sale isn’t, either. These owners, both saddled with something they no longer wanted, faced with the reality that the market felt the same way about their homes as they did, made a trade. And so the $5.25MM house traded for the $2.495MM house, and once the money was supplied to make up the deficiency the deals printed. Two lakefront sales, big volume for agents, nice comps for our dying MLS, and no new lakefront owners.
Sometimes, when you can’t sell something, and you can’t really give it away, you just swap it for something else. The big house will now either be torn down and completely renovated and changed. The little house will likely be home to those owners for a while before it, too, is sold. Why make a trade only to sell what you’ve received? Because it’s much easier to sell a $2.5MM house than it is a $5.25MM house. Lake Geneva is a market where we wish to entice new ownership, to show those city dwellers just how outrageously boring their weekend city life really and truly is. But it’s also a market for those of us who know it, who love it, who know exactly what we want. Sometimes, exactly what we want is just something different, like maybe the neighbor’s house.