Tomorrow, this Saturday, I’ll be holding open my fabulous lakefront condo at Fontana Shores for your viewing pleasure. It’s not just a regular old condo, it’s a special lakefront condo with high end finishes and an exciting Fontana location. I’ll be there from 10:30ish until 2 pm, and if you’d stop in and say hello that’d be great. Now, let’s talk about our legacies.
Your legacy. My legacy. These legacies are pretty important, and once thoughts turn to mortality, as they do for me daily, our legacies start to matter. One way to ensure a lasting legacy is by being an all around good person, a loving parent and a faithful spouse capable and willing to help others, and that’s really as nice of a legacy as anyone would like. But legacies are furthered through real estate, which is why certain lake homes of all makes and models endure under certain ownership for many generations. If great grandpa Miller bought a lake house in 1907 and that lake house is still in the family today, what a wonderful thing that is. Great Grandpa Miller gets to have his picture up in the house, likely a regal one where he is dressed in fine clothes, possibly sitting on a horse.
Money in the bank isn’t a legacy. It’s fun, but it isn’t a legacy. Working every day and night is a legacy, but not the sort of lasting one you want. That’s more like the “My dad worked a lot so I don’t remember him all that much, and now I think I hate him.“, sort of legacy, which is less a blessing and more a posthumous curse. Legacy concerns can drive us to real estate, and I’ve personally seen it happen many times in my 16 years behind this helm. Buyers buy for the immediacy of the vacation high, yes, but behind a twinkle in their eye they many times will admit to seeing the property used by grandchildren that haven’t yet been conceived. It’s this desire to create something permanent that pulls many to a vacation home on these clean shores, and that desire is among the most noble reasons someone could subscribe to.
Unfortunately, this desire is usually cut short by impatience. By movement in passions and changes in purpose. A vacation home bought one year intending to become a generational retreat is sold the next year to make way for a new investment in something or another, and what was originally intended to be a lifelong journey is thwarted by another more immediate want, or need. Vacation homes, bought out of the most pure of intentions, are becoming more and more a simple toy that can be used and loved one year and then forgotten about and discarded the next. The vacation home that we bought for the next three generations to use is lucky to last a decade let alone a generation.
And this is what I see happening on the lake today. I see many, many buyers, and they’re buying all sorts of different lake homes. Many will own these homes for the remainder of their long lives and pass these assets to their children and their estates, but many more will own these new toys for some time and then move on to lesser, smaller things. Playing hopscotch on the lakefront is a popular past time of vacation home owners here. It’s a great thing for the market, for the Realtors, and for the economy. Seeking to upgrade or downsize is a natural movement within a defined market, and that’s to be expected and celebrated, but it’s the other movement that I question- the movement that finds a motivated buyer one year turning the following year into a motivated seller. Buyers can be dogs chasing cars, with the sport being the chase itself and no real plan as to what to do with that shiny bumper once it’s been captured.
There have been a lot of lakefront sales over the past 12 months. I see new families and individuals using these lake homes and loving their purchases and this makes me supremely happy. But I see more using these homes sparingly, using them out of some duty and less out of pure desire, and I feel a bit sad for these new owners. The chase of a lakefront home is fun, but the real rewards come only later at some fourth of July party on that lakefront yard long after the original owner is dead and gone. When generations of family gather on that lawn on that day just as they have for decades before, that’s when the reward is realized. If we can make vacation homes less of a temporary asset and more an enduring fixture within a family, that’s when a vacation home becomes a legacy. If you’re lucky, you buy the home and they’ll put your serious looking picture over the fireplace.
See you tomorrow. Fontana Shores. 150 Lake Street, Fontana, WI. 10:30ish- 2 pm.