The South Shore Club is all quite nice. The pool and the entrance, the tennis courts and the piers. There’s nothing like it here, and likely never will be anything like it again. Within the South Shore Club there are nice homes, some better than others. Some new, others older, some by the pool and some near the tennis. But beyond the typical homes in the SSC there are the elite. There are the select homes that do not merely angle over lawn and towards the water, but those that sit right up on the water. The front row. There are four of these built homes that match this description, two of which sold in the past 24 months for prices broke the existing South Shore Club sales patterns.
N1619 East Lakeside Lane was one of those sales. It closed north of $4MM, and the new owners immediately began the process of making a 15 year old home new again. Styles have changed, a possible surprise to some, in the event that you are sitting at home with your feet buried in forest green carpet. The process was thorough. Painstaking. Expensive. But no stone was left unturned and a house that felt very much like 2002 now feels very much like 2019. The finishes are superlative, with Plato cabinetry and Wolf appliances anchoring a stunning kitchen. Where there once was carpet there is now oak. New paint, new trim, new floors, fixtures and stone. The audio visual components and hardware have been updated throughout and a theatre room has been added to the walk-out lower level.
There’s nothing lacking here. No space concerns, with four levels of living space spanning nearly 9,000 square feet. No quality issues, with the extensive updates and recent repairs. And quite obviously, no location issues. This is the front house. The best house. The lot that faces the water fully, with a slight western tilt to take advantage of the sunsets. The location on the water is tremendous, opening to the widest section of the south shore, offering easy viewing of the nearby Lake Geneva Yacht Club regattas. And now it also plays like the newest house in the club, and it’s being offered mostly furnished for immediate use this summer.
Offered today for $6.495MM. It will be on the MLS later today and available for tour this week. If you’d like a tour of this home and the remarkable South Shore Club property, I’m here to help.
Lakefront buyers know that a hunt for a lakefront house can be fun. Can, being the operative word there. It could be fun. Should be fun. But often, in this market, it is anything but. No inventory, stubborn sellers, too much competition amongst other, potentially more motivated buyers. Sometimes, it’s all too much. But in the process there is an education, as buyers come to understand what it is they should expect at certain price points on this magnificent lakefront.
Enter Park Drive. A south shore lakefront with almost 80′ of level frontage with a rare sandy beach shoreline. Lakefront home buyers understand that $2MM or so doesn’t typically allow for such a wide swath of level lakefront. What’s typical in this market now is fifty feet, maybe more, maybe less, on the side of a hill. Park Drive has a three car attached garage, into which you enter off of a private, paver driveway capable of holding several cars. Parking and a three car attached garage? Not common in this market at this price point, but you already knew that because you’re a $2ish buyer and you aren’t finding what it is that you want.
An old cottage, that’s what you’ll find here. Some lipstick, a heavy hand, and voila, that’s the cottage you’ll find for this sort of money. But that’s not what I have here at Park. I have a lakefront home built in 1996 with Viking appliances and multiple fireplaces and so much glass on that lakeside wall. Yes, you can find an old cottage on a hill for this price, with those fifty skinny feet and that little pier, but why would you keep looking for that house when this better house is right here, right now, ready for summer 2019?
Three bedrooms, two baths, a three car garage, private pier, huge lakeside deck and patio, 79 feet of dead level frontage, turn key condition. $2,195,000. Let me know if you’d like to see it.
There are three things that attract people to houses. Yes, there are renters who rent based on price and convenience, those who say they won’t be pinned down, won’t be tamed. But for the rest of us, the regular people, houses simply attract us. The reasons are many, sometimes bold reasons like colors and sometimes nuanced reasons like the way a front door beckons when you first pull into the drive. But really, there are three main reasons that houses either attract us or repel us.
First things first, there’s the approach. Curb appeal, some would say, but that’s assuming you can see the house from the curb. The approach itself matters to homes, which is why homes have gates. It’s not to keep people out so much as it is to provide a visual enticement that something important lies beyond. If I had a gate on my house, no one would stand out front and wonder who lives inside, but they might stop and think there must be something slightly interesting back there.
The lot itself, that property beyond that gate, the trees and the grass and so many boxwoods. How is that lot? Is it wide enough, deep enough? Is it hilly or flat? Does it catch my interest. And if I’m looking towards something, what is it, exactly? Just more trees? Too much grass? Basic landscaping, or elevated landscaping? A path to the lake that feels right, or a path that feels like the owner gave up on the project long before every making her way to the shore?
That lot, where is it, exactly? Is it on the side of a busy road? I was driving with my kids last week and reminded them that under no circumstance shall they ever purchase a home adjacent a busy road, to say nothing of an actual highway. The reasons are obvious, but mostly because there is never an actual reason to do so. The nuance of the front door positioning on the house and the quality of the backyard is meaningless if the house faces that busy road. The lot, the thing that we need as much as a leak-free roof and some hardwood floors, is the single most important part of home.
Lastly, it’s the style of the home itself. Tudor or Cape Cod, Colonial or Mid-Century? What suits your style? Moreover, what suits the style of your market? A recent plague on construction in this immediate area has no real symptoms except a general lack of consistent style. If the home is to be traditional with a twist towards modern, like Michael Abraham might encourage, that’s terrific. If the home is traditional to the core, with bold, classic finishes, that’s fine as well. There is no error in design as long as the design is consistent. But whether or not that design attracts the interest of buyers and passersby alike depends on the style itself.
With those aspects of desirability understood, I introduce 389 North Lakeshore Drive in Fontana. Where is it? Along the curvy, wooded road that bends and whispers from Fontana to Williams Bay. What’s there? Only some of the most beautiful newer homes on the lake, mixed with some of the traditional homes that effortlessly anchor our scenery to the past. The approach is as it should be: A simple gate with no pretension. The entrance drive turns through the trees, past a fitting four car detached garage because who would want a lakefront estate without room for a few extra toys?
The home itself is more than 10,000 square feet of turn key efficiency. There’s a main floor master suite, dressed in marble. Upstairs you’ll find five more bedroom suites including a bunk room that’ll hold nearly everyone you know. On the lower level that walks out to the water, there are two more suites, a theatre room and a screened porch that does double duty as a summertime gym. What’s more, this home is nearly new. Finished in 2013 by Orren Pickell, this shingle style home doesn’t waiver from what it is.
What is it? It’s a shingle style home on 2.4 lakefront acres built recently to exacting standards and elevated for a hassle free lakefront experience by the current owners. Where is it? It’s on the North Shore of Fontana, with views long and wide, a short stroll to Gordy’s and Chuck’s even while the home and property feel tucked away and secluded. What does it look like? It looks like the sort of house you’d build if you were in the market to build a new house here. But why would you do that when this home is here, now, available and practically perfect? $7,895,000
A couple of weeks ago, I started working on a new listing. This lakefront house was in Cedar Point, on the very top of the point, where the view is as wide as it is long, where days last and last, where sunsets, no matter the season, cannot hide from view. The house was to be listed at $2,595,000, and I was ready to work on the sale. Photos were scheduled, details were arranged.
But then it rained. And it rained some more, and when it wasn’t rainy it was misty, which would be a terrific name for a horse. Photos were scheduled and the schedule changed. The weather didn’t cooperate. But in the mean time I told a couple of buyers about this house, and before the photos could take place, before the MLS listing could be set to ACTIVE, before all of those visible sales efforts could commence and before most agents knew about the property, the new listing on the hill went under contract to a buyer who knew he needed to be in the know. It’s in the MLS now, but it’s already sold.
There’s a reason you read this blog. That, of course, was a lie. In actuality, there are many reasons you read this blog, but perhaps there are are only two or three really good reasons. The market commentary might be the most valuable asset of this site, but that’s followed very closely by the fact that I like to leak new listings on this blog well ahead of the time the rest of the agents and the MLS learns about them. Today, there is no commentary, which means there’s a new listing to discuss.
This new listing is one that you may be familiar with. I sold it two years ago to the current owner, who is now looking on to what’s next. The property, 434 Oakwood in Fontana, is likely the most dialed lake cottage I’ve ever sold. Correction: it’s the most dialed lake cottage I’ve ever seen. In spite of my propensity for hyperbole, I assure you there is no exaggeration here. This property has it all, and it’s perfect.
There’s a view, a private pier with shore station for a 25 foot boat. There’s proximity. In that, we have completed the trifecta of Lake Geneva off-water value. Pier, View, Proximity. Collect your winnings at the counter. But beyond that, there’s something more here. The house itself is filled with high end luxuries that leave even lakefront homes unwell with envy. It’s so perfect that I’m not even going to describe it. I’m just going to leave those pictures there, and leave this video here. $1,295,000. If you want to transform your weekends, please let me know.
For each of us, there is something unique in our story, some important event in our past, or in the past of our parents, or our grandparents, or our great aunts and uncles, that led us to this place. For the Ryerson Family, the events were rather curious. As the Great Chicago Fire raced through the city, decimating businesses, destroying homes, killing indiscriminately and ruining lives, there was but one large city lumberyard spared from the carnage: The lumberyard owned by the Ryerson Family. When the rebuilding process began, one family was prepared to supply those efforts. And when the ash settled and the city was restored, the Ryerson Family had not only played a major role in those efforts, they were rewarded with lasting riches.
Martin Ryerson was the son of the lumberyard owner, and as a son of privilege he attended CPS before ultimately graduating from Harvard Law School. At age 25, he was married and working his law practice, content in his city life. At age 34, his father died, leaving him the family business and making him one of the richest men in Chicago. His interest in education and civic matters led him to help found the University of Chicago, where he played a key roll in the design of the campus and served for decades on the board. The Ryerson Physics Laboratory still operates to this day. Due to his involvement with the University, he visited Lake Geneva to tour the brand new Yerke’s Observatory. After that visit to the lake he was hooked, and the same year purchased the property that would become known as Bonnie Brae (Pretty Hillside). At one point, the estate measured nearly 100 acres and possessed more than 1200 feet of lakefrontage on the north shore. If you think impulse buys are some sort of new thing, created by our impatient generation, Martin Ryerson would quickly disagree.
A year after purchasing the property and initiating a large scale, multi-building construction project, Martin turned his attention to the water and hired the Racine Boat Company to build his 72′ steam yacht. At the time, the residents of Geneva would take the train from the city to the lake, and board their elegant steam powered yachts which would chauffeur the owners to their lakefront homes. Hathor, one of a small handful of original steamers still on Geneva to this day, played host to elite society, including Henry Ford, John Rockefeller, Harvey Firestone, and a fairly well known impressionist painter by the name of Claud Monet.
With the addition of Hathor, Martin was in need of a place to store her, so he built a boathouse at the water’s edge, to the West of the main house, on a remarkably level section of lakefront. For the next 34 years, the Ryerson’s would spend their fanciful lives traveling, building up the cultural scene of Chicago, and relaxing lakeside at their Bonnie Brae. It was at the lake where Ryerson would die, at the age of 75. Upon his death, 90 percent of his wealth was given away to the Field Museum, The Chicago Art Institute, and his cherished University of Chicago. Some time later, the large estate was divided, and one four acre parcel with 185′ of level frontage and a deeply wooded hillside was assigned to his original boathouse.
Over the years, the boathouse was renovated into a single family home. Additions over recent years made for a proper master suite. An extra garage was built for storage. Bathrooms were updated with marble. Today, the original Bonnie Brae boathouse, with that long wooded drive off of Snake Road, is offered for sale. $3,895,000 for 185 feet of frontage, 4.3+ acres of fabulous depth, and a 4,742 square foot house that is one of the last remaining boathouses on Geneva Lake. Martin Ryerson was friends with Monet and the Rockefellers. He studied in Paris and London. He founded universities and lasting civic institutions. But most of all he was just a guy who loved spending time at the lake, swimming off his pier and bragging about the speed of his boat. Today, you can own his boathouse, and you’d be wise to act as quickly as he did in 1897.
My large lakefront offering in Valley Park is still available, though it probably shouldn’t be. Compare this property to the newest lakefront listing on Geneva, priced at $14,500,000. That listing has 3.46 acres. Valley Park has 6.9 acres. That listing, for $14,500,000, has 210 feet of frontage. Valley Park has 211 feet. That listing has a City of Lake Geneva tax bill. Valley Park has a Linn Township tax bill. If you’re a buyer in the upper reaches of our market, you’d be well served to consider my listing in Valley Park. It’s large, it’s ideal, and it’s ready for the next owner. Best of all, with the $9.3MM I’m saving you, the new house you could build would be stunning, and you’d have several million dollars left over. Why buy someone else’s lake house when you can build your to own your exacting specifications for less?
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!
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.
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.
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.
Follow South Lakeshore Drive far enough from town and after some time you’ll be in the general vicinity of Black Point. But weave farther and deeper off of the known and you might be lucky enough to find Valley Park. Tucked away on the East side of Black Point, Valley Park likely isn’t a location on the lake that you know very well. That’s because it’s exclusive and slow to offer inventory, and that’s just one of the reasons Pier 630 is a property with very few equals on Geneva Lake.
This Valley Park estate represents a most unique opportunity on Geneva’s southern shore. With 211′ of frontage and two parcels combining for nearly 7 acres, this truly is a rare property. The lakefront home boasts magnificent lake views and includes six bedrooms along with five bathrooms. A highly sought after boathouse near the water’s edge and a four car detached garage provide plenty of toy storage. The three bedroom guest house was built in the 1990s by Jawort Lowell to exacting standards with a wood burning fieldstone fireplace, maple hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and a delightful screened porch.
Often times, brokers and sellers will market properties as estates, even when we all know they are not. One hundred foot lots are nice, and one acre or two in depth is lovely, but does that constitute an estate? In a city setting, of course, but not at Lake Geneva. Moreover, a property with 150’ might be considered an estate, but what flexibility does the parcel actually offer? There is little that can be done with such a parcel except to build one new, likely beautiful, home. It’s not the screened porches or the pier that make these 211’ of South Shore frontage unique. It’s the possibility of a family compound. The possibility of future divisibility. Offered today with both tax keys and that glorious frontage and rare 6.9 acres in depth, this property will provide a buyer with the ultra elusive combination of wide frontage with significant acreage. New to market just in time for summer 2018. $5,195,000
Back on the market just in time for whatever season we’re now calling April, a most memorable Bay Colony lakefront condominium…
There’s a thing about lakefront condominiums. The typical way to remodel these condos is, well, typical. Some new countertops. Paint. A backsplash of something from Home Depot. And this way of doing things is just fine. When people come to see the newly remodeled condo they’ll tell you it looks nice. Good job, they’ll say. But they won’t really mean it. They’ll wonder why you put new counters on old cabinets and painted the old doors. They’re still hollow, after all. White paint doesn’t change that. But they’ll tell you it’s nice and they’ll leave wondering if the lie was convincing.
At my newest lakefront listing in Bay Colony, there’s nothing to look at that isn’t new. There’s nothing that was missed. What started out as an intended surface renovation ended up including new everything. Everything? Everything. And instead of the typical wares you’re used to seeing in this segment, the owner decided to do the unit right. The floors are oak. The counters are quartz. The bathrooms are marble. There are custom built ins galore. There’s a new laundry room. There’s style here that is not just rare on this lake- before now it didn’t even exist.
Two bedrooms and two baths with a slip. Immediate outdoor access from both the parking side and the lakefront, making for no annoying hallway conversations. Is this unit simple? Yes. It’s simple. But in the simplicity is the value. I’m offering this unit today at $899k, fully renovated by Lowell Construction. Fully furnished. Fully ready to transform your weekends. If you’ve been in the market for a turn key lakefront residence but have been let down by your condominium options, come visit me at Bay Colony unit 101. It’s stunning, and that’s not the slightest exaggeration.
I have a particular thing for porches. This affinity is owed to my youth, to a childhood home where little mattered except that old porch. Summer lunch, in the porch. Summer coffee and newspaper, in the porch. Summer nights, sleeping on the bed, in the porch. The porch was and is the lifeblood of that old house. Given this porchy preference, it should be mentioned that I have never built a home with a porch. I have torn porches out of homes I have remodeled and cobbled that square footage into a greater living room. I have largely ignored the porch in my own home design, but today as I write I believe the reason behind this is simply that none of my houses have been on the lake. If the house isn’t on the lake and the porch isn’t nearest the lake, then what good is a porch? These are the things I wonder about.
274 Sylvan Avenue is on the North Shore of Fontana Bay, inside of the Buena Vista Association. This location on the lake is desirable. But that’s an understatement that fails to relay the true feelings the market has for this location. Consider this: When you search back through the MLS, the oldest sales you’ll find recorded are from the mid 1990s. From that time until this time, the only other lakefront home in Buena Vista to sell is one that closed on April 4th, 1996. On that morning I drove my Saab 900 to school, parked in the lot, walked into the kitchen that doubled as our homeroom, and wished for the freedom that was soon to be mine. 1996 was a long time ago, and if you were a lakefront buyer looking for Buena Vista, you probably should have bought that house.
But that’s just this location, inside Buena Vista, with access to their magnificent lakefront park and pier system and the only tennis courts on the lake that actually appear to be used with regularity. This location inside Buena Vista is beyond ideal. Not adjacent the large park, not adjacent the pier system, just in between, slightly elevated but not so elevated that the steps are tiresome. The views are divine, to the South, East, and West. This sunrise was captured from the patio. Not terrible. Sunrise to the left, sunset to the right, Fontana’s Fourth of July fireworks, front and center.
The cottage style home might look vintage, with that lakeside wall of glassed and screened porch, but inside it’s a modern home with recent and numerous upgrades. The current owner renovated the home top to bottom, and built an addition to increase the living space and add a true master suite. The result is lakefront perfection. Two cut-granite fireplaces flank the main level, where hardwood floors run from room to room. The owner is an epicurean, so the kitchen is divine, oversized, and outfitted with large Viking range and Sub-Zero. If you’re wondering, there are four bedrooms plus lower level bunk space, five and a half baths, and over 4228 square feet.
Lakeside there are decks and patios with lush perennial gardens carefully highlighted by high quality landscape lighting. Streetside there’s parking for four or more cars, and more of those gardens, kept in place by fieldstone walls and connected to the entrance by another large blue-stone patio. There’s a private pier that currently plays summertime host for the owner’s thirty-one foot boat. The property is a full lot and a half, offering loads of lakeside entertaining space and easy access to the pier and shore path. Want to walk to Gordy’s for a summertime lunch? Good idea, it’s less than five minutes down the shore path.
But all of this and we haven’t discussed the porch. In the case of 274 Sylvan, it’s not porch, it’s porches. On the main level that sunny lakeside porch spans the width of the original home, offering a sunny winter spot with the original windows closed, or a breezy, cool summer spot with the windows open and screens deployed. Upstairs, off of the loft and guest bedroom suite, there’s another porch, identical in size, perfect for leisure, but best utilized as a summer sleeping porch. What could be better that falling asleep to the sound of the waves and the rustle of the trees while the quiet hum of a Lake Geneva summer slowly fades? The answer, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is nothing.
It is no secret that the South Shore Club is an exclusive development. Anything numbering just 40 in total would be viewed as exclusive. While this is known, what isn’t so well known is that exclusivity does exist here on a higher level. The homes are each unique, each impressive. The slate, the stone, the imported this and hand hammered that, it’s all very intoxicating. There’s plenty of reason why the South Shore Club is entirely sold out, with no available inventory as of this writing. Whether the home is on Forest Hill near the tennis court, or right on the semi-circle that rings the lake like a modern day Congress Club, the structure is divine and the home a veritable castle for its fortunate owner. But this is the obvious. This is what everyone, no, anyone, can see with their own two open eyes if they so much as drive past, or perhaps through, the South Shore Club.
But what is a higher prize are the select homes that line not just the circle of lush grass where a swimming pool and clubhouse reside, but those homes that rest immediately adjacent to the lake itself. These are the few lakefront homes of the South Shore Club, and these are the homes that compete with private frontage in such a way that they are not just a different option for those seeking private frontage, they can indeed become the better option. In this hunt for the exclusive within the exclusive, we find ourselves at the door of 1621 East Lakeside Lane.
We’ve already established that each home in the SSC is a shining jewel in its own right, but what we miss when we paint with this wide brush is that individual homes do stand out among this spiffy crowd. Some homes are larger, as is this one. At just over 10,000 square feet, this home is large enough to meet any square footage desire, and yet boasts a design that is approachable with rooms that feel airy but not so large that they become unnecessary or somehow irrelevant. This home has more privacy, more outdoor space, more this and more that. The floor plan here is delightful, with everything a discerning buyer might require for a true lakefront home. There are finishes that exceed the highest of expectations. The Ralph Lauren interior design works perfectly at the lake.
In spite of all this perfection, the location of this home might be its most important attribute. Nestled on the extreme eastern edge of the club, there is more space between this home and its lakefront neighbor to the East. This spacious side yard is a result of superior site planning, and it’s this side yard that makes this home feel less like just another home in the South Shore Club and more like one of the finest lakefront homes you’ll ever lay eyes on. The views from the home rival or exceed that of any lakefront home on Geneva, with unavoidable lake views present in many of the rooms, and most pronounced from the epic lakeside stone patio.
This is the appeal of this exquisite home. It is part of the South Shore Club, and along with that membership it enjoys the unrivaled trappings of such luxury- the free and varied boats, the tennis court, the pool and hot tub, the clubhouse. Think you need to buy a life vest for your daughter here? Think again, they’re included as it’s all part of the South Shore Club experience. These are the amenities, and when a home like this requires the use of those, they are available at any moment. But what is different here is the ability to detach from the South Shore Club and live as a true lakefront home. If the activities are needed, they are there. But if they are not needed, and the new owner requires little more than a comfortable lounge chair to rest on and the sound of lapping waves as their soundtrack, this is also available. It’s in the ability to live as a true lakefront home with the wide array of South Shore Club activities available when they are wanted and out of sight, and perhaps mind, when they are not.
This is the only available home in the South Shore Club, and it just so happens to be one of the most special. If you’re looking for lakefront and want to purchase something that’s both beautiful and easy to own, this is your chance. I sold the house next door in less than three weeks last summer. Available for private tour with notice. $4,850,000
You don’t really want to be me. Some of my friends think they’d like to be me. To work a bit and make money a bit and drive a nice car a bit. To have nice things and to sell this place. It’s luxurious, they think. It’s fun, they imagine. But they’re wrong. Everyone is wrong. What I really do is take nice people out in my car and show them this lake. I show them this lane and that drive. I take them here and down there. I show them what it is we do here, how much better it is. The scene is easy to love. The water, same. The boats and the woods and the sails, it’s all rather intoxicating, and nearly everyone agrees with this. The problem is the real estate. Do you know how deflating it is to show someone homes that cost millions of dollars that are, as a point of fact, awful homes?
This is the Lake Geneva problem. This is my problem. This market is expensive, there’s just no getting around it. But it’s expensive for a reason, for many reasons, and it’s worth it. But whether it’s worth it or not, the homes that buyers can buy are often disappointing. They need significant updating. Or a wrecking ball. Or they lack this and that. They always lack. I’d buy this house if only it had (insert anything here, anything at all). With this housing deficiency understood, imagine now my delight in bringing you this new listing at 1100E South Lakeshore Drive in Fontana.
This house measures more than 5000 square feet. It has a two car garage. Five bedrooms. A large great room with tall ceilings. Four fireplaces. Huge outdoor patio space. 1.78 acres of wooded privacy. Two driveways with ample room to park as many as a dozen vehicles. It has a shared pier with a canopied slip. The current owner keeps his 27′ Cobalt there. I suppose you could put yours there as well. There’s SubZero and Wolf. Stone and granite. Big wooded doors that swing on huge steel hinges. This isn’t so much a mere lake house in Fontana as much as it’s an Adirondack Lodge in Fontana.
But this is the house, the big, beautiful house. That’s not what really sets the property apart. It’s that privacy, that delicious, rare, wooded privacy. It’s the Fontana location with water and sewer and an easy walk to town or the Lake Geneva Yacht Club. It’s these things, but it’s much more. Here we have an inground swimming pool, set back in the woods surrounded by lush perennial gardens. There’s a Lord and Burnham Greenhouse, one that causes me to green with jealousy every time I enter. The current owners don’t use it as a greenhouse, they just use it as a pool-toy storage center, but I’d use it as a greenhouse if it were mine. Once you buy this house, I’d like it if you’d use it as a greenhouse again.
It’s not just a big house with all those fireplaces and a pool and a greenhouse and so much wooded privacy on all that land. There’s a tennis court, too. A tennis court with lights and basketball hoops. The current owner holds the Spotted Cow Open here each year. I’m surprised you’ve never heard of it. The sponsorship by Spotted Cow isn’t official yet, but they should appreciate the free advertising. If you’re tired from tennis you can retreat to the pool, and when you tire of the pool you can enter the greenhouse. The tomatoes need picking.
This comes back to the price. $2.99MM for all of this lakeside luxury. This house gives you what other homes in this price range can’t. You can buy a lakefront home for this money, easily and often. But you can’t buy an estate with these country club amenities. Even if you could, it wouldn’t be in Fontana and it wouldn’t have a pier, and it certainly wouldn’t be walking distance to the Yacht Club. My job typically forces me to sell around what isn’t there. In the case of this Clear Sky Lodge property, there’s nothing I need to sell. The property does it for me. Available for private showings this weekend.
Buyers have a unique tendency to focus on one or two aspects of a purchase, and in doing so, convince themselves to proceed with the transaction. This is true of jeans. If you love the fit but hate the color, you might buy them anyway. If you hate the fit but love the price, you might buy them anyway. This is why we have closets with jeans that we don’t wear. Sometimes it’s because we started working out and have, as a curious result, gained weight. But usually it’s because whatever jean we bought wasn’t quite right, but we bought it anyway. Houses are like this, too.
On the lakefront, it’s often less about what a house has than what it doesn’t. It has a fantastic stove. Yes! Shiny! But it has one bedroom. It has a big level lawn, sweet! But the foundation is an assortment of neatly, dry-stacked bricks placed at random intervals. Every house has good, and every house has bad. There is no perfect house. Not here, at least. Every property has something wrong with it. Buyers like to focus on garages. Lake houses and garages have a curious relationship. On one hand, a lake house doesn’t need a garage. Not at all. On the other hand, at a certain price point, the lake house demands a garage. It needs one. What’s that price point? That’s for you to decide, but I think it’s somewhere just north of $2MM. If I’m a $1.6MM lakefront house buyer, I should understand that a garage is an extravagance that my budget might not afford. If I’m a $3MM lake house buyer, I likely find a garage to be a requirement of the purchase. This is the way the market tends to behave.
That brings us to my newest lakefront listing, N1939 Bluff Lane. Follow the road through the little stone entry, and you’ll end up on the dead end of Bluff Lane. A few lakefront houses, not much more. It’s quiet, down here on Bluff. If you think the name is cute but not meaningful, you’d be wrong. Bluff Lane is indeed a high lane, with elevated frontage. That frontage creates steps, yes. But that elevation creates a most unique perch through which to absorb the lake. It’s a tree house setting, which is unique on this lake but highly interesting.
The house has five bedrooms, four baths. A two car detached garage is a newer addition to the property, along with a full lower level that opens to the lakeside for water toy storage. There’s off-street parking, a small lakeside yard, and 76 feet of private frontage. The house was renovated and added onto in 2009, leaving this once basic property with a fresh look and a beautiful new master suite. There are three fireplaces here, which should interest you if you like the idea of sitting in a tree house overlooking the lake while the snow piles up outside. It’s a good feeling, a good scene, and with a 30 day close you could be enjoying New Year’s Eve in that exact fashion.
At the lakefront, there’s a massive pier, complete with oversized canopied boatslip and a large swim deck. It’s Linn Township, so the taxes are just $16k and change. This home is in terrific condition, ready for immediate use. Why wait until May to join the race for summer? Start the race now. Tweak your new house over the winter. Some new paint colors here, some new couches there. Do the work in the off-season that so many people put off until the in-season. Take the winter to enjoy the scene, decorate the house, and prepare. When Memorial Day Weekend rolls around, you never again have to wonder which suburban BBQ you’re going to attend.
When David Bowie died, it was hard to scroll through Twitter and find someone who had not, at some point, met him. In line at McDonald’s. Rushing through Heathrow. Buying shrimp to soak under the Anna Maria fishing dock. Well wishers wrote RIP, I’ll never forget that time I saw Bowie buying eggs at the Mobile in SuchandSuch, NY. This is what happens when famous people die. In the same way, everyone has a story about a lake house. A friend’s lake house. The weekends there in high school. An uncle’s lake house. The August fishing trips. The grandparents’ cottage, so far up north that it was just one long weekend every summer. No matter the duration of the exposure, no matter the quality of the water or the size of the fish, a lake house weekend imprints a permanent memory.
But what of that lake house. What does it need to be? Does it need to be 5500 square feet, with a four car garage and a three slip pier? Does it need to be all shine and polish, large and kept, perfect? Or does it just need to be on a lake? Is this the only real requirement of a lake house? Is this why families with lake houses on obscure awful lakes still make the pilgrimage to their terrible water every summer? We pretend to know why we seek out and buy these homes. It’s because we want to make memories. We want our kids to love us when they’re older. We want to experience weekends in a different way. We want something else, something different, something that we know other people have. These are the motivators that begin the search, but once the search is underway, these tend to fall by the wayside in favor of appliance make and bathroom material.
There was a little house at 465 Outing Drive in Williams Bay. This house is a few doors West of George Williams College, where Music By The Lake strums each summer. The cottage wasn’t big. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t clean. In fact, it wasn’t habitable. But it was lakefront, and that’s what caused an investor to buy it and begin a thorough and significant renovation. New this and new that. New everything, almost. New hardwood floors, new windows, siding, roof. Insulation. Trim, appliances. Kitchen, baths. Marble. Patio. Parking. Everything new. The process took several months, and when the home was completed it represented the finest of blends. A lakefront home with vintage cottage charm, outfitted with modern conveniences and luxury appointments.
The home came to market this past summer for a few dollars less than $2MM. The property was, after all, a perfect example of lakefront charm. Still, the market pushed back, and the price was forced to adjust. Today, I’ve brought this property back to market for $1.699MM. A price that fits into the entry level segment of our market without requiring anything of the new buyer. Purchase this home and change something if you wish, but there’s nothing required. Just purchase, move, and enjoy your weekends in an entirely different way. There’s a private pier, beautiful wide water views of Fontana Bay, and an easy shore path walk to Chuck’s, Gordy’s, and the Fontana lakefront scene. You could buy a cottage on the lake and renovate it yourself. You could. Or you could just buy this place and save yourself the frustration, expense, and delays that accompany such a significant project.
When thinking of lake access associations, it’s best to think first in terms of the obvious. Once the obvious is understood, then it’s time to progress to the nuance. With this process in mind, it’s in the nuance where the good and bad decisions should be made. The obvious, in the case of the Geneva lake access market, pertains to location. A good house a million miles away from the lake is not as good as a bad house right next to the lake. This is generally the understanding. But even this understanding has some departures, as a large lot far from the water can indeed be superior to a tiny lot near the water. Still, closer is generally accepted as being better.
In the same way, smaller associations are generally better than large ones. This aligns under the obvious. The reasoning here is that pier systems tend to be similar in size, and so sharing a pier with 25 neighbors is better than sharing it with 125 neighbors. You might love neighbors, but I usually don’t. And so smaller associations are better, and closer homes within those smaller associations are better. These things are simple to understand, even for people who prefer to vacation in Michigan.
Along the nuanced lines, there are things that many buyers fail to take into consideration. Proximity to the lake is wonderful, and meaningful, but in this is a steep walk downhill something that we’d like between our lake house and the water? If you prefer the steep walk downhill, I won’t necessarily disagree with you. But it’s the walk back uphill that I consider an offense. If closer is better and smaller is better then surely level is equally as important.
And if we’re looking for close and level and small, then shouldn’t we focus our attention on associations that match up with these preferences? Sadly, there are few associations that meet these criteria that are affordable. That’s because these are the more desirable attributes, and desirability leads to pricing power, and pricing power leads to $9handles on lake access homes. That’s not attainable for many, which leads us to the doorstep of my newest listing. Oak Shores. $624,900.
This listing combines these rare lake access attributes, and does so in an easy to understand, easy to manage, easy to improve package. The house is three bedrooms and three baths. It’s around 1940 square feet. It has a two car garage. It’s been well maintained. Best of all, it’s 714 feet from the house to the lake. Those 714 feet are level, making the walk more a stroll, the stroll more a saunter. At the lake, there’s a fully transferable boatslip with plenty of water depth for ease of boat maneuvering. If you squint through some trees, there’s even a lake view. The association is small, the ground level, the only thing between you and the water is a small association road that feels more like a private driveway.
This is an easy house. It’s easy to buy and easy to own and easy to have fun with. The current seller has enjoyed it for decades, and it’s now time to pass the torch to another family who wishes to enjoy this lake in an entirely different way. If you’re a buyer and you understand that countertops can be changed but location is forever, then let’s chat.
The South Shore Club is all quite nice. The pool and the entrance, the tennis courts and the piers. There’s nothing like it here, and likely never will be anything like it again. Within the South Shore Club there are nice homes, some better than others. Some new, others older, some by the pool and some near the tennis. But beyond the typical homes in the SSC there are the elite. There are the select homes that do not merely angle over lawn and towards the water, but those that sit right up on the water. The front row. There are four of these built homes that match this description, the last having sold in 2014.
But of those front homes, only two were built in a sunny lake home style. Two have white trim, light cabinets and brighter exposures that feel more like a typical lakefront home on Geneva. Today one of those rare lakefront homes is available, light and bright and ready for a new vacation home owner. N1619 East Lakeside Lane features eight bedrooms and four full floors of finished living space. The lower level is a walkout to the lakefront, with a large family room anchored by a full masonry fireplace. You’ll also find a bunk room with three adjacent baths. If you have a large social circle and feel the need to entertain, this house was built with you in mind.
The current owner (who is the original owner) has a very large family, and when working with Orren Pickell and the architects to design this lakefront, he made certain that his entire family would have space of their own. That’s why the elevated bedroom and bath count. That’s why the fourth floor finishes into an office/den with an additional bedroom and bath. That’s why the lakefront deck is oversized and wide. That’s why the garage is deeper, with 8′ garage doors so your SUV can actually fit (a rarity given some of the tiny garage doors that plague certain SSC homes). That’s why there’s an elevator and a main floor bedroom suite.
Beyond the sheer size, there are finishes here that are both expected and unique to this home. Waterworks faucets and marble floors. Wood-Mode cabinetry and Wolf ovens. Sub-Zero refrigerators, both in the kitchen and the butler’s pantry. A solarium, constructed on the south side of the home in a classic English style, would make a terrific office or reading room. There’s nothing lacking here. No space concerns, no quality issues, and obviously no location issues. This is the front house. The best house. The lot that faces the water fully, with a slight western tilt to take advantage of the sunsets. The location on the water is tremendous, opening to the widest section of the south shore, offering dramatic viewing of the nearby Lake Geneva Yacht Club regattas.
Offered today for $4.595MM. It will be on the MLS later today and available for tour this Sunday. If you’d like a tour of this home and the remarkable South Shore Club property, I’m here to help.
I’ve written often about Geneva National. It’s a staple in our market, one of the largest pieces to this puzzle. Without it, a review of the Lake Geneva vacation home market cannot be complete. If you’ve read this column of mine for long enough, you know how I feel about GN. I love it, but I always advise caution when considering which enclave to choose. I dislike the newer sections of condominiums, those that are still under construction and growing. I encourage buyers to seek out condominiums in the established sections, so that their future value does not hang on the whim of a developer. My approach to Geneva National in this regard has been consistent throughout the years.
Lakeview Pointe is a gated enclave on the Player course. The development consists of duplex style townhomes, each with two car attached garages, some 3500 square feet of living space, and uninterrupted views of the Player course, the course ponds, and Lake Como in the distance. The setting is as serene as any setting in Geneva National, and for those who haven’t been paying attention, all of Geneva National is pretty darn serene. It’s close to the Clubhouse for those who wish to be members of the club, golf members or just social. If I’m a buyer looking for a large vacation home that represents the best bang for my hard earned buck, it’s Lakeview Pointe that I’m going to consider.
But within Lakeview Pointe, not all condominiums are created equal. Sure they’re all large, with those main floor masters and walk out lower levels. Sure they all have two car attached garages, and they all front the Player. But my new listing is the best of the best, boasting a view that beats all other contenders. The location on the corner of the run is what lets me see the Player green, the following tee, the ponds, the prairie, and Lake Como. I’m on the peninsula, looking south and east at all of it. If you’re a buyer who values location, there is nothing better.
But this isn’t purely a location buy. Look at the unit. It’s beautiful. It’s large and private, both quiet and exciting at once. The square footage could not be replicated for the $539k listing price. Key to understand here is this needn’t be a specific condominium buyer. This is simply a good fit for anyone in the market who seeks stylish square footage, and loads of it for a low price point. I suspect this unit will sell quickly, so if you have any interest, I’d love to hear from you sooner rather than later.
This weekend is Venetian Fest in Lake Geneva. Come for the carnival rides, stay for the fireworks. I hesitate to call this summer’s last hurrah, because it isn’t. But it’s getting close, and that should motivate you to pay us a visit. And if you’d like to see the best condo in Lakeview Pointe, just let me know.
What is it that makes a lakeside property desirable? Is it the view? That has to be some of it. Any nice house on any lot is fine, but a nice house with a view is something different. It’s something unique. We can have a nice house in the suburbs, and that’s okay. But what is that house looking towards? What is it surrounded by? More nice houses, I’d guess. Each with a landscape unique but similar, each with some hydrangeas in bloom and a burning bush waiting its turn. The view of a lake house, now that’s something unique. That’s something special. But is every view as good as the other? Is a lake view on the east shore of Williams Bay the same as a lake view from the west shore of Lake Geneva?
Beyond the view, what is it that makes a house something else? What makes it something more? We could buy a small lot right now on Geneva Lake for $900k. The lot would be fine for our lakefront endeavors. We could swim and boat, we could sit by the fire pit and toast marshmallows. But is an entry level lot with a nice house on it the same as a nice house on a large lot? Is the enjoyment the same? Well, in that, the answer is a resounding sorta. But the larger lot offers more opportunity, more driveway, more perennials, more lawn to run over and patio to lounge on. While nice houses are the same everywhere, the two things that make or break a lakefront house on this lake, or on any lake, are simply the property and the view. On this lake, the distinction between the desirable and undesirable properties is sometimes nuanced, but usually quite obvious.
There’s a house in Lake Geneva on a hill with 140 or so feet of frontage on Geneva Lake. The house sits high on a hill, with ample views looking long down the lake towards the west. This is nice. But is 140′ on a hill as desirable as 126′ worth of level property? If you think the answer is yes, then we’re going to need to sit down and have a deep and honest discussion about frontage. In the same way, is a property next to an association worth the same as a property next to other single family lakefronts? Is a property with an easement for this and an easement for that as valuable as a property with no entanglements? If we’re looking for lakefront, shouldn’t we look for a nice house, yes, but moreover for a nice lot with level frontage and a deep landscaped lot without any of these annoying easements for access or driveway or something that benefits a neighbor?
Whispering Oaks is a house you might know. There are few homes with log accents on Geneva Lake, and this is one of them. This is also the newest of those existing homes. It was built in 1999 by the current owner, and built to the highest of construction standards. Were an architect called for wood bracing, steal was used. When an asphalt roof would have done just fine, a clay tile roof was installed. Where traditional insulation would have performed okay, fire retardant insulation was used. An electrical service is an electrical service, until a contractor builds his lakefront dream house- then commercial grade transfer boxes and electrical panels are installed. Most houses on this lake look nice on the outside, that’s not such a special trick. What’s unique here is the quality of the construction that you cannot see.
But what you can see is pretty special as well. The great room is massive, anchored on one end by a Montana stone fireplace, and accented with 18″ Canadian Spruce. The windows are something else altogether, huge and wide and tall, showcasing that dynamic view of the lake, from the Lake Geneva Country Club north to the Narrows and east all the way to downtown Lake Geneva. The views on the street side capture the 1.15 acres of perennial gardens, and offers a peek of the Chicago granite driveway that winds from Loramoor Drive. On the other end of this great room, the open kitchen, with custom cabinetry, and the Viking and Sub-Zero appliances you’d expect. On the main level a three car garage, full laundry room, guest bedroom with bath, and billiard room complete the design. A sprawling stone patio extends the width of the home, offering a robust buit-in grill, fire pit, nightly sunset views, and easy access to 126′ of level frontage.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms, two on the lakeside with private decks, including the master suite with masonry fireplace. The lower level is wide open, a rec room of epic proportions. In total, we have more than 8000 square feet of well maintained living space. The pier, in case you didn’t notice, is absolutely beautiful, perfectly built for lakeside fun. The outdoor shower is a family favorite, and if you’ve ever taken a cold water outdoor shower you’ll like this shower quite a bit- it’s plumbed to a hot water line in the house- so your last cold shower is in the past.
If you’re in the market for a lake house. Let me show you Whispering Oaks. It’s a terrific lake house, but unlike many terrific lake houses on the market, this one is on the right lot, in the right location, with the right views. $5,995,000.
Large homes tend to have similar problems. When designing a custom home, there is one usual and obvious limitation. Budget. But this is when you’re designing a normal house, something you’re trying to make fit into a particular lot and a particular segment of a particular market. What if we throw out the limitation of market segment concern? What if there is no budget? Still, a singular problem exists. The design. If the wife sews and the husband smokes cigars, then a large house design would dictate that a sewing room and a cigar room be incorporated. Let’s put those at opposite ends of the house, the architect says. And let’s not forget about the children and their children. Those loved ones need space, too. And little Karen just loves to make beed necklaces, the kind that tourists buy when on FunJet vacations. Karen, your beed room is down this hallway, across from the twelve bedroom suites, opposite the cigar room and above the sewing room. This is the large house problem, and it’s an epidemic.
The home at 4396 Basswood Drive is large. Some 15,000 square feet above grade, large. That’s a big house. To enter it is to know it’s big. The gate is big. The guest house is big. The lawn is big. The circle driveway is big. The fountain? Big. The grand foyer is as grand as any foyer has ever been, outside of a building designed for members of parliament. While we cannot ever mistake this house for being small, what’s important here is how logical the big is. The layout of this house is symmetrical. Nearly perfectly so. There’s a lakeside kitchen that spans the width of the lakeside pool. There’s a breakfast room, a formal dining room. The sunroom on the east end of the house takes in private views of lush perennial gardens. The great room is vaulted, soaring really, as high as it should be and not a penny higher. The fireplace in the lakeside great room is one of five that you’ll find here. I always say if you think one fireplace is good then you’ve obviously never had five.
We have 3.28 acres here, which isn’t any particular feat on this lake. The level nature of the entire property from entry to water is what’s rare here, as most 3.28 acre parcels on Geneva will suffer from some variety of cliff or ravine or other slope. There is none of that difficulty at Royal Oaks, which is what this estate has been called since it was first constructed in the early 1990s. Royal Oaks. That has a nice sound to it, but it would be overwrought if we didn’t have a lot graced by so many large oaks. The frontage is as the rest of the estate parcel- level. The 214′ of rip rapped shore line is level, but not so level that the water event of this week troubled its shoreline in any way. The pier is large, two slips worth, centered so properly on that wide frontage. The lakeside patio holds an in-ground pool, just like you know it should. Any proper estate should have a guest house, and as we know, these are not all created equal. The guest house here is large, with three bedrooms and more garage spaces. You’ll find seven total garage stalls on this property, so please do bring your summer car and leave a winter one any stall you please.
So why would someone buy this home? What’s the market argument in favor of such a property, of such a large manor style home? To understand the answer, first consider the land. At present, the lot is easily worth $4.5MM. Perhaps as much as $5MM. To build a home of this size, a cost of $500-800 per foot would be expected. After all, this home cost all of that back in the 1990s when it was first built. The time to construct this home exceeded two years, which it would still today. The paint here might not be to your perfect palate. The kitchen would today want marble. The carpeted areas would now like hardwood, maybe stone. There are things here you might wish to change, things I’m guessing you’d want to change. But the change is easy considering the house itself is built. The scale is perfect. Those upstairs bedroom suites? Each bedroom measured 19 x 19, with some larger. They’re perfect, they’re lakeside, and there are seven of them in the main house.
Unlike homes built in the 1980s and before, homes built in the 1990s generally follow a nice pattern of scale. At least this home does. The layout is, as I said earlier, symmetrical and well thought out. There is nothing wasted here. No rooms for superfluous specific uses. There is just a large house that has been well taken care of, ready now for you to use immediately and enjoy, or ready for a tidy winter surface update. The choice is yours. Spare yourself the uncertain prospects of building a new estate. Spare yourself the years of construction. Spare yourself the unknown cost overruns. Buy this home. Enjoy your weekends here, in immense style, on Lake Geneva’s luxury lane. Basswood. $8,995,000.
It’s the word Club that throws people off. There’s some significant confusion in the market regarding the Elgin Club. Is it a Club? Well, sort of. Is it a co-op? Like the Harvard Club or the Congress Club? Not at all. The Elgin Club tends to get lumped in with these membership style co-ops, if for no other reason than the name. Elgin Club. Sounds like a club. Sounds like a co-op. But it isn’t. Do you know what it is? It’s a lakefront association with private lakefront homes. That’s it.
But is that really it? Is that all the Elgin Club is? A group of homes, each owning private frontage and nothing more? Well, no. That’s not at all what it is. The Elgin Club also offers 16 wooded acres that are collectively owned by these lakefront owners. This land offers a beautiful tennis court, a private wooded drive, and land for garages. There’s also a full-time on site caretaker who handles the lawn and road maintenance. That’s what helps make the Elgin Club a unique place on Geneva Lake. Sure it’s private frontage and private piers and that lovely north shore exposure, but it’s also a caretaker and tennis and convenience that other lakefront homes just can’t offer.
My new listing isn’t too difficult to understand. It has five bedrooms and five baths. It has hardwood floors and a fireplace. It has a lot of things that you’d expect, but that’s not the rare bit here. What’s rare is what you can buy here for $1.975MM. This is an entry level price in our market, and what you’re buying here is far from entry level. You get 50′ level frontage. There’s no hill to descend- not from the road to the house or from the house to the lake. There’s a two car detached garage. There’s at least 3600 square feet.
There’s also a new roof for this season, but now it just sounds like bragging. The Elgin Club isn’t like every place on the lake. But it isn’t unlike every other place, either. That’s why my newest listing will sell quickly. It’s everything a lakefront buyer could want in this price range, but it’s also more.
As an agent, there are certain streets around this lake that I revere. The streets that don’t encourage visitors. The streets that don’t offer up their homes with any version of regularity. The streets that are better than the others. Some of these streets you already know, but others you don’t. You don’t know them because they’re not like Snake or Basswood or one of the streets we know we should respect. These are the other streets, the short ones, the curvy ones, the ones that you don’t even know because why would you? Welcome to Jerseyhurst Lane. The street so polished that you should always call it a Lane.
When the original caretakers cottage for the Crane Estate was built in 1885, it was long on charm and low on space. It wasn’t meant to be a lake house, a mini-estate, it was just intended to serve as a resting place for the family charged with overseeing the day to day at the large Crane estate. A place to eat dinner and a place to sleep. Each room with a view of the lake, but, alas, there was no time for contemplation in this cottage. There was work to be done.
This original cottage was restored some in the late 1990s, and then in 1999 it sold to the current owner. This new owner had designs for this special location, and so a meticulous renovation with sizable addition was undertaken. Chris Hummel would be the contractor to oversee this work, and when the last wide-planked oak board was polished, the new owners had found themselves extra bedrooms, a large kitchen and attached garage, a large office, and an ample great room with lakeside screened porch. The renovation was complete, the home perfect, or so the new owners thought.
More than a decade later, another idea, another plan to fix something that the house lacked: A first floor master bedroom. Sparing no expense, a spacious master suite was added, blending perfectly with the prior addition, which blended seamlessly with the original cottage. The landscape here is Midwestern perennial perfection, fully irrigated and wonderfully large (nearly one acre). The lakeside porch has those incredible views and a steady breeze, while the brick patio is tucked privately into the lush backyard. A two car attached garage is augmented by a two car detached garage, leaving plenty of room for any car or toy you’d like to store.
The first floor master bedroom is luxurious, with separate tiled shower and soaking tub, double vanities and his & her closets. The are four other bedrooms here, each large and all but one possessing an en suite bath. The first floor den has it’s own bath, too, and while the current owner uses this as a study, you’d be forgiven if you turned it into a TV room or an extra bedroom. There are four fireplaces here, those wide planked oak floors, and character that you rarely find in such a unique location.
The house sits up away from the lake a ways, allowing rare privacy and continual quiet. The 50′ of lake frontage and private pier is shared with just one neighbor, though this home has exclusive rights to the canopied slip. There’s a 26′ Chris Craft Continental that calls that slip home, and though you’re allowed to put a new Cobalt into that slip, there’s something about the Chris Craft that perfectly matches the laid back style of this large lake house.
Today, this home has found its way to the open market, with an asking price of $2.895MM. It will be sold quickly, I do believe, so you’d do well to consider a tour of this home if you have any interest at all. Streets like Jerseyhurst have been lining this lake for over a century, but rarely does a street like this extend to the public an invitation to ownership.
I rode a horse once. It was an unruly horse, wild maybe. I was all of 12 years old and I was riding on the back of this wild beast; a girl who I fancied held the reins. The horse ride was uneventful for a few moments, until a sheet of construction debris blew up in the wind causing the horse to jump and jolt. I fell to the ground, awash in shame and roadside dust. I have never ridden a horse since. But this isn’t about me and my horse situation, this is about a new listing of mine, a listing that represents a bit of a departure from my norm. This horse property isn’t on the lake, obviously. It isn’t right next to the lake, either. It’s about 15 minutes from Fontana and once you arrive you’d be forgiven if you thought I transported you to Lexington. This is one heck of an estate.
If you’ve never looked for a large swath of available land in Southern Wisconsin, then it would be impossible for you to understand just how rare this offering truly is. Several decades ago, a world renowned physician spent untold hours and uncountable dollars assembling this sportsman’s paradise. A passion for Peruvian horses and a desire to create a first class equestrian facility fueled this remarkable effort, and today this amazing estate is for sale. While the property must be toured to be fully understood (watch the video), you can see from these photographs that this is not your normal Wisconsin equestrian property. This is a significant retreat for any outdoor enthusiast.
Here we have more than 278 acres of contiguous farmland, woodlands, and pasture; with a flowing stream winding through it all. The house is large and upgraded, the grounds immaculate. There’s a pool and tennis court, a guest cabin and more. The horse facilities themselves are among the finest you’ve ever seen, complete with indoor riding area, conditioned stables, office space for facility managers, and a pastures galore.
Dry Creek flows through this property and divides the woodlands from the pasture, creating wildlife habitat that has been undisturbed for decades. Hunters will enjoy the upland fields and heavily wooded hillsides. Trails are cut through much of this property for horse riding or perhaps just UTV riding. If you’ve been looking for the ultimate Wisconsin retreat that can offer you a little of everything, this is it. If you’ve been looking for a first class equestrian property less than 90 minutes from Chicago, well you’ve found that, too. Offered today in the high $2MMs.
On Monday, I said goodbye to an old friend. I met this friend when I was ten, maybe twelve, sometime around then. This friend was with me through it all, through the good times and through the bad. We ate together, we laughed together, we chewed steak together. Alas, this relationship wasn’t meant to last, and on Monday it ended. It was one of my very favorite teeth, one way in the back, one that I used often. There was no tooth better. But on Monday it was unceremoniously yanked from the back of my mouth and I barely had time to say goodbye. That’s why I didn’t write on Monday.
But today is Wednesday and I’m over that weak tooth. Today is about Loramoor, and about decisions, both good and bad. Like all that candy I ate when I was a kid, and the dentist who decided to drill out every last bit of that poor, deceased tooth. Today is about the decision to buy a tear down and build yourself a brand spanking new lake house. What a wonderful thing, this new house. It’ll be large enough and fancy enough; it’ll be perfect. You’re not one to live in someone else’s house, you’re the sort that wants your own house, with your own stamp of style and taste. I cannot blame you, as I, too, have built new homes and enjoy nearly everything about living in a new house.
Over recent years, this building boom has touched every bit of our vacation home market. The tear downs that make the most sense are on the lakefront, of course, where properties can be bought with regularity for land value. New construction on the lake makes sense most of the time, but for every two tear downs that make sense there is one that doesn’t. Tear down a house on 100′ of frontage and build new for $2MM or so? Usually a great idea, depending on the location of those 100 feet. Pay $1.5MM for a house on 50′ of frontage and tear that down? Not usually all that smart. Off water, the same sorts of mistakes are made. Buy a cottage in Knollwood up the road from the lake for $300k and tear it down? Terrible idea, unless you’re looking to stay put for most of eternity.
But the segment that is most interesting when it relates to tear downs is the mid-market of lake access homes with boat slips. It’s not uncommon for a buyer to pay $400-600k for a house in a neighborhood like the Lake Geneva Club, or Hunt Club Lane, or Glenwood Springs, and then tear the house down. In fact, it happens with some frequency. A home on Hunt Club Lane sold in 2013 for $659k. It was a unique house, odd really, with an acre and a half of land and a boat slip. The lot was not especially close to the lake. That buyer tore the house down and built new, effectively paying $659k plus demolition cost for a vacant lot.
This is one example of a phenomenon that occurs all over this lake, and it’s occurring more and more now that the market is high on buyers and low on inventory. Even the homes that aren’t entirely razed are generally the recipient of some form of major renovation. That’s why the new listing I have in Loramoor makes complete and utter sense. My newest listing is a level vacant lot measuring just under one acre in size, with a transferable boat slip in East Loramoor, a slight lake view, and a location on Loramoor’s dead end lane. As opposed to the Hunt Club property that was far from the water, this lot is one off the lake (see map above). The asking price is $750k, no demolition required.
On the lakefront in Loramoor, I sold a beautiful lot last fall for $2.075MM. That lot will host an incredible new home this summer. Three doors to the West of my new listing is the old Loramoor stable house. This house was in poor condition for years until an enterprising buyer purchased it and fixed it up. That home is now for sale in the mid $1MMs. I sold the house at W3036 South Lakeshore last fall for $1.625MM, that with a slip in Loramoor, three acres and a pool. The market context for this Loramoor listing is complete and it’s thorough and it proves that high valuations can and do exist here.
You could purchase a home in Shore Haven for $500k and tear it down. You could. People have. But what you’d be doing is building new in a neighborhood that has a cap of around $850k. The same is true for the Hunt Club example. It’s rare to have a lake access neighborhood support built value to the mid and upper $1s, but that’s exactly what Loramoor offers. Consider this lot. Consider a new home, built near the water with a slip and a swimming pool and a most exclusive address. It makes solid market sense, and it’s available today.
There are certain houses that are, for one reason or many others, better. They might not be gilded with gold, or polished to the highest diamond shine, but there’s just something about them. They’re welcoming. They’re cozy. They aren’t big but they certainly aren’t small. They have a presence, which is something that most homes lack. Most homes are houses; wooden or stone structures with some walls and a roof, capable but not endearing. My newest listing in the Lake Geneva Club is the sort of house that you remember, because it’s a special house on a special street and everyone knows it.
You’ll may remember this house from when I sold it several years ago. I sold this house quickly, likely because of the intangibles that the home possesses but also due to the tangibles. There are three bedrooms here, with a room that functions as a fourth. There’s a screened porch and two ample patios. There’s a double lot with loads of parking. There’s a deep water, fully transferable boat slip. There’s a wood burning fireplace. Yes, for all of the intangibles of style and grace wrapped in a lovely vintage bow, there are fundamentals here that make this a terrific lake house.
I’m not going to write much more today. This house will sell, and it should sell quickly. At $609k, there’s nothing else on the market that competes directly with it. There are no other homes for sale in the Lake Geneva Club. If you’re a buyer who wants to feel something towards the lake house you buy, then come see this house with me, and make it snappy. This won’t be available in the MLS until Tuesday, so you’re getting a first look, and I do hope you’ll let me know if you have any interest.
The thing about entry level lakefront is that it’s entry level lakefront. It’s not fancy. If it were fancy, it wouldn’t be entry level. Entry level exists in increasingly fewer locations on Geneva Lake, due largely to the fact that often times buyers of entry level lakefronts transform those once modest, affordable homes, into something entirely different. If you’re a buyer for an entry level lakefront, this generally means you’re on the hunt for something priced below $1.5MM. In that segment, there are things you can expect but mostly things you shouldn’t expect. Like garages and level frontage. Entry level buyers rarely have a chance to buy those.
W3298 Park Drive in Linn Township isn’t going to win any design competitions. It’s a nice house, with nice enough things, but fancy it is not. There’s a concrete driveway, fresh landscaping, and a beautiful lakeside paver patio. There’s a terrific H-slip pier, traditional and sturdy. There’s some new siding and a newer-ish kitchen and three bedrooms and two baths. There’s plenty to like. But the rare bits are not those bedrooms or the bathrooms or the stack washer/dryer in the hallway closet. The rare bit, if we’re looking for entry level lakefront, is the 60 feet of dead level frontage and the existence of a two car garage. These are, in the context of entry level lakefront homes, among the most rare amenities.
The house should sell rather quickly in this current market. The renovation of this house, should a buyer choose to improve upon what it is today, would be fairly painless. It’s a simple house without a lot of moving parts. The layout is normal, which, if you’ve looked at entry level lakefront homes for some amount of time, you’ll recognize as being unique for its plainness. There are no spiral staircases here. There are no rooms that you’re not sure what to do with. There’s nothing here that doesn’t make sense. It’s just a house with a big garage and a completely level lot, with 60 feet touching Geneva Lake. The views, as an aside, are among the best on this lake. Facing towards the City of Lake Geneva, the lake here is wide and round, lovely.
If you’d like to tour this home, just let me know. But if you do want to see it, you should probably do so sooner rather than later.
There was nothing like it in 2002 just as there is nothing like it in 2017. A lakefront community engineered to attract high end buyers, in a high end setting, on this, our high end lake. It was a fresh take on lakefront living, combining the traditional layout of the Congress Club, albeit on a much more impressive scale, with the sheer size and quality of a true lakefront estate. The South Shore Club might have been a bit before its time in 2002, but by 2013 its time had come. The market saw this development and recognized just how special it was. Buyers who might otherwise buy a $3MM piece of dirt on Geneva were instead inclined towards buying a $3MM house with all of these rich amenities and so much style. Today, a blast from this short-term past.
The Original Vacation House, or so it was then called, was built by Orren Pickell to encompass all of the best that the South Shore Club could muster. The lot was special, set into the woods on that East side, but still prominent and capable of delivering a unique lake view. The style was lighter, brighter, more intricate, more involved, and as time wore on there was one house that kept looking new and ideal. It was this house, the Vacation House, the house that had all of the toys and all of the upgrades. The house was sold originally as a spec home, and enjoyed from that day until this day by the current owner. Alas, the property has run its course and the family has decided the time to move on has arrived. Today, I offer you the Original Vacation House, as wonderful now as it ever was then.
But it’s better now than it was then. The market has enjoyed consistent sales over the last five years, and so the faith that the initial buyer displayed way back in 2002 is no longer required of a new buyer. It’s just a beautiful house and fits the market, and it fits the style and it’s ready to be sold. The home has been lovingly maintained, and as the construction on either side of it is complete, there will be no disruption to the new buyer’s summer caused by backhoes or nail guns. The finishes as what you’d expect, with Wood-Mode cabinetry, Sub-Zero and Wolf kitchen appliances, Rohl fixtures, Lutron whole-house control, and more. The South Shore Club is complete, it’s functioning as it was intended, and it offers a lakefront buyer a luxurious retreat at a fraction of what such a home would cost on private frontage.
That’s really what the South Shore Club is about, by the way. It’s not about an association home with association home amenities. These homes were built and the association was designed to stack up against private frontage competition. If you have $3.275MM to spend on a lake house, you cannot buy anything of any reasonable scale or quality possessing a good amount of private frontage for that number. To put it another way, this new listing in the low $3s, if given a 1.5 acre lot and 100′ worth of frontage, would easily sell in the $5.5-6MM range today. You’re not paying lakefront prices for a South Shore Club home, you’re paying a discount to that cost and you’re achieving a much easier vacation home experience.
What’s easier? Well, all of it. Boats are included, no need to buy, maintain, and depreciate your own. The pool is there, included, a lifeguard as well. The tennis is there, ready, green with clay and ready for you. The lawns are maintained, the snow is plowed, and in the winter, if we have a winter with some normalcy, there’s an ice rink, too. The South Shore Club doesn’t just give you a lakefront experience, it gives you that experience at a discount, and it allows you, the owner, a much more convenient and leisurely weekend experience.
For today, consider this new offering. It’s wonderful and it’s available and I’m ready to show it this weekend. If you or anyone you know might be interested, please do let me know. Sometimes I list homes that I know require a tremendous amount of creativity to sell. Other times, I list a home that I know will make my job considerably easier and just sell itself.
In the world of collector cars, an untouched car with original paint, matching numbers, and original factory features is a very desirable car indeed. The car is valuable because it hasn’t been molested at some point in its long life. It wasn’t repainted in the 1980s, or outfitted with a new engine in the 1990s. It never had new upholstery stitched into it, or an MP-3 player cut into the dash. It’s a perfect example of the intended appearance and function, preserved. The car is worth more not because of what was done to it, but because of what wasn’t done to it.
640 Linden Avenue in Fontana’s Glenwood Springs doesn’t have a lot of new paint. It doesn’t have a shiny new kitchen and the bathrooms are basic. The house has original wood floors throughout. The screened porch is as built, large and wide and perfect for lounging. The exterior is still the original stucco, strong and thick, never having been stapled through with the cheap aluminum of the 1960s or the vinyl of the 90s. It’s an original home, with five bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a two car garage and plenty of off-street parking. The fireplace of cut granite is rare here, like finding the classic car with the fuel injected engine. Sure, we know fireplaces like this exist, but rarely in off-water homes. This home shows its pedigree through two clues- that fireplace and the ample, generous width of the staircase. Two features not common in typical Lake Geneva cottages.
But this isn’t a typical home, and the location just one home from the lake isn’t typical either. The views, they aren’t typical. And the private, transferrable pier? Well that’s so far from typical that it’s not even fair to mention in the same stanza. That pier isn’t a straight little pier, just able to hold a tied up boat. It’s a traditional H-slip, Lake Geneva style pier. It’s white and it’s big and you’ll love it, assuming you own it. In fact, you’ll love everything about this house, but that will require some motivation on your part. It’s November, sure, but it was 77 yesterday and this house is just available this week, so gather your Lake Geneva summer dreams and drive to the lake. Come see this house with me. For $899k, it’s a substantial house that the last handful of decades never wrecked, and in that, there’s value.