2014 Geneva Lakefront Condo Market Review

I have spent plenty of time living inside high rise condominiums. I haven’t lived in one in Walworth County, nor have I lived in one in Cook. But I have lived in one for a week at a time in Florida, so I think that in and of itself should make me an expert on this sort of high living. I have lived this way long enough to know that I do not necessarily like living this way. But even that depends on my setting, for some places would find this elevated living to be pleasant, and other places would find it to be annoying. If I lived in New York City, with so much filth and sewer beneath me, I would enjoy my lofty perch. I, clean, far above that, dirty. I would like that, very much so. And when someone knocked at my door late into the evening, I would presume it was either my butler, or my doorman, because who else could it be with me, so high into that eastern sky?


But this is how it would be if my habitat was the city, and it is not. At Lake Geneva, I’d rather be close to the ground, close to the green grass and the goings on. I’d rather be close to the water, to my pier, to my boat, to those waves and that sun. The sky could wait, as I’d rather find the floor, often. This is why I probably wouldn’t buy a condo at Geneva Towers. This building, along with the Bay Colony buildings, represent our only buildings that might be considered high, at least in a Walworth County sense. The Bay Colony properties are surrounded by grass, by trees, with water immediately out in front of the building. There is also a giant new home built in between them, in case you thought everyone was smart at real estate. The grass and trees and water is what makes Bay Colony a more palatable option for those wishing to come to the lake to connect with nature. Geneva Towers is fine, and I don’t mind the building for the absolute right buyer, but this is more of a perch for a buyer who would rather survey that participate. Views galore, city at your fingertips, but walk out of the building and onto a pier? Better call the crossing guard.

Even so, Geneva Towers had a very nice 2014. Three of these units sold in 2014, including one of the spec units that have been transformed individually in hopes of slowly transforming the entirety of the building. That sale was at $895k, for a unit that wasn’t 100% finished, so it’s safe to assume that this all-in purchase was well over $1MM. That’s the first of three spec units to sell in the building, and the other two remain on the market, in search of that elusive condo buyer who wishes to live above it all, away from it all, while still being in the heart of it all. While we’re on the topic of million dollar condominiums, I have a private offering that I could sell in the low one million range, and that unit is better than Geneva Towers, bigger than Geneva Towers, more exclusive than Geneva Towers, and it has a beautiful, deep water boatslip, which Geneva Towers lacks. Lagoon slips where your boat must be nearly of a low-profiled racing design are not the same as canopied, white pier slips. Not now, and not ever.

Vista Del Lago had itself a fine year, with three sales priced between $415k and $550k. I expect I’ll be bringing a very nice four bedroom loft unit to market in that complex this season, so if amenities excite you, perhaps you should be asking me about that potential listing. Vista isn’t without some complications, but the simple truth of that association is that they have a full slate of amenities that other lakefront condo complexes simply do not possess. Indoor pool, outdoor tennis, piers, garages, slips- it’s all rather complete. Three sales last year is a good number, and the market should be pleased with that.

I sold a unit at Eastbank last spring for $675k, a unit that was large and impressive, if dated. Still, loads of square footage, two car attached garage, canopied slip- all of these make for a nice vacation home package. A unit at Harbor Watch sold last year, and that sale is interesting for what it means to the valuation of the lakefront condominium. Garden view is a nice description, but we know that to mean basement, and in the case of a basement unit in this location on the corner of South Lakeshore Drive, that means hub-cap-view. The unit sold in 2003 for $535k, back when the Harbor Watch was new and unproven, and much uncertainty surrounded it. Would the market absorb it? That was my question, especially after I represented the complex for a while and failed miserably. Consider now that the property just sold for a price that represents a paper valuation gain of about 10%, which is a nice print for a market struggling to understand where the valuations should be relative to prior prices. It’s important to see some price gains from 2003, which probably puts our new pricing close to 2005 values. So that’s nice.

Bay Colony had two sales, continuing momentum that has built in that northerly of the two Bay Colonies. The South building had a false start or two, as inventory there came to market and failed to sell. That’s because a million bucks for a condo is not an easy sale, and it’s particularly difficult when the offering needs updating. On the West End, Fontana sold just one lakefront condo, a two bedroom at Fontana Shores that closed for a low price of $295k. I had a unit for sale in that building all year, and I didn’t sell it. I had a unit for sale at Fontana Club all year and I didn’t sell that one either. I’m not happy about that, but when pricing remains paramount, especially in a condominium setting, both non-sales were not unexpected.

I’m pleased that the lakefront condo market has recovered in the way it has. A few years ago, the market was stalled out even as the residential lakefront market chugged on with remarkable momentum. Now the condo market has caught up, and we should expect to see continued condominium sales as long as the prices resemble actual value. As an exciting aside, I’m bringing on a massive residence at Stone Manor next week, so look for the stunning pictures of that most unique lakefront creation.

About the Author

I'm David Curry. I write this blog to educate and entertain those who subscribe to the theory that Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is indeed the center of the real estate universe. When I started selling real estate 27 years ago I did so of a desire to one day dominate the activity in the Lake Geneva vacation home market. With over $800,000,000 in sales since January of 2010, that goal is within reach. If I can help you with your Lake Geneva real estate needs, please consider me at your service. Thanks for reading.

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