The clouds of steam rising from Geneva this morning might be pretty, but the buying season that those frosty clouds signal is far more important to me than the momentary beauty of a Lake Geneva falls most nephological act. It’s November, and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m happy for the sunshine today and the promise of 55 degrees that would have felt like a cruel joke in July, but a November day where they’re all stacked nicely on top of each other creates a rather divine environment. November might be the last great month to sip in a little non-winter weather, but it’s also the best month to begin your vacation home search at Lake Geneva.
November is an interesting month, similar to, but less violent than March, the other transitional month that causes me much consternation. November is indeed transitional, but the transition is less dramatic. November isn’t prone to wild mood swings like March, instead November marches slowly toward the inevitable. March is a charismatic spaz, while November merely performs with a sense of duty and sorrowful resignation. The weather is a key reason as to why November is a terrific month to search for a Lake Geneva vacation home. It’s cold enough that the area is free of many of the wandering tourists, and yet warm enough that an afternoon spent crunching leaves around the houses that surround the lake is a pleasure. In January, the lake is colder, though still beautiful, but let’s face it- looking at homes in January is a bit of a chore. November is calm, and it’s cool, but not cold.
I’ve written at great lengths about my feelings towards seller apathy. Seller apathy is at its peak annual level when the peak selling season is the furthest away. In November, the peak selling season at Lake Geneva, which could be argued is May, is a very long six months away. That’s six months that a seller will sit around and twiddle their thumbs, or worse yet, call their broker asking why no one is buying their home. There’s another dreaded occurrence that takes place a mere 4-6 weeks from now- the arrival of the annual property tax bill. Sellers who want to sell generally loathe these bills much more than sellers who want to stay. If the home isn’t being used, and the emotional and practical decision has long been made that selling is the best thing to do, that tax bill is a monetary slap in the face for those sellers. In November, the tax bill hasn’t yet arrived, but it’s out there. Lurking. The combination of seller apathy, as they dream of warmer days and more buyers, and the pending property tax payment, can create an ideal situation for buyers looking to capitalize on seller motivation.
Another factor that is wildly overlooked by vacation home buyers here, and everywhere in deciduous locations, is the appealing absence of foliage. While we still have plenty of pretty fall colors at the lake, in another two weeks we’ll have nothing more than a few stubborn oak leaves hanging onto their branches. Foliage is a sellers friend, and it can be the bane of a buyers existence. Foliage covers up ugliness. That neighbors garage that’s right on top of your back yard? It doesn’t look so bad in August when the ivy that covers it is green and lush. Heck, it actually looks pretty nice and decidedly P. Allen Smith like. In mid November, that pretty green wall has given way to a hideous spider web of brown vines that cling for dear life to a wood garage that hasn’t been painted since 1931. With leaves off trees and flowers reduced to dead piles of vegetation, buyers are able to see through the charming landscape for what it really is.
The timing of a real estate transaction is also an important factor that helps make November such an ideal month to purchase a vacation home here. A typical real estate deal will close between 30 and 60 days from the date of the initial contract acceptance. If you were to write a contract on November 15th, it would be reasonable to ask for a January 15th closing. No one really feels like writing an offer in November and closing in December, since the house or condo probably won’t be used that much over the rapidly approaching Holiday seasons, at least not for the first year. By writing a contract when seller apathy is at its highest, and closing all the way into January, you’ve effectively negotiated a deal at the peak time, and allowed the seller to carry the property over the Holidays. When you close in January, you can begin enjoying the property in earnest, or spend the next couple months renovating, decorating, and improving, in order to make the property absolutely perfect by the time Memorial Day 2011 arrives. After all, May 1st is only 179 days away.
It’s not just one factor that makes November the peak month to negotiate a deal on a Lake Geneva vacation home, it’s the confluence of multiple factors that makes it such. It’s the perfect storm of Lake Geneva real estate, and I’m the weather man who just told you it’s going to be a category 5.
(I shouldn’t have to say this, but obviously not every seller falls into the category of “motivated” as many buyers would define the word.)