For all of the analysis that modern day buyers put into their vacation home search here, you’d think most buyers boast a double major in mathematics and real estate. Most buyers will pour over statistics, comparing one property to another, to yet another. They’ll burn through pads of paper adding and subtracting, listing pros and cons, some in basic column format, others in map like hieroglyphics more complex than anything my simple brain has the motivation to comprehend. The decision process that one must go through prior to purchasing a Lake Geneva vacation home is only as difficult as the buyer makes it, but the introduction of this giant series of tubes we call the internets has made the information needed for analysis much easier to digest. In spite of all the available logistics and statistics, the purchase of a Lake Geneva vacation home remains an impulse buy.
Sure the buying process is an informed one, but when the right buyer stumbles upon the right property, there’s an impulsive reaction that takes place and the buyer is left with mouth open, money-in-pocket burning, and an overwhelming desire to abandon statistics and purchase the property that they think will most easily allow them to accomplish their vacation loving lifestyle goals. The impulse buyer is returning to the market, ever so slowly, but he is largely focused on a property that requires very little work. A property that has already been professionally decorated, or professionally renovated. The modern buyer knows what she wants, and for the most part she wants to be wowed. She doesn’t want to peruse through a Water Works catalog to pic out fixtures, she want to flip through a Restoration Hardware catalog and order teak lounge chairs. Ideally four of them, and they must be the ones with those little slide out trays so that her weekend house guests don’t have to face the horror of setting their fruity beverages on the stone patio or cedar deck.
It should be no surprise then, given the inclination towards pristine and pretty, that the real estate offering the best value in this market is the real estate that is in need of renovation. While we’re all fond of repeating the mantra location, location, location, the reality on the street is that this isn’t really what people most concern themselves with. Show me a cottage in a to-die-for location with a great price tag that hasn’t sold, and I’ll show you a turn key cottage with the aforementioned teak lounge chairs complete with sliding beverage shelf in a marginal location that will sell three times as fast. Buyers tell themselves they want location first, but in reality they want amenities and convenience first. This transition towards comfort has left many properties in stellar locations wanting. Chief among the neglected is the cottage that I still love at 521 Wilmette in Cedar Point Park. If this cottage had been for sale at $449k four years ago, it would have sold without effort, and the new buyer would have gladly torn it apart, and thumbed through that Waterworks catalog, oblivious to the fact that $3000 faucets are a bit on the pricey side.
It is with this awareness that I announce, today, on this hallowed blog, that I will perform the duties of general contractor for anyone wishing to buy this cottage that I have for so many years longed for. Lest you think I’m just some guy without knowledge of construction, I must remind you that I have thoroughly renovated five homes in the area, and built another from scratch. If you think by thoroughly renovated I mean that I replaced flooring and fixtures, please picture this portly Realtor at a younger age with a more intact fibrous ring around his L5/S1 dis, breaking out a concrete slab inside a cottage. Then hand digging a crawl space, followed by installing new floor joists, and reflooring an entire first floor of a cottage all in the name of creating level floors. As it relates to cottage renovations, I truly have done it all, and in an attempt to showcase my love for this neglected lake view cottage, positioned gracefully overlooking the lake on the corner of Wilmette and Bayview Drive, I am offering my considerable management skills and uncanny vision to the lucky buyer of this cottage. Me, David Curry, the Lake Geneva Less Puffy Lipped Married Jeff Lewis. Not that I’ll actually do any work, I’ll just engage my fine stable of contractors and manage the process through my closest assistant who simply goes by Blackberry.
Picture this with me… The existing siding is intact, along with cottage detailing uncommon to such a home, details that prove the pedigree of this lake cottage. We’d strip and sand the exterior, taking careful note to leave the original trim work and wainscot soffiting, and remove the existing roof. The large trim would be a crisp white, and the existing wood lap siding should be either a marine gray, or perhaps a cottage yellow. The roof would be replaced with medium hand split cedar shingles, not because it’s necessary, but because I love wood roofs and find there is no better way to lend a touch of class to any residential structure than to add such a roof. We’d replace every window in the home, with the very classic 6 over 1 window design, and we’d use true divided light windows- not the cheesy kind with the removable interior grills, or worse yet- the dreaded plastic bar between the window pane look. The windows would be wood with a clad exterior, and along with a fresh exterior paint job and a glistening cedar roof, they would completely and thoroughly revamp the exterior. We’d also replace the exterior doors with stained Fir doors and similarly replace the deck on the lakeside of the home with something more fitting of this new high end vintage cottage.
We’d refinish the oak floors and stain them dark, because like Larry David, I respect wood. We’d re-trim the entire interior with period millwork, while retaining the magnificent french doors that are present in the home. We’d introduce additional trim details like more wainscoting, and beef up trim everywhere to create a very classic yet refined attitude. The bathroom would be tiled with some sort of small tile mosaic on the floor, and we’d use subway tile around the new bath tub, and include a frameless glass shower door over that tub. Frameless glass doors to do bathrooms what cedar roofs due to exteriors, and combined with vintage tile (perhaps Waterworks), and high end faucets, light fixtures, and trim, the bathroom would be a dream. With only one bath in the house, we have to find room for another- so we’ll convert a front entry closet into a powder room. I’m picturing light and comfortable as the interior theme, with ample light, and huge views from nearly every airy room.
We’ll replace the boiler heat with a new gas forced air system, and add a new hot water heater while we’re at it. We’ll insulate the attic as well. The transformation will continue into the uncharacteristically large kitchen, where simple white painted wood cabinets be topped with Carrera marble, and we’ll fit a high end Viking range with paneled Sub-Zero refrigerator to elevate the look even further. The sink will be a white Shaw farm sink with exposed apron, and when outfitted with a stylish Kohler faucet, it will look simply dazzling. There’s a small door that exits the kitchen onto what used to be a small side deck. Since the roof is still there, we’ll make use of that space and add a built in grill with small outdoor counter space to extend the kitchen outdoors as best as possible. I’m picturing Restoration Hardware lighting from their cottage collections, and anything with an oversized nautical look will work beautifully.
When it’s done, we’ll have the cottage decorated, perhaps locally, but I might try to get my new favorite Chicago designer and lake lover Kara Mann into the property so she can show us what she can do as it relates to cottage style. The end product will make everyone who passed over this cottage wish they had our vision. The cost for this cottage turn around? It’s not going to be cheap, but I think $125k would do the job nicely. I envision the renovation taking a mere 3 months from start to finish, meaning if someone bought this cottage in May, they could probably be in by late August in time to enjoy a memorable fall at the lake. The new owners will then be left with a very high end, storybook cottage with two to three bedrooms, in an undeniably rare location overlooking Geneva Lake. I don’t even need to close my eyes to see the result, and I’m hoping you have the same picture in your mind that I have in mine.
I’m not a general contractor, but if it takes a little project management on my behalf to finally bring the dream that I’ve long had for this property to life, then so be it. If you or anyone you know might be interested in a lakeside cottage with private lake rights, an inspiring lake view, and a resulting cottage that will be the envy of cottage lovers everywhere, then we need to talk. See you at the lake…