There’s a generally acknowledged acceptance of community. If we haven’t yet moved to a community, be it a town or a subdivision, we search for such a community populated by those who share similar opinions and goals. Diversity of thought is fine, but rarely does someone seek out an environment in which they vehemently disagree with those around them. This is, for instance, why I will never move to Madison. We look for communities where our would-be neighbors have the same hopes and goals as we do, and in most cases, if there is some unity of attitude there is a thriving community. This is why lake access associations are generally successful. Whenever you combine bunches of people in somewhat strict geographic constraints, you do have potential for conflict and strife. But when everyone just wants to swim from a pier and walk down a well-manicured parkway, things tend to work out just fine.
Lake Geneva is loaded with associations. Some big and others small, some loud and others quiet, all of them clean, fun, and safe. But they are communities, these associations, and if you wish to avoid waving to like-minded neighbors, you might be better served in one of our spread out associations. These rare associations still offer community, with shared piers and lakeside parks, but when the communal high-fiving grows tedious, these associations offer a private respite from all that glad handing. Associations like the Lake Geneva Club, Shore Haven, Sybil Lane, and of course, our co-ops like the Congress Club, Harvard Club, and Belvidere Park, these all require some participation in the idea of community. These are tight associations, where everyone generally gets along, but where waiving and smiling is a requirement of most any summer Saturday. Sometimes, people wish to simply be alone.
That’s where other associations enter into the mix. I sold a home on Sidney Smith Lane earlier this year. For a little more than $800k, my client purchased a big home on a big wooded lot. His boat slip is at the end of a private drive, and if he wishes for community he can find it on that white pier. At the end of a pier day, he can retire to his property, to his woods and his long driveway, to be with his family without any interruption from passersby. I have a sale pending in Alta Vista, another association with the sort of supreme privacy that can only be offered by large platted lots. Other associations with lake access that match this similar description include Oak Glenn, the very private, very small association located off of Aspen Lane, in between Knollwood and Cedar Point Park. This little enclave has a handful of homes, a nice pier, and privacy galore. That’s why someone just bought the only available offering there for $498k. Large lot, lots of trees, close proximity to the lake, slip, two car garage. $498k? $498k.
This little chalet came to market in early 2013 for $599k. It wasn’t a bad deal at $599k, to be very fair. It was a simple house, sure, with a spiral staircase and a low basement ceiling, but it was a decent house that wasn’t entirely too old. The home sat on the market for all of 2013, then for nearly all of 2014. If a buyer were considering the Lake Geneva Club, similar dollars would have bought them a small two bedroom house built in the 1930s on a tiny lot, without a basement. The spiral staircase and low basement ceiling at this Aspen Lane cottage really, really hurt this property. I’d argue that these two factors are the only reasons you need to consider if you’re wondering why this home didn’t sell sooner, and for more money. I’d also argue that if this home were on a crawl space, without the spiral or the low basement ceiling, this home would have sold. If Germans still love David Hasselhof, then Midwesterners still hate spiral staircases and super low basement ceilings.
This sale brings up some questions about the market, but it answers more. The sale shows that the market is always going to think $500k for a house with a slip is a good idea. It also shows that buyers who are afraid of work generally miss the best values. There have been some sales this year of homes in less than stellar locations, priced around $1MM. If you gave me a $500k build budget, I could build you a spectacular vacation home on this Aspen lot, and if I wanted to be off-water for $1MM, I’d rather be on Aspen Lane than almost anywhere else around this lake. I’d also be willing to put $130k into this Aspen home, and have it be a more desirable finished product than any other available lake access home priced in the $600s. True value presents in many forms, but its easiest to find here when it’s disguised as a spiral staircase and a low basement ceiling.