Old campy cottages are the most famously loved sorts of vacation homes. Nearly everyone can relate to some sort of northwoods cabin made of wood and decorated with various spare bits of furniture and wall art left over from another house or found under a stack of even worse junk at a garage sale. These old wood cabins fill the pages of magazines, and when they show hipster couples with their friends gathered inside on a winter night, wearing loud printed sweaters and sipping hot chocolate by a happy fire, nearly all of us think that looks like a nice way to while away an evening. Or in the summer, when the same hipsters are in a food magazine and they’re sitting around a cheap table in a side porch, with a jello made out to look like the American flag and a dog asleep in the corner of the room, that too looks like something that only exists in our most ideal dreams.
The truth about old cabins is that while they earn a revered spot in magazines and in movies, they seldom elicit much interest when those idyllic old places are for sale. Too small, they say. Too dated. Too this or too that, but rarely too perfect. And so when an old wood cottage on Beach Road just a few paces up from the Wooddale beach and pier came to market a few years ago for $725k it shouldn’t surprise you to know that it sat on the market for a great long time. Price adjustments were made, markets changed, and yet this little cabin by the water with the knotty pine interior and a stone fireplace pressed against the east wall of the living room just sat.
On Friday, a young couple from Barrington rescued this three bedroom cabin from its market boredom, and when they closed for $417k they found a fun weekend getaway by the water, but they also found pure, unadulterated value. At $417k, the price represented a 16% discount off of the most recent asking price, and a whopping 43% discount off of that prior, mostly insane, ask of $725k. That’s the sort of deal buyers can find when they find appeal in something with a bit more dust on it than the market would like to see.
The cabin is indeed a cabin. It’s wood and it’s small-ish, but it has a garage and an ample lot and a most generous lake view. The proximity to the Wooddale beach is beyond ideal, and when you get to the pier and make your way to the slip that came with this property, well then I suppose now you’re starting to see that this cabin had the three magical attributes that every lake access vacation homes strives for: Proximity, view, and slip. Those things are nice, and necessary, but how does the sale look when it comes to value?
Since 2006, only two single family homes have sold with fully transferable boatslips on Geneva priced less than $417k. There was a sale in the Harvard Club for $365k, but that’s a cash only co-op so the restrictions bar it from being a fully usable comp. The two properties that did sell under this $417k mark include a mess of a house I sold in the Lake Geneva Club last year for $400k, and the other was a cottage right adjacent the Linn Pier boat launch in the Birches. That house sold for $380k, but you know how I feel about homes next to boat launches, so we’re going to ignore that sale but only because it deserves it. When looking back six long years only two properties have beat us in terms of slip-based value, and that’s a statistic that a new buyer can focus on and use to warm them on the upcoming cold winter nights.
To the buyer I offer my congratulations, and best wishes for many years of lakeside fun. To this buyer and to any buyer I offer this bit of further advice: Use the home. Use it on sunny days and on cloudy days. Use it in the summer when it’s almost too hot to sleep, and use it in the winter when you have to remember to pack many extra blankets in order to chase away the cold. Use it on holidays and use it on Tuesdays, and if you use it as much as I know I would, then in that there can be no regrets.