When I was in high school, I mowed a lawn in the Buena Vista Club. That’s not entirely true. I actually mowed three lawns, nearly all in a row, spanning from the south by the tennis court and across the lower road and then a lawn that ran from road to road and finally, a small little house on the north end of the club. That house was small. It was white, with green trim, though remembering now might not be the most accurate way to verify that color scheme from the early 1990s. The house wasn’t special, the owners not all that fabulous, the lawn mowing revenue generated insignificant. The house reeked of smoke, and on the occasions when I stood in the doorway with my hand out waiting to collect the $40, or $60, or maybe $85 that they owed me, I remember thinking that smoking wasn’t the sort of thing I should consider adopting.
Whether or not that home was nice, or the customers friendly, or the grass green and mowed into somewhat straight lines, that didn’t matter. What mattered then and what matters now is that the home was in the Buena Vista Club. To have viewed real estate in Buena Vista (herein after referred to as BV, to push off my carpal tunnel diagnosis a few more days), puts the viewer in a fairly select group. In my nearly 17 years of selling real estate, I have shown several homes in the club. By several I believe I mean three. In 17 years. And that’s not like some other agent viewing three homes in the club over that time period, because I actually know where BV is, and I can find my way there without a map, a GPS, or a U-turn. The point here is simply: Buena Vista floats above the rest of our pedestrian market, buoyed by that rarefied air.
Today, a somewhat basic BV home in a somewhat basic BV location sold in a less than basic fashion. The cottage sold for $550k, after hitting the market just a month ago with an ask of $529k. The property garnered multiple offers and sold quickly to a cash buyer. The desirability of BV is undeniable at this point, but I suppose we should actually think about this sale in a subjective manner. Did it make market sense for a buyer to pay this much over ask for a cottage with no real lake view, no boat slip, and no real wow factor?
The answer, of course, is yes. If you’re the buyer, the answer was, and is, yes. If you were a would-be buyer, the answer is also yes, though by now some bitterness may have set in and you wouldn’t buy that house if they offered it to you for free (yes you would, but we understand your hyperbolic point). The house was in a proper price range, and I’d argue successfully that this sale tells us more about the broad vacation home market than it does the specific BV market. The simple truth today is that a property brought to market at the proper list price will sell. It will. It will sell, and while that doesn’t seem to be a surprise, the reality is that the proper list price on a home brought to market in 2009 was no sure guarantee that the home would actually sell. This has changed, and this is better.
So the sale makes sense from a supply and demand standpoint, and it makes sense that the buyer paid over ask in the presence of other offers, but how do we like a sale with no slip, no view, basic finishes, and some basic features? For my money, I’d rather find my way closer to the lake, perhaps in Cedar Point Park, or Belvidere Park, or the Harvard Club (2013 marks the first year in four that I have not had a Harvard Club listing in the spring of the year). But I say those things with no deep attachment to Buena Vista, so I do not feel the possible nostalgia that a buyer who grew up vacationing there, or nearby, might feel. If we’re viewing this sale completely as the broad market might, I’d say the sale is a good sale at a fair market price, which is enough to say about a sale that found me representing neither buyer nor seller.
I’ve been pleased with the sales activity in the $400k-$800k lake access market this year. There is life here where there had been just the driest of lifeless desert over recent years. I’m glad to see a resurgence in this category, and think that this middle market activity bodes well for the rest of our vacation home market. The primary difference between this segment and, say, our lakefront market, is that this segment has had quality inventory come to market during 2013. The lakefront market, by and large, has not had nearly as much new product hit the interwebs. For now, let’s be happy for this new Buena Vista owner. Lord knows a summer spent lakeside is better than a summer spent anywhere else.