Entry Level Lakefront Market Update

The one thing that you can be sure of is that if the market has an abundance of something no one will want it. If there is a car lot in Sometown, Wisconsin that has 39 red sedans for sale and just one white sedan, the buying masses will clamor for another white sedan. In fact, they’ll say that they’d buy a white sedan for more money than they’d pay for the red sedan, if only the dealer had a white one to sell. In the same way, in Anothertown, Illinois, if a dealer has 39 white cars and just one red car, the clamoring will be over red. Red, red, red. Everyone wants red. Except in the Wisconsin town, they hate red.


This is true in real estate as well, which is why today there are 10 lakefront homes on Geneva offered for sale under $1.5MM and no one seems to care. The offerings in this price range represent quality properties at very fair prices, and yet all the market does is clamor for more inventory in the $2.5-$5MM range. If only we had a nice, new home on a nice, wide lot, and if only we had that property come to market in the $4MM range. Then the market would be excited, and willing buyers would rush with fistfuls of dollars. They’d do this because they’ve been wanting it for quite some time and they’ve gone unsatisfied.

And yet there it is, the humble entry level market. The market that offers buyers the lakefront life, where value is not determined by the make of your range but by the width of your lakefront lawn. Entry level lakefront homes are generally limited, either by parking or by size, and often by finishes, but to sit on a white pier that’s all your own is a bit of magic. I’m assuming you’ve learned your lesson and you’re not going to be buying a lakefront house with a shared pier anytime soon. There have been plenty of those mistakes this year to last at least a decade.

No, the entry level lakefront will rarely leave your fancy city or suburban neighbors particularly stunned when they pull in the drive. There won’t be a ton of parking. There won’t be giant plastered pillars that impress those who are easily impressed by ridiculous things like giant plastered pillars. There won’t be long driveways lined with stone and filled with crushed imported granite. There won’t be garages for all of your guests’ cars. There won’t be any of that, so on the surface, your lake house will look humble and simple, unassuming and unimpressive.

But give those guests a weekend stay there, and they’ll leave knowing how privileged that weekend just was. That’s because a small lakefront vacation home beats a large off-water vacation home any day of the week. There is value here as well, as printing a lakefront home at a discount is always nice, but it’s especially nice when a $1.5MM lakefront home sells for $1.175MM. It’s even nicer when money is still cheap and appraisers- even the most rogue among us- will have no trouble justifying the obvious value. This is the golden age of the entry level market, and if you’re a capable buyer and you haven’t taken notice, please smarten up.

So far this year we’ve closed two entry level lakefronts under $1.5MM. Those being the copper top on Lakeview for $1.473MM and my sale on Shadow Lane for $1.4MM. Last year at this time we had closed just one entry level lakefront, that of a $1.4MM sale in the Birches (that was swiftly demolished). 2013 was a busy year for the entry level market, with 6 lakefronts in this segment closed before July 30th of that year. In 2012 there were 3 sales of that entry level nature. This year we’re not far off of that average pace, but the difference this year versus those years is that we have this glut of inventory, and that inventory is the reason opportunistic move-up buyers have a most rare opportunity.

If you need help seizing this opportunity, I’m your guy.

Above, the living room of my listing on Lakeview. $1.485MM. Boathouse with kitchen and bath. Private H-slip pier. Not shared…

About the Author

I'm David Curry. I write this blog to educate and entertain those who subscribe to the theory that Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is indeed the center of the real estate universe. When I started selling real estate 27 years ago I did so of a desire to one day dominate the activity in the Lake Geneva vacation home market. With over $800,000,000 in sales since January of 2010, that goal is within reach. If I can help you with your Lake Geneva real estate needs, please consider me at your service. Thanks for reading.

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