My lakefront sale from Friday wasn’t the only sale of consequence last week, even if it was the sale that made me feel the most heroic. The Lake Geneva vacation home market had four other single family sales last week as well, combining to make a solid, but expected, last week of August. The other sales were not significant because of a trend that they broke; they didn’t mark some new territory or define new lows and reinforce unwarranted highs, instead they just plodded along, reinforcing my views of the market and rendering them as not only correct, but keen and potentially oracle-esque.
We’ll approach the other four, referred to from now on as the Gang of Four, or GOF for short, as they are priced from low to high. The first sale in this pantheon was on Lincoln Parkway in Cedar Point Park. The home was a cottage, classic in design but neglected for some years, and had a pleasant, if not remarkable, $199,000 asking price. The home was in need of work, and I must confess to having walked through it contemplating whether or not I should buy it and restore this poor overlooked soul into something that I knew it probably was and could easily become again. Alas, my appetite for a remodel was weak that day and I didn’t buy it, but someone else did (not my buyer or seller). For $179,250, someone is the proud new owner of a decent little cottage located a decent little distance from a most glorious blue lake. Does this sale represent extreme value? No. Does it look high, given the condition of the home in the context of the entry level lake access market? Nope. Is it pretty much a perfect example of what $170k to $190k buys someone in Cedar Point Park at this point in time? Yep. It’s a nice sale. A simple sale. A sale directly in line with the market where neither seller nor buyer won, but both played nicely within the confines of a reasonable market.
On Friday, some presumably nice person paid $270k for a four bedroom Cape Cod on a pleasant lot with an inspiring little white picket fence located comfortably within Country Club Estates. The sale, like the one in Cedar Point, didn’t pull us to one market extreme or another, instead it just fit in, content to mind its own business and not ruffle any feathers or disrupt the 2011 status quo. The sale was neither low nor high, and in that easy medium there is a nicely defined market. If you want to own a vacation home in Country Club Estates, generally plan on spending $270k to $340k for a nice enough house. Spend more and either get a better location or a nicer house, spend less and just get a lesser house. Country Club Estates is simple. Like the restaurant, but you won’t need to bring your salt shaker. Zing!
The next sale might confuse you a bit. The house, a large fair home on a double lot in Oakwood Estates, was originally listed in 2008 for $695k. It sold last week for $340k. Does this mean a seller conceded more than they needed to and a buyer stole some rare opportunity? Not at all. Even though the Overton Window of real estate was in full effect on this now sold listing, the real value of this home was always, at least in recent years, somewhere around that ultimate $340k sales price. The home needed updating to fit the eye of most buyers, and while the lot was large, in the vacation home market that can simply mean your weekly lawn mowing bill went from $20 to $38. I should know, I used to raise the ire of this seller by sloppily cutting their grass some 20 years ago. The sale might look attractive to the uninitiated, but I assure you that by my trained eye it looks as it should. It’s a $340k house quite a long ways off the lake in a high quality association.
For the last of our GOF, we travel back to Fontana, back to Country Club Estates. The home, a pretty home of sorts, with four bedrooms and a modern layout and fine finishes, sold for $565k. I personally don’t really get the phenomenon of paying that sort of money to be in the back of Country Club, far enough from the lake that no ear can detect the whines of a waverunner or the rumble of a Streblow, but so far off indeed that one is more likely to hear the squeaky wheel of a shopping cart blowing in the breeze across the Sentry parking lot. I understand why people buy these sorts of homes here- they’re large, they’re pretty, they make your friends compliment you. But they’re not exactly close to the lake, and you can’t exactly saunter to the pier in the morning to read the morning paper or watch the water skiers face plant, so it’s not really my thing. But it might be yours, and who am I to disagree? This sale, neither warm nor cold, but for the right buyer, just right.
Lake Geneva can be a confusing market. Some sales reflect horrible buying decisions, or possibly expose buyers who listened to horrible advice. Other sales represent extreme value that some dismiss as flukes. And at times like last week, the market can behave with normalcy, following trends and generally living within expectations. Weeks like those can calm markets, and I expect the weeks that lie ahead will not be as docile. Extreme value will roil the market this fall, even while some uninitiated and unintentionally misled buyers pay far too much for the wrong properties. We should work towards finding those extreme values, together.