There are lots of rules at the Harvard Club. You can’t have your dog with you from the third weekend in June through Labor Day. You can’t plant trees or remove others on your own personal whim. You can’t borrow money against the property. You don’t get a deed, or title insurance, or anything other than a bill of sale to prove that you purchased the cottage that you just purchased. The Harvard Club has some oddities, this much is typically unspoken but it is obvious. Yet for those restrictions, however onerous some of them might be, if a buyer makes it past every hurdle and successfully purchases one of these exclusive cottages, the lifestyle rewards are infinite.
If you were to look for a cottage with a lake view, even a slight one, and a boat slip, and a garage, and nothing but lush green grass between your doorstep and Geneva Lake, you’d generally be out of luck. It’s not that you couldn’t afford to buy such a place, it’s that outside of private lakefront, such a place really doesn’t exist. Sure it exists at the Congress Club, but the Congress Club is expensive relative to the Harvard Club. That expense doesn’t end at the initial purchase either (roughly twice as much money to buy into the Congress Club as the Harvard Club) as annual outlays at the Harvard Club per owner measure roughly half as much as those annual outlays at the Congress Club.
You could buy a parkway home in Cedar Point, that would provide you with nothing but grass between your doorstep and the lake, but once you got to the lake you’d just have to sit and stare at it because you wouldn’t have a boat slip. That isn’t to say there aren’t slips there, as there are, but they are not transferable, so in order to obtain one you must either rent privately or wait for your name to rise to the top of the list. Waiting for this can be torture, as the length of the wait is only accentuated by each passing weekend that finds you sitting on a pier instead of roasting past it on your boat. Besides, parkway homes in Cedar Point, no matter how far off their highs they are, will still require a purchase number of roughly $750k for the most basic parkway structure and as much as $1.3MM for the nice ones.
So there isn’t anything like the Harvard Club in our market place- not just a lack of inventory on the open market- but a lack of existing off-market inventory in the entire marketplace. This is a unique animal, and when one considers the positives of such ownership and the amazing opportunity to live a weekend as a true lakefront owner for a fraction of the cost, the rules are a bit easier to swallow. In fact, those rules, those far reaching rules, combine to create a sleepy throw back to a much gentler time in Lake Geneva’s history. A time when afternoon naps were cherished and celebrated, and barking dogs were left in the suburbs where their bark cannot interfere with the lapping sound of waves. This is the Harvard Club, and this is its power.
Yesterday, I closed on the small white cottage that I’ve had on the open market since spring. The buyer paid a pleasing price of $365k, off of an original list of $469k. I had a previous contract on this property that ate up most of the summer, but that buyer ultimately couldn’t grasp the structure of the club. What exactly do I mean by that? If you’re looking to buy a property that gives you a nice shiny title policy in your hand and a notarized deed, you’re asking for something that the Harvard Club cannot give you. Membership in the Harvard Club is more like membership into a secret society. You attend a meeting, and it’s dark. There is much smoke in the room. You can tell that there are other people in the room, but you can’t make out their faces. You’re nervous. You’ve worked for weeks to perfect the secret membership handshake, but you’re not sure if your left thumb is supposed to face right or left once you slap the top of that hand with your other one. Even so, the air tastes like burning and there will be screaming. But when you wake up in the morning, you’ll own that cottage and there will be nothing but grass between your cottage door and your pier and it will be sunny. It’s worth it.
For those of you who are about to send me emails instructing me that that cannot possibly be an accurate portrayal of the membership ceremony, I admit that I made that last part up. It doesn’t taste at all like burning. But the Harvard Club is a special part of our market, and with that sale at $365k, combined with the sale I closed last summer for $475k (far nicer home), and the current offering I have at $529k, the modern day price range for the club has been established. The listing that I have there currently is quite impressive, and while there are some buyers poking around it now, there is an opportunity here for an owner looking to obtain that rare lifestyle where there is indeed nothing but grass between your door and your pier. There are no roads to cross. There is nothing to remind you of home. There is nothing here that looks like what you’ve seen elsewhere. There is just grass and water and a lazy brick path that runs from the garage, past your cottage, and on to the lake. This is the Harvard Club.
Congratulations to the buyer who is now a member of this exclusive property. As with all new vacation home owners, I hope the ownership tenure isn’t measured in years but in generations. I hope the lake proves to be all that I know it is. If you’re liking the sound of the Harvard Club, I’ll be showing it this weekend should you like a private tour of the grounds and the cottage. Once this available cottage (sleeping porches, two fireplaces, amazing period character) sells, there isn’t anything else waiting behind it. If you’ve looked longingly at the Harvard Club over the years, it’s time to stop looking and get yourself into that secret membership meeting. I really do want to know if the air tastes like burning.