I suppose there’s something sweet about a summer buyer. Something innocent. On any sunny day it would be natural and normal for a suburban or city dweller to pack up the car and take a drive north. After all, if it’s the Midwest and it’s summer then cars of all makes and models want to drive north. They don’t want to drive east and then north, everyone knows that. Once you enter our Lake Geneva scene, it would be nearly impossible to find it anything but appealing. Sure, some buyers seek isolation and solitude, and if our summer buyer finds a parking stall downtown Lake Geneva on that sunny Saturday they won’t exactly find either of those. The isolation seeker notwithstanding, most other summer drivers will find this scene to be quite ideal and some of those sunny day explorers will become buyers and some of those buyers will become owners. This is how summer works.
But today it isn’t summer. It’s fall. I’d like to tell you that it’s still summer outside because the calendar offers up no confusion. But I put a jacket on yesterday and again today, and I’m wearing jeans and all of a sudden it seems as though I should put socks on. Labor Day came and Labor Day went, and when it was over the rain came and the stock market dropped and there’s no longer a line outside the bakery. Things have changed. The sunny summer drivers will still be here, but they won’t be measured in droves. They’ll be here and there, and on Thursday someone might take a drive up for lunch because their conference call was canceled and the kids are mercifully still in school.
The buyers of summer are, at this point in the year, depressed. They found nothing to buy, or when something was available they dawdled and they considered and summer markets allow for neither. Summer markets scoff at your contemplation. The summer was full of housing disappointment, as buyers looked intently but the vast majority of them found nothing. They’re still buyers, but a summer buyer has motivation that a September buyer just can’t muster. Some of these summer buyers will return to work and forget all about their summer intentions. There is someone, somewhere, sitting at a desk right now who was a summer buyer. If July offered the sort of house she wanted, she would have bought it. But in spite of the automated Realtor feeds flooding their inbox with some new inventory and Grandma’s Tetrazzini Recipe, this July buyer isn’t really a buyer anymore. This is a buyer who got caught up in the scene, if only for a while, and the scene combined with the weather combined with Corona combined with a swollen stock portfolio made a lake house seem like the best idea ever. That buyer today sees the rain and the temperatures and the slight dip in the stock market and will not buy this off-season.
This is odd to me, but I understand it. I vacillate on purchase decisions like no one I’ve ever known, perhaps except my father. One day, my dad went into Best Buy. I don’t know what year this was, but we’ll call it roughly 10 years ago. My dad had been looking for a television, because in spite of this financial schizophrenia, he is an American consumer. He found a television he wanted and paid for it. The television was large. Huge, really. And I’m guessing it was expensive, though no one will ever know exactly how expensive. He set up delivery for the TV, let’s guess it was for the following Tuesday. On that day, the Best Buy guys showed up at his house and knocked. No answer. They knocked again. Crickets. They called his cell phone, which went direct to voicemail. After some time of this they left. What happened to my dad? He was in the basement, filled with buyer’s remorse, hiding from the delivery guys. Better to have this remorse before the TV is set up in the living room, I suppose. Lakefront buyers do this, too, even though it might be normal to think that a lake house purchase is more meaningful and subject to more buying scrutiny than a large television, its brilliant in-store picture set to “demo”.
The issue for this fall is one of inventory. This was the issue this summer, too. There is no doubt in my mind that we have fewer lakefront buyers today than we had two weeks ago. The lack of summer inventory caused many would-be Lake Geneva buyers to leave here and find inventory on other lakes. This, as you know, is a tragic mistake, but for the other lakes, this lack of Geneva inventory has been an incredible boon. Fall buyers are less fickle than are summer buyers, but we’re going to need some inventory to keep this machine moving. With the change in weather and a quick hiccup in the stock market there is reason to think we’ll see some new inventory as we move through this month. If we had 80 active lakefront buyers last month, and this month we only have 65, it means that sellers are still in control. The question is, will the sellers be remotely reasonable with their asking prices? If we look to two pieces of newer lakefront inventory, the answer so far has been an obnoxious “NO”. I’m anticipating some new inventory, and I’m expecting it’ll be gobbled up this month just as quickly as it would have been last month.
Above, my listing in the Birches. 300′ of frontage for $4.199M