Lake Geneva Friday Update

Lake Geneva Friday Update

My office is, by my crude estimation, no more than 750 feet from the lake. A lake that is, at this very moment, barely registering a shimmer as the surface lies dead still. When I leave my office with the intent of getting on the water, this proximity is my dearest friend. But on days like today, when I know there are four fishing poles waiting for me in a boat that has at least a few gallons of fuel, this proximity is torture. Had I not seen the lake this morning, I would have been better prepared to face the busy day of actual work that lies ahead of me. But that preparedness would have only been assured had I not viewed the lake, and I have indeed viewed it. My morning will be a battle, one with fingers typing and mouth talking while my brain readies a line with those very hands and wishes my mouth would simply cease. This is my battle.

This week, the Lake Geneva market had a few battles as well. No need to skip to the end- the Lake Geneva vacation home market easily won those battles, as this market has a tendency to do. Today, for my third or fourth Friday in a row, the weekly market update provides you with an in-depth glimpse at our vacation home market, a glimpse so deep that most of the area agents are standing at the top of this hole we’re digging together wondering exactly what it is that’s happening down here. The market at Lake Geneva remains potent. There are buyers, seemingly more of them every week, but the buyers are yet to be uniformly spread. Most of the action I am involved in and seeing recently has to do with the lakefront market, though several deals off-water are being strung together and are closing. I have two closings scheduled for next week. Next Friday, the Friday before another Lake Geneva Summer erupts and envelopes those of us who are keen enough to have prepared for this event, Chicago Title has but a couple spare closing openings between their two local offices. As I called attorneys yesterday to ready documents and clear schedules, the secretaries read off closing schedules that read more like 2005 than 2011. Such is our fortunate fate.

I heard a few details last night about one of our pending lakefront transactions, and the details made me a touch sick to my stomach. That slight ill affect may have had to do with the consumption of more morels than my liver can effectively process, but hearing about the naivete of buyers in the market even today causes me considerable consternation and further proves that your relationship with your brother’s nanny’s friend-turned-Realtor means nothing in the face of a rapidly changing market that cannot be understood or effectively articulated by just anyone. I’m seeing a few more ramifications of the absence of quality entry level inventory on Geneva, and instead of the buyers skewing downward in their price points, they’re stretching upward.

Last summer, we saw quite a few off-water homes sell in the $850k to $1.25MM range. I contended that this was owed to a lack of inventory in the entry level lakefront market, and rather than be left wanting, buyers decided to under buy and find something that would suffice, even if it wasn’t true lakefront like they may have originally desired. This year, the phenomenon remains, as off-water homes have been receiving more play due to a continued lack of inventory on the lakefront in the sub-$1.7MM price range. Yet now I’m seeing more buyers stretch their upward limits higher, instead of settling for lower and lesser as they did in 2010. If a buyer is a buyer at $1.5MM and she can’t find what she wants, this year she’s looking to $1.8MM to see if those upper reaches of the entry level market will satiate her water loving, vacation craving, self. This could actually be a dangerous development for many buyers, as they may very well be rewarding sellers priced just under $2MM that would possibly end up selling for $1.5MM or so if given the time to stew in their own lingering market tenure.


I still can’t will considerable activity into the lakefront condo market, though just this week I did add a shining example of lakefront luxury to the open market. This double unit (a three bedroom and a two bedroom unit combined into one glorious display of square footage that teeters on fantastic opulence) at Fontana Shores is pretty spectacular (see photo above), and with a $1.149MM price tag, an owner looking to buy two individual units even at current market prices would not be able to pull off this magnificent residence at our ultimate sales price. There are reasons to think that the larger condominiums on Geneva will attract more buyers than the traditional units, particularly when viewed against the bright lights of an entry level lakefront market that lacks any solid inventory participants.

I reduced my one Harvard Club listing to $449k (lake views, boat slip, bucolic setting to seriously almost die for), and added another Harvard Club listing this week. The new property, priced at $569k is an absolute dream for anyone seeking vintage Lake Geneva. The house is large and well maintained, with slip and garage, and nearly too many porches to count. The cottage, as described by one of my clients, is a time capsule. The vintage features inside are intact, and the maintenance has been continually tended to in order to insure that the home is a viable, sturdy option both now and into the future. If four bedrooms in the Harvard Club with a slip and an ambling brick walk to the lake sounds as good to you as it always does to me, we should be talking. Or emailing.

The last cheap lot at the South Shore Club remains, and I’m confident that someone will find their way onto that property sooner than later. There is a rumor of another offer at the South Shore Club, this time on an existing home. I knew one of two homes would sell in there this summer, but I didn’t know I would be proven correct quite this quickly. Any built sale in the SSC will be good news for that liquidity starved development, and I’m hopeful the success will continue, even if I am wary of most of the asking prices there. Expect the cheap vacant lot to sell soon, and watch for the ultimate sales price of the possible pending transaction in the SSC as I high number will be a solid sign for this spectacular, if pricey, lakefront association.

If Grant Achatz opened up a new Lake Geneva themed restaurant, and he opened it today, he would not just call it Next. He would call it Next Friday. For Next Friday marks the start of the best four months of our year. It’s another Lake Geneva summer, and it’ll be here next week, ready or not.

Photographs courtesy Michael Moore Photography

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