Lake Geneva Lakefront Market Update

A long, long time ago, my wife packed her bags and I packed a huge desktop computer and we drove to Siesta Key. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I knew that I’d have nothing to do for the next several weeks. That trip was the first and last of many things for me. It was the first and last time I would ever drive to Florida. It was the first and last time I’d ever leave my office for more than 8 consecutive days. And it was nearly the last time I’d visit Florida because I find it so painfully boring in light of all of the other terrific places where airplanes are able to land.

The reality is that way back when it was possible to take some time off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The market would calm, activity would slow, and there was no real reason to be around. Last week, I put a contract together on my listing at 906 South Lakeshore Drive in Fontana. The week before a contract mercifully came together on a property on the north shore priced in the $5Ms’s, and even though we can learn about the negative pricing pressure that accompanies elongated time on market, we can also be happy whenever aged inventory finds a buyer. Imagine taking time off because the market is “seasonally” slow…

The market has held up rather nicely this year in the face of some aged inventory and a general market climate that suggests any fence-riding buyers might have been pushed to the sidelines by rates in the mid 7s. Inventory has remained low, which has an interesting effect on buyers. If you’re looking for a home on the lake priced around $5M, and you look for what feels like forever without something exciting coming you way (maybe six months or more), you’re likely to acquiesce and pick off something available that you might have previously dismissed. This is what I suspect will happen over the next month or two, as buyers find a reason to revisit existing inventory.

I’m always somewhat surprised at the behavior of buyers in the off-season. Many buyers who would be active in June tend to fade into the scrubby landscape of late November. There’s limited romance in searching for lakefront homes in the cold of winter, and so buyers tend to let go of their summery aspirations when the scenery doesn’t match their dream. This is a tragic mistake, and while it feels like buyers understand they should remain active in pursuit of their goal, they just don’t follow through very often. The same buyers who might be frantic with motivation in July will casually dismiss an opportunity that presents in December.

The next month or so will be an interesting time at the lake. Expect limited, if any, new inventory to launch. Expect some aged inventory to sell, albeit at likely discounts to current asking prices. For sellers, the next move is obvious: just call me. For buyers, the move is somewhat more complicated. The first step is the same: call me. The next step is to decide if you’d rather peel off a piece of aged inventory at a possible discount, or wait until mid to late January to see what new spring inventory might make its way to the market. The reason this is complicated is because new inventory will command higher contract prices than would the aged inventory. Would you rather pay up for something new or break off a deal on something the market has already picked at? That’s the question, and if you’d like an inside look at the two concepts, I’m here to help. While some other market participants find their way to sunnier winter destinations, I’ll just be in Lake Geneva working to help you figure out your next move at the lake.

Above, the fantastic property in the 700 Club that I was proud to sell this summer… If you want to summer in a place like that, you have to be motivated on the gray days of December.

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 $700,000,000 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.

Leave a Comment