Yesterday was a strange day. It was enjoyable, sure, but it was strange. Yesterday it wanted to rain, but it didn’t. I don’t know if it didn’t because it couldn’t, or it just didn’t because it didn’t. There were rain clouds in the sky, which I identify and differentiate from regular clouds by the shade of their white. Brilliant white, you’re fine. Antique white, bring the umbrella. Yesterday it was antique white, and the skies looked as though they may open at any second with a spring rain. The wind was warm, and air thick, and those clouds, just poised to deliver sweet ice melting nectar from heaven. It smelled like rain too, which means it smelled like the earth would smell if you knelt by the shore of Southwick creek in April. If your handful smelled more like something else, you were too close to the geese.
It looked like rain, it smelled like rain, and the forecast proclaimed the arrival of rain. But, it didn’t rain. My desire to see it rain didn’t make it rain, and the conditions that would create rain were in place, but it still didn’t rain. If Pac Man Jones were here, he could have made it rain, but that’s different. It’s in days like yesterday that the real estate markets are like the weather, and in days like yesterday there are curiosities of a real estate market to be explored.
The Lake Geneva vacation home market has built sufficient, if light, inventory over the past eight weeks. The inventory is sparse in some segments and abundant in others, but the inventory averages are on par with a typical March. There are buyers out, lots of them. Buyers for cottages and buyers for slips and buyers for lakefront homes and buyers for lakefront estates. I know these buyers are there because I’m working with them, I’m seeing them, and my phone chirps and blinks red when they contact me. And it’s not winter anymore, at least by my eyes, even if I must divert my eyes from the lake for now in order to sell my brain on the concept that winter is over, and summer will be arriving soon (70 days). Spring is upon us, agents are breathless and feverishly ironing creases down the center of their pants and pant-skirts, the inventory is ample, the buyers are present, this is the trifecta +1 of Lake Geneva real estate.
Yet, for all the conditions, for all the signals of a market in full sway, for all the promise of activity that has built to the boiling point over a long and arduous winter, the actual sales activity is disappointing. It sure does look like rain, but I’ll be darned if it’s still not raining. The behavior of a market is strange, and it’s complicated, which is why I feel like it’s a blessing to have a blog like this. Previous to this blog, buyers and sellers would have to wonder what was truly happening. They would have to trust magazine ads and barbershop whispers, and scan deed recordings in the local papers. Today you can just flip to this blog and I’ll tell you exactly what the market looks like, and what it smells like, and today, right now, it smells like rain, even though my shoulders are still dry.
The market is priming itself right now. It isn’t firing, but I’ve been pushing and pulling on that choke tab for a while now, and I can see the line of buyers forming behind me, each one warming their shoulders, intent on taking a rip on that pull cord. The market is close to breaking through for 2011, but it hasn’t happened quite yet. So what’s it going to take to set this giant life-sized game of domino’s in action? One or two solid weeks of pending activity, that’s it. Last summer and fall, we had an increase in market activity to such a degree that I hardly recognized it. It was a market resurgence, and it was set in place by a confluence of factors, each important, but only one acting as the true catalyst. Real estate markets are driven by all sorts of things, fear, greed, security, pride, finances, all true. But the one factor that moves our market better than any other is fear.
And it’s not fear like you’re thinking. If you’re thinking of the sort of fear like when a 1970s muscle car tears around the corner of Upper Loch Vista Drive and you’re playing in the driveway and you know the car is filled with murderous men, each more maniacal than the last, and you’re unable to run into the house, or scream, instead you stand, paralyzed by fear- that’s not at all what I’m talking about. The most powerful form of fear in any market is the fear that if you don’t act on a piece of property, and soon, someone else will. People buy houses with determination not because they’re determined people, but because their determined not to let someone else beat them to the punch. The markets of the past three years have allowed buyers to nibble on properties for months, even years, before they take the plunge and make a bid and perhaps buy the object on their nonchalant affection. The market of 2010 was like that too, until buyers who were nibbling where pushed aside by buyers who were ready to gorge themselves on a buffet of Lake Geneva vacation home bliss. The 2011 March market looks very similar to the 2010 March market- a market buzzing with buyers in spite of few sales being officially consummated.
So what happens next? Buyers start to buy, that’s what. And I don’t say that because I’m a Realtor, I say that because it’s the truth. Deals will ramp up over the next eight weeks, as the discerning buyers out there make moves to secure their own idyllic summer. The shoving matches will begin again, with meek buyers being out performed by motivated ones. This game will result in hurt feelings. Buyers will cry foul- But I was looking at/considering/dreaming about/tickling that property for months, and you knew it! How dare that property sell out from under me! Markets will move, and families and individuals will enjoy the summer of 2011 like they’ve never enjoyed one before. Thankfully, there are still 70 days left to indulge such a fantasy. I still have openings for this Saturday afternoon, whether it’s raining or not.