Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

There’s very little in our way now. The ice has been turned back to water, the snow has melted, the streets have been swept clean of their winter dirt. Grass is greening, if slowly, and flowers have begun to flower, at least in yards other than mine. Geese are flying north, Robins are hopping around my yard, and my dogs are riddled with ticks. There are bugs again, lots of bugs flittering and fluttering, and there are people out walking in shorts and sweatshirts. Things have turned now, and while there is rain that we must now endure, the rain is our friend as it works to wash and scrub and bring life. Winter is over, spring is here, and summer is closer than the calendar would lead you to believe.

The market has taken notice, but as I scan the MLS this morning the activity seems scattered. There are just two lake access homes priced under $400k pending sale today. That’s surprising to me. Those two properties include one boring ranch in Cedar Point and a similarly boring ranch in Country Club Estates. I would expect that market to be much stronger at the moment, as prices under $400k have been rather flat over the past 24 months, and it seems to me that this market should be spurred on by low interest rates, and perhaps more so by the impending increase in those low rates. Values in the Chicago suburbs have been faring well, stock market returns have been significant, and overall this is the sort of market segment that should benefit the most from those macro conditions. Alas, the lake access market isn’t as dynamic as I think it should be.

There’s a $435k house in Country Club Estates on a pretty cool lot pending sale to a buyer whom I’m happy to be representing, and then there are two homes pending in Glenwood Springs right now. One is a painted up cottage, cute enough to sell very quickly. The other is a tear down variety on a couple of lots. Both are priced in the upper $400s. The market continues its pace from 2014 for one segment, and three homes are pending in the $600-700s. I’m a fan of the Hollybush property that’s pending at an ask of $725k, as it’s close to the lake and in a quality setting. We’ll see what happens with that one, but I’m guessing it’s a great candidate for a major renovation. There are two homes in Loramoor, both priced in the upper $600s, both pending sale. One is a decent ranch home with slip, the other a spectacularly unique older home, one of the original Loramoor estate structures. It’s a very cool house, and I like it rather seriously. However, it’s an absolute project, and as someone that has tackled some serious projects in my life this home makes me wonder if I’d be up to the task. This, coming from the guy that hand dug a crawl space so I could lay proper stringers before re-flooring. Loramoor is a great spot, but that’s a serious project.

Speaking of Loramoor and serious projects, the massive stable building has come back to market in the mid $1MM’s. That’s the home that was owned by famed cartoonist Joe Martin, and took approximately 77 years to sell. When it sold, the market was relieved. Now, just a short while later, it’s back to market, after enduring some considerable updating. It’s a flip at this point, and we’ll see if there’s a taker for this monstrous structure now that the hard renovation work has been done. It’s one of those unique properties that offers extreme value if the value is being based on the 16,000 square feet, but it also fits oddly into the lake access market purely by the virtue of that massive footage. We’ll see if there’s a taker, and I hope there is, as one property should never have to spend most of its life with its thumb out, begging for someone to stop.

The lakefront market still features only two on-market pending contracts. One for the shared pier house that blinds my tender eyes, the other of the Bonnie Brae house that seeks to set a new market high for this cycle. Both are difficult sales for me to comment on fairly, so we’ll just mention them and move on. There are other pending sales, but they’re off-market. A house at the old Westgate property is pending in the low $3s, and a modest home on modest frontage on the north shore of Fontana is pending under $2MM. I’d consider that one a tear down, so there’s a large price per foot being payed for dirt. Just my opinion, of course. There’s a sale that I have pending on the South Shore priced over $2MM, and that should close within 6 weeks. That deal features a rare combo for me of both a buyer and a seller whom I really enjoy working with.

For these contracts, I continue to see value, but it’s not widespread like it was a few years ago. I’ve written it often, but it bears repeating every so often, just to serve as a reminder to those who enjoy getting ahead of themselves. A market that inspires confidence is a market that encourages mistakes, and I’m seeing plenty of those mistakes being made right now. The lakefront market on Geneva is one that begs compromise, no matter your price point, but buyers must remain vigilant to only buy that which meets most of their criteria. For instance, if you want to be in Fontana, and you want level frontage, that’s a tremendous, lofty goal. If you find that, and the house is a disaster and there’s an active uranium mine in the front yard, perhaps you should consider taking a pass. The same goes for a property that you find to be acceptable, except that it’s priced a billion dollars over the market. This might be a good one to pass on. If you find a property you like and the price is fitting and the house needs a new kitchen and maybe some bathroom work, this is something you buy. You buy the things you cannot change. You buy quality land at a quality market price, and you make the rest work over time.

Speaking of time, I encourage market patience at all times, but if you’re thinking this summer should be spent lakeside, you’re running out of time.

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