There’s a simple truth to this site that you have likely noticed. And if not noticed, then certainly become aware of, and if you haven’t become aware of it, then you’re not paying attention, which doesn’t offend me in the way that it once might have. I find it difficult to write on mornings when the business of the day starts when my brain activates, which is well before my eyes open. This is a problem I have, and I wish for it to leave me alone, but at this late date I do not believe that it will. When this work starts the blog takes a backseat, not because I don’t want to write to tell you about the things that are happening here, but because I just don’t have the time. Maybe that’s not entirely true, because I could have the time later in the day, most days, but the habit has been to drive to this office, walk to this chair, sit at this desk, and type. Today, I have managed to do just that. Onward.
There’s another small truth about a vacation home market in the middle of a delightful, but troubling, summer. Even though it is not yet August and we know August to be a terrific month of heavy and wonderful summer, the lag in real estate contracts from viewing to contract to closing suggests that summer is, for all practical purposes, already over. This depresses me to write, especially when faced with the prospects of a fall wherein I must watch masked football players playing in front of cardboard cutouts with the eery fake fan noise that sounds more like the baseline of a zombie apocalypse than a gleeful stadium full of fans. Still, in late July the real estate market should be finding pause simply because the urgency of the season is passing. This year, you cannot find such a pause.
That’s because buyers aren’t thinking about this August. They’re thinking about next August. They’re thinking about October when the next terrible lockdown comes, or next May when it shows up again. And maybe they’re not thinking about this virus, maybe they’re just thinking about the things that Lake Geneva buyers thought about before last February. You know, just regular things like splashing and swimming and boating and shore path strolling. They just thought about dinners on the lake, no masks required, because before February who on earth would wear a mask, drywallers and insulation contractors aside? Sure there has been an immediate and intense push for Lake Geneva vacation homes this year, but don’t forget that happens every other year, too.
Over the past week, I’ve had some business events that matter to me and they matter to the market. Last week I closed on a private off-market lakefront sale for $5.2M. That was a nice sale, good for both buyer and seller, and broker. The deal was struck quietly and until it closed not many people were aware of it. This goes back to my theory about off-market luxury listings and how they will, ultimately, reinforce the idea that the MLS is antiquated and unnecessary. Ah, but what a job the local MLS’s are doing to convince their clients (the brokers) that they are an essential cog. They are the modern day equivalent of the yellow pages. In time, no one will know what that term even meant. This sale aside, there were others.
Yesterday I closed on my delightful retreat at 1606 West Main Street in Lake Geneva. This is a most remarkable home with private pool, lake access, and the sort of vintage charm that has roundly been stripped from this market by the terrible and awful renovations of the past fifty years. This home retained its charm, and I sold it this week for $1.1M. Also closing yesterday was a home on the north shore of Geneva, that one listed for $6.195M. You’d expect me to tell you that we closed on it for $6.185M, or perhaps $6.2M. Instead, I’m here to tell you that it closed yesterday to a prized buyer of mine for $5M flat. Yes, $5M on the button. The reason for this price is unknown to anyone except the seller, but for the buyer it was a tremendous win. The moral of this story, and there is one, is that you cannot assume market conditions are universal. This market might have a theme, but each transaction is anecdotal. It just boils down to one seller and one buyer, and an agent who might sense something that would tilt the deal in favor of one side or the other. You think agents are tour guides? Bull Honky. This is where I earn my living, not by pointing out the kitchen appliances (Look, shiny!) but by determining what properties are ready to be sold and pushing that speculation to become a reality.
The market should do a couple of things as we move forward. There’s a strong chance that the market conditions remain as they are today through the fall. There’s a slight chance that some buyers retreat from the market because they’re too busy doing other things, which is a tragic mistake. There’s also a decent chance that we see a bit of inventory trickle to the market over the fall months. Some sellers likely had their last summer. Some sellers who thought they were going to list their homes in the spring decided to keep those homes for the summer. Will they sell in September or October? I highly doubt there will be any sort of meaningful inventory increase, but if you’re a buyer looking for your piece of this place, you don’t need lots of choices. You just need one good one, and you also need this guy to help you identify both the good ones from the bad ones.
Above, 1606 West Main, sold.