Lake Geneva Market Update

I haven’t written one of these for a while, largely because doing so would have felt gratuitous. How many times do you need me to tell you the market is hot? How many times should I tell you about the bidding wars and other hot-market-nonsense happening here on a weekly basis? It all felt like too much, so I didn’t write much about it. But the year is fading and the tumult of summer has calmed, albeit ever so slightly. The market behaved wildly over the summer, but what about fall?

Typically, we’ll see a significant reduction in showing and offer frequency by the end of August. That’s because people who were here over the summer usually return home by late August so the kids can get to school and their life can settle in to a primary home schedule. Then, a few weeks after Labor Day, the market stirs a bit and activity stays somewhat steady through Thanksgiving. This is what normally happens. This year, with some families still learning and working from home (what a miserable thing that is), the market felt a slight stillness around Labor Day but instead of resting for a few weeks it kicked right back into gear. Thank QQQ for some of this, and thank free interest rates for the rest, but the reality of Lake Geneva real estate is that it is currently as active as it was in July. For me, this is relatively annoying but also necessary.

A quick glance at the lakefront inventory today shows just nine lakefront homes available, but only seven if you remove the Glenwood Springs listing and the shared pier property in Lake Geneva. Of those seven, only one home is priced under $3.99M. This is the definition of a tight market, and buyers everywhere are feeling ill when contemplating the stranglehold that sellers have over this lakefront scene. There have been several new lakefront contracts of late, including a multiple-offer situation on a Basswood offering ($5.85M), and a fall contract on my Valley Park listing ($3.998M). There’s a fresh contract on the Aspen Lane lakefront that came to market initially at $5.75M and was then reduced to the current ask of $5.25M. Rounding up the new contracts, there’s a deal on a Harvard Club offering, which shouldn’t really be counted as lakefront but I’m including it today because i’m kind and inclusive. Pending sales left over from the summer months include my contract on the Birch Walnut spec home ($4.885M), another on the $4.5M Lackey Lane cottage, and on the sorta lakefront (has frontage, but home is across the street) in Wooddale priced in the mid ones. Adding to the flavor, I have three off market lakefront deals pending sale as well.

As I’ve written recently about the mountain towns and the remarkable rate of sales in all affluent resort communities, the same questionable buying behavior could be noticed in Lake Geneva. However, there is a key difference in the Lake Geneva market as it reacts to Covid. The buyers here are largely still Chicago based buyers, and they are largely buyers who have had considerable interest in Lake Geneva prior to the pandemic. These aren’t knee-jerk buyers racing out of a city, these are Lake Geneva buyers who feel just a bit more compelled to secure a purchase because of Covid. Further, the strength of the lakefront buyer this year has been remarkable. I’ve been involved in 11 of the 23 lakefront sales (not a bad market share, but I should be closer to 100%), and of the deals I’ve printed this year every single one of them has been a cash closing. That’s a strong group of buyers, and that strength is the reason I believe in the Lake Geneva luxury market approximately one billion times more than I believe in the Big Sky luxury market.

From here forward as we move through fall and into winter, I do not expect things are going to change much. We have a rather important election around the corner, and regardless of your political affiliation there is one candidate running on the promise of raising taxes. That’s not great for a luxury market, just as it’s not great for the stock market once the massive Covid stimulus wears off. Either way, as long as the stock market doesn’t crumble the Lake Geneva market will continue this clip. And even if the market does stumble for a while, the added recreational urgency stemming from Covid will likely even out any buyers that pull-back due to their shrinking portfolios. In other words, I do not see any particular circumstance that will change the Lake Geneva market from being a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. As long as inventory remains choked off, prices will remain stable no matter what happens with your SPY holdings.

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 $800,000,000 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