Today is March 11th. Today, I may or may not go to stand in a short line to buy an Ipad. Today, the lake is covered in a thick shroud of ice. Only one of those three facts renders me apoplectic, and if you can’t tell which one, then you haven’t been paying attention. Last year, I wrote about how much I hate March. I hated March at the beginning of last March, but by the end of March, I apologized to March because March was actually a fine month. This year, with the memory of a pleasant past March still ambling in my memory, I purposefully didn’t say anything about, or to, March. I didn’t want to jinx it. I wanted to give March a chance to show me that last year was not a fluke, that last year was the start of a new March that I might always appreciate and look forward to, rather than dread and insult. Right now at 7:59 AM on March 11th, I can easily and confidently say that March is an embarrassing month, and my hatred for March is as petulant and bitter as it has ever been.
Last March, I shot this video. It was March 23rd. The ice had already melted and rejoined the waters beneath. Piers were going in. It was sunny, and it was blue, and I was full of hope and optimism. If March 2011 is to repeat the performance of March 2010, we need to rid ourselves of the ice and start building piers like so many erector sets post haste. March, you have 12 days to get it together. I do not care that the forecast is calling for sunshine and 43 degrees today. Sunshine and 60 melts ice, sunshine and 43 can barely melt snow.
I’m not the only one who needs the emotional lift of melted ice to help the transition from winter to spring. Buyers need it too. The subtle signal of open water is a motivating factor for many fence riding buyers, as open water looks and smells like summer, even if the shoreline has yet to be scrubbed of the brown and dabbed with the bright greens of a late spring. During an ice-laden March, buyers don’t feel the pressure that they should feel. During an open-water March, the thought of missing yet another Lake Geneva summer due to indecision and timidity translates into an increased rush of focused energy, and the market could use such a jolt.
But it’s not that the market is dismal, because it is anything but. There are contracts flying. There are plenty of buyers dipping their pinkie toes into the waters by Southwick Creek. That was figurative. There are showings and there are sales, but to hear the sweaty, open mouthed sales pitches proclaiming all right with the market and our tiny little world, I can only wonder what such people might be thinking. There are accepted offers, sure. There are four contracts pending on lake access homes priced in the $300ks right now, including one on the new listing in Country Club that I told you about earlier this week has gone under contract after less than a week on the open market. There are buyers indeed, but not every segment is alive and well on this March 11th.
The entry level lakefront market is hot, hot, hot. There is just one offering priced under $1.94MM, and it’s a dog. There are buyers out there ready to buy, and my bet is that the next entry level lakefront listed in the sub $1.5MM range will sell within 30 days of hitting the market. There are buyers for large estates out there, some leftovers from last summer, who were in turn also leftovers from the previous summer. There will be move-up buyers returning to the market about now, and at least one large estate will be sold in the next 30 days. At least I’m pretty sure of it. Rare offerings sell on this lake, whether it’s March or July, and whether the ice has melted or remains.
The lakefront condo market is still unfortunately slow. I wish I could will energy to this segment, but even I, with an energy supply so deep that it makes Charlie Sheen look reserved, cannot will this market into action. The upper tier lake access market is also slow, with homes priced from $700k to $1.1MM receiving attention, but few contracts. There is value in this price range, but in the spirit of full disclosure, we could use a few more homes with slips in this price range. There’s a new one coming on off of Snake Road soon, but even that property in the $1MM range doesn’t excite me at that level. There will be more offerings, but the rush of listings that my 15 years of experience told me would arrive over the past 6 weeks hasn’t exactly panned out. We’ve added inventory, but not nearly as much as I had hoped we would. What the market needs now are some quality offerings of homes with boat slips priced in the $500k to $700k range, a few entry level lakefronts priced from $1.3MM to $1.6MM, and a few more attractive lakefronts in the $1.7MM to $2.2MM range. This is Lake Geneva, and our cup always figuratively runneth over, and soils our neatly pressed, pleat-less slacks, but we need some literal spill over to help satiate the needs of the buyers.
Oh, and we need some sellers to check their calendars. You know, that calendar that you left above your desk where it says it’s still June of 2006? Take that one down. It’s 2011 now. Thanks. I just peaked out of the window of my office, and the ice just stares back me. Taunting me with it’s ridiculous mass. I wish it to be gone, and I wish it to be gone quickly. If I were of the means, and had a trailer large enough, I would rent one of those ice-crushing ships- like the one Shackleton used- and I would crush the ice into smallish burgs that would easily be swept up by the wind and melted by even a tepid sun. My impatience with this season is that intense, and my mood will break at the first sign of open water. If you see me on the lake this weekend, with hate filled eyes, furiously drilling holes in the middle of the lake with a borrowed auger from dusk till dawn, please look the other way.