By now, everyone knows the lakefront market experienced its pricing peak in the middle of 2008. Or at least everyone should know that. What’s lesser known is that by the time the single family market peaked, the condominium market had already begun its descent. Sure, there were a few heavy lakefront condo sales in 2008, but not everyone was convinced of the coming storm at exactly the same time. This is why even as some were running for cover others were marching forward, convinced that prices would increase for ever and ever. The condo market began to feel a bit strange in 2007, as sellers were mostly presenting their properties at exceedingly expensive list prices, and buyers were beginning to balk. Smart sellers cut and ran in 2007 and 2008, but the market is still full of sellers who foolishly held out for more even in those times of excess.
The Fontana Club is a condominium in Glenwood Springs, right smack dab on Fontana’s southern shore. It’s a rare condominium in a purely residential neighborhood, and it fits in with the surroundings in a way that no other lakefront condo might. Bay Colony is not subtle. Simply by comprehension of the English language you could assume that Geneva Towers is not modest. The Fontana Club is both of those things, and the Fontana Club pricing peaked on a summer day in 2005 when a buyer wandered into a For Sale By Owner open house and struck a deal to pay $635k for a two bedroom condo without a boatslip. The market yawned at the sale, but I knew that the end of the bull run had to be nearing. I was off on my broad-market timing, but the Fontana Club market peaked that day and it’s been resetting, trying to find its balance ever since.
In the spring of 2013, I brought a two bedroom Fontana Club unit to market for $549k. The price was a bit stiff, but don’t forget the $635k from 2005. Lord knows that no owners have forgotten. We danced away the last two seasons at that higher price range, and just last week came back to market at $489k. That price represents a reduction from peak of 23%, which is an awfully nice way to measure the correctness of the current number. These units sold for around $395k way back in 2000, so here’s a seller who has taken impeccable care of his lakefront penthouse, and he’s now trying to give it to the market for a mere penance over what he paid some 15 years ago. It’s a good deal, but only if you’re the sort of person who likes huge lake views and grassy lakeside lawns. If you don’t like those things, Michigan is a-calling.
Not to be outdone by myself, I listed yet another lakefront condo last week. This one is at Vista Del Lago, which is a terrific development if you plan to be an active vacation home owner. If you want to sit and look at the water, Fontana Club is for you. If you want to sit and look at the water in between playing tennis, swimming in the lake in summer and the indoor pool in winter, boating, walking to town, then Vista Del Lago is more your speed. These are several unit styles at Vista. There are two bedroom units in the back of the complex that don’t face the lake. Lame. There are two bedroom units that face the lake, but they’re small. There are three bedroom units which are nice, but they generally have low ceilings and both tall and easily claustrophobic. Which is why when asked over the weekend if I’ve recently watched The Hunt For Red October I quickly declined. Even thinking about submarines makes me feel uncomfortable. Vista also has four bedroom units, big, bold units with lofts and all sorts of space. Of course that’s the one I listed last week, because I care about everyone.
This $585k unit has the aforementioned four bedrooms, but it has so much more. There’s a fireplace, a huge lakeside balcony, a garage, in-unit laundry, and a top floor location that means that the only foot stomping you’ll hear will be your own. There’s a deep-water boatslip, which is important to note because Vista does have some shallow slips that you’d rather not deal with. Vista is also easily walkable to downtown Lake Geneva, but it isn’t so close that you’re having to put up with all those tourists at your doorstep (you heard me, Geneva Towers). These are the facts about Vista, but the real value here is in both those amenities and the condition of this condominium. The kitchen has been torn out and replaced, the confining wall that blocked the living room from the kitchen has been done away with. The bathrooms are new and fabulous, the flooring new and the paint tasteful. Realtors love to tell you that all the work has been done, and that all you need to do is bring your bathing suit.
All the work has been done, but bathing suits, so long as you promise to only swim long after dark, are rather optional. You may get in trouble with the association, and you may have to explain yourself at the annual association meeting, but still. Also, you may get fired from your job for indecent exposure, and then you’re going to have one heck of a time getting a new job, but your unemployment can be made less stressful if you’re spending it lakeside. If you’ve been contemplating a lakefront condominium, now you have two options and no more excuses.