Out Of Towners

I sell real estate. I have a stable of much-appreciated clients who hail exclusively from Chicago and those burbs that describe themselves as being Chicago when they meet people who aren’t from Chicago. These clients of mine buy and sell houses in Lake Geneva, and I’m hopefully the guy who gets to help them. While they buy and sell here, they also buy and sell there. They buy big houses in Kenilworth and they sell giant condominiums on Erie. They do these things, and I marvel at what they are doing. That’s great! I say, when they tell me about their Chicago sale. That’s lame! I say, when they tell me about their Chicago buyer who backed out of their Chicago sale. I sell real estate, yes, but that only tells some of my story. To be entirely truthful and disclose everything would require me to complete that sentence: I sell real estate in Lake Geneva.

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It’s because of this that I have never tried to wedge my way into any Chicago real estate dealings of my Chicago clients. I presume they respect my real estate opinion, and I hope they appreciate my particular acumen, but I don’t for one instance entertain the idea of interjecting myself into their non-Lake Geneva real estate dealings. That’s because I’m a Lake Geneva real estate agent, which differs tremendously from being just a real estate agent.

Josh Altman, a slick kid whose name I may have just spelled wrong, possibly lacking an extra N, he sells real estate in Beverly Hills. He sells it in Malibu, too, and then sometimes he sells it in San Diego, I suppose. Then, he talks about selling things in Colorado, and then in Tahoe, maybe. I’m not sure. He does this because he’s famous and his clients like his opinion. When real estate is approached from a viewpoint that considers a million here and a million there to be insignificant, any real estate agent can indeed be your anywhere real estate agent. If nuance needn’t be sensed, then anyone can apply for a license and write a contract. Real estate as a game is simple, assuming there’s nothing on the line but a million here or another million there, either lost or gained.

Every year, there are Lake Geneva vacation homes sold to buyers who work with agents that are not from our market. Some are from our state, others are from Illinois, but both varieties are the same. They are out of towners. Out of towners are not evil, nor are they bad. They aren’t stupid or incompetent. They are simply out of towners, which labels them as they are. The bar for these sorts is held low, because how could they expect to know the market in the way that a true local would? How can someone who sells one home here every few years compete with someone who sells 30 here every year for decades? Don’t be too hard of them, they can’t be expected to compete, and in that lies the problem.

I could, if I felt like it, study the real estate market in Lincoln Park. It probably wouldn’t be that hard. I’m okay with maps and apps, and map apps. I’m pretty good at typing and reading. Basic math? I’m a whiz. After some studying, I suppose I could figure out Lincoln Park, but why would I? Would my rushed knowledge be anywhere on par with the knowledge of a broker who lives and breathes Lincoln Park day in and day out? Could I somehow cram enough knowledge into my research that I could compete with a broker who has seen the market in times good and bad? Of course I couldn’t, and to suppose I could would be to insult the very idea of a real estate broker.

Recently, a lakefront home sold on the south side of Geneva. That home was wedged next to an association, with the pier slips pointing towards said home’s pier. The house was nice I suppose, but with small frontage and that giant association neighbor, just how nice could it be? Nice enough to sell, but not to a client of mine. That’s not because I disliked the kitchen or the baths, but because I know that $2MM+ shouldn’t find a massive association pier immediately and constantly in my view. I know that I don’t want that for that price because I’m from here, and I work this market every day, and I know what an obstacle that will always be to both current and future value. I know this because this is my market.

In 2014, I fielded various and extensive questions from a potential lakefront buyer. That buyer was from Illinois. He asked and asked, and I answered and answered. Finally, after the questions had been asked and the sale procured, the buyer went dark. Later, that house that I had been working to sell indeed sold, to that buyer, who was represented by an out of town broker. This is a fine example of a customer understanding the limitations of using non-local representation and cunningly working around that issue by securing information from a local source, before awarding an out of towner with the sale. Is this the proper way to go about working in an out of town broker? Of course not.

If you have an agent whom you adore, or you have one in your family, or your hair dresser lady is a part-time agent and you want her to have a piece of your Lake Geneva transaction, here’s what you need to do. Call me. Or email me if you’d prefer a more immediate reply. Tell me you want to buy here but your Chicago agent wants to represent you. Tell me you’d like to know what to do. Then I’ll tell you that your agent should simply refer you to me, and you’ll get the benefit of intelligent local representation, while your agent will get a taste of the commission. After all, don’t be confused by what out of town agents want. They want to represent you, certainly, but the brokerage world revolves around commissions and the pursuit thereof. As for me, I’ll continue to only represent Lake Geneva deals, because Lake Geneva is what I know, and to pretend I know all markets would be to do a disservice to those clients whom I have pledged to represent.

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.

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