It’s a shame I haven’t yet sold this beautiful home. Where else can you find a private tennis court, private (heated) swimming pool, Lord and Burnham Greenhouse, acres of privacy, shared frontage with private, canopied slip, AND find all of that in Fontana, a short walk to the Lake Geneva Yacht Club and the Fontana lakefront scene? The answer is, you can’t. Come buy this house. It’s almost winter, and as you can see from this video, winter looks pretty terrific on this lovely property… Price reduced to $2.69MM.
I was sitting on a pier last night, just after a lakeside dinner, watching the remnants of a cloudy evening sunset. Kids jigged for bass under the pier. Everything was quite fine. Fine, that is, until someone said that it’s almost August and when it’s August then summer is almost over. Sixteen weeks, someone else said, until Thanksgiving. This is what it’s like to be from the Midwest. We know when things are good, but we’re smart enough to know they won’t last forever.
If you must know why the market is still hot, take a look at your equity positions. They’re up, and when they’re up like they are, for as long as they’v been up, our market can’t help but follow. After a soggy June and a rather tranquil market, July has been as active as any month could ever be. It’s been hot outside, we know that, and that heat has poured over the market as well. If June had you thinking that the market was slowing, then July should have you feeling pretty silly for thinking such a thing.
New lakefront contracts have touched many segments of the market, with current pending deals on a charming home in Geneva Manor ($2.395MM), a new listing in between Pebble Point and Knollwood for $4.5MM, and a decent parcel on Basswood listed at $4.799MM. The Manor home and Basswood have both experienced some time on market, and both are testaments to the way our market behaves when inventory is tight. Buyers may choose to pass on certain lakefronts for a while, but after not finding a perfect match for some period of time, buyers will come back to the existing, perhaps aged, inventory and take another swing. But these two do not tell the story today, the lakefront by Knollwood is the one with the story.
I should note that this is not my listing, a condition that is causing me untold amounts of grief. This listing came to market last Sunday, and I acknowledged the really nice Lowell renovation on some of the interior spaces but didn’t feel overwhelmed with excitement. That property sold in a day. The lesson? If you have an older home that lacks excitement, and you’re thinking of selling it, you should consider your options before you list. Is your property on a large enough piece of dirt that a likely buyer will tear it down? Good, don’t remodel it first (see the Basswood pending contract). But is your property on a smaller piece of dirt that won’t necessarily make for an ideal tear down candidate, and is your house nice, but not super nice? Is it comfortable but not inspiring? Is it good enough, but not great? If so, you may want to follow the smart move of the owner on the North Shore and renovate before bringing home to market. Design tastes have changed, and if you want to capture a high dollar, you’d be wise to consider a remodel. Of course there’s only one way to determine whether or not this is right for you and your property, and that’s obviously to ask me.
For my involvement, you may have seen a listing in Indian Hills that I brought to market a week ago for $1.99MM. That lakefront home was the subject of intense showing and offer activity, but the sellers have decided not to sell. The market behaves oddly at times, and this is one of those times. Since I wrote that we’d be seeing price reductions, no fewer than six lakefronts have reduced their prices, proving that even in this active market sellers are still willing to accept the reality of their pricing aims. Today there are just 18 available lakefront homes to choose from, including one in Trinke’s, two in the South Shore Club, one at Westgate, and my listing at Clear Sky Lodge (reduced to $2.699MM over the weekend). Expect to see inventory increase over the next two months as sellers who wished for one last summer find themselves on the tail end of that summer, their wish nearly fulfilled in an exceptionally bittersweet manner. As always, if you’re looking to buy or sell on the lakefront and need help making sense of the highly nuanced and at times aggravating market, I’m here to help.
Above, the lakeside gazebo at Clear Sky Lodge.
The curious thing about Lake Geneva is that the market would potentially be fine even if another new customer never followed his roads to our roads and purchased a lakefront house. No new buyers, no problem. Never, ever, a new buyer who needs figure out our scene in order to buy it. If no one ever came here again, we’d still have a market.
That’s obviously not entirely true, but at times it sure does seem like we needn’t another new buyer. We have enough, and they’re the people who are already here. One of my favorite transactions to assist in is the buyer who is new to Geneva Lake looking to capture something ideal. That buyer, someone with no prior experience here, hasn’t yet been confined to his developed tastes. He’s a blank slate, a clean canvas, and that buyer can look at this market without geographic bias. That’s a terrific sort of buyer, one that I highly value.
But that’s not the traditional buyer here. That buyer exists, of course, but that buyer isn’t what keeps this market humming. What keeps this market on the move is the lakefront ownership group. Those 600 or so discerning lakefront owners; that’s our market. One year they might wish for a big estate, with 800 hydrangeas and no fewer than 375 rose bushes. But three years later they may long for the simplicity of a lakeside cottage, still with a slate roof, of course, but a cottage nonetheless. A pure lake experience, tidy and controlled. Who could tend to 800 hydrangeas?
Yesterday, a new sale on this Great Lake. The last time Clear Sky Lodge sold it was my listing as I represented Bank of America in the liquidation of that valuable asset that they came to own by way of court proceedings. That sale in 2012 was for $3,700,000. Clear Sky sold again yesterday, this time without my involvement, which has put me in a sullen mood for such a lovely Friday. The price? $5,715,000.
That’s a lot of money for this old log house, but I won’t say it wasn’t worth it. The house is rare and intensely magnificent. The location desirable, the views sublime, the logs super loggy. I like this sale for the market, but it’s a bit of a loss leader. The appreciation from 2012 of more than 50% isn’t reflective in the broad market. Some homes have appreciated this much, others have not. This is why it’s difficult to take individual sales and suppose that they are meaningful to the broader market segment.
If you’re sad that you missed out on this house, I have the next best thing available at Clear Sky Lodge, with tennis court, swimming pool, canopied slip, and beautiful privacy listed at $2.99MM…
The trend of lakefront owners swapping homes is nothing new. It’s a common theme here, but it appears to be on the rise. When the markets were bad I encouraged would-be-sellers to sell low and buyer lower. I argued it was, in fact, a better situation than it would be to sell high and buyer higher. Very few people listened, but those that did have found the new market to be rewarding.
The key for the lakefront market now remains inventory. We need more of it. Ready made inventory, easy houses with large lots. Others with small lots. We need all of it. If you’re a buyer on the hunt, let’s hunt together. If you’re a seller considering a move, you know who to call. (It’s me. Call me. Or Email, that’ll be easier. Text is fine, too.)
You don’t really want to be me. Some of my friends think they’d like to be me. To work a bit and make money a bit and drive a nice car a bit. To have nice things and to sell this place. It’s luxurious, they think. It’s fun, they imagine. But they’re wrong. Everyone is wrong. What I really do is take nice people out in my car and show them this lake. I show them this lane and that drive. I take them here and down there. I show them what it is we do here, how much better it is. The scene is easy to love. The water, same. The boats and the woods and the sails, it’s all rather intoxicating, and nearly everyone agrees with this. The problem is the real estate. Do you know how deflating it is to show someone homes that cost millions of dollars that are, as a point of fact, awful homes?
This is the Lake Geneva problem. This is my problem. This market is expensive, there’s just no getting around it. But it’s expensive for a reason, for many reasons, and it’s worth it. But whether it’s worth it or not, the homes that buyers can buy are often disappointing. They need significant updating. Or a wrecking ball. Or they lack this and that. They always lack. I’d buy this house if only it had (insert anything here, anything at all). With this housing deficiency understood, imagine now my delight in bringing you this new listing at 1100E South Lakeshore Drive in Fontana.
This house measures more than 5000 square feet. It has a two car garage. Five bedrooms. A large great room with tall ceilings. Four fireplaces. Huge outdoor patio space. 1.78 acres of wooded privacy. Two driveways with ample room to park as many as a dozen vehicles. It has a shared pier with a canopied slip. The current owner keeps his 27′ Cobalt there. I suppose you could put yours there as well. There’s SubZero and Wolf. Stone and granite. Big wooded doors that swing on huge steel hinges. This isn’t so much a mere lake house in Fontana as much as it’s an Adirondack Lodge in Fontana.
But this is the house, the big, beautiful house. That’s not what really sets the property apart. It’s that privacy, that delicious, rare, wooded privacy. It’s the Fontana location with water and sewer and an easy walk to town or the Lake Geneva Yacht Club. It’s these things, but it’s much more. Here we have an inground swimming pool, set back in the woods surrounded by lush perennial gardens. There’s a Lord and Burnham Greenhouse, one that causes me to green with jealousy every time I enter. The current owners don’t use it as a greenhouse, they just use it as a pool-toy storage center, but I’d use it as a greenhouse if it were mine. Once you buy this house, I’d like it if you’d use it as a greenhouse again.
It’s not just a big house with all those fireplaces and a pool and a greenhouse and so much wooded privacy on all that land. There’s a tennis court, too. A tennis court with lights and basketball hoops. The current owner holds the Spotted Cow Open here each year. I’m surprised you’ve never heard of it. The sponsorship by Spotted Cow isn’t official yet, but they should appreciate the free advertising. If you’re tired from tennis you can retreat to the pool, and when you tire of the pool you can enter the greenhouse. The tomatoes need picking.
This comes back to the price. $2.99MM for all of this lakeside luxury. This house gives you what other homes in this price range can’t. You can buy a lakefront home for this money, easily and often. But you can’t buy an estate with these country club amenities. Even if you could, it wouldn’t be in Fontana and it wouldn’t have a pier, and it certainly wouldn’t be walking distance to the Yacht Club. My job typically forces me to sell around what isn’t there. In the case of this Clear Sky Lodge property, there’s nothing I need to sell. The property does it for me. Available for private showings this weekend.