The Copper Top Sells

There’s a difference between building something for the market and building something for yourself. That’s obvious. If your 3 year old daughter loves Barney, you could build her a purple house that resembles a dinosaur. When you do this, it’ll be great. Then, later, when your daughter tells you she hates you and that she needs to borrow the car, then the dinosaur house must be sold. You could spend a lifetime searching for another buyer who wants a purple dinosaur house, and you could also market to people who like chicken houses, because purple can be painted yellow and dinosaurs resemble large, toothy chickens. This is the plight of those who build something for their own particular tastes, and it’s typically a recipe for financial ruin.


Building something for the market means lots of tan walls and some white trim, and maybe some polished nickel here and there. Building for a market, and by default, for the masses, means keeping things straight and simple, showing a bit of excitement here (whirlpool tub!) and there (tankless water heater!), but never too much. To show too much is to personalize, and personalization is bad in the sterile atmosphere that is the broad market. This thinking is what leads to horrible, repulsive subdivision spec homes, each more taupe and plastic than the next. But we are a nation of consumers, and it’s much easier to drive that new Denali if you park it at that $185k vinyl ranch.

For these two simplistic scenarios, there is actually a third avenue that an owner can choose when building or renovating. They can choose what they like, and not necessarily what the market is known to like, and then present it to the market as though it is indeed what the market has been looking for. You can fill the market demand for something the market didn’t know it wanted. This can be a great thing, as visionaries do this all the time. Fifteen years ago I didn’t know I’d want to be able to play the radio on my phone and then magically make that radio stream from my phone to a speaker that doesn’t plug in, but now I don’t know how the world worked before Pandora and Bluetooth. There is, however, great danger in providing a product that the market doesn’t know it wants, and in fact, doesn’t want.

This was the case with a unique lakefront house on Lakeview in Linn Township. The home was modern, contemporary, both at once and at once neither. It was large, rambling, up and down and then down and up. The house has been affectionately dubbed “The Coppertop”, and if you’ve never made reference to this home then you are not a true lake aficionado. The Copper Top was first listed for sale many years ago, for a price that either came close to, or actually exceeded, $2.5MM. That price wasn’t acceptable to the market, and so the property languished and absorbed price cut after price cut. After some of this cutting, I listed the house last summer for the owner. I had many, many showings. I spent a great deal of time there, walking the stairs and arming and disarming the alarm. I ate some chocolates out of the refrigerator that I probably wasn’t supposed to eat. But for all of my effort, and all of the time spent, I didn’t sell that house.

After methodically implementing price cuts, a buyer did appear, but it was a buyer that had already seen the home when it was listed with the prior agent. When that buyer wrote, I was out of the deal, and that deal closed this week for $1,473,140. I was not part of the sale, which brings me great sadness. The deal was likely somewhat complicated, as the contract to closing time was lengthy, but the end result is a nice sale for the lakefront, and proof that every home- no matter the shape or size or fit or finish- will indeed find a buyer. This home was unique, sure, but you cannot really understand just how unique it was without having seen it. The lake sells many varieties of homes well. We love selling shingle style homes, our favorite. We sell the stone and wood manses’s at the South Shore Club, people like those. And we sell old homes that need work. But the lake never sells shiny modern particularly well, especially if there is some premium sought. Here’s to you, Copper Top, I wish you a lifetime of copper toppery.

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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