Earlier this year, a famous flame thrower bought a lakefront house in Fontana. The house was large. It was fancy, with a master bedroom suite to die for and the most obvious of fanciful additions- a wine cellar. Not just any wine cellar, but one with some grape leaves and corks used as decoration. The house was up on a hill, with 100′ of lakefront, but that lot wasn’t large, or was it deep, in fact, at 100′ it was barely wide enough at all. $3.8MM was the price for this home, proving that the market doesn’t always care about quality of land in the event that there are grape leaves and corks.
Last week, a home in Williams Bay sold. Well, two homes sold, both lakefront, both within a stones throw of each other, but only if that Fontana Flame Thrower was doing the chucking. This lot was 114′ wide, and the views from this spot on the easterly side of Cedar Point are really quite special. The views to the westerly side of the point are better, but still. The lot was similar to that Fontana lot, though the property in the Bay is not as steep, and the frontage even wider.
The home was nice enough, a tudor of sorts, if we’re taking to calling something tudor only because it has the exterior of a tudor, that being some stucco and some wood boards that divide up the stucco. It wasn’t fancy, but it was nice, and it was clean, and for $2.125MM it was a nice sale for the buyer and a reasonable price for the seller. Since I’m keen on disliking deals that I wasn’t part of, you’ll know that I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say that I actually like this sale. I would have liked it a whole lot better sub-$2, but that’s just because I like securing extreme value for my buying customers.
There was a time when I’d argue that a house like this in a location like that would always want to be a house in that same price range. In other words, a house like that for that price is best not tinkered with. My thinking being, if that home undergoes a significant remodel, and the new owner sticks another $500k into that home, is that a good application of funds, relative to the possible future value? I’d generally say no, that such a remodel here should be avoided, but the $3.8MM sale in Fontana earlier this year- a sale that I do not believe to be an outlier- shows that fancy and shiny almost always trumps property, so if the new owner wishes to gild the walls, then gild away.
Down the road a bit, where Circle turns to Lincoln, another lakefront sale printed. $1.3MM for this one, a full price transaction was the result of multiple bids. So did the winner of the bid actually win? I’d say I don’t think so. Yes, that new owner did get on the lake for $1.3MM. That’s always a nice thing. And that buyer just bought a very charming old home, one that I think would do nicely with a lipstick remodel. But $1.3MM buys those things and a shared pier, and in case you forgot how I feel about shared piers, I do not like them, not one bit.
I do not like them with a charming house. I do not like them with a pleasant view. I do not like them for $1.6MM, and I do not like them for $1.3MM. I did not like them at the market peak, and I certainly don’t like them now. I will not like them in a year or two. I’ll never like a shared pier. Ever.
But I was not the buyer of this house, so we’ll chalk this one up to the variety of life dictating somewhat curious purchase decisions. The home likely sold because of that severe drought of quality entry level homes, as I’d bet in the face of considerable competition this home would not have generated such immediate activity. Whether or not I like the sale is a non-issue, as it simply removes another piece of inventory and makes the remainder of the active market that much stronger.