I drive around Wisconsin often. I drive around Lake Geneva, which is, if you were to ask my kids, what I do for my job. I drive. But I drive around the other parts of Wisconsin, too. I drive out west, to those counties far from here where trout streams abound. I drive north, though not so often, to the county where there are eating cherries and sour cherries, and some antique signs that say CHERRIES. My travels have taken me past lots of houses, big ones and small ones, fancy ones and dull ones. These rarely interest me, instead my eye is drawn to those houses that have woodsmoke pouring from their chimney during the middle of the day. Who are these people, that they have the time to make and stoke a wood stove or a wood fireplace, from sun up until sun down, day after day after day? I drive by their smokey houses and I wonder about them. I wonder if I’m jealous of them, because they are at home with little to do except keep that fire burning. Or I wonder if I pity them, being home during the day when the rest of us who aren’t driving around are instead, at work. I wonder.
Yesterday, I was as they are. I made two fires in the morning, one in each fireplace. I burned through wood that I have spent much prior time splitting. I kept those fires snapping and smoldering from dawn through dusk, and when I went to bed last night the largest room in my house was warm. It’s always warm, I suppose, but it was wood-fired-warm, which we know to be better way to have things because of signs on restaurants that advertise wood-fired-this-and-that. Rarely does my fireplace burn for so long. Rarely does the room warm from it so thoroughly. Rarely do I get to burn fires for such a long time.
But that’s enough about fires, we have real estate to discuss. January has ended. It ended with this particular agent not enjoying the month so much. I didn’t sell but a few things here and there, and I didn’t sell anything on the lake. This is for my deep, personal, lingering shame. There were two lakefront sales during the month, both of properties that I didn’t care for so much. First, the lakefront home wedged next to the Wooddale lakefront. That property had 60′ of frontage and closed for $2.25MM. For those following along at home, that’s $37,500 per front foot, and that’s expensive. I’ve sold plenty of homes next to associations in my life. I’ll sell plenty more, Lord willing. But there are certain properties that don’t fit my eye and this was one of them. If the buyer is happy, then I’m happy for the transaction, and I’m happy for the lakefront that gets to pad its price per front foot statistic.
The other lakefront closing was on the North shore, in that stretch of lakefront between Knollwood and Cedar Point. I like this stretch, and I like it quite a bit. The property that sold was a bit tricky, as the acreage (1.739) sounds really quite impressive for a home that just sold for $1.85MM. That acreage is good, but it’s deceiving as the property was 50′ wide and approximately 85,380′ long. It’s a long and narrow property, with 50′ of frontage on the lake. That frontage is level, which is nice, but it was tucked in between two larger, newer homes, so if the property was viewed from either the driveway side or the lakefront side it was a bit deflating to most buyers. You, in the middle, humble and meek. Them, on the borders, large and bold. It wasn’t for everyone, and that’s why I showed the home quite a few times but did not, in the end, deliver the buyer. Seeing as how our January benchmark is $37,500 per front foot, this one registering just $37,000 per foot is a deal! Just kidding. I liked the sale just fine, but I would have liked it a whole lot more at $200k less.
Off the lake, there was another sale last week. This one over in Somerset, that of a listing that I had offered for sale at one point over recent years. The home had been listed for ions, off and on the market since 2009. The list prices varied, but they started around $1.25MM, and then the list price hit upon every possible pricing mark between that price and the final sales price- $600k. The home had a difficult time selling, to say the least. And why was that? Well, because it was in the city of Lake Geneva and came with a $20k+ tax bill, and it was a lake access home priced in that strata but did not possess a transferable boatslip nor a lake view. At that point, it was just a bid quasi-log cabiny house on a big lot. The market has a tough time with homes like that, particularly when they come with significant tax bills, and so it took that much time to sell for that low price. Did the buyer steal the home? I don’t think so. I think $600k was a nice market price for a home that had some solid features but did not, in the end, appeal to the masses.
For now, I’m going to think about my fireplaces. Dark and cold, sooty. There’s no life in them today, not now, anyway. Maybe tonight. But to light a fire at night is to be normal, and I can’t stop thinking about those people that light them in the morning and then keep them burning all day, every day, until the season turns.