When a market is sluggish, even a short burst of activity doesn't do much to change the perception that the market remains slow. When a particular segment struggles for years to attract any meaningful number of buyers, a few sales here and a few sales there doesn't seem that important. If 20 properties are available and two sell, the remaining 18 feel little consolation. When you consider that of the remaining 18 perhaps 14 of those have been for sale over a long duration, the existence of some activity doesn't mean all that much. If your neighbor's property sells but yours does not, this is not cause for celebration.
But should it be? If we're talking about the lakefront condo market on Geneva we're talking about a market that needs a direct infusion of activity. In some small way, it has received that shot over the past two months. There have been more condo sales on the lakefront so far in 2012 than there were in all of 2011. The five closed lakefront transactions don't represent much diversity, as four of those five sales were in Geneva Towers. I don't like to consider Geneva Towers as a true lakefront condominium, but when we're grasping for something to hold tight to even Geneva Towers will do.
The fifth sale was my closing from two weeks ago at Bay Shore in Williams Bay ($330k). I have another lakefront condo pending sale right now, this one at the esteemed Eastbank Condominiums in the city of Lake Geneva. This is a big condo- likely around 3000 square feet- and it has both a garage and a slip, and in this it is a very wonderful condominium. The views are pleasing, though views at Fontana Shores (my great big fabulous unit is listed at $995k) are superior. But that isn't entirely fair, as the views of Geneva from Fontana Shores are superior to any view around. The views from Stone Manor are something to remember, but the building is not approachable for most. The views from Geneva Towers are inspiring as well, but Geneva Towers isn't really a lakefront condo, except that it is one today. I assign attributes to Geneva Towers as they fit my aim, and this is what it's like to have a soapbox.
With the upcoming Eastbank sale (listed at $895k) there will be 6 lakefront condominiums closed by June 20th of this year. That's not too shabby, but it still matters very little to those owners who have lakefront condominiums that are illiquid. I have units available at Bay Shore, Bay Colony, and Fontana Shores. These are all great units for different reasons, but all will likely sell at the right price to the right buyer. If you know the right buyer, please have him or her email me. There is another sale that was purported to be in the works at Harbor Watch, but there's no signal yet that this deal has closed or been held together. Either way, with six or maybe seven lakefront condo sales this year, does this mean things are all better and that this market has been healed by the cleansing touch of a tender dose of volume?
Probably not, but maybe. I don't see a trend returning to the lakefront condominium, but I can certainly appreciate volume and its ability to beget more volume. When a buyer asks for comparable sales in any particular market, their Realtor (should always be me...) sends those comps to them. They review them. This is how opinions are formed, though the opinions form in a more intelligent way when I'm providing the back story to each comp, but even so, opinions are created and solidify. This is how buyer behavior and opinions of pricing and value occur. Comparable sales matter, just as active inventory matters. But what matters more is the actual existence of a sustainable pattern of sales. This sort of pattern inspires confidence, and confidence inspires contracts and contracts allow my children to eat fish fry on Fridays and order lemonade.
What happens in the absence of comparable sales is a stalemate. Buyers are unwilling to act without a comfortable level of similar sales in the books, and sellers are unwilling to accept that low volume means what it means- that prices are too high. When you add some comparable sales to the mix you add both confidence for buyers and acceptance for sellers, and in that a market can be made. These six comparable sales might not be everything, but they are certainly something.
As the summer moves on, there will likely be a lull in activity. Inventory has not been coming to market with any regularity, and by the time summer is in full swing later this month (mine has been in full swing since that important Friday in May) we'll likely have a bit of a swoon. If this doesn't happen, that will be tremendous. If it does, now we expect it. By the end of this year, as long as the Mayans are wrong, we should be able to count 2012 as a remarkable year for the lakefront condo market. For sellers this means there is hope, and for buyers this means that for every sale there are two sellers willing to negotiate their socks off.
Come see me this weekend at 521 Wilmette in Williams Bay from 10-12:30 pm Saturday, and then at the South Shore Club from 1-3 pm. Follow the little blue signs until you see a chubby realtor with large hair.