When a person asks me how the market is doing, what they are really asking for is validation of their own burgeoning opinion that the market is getting better. These are leading questions. When someone says, "Hi Dave, your hair looks particularly bold today, how's the market doing?" What they really mean is, "Hi Dave, your hair looks extra stupid today, the market is doing better, right? Right? TELL ME IT'S DOING BETTER!" People everywhere want the market to be doing better. They're pleading with it to be doing better. They're practically demanding that it be better, and in turn demanding that their favorite Realtor tell them as much.
The problem with the national market is still the foreclosure rate. The rate is not in decline in many areas, rather, it is on the rise. Chicago? On the rise. I don't check the macro rate for Wisconsin or even for Walworth County, primarily because it matters very little to the market that I serve. I watch the Lake Geneva real estate market for foreclosures, but I admit to caring little about the market elsewhere. This might make me a jerk, or it might make me focused, or it likely leaves me as being a very focused jerk. Either way, until foreclosures ebb markets cannot improve with any significant or lasting momentum.
That said, the Lake Geneva vacation home market is a market that, on the surface, appears to be in motion. There are sales, seemingly plenty of them, and 2012 is shaping up to be the best year of my real estate life. So, how's the market? Assuming you're trying to lead me into honest commentary, I'll have to admit that it's basically the same. Not the same as 2010, or 2009, and certainly not the death trap that was 2008, but when I look at 2012 while standing in the middle of it I see a year that looks very much like 2011. Movement forward? Not necessarily. Prices still decline on certain properties, volume still rises in certain segments, and other individual markets suffer just as though it were indeed 2008 when the world was busy choking on a extra large dose of hope and change.
To claim that 2012 looks just like 2011 isn't to damn it to some unfortunate fate. Instead, it's to acknowledge that the markets still face potent headwinds, and that while trudging through a slow recovery sometimes treading water is a necessary exercise. But if we're to really understand where we're at this year we must contrast 2012 with 2011 and see if we can find some reason to believe things are, as most people insist, improving. A special note here- things are improving in the housing market at Lake Geneva in spite of the Federal Government, not because of it. That's an important distinction. Take away the uncertainty about pending tax increases and you'll see a market freed from its constraints.
Today is June 14th, so the date shall qualify as the end cap on our year to date figures. From January 1 through June 14th of 2011 there were 25 lake access sales, including 6 lakefront sales on Geneva. Not bad. YTD 2012 numbers find 20 total sales, with 6 of those being on the lake. That, at first blush, appears to be a decline, but only because it is. Where redemption lies in that statistic is when you consider there are 7 lake access and lakefront sales currently pending. Close all of those within the next 6 weeks and I'm guessing we surpass the 2011 numbers. I'm also banking on a solid fall market for the lakefront and lake access, as price capitulations become more common, especially inside of the aged inventory.
The lakefront condo market has experienced a bit of a resurgence, but you already know that if you've been paying attention. YTD 2012 we've had 5 lakefront condo closings, including one pending sale. YTD 2011 saw just 2 such sales, which means 2011 was an awful time to be a lakefront condo seller at Geneva. As I've written recently, a bump in sales in this category do not signal some triumphant return to desirability for the lakefront condo, but they do perhaps indicate that favorability is slowly returning to this maligned segment of our broader vacation home market.
Abbey Springs has had a decent year in spite of a recent slowdown. There have been 9 sales YTD, compared to just 7 sales YTD in 2011. An uptick, but a fairly meaningless improvement considering the MLS doesn't show a single unit pending sale at the moment. Geneva National is on the rebound this year, with 18 YTD sales including 3 more pending. 2011 YTD reflected just 17 sales, but again, the uptick is fairly modest and therefore unremarkable. There have been more private transactions in GN this year, and more vacant land sales 2012 YTD, but even so. As prices soften and the spread between list to sale grows, watch for volume to continue to creep up at Geneva National as 2012 soldiers on.
When you look at those four distinct markets, you can see mostly slight improvements from last year. This is a huge positive for our market but it does not represent some sort of sweeping wave of instantaneous improvement. I think some Realtors see the market in the throws of some violent recovery, and I'd provide a rebuttal to that opinion with nothing more than the numbers listed above. I won't give you annual price movement, because in a market this small the average sales prices mean little unless viewed over a multi-year format. Year over year price moves can be wildly skewed by one big fat sale or one skinny little sale, and as such those statistics cannot be trusted. The market at Lake Geneva is improving, but the pace is slow and steady. We know the turtle wins the race, it just doesn't look particularly sexy doing so.