In character, swimming pools, and footings, depth is important. Shallow footings lend an advantage to structural problems, shallow pools keep neurosurgeons in business, and with shallow character we'd all steal candy bars whenever we walked into a convenience store. Shallow lakes bother me too, but you already knew that. Depth over a certain measurement is superfluous, in the way that Lake Tahoe likes to brag about its 1600' depth. Big deal. If the lake were 800' deep it would be just as impressive, to go all the way to double that is just piling on. But that depth is good, as is the other depths that we've mentioned. Depth, no matter what, is a good thing.
But depth can be overshadowed at times, pushed aside by width or polish, and when that happens it's not only a shame it's a mistake. The depth we need today is in a lakefront estate, for without depth we don't have a true estate. It's not width entirely, or finishes only, it's the combination of width and depth that makes a lakefront property suitable of the distinction that labels it an estate rather than just a very nice house. If we're searching for lakefront value, and we're searching for an estate, we must search at once for depth and width. And if we're really on the hunt for value, we have to look for these things only and then if we have time we'll look at who made the kitchen faucet.
Over the last ten years there have been just 11 open market lakefront sales close over $4MM on Geneva Lake. Without boring you as to the measurements of 11 properties and their respective depths, I'll tell you just this- of those sales just one property was less than an acre in size. That contract was written in the fall of 2006, a move that, from the comfort of 2012, we'll tenderly call an absolute disaster. The other properties measured mostly 2-4 acres and some of the loftier prices were assigned to properties in excess of 5 acres. Without researching the depths of these properties, some quick math can tell us that any property on the lake that is two acres or more will feature somewhere between 100 and 160' of frontage, and will then be a rectangle with the skinny end on the water and the resulting acreage spread out over magnificent, delicious, estate enabling depth.
To buy a lakefront home with just a hundred, or two hundred or even three hundred feet of depth is to buy a fine lakefront home, but it isn't to buy an estate. Basswood. We'll all agree that the Basswood property that just sold last month was an estate. So what makes Basswood a street that can so easily host these estates? It isn't the width, though suitable width is important. It's the depth. Basswood estates measure mostly between 550 and 700 feet in depth, and this is what creates an estate.
Now that we have that decided, we should check out Folly Lane. The listing two doors to the West of my newest lakefront listing is under contract. The asking price is $7.9MM. The asking price of my lakefront on Folly Lane is $2.695MM. I have width- 101' of it. I have beautiful frontage, level at the shoreline with just a slight rise to the home- a rise that most builders would appreciate for their lakeside walk out lower level- and I have over 680' of delicious, deciduous depth.
We know that Snake Road hosts the highest concentration of large lakefront estates on Geneva. Why else would billionaires Wrigley, Ryan, and Driehaus, end up on this twisting wooded lane? In addition to missing depth, one of the key features of a property that holds it back from estate status and appreciation as such is the lack of similar neighborhood properties. If you're looking to sell for $4-$6MM, you better have similarly priced properties flanking yours. Without proven value in your target range you're again downgraded from estate to nice lakefront home. A nice lakefront is fine and dandy, but if estate dollars are what we're after then we must have estate accoutrements to justify that investment.
I don't want you to think that my new Folly Lane listing is just a piece of dirt, because it isn't. The home here is quite capable, with seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, and room indeed for the entire family. The home is uniquely positioned to the lakeside of the neighboring homes, lending a wide viewing angle to the South yes, but also to the East and West where more lake comes into view. While the home is suitable for many seasons of use in much the same way that the current owners have used it over the past 14 years, there is no denying that our true value is in this majestic piece of lakefront. To say that this is the finest piece of lakefront on the market priced under $3.8MM is not to commit any hyperbolic sin.
And so with all of that we come to this: If an estate setting is what you're after, there is little need to look further. Let me show you Folly Lane. You could have bought the home two doors down for $7.9MM, or you could come buy my lakefront for $5.2MM less and find a way to build a modest little cottage for that $5MM that you've saved. There is value here, and the first buyer who finds his or her way down Snake and onto Folly and finally onto this big white pier will capture one of the best deals the lake will yield in 2012.