Geneva Lakefront Realty
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  • I'm David Curry, and I sell real estate for Geneva Lakefront Realty in Williams Bay. I write this commentary to help educate and entertain the Lake Geneva home buyer and seller, offering solid statistical review interjected with anecdotes of lake life. I write to extol the virtues of the Lake Geneva vacation home, and I have a personal, deep rooted desire to share my experiences and insight with you and ultimately dominate the activity in the Lake Geneva vacation home market. With more than $37MM in 2014 YTD sales and over $129MM in sales since the start of 2010, that goal is easily within reach.

    As an important aside, that sales volume makes me the #1 dollar volume agent for Walworth County for 2014. That's pretty cool. I suppose that makes me the Top Agent in Lake Geneva, because there's really no other way to define top. As another important aside, this blog is not overwhelmingly positive nor unbearably negative. It is, instead, an accurate representation of this market and the business of real estate. If a sale is too high, I'll call it too high. If a sale is a tremendous value, I'll call it one. This labeling hurts some feelings over time, but in any other business this labeling is simply called truth.

    I will always attempt to back up my opinions with solid statistics and historical perspective. Visiting this site early and often is hands down the best way to learn about this market. Period. Honestly. My full disclosure statement is available here.

  • I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

    ― L.M. Montgomery

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Recent Posts



Vacation Home Search


Lake Geneva Rental Policy

May 19, 2011 by David

I have many impressions of Door County. I've visited there several times. Some of those times have been on purpose. In fact, I plan on taking my new-ish fishing boat up there this fall to work on snagging, er, catching some Salmon. Aside from the fall fishing, Door County seems to be a perfect fit for those who love to eat pancakes with lingonberries for breakfast. Pancakes with lingonberries for lunch. And don't forget about pancakes with lingonberries and/or cherries for dinner. Personally, I also believe that anyone should be leery of a geographic region who retains the dark name bestowed upon it by early explorers, Death's Door. But aside from the morbid name and throngs of bike riding Brewers fans, and heaps and heaps of lingonberries, Door County does have one thing on Lake Geneva, many, many more rentals.

And rental signs too. Between the bike riders with their lingonberry stained lips and penchant for eating tasteless, boiled, bone-in whitefish with raw potatoes, Door County also loves the rental sign. Lake Geneva is a vacation destination. This is the first thing, and probably the last thing, that you need to know about our market. These are vacation homes for vacation loving persons of all shapes and sizes, and we're awfully good at providing the sort of vacation that our savvy ancestors have been craving since the mid 1800s. As a vacation destination, Lake Geneva will have its fair share of rentals. This is good for the market, good for the local economy, and good for those who choose to cram a summertime of fun into one whirlwind week.

I'm working with a buyer who is currently looking for a vacation home at Lake Geneva. The buyer is unique in that while the goal is for a personal retreat, there are intentions of also renting this potential vacation home. The concept is simple and widely embraced from Door County to the Mexican Riviera. Buy a vacation home, or condo, and rent it when you're not there. The property comes close to paying for itself, and you get to use it when you wish. It is, on the very surface, a win win. The problem with achieving such an ideal financial arrangement is that Lake Geneva doesn't really favor the short term rental as much as other destinations might.

It's not that Lake Geneva isn't ripe with vacation rentals, it is. It's just that most of our condominiums prohibit rentals shorter than six or twelve months, while others ban them all together (Fontana Shores). Single family homes are subject to restrictions as well. Walworth County adopted a 30 day minimum rental term a few years ago- a policy that cleaned up a preponderance of black and orange "For Rent" signs, but severely impacted those owners who owned for the sole purpose of generating short term rental income. Many vacation seekers can find a week to take a vacation. Many fewer can take a month. The rental restrictions were not aimed at helping owners afford properties that might otherwise be a stretch, they were put in place to effectively eliminate those very rentals.

It's not that Lake Geneva doesn't like rentals, it's just that it doesn't like short term rentals. While some condominiums will allow a minimum 30 day rental, the likelihood of renting for a 30 day tenure is not high. The market is for weekly and weekend rentals, and that's how owners can effectively offset ownership expenses if they so desire. Thankfully, there are associations in Lake Geneva that were excluded from the Walworth County 30 day minimum rental period. Abbey Spring and Geneva National are chief among this group, and provide ample options for anyone looking to purchase a vacation home and make the purchase easier through sporadic weekly rentals. A townhouse at Geneva National might rent for $1200 per week, but it won't as easily rent for $4800 per month. The weekly rental is where the income is at, and if you're angling towards that potential income, best cast your line in Abbey Springs or Geneva National. Like that? Angling, casting....

If you've been thinking about a Lake Geneva vacation home, but your thinking and justifying are both predicated on the ability to rent the unit or house out, your best bet will be one of these two large resort style associations. Counting on 30 day rentals for single family homes and regular condominiums just isn't wise in our market. For the rest of our market, filled with those who prefer to buy to use and not buy to rent, the 30 day minimums represent a welcome limitation on the possible rambunctiousness of the activities in your neighbors homes. If renting is a requirement for your purchase and Geneva National and Abbey Springs don't fit your eye, and you also just so happen love the Brewers and lingonberries, perhaps Death's Door will be more to your liking.

Consult your attorney or Realtor for specific rental limitations on any property you are considering.

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May 19, 2011, 11:22:30 Mark Thomas wrote:

Mr Curry,
You have forgot one major point. Deaths Door does not have the large resorts like we do. There are plenty of hotel rooms etc in this area, no one goes with out a bed. These resorts are hurting, and supply many of the areas jobs. Now rental homes would be good for your real estate biz I am sure, but not for the many of us resort workers. Rental homes are mostly ma & pa type biz, creating no jobs and lowering the room taxes paid ( good luck inforcing that) .... but I guess you would just start to offer the service of "running" these rentals for them. Good for Keefe, not for the people of Lake Geneva.

May 20, 2011, 06:52:24 David wrote:

Thanks for your comment Mark, however, I don't think I fully understand your point. You're saying that Lake Geneva bans short terms rentals in an attempt to bolster the resort business here? Or is it that I should want short term rentals so that I can generate revenue by handling the leases? Thanks for reading, David

May 20, 2011, 07:13:29 Cedar Point Park owner wrote:

It is indeed interesting to read your perspective on rentals and one that as a homeowner fully support the restrictions on short term rentals as i want to know who is next door or across the way from my cottage. Over the years we have seen some shenanigans to skirt the 30 day rule with shorter term weekly subleases but know that property owners around said properties do not tolerate those games. I for one like to know who is using our parks and piers and know that fellow property owners/association members will have the same respect for such while renters are seemingly oblivious. I for one am grateful that Williams Bay enforces the rental policies with diligence.

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