A full-time broker since 1989, Keefe Real Estate’s Mick Balestrieri has marketed lakefront, golf course and recreational properties throughout Wisconsin.
A lifelong resident of the Geneva Lakes area, Balestrieri took time away from his busy schedule to share his thoughts on the current local real estate market and what it takes to be successful in it.
In this question-and-answer session, Balestrieri — whom Keefe has dubbed a Geneva Lakes lakefront specialist — breaks down what many first-time home buyers and sellers may find confusing.
Some of his responses may be surprising.
Editor’s note: Portions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Welcome Home: What’s hot right now in the current local real estate market? Which types of properties are going fast?
Mick Balestrieri: Of the 1,700 homes, condos and duplexes sold in the first 10 months of 2018 in Walworth County, over 35 percent — 604 residences — were priced between $100,000 and $200,000, with an average price of $152,876, list price to sell price ratio of 97 percent, measured 1,407 square feet in size, and on the market only 78 days.
The next popular price point at 24.5 percent — 419 homes — were priced between $200,000 and $300,000, with an average price of $241,927, list price to sell price ratio of 97 percent, 1,900 square feet in size, and lasted on the market 77 days.
Thus 60 percent of the entire housing market sold for between $100,000 and $300,000 and logged only 78 days on the market.
Properties with some of the quickest times on the market were surprisingly our luxury lakefront market in the $1- to $2-million price where.
We logged 32 homes, year to date, at an average price of $1,373,795, list price to sell price ratio of 94 percent and lasted a scant 68 days on the market.
These homes averaged 4,269 square feet of fabulous finishes, selling at an average of $410 per square foot.
WH: What are the most common questions you receive from first-time buyers who are new to the area?
MB: Many of the buyers we encounter at our downtown Lake Geneva Main Street office are new to the area, but are lured to the area by Lake Geneva’s reputation for grand resorts and the lake-country lifestyle.
Many are pre-retirement baby boomers fleeing Illinois high taxes.
They are relocating out of the city to a quieter, simpler, and more affordable life in an area known for sports and entertainment but reasonably close to their adult children and grandchildren in Chicago, Rockford or Milwaukee.
Their largest concerns are residential pricing, real estate taxes, safety/crime, walkability to shopping, road maintenance/plowing, and lastly, schools.
WH: What’s the one thing sellers seem to overlook that no one really talks about?
MB: Marketing properties in today’s tech-heavy environment where real estate portals, social media sites and TV reality shows offer an endless stream of real estate listings, information, and do-it-yourself advice, has raised the bar for everyone involved.
More than ever, a seller’s home needs to be looking its finest since they are in competition with a growing number of updated, finely staged and furnished homes. Sellers often overlook the need to contact their trusted realtor well in advance of listing to conduct a walk thru of the property and develop a plan to stage, repair and maintain their home. It is also a good time to service all mechanicals and update your survey.
If the property is a condominium, now is the time to collect current copies of all condo disclosures, budgets, covenants and a list of board members’ contact info. Once the home is staged your realtor will need ample lead time to schedule professional photos, floorplans, and drone videos.
Furthermore, if you are considering a winter or early spring listing it is best you plan well ahead and take seasonal exterior “green” photos, when the property is looking its best.
WH: What do you see happening in local real estate in the next two years? Will the trends continue?
MB: The influx of Illinois residents fleeing high real estate taxes, especially retiree’s that are free to make a lifestyle change, will continue until systemic changes occur south of the border.
That will fuel the rise of developments like Symphony Bay on Lake Geneva’s southeast side, that focus on affordable living in a single family home or duplex villa for persons age 55-plus seeking an active lifestyle with the convenience of having your lawn mowed and snow plowed just an hour plus away to their children and grandchildren in the Chicago/Milwaukee suburbs. With prices starting at $239,900 for a two-bedroom, two-bath, two-car villa, taxes less than half of what they are currently paying, and homeowners association fees over $200 a month, it’s no wonder nearly half of the first phase of 40 units is already under contract with a total of 427 units to be built.
Continual development on the I-94 corridor in Kenosha County with job creation at Amazon, U-Line, and now FoxConn will add further growth and demand to our resort laden rural areas for the unforeseeable future.
If we are not careful, we will end up just like the message on the Eagles track “The Last Paradise” — “You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye.”