Geneva Lakes Area Real Estate Market 2023-2024 Review and Beyond

Dated: December 19 2023

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By Jade Goodhue

Welcome to the vibrant world of Lake Geneva's residential real estate market where you're bound to encounter a myriad of complexities that can either be stumbling blocks or stepping stones, depending on your knowledge and approach. In this comprehensive review, we're diving deep into the heart of the Geneva Lakes area, Walworth County, Kenosha County, and Racine real estate scene, unearthing the hidden dynamics and trends that shape this bustling market. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or simply a real estate enthusiast, our insights will enlighten, educate, and entertain you, as we explore the nuanced interplay of the 4 main factors driving the local property scene: economy, equity appreciation, the mortgage industry, and finally the granular regional supply vs demand indicators.

Economy

Where is Our Economy Strong?

Unlike during the housing crisis when the mortgage industry was driving supply and demand, the economy is now in the driver's seat.

 

The 30-year mortgage rate dipped to 6.95% from its October peak of 7.79% following the Fed’s announcement to hold the federal funds rate steady at 5.5% for three consecutive policy meetings. Their decision is a comforting reprieve after reaching its highest level since 2000. Officials announced that they project they would lower the federal fund rates to around 4.6% by the end of 2024. Investors in the interest-rate futures markets expect them to start as early as next spring of 2024.







This is thanks in part to Inflation dropping dramatically to 3.1% as compared to 2021 and 2022. 

 

Moreover, employers also added a seasonally adjusted 199,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported in December, which is slower than earlier in the year but consistent with pre-pandemic gains. Following the jobs report, all three major stock indexes closed at their highest level of the year on Friday. 

 

And there are reasons to believe job growth can continue into 2024:

  • A half-million more Americans entered the labor force in November and many who were looking found jobs, according to a survey of households. 

  • On a monthly basis, wage growth picked up in November. 

  • Average hourly earnings advanced 4% from a year earlier, a good raise for workers but a figure consistent with a continuing slowdown in inflation.

What are the Economic Weak Points?

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, spending, as measured by personal consumption expenditures (PCE), continues to reach all-time highs as has credit card debt which set a new record, surpassing $1 trillion. Credit card balances have risen for five consecutive quarters, increasing at some of the largest rates in 20 years. 

Because of this, Fannie Mae thinks GDP will decline 0.4% on a Q4/Q4 basis in 2024, although the negative figure is expected to result from the timing of the year-end report in the fourth quarter. It’s not indicative of a ‘‘deeper economic downturn.’’ 



Fortunately, at least for now, delinquencies on credit card debt have remained stable, as have delinquency rates on all forms of consumer debt. But this could certainly change if the labor market or other economic drivers go south. 

 

Lower rates will entice buyers, and a strong labor market means that people will not only be able to pay their mortgages, they will also be more able to obtain them. All are strong indicators in terms of demand. Rising delinquency rates  could lead to even tighter standards, but also could encourage rates to lower even more. However, high debt and rising delinquencies lead to lower spending which could depress our GDP pushing us into a recession. 

 

The good news in Fannie Mae’s forecast is that the recession, if it does happen, will be very mild and won’t last into 2025, when the economy is expected to rebound, with a projected GDP of 1.6% for the year as a whole. Moreover, if this is a recession, this will further motivate the Feds to lower the federal fund rate even more.

How Strong is the Real Estate Market in Terms of Equity?

While equity doesn’t drive the real estate market per se, it’s a gauge of the overall health and strength of the market and its ability to weather any storm.

 

First, let’s talk about Loan-to-Value (LTV). But what is LTV?


LTV is a straightforward way to measure a real estate loan’s size against the value of the financed property. Lenders consider it one of the accurate ways to assess the risk that individual loans present.

What Does LTV Tell You?

Lenders use LTV ratios as a measure of the risk that different loans present. Higher LTVs are considered riskier than lower LTVs for a couple of reasons. It also shows us the distribution of equity!

What is the LTV spread of mortgages across the U.S. between Q2 and Q3?

The graph below shows the home equity distribution across multiple LTV segments, and as you can see, the majority of them have an LTV ratio of 80% or less. A typical conventional residential loan is at 80%, so no red flags here!





Tappable Equity Across the Nation Has Doubled Since the Housing Bubble!

What is equity? Equity is the difference between what you owe on a home and what it is worth. It’s also your key to being able to weather a downturn. 


What is tappable equity? This is the amount of equity that can be withdrawn while still maintaining an LTV ratio of 80% or lower. As you can see, as a nation this number has doubled from approximately $5 Trillion to $10 Trillion since the housing bubble.

What’s the Average Equity Gain by State Year-to-Date?



As you can see in Wisconsin, we’ve gained an average equity of $30K year to date in Q3 of this year. 

Will Home Prices Continue this Growth?


According to Fannie Mae, home prices will continue to grow modestly in 2024, and will continue to appreciate in the years to come.

Strong equity means that people on average will be able to safely weather a recession if we do see one. More so, this could drive demand in terms of the purchase of second homes, or supply as people sell their first or second homes to buy a new one. 

Mortgage Industry - Is There Another Residential Foreclosure Crisis on the Horizon?

The mortgage industry was one of the main culprits during the 2008 housing crisis, but right now it’s a shiny pillar of strength even though many lenders are struggling to get business. Negative equity, or underwater mortgages, across the country are at all-time lows.




Here in Wisconsin, the share of negative equity by state is 2.6% which is still low all things considered.




Where is the Most Likely Danger Zone in Terms of Residential Mortgages?

 

The real weak point will be a combination of affordability and the long-term impact of inflation. Interest rates aren’t necessarily the only culprit, rather it’s affordability. As you can see, we’re at all-time highs in terms of the median price of homes nationwide.




According to Redfin, before the Fed started raising rates, a person with a monthly housing budget of $2,000 could have bought a home valued at more than $400,000. Today, that same buyer would need to find a home valued at $295,000 or less.




Here’s where those two issues collide to create a potential danger zone: The gold standard for lenders in terms of payment-to-income ratios is at 30%. As you can see from the graph below, that ratio on average is at 40%. The slightest financial shock could send these homeowners into the delinquency danger zone.





On the whole, the mortgage industry is strong, so don’t expect a wave of foreclosures anytime soon. The caveat will be those households with more than 40% payment-to-income ratio who have very little equity. 

How’s the Real Estate Market In and Around the Geneva Lakes and Walworth County Area?

 

Supply and demand may not seem sexy, but they’re the basic nuts and bolts drivers of real estate market prices and the overall real estate cycle.

Demand

The lower the Days on Market (DOM), the stronger the demand, and vice versa, the higher the DOM the weaker the demand. Seasonality has set in and demand has dropped. This number will likely shoot up next month to between 70-80 as it did last year.


Supply

We had 4 months straight of declining inventory, a curious spike, but right back into a decline. This number will likely be low again as people are less likely to sell their homes in winter. Moreover, new construction is still low.

 

We’re not going to see much supply from new construction anytime soon either in Walworth or Kenosha County. The table below shows the year-to-date single-family housing permits from the Wisconsin Builder’s Association. Walworth County is only up about 9% from last year, and Kenosha is down by 51%, however, Racine County is strong with an increase of almost 50%.

 

County

2022 Year-To-Date

2023 Year-To-Date

2022-2023 % YTD change

Walworth

233

255

9.40%

Kenosha

214

104

-51.40%

Racine

136

201

47.80%

 

The lack of supply is going to continue to drive up prices, which you can see in the median prices of single-family homes in November by county per the Metro MLS:

 

County

Median Price

Change YTD

Walworth

$340,000

4.60%

Kenosha

$270,000

4.70%

Racine

$250,000

4.40%

 

Sales to List Ratio

As you can see, this is declining, meaning homes are selling on average for less than what they are listed for. This will decline in favor of buyers due to normal seasonality and high-interest rates. This may go down to around 90% which isn’t uncommon for this time of the year. 




Bottom Line

What does all this mean?

 

  • Low demand and low supply means real estate this winter will feel more like a balanced market than ever, where buyers and sellers have about equal vantage. 

  • Home sale prices will likely soften.

  • Buyers and sellers will really have to work together to make deals come together. This is contrary to the mentality we’ve had since the start of the pandemic which is where good Realtors, like all of us at Legendary, really shine. 

 

Once demand starts trickling back as the weather warms up, and especially when rates come down, we’ll see this trend change. Thus, 2024 in the Geneva Lakes area and SE Wisconsin has a hopeful outlook with more rising equity and lower interest rates. 

Remember, success in this market isn't just about understanding the current trends; it's about anticipating future shifts, adapting to changing demands, and keeping your finger on the pulse of the local community. Whether you're planning to buy, sell, or simply appreciate the intricacies of this dynamic market, armed with the knowledge and insights from this guide, you're now better equipped to navigate the waters of Lake Geneva's residential real estate with confidence and finesse. Stay curious, stay informed, and let your real estate journey in Lake Geneva be as rewarding as the destination itself!

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Chris Devincentis & Jade Goodhue

Jade and Chris co-founded Legendary Real Estates Services during the start of the 2020 pandemic. With Chris’s background as a real estate agent and broker since 1990, and Jade’s background....

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