With Vacation Homes, Expect Time on Market to be Longer
Every so often, a prospective buyer points to the "Days on Market" number on the MLS data sheet and asks, "why has this property been on the market for such a long time?" I believe that many of these would-be buyers are looking for another way to ask, "what's wrong with this house?"
But market times can be much longer in a vacation home/recreational area, particularly when tourist activity is unquestionably seasonal. With few exceptions, in our Apostle Islands real estate market (in northwest Wisconsin), our tourist season is six months long, with the remaining winter months being far less populated.
By mid-November, tourist traffic to and from Bayfield, Wisconsin and Madeline Island slows dramatically. We still get visits during late autumn by a few die-hard vacation home shoppers looking for an "end-of-the-season" bargain. But weather is the deciding factor in determining when showings cease (and when they resume in late spring).
When we communicate with Madeline Island buyers in midwinter and try to set up a showing, many of those buyers reply with, "call me when the ice road goes out and the ferry starts running again". During times when the windsled is the only available option to travel between Bayfield and LaPointe, a large percentage of Madeline Island visitors choose to opt out of the bumpy, noisy ride across the ice.
Most of Madeline Island's local residents keep a car on both sides of the two-plus miles of icy Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay during winter. Tourists don't have that option. The logistics of getting a car over to the Island for a midwinter showing can be daunting. And we have no taxi service or car rental service on the Island either.
"Days on Market" statistics on MLS are perceived by most home buyers as a measure of buyer interest and also an indicator of possible overpricing. But when such a statistic is skewed by an area's seasonal nature, as well as by weather and geography, it's no longer an accurate or useful measuring stick.
So our advice is, take "Days on Market" statistics with more than a grain of salt. Some of our best home sales, especially in the upper price brackets, have occurred after well over a year on the market.