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Lake Martin Builder Spotlight: Landmark Constr.

lake martin builder constructionLake Martin is bustling with developers, builders, sub contractors, and all types of people in the construction industry.  To shed some light on the life of one of the “good ones,” today we chat with Bradley Pemberton of Landmark Construction & Development, LLC:


1.  How do you get your sub contractors to show up on time?
 

I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.  Seriously, I think it has to do with a number of things. First you have to know what “on time” means – proper expectations. You have to know what their work schedule will be on each project, because it will be different depending on the sub and job location.  More importantly, I think if you’re honest, pay them quickly, and accept their bid without trying to beat them down, they will respect you more and work as hard and be as productive as they can.

2.  Where do you find sub contractors that will work on Lake Martin?

These days subs will come from all over to work on Lake Martin.  I like to deal with those whom I know best and already understand their schedules and quality of work. So I will first choose subs that I like to work with that are based closest to the area.  For me that means Wetumpka, Eclectic, and Montgomery.  However it is easy to find subs in Alexander City and Birmingham.

3.  You have built all over Alabama.  What is different about building around Lake Martin?

I like several things that have been different.  I like that Tallapoosa County issues Lake Martin builder contractorbuilding permits for all projects outside of the city limits. I think this helps legitimize the contractors and maintains a level of quality for all builders.  I have enjoyed working on lots with a little change in elevation.  It’s a challenge but a lot more exciting.  You know, Montgomery is not known for its beautiful mountain views; it’s pretty flat.

4.  How do you build a spec house that is attractive to many people yet not so “cookie cutter” or clone looking?

I think you have to really concentrate on the details and the exterior.  I think custom details that either come from ideas from previous custom homes or details specific to that house that present themselves as an opportunity to make a mark, are what you have to look for.  I think you have to do the same thing either in exterior details like the eave, you know, around the roof, or on the site with landscaping or railing details. The look these days at Lake Martin is exposed natural wood, tongue and groove, stone work, with the house done in earth tone type colors.  I like a lot of stone both inside and out, cedar beams, tongue and groove ceilings, that type thing.

5.  What question did I not ask that you thought I would have asked?

I thought you would ask what I like most about construction.  And the answer is that I love to solve problems and work out the small, (seemingly) inconsequential details.  More than that, I like to see something created from a combination of materials and people’s God given abilities.  It is so fun to ride by a project and be able to proudly say “I built that.”

 

 

Thanks, Bradley, for your time.  We wish you continued success in the future.  If you would like to know how Bradley can answer your Lake Martin construction questions, call him at (334)356–2259 or contact him at Landmark Construction and Development, LLC’s home page by clicking here.

Hey Lake Martin Fishermen – Live Bait For Sale!

Kowaliga live bait and tackle - croppedLake Martin live bait fishermen have a new spot to buy bait.  Kowaliga Live Bait And Tackle is open for business.  The new store on Kowaliga Road (aka Highway 63) is south of Kowaliga Bridge.  In fact, it’s just south of my office, a tad north of the intersection with Highway 229.

The other day while driving to my office, I saw their sign, and I was so surprised that I chuckled.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I can’t remember the last time a new bait shop opened on Lake Martin.

Then, I was surprised that I was surprised.  Why not a new live bait shop?  Lake Martin has 700 miles of shoreline spread over 40,000 acres, and great fishing.  So why isn’t the live bait industry thriving right now?

When I was growing up on Lake Martin, if you wanted to fish, most of Lake Martin fishing real estatethe time you used bait.  You could stop by any old fillin station and at the very least they would sell crickets and worms.  It was commonplace.  In these days of clean, sparkly, mega-marts that sell hamburgers, haircuts, sub sandwiches, and also gas, the live bait selection has suffered.  You really have to hunt around to find it.  And even then, it’s hard to find the OSHA-defying oily tubs packed with minnows, and the stench, activity, and din of a room full of crickets.  To me, surviving a trip to the bait shop was half the fun of fishing.

Lake Martin is changing.  Is it just me, or are there really fewer live bait fishermen out there today?  The fish are still there.  Are they only being pursued by the plastic worm wielders and buzz bait boys?  Or are the fishermen being replaced by boaters?  I don’t fish as much as I used to; work is my excuse.  I’m looking forward to fishing a lot more this summer with my sons.

Lake Martin real estate cricketIncidentally, isn’t it also a sign of the times that the live bait guy has protected his business by forming an LLC?  Really – an actual legal entity was formed for the purposes, I assume, of “sellin crickets, worms, & minners.”  I applaud Kowaliga Live Bait And Tackle, and wish them the best of luck.  The next time my boys are at the cabin, our first trip will be to this new live bait guy.

If you have a tip on where else to find good bait – leave a comment / reply to this post and let us all know where to go…

Lake Martin Real Estate Spotlight: The Ridge

Lake Martin The Ridge LogoRussell Lands has developed neighborhoods on Lake Martin for over thirty years, but its newest, The Ridge, is vastly different from any one it has done before.

If you would like to see waterfront homes and lots for sale right now in The Ridge area, CLICK HERE to go to my Ridge Neighborhood page. I have a report that shows every waterfront home and lot for sale – by all agents, all brokerages, on Lake Martin. It pulls from the Lake Martin MLS so it will be current no matter when you visit the page.

Russell Lands has gated communities like Willow Point, and the Ridge is near to its other developments of Windermere, Windermere West, and Windover.  But The Ridge is a totally new animal.  Here are 5 Things That Make The Ridge Different:

1.  Heavy emphasis on selling through approved builders – Russell Lands started this Lake Martin trend a few years ago with Phase I of The Ridge, and continues it with Phase III.  They sell a certain number of lots to “approved” builders, who build spec houses and then turn around and sell them for the builders.  In prior developments, they sold almost 100% to the end homeowner.  The use of approved builders gives them much greater control over the quality of the homes.  They also get a lot of design consistency on the look of the homes by also having “approved” architects.  I think this also drives up the price so that their initial offering lot price to homeowners is pretty high.  As far as I can figure there is no real “pre-construction” pricing.

2.  The Ridge Marina – Russell Lands owns plenty of marinas around Lake Martin, but The Ridge Marina is the only one that is inside the gates of one of their developments.  It is a safe bet to say that The Ridge Marina is one of the largest marinas Ridge marina stack storage - smallon the lake.  The marina is close to Chimney Rock by water.  They sell gas, they have a huge line of boats that they sell, and also sell boating and skiing accessories.  Another big part of their business is boat storage.  You can rent a wet slip (a parking spot at a dock), but they are more expensive and rare than dry storage.  Dry storage is where they stack your boat on a huge rack inside their warehouse.  When you are ready to go, they come pick it off the rack with a forklift and put it in the water.  No matter how many times I see that it still makes me nervous.  They are adding on to the dry storage.  A company official was quoted as saying the The Ridge Marina will have the “biggest dry storage east of the Mississippi.”  That’s big, friends.

Lake Martin The Ridge Club3. The Ridge Club – Russell Lands is currently building a 9,000 square foot clubhouse called The Ridge Club.  While Willow Point has its Golf and Country Club, Willow Point residents are not necessarily members of the club, and vice versa.  In the Ridge, however, part of the homeowner association dues pays for membership to The Ridge Club.  Planned amenities include swimming pools, tennis courts, athletic fields, children’s play center, workout / cardio center, and a bar and grill.  From what I hear they have commercial lots set aside for possible restaurants, etc.  See the construction progress photos on the left.  It looks like it will be as nice as promised.

4.  Off water activities- Usually, in Lake Martin new construction developments, merely token emphasis is placed on off-water lots and properties.  At The Ridge, Russell Lands attempts to offer something to do off of the water, and (I assume) by association, raise Ridge club drawing - smallthe value of off-water residential lots.  They have designed sidewalks all through the Ridge, which is very different for the lake.  They also have cut in extensive walking trails through the woods around The Ridge.  I hear that the ultimate plan is to be able to walk, run, or bike on trails from The Ridge to Willow Point.  Look at a Lake Martin map to appreciate how huge of an area that is.  They also have plans for a town center located on highway 63, close to Windermere Road, that will have kitschy shops, a high end grocery store, and a gourmet restaurant.  (I will post more news as they confirm the details.)

5.  Marketing and Events – Russell Lands has promoted The Ridge like no other Lake Martin development.  If you haven’t received at least 3 mailers on it, you should have your feelings hurt, because they sent them to everyone in the area that pays taxes and has a pulse.  They also have been all over the home design type magazines.  Their homes have had multiple spotlights in Southern Living Magazine, and had tons of other regional media attention and write ups.  They also have really played up the Spring and Summer Tour of Homes.  This spring they have even tied the events in with a boat show at The Ridge Marina.  I have to hand it to them, it works. In the past ten years Lake Martin has gone from a regional treasure to getting attention on a national level.  This was due in large part to Russell Lands’ tirele$$ promotions.

If you wonder how long this will last, check the map.  They are selling Phase III now, with (I guess) a couple more phases left up the sleeve for The Ridge.  Then it’s on to the next big thing.  Does anyone have a guess on where the next one will be?  Comment below!

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Lake Martin Home Prices Not Affected By Sales Drop?

Lake Martin Alabama real estate Bull and bear argueRest easy.  Alabama home sales have dropped, but not on Lake Martin.  Or should you be alarmed that the average sales price of a home in Lake Martin plummeted 15% in one month?  Which is it?

On March 12, 2007, Patrick McCreless wrote an article in the Alex City Outlook entitled, “Home sales still strong on Lake Martin.”  The information he quoted was from the Alabama Real Estate Research and Education Center, which (I assume) got its data from our Lake Martin Area Multiple Listings Service.  While I do not disagree with any of the data in the article, I do think it presents an interesting look at analyzing statistics of our market.

Two main stats stuck out to me:

1.     Statewide, Alabama saw the number of homes sold drop 20.4% from December 06 to January 07.  The Lake Martin Area increased its number sold to 29 from 25 in December, for a gain of 16%.  Hence the analysis that we were unaffected by the State’s slump.  I agree.

2.     At the end of the article, it sneaks in that the Lake Martin Area’s average home sales price dropped in January to $181,310 from $213,716 in December.  Again, agreed.  But – couldn’t the headline easily have been “Lake Martin Home Prices Drop 15% in One Month?”

This same article could be used both by doomsdayers to prove evidence of a dreaded “bubble” in our market and by bullish folk saying that the market is still hot.  The seeming contradiction in interpreting the data is a classic case of trying to draw too many conclusions from too small a sample.  Any professor of Statistics will tell you that the smaller the sample, the greater margin of error.  In other words, if you poll the five people you play poker with on the question of who will be the next President, the chances of them being wrong are a lot bigger than if you selected five million registered voters, randomly distributed across geographic, economic, and political lines.

The point is – be careful when you try to interpret the data of a market like Lake Martin.  We have a broad mixture of Lake Martin Real estate Bulls and bears coexisttypes of properties – on / off the water, single / multi family, modern / rural, etc. – that are spread across a relatively small number of listings.  One big sale here or there can really affect the numbers, so watch out.  Try to gather as much information as you can.  Talk to many people in the business.  Are you confused about what your property is worth, or what you should pay for a place on the Lake?  I am always willing to give my honest two cents and would be glad to help! The only way I know to do it to tell it like I see it.  See the “comments” section on this post for my email to Patrick McCreless where I provide an opinion on the contradictory stats.

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Lake Martin A Top 12 US Vacation Home Market

lake martin real estate award wall street journalThe Lake Martin real estate market was honored again on November 9, 2006, by the Wall Street Journal’s RealEstateJournal.com, by being named a Top 12 Vacation Home market in the United States.

Regional and even national accolades are becoming common for Lake Martin.  In other words, the news is getting out.  I usually don’t pay much attention to such press, but this one really got my attention.  Not that I don’t agree, I honestly believe we have a national treasure in our backyard.  I can’t understand why anybody wouldn’t want a place on Lake Martin.  I guess what really got my attention was the source: THE Wall Street Journal – the Beacon of Capitalism, the paper divinely scribed by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand itself.  I love it.  I could read it with my hair on fire, as they say.   So when they honored the lake – I noticed – and so did millions of other readers.

Economists and writers can study and parse data all they want, but they are merely confirming what we all know to be Nerdtrue.  That is, while Lake Martin real estate prices have certainly risen in the last five years, on a national level we are still a relative bargain.  And here’s a more important fact but you can’t graph it – Lake Martin is one heck of a beautiful place.  I grew up on the lake, and therefore have talked to a lot of people about their families’ experiences here.  Maybe I have only met the happy ones, but I have never met a single person that said “you know I really regret buying that place on Lake Martin.”  Plenty have said “man, the biggest mistake I made was selling (or letting mama / daddy sell) that lake place.”  Nobody ever quotes their Return On Asset or their Debt To Equity Ratio of their lake home.  They talk about memories, fun, water, boats, fish and sun.

If you don’t like to hear all of that stuff, I’ll return to the hard facts of the Journal article.  Sure, Lake Martin has beautiful water, great views, peaceful mornings, fun nights – a rich, memory making Petri dish.  So do a lot of places in the nation.  But what we do have – that most don’t – are low property prices relative to the rest of the country.  I know it sounds crazy to the folks who have watched the prices rise – but the Journal’s statisticians looked and found that the property prices in Dadeville, Alabama – one of the towns close to Lake Martin – had really low property prices for second homes relative to local income and other economic factors.  In other words, they found that chances are slim that we are experiencing a dreaded B-word in real estate prices. I agree with them.  I also agree that there are certain segments of the market that have a lot of supply or are overpriced or both.  But, when compared as a whole to the rest of the nation’s vacation markets, we’re still a bargain – and a memory maker to boot.

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Top 5 Shortcuts To Lake Martin

Lake Martin al Holding mapLooking for the fastest directions to Lake Martin? Or maybe a better way to get there from here? We all have our tried and true routes, but recent road work has opened up a few new ways to get to the fun faster. Also included are a few well worn trails, so take a look – maybe it will give you more time on the water!

  1. 1. From Montgomery / Atlanta to Blue Creek / Stillwaters / County Road 34 – Now the fastest way to get to the east side of Lake Martin is to take Interstate 85 to the Tuskegee exit (#32) and take Alabama Highway 49 North. This route is back in action since they have fixed the bridge over Sougahatchee Creek. It is windy and wicked but the best way to get to everything east of Chuck’s Marina. West of Chuck’s to Martin Dam, it’s a toss up between this way and taking AL highway 229 at the Tallassee exit.

2. From Birmingham to Parker Creek / Real Island – unless you are in the Oakachoy Slough (in which case take 280 into Alex City & Elkahatchee Road) – then the best way to get from Birmingham to this side of Lake Martin is to take highway 280 to Alabama Highway 9 South in Kellyton. From Highway 9, take either Coosa 20, Coosa 2, or Highway 259 to Coosa 24.

3. From Auburn – If you are heading to the south end of Lake Martin, take Shug Jordan Parkway to North Donahue to due west on Lee County 72, to west on Alabama Highway 50. If you are headed to the north (Alex City) end of the lake, take 280 west.

4. Highway 229 from Tallassee to Little Kowaliga – If you are heading on north 229 from Tallassee and are headed to Little Kowaliga, there’s no need to follow 229 to 63 and then go south to Elmore County 80. Take a left on Elmore County 357 aka Deer Track Road. Take a left on 407 (East Cotton Road). Continue on 407 as you cross Highway 63. 407 will T into Elmore County Road 80 at Mt. Hebron. That one will save you 10 minutes.

5. From Coosa 2 to Parker Island Road / Coosa 24 / The Needles Eye – I saved the best for last. For anyone lake martin Car in mudtrying to get from the Real Island / Parker Creek Marina area to the Needles Eye area, you know that getting around that slough takes forever. But – the shortcut is a dirt road that is on Coosa 2 about 1 mile west of where Elmore 55 intersects it. This road runs north and south between Coosa 2 and Coosa 24. It crosses the headwaters of Parker Creek, so it can be muddy. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the road, but … isn’t that the case with all of the best shortcuts?

Know another great shortcut or cut through? Let me hear about it! I am already compiling another list for my next post. Don’t worry, you’ll get the credit.

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When does the Water Level go down on Lake Martin?

Lake Martin Water LevelWhen does the water go down?  Does this house have water year round?  

I hear this a lot.  When people are looking for homes or a lot on Lake Martin, they soon learn that the lake’s water level fluctuates.  Depending on your preferences, this might affect where on the lake you choose to be.  If you are not aware of the lake level’s changes, it may affect how happy you are with your purchase.  If you want to be able to take a New Year’s Eve boat ride, you will be disappointed if you are high and dry with no water in the winter.  Or, maybe you prefer a quiet cove off of the main thoroughfare.  In that case, don’t over pay for a place that doesn’t fit your needs.  You need to learn a little about Lake Martin in order to make the right decision. 

Why does the lake level go up and down?  First, you need to know that Lake Martin was created back in then 1920s when the company that is now Alabama Power dammed the Tallapoosa River.  The Tallapoosa River joins the Coosa River to form the Alabama River near Montgomery.  The Alabama flows all the way to Mobile Bay, and is a navigable river. The Alabama River must maintain a certain level so that barges can move up and down it.   

So, part of the reason the Martin Dam exists is to ensure that the Alabama has a certain amount of water flow.  Since Alabama Power owns the dam, they (with permission of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) decide how to regulate the water level.  So how does this affect your lake house?

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Lake Martin Links You Can’t Live Without

Here are some great websites for the Lake Martin area that you may find useful:

LakeMartin.com– a great site for what’s going on now.

Utilities:

1. Cable TV / Cable Access Internet

  • Charter serves Tallapoosa County
  • ComLink Inc serves Elmore County by Kowaliga 800-722-2805

2. Land Line Phone / DSL Internet

  • Windstream serves the Eclectic and Kowaliga Areas
  • BellSouth (soon to be AT&T) serves pretty much everywhere else

3. Power – Alabama Power serves everything (Hey – what’s the use of building Lake Martin if you can’t serve all of the power to the area?)

4. Water –

5. Trash / Waste Removal