Lake Martin Voice Realty
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Here we go again – Lake Martin was described as the top real estate market in the entire state of Alabama.
The Central Alabama Business Journal – a sister publication of the Montgomery Advertiser recently interviewed J. Danny Cooper, the Executive Vice President of the Alabama Association of Realtors. The article covered various topics from the condition of Alabama’s real estate market overall to the performance of specific areas. Cooper singled out Lake Martin as the top market in the state. In his words, “Lake Martin has surpassed any other market in the state in terms of appreciation and home value.”
I know what you’re thinking – this is just another propaganda puff piece from a rah-rah realtors’ rep. I might be inclined to agree, on some points. Anybody can have an opinion on what is a “good” or “bad” market. What sets apart Cooper’s statement? It’s a fact, not an opinion. The numbers have been crunched – and Lake Martin came out on top.
Not that the rest of Alabama is so much chopped liver. This state is blessed with many great second home or vacation home markets – Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Lake Eufaula, Lake Guntersville, Weiss Lake, Lake Logan – Martin, just to name a few. Maybe you and I think none of them are better than Lake Martin. Maybe someone else thinks that another lake or beach is prettier, or cooler, or whatever. Everybody’s entitled to an opinion. But here’s a fact – recently, none of them have appreciated in value like Lake Martin.
Even if you own a home or lot on Lake Martin and never intend to sell it, isn’t it nice to know – that if you did – it is in the top market in the state? Wonder what it’s worth? Drop me a line, I’ll run you a Comparable Market Analysis, no strings attached.
And if you don’t own any property on Lake Martin yet? I can help you with that, too.
Lake Martin A Top 12 US Vacation Home Market
It’s lunchtime on Lake Martin – where should we eat? When I was growing up on Lake Martin, there weren’t many restaurants around the Lake, much less on the water. Families had to pack their on provisions and make do. You drove to the cabin, unpacked everything, and lived on ribbon sandwiches, chicken salad, hamburgers, and BBQ.
Today we have many places to eat, with more on the horizon. I eat a lot of lunches around Lake Martin, so let me suggest four great lunch orders, in no particular order:
1. Cotton’s BBQ – a couple of miles south of Kowaliga Bridge on highway 63. In my humble opinion they have the best Q the closest to Lake Martin. When I am really hungry I go for a double cheese with a BBQ sandwich and polish it off with a slice of egg custard pie. Otherwise I go for the sandwich with fries. I absolutely love good BBQ, but I detest bad BBQ. Cotton’s passes every time.
2. Oskar’s – when in Lake Martin’s Blue Creek area, it’s a great spot. I have tried almost everything on the menu, it’s hard to go wrong here. If I’m in a big hurry I do the lunch veggie special. Also I love the catfish fillet sandwich – but I get it blackened – not fried, with no sauce and no onions. Oskar’s is a rare find in that they actually know how to cook fish correctly – juicy and hot yet not overdone. Lots of restaurants, most of which charge quadruple their prices, could learn from Oskar’s.
3. Kowaliga – You can call it Sinclair’s on the Lake or Cecil’s at Kowaliga or whatever, but it will always be Kowaliga to me. The name has changed over the years, but the best lunch order has not. Order the same thing we have been getting since they were in that old building with the carpet hanging from the rafters. Forgo the fancy stuff and order a plate of onion rings. Wash it down with a cold beverage and soak in the ambiance. If you’re really hungry get a burger. The rings and the view are the best on Lake Martin. You won’t be disappointed. In the springtime they are only open for lunch Friday through Sunday, so you may want to call to make sure they are open.
4. Chuck’s – another Blue Creek gem. Your order? What else? Pizza. It’s very good, even by city folks’ standards. Great atmosphere, too. They sometimes have a band there, and it’s perfect for people watching. Tip – call ahead from your boat to place your order if you want to grab and go.
Bonus meal – it’s a couple of miles north of highway 280 in Alex City, but Sho’ Nuff BBQ is worth a look if you are in the area. Order the Sho’ Nuff Baked Potato. It sounds weird but trust me, it will hit the spot.
Can you think of a great lunch meal that I have left out? Leave a reply, and share it with everyone else, too!
Rest 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 types 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.
The Lake Martin area is in for another musical treat – the Jazz Fest has finalized its lineup for 2007 (all times Central PM):
Friday, June 8, 2007 at the Strand Park in downtown Alex City
6:00 – 7:00 – The Robin Hill Band – local Alex City band
7:30 – 9:00 – Kelley Hunt – Roots R&B / Americana singer / songwriter / piano player
9:30 – 11:00 – Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen –
“Jon Cleary is the ninth wonder in the world.” – Bonnie Raitt
Saturday, June 9, 2007 at the Lake Martin Amphitheater
6:00 – 7:00 – Wes Jeans – a powerful young guitar slinger; a player that drops the unsuspecting jaw of Blues lovers everywhere; a player some have said “is destined to be a Texas legend – a truly genuine Texas Blues Player”..
7:30 – 9:00 – The Lee Boys – Sacred steel is a type of music described as an inspired, unique form of Gospel music with a hard-driving, blues-based beat. The musical genre is rooted in Gospel, but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country and ideas from other nations.
9:30 – 11:00 – Edwin McCain – Blending equal parts folk, soul and rock, platinum-selling singer/songwriter Edwin McCain has signed with Vanguard Records.
Both events are free and open to the public. There is a $10 parking fee for Saturday night. For more details, read my previous Jazz Fest post.
See you there!
The 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 true. 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.
Willow Point was the first Lake Martin neighborhood by developer Russell Lands. After years of having only rental cabins, Russell Lands started a new era in Lake Martin real estate by developing and selling high end deeded lots in the early 1970s.
Willow Point is unique in that it is the only Russell Lands development that currently has a private golf and country club. The Willow Point Golf and Country Club was founded in 1964. It is truly a gated community, where you are stopped at the gate by a guard and you must show your ownership sticker or explain your business.
If you would like to see waterfront homes and lots for sale right now in the Willow Point area, CLICK HERE to go to my Willow Point 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.
Willow Point has a Championship Grade 18 hole, par 72 golf course that twists and turns and follows Lake Martin’s shores. Eight holes are bordered by the Lake, and hole number 13 is a par three island green. As you can imagine, the rest of the holes have plenty of water, too. If your skill level is like mine, be prepared to lose some golf balls. They also have tennis courts, rental villas for members, a restaurant, bar and grill, fitness center, and pool. It is truly a beautiful club.
Real estate prices in Willow Point have historically been among the strongest on Lake Martin. Vacant lots are rare since the development is almost built out. Lots start in the 400s and go up from there. Residences range from town homes to the biggest home on the lake, the mammoth compound of infamous (former) HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. If you have ever seen it by water, you know it. It is the top attraction on the “big house” boat tour.
Willow Point has the benefit of being inside the city limits of Alexander City, which means it has all of the utilities and conveniences thereof. This was once a huge benefit 30 years ago when almost no other area of Lake Martin had trash, phone, and cable services. Now this is not such an advantage, but Willow Point does boast another unmatched amenity: a paved, lighted airstrip. The Russell Airfield is 4,500 feet long, so you plane owners should know if you can land there or not.
With all of the benefits listed above, Willow Point will likely continue to have a strong position in the real estate market on Lake Martin.
Since I am admittedly the odd blog in this carnival, being the only real estate blog in the midst of political / cultural commenters, this theme will come off a bit forced. But, I thought our theme could be that of a politically charged shin dig held at a home on Lake Martin.
Whom do we find at the party?
Scott Allen of Scott Allen’s Thoughts is quite the mingler. Instead of camping out in just one room of the party, we bump into him in the bathroom with Sadly it has come to this and, then, very late in the party, in the TV room with More Virginia Tech Thoughts.
I hope everybody drives carefully home from the party. The next edition will be at Degree of Madness.
Is it true that one of the events that affects Lake Martin area hotels is a NASCAR race? Absolutely. A recent article in the Alexander City Outlook points out that area hotels are jam packed with race fans whenever the track at Talladega is running. The spring and fall races are so big that they top even Auburn football games in terms of economic impact.
How can this be? The Talladega Superspeedway is only about 45 minutes from Alexander City. When a NASCAR race is at Talladega hotels and restaurants in a 150 mile radius are affected. Talladega has a capacity of about 143,000 official seats and allows hordes to crowd the infield. People also camp outside the track for days. It is crazy.
Needless to say, that craziness means dollars to cities nearby, and the Lake Martin area is no exception. So, if you are reserving rooms around the Lake, you may want to avoid the weekends of April 29 and October 7, 2007. If you plan to cruise around the hotels looking for NASCAR celebrities, don’t bother. Ricky Bobby and all of the other big hairy American winning machines fly home after the race.
Looking 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. 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 trying 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.
It’s easy to make mistakes when buying a home or lot on Lake Martin. Whether you are a wizened real estate pro or a newcomer looking for your first property, there are some pitfalls that everyone needs to avoid. Heck, you could say that about anywhere, though, because real estate is such a local thing. I make my living selling real estate in the Lake Martin area, but if you dropped me off in Craig, Colorado, or Nicholasville, Kentucky, I would be just as lost and in need of local advice as the next guy. Here are 5 mistakes that you can avoid on Lake Martin (no particular order of importance):
1. Don’t waste your time calculating price per square foot of waterfront homes. As a former math major and current recovering accountant, I struggle to ignore this siren call every day of my life. I want so badly to have a piece of data like this to graph, make bar charts, build trend analysis, and otherwise calculate to the fifth decimal point. Alas, it is useless. So much of the market value of a Lake Martin waterfront home is in the lot, not the home. The lot drives the price, and very few lots on the lake are exactly the same. Even when the lots are pretty comparable, the homes are different, even on the same street. Yuppies in McMansions sit next to rasslin fans in shacks. Even in neighborhoods of similar construction, the lot drives the price.
2. Calculating price per waterfront foot of a lot is almost as useless. Well okay, you say, since on Lake Martin the lot drives the price, why can’t we value a lot by comparing it to other lots that have sold and divide sold prices by the amount of feet of waterfront they had? Nice try, but this still will trip you up. You can apply rules of thumb, such as, anything over 200 feet on a point lot should be priced at a premium, but you still have variables such as view, steepness of lot, etc. If you have a swampy 300 foot lot in the back of a cove that is on 1 foot deep water and the neighbor’s dock is 3 feet from yours, it will sell for much less than a gently sloping, 200 foot lot with a “big water view and a sandy beach. Try to graph that relationship; I dare you. I have tried and failed. I am considering creating a prestigious prize to challenge the nerd community, maybe they can come up with one.
3. You bought the house but you don’t own the lot underneath it. In most cases, when you buy a home on the lake, it is on a deeded lot. But, some homes on Lake Martin are built on leased lots. That means you own the home and all other improvements on the property, but Alabama Power owns the dirt. You lease it from them and pay them a monthly lease fee. When you buy the home you assume the terms of the lease that the previous owner negotiated with Alabama Power. Monthly lease rates and terms vary widely. Have an attorney check the lease before you buy. All other things being equal, a house on a deeded lot is worth more than the same one on a leased lot.
4. You take time to think about it. Contrary to a lot of other second home markets in the South, Lake Martin is still a sellers’ market. Sure, some sellers put ridiculous prices on their homes and therefore they take a while to sell. But if it is priced right, property still moves in a matter of days, not weeks. I’m not advising running out and buying willy-nilly, no. Let a local real estate agent help you. Do all of your research very carefully so that you know exactly what you want and how much you would like to invest. That way when something pops up on the Lake Martin MLS that you like, you can move swiftly and with confidence. Once you decide to offer, do it fast.
5. You don’t make an offer because the seller is asking too much. As I mentioned above, Lake Martin is in a sellers’ market right now, but sometimes things are still overpriced. I advise buyers to make an offer based on what they would pay. You never know, sometimes the seller will come to their senses and back off a ridiculous asking price. Maybe your offer will finally convince the seller to come down. Too many times I have heard buyers say, once discovering the selling price of a property they liked, “if I would have known they would have taken that, I would have bought it. The only way to find out is to pony up and make an offer.
Can you think of any other mistakes people make? Leave a comment below, and we will edit this article to include your submission!