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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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Why I Give Away The Milk For Free

Lake Martin real estate changesThe Lake Martin Real estate market, like every other one in the country, has changed irreversibly. 

When my father Walter started in the business in 1973, the process was pretty much the same as when my grandfather Temple founded Coley Real Estate in 1953.  If you were a seller in the Lake Martin Area, and wanted to know what your home or lot was worth, you had to call an agent.  In 1953, in what is now the Lake Martin Area, there were two agents.  In 1973 I think there were three.  The process was – you called an agent, made an appointment, and physically came into the office.  Then you two would discuss your home.  He would tell you what home sales trends were.  There was no Lake Martin Multiple Listings Service.  No Lake Martin Homes Magazine.  Certainly no Internet.  You were totally dependent on the keepers of the information, the real estate agent.

Now, obviously, it is all different.  A Realtor’s office is no longer a thickly lake martin real estate agents guardwalled, heavily guarded fortress of information.  The web has enabled (almost) perfect information about sales prices and trends.  The MLS (Multiple Listings Service) web site is open to the public and easy to search.

So why do you still need a realtor now?  Especially if you’re a seller – you don’t need an agent if Lake Martin is still such a seller’s market, right? 

Wrong- the value of a great agent lies not so much in the mere possession of the data (MLS #s), but in how you interpret it, and what you do with it.   

It’s kind of like stock quotes.  Closing sale prices of stocks and mutual funds are free and public information.  When you pay a financial counselor to help you with your retirement savings, you are paying them to give you advice on how to interpret the data.  The value isn’t the knowledge of what XYZ Company’s stock closed for on a given day.  The value lies in knowing when and for how much to sell or buy and why.  Could you imagine picking a financial counselor based solely on the fact that he has access to stock quotes?  No, because a small mistake in interpretation can cost you lots of money.

The value of a great realtor lies not so much in telling you what the lake home on 123 Easy Street sold for, but how that relates to your lake home, or the waterfront lot / home that you want to buy.  Next, a great realtor executes a marketing plan to go out and sell your property instead of merely sticking a sign in the yard.

So, when looking for a realtor to help you value your Lake Martin property, don’t pick one that guards information like the sacred scrolls.  Pick one that is focused on you, that asks you questions about your want and your needs.  The more questions a realtor asks you, the better chance that he can get a feel of how to best serve you.

I work extremely hard to help people get what they want, but I don’t work for free.  I give away my advice and information on Lake Martin real estate because I want my clients to be a part of the sales process, not feel like I am posing as the wizard behind the curtain.  After I give them the information for free, then I can focus on marketing their home uniquely or finding them the home that matches their exact tastes. 

Lake Martin Sellers – Don’t Pick This Realtor

Lake Martin real estate agentsLet’s say you own waterfront property on Lake Martin, and want to sell it.  Let’s also say that you have the good sense to hire a Realtor to help you list and sell it.  What are your choices?  Whom should you pick?

Selecting an average agent instead of a great one could end up costing you major dollars.  You need to make sure to partner with one that fits you best.

Here are 5 Realtors that Lake Martin sellers should not pick:

1.  Don’t pick The Part Timer.  Would you let a part time financial guy manage your retirement account?  Okay then.  It may be easy to be average, but being great at selling real estate is tough work (even on Lake Martin).  It is more than a 40 hour a week job to do things like talk to buyers, show properties, scout new listings, scour FSBOs, research property sales, and stay educated on licensing, contracts, housing laws, etc.  The Part Timer has other priorities.  You deserve better.

2.  Don’t pick The Suck Up.  Given the high value of Lake Martin real estate, a small mistake in selling your property can cost you thousands.  Do you want your listing agent to tell you what they think you want to hear, or to tell you the truth?  The Suck Up:  “Sure, Mrs. Seller, I think it’s a great idea to have a palm reader on site to give mystical advice to buyers when they visit!”  Puh-leez.

3.  Don’t pick The Talker.  Like any successful partnership, sellers and their Lake martin realtorlisting agents must have great communication.  Good communicators listen more than they talk.  They ask a lot of questions, and then listen some more.  Some agents think that everyone loves to hear them spout off about themselves.  I happen to think that sellers want to hear about their own home, their own lot, and how their own problems will be solved.

4.  Don’t pick The High Bidder.  Most sellers only talk to one agent about listing Lake Martin home Sellerstheir home.  Be different.  Talk to several, and pick the one that fits you best.  Ask each Realtor to tell you what your property will bring on the market.  Wise sellers don’t always go with the one who gives the highest number.  Go with the one that backs up his / her number with solid, well thought out research.  Like #2 above, The High Bidder will tell you what he/she thinks you want to hear – a possibly unattainable high price.  After your home languishes unsold for months, The High Bidder might try and talk you down to a sensible number.

5.  Don’t pick The Lowballer.  Real Estate commissions are totally negotiable, no matter what conspiracy theorists tell you.  When you hire a Realtor to sell your Lake Martin home, you two can agree to a commission of a penny or 300% of the sales price, whatever.  The Lowballer will tell you he will charge you something less than 6% and give you the same service.  Hey – maybe it will work out fine.  But I am here to tell you that it takes money to properly sell a Lake Martin listing.  Do you want someone who will simply stick a sign on the dock and hope someone else will sell it?  During the listing interview, quiz The Lowballer on the marketing plan.  Ask follow up questions.  It’s the only way to separate the lazy or the cocky from those Realtors with A Real Plan.

Curious about what your Lake Martin property be worth, and how I would tailor a plan to sell it?  Holler at me.

Lake Martin Named Top Real Estate Market In AL

Lake martin real estate winnerHere 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 aLake Martin Cupcake 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.

 

Related Articles:
Lake Martin A Top 12 US Vacation Home Market

 

4 Great Lunch Meals Around Lake Martin

Lake Martin LunchtimeIt’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:

Lake Martin Cotton's Pig1.     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 BBQCotton’s passes every time.

Lake Martin Oskar's Catfish2.     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 Lake Martin Onion splitto 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.

Lake Martin Chuck's Pizza4.  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!

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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Jazz Fest 2007 Lineup Finalized

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!

 

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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Lake Martin Real Estate Spotlight: Willow Point

Willow Point Lake Martin Real Estate logoWillow 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 Lake Martin Willow point real estateMartin.  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.

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Alabama Bloggers Carnival – April 23, 2007

Welcome to the April 23, 2007 version of the Alabama Bloggers Carnival. A blog carnival showcases different blogs that have something in common – in our case – we are all Alabama Bloggers.

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?

Julie Green of Degree of Madness has barely made it in the front door before she heads to the kitchen to give us a taste of her bile for the legislature with It’s the pits.

TD of The Right Track holds court in the somber confines of the study with comments on the Virginia Tech tragedy in Hopeless Helpless and Lost and Gun Free Zones of Death.

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.

Wrapping it up, in the entertainment room we find carnival founder c.a. Marks at Alabama Improper with Sports & Coyote Ugly.

I hope everybody drives carefully home from the party. The next edition will be at Degree of Madness.