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Lot Leases on Lake Martin

When my phone rings, I never know who or what is at the other end of the line. I am sure you are like me in that these days you get a lot of spam or robot calls on your cell phone. I must admit, a few weeks ago when I saw an out of state number call on my caller ID on a Saturday night, my first thought was to groan inwardly and think, “This is fake.”

I was really surprised when I learned the truth.

A real person was calling – it was Lydia Hu, Reporter / Weekend Anchor with WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham. WBRC was working on a story for their Fox News On Your Side Investigation segment about lot leases for waterfront real estate in Alabama. Lydia asked me to explain lot leases for the viewers. Click here for a link to the entire segment that aired in June. Read below for my explanation of lot leases.

A lot lease is when a homeowner owns the home, the bricks and sticks and improvements on a house, but they don’t own the dirt beneath it,” I explained.

And the increase in the lease payments? “Most of the time it’s being calculated on the value of the lot. And so if the value of the lot goes up, the lease payment will go up over those 20 years.”

“Some people do prefer the lot lease because they are able to buy the house for a lot lower price and they have a smaller lease payment over those 20 or 30 years,” I explained.  Anyone with a lot lease should work with a local real estate agent familiar with the market.  

My advice? “As you come to the end of your lease, you need to be aware how much the local real estate market has changed.” 

Alabama Power is one of the two major land owners on Lake Martin. Many years ago, Alabama Power did not sell lake lots outright. They would lease them to folks for like twenty or so years. People would build homes on these leased lots – so it created a rather interesting condition whereas the person owns the home and dock and other improvements, but Alabama Power still owned the lot.

Around here at Lake Martin, we call these “leased Lot houses.” Whenever you sell a leased Lot house, as a seller you have to disclose the lease terms. As a buyer, you should be ok with all of them.

Until about 2012 or so, approximately 10% of waterfront home sales on Lake Martin were leased Lot home sales. The last time I looked, which was early 2017, I counted that about 1% of home sales were on leased lots.

I think this is because many leased lot homeowners took advantage of a program that Alabama Power instituted around then. They sent offers to leased lot homeowners offering to sell them the lots associated with their homes. Many waterfront homeowners took Alabama Power up on the offer, and thus there are a lot fewer leased lot homes. Logically, that means fewer will make it to the market.

I don’t really know if it reduced the amount of waterfront leased lot homes by 90%. Maybe it just meant that those who didn’t buy their lots then intend to stay for the long term, and so they are unlikely to sell in the short term.

But, I do have the conclusion that with fewer leased lot homes on Lake Martin, if you plan to sell one, you’ll have to do a better job at educating buyers on the whole situation. As with any part of real estate, if you’re dealing with a unique piece of property, it is essential that you get out the right information.

Whether your home on Lake Martin is on leased lot or not, I would love to help you sell it!

The first step is usually figuring out the potential market value. I can come by and take a look, no strings attached. Please contact me at here or call me at the number at the top of this page.

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Days of Our Market

Not too long ago, I read a pretty interesting article in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The article was written by Leigh Kamping-Carder and was on page M1 of the Friday, April 14, 2017, edition. The headline was “For Sale… For Years.” It was an interesting study of luxury homes in the U.S. The key statistic examined was “Days On Market.”

Days On Market (DOM) is a figure that is closely tracked in the real estate industry. It is measured from when a home is first listed by a real estate agent to the time when the sale is closed.

I don’t know if there is a perfect number here, but I do think that economists watch trends. If the DOM in a region or the nation is rising, that could indicate a shift to a buyer’s market. Maybe the number of homes available for sale is rising or the number of willing buyers is decreasing.

Practically speaking, DOM comes into the conversation when an agent is talking with a prospective seller. The seller might ask, “How long will it take to sell my house?” The agent might answer, “The average days on market in our area is X,” in an attempt to estimate.

Since the WSJ is a national paper, its focus is usually macroeconomic – the big picture, coast to coast. The published observation was made in February, and the average DOM for all homes in the nation was 53 days; however, it was even higher for homes considered to be in the luxury category.

For those homes, the average DOM was almost double at 100 days. Then the author took it a step further and looked at the most expensive 10 percent of homes. That portion was 34 percent higher than luxury at 134 days. So the difference between the average home in the U.S. and the top 10 percent was almost triple the amount of DOM. Said another way, it takes almost three times the number of days to sell a top 10 percent home than it does an average one.

Naturally, this piqued my interest about little ole Lake Martin. Would we hold to national trends?

I took a look at the Lake Martin Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to derive some answers. Our MLS doesn’t have every single home sale in the lake area. For instance, a home sold “For Sale By Owner” wouldn’t be included, and occasionally developers choose not to publish every sale in the MLS. But, it does have a very high percentage of waterfront sales – I would hazard a guess at 90 percent of them. I think it is an extremely reliable indicator of value. Besides, local MLSs are where newspapers like the WSJ get their information.

I don’t often explore the non-waterfront section of our MLS, but this article made me curious. Which type of home has been selling more quickly lately? Waterfront or non-waterfront? And how would that stack up to the national average?

When comparing to the national numbers quoted in the WSJ, I decided to use more than one month here at Lake Martin. We are in such a tiny market; monthly statistics can be heavily influenced by one or two outlying sales.

My first step was to take a look at the average home sold in our area. According to the numbers reported by our MLS to the Alabama Center for Real Estate in 2016, using every home that sold, both waterfront and non-waterfront, the average Days On Market was 177. That is quite a bit higher than the national average of 53 DOM in February.

Then I looked at waterfront homes only. I found that in the three months ended March 31, 2017, the average Days On Market for waterfront only homes was 187. I can’t say that I was surprised. The 187 here at Lake Martin is a lot higher than the nation’s overall luxury market average of 100 DOM. But, we do follow the nation’s trend in that our luxury sales take longer than the average home sale.

What if I looked at the highest 10 percent of sales in the Lake Martin MLS?

When diving into these types of statistics, especially in a small market like ours, it is easy to end up comparing short-term results to long term ones. It would not be entirely accurate to compare, say, one summer month’s sales to an entire year or five-year trend. Since the WSJ article cited February, I wanted to be close to them with my end date. On the same token, we can’t really compare monthly sales in our tiny market to national statistics.

Therefore, I chose to look at an entire year but to end that year on March 31, 2017. In the 12 months from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, 337 waterfront homes were sold. The top 10 percent would be about 33 homes. The top 33 homes sold in that period ranged from $825,000 to two homes that sold for $2 million. Those 33 homes had an average Days on Market of 166. The lowest was a home that sold in zero days, and the highest was one that took 532 days to sell. But the average was 166, or about 11 percent lower than overall waterfront’s 187.

This finding was very curious to me. Up until now, Lake Martin has followed the national trend. A home for sale in our “luxury market” (waterfront) takes longer to sell than the average. But we buck the trend when it comes to the top 10 percent of highest priced homes sold. The national trend of 34 percent higher DOM than luxury did not hold with us.

I have a theory as to why. The top 10 percent group is pricing homes more accurately. There might be more buyers in that segment proportionally, but that would be hard to measure. We know we are in a seller’s market, so the overall market direction can’t be to blame. The same agents are selling the top 10 percent that are also selling the rest, so that is a constant. That is how I arrive at price. It is about all that is left to explain it.

I am not surprised that Lake Martin’s Days On Market is higher than the national average. We are always higher in that category, no matter what type of market – a sizzling seller’s or a drought-filled doldrum. We have limited supply and about 80 percent second home ownership. As my fellow agent John Christenberry said, “We deal with buyers that don’t have to buy and sellers that don’t have to sell.”

Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine. I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate for Lake Magazine. This article was also published on the ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate) website.

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Ego Versus Effectiveness

Earlier this year I had my first “Instagram closing” for a waterfront home sale here at Lake Martin.

Let me explain how it went down.

I saw a #sneakpeek of a new listing for a home in the Real Island area on my friend Becky’s Instagram feed. I forwarded it to my potential buyer and within 20 minutes they drove by the house. I scheduled a showing and the next day they made an offer, beating out a couple of other buyers, and got under contract. We closed soon after.

I was pretty amazed when I reflected that it pretty much happened over Instagram.

Not that Instagram or any social media is the end all be all.

In my opinion, too many real estate agents think that merely “having a presence” is the point of social media. They think they have to be everywhere. They brag on the number of platforms they’re on and say “Follow me on Facebook” or “Like my stuff on Instagram.”

I tend to think “Why should I follow you?” Or more accurately, “Why should the public follow me or any agent?” What is in it for them? Everyone these days has a Facebook page or Instagram or whatever. Big deal. It’s free.

The big question is “What are you (as a real estate agent) doing with it?

Social media is a tool, just like a phone or a car or a camera.

What separates effective agents from self-promoters is that effective ones think “How can I help my clients with this? What would they like? What is useful to them?”

If you are an agent reading this – think about it – what’s a more helpful way to use your phone to help your
buyer – texting them a picture of the view of Lake Martin from a home? or posting a selfie of you (gobbling
up all of the screen space) in front of the same view and posting it on social media? My friend Becky nailed it when she posted the sneak peak. She was being helpful to her followers and showing a great view of the home. It worked.

I admit, I have an ego just like the next guy. Probably more than the next guy. Sometimes it is a struggle to me to not give in to those that advise agents to constantly “promote your personal brand” by splashing your name and Glamour Shot all over the place.

For the record, I do think that brand promotion has its place – in limited quantities for specific purposes. But, I also think that my approach suits me personally.

My approach- to use my marketing muscle to talk about Lake Martin.

I try to talk about my sellers’ properties, not myself. My goal is to help buyers learn about Lake Martin, not about me.

I realize that along the way, parts of my life will inevitably spill into the interweb and my marketing. You can’t help it when you put so much of yourself into something. However, such spillover should be incidental to the process, not Step 1 of it.

To return to the Instagram example, true- that’s how we found it. But, my buyers would not have listened to me on that one had I not earned their trust over years of looking at other homes online and in person. In other words, social media was one of the tools we used. Not the only one.

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Small Changes in Kitchen = Big Difference!

We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home and that applies to kitchens at Lake Martin too. The kitchen in this condo at Sunset Point in Stillwaters needed some updating. The existing white cabinet doors and drawer fronts were replaced with new white ones and the color of the walls were kept the same “lemon drops” yellow. The cabinet hardware was replaced which made a big difference.

All of the countertops were replaced and included a redesign of the peninsula counter containing the sink. A new tile backsplash was also installed and plug outlets were moved and updated which made a big difference in the overall look of the kitchen.

See for yourself – small changes can make a big difference!

If you’re a buyer who is looking for a Lake Martin home let me know.  My name is John Coley and I’ll help you find a property that makes sense for your vision and your budget Give me a call or text me at the number at the top of this screen or email me here.

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Summer-ize to Show

As you read this, Lake Martin’s Plug Day 2017 should be comfortably behind us. Lord willing, spring rains and Alabama Power should be combining to raise the lake’s water level – inch by inch, day by day.

It’s Christmas morning every morning for people like me who love Lake Martin. How much fun is it to check your favorite source for the water level and see that the lake has risen higher than it was the day before? Each time I see a rise, in my head I can hear Johnny Cash ask, “How high’s the water, Mama?” It is glorious.

Have you squandered the time after September? Are you one of these folks that shuts your lake home up tight after Labor Day and doesn’t crack it open until Memorial Day? If so, shame on you. It’s your loss, really, because you are missing some of the best weather that the Lake Martin area offers.

Of course, people have their reasons for seasonal abandonment, one common excuse I hear from absentee owners is that once they winterize their cabins, they don’t want to summerize it just for one weekend, only to have to turn around and winterize it before they leave. Too much trouble, they protest.

One might ask, “what’s winterizing?” Basically, it involves preparing a home to be on its own over the winter. Each family at each home has its own winterizing ritual. Some people just lock up and leave. Others drag in all the outdoor furniture, put covers over the indoor furniture, and hide the TVs and the liquor. All of them, though, drain the water lines. The number one enemy of a winterized home is frozen plumbing.

Winterizing is a big deal around Lake Martin. It’s not that we live in an arctic climate. In fact, in a normal year there really is only two or three times that it gets cold enough for long enough so that pipes will freeze. My guess is its importance is due to the fact that many of the homes in the area are older and built in a time when ski boats only cost $1,000 and cabins were only used in the summer. They just weren’t designed with new fangled city conveniences like insulation.

If you have ever spent time looking at homes for sale during the winter, you are all too familiar with the practical effects of large scale winterization. Over the course of a seven hour showing day, it is not unusual to walk through eight or nine homes. Morning coffee and healthy hydration can combine to spur the call of nature. Many is the potential home buyer that has used the bathroom in a winterized cabin and heard the dreaded silence after the attempted flush. Silence in a toilet means nothing is happening. The bad stuff isn’t flushed away and new water isn’t being pumped in to replace it.  Then the embarrassed home buyer must, with hands a-wringing, admit to the real estate agent that they went, but the toilet didn’t cooperate.  There’s only one thing to do if you are a proper real estate agent.

You have to fix it.

You can’t summerize the house for one flush. No way. Risky even if technically possible. No, the best thing you can do if you’re the agent is to start looking around for a bucket. Usually there is one sitting under the house or in the shed. You grab the bucket, walk to the lake, scoop a healthy ladle of water, and trek back to the house. If you’re lucky, you can do this from the dock and keep your shoes clean. However, many is the home without year round water, and this means walking in a possibly muddy lake bottom to get near enough to the water to scoop. Whether you kick off your shoes to do this, or put out a board to walk on is a game time decision, but muddying up the inside of the home is not an option.

Once you have your water in the bucket, simply fill up the tank in the toilet and flush. Hopefully, one flush will do it. If not, rinse and repeat.

There are all kinds of complicating factors. Once, I couldn’t find a bucket and had to use a small salad bowl; it took five trips. The tank might be leaky so you might have to fill it up repeatedly and flush quickly. I won’t mention the myriad of problems that might surface from a “number two” situation. They ain’t pretty. However, I do think it is a rite of passage of sorts for Lake Martin agents. I say you aren’t an initiated member until you have dipped a bucket in the lake on a cold winter day.

Despite the challenges of a winterized home, I still think that it’s worth it to come to the lake house and summerize, even if it’s for one weekend or one day.

If the winterizing and summerizing of your lake home is particularly onerous, I would challenge you to make it easier. Use the winter to learn about your home and figure out if there’s a better way to do it. For instance, much of the trouble centers around draining all of the plumbing lines to make sure there is absolutely no water present.  For home owners of old homes, or for old home owners, the prospect of crawling underneath the house with a flashlight and a monkey wrench is not appealing. But maybe you can hire a plumber to install an additional drain line that is easy to access and operate.

Also, you might accept that a certain amount of failure should be viewed as feedback. No matter how much we plan, we still make mistakes, no matter how “professional” we think we might be at winterizing. This winter, I myself suffered the shame of frozen pipes at the lake. I thought I had drained my plumbing lines perfectly, only to be met with the dreaded hissing when the water was turned back on after a cold weekend.

My father thought this was hilarious. You have to know him to know why, but generally he delights in situations that cost me money, especially if he’s afforded an opportunity to not-so-gently mock me with questions like, “What? Don’t you know how to winterize your house? It’s pretty simple.”

After I recovered from my embarrassment, I vowed to learn from the incident. I crawled under the house and studied the complex network of iron and PEX and came away with a plan to change it a bit for the better. Maybe next time the temperature dips, I will be able to get all the water out in a fast, effortless way.

That’s my encouragement to any home owner who says that it’s too much of a pain to winterize. I ask you, “Why is it so much trouble? Why not make it easier?” You are missing out on a lot. Lake Martin is too beautiful to only enjoy it above eighty degrees.

Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine.  I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate for Lake Magazine. This article was also published on the ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate) website and AL.com

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First, Focus on Photos

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Anytime is a great time for taking pictures around Lake Martin.

I can think of so many great occasions – times when you want to say “look at me, I’m still fishing and you’re at work,” hiking, hunting, or just plain ole hanging out.

If you are like me, you imagine these perfect photo opportunities and how good they would look on social media. Your subject looks dazzling. The picture is composed so well that Kenneth Boone would nod in artistic appreciation. Your “friends” on Facebook would seethe with envy, yet comment something like “so cute” or “time, please slow down!”

If you are like me, you also mess up just about 99 out of 100 shots you take. Everyone’s hair is combed; the dog is looking directly in the camera; the kids appear genuinely like a gunfighter in a spaghetti western. Ugh!

The same goes for real estate photography.

Sure, I will grant you, no one is likely to print out a picture of your home from the MLS and hang it on their fridge. It probably will not go viral like the “Back to School” shots of your kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Having really good pictures of a home that is for sale is still paramount in my business. I really like all of the media that we have these days – video, aerial footage and 3D walkthroughs – but that doesn’t mean we agents should forsake the humble photograph.

The most important picture is the first one listed in the MLS or online. That’s because we know from the numbers that 90% of homebuyers use the web to scout for homes. A great majority of people’s first move is to look online, not call an agent. That lead picture is the home’s mug shot.  It is the maker or breaker. If the first picture doesn’t look good, the ever-roving eye of the buyer will move on without a click.

That is why it’s really important to take the best pictures possible. Everybody knows this, but at the lake it means getting really nice shots of the lake side of the house. For a waterfront home, the lake side is the main side. Buyers come for the lake, so the lake is the most important thing.

It sounds pretty elementary, but time and time again, I see pictures on the MLS or on other sites where it’s obvious that the agent or owner did not take this into account. If I were a seller of a waterfront home on Lake Martin, I would insist on the best media possible – pictures, 3D tours, etc. The whole nine yards. I would make the main thing the main thing. Show me a great picture of the lakeside facade.

One of the steps in getting great pictures is having superb lighting. The best possible.  I am nowhere near a professional photographer, but at least I try to get the best light. To do that, I have to figure out the time of day that is going to be most flattering for the outside of the home. This differs for every home on Lake Martin because the lake side of the home might be facing in any direction.

If you have a west facing home and take early morning pictures, your results will be draped in shadow. You have to plan around that.

Also, at Lake Martin, many waterfront homes sit on wooded lots, so you have to take that into account. What sun angle would be best to avoid the trees casting shadows all over that outdoor kitchen? Not just morning or afternoon, but what exact time of day? If you were really doing a good job, you would want to take pictures of every side of the house.

Do you need to come back another day at a different time and take more pictures or video of different sides of the house to take advantage of differing light situations? Will it be cloudy the day you try?

How then, can you plan for shadows and the path of the sun? Does it require camping out and taking notes for an entire day?

Enter my not-so-secret-weapon-of-a-website:  suncalc.net.

I was tipped off to this website by my friend and architect Bryan Jones. Architects are another group of professionals that really pay attention to the sun.

This site will tell you the best time of day at any place around the world. Just plug in an address, and you can see the sun’s path at any given time on any given day of the year.

Where should you take pictures Easter morning at Grandma’s house? When’s the best time to photograph  your dock at the lake?  All of these questions can be answered at suncalc.net.

Incidentally, if you want to shoot Acapulco Rock in the full sun in the middle of August, try 11:05 a.m.

Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine.  I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate  for Lake Magazine.

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Are older Lake Martin cabins ever for sale?

(advertisement courtesy of The Alabama Department of Archives and History)

(advertisement courtesy of The Alabama Department of Archives and History)

If you are curious about old cabins around Lake Martin (some maybe from the 1950s as advertised above) you are not alone.  Here’s a question one of my buyers emailed me the other day:

Q:  We have been renting houses on Lake Martin for years.  This past weekend we took a long boat ride looking around.  We saw several old cabins that looked unused.  Just curious as to if these ever go up for sale?

A:   Thanks for the email.  That’s a great question.  I see old cabins around Lake Martin all the time, too.  Most (99%) of the time there is a reason for it.  Like, maybe it’s an old family cabin and they can’t decide what to do about it.   I can’t blame them, because it is hard to give up on generations of memories!

Or maybe the person has decided to hold on to it in order to get more when they sell in the future, but doesn’t want to fix it up.  I can’t blame homeowners like this, either. Historically, Lake Martin (like most waterfront real estate markets) has had very high appreciation over the long term.

Or, maybe the owner would sell it but they have a crazy high price in mind (this happens a lot).  Honestly, I can’t relate to home owners like this.  I know that your home is “one of a kind” – but people will compare to others.  When buyers come to Lake Martin, they typically will walk through seven or eight homes per visit.  This is after whittling down a list of twenty they found on the web.

My rule of thumb is, if they want to sell it, it would be on the market.  These type of cabins get calls, emails, and letters from people all the time (mostly agents) that want to buy it. They are presented with many opportunities, so if you as a buyer contacted them, you will likely be joining a long list of interested parties.

A more likely scenario happens when home owners call me and ask what I think their Lake Martin property is worth.  At least those folks are considering selling, but not always. With a second home market like Lake Martin, you’re dealing with buyers that don’t “Have” to buy, and sellers that don’t “Have” to sell.  That makes it kind of unique.

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Where are Lake Martin homes listed for sale?

Does Lake Martin Area Association of Realtors (LMAAR) have ALL the listings for Lake Martin or are there some listed through realtors that are not on that site?

Several months ago I had a potential client ask me the question – “Where are Lake Martin homes listed for sale?” He told me that he and his wife were constantly looking (more looking than anything) for a home to purchase at Lake Martin. They checked the LMAAR website several times a month to look.

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LMAAR has 99.5% of all properties that actually sell on the Lake.  If you look on the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) website you’ll see 10 to 20 at any given moment but all of them are also listed on LMAAR.  Occasionally there will one on MAAR that is not on LMAAR, thus my < 100% number.  All of the agents that are serious and full time about Lake Martin (like me) live and breath the LMAAR MLS.

To help my clients I can set up an account on my LMAAR MLS feed.  Click here for the link.  It is not public and no one else will see it.

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Setting up your account will help you save the properties you have seen and share feedback with your spouse.  It can also be set up to auto alert you by email when something pops up in your area and price range.  If you aren’t interested in registering, no sweat, but some folks like to be alerted so they don’t miss anything, and properties in some Lake areas are going fast these days.

My name is John Coley and I would love to help you find your Lake Martin home.  Give me a call at 334-221-5862 or contact me here or email me at john@lakemartinvoice.com.

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The Renovator’s Special – 106 Windy Trail

106 Windy Trail – Lake side before and after

Here is helpful information from one Lake Martin couple who purchased a fixer upper.

When I met with the homeowners back in December, I had no idea (and neither did they) that they would decide to sell their Lake home. I wanted to write an article for Lake Magazine about remodeling at the Lake and stopped by the cabin to take some “after” photos and ask a few questions.

Remodeling is popular these days. If you are unaware of this trend, just flip on the TV. Waco, Texas, has the adorable Chip and his wife Joanna. Los Angeles has Christina and whatever male she decides to include on her show.

So in going along with the trend of “old to new,” I thought I would write about lake home remodeling. When homebuyers come to Lake Martin, they often wrestle with this issue.

“Do I want to buy a brand new home? Or am I up for a remodel of an older home? How large of a remodel project would I like?” they might ask themselves.

I thought it might be helpful to talk to a couple that has actually been through the process and hear what they have to say. Granted, their experience is personal and limited to one home. But, they did put considerable thought into their remodel, and it might be entertaining and enlightening for all.

Here is their story:
Don and Kristie are from Birmingham, Alabama. They bought their home in 2011. It is located on the north side of Lake Martin and was originally built as a fish camp style home with concrete block construction. It was extremely functional but short on refinement.

The home’s original construction date was listed at 1960, but subsequent owners had made improvements along the way. While Don and Kristie loved the home as it was, they naturally sought to personalize it. Here’s a Q&A of their Lake Martin remodel story:

When you first started your home search, did you want to buy a home that was move-in ready, or were you looking for a fixer upper or a project?

Our first priority was to buy a home with great water frontage with pretty view and a level lot for kids to play. At our price range, that dictated a fixer upper.

When you bought it, did you envision fixing it up this much?

Yes, but not with any definitive timeline. It was just as we could afford with money and time. There was no rush because we did not live there full time, so it was nice to do a little and walk away for a bit. Being patient helped us to get to know the house and what we really wanted out of it.

106 Windy Trail Living Room before and after

 

What was your first project, and was that the same project you planned when you bought?
The house was quaint and charming, but we wanted to personalize it to our tastes. We pulled out all carpet and baseboards and slowly started to replace with a floating floor and new baseboards. During that process, we took what furnishings came with the house to refurbish pieces with paint and distressing. That helped to clear some stuff and allow for flooring. It also helped us to visualize how to put each space back together from a decorating standpoint.

Which part gave you the most instant gratification?

Paint. Paint will transform a space. If the ceilings in a lake house are not that special, consider painting them the same color as walls. It really opens up a room and makes it feel larger. That is something many people will look sideways at you for suggesting until it’s actually done.

Which part was the least fun to spend money on?

Electricians and plumbers.

106 Windy Trail Sun Porch before and after

Did you experience “project creep,” e.g., “as long as we are fixing X we might as well fix Y?”

A tad but not tremendously. To offset the creep, we would look for ways to do things inexpensively but still with good impact, things that we might not otherwise do if it was our primary home. For example, in the kitchen, we had white Formica countertops that were fine for a lake house. But we added the pass-through and purchased a remnant of honed granite for the bar top. Instead of spending thousands on the kitchen countertop, we found Formica that was basically identical to the granite. It only cost a few hundred dollars, and it looks fine for the small space.

How did you budget for this? Did you decide on a total amount to spend and wait until you had it and then start, or did you know that you wanted to do this or that project and just did it?

The rule was, if we couldn’t pay for it out of pocket, we were not doing it. That governed our time and pace. With it being a second home, we were not so antsy to ‘get it done’ immediately.

Anything you would change?

I wish I had peeked at the ceilings in the oldest part of the house during renovation. I always wondered why the ceilings were lower in the old original camp house. Far down the road after interior was done, we were working on the sun porch that required us to reveal part of the ceiling, and it was discovered there was old tongue and groove on the ceiling. It was one of those moments of “who the heck covers this up!”

What was the hardest part of remodeling from afar?

Just having to be patient knowing we had limited time to work on it and making ourselves stop to enjoy the view every now and then.

Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine.  I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate for Lake Magazine.

For more info about 106 Windy Trail contact Listing Agent John Coley at 334-221-5862 or by clicking here or email him – john@lakemartinvoice.com.

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Would you like Zero Closing Costs on your next Mortgage?

Recently I had a conversation with Don Manuel of Alabama Power Credit Union (APCO Employees Credit Union) to discuss two topics. The first topic we discussed revolved around closing costs on mortgage loans, and the second was APCO’s new relationship with Lake Martin Resource Association (LMRA).

John:  I know my readers are interested to hear more about the mortgage promotion APCO is offering. Tell me about it. Has it started yet?

Don:  Thanks for asking about the promotion. This really is a unique offering from a financial institution. The Credit Union is a not for profit cooperative. When the Credit Union is successful, we return our profits to members through lower borrowing rates and higher savings rates. We also  have a fantastic mortgage operation. Our goal was to make a splash during the slower time of the year (January and February) for mortgage lending, so we came up with the ZERO Closing Costs Mortgage Promotion. It is really just another way to give back to our members.

John:  When you say ZERO closing costs, does that include the origination fee?

Don:  Yes, ZERO origination fee.

John:  What about appraisal fee?

Don:  Absolutely!  The appraisal fee is included, too.

John:  What other incentives are included in ‘ZERO Closing Costs’?

Don:  Just about everything you think of when you hear the words, “closing costs”. In addition to not charging an origination fee, we don’t charge a fee for underwriting, appraisal, title insurance, doc  prep, credit report, flood determination, tax monitoring, application or closing. The promotion covers everything, except recurring items like taxes and insurance. There is a complete list on our website, apcocu.org. Of course, terms and conditions apply.

John:  How long are you running this mortgage promotion?

Don:  The promotion started January 1 and will run through the end of February.

John: Don, tell me about your credit union’s relationship with LMRA.  

Don:  LMRA is a non-profit organization that has been around since the 1970’s. Even though our CEO, Derrick Ragland, and I have both been lake homeowners for over 30 years, we had not crossed paths with LMRA until last year. We learned that LMRA is dedicated to promoting, preserving and protecting Lake Martin and the adjacent areas. Their goals of safety, clean water, stable water levels and overall enjoyment of the lake was a sentiment we shared. While meeting with the LMRA board, we learned more about the organization and realized our credit union and LMRA could accomplish much more together than we could separately. Our credit union is a “closed” field of membership financial institution. In order to become a member, you must be associated with a specific company or organization that is a Select Employee Group (SEG). LMRA and APCO agreed to work towards a partnership that would give the group SEG status. The affiliation process was successfully completed and we’re happy to play a small role in aiding LMRA’s mission, while opening the door for members of the organization to join the Credit Union.

John:  What do you have on the horizon with LMRA during 2017?

Don:  With the start of the New Year, LMRA began a membership drive. We are supporting and collaborating with their efforts in any way we can. The Credit Union has more than 70,000 members. We believe many of them share in our support of the LMRA initiative of preserving Lake Martin and the protection of Alabama waterways. We want to do what we can to grow awareness for the LMRA and its projects.

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