Archive for the 'Real Estate Tips' Category

To Predict Lake Martin Real Estate Market Cycle – Look West

Lake Martin real estate buyers may Miss outMost Lake Martin real estate observers now recognize that the sellers’ market is over, because all real estate is local.  In fact, we are in a buyers’ market.  For those who are in doubt – a buyers’ market means that the buyers have the advantage – IT’S A GOOD TIME TO BUY.

Market forces in real estate shift back and forth like any other market in free nations.  We can learn about what might happen in Lake Martin by looking at other markets – like one of the most high end markets in the nation – Silicon Valley.

Recently I came across an excellent post by Patrick Kapowich on his blog – Silicon Valley Broker.  He covers some excellent points about different parts of the real estate market cycleWe at Lake Martin would do well to read and learn.

I love his first sentence describing the changes in ‘Cycle One of a Buyer’s Market’ – he says (talking tolake martin listing agents apologize buyers) – “Listing Agents return your calls.”  Hilarious, but true!  Great work, Pat.


2 or 3 Thousand Expected at The Ridge Showcase of Homes – Lake Martin

Lake Martin the ridge tour of homesRussell Lands is hosting the “Annual Showcase of Homes” at its newest Lake Martin development – The Ridge

The showcase is happening over two weekends – September 15 and 16 as well as September 22 and 23, 2007.  Many of the builder spec homes that are for sale will be open to the public to tour.  Russell Lands is also having the Grand Opening of The Ridge Club on September 15.

I am not sure which or how many of the The Ridge spec homes that are currently for sale will be in the Showcase.  By my last count on the Lake Martin Area MLS, there are about 35 homes and 8 town homes (The Ledges at the Ridge) for sale right now in the Ridge.  In the Spring Home and Boat Tour, (the last “parade” they did) I think they had like 14 or so homes available.

Lake martin real estate the ridgeAccording to their press release by Schroder Public Relations, Russell Lands expects between 2,000 and 3,000 people to come through these two weekends.

Would you like a friendly, unbiased, neighborhood realtor to help guide you through the festivities?  Drop me a line and I would be glad to help.

6 Crucial Changes Coming To Lake Martin Real Estate

lake martin real estate changesAs the Lake Martin real estate market shifts to a buyers’ market, away from sellers, what does this mean?   If you are about to sell or buy waterfront property, how can you use this to your advantage?  What changes can we expect?  We can guess a few possibilities from studying other markets around the nation that have been experiencing this phenomenon for a longer period of time.  I’m not saying that all of these will happen, but they are strong possibilities:

1. More pizazz from sellers – there are 5 times as many waterfront properties for sale now as there were in 2005.  More competition means Lake Martin sellers need to do more to get noticed and get paid.  Some examples:

a. more pictures – too easy not to do it
b.  home staging– a must
c.  talking homes – look for a sign on the home that says “tune in to FM XX.X for more info” where a commercial is played over and over
d.  text message info for homes – like the talking homes above, they have a “for more info text #12345” rider on the sign

2. Builder incentives to buyers – Builders who have extra spec homes sitting unsold are always among lake martin property FSBOthe first to slash prices.  Some Lake Martin builders have already started doing some of the below:

a. free TVs
b. free boat storage
c.  pay for first 3 months’ mortgage payments 
– haven’t seen this one yet, but just wait
d. extra commissions (above the 6%) to the realtor that brings the buyer.  As a buyer, you need to ask your realtor if such an incentive exists.  Not that that would affect your agent’s impartiality, of course……..


3. Less downward pressure on realtor commissions – A buyers’ market exposes the pretenders from the listing agents that really know how to market.  If the sellers feel that they can pay the popular 6% in commission and have their waterfront home sell, instead of languish unsold for a year, they are less likely to go for the cheapest “low bidder.” In the Lake Martin sellers’ market up to 2005, sellers had so much influence they could almost name their commission.  Not so now.


lake martin real estate lot4. Proliferation of buyers’ agents?  Since buyers hold the cards on Lake Martin now, many agents may shift their marketing focus to buyers.  Some agents may even pitch themselves as exclusive buyers’ agents, refusing to list homes for sellers. In extreme buyers’ markets in other locations, they even go so far as to advertising that they will give part of their commission as a rebate back to the buyer.  Could this happen at Lake Martin?  It’s possible, but doubtful, I think.


5. Reduction in effective FSBOs  – FSBO or For Sale By Owner – (pronounced FIZZ-bo) – again, in a sellers’ market,  it was a lot easier for Lake Martin waterfront sellers to go it alone.  Stick a sign in the yard, and get twelve offers tomorrow, right?  Now that there is more supply out there for sale, it’s a lot harder to get it done, even for agents.  See #1 and #3 above.


6.  No change in BUDDY-BOs – I define “buddy bo” as sales by owners directly to that buddy or relative lake martin realtor that told them “hey – if you ever sell that house on Lake Martin, let me know.”  OK, so it’s not a change.  But maybe the lack of change is crucial.  These type sales are not as dependent on market conditions so I really don’t see a huge change here.





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2007 Is Russell Lands’ 2nd Best Year On Lake Martin

lake martin real estate Russell lands announcesThis year has been good to Lake Martin developer Russell Lands.

Broker Steve Arnberg was interviewed by the Opelika – Auburn News recently about the sales trends on Lake Martin.  Arnberg said that, while low water levels on Lake Martin had affected sales, this year was still strong enough to qualify as their second best.

Arnberg is quoted as saying “It’s not as good as last year and we can’t necessarily say why, but (sales) are as good as the year before.”

I assume that means that Russell Lands has sold about the same amount of Lake Martin waterfront property this year as they did in 2005, but not as much as they did in 2006.

My questions on this:

1. What do you mean by Lake Martin “sales?” Does he mean the dollar value of total sales?  Or the number of waterfront lots or homes sold? 

2. Why can’t he “say why?”  I have already written in earlier posts about the number of Lake Martin waterfront sales declining in 2007, and that I think it is mostly related to over pricing by sellers.  Does he disagree, or has he not figured that out?

3. Why doesn’t Russell Lands publish its sales figures for Lake Martin? The entire Lake Martin Questionmarket is down 35% from last year, yet Russell Lands is having its second best year.  How?  I realize that they sell plenty of waterfront lots that they don’t publish in the MLS.  For instance, when they opened Phase III in The Ridge, they sold lots to buyers themselves, so the data doesn’t come through our MLS.  I affirm their right to do that.  It’s very possible that they sold so many of their new Ridge lots that they are having their second best year ever.  So why not publish, or at least mention in this interview, what they mean by “second best year?” 

Russell Lands is far and away the biggest developer on Lake Martin.  Naturally, as they own one half of the 700+ miles of shoreline.  I’m not so nosy to think that they should tell us every penny that they spend and make.  They are a private company.  But, I do think it would be helpful if they gave general sales totals in number of properties sold and dollar value thereof.  For instance, they could say that they have sold 40 of 100 lots in the new phase of The Ridge at an average price of $600,000.  It would shed more light on the reality of the Lake Martin real estate market, and therefore benefit them, as they are this market’s biggest landowner.

Lake Martin Real Estate Spotlight: The Ridge Update

Lake Martin The Ridge Club

The Ridge – Russell Lands’ newest Lake Martin development – is near to completing its Ridge Clubhouse and Pool Area, while Phase III construction is ramping up.

I popped by The Ridge last week to look at some lots in Phase III.  Phase III – which stretches south towards the Dixie Sailing Club, which is Lake Martin’s largest sailing organization.  Phase III already has a few spec homes on the MLS, and builders are already started a few custom builds. 

Originally, Russell Lands had planned to move Dixie Sailing Club out of The Ridge to their new digs by Labor Day 2007.  But this letter from Russell Lands General Counsel Steve Forehand has forestalled that trail of tears until Labor Day 2008.  Maybe they made this decision because sales in 2007 have not been as brisk as 2006.  Who knows.  The fact is, the old salts at DSC have one more year.

lake martin the ridge pool
While I was checking out the view of Lake Martin from some new lots at The Ridge, I stopped by the Ridge Club to see how construction was going.  As I stated in this earlier post, I really must say that The Ridge Club will be very nice when they are done.  The pool area is comparable to many area country clubs, with a resort style, multi leveled, no sharp angle feel.

the ridge lake martin russell lands

Inside The Ridge Clubhouse will be nice, too.  I am a sucker for big stone and big wood, and the architecture in here looks like something out of Rohan.  I’m loving it.

ridge clubhouse lots waterfront lake martin

Check the numbers here; now is a great time to be a buyer in The Ridge.  Need help?

Related Posts:

Free Boats at The Ridge Boat Show & Spring Home Tour
Lake Martin Real Estate Spotlight: The Ridge


This Man’s To Blame For Slow Lake Martin Market

The Lake Martin real estate market has slowed way down – it’s no longer a sellers’ market.  Who is responsible?

lake martin real estate property supply demandOne man – Adam Smith.

In 1776 Smith established himself as one of the most influential economic philosophers when he penned Wealth Of Nations.  He described the natural economic forces that have existed since the caveman wanted to trade his neighbor one rock for two bones.  OK, so maybe he’s not responsible for the slowdown, but he was the man who so eloquently described what is  – Supply and Demand.

That’s right – the Lake Martin real estate market has slowed down because of simple supply and demand.  Not because of the drought.  Not because of the Army Corps of Engineers, not Alabama Power, not Russell Lands.  Mr. Smith’s omnipresent Invisible Hand has suppressed the number of waterfront closings.  In the 12 months before August 1, 2005, there were 386 waterfront closings.  In the 12 months before August 1, 2006, there were 346.  In the last 12 months, that number is down to 226.  Looking back, the summer of ‘05 was the peak.  Face it.  There are fewer waterfront closings this summer.  But why?  In a free market, the more accurate question to ask is always ..


What has affected supply and demand?



Easy explanation here.  Waterfront property has been on an unprecedented run since 1999.  Prices have skyrocketed.  Whether we’re talking waterfront property or widgets, more people are willing to sell at higher prices.  While supply will always be fixed (Lake Martin ain’t gettin no bigger), the quantity supplied this summer is higher than in 2005.  At the peak of the sellers’ market in 2005, there were only 126 waterfront properties for sale.  Right now we have 603. Per se, that might not contribute to a slowdown, but when taken in conjunction with…..


As inseparable as yin and yang, you must consider both supply and demand in any free market evaluation.  lake martin real estate waterfront So where are all the Lake Martin buyers?  Anyone could tell you that they must be scared away by the increase in prices since 1999, but is it a true downward demand shift?  Are fewer buyers interested in Lake martin waterfront property now?  Or is it simply a decrease in quantity demanded

Has the drought, low lake levels, and high prices removed buyers from the market?  Is that why there is a surplus?  I think not.  Anecdotally, I am talking to more buyers now than I was in 2005.  Buyers that I talk to are not phased by the low lake level.  They understand that it is a 50 year anomaly.  Sure, I think that the drought has affected it some, by removing potential buyers out of the pipeline before they ever talk to realtors.  But I don’t think it has affected demand that much.  So I don’t think we’re experiencing a demand shift.

I think the Lake Martin buyers are still out there.  There are still plenty of folks who want waterfront real estate, but they want it at lower prices.  Case in point: the condo auction at Harbor Pointe.  20 waterfront condos were sold in three hours, when in the previous 12 months, only 34 had sold on all of Lake Martin.  Why?  Price.  The exact same condos that were listed on the mls at $420,000 sold at the auction for about $250,000.  This jives with my anecdotal evidence – from talking with buyers.  Plenty of people want to own Lake Martin real estate, but not at a crazy price.  This extends across all market segments – lots, condos, deeded lot homes, and leased lot homes. 




lake martin real estate lisiting agentSo what does this mean?  It means that buyers can exert their influence more strongly, by seeking out better values with research.  Don’t expect prices to return to the 1990s.  But buyers can find decent buys if they know how to research and if they let a good realtor help themClick here if you need help.

Lake Martin waterfront sellers need to get realistic.  Don’t price things based on what you wish you could get – check the numbers on sold comparables.  Hire a good realtor (read: me) that will aggressively market your property – and it will still sell, trust me


Related Posts:
Proof Of End Of Selllers’ Market On Lake Martin

Proof Of End Of Sellers’ Market On Lake Martin

lake martin property sellers What is the real estate market like on Lake Martin right now?  I own waterfront property, should I sell?  I want to buy Lake Martin waterfront property, but is it still a crazy market?

These are questions I hear constantly.  Both potential buyers and sellers of Lake Martin real estate want to know if changing conditions will benefit them.  To be sure, the water is way down, and so are the numbers of real estate transactions.  I will cover cause and effect in a later post.  But for now, let’s just focus on one question:


Is Lake Martin still a sellers’ market?

If you talk to 10 people, you get 10 different answers, ranging from Pollyanna agents who still think it’s a sellers’ market to Chicken Little bubble barkers who act like property owners are literally throwing money into Lake Martin each time the water drops an inch.  What’s the truth?  When I approach the question, I treat it like every other issue about Lake Martin real estate:

1.   Break it down by market segments.  What are you talking about, here?  Waterfront or non-waterfront?  Condos? Lots? Leased lot homes or deeded homes?  Homes above a million?  What?  (Below I will only talk about waterfront property.)

2.  Look at the numbers.  As I have said before, you have to be careful when interpreting statistics in our market.  It is relatively small in transaction number (when comparing to large cities like Atlanta).  But, to make a market opinion, you must look at market statistics, so I try to consider a year of data at a time.  The goal is to take emotion – and agenda – out of the equation.  Just the facts, ma’am.

3.  Apply Common Sense. Just as you don’t want to be ruled by emotion or anecdotal lake martin real estate Horse senseevidence, you also don’t want to let the misapplication of statistics throw you off course.  There is no magic statistic or rule of thumb to proclaim a market a buyers’ or sellers’ market.  You have to use your common sense to test the statistics versus your everyday observations.




1.  LOTS – Right now on Lake Martin there are 113 waterfront lots for sale.  13 have sold in the past 12 months.  That means we have about 113 months of inventory, or it would take almost 10 years to sell at this pace.  On its face, that figure suggests an extreme buyer’s market.  I do think this is a buyer’s market, but, like condos, I think that if sellers were more realistic on price, most of these would get snapped up pretty quickly.  Everyone wants a lot.  But, I think many sellers have incorrectly priced assuming the market rose by 35% over 2006.  My call – Buyers’ Market.

2. CONDOS – There are 112 waterfront condos for sale and only 34 have sold in the past twelve months.  That’s 38 months’ worth of inventory – i.e. at this current buying rate, it would take over three years to sell all of the condos currently for sale.  That doesn’t count any that are under construction or might come on the market in the future.  The recent condo auction at Harbor Pointe taught us – there are buyers out there, but they are at lower prices.  This segment was by far the easiest to judge. My call – Buyers’ Market.

3. DEEDED LOT HOMES UNDER $1 Million –  In rural Alabama, it’s hard to call a $400,000 home a “starter home” with a straight face.  But that is about the price point of the lower end of the deeded lot single family home on Lake Martin right now.  In the deeded lot homes priced under $1 million, in the last 12 months, 120 have sold, or 10 a month.  249 are for sale now.  So we have about 25 months’ inventory.  But looking at this inventory, if a few sellers got realistic and dropped their prices, I think they would sell pretty well.  If homes in this segment are priced right, and are “good ones,” they sell in 45 days.  But because there are many that are overpriced and have been sitting on the market, I really can’t say that it is still a sellers’ market.  My call – Balanced.

lake martin homes ridge4. DEEDED LOT HOMES OVER $1 Million  – This segment is harder to compare with prior years, because the rate of increase on investment has meant that many homes are now worth $1 million whereas in prior years they would be at $750k.  To be fair, you really would need to compare homes over $1 mill today with homes over $750k in 2005.  Right now, there are 66 for sale.  17 have closed in the past year, or about 1.5 a month. So we have about 44 months, or almost 4 years’ worth of inventory.  Most of these are new construction spec houses being sold by builders.  They are getting aggressive – dropping prices and adding incentives.   My call – Buyers’ Market

5.  LEASED LOT HOMES – 15 have sold in the past year, and right now there are 15 for sale. So there are 12 months’ inventory.  I had one listed, we priced it aggressively, and it sold in 81 days, which is about the average time in a balanced market. Looking at the inventory, I think some are better values than others, so if they adjusted prices they might sell more rapidly.  My call – Balanced.

Are you considering buying Lake Martin waterfront property right now?  Why don’t you let me help you find what you need?  I can help you sort through the above 5 segments FOR FREE.  Sellers pay the real estate commission.  I can help you with any Lake Martin waterfront property, regardless of who has it listed.  An average real estate agent won’t help you much.  A good realtor will save you money and time.

Results Of Waterfront Condo Auction – Harbor Pointe – Lake Martin

Lake Martin waterfront condo buyers flock to the condo auction at Harbor Pointe in Stillwaters.

Roebuck Auctions held an auction at Harbor Pointe Marina in Stillwaters last Saturday, July 7, 2007.  The bidding started at 11:07 AM, selling 20 units in the Harbor Pointe Condo development.  Chris Boden, representative of Roebuck Auctions, stated he thought the auction went very well.  He estimated that there were about 500 people in attendance and about half were registered bidders.  Boden confirmed that all 20 condos were sold and are under contract to close in thirty days.

Boden went on to say that the boat slips were not auctioned that morning.  They were pulled from the auction due to a “legal snafu” that the sellers were currently working out.  He said that 24 slips are still available, and they would be offered for sale first to the auction high bidders, then to existing Harbor Pointe owners.  Boden also said that some boats were sold, but since he worked on the real estate side, he didn’t really know the details on how that all turned out.

Lake Martin Voice roving correspondent Kirk Wascom had this report:

“I went to the Harbor Pointe Auction at Harbor Pointe Marina this past Saturday.  There was obviously a lot of interest given there were 300 other folks in attendance as well. 

The first condo sold for $385,000 and the last one went for $235,000, not including the 10% fee to be added.  They auctioned the condos on a buyer’s choice.  The first condo sold allowed the buyer to choose his/her choice of the 20 available waterfront condos.  The first one sold and chosen by the buyer would have been the one I would have chosen.

Although I attended the auction more out of curiosity and genuine interest, I did take my checkbook and a letter of guarantee from bank.  During my registration they asked me for my letter of bank guarantee.  However, a buddy of mine who also attended the auction was not asked to present one.  We registered at different times.  I guess it’s like buying alcohol; sometimes you’re carded and other times you’re not. 

In my opinion, I think those who were the high bidders and who got their choice of a condo got a good deal at a fair value.  It was all a win-win position for both sides.  Due to the number of buyers at the auction there was no way anybody was going to get a condo for some low bid price of $75,000 – $100,000.”


Thanks Kirk, for that report, and for the inspiration for this series of posts.

Does anyone else out there have a subject they would like to see covered by the Lake Martin Voice?  Speak up!  And watch out, you may be drafted into action like Kirk…..



Related Posts:

More Info – Harbor Pointe Condo Auction – Lake Martin
Lake Martin Voice Auction Post Linked By The Wall Street Journal
6 Questions To Ask At A Lake Martin Auction

More Info – Harbor Pointe Condo Auction – Lake Martin

Harbor pointe auction brochure - smallDue to many of you asking, here is more information on the auction for the 20 waterfront condos at Harbor Pointe, Stillwaters Development, Lake Martin, Alabama.

The sellers of the Harbor Pointe condos will do the absolute auctions first. The high bidder on the first one will get a free boat slip. The high bidder will then select which and how many condos that he/she wants at that price. So if the high bidder selects only one, then they do another absolute auction for the remaining 4, and so on, until there are no more. Then the sellers will get together to decide if they want to do any more as absolute. But you know that at least there will be 5.

They not decided when exactly that they will auction the boatslips.

Please note the auction will start at 11:07 AM. You pay a 10% buyer’s fee. You will be required to put down 10% of the price that day as a deposit. You will not be able to have any sort of contingencies whatsoever on the purchase, so if you will want a home inspection, for example, you have to pay for it yourself and have them inspect during the preview / inspection days.

2 of the units are building A. 3 are in building D. The rest – 15 – are in building E. Only 3 of the units are 2 bedroom. All of the rest are 3 bedroom. 1 of the D units is 2 bedroom. The other 2 are in the E building.

Here is the info that I found at the official site of Roebuck Auctions:


Harbor Pointe Marina
397 Marina Point Road
Dadeville, AL 36853

Saturday, July 7th, 2007 at 11:07AM CST

Preview/Inspection Dates:
Saturday, June 30th, 2007
10:00 – 4:00 PM
Sunday, July 1st, 2007
12:00 – 4:00 PM


20 Luxurious condominiums on Alabama’s popular Lake Martin
At least 5 condos will be sold Absolute
The first unit that sells also comes with a free boat slip!
Beautiful 2 and 3 bedroom units
Very high-end interior finishes including:

stainless steel appliances
granite/marble counter tops
Harbor Pointe consists of (5) four-story buildings with common elements:
pool facilities
sandy beach
New and existing condo owners will also have the opportunity to buy a boat slip
25 slips will be offered at auction
all boat slips are adjacent to the condos
Unit D203 is set-up as a model unit.
Check-in here at the open houses
Auction will be held at the Harbor Pointe Marina showroom adjacent to the condos

Harbor Pointe Marina Showroom

Real Estate Terms:

The high bidders will be required to place a bid deposit equal of 10% of the amount bid. Deposits will be accepted in the form of cash, checks with bank letter of guarantee, or certified funds.

Buyer’s Premium:

A buyer’s premium of ten percent (10%) will be added to the high bids to determine the total prices to be paid.


The entire purchase price must be paid by Cashier’s or Certified Check, or wired funds at closing. No purchase shall be contingent on financing or any other contingencies.The closing shall take place not later than thirty (30) days after the auction.

Related Posts:

Results From Harbor Pointe Condo Auction
Lake Martin Voice Auction Post Linked By WSJ
6 Questions To Ask At A Lake Martin Auction

Lake Martin Voice Post On Auction Linked By Wall St Journal

Lake Martin Voice – your blog for Lake Martin real estate and area information – was honored recently by the Wall Street Journal online. 

On June 30, 2007, the print edition of the WSJ published an article on page B1 entitled “Home Going Once, Going…” about real estate auctions.  On the online version, at the end of the article, my post “6 Questions To Ask At An Auction On Lake Martin” was linked under the heading “Blog Posts On This Topic.”  It was one of only two such blog posts mentioned.  

You can try and click here for the link to the article on WSJ.  It should be active for a couple of days so that non-subscribers can read it.  I printed a PDF copy but it doesn’t show the link, so I print screened it (below).

Lake martin voice link in wsj
As an un-apologetic lover of capitalism, I hold the Wall Street Journal in the highest esteem. 
Thanks to all of you loyal readers and linkers that helped get this and other Lake Martin Voice posts noticed.  I try to be helpful by covering topics that interest you – so let me know how I can do a better job!
To the Journal authors, thanks again, Jonathan and Ruth!