Lake Martin Voice Realty
Archive for the 'Real Estate Tips' Category
I have a client who has narrowed his search down to two Lake Martin waterfront homes his family likes. This is great! But because this is Lake Martin real estate, deciding between the two homes is proving to be tough. A quick MLS property search in any price range will confirm that shopping for Lake Martin homes is not like comparing apples to apples. There are so many variables to consider, that even 2 homes next door to each other can have radically different qualities (water depth, house condition, waterfront footage, view, etc.)
It boils down to the simple question: “Why do you want a lake house?” That sounds obvious, but really thinking about their expectations for a lake home forces buyers to make choices: Where is the best location for them? How will they use it? What do they like to do at the lake? Why are they even buying one in the first place?
The video below is of Lake Martin Voice Realty clients, John and Wendy, who have just closed on their home, and had to make similar decisions. I think they offer some great advice:
Back to my current client with a choice to make. Our conversation goes something like this, and it is:
Buyer: “John, what do you think? House A or House B?”
John: “I have been selling long enough to realize that different people have different priorities. I think House A is a good choice if you prioritize newer home construction and the location in the west side of the lake. I like House B if you prioritize size of waterfront and length of view, or a North Lake / close to Highway 280 location.
If you are undecided about location, my advice is to ask yourself where you would like to be closer by water? Whereas House A might cost you 12 more minutes to drive from Birmingham, it might be only 7 minutes by boat from friends. Or House B might be 15 minutes faster drive from Birmingham, but 30 minutes from friends by water, but 10 minutes to shopping and restaurants in Alex City. You just have to ask yourself what you will be doing and how you will be spending your time.”
What about you? What are your priorities? Why do you want to buy a Lake Martin home? I’d love to be your realtor and help you think about these question – whether your time frame to purchase is two months or two years. Give me a call at (334) 221-5862 or click here to contact me.
First of all, they built Martin Dam in 1926, thereby damming the Tallapoosa River and creating Lake Martin in the first place. For my post about our tour of Martin Dam, click here.
In the process of building it, they bought up all of the land under, and most of the land around the eventual shoreline. Along with developer Russell Lands, Alabama Power owns pretty much every inch of undeveloped land around the lake. Area experts estimate that of the 770 miles of shoreline of Lake Martin, 70% remains undeveloped.
Over the years, Alabama Power has sold off residential lots. But a big part of their influence remains as holders of lot leases. This is where the homeowner owns the house, improvements, etc., but Alabama Power still owns the dirt and they lease it to the home owner.
Since about 2007, I have written a couple of posts on this subject. To get a basic understanding of how leased lots work on Lake Martin, please read them. Please keep in mind, they are old and about to be sort of outdated by what I say below, but please see:
Huge Change In Leased Lots For Lake Martin
Since I have written the above, Alabama Power has made a huge change in the lease program. If you really dug into the old leases, you would find that they used to read that they were for five years, with five automatic renewals at five years each. The way you renewed it was to pay the first month’s payment. So, it was five years plus 25 years of renewals, that’s how they figured they were giving you a 30 year lease. It made sense to them, but caused most loan underwriters fits. Well, I should rephrase that. Before 2008, lenders didn’t give a hoot. Back then they had only two requirements for lake lending: mirror and water. If you could fog a mirror, and if the land was touching water, they pushed money at you.
After the real estate meltdown in 2008, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. When underwriters on leased lot home loans read the automatic renewal clause, most freaked out. They would not give 30 year fixed rate loans on what they viewed as five year property. Most wouldn’t even offer an ARM loan. That left you only with a couple of local banks as financing choices.
All this is now moot!
Somewhere around March of 2012, Alabama Power changed the lease terms for their residential land leases on Lake Martin. Now they are 35 year fixed term leases, meaning, the lease starts in (for example) Jan 1, 2012, and ends December 31, 2047. This allows you to get 30 year fixed rate financing. I think this development could really revolutionize the way people view leased lots.
Over the years I have been blessed to sell a lot of waterfront leased lot homes on Lake Martin, and for every one I have sold I have talked to probably 50 buyers about the leased lot process on Lake Martin. It’s a hyperlocal concept, to be sure, and when buyers have reservations, it’s usually about the lease terms. Many times, even when they get past the concept and go to finance the purchase and want to use their hometown lender, that is where the deal would crash. Hometown lender would be unfamiliar with Alabama Power lot leases, would freak out about the renewals, and the deal would die.
Now, with Alabama Power offering to have a 35 year lease, I predict a tremendous influx of other lenders who can finance them. Like any other type of real estate, once the financing options open up, it makes them easier to buy. When things are more liquid, they gain in value. I think over the long term, say the next five years, you will see a gain in leased lot homes’ worth on Lake Martin. It’s a great move by Alabama Power, and I heartily applaud it.
Are you interested in buying a leased lot waterfront home on Lake Martin? I would be glad to help you out, and explain what to look for so that you get the most for your money.
Or do you own a leased lot home right now, and are wondering how this new policy might affect your home’s value? Click here to request a no obligation CMA, or call me at 334 221 5862.
Young’s Island is a major landmark on the east side of Lake Martin. I always look for it when I’m in my boat heading north from Pleasure Point toward the main river channel, and when I’m headed south from Highway 280 and Jackson’s Gap toward Chimney Rock.
There used to be a ferry – Young’s Ferry – that would take people back and forth across this channel. That’s why there are two Young’s Ferry Roads on Lake Martin: a Young’s Ferry Road on the west side in Alex City, and one on the opposite side in Dadeville.
Having two Young’s Ferry Roads on one lake is not unusual for Lake Martin. Since this one lake covers 3 counties, and (depending on your definition of a “city”) 0 – 5 cities, having the same name for multiple roads in very common. For example, there are several “Lakeviews,” “Lakewoods,” “Hilltops,” “Dogwoods,” and even two “Easy” streets. This can make searching for homes a little tricky, so be sure you understand the address you’re seeing on the Lake Martin MLS.
Or just call me. I make it my business to know trivia like this – that of the two homes for sale today on “Easy” streets, the one in Eclectic is on a leased lot, and the one in Alex City is deeded. I’d love to help you find the Lake Martin property you’re searching for. As a member of the lake MLS, I can help you with any property, regardless of the listing agent. Give me a call (334) 221-5862, or shoot me an email at [email protected]
I’m getting a lot of calls and emails these days from folks wanting to rent a vacation home on Lake Martin. Well, my company doesn’t do rentals, only sales, so I send callers to VRBO.com and lakemartin.com. There are also a few real estate companies around the lake that manage rentals.
Lake Martin Voice Realty friend, Wayne, and his family have gone through the Lake Martin rental process a number of times, successfully. I thought I’d let them share their advice with you, so check out their video below . . .
If you’re not very familiar with Lake Martin and want a better feel for the different parts of the lake, and the lifestyle you’re after, renting is great idea. After you’ve rented a home, and you’ve fallen in love with Lake Martin, give me a call and I’ll help find you something permanent: (334) 221-5862.
Buyers – remember that I can show you any home in the Lake Martin MLS, no matter who has it listed. The seller pays my commission, so it costs you nothing to let me help!
The following is an article I wrote for LAKE Magazine’s July 2012 edition:
I have always been a nerd. My genes dictate it. In high school I was in all of the nerdy clubs: Don’t think Olympic sports; think Science Olympiad.
Now that I am in my adult years, this nerdliness is coming out in all kinds of ways. I guess one of the dorkiest hobbies I have is “birding.” I have tried to stay in the closet about this one for years, but I have reached the point in my life where I no longer have the energy to hide the fact that I like to sit on the back porch with binoculars and the Peterson Field Guide.
Perhaps the Holy Grail of birders, at least in North America, would be to spot the ivory-billed woodpecker. It’s known by a nickname that I now consider blasphemous, but it is roughly translated as “Boy Howdy Would You Look At The Size of That Woodpecker.” It is as big as a crow. It is red headed as the day is long, and has distinctly marked wings and bill. It is thought to be extinct in our continent, so to get a picture of one – to confirm they still exist here – would be the biggest ornithological event since the rescue of the California Condor.
I, of course, think I have spotted many over the years – like one time in the piney sand hills of north Florida, or when I’ve been hunting in south Montgomery County. Once, while driving around Lake Martin, I spent two hours chasing a likely one just outside of Tallassee off of Highway 229. I tromped down an Elmore County road with a 300-millimeter zoom lens on my camera and even got a decent shot. But that and every other time when I get back to my bird guide, I realize that I have only seen a mere pileated.
In 2006, I was turkey hunting in Texas and met a guy from a small town in Arkansas where scientists “think” they found an ivory-billed in a nearby state forest. Once word spread, pandemonium broke out. People flooded to the tiny hamlet. Birders, scientists and savvy capitalists descended upon Brinkley. They filled hotels, they hammered restaurants, they staked out the woods, they sold T-shirts – they even bought up tracts of land. In the end, they came away with a doubtful audio recording but no confirmation. The lesson? Caution. Be very careful when you think you have spotted a rare species.
It is with great trepidation, with this proper perspective, that I tell you that I have confirmed sightings of another creature thought to be extinct – the Lake Martin house flipper. I can think of two or three successful flips in the last 12 months.
A house flipper is someone buys a house with no intention of ever spending the night there. Their goal is to buy it, fix it, sell it and forget it. Around Lake Martin, they most often do things like add a bedroom and bathroom. They might add central air conditioning if they need to, but you can bet they will add wood floors and the ubiquitous black granite counter tops with stainless appliances.
House flippers exist everywhere, obviously. Sometimes they have been blamed for the housing bubble, as callous profiteers who “bid up prices” just to rake in the dough. Hogwash, of course. The bubble was too big to blame on one section of the industry. It had plenty of guilt to go around. No one group was totally innocent, including us real estate agents. So don’t be a hater. Flippers are a good thing, a necessary element in any industry, a part of the circle of life – Hakuna Matata and all of that. I, for one, am glad to see a successful flip here and there in the Lake Martin real estate market. I take it as a positive sign, yet another indicator that the freeze has thawed for good.
I cringe with this announcement, however, I loathe suggesting anything that might be interpreted by sellers as their chance to jack their prices back up. I don’t want everyone to become armchair developers again like they did in 2005-2007. If you don’t do this for a living, don’t do it at the lake.
To buyers, I say this loudly – do not think of your purchase as an “investment.” Do not make the mistake of those in the past that thought in terms of rate of return. A lake home is a home – not your 401k. If you buy one and spend $15,000 making improvements over the course of one month, it is not magically worth $100,000 more than the day you bought it. Everyone gets HGTV. Everyone has cute ideas. Everyone knows someone in the construction industry who will give them a deal. Don’t be tempted by that siren.
So if, in the coming months, you hear about a successful Lake Martin flipper, don’t believe it until you see it. If you see one, smile and let it warm your heart, but don’t get any big ideas. The mere existence of one or two successful flippers does not mean the roaring times are back. They are just the first purple martin to reach Lake Martin in February – a reminder of a healthy ecosystem, not evidence of a free for all.
On the other hand, if you see an ivory-billed woodpecker, take a picture, and then call me. But only me! And if you’d like to talk about Lake Martin real estate, please give me a call: (334) 221-5862. I’d love to be your realtor.
The Lake Martin real estate market had a smashing May, tallying 32 waterfront homes sold! This is the highest number of homes sold in six years, since May of 2006.
In this real estate market report I wrote for Lake Magazine, I noted that according to the Lake Martin MLS*, April 2012 had a relatively weak number of waterfront homes sold. I wondered if this was a signal that the Lake martin market was slowing down, or if this is a mere timing thing, setting the table for an explosive May.
It seems the latter was correct. 32 waterfront homes sold in one month is a lot for a little market like Lake Martin. Please note these numbers encompass all brokerages, all agents, in the Lake Martin MLS.
How good is 32?
To help put it into perspective, I looked at each month’s sales history since January, 2005. I found that May 2012 was the best home sales month on Lake Martin since 33 was sold in May of 2006. Think of that – the last time we have seen sales like this was in a confirmed seller’s market of 2006.
Also, another way to view this month is to ask this question:
Q: Since January of 2005, how many times has the Lake Martin real estate market exceeded 30 waterfront home sales per month?
A: Just six. That’s right, over the last 54 months, including the blistering years of 2005 and 2006, Lake Martin has exceeded 30 only six times: May 2012, August 2009, the above mentioned May 2006, and three times in 2005.
I think this proves that April 2012’s weak showing of 14 Lake Martin waterfront homes sold was an aberration, a timing issue. Of course, the same could be said about May, but I doubt that is really the case. As I write this, there are 23 home sales pending in the Lake Martin MLS and 17 recorded as sold since June 1. In other words, June is setting up to be a good sales month as well, very likely to beat the prior year’s June total of 22 homes sold.
If we step back and look the cumulative total number of waterfront homes sold on Lake Martin so far this year, we see that 93 homes have sold. Once again, this is the best five month start since 2006.
Lake Martin Lot Sales 2012
Lake Martin waterfront lots are also selling well so far in 2012. In May, 10 lots were sold, which was the best since 10 sold in April 2011. Other than last year, we have not seen that many lots sold since 2005.
When I first started blogging about Lake Martin real estate way back in 2007, I always included the numbers of waterfront homes for sale on Lake Martin. Every month I trotted out the supply. But, it got rather tedious so I stopped doing it every month, only mentioning it once per quarter or so. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was because it frustrated me to see the number of homes for sale keep rising when the Lake Martin market was in an obvious shift to the buyer’s side of the equation. I don’t know.
I do think it bears a look now, in light of the sustained sales. I took a look at the number of waterfront homes for sale on Lake Martin in the last few years. It has been dropping quite a bit. If we use the month of May as an example, we see that in May of 2009 there were 589 homes for sale on the MLS. May of 2010 saw it drop to 492, then drop to 476 in 2011. In May of 2012 it was only 411. That is a 30% decrease in supply in three years. True, that percentage fluctuates based on which month you consider. It also is true that many more condos were for sale back then, but I looked at the condo effect in this post and it wasn’t all that big an influence in sales.
If supply stays low and sales continue on this trend, could 2012 be a year of actual price increases? I’m not willing to go out on that limb. Yet.
Lake Martin Lot Sales 2011
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2011 – Year In Review
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2010 – Lot Sales
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2010
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2009 – Year In Review
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2008 – Year In Review
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2007 – Year In Review
(*)Disclaimers: All of the above info was taken from the Lake Martin Area Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service. Accuracy is not guaranteed but deemed reliable. The above does not include sales by FSBOs or developers that sell privately and not through the MLS. But, I do think that the above represents a very large majority of all waterfront sales on Lake Martin, Alabama.
Ok, so the Little Kowaliga area is not technically a neighborhood; rather it is a geographic area of waterfront homes on Lake Martin. It’s a way to talk about that branch of Lake Martin on the west side of the lake, north of Kowaliga Bridge, and around the corner west of Sinclair’s and Kowaliga Marina. Some people that grew up here or have had cabins on Lake Martin for 40 years may even argue with me for calling it Little Kowaliga. Lots of people refer to this area as the Real Island area, because Real Island Marina is the oldest marina in this area.
If you would like to see waterfront homes and lots for sale right now in the Little Kowaliga area, CLICK HERE to go to my Little Kowaliga 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.
The reason it’s called Little Kowaliga is because Little Kowaliga Creek once ran here before the lake was created by Martin Dam. It is close to Montgomery, and traditionally a lot of Montgomery families have had cabins in this area.
There aren’t really any formal neighborhoods in Little Kowaliga – no gated entrances with formal signs, no neighborhood pools, etc. Most waterfront homes in this area are located off of county roads. This is a section of Lake Martin where you can have a trailer next to a two million dollar home. It is similar to Parker Creek in that there are really no undeveloped lots left. When you see new construction on a waterfront lot in Little Kowaliga, odds are that person has torn down an old cabin or mobile home.
Driving directions and addresses can be wacky in this area. The county line separating Elmore and Coosa counties runs through Little Kowaliga, so you can have homes in the town of Equality that can be in either Elmore or Coosa County. As you drive the road on the north side of Little Kowaliga, road signs can switch from Elmore County to Coosa County, and then back again. Google Maps and GPS’s still haven’t figured out many of the streets, so it pays to combine them with a good physical map of Lake Martin, and good directions from a homeowner. Hancel Road, for example, is a road that runs in and out of both counties, and is spelled 3 or 4 different ways by street signs, Google, the MLS, and GPS’s.
If you’re looking for the “lake cabin at the end of the dirt road” experience, the Little Kowaliga area might be a good fit. To see homes currently for sale in the Little Kowaliga area, CLICK HERE. I’d love to help you find your Lake Martin home – in Little Kowaliga or anywhere on Lake Martin. Remember, I can help you with any property in the Lake Martin MLS, and it doesn’t cost the buyer a dime to have a realtor help you with your research and purchase. The sellers pay my commission.
If I can help, give me a call at (334) 221-5862, or email me by CLICKING HERE.
I need some help!
What do you call the middle face in this picture? Sort of smiley? I know the one on the left is a big smiley face, and I guess we can call the one to the right a frowny face. I just have no clue what to call the middle one and it is affecting me. Why?
These faces are a feedback tool within the Lake Martin MLS. People who are searching for waterfront homes, lots, or condos for sale on Lake Martin can use this feedback system by creating themselves a Portal. You create a Portal on the MLS by clicking “Save” on a search, after you check a particular listing, or if you click on one of these faces to give feedback. Then you are asked to register some info and create a Portal. The big smiley face puts your selection in a Listing Cart called “Favorites.” The middle one is “Possibilities” and the frowny is “Rejects.”
Why would you want to do that? I can think of a few reasons:
1. My buyers love this feature. There is safety in numbers. You know, the old “many have enjoyed this, you will, too!” line.
2. Registering allows you to save your favorites without searching again and again each time you log on to search the Lake Martin MLS. It saves you huge amounts of time, plus your spouse can log on also and see the same info.
3. Don’t worry, your info comes only to me! This may or may not be a comfort, but this live feed to the homes and lots for sale is provided by me, so only I see your email address or any other contact info you provide. I don’t spam and no one else will have it.
4. It saves a lot of time when/if you are ready to buy, even if it’s 6 months later. I can find the current examples of your past favorites and get a good idea of what you like and what you don’t like.
Like I’ve said many times before, the Lake Martin MLS is the #1 source for the most accurate, up-to-date information on homes for sale on the lake. If you’re not sure how to use it effectively, I’ll give you the 5 minute lesson:
If I can help you, please call me at (334) 221-5862, email me at info @ lakemartinvoice .com, or CLICK HERE to contact me. I can help you with any property in the Lake Martin MLS, regardless of which realtor has it listed.
I’m watching you.
Well, not really. As the owner of Lake Martin Voice website, I am able to see in general how many people read the pages, where they click, how long they stay on the site, etc.
One really cool thing I noticed the other day was that I am getting quite a bit of traffic from people using mobile devices. In fact, about 20% of my traffic is from some type of mobile device. By a huge margin, the most popular device people use on my site is the iPad.
I suppose it’s from people sitting at home and surfing the web on their iPads. I can’t imagine that too many people with cell plans on their iPads are riding around Lake Martin looking.
These big numbers made me wonder what the iPad experience is for my readers, so I got mine out and played around with it.
I found that my site handles is quite well. The pictures and videos work and look great. The only thing I had to change was how the Lake Martin MLS displays on an iPad. If you click to “Home Search” or “Property Search” link to look for homes or lots, you will be given a choice. The MLS feed will ask you if you want the Full Site or the Mobile Site. It’s my recommendation that you use the Mobile Site. It is a little easier to navigate, and it frames the home pictures and videos really nicely.
So whether you’re sitting in your living room on a iPad, at work or home on a desktop, or reading this on your phone, we thank you for dropping by. It’s our aim to be not only the most helpful website and brokerage in the Lake Martin area, but also to be at the leading edge of real estate technology in the entire nation. If you have any suggestions on how we can get better, please let us know by using this form to contact us or email us at info @ LakeMartinVoice . Com.
When I started blogging about Lake Martin real estate in 2007, I made the decision to give as much information as I could online. As a real estate agent, obviously, I am limited somewhat to what I can say by state and federal laws, ethics rules, and client relationships.
I also limit myself by common sense. When I state facts, I name my source. When I’m giving you my personal opinion, I try to disclose that very clearly. Other than that, I let it rip. I figure that’s the whole purpose of a real estate blog like this. I am supposed to try and give you information about Lake Martin that no one else does.
When I first started this, I had many fellow agents tell me I was crazy. Their thoughts were, why should I put so much information, and more critically, my analysis, online? Isn’t that too public? Shouldn’t I keep all of that to myself, and force people to call me if they wanted the scoop? They would ask, aren’t you afraid the reader will call someone else after you’ve done all that work?
My reasoning is that I agree with those that think the “Information Age” is over. Thanks to the web, Google, online databases like the county tax offices, information is free and flowing. You don’t really need me to get the basic facts about a Lake Martin home or lot that is for sale. If you spend time online, you can get that. Gone are the days of having to physically walk into an agent’s office to pierce that silo of information. I think that any real estate agent’s value now lies in helping you make sense of the flood of info. I should be able help cut through the noise to find the deals or help you sell. That’s why when it comes to information and advice about Lake Martin real estate, I put it out there and hope you call me.
I’m sure that there are readers out there who never call me. In fact I know by looking at the sheer volume of my web traffic, there is no way that every single person uses me as their agent. Occasionally they even use another.
I know! Shocking!
The other day a fellow called me about a lot that was for sale in the same neighborhood where he had recently bought a home. He casually mentioned that he watched one of my private home tours and that’s why he ended up buying the house.
Wait a minute – I said. I only send private home tours to people who have requested info of me. That’s what happened in this case. He requested info on a Foreclosure, and I later filmed and sent a private video tour to everyone on my foreclosure list. He saw the video, liked the house, but decided to use another agent to buy it. Ouch.
Further and even more ironically, after our conversation about the lot, he put in an offer on it – you guessed it – through yet a different agent. The deal didn’t go through, and afterward he admitted he wished he had used me.
That makes two of us.
But that’s life these days. I realize I will miss out on some. Tough but true.
I have set up this site to allow you to be anonymous as long as possible, as long as you want to be. I just try to be as helpful as possible to that when it comes time to pick an agent, you pick me. If you do make that decision, please use this form to contact me, or email me at info @ LakeMartinVoice . Com , or call 334-221-5862.